The Cavern of Evil!
Having found a crack leading to an enormous cavern, and successfully preventing his temporary companions from noticing it, Weco set out to loot whatever might be in there. He didn't feel quite right about asking anyone from the Circle to help out with this, but that was OK - Venfaren had already provided the seed money to rent the services of some mercenaries.
He visited the Dungeoneers outpost in Bandar Philia, dreams of a legion of Dwarves following him into the dark, and bringing up all of the treasure. He laid out his plan to the head of the office - he figured he would need at least 20 Dwarves to set up the mining operation, with all necessary equipment. When he presented the small bag of gems that Venfaren had given him (well, two thirds of it, anyway), the assembled Dwarves looked in the bag, looked at him, and broke out in laughter. This went on for several minutes.
When the laughter was done, Weco was told that for what he had offered, he could probably get one of the Dungeoneer officers, but he'd have to try and talk them into it. Weco was disappointed, of course, but set out to strike a better deal than that. In the end, the service of three Dungeoneers was secured for the initial expedition. They would help to clear out and assess the cavern in exchange for the entire bag of gems, and a half share of anything recovered during the expedition once the initial outlay was repaid.
Toren Hardhammer was to serve as the guard - his skills with a shield let him protect clients, although he did have a tendency to become nervous about going into the dark before the heat of battle grounded him. Ulfgar Ungart was a nod to the need for magic, while also filling the role of a dangerous offensive warrior. And the Deep Dwarf, Misnip, was a ball of rage waiting to be unleashed. They journeyed to the cave, prepared for almost anything.
What they were not prepared for was a Knight Celestial camping outside of the cave. Sir Anders Nielas had been journeying across the Kingdom, and was thought this was a convenient place to rest along his journey. At some point in the past, he had met Weco, and although Weco did not recall the circumstances Anders called him old chum. He also invited himself along on the adventure with his old chum, saying he couldn't possibly let him go alone. Weco was not pleased, but couldn't find a way around it.
Into the Dark
As they entered the cave, they discovered that the crack in the back of the cave had gotten bigger, and they could tell that another earthquake had to have happened. It was big enough that Anders could join them, to the disappointment of some. As they passed through the crack and got to the ledge, Ulfgar used his flaming sword of fire to light the cavern. They could see the shiny stones gleaming in the walls within range of the light - the Dwarves were fairly certain it was quartz. 'Nip was barely able to see the bottom, almost 100 feet below.
Ulfgar gathered some rope and a piton, and prepared to head down. Weco hammered in the piton, Ulfgar immediately hammered it in himself, and he tossed his sword to the bottom. He then went down the ropes, and picked up his sword while he waited for the rest. At this point, Toren began to ask if this was really the best plan, and might it not be better to get those 20 Dungeoneers. Weco was not pleased by this, and demanded that Toren go to the bottom first. Eventually, they sorted it out, and everyone got to the cavern floor safely.
Nip's darkvision showed him that there was a makeshift prison nearby, and he motioned the group to head that way. As they approached and their light was spotted, two Humans, two Elves, and a Dwarf pressed themselves to the wooden bars. Seeing that there were mostly Dwarves in the group, the Dwarf prisoner took charge and whispered loudly for them to approach. Ulfgar took the lead in talking to them, while the other Dwarves and the Knight set up a defensive perimeter. As Ulfgar began to question them, they asked if they could answer after they got them out. Weco gamely grabbed an axe and started to attack the bars, which gave them plenty of time to talk while the Nelwyn tried to hack his way in. Ulfgar found that they were slaves, taken by a group of Drow and forced to mine this cavern. (The Dwarves, especially Toren, showed their contempt for the Drow, spitting at the name.) There were other, worse, things about as well, although they didn't know what they were mining for or what the other creatures were. As Weco finally chopped through the bars, they relayed that the Drow had been taking them away one at a time, every hour, and the hour was almost up.
The prisoners ran to the southern exit to the cave, only to find that a cave in had completely cut it off. They despaired, but the party quickly reassured them. Ulfgar stabbed his sword into the ground to provide light,and he and Anders climbed the rope. They hauled the prisoners up one by one, moving as quickly as they could. As they hauled up the prisoners, the others heard footsteps approaching from the tunnel directly north of the makeshift prison.
The Devils Inside
Weco slid up to the opening, and pressed himself flat against the wall. Nip and Toren froze where they were, between the cave opening and the prisoners. Alone, Weco waited for whatever was coming. As the first Drow turned the corner, Weco did not hesitate. He stepped towards the slaver, and slid his rapier into the man's ribs. He died quickly, and the rest of the Drow stared in shock. As Anders and Ulfgar finished hauling up the last prisoner, Nip and Toren moved into position to attack the Drow. Anders heard the battle ensue, and whether it was the lack of light on the ledge or an overwhelming desire for fortune and glory, he leapt from the ledge towards his companions. He hit the ground hard, doing untold damage to his joints, but he was able to roll and come back to his feet. Ulfgar came down a bit slower, sliding down the rope to the ground.
As the Drow came out of their shock, Weco got off another quick attack. Nip and Toren joined in, and they made quick worth of another of the Drow soldiers - but the two remaining looked to be a cut above the first two. They also called out behind them in a guttural language none of the party understood, then turned to fight. One slashed out at Weco, and only his swift dodges saved him from a grievous wound. The other missed his attack outright, and had to contend with the charging Anders moving in, and the more controlled Ulfgar following behind him.
Anders bore one of the Drow to the ground, and the rest ganged up on the other. He fell quickly, and they focused their attacks on the one on the ground, almost missing the sound of hurried footsteps moving towards them. As they finished off the Drow, some of the other, worse things appeared. Two six foot tall, grey skinned beings came charging out of the tunnel at them. While their tails and long, pointed ears marked them as something unknown, their faces are what turned them into a horror. As they moved out of the darkness, the light from the fire sword showed the tentacles attached to their jaws, writhing and reaching for their enemies. As they thrust with their glaives, the beards did their own fighting, attempting to pierce the adventurers skin and deliver their venom.
Weco was wounded quickly, and realized that he was better off staying off of the front lines. He moved away, and pulled out his bow. From that relative safety, he unleashed arrows at the monsters. The rest focused in, counting on their armor and skills to keep them whole. Their faith in themselves was rewarded, with only minor injuries to the rest of the group by the time they put down the creatures. The battle went well enough that Weco took the time to loot the bodies of the fallen before the last of them were taken care of. He found several coins that felt dirty to him, and shared it with the Paladin. Anders recoiled, sensing the evil of the coin, and tossed it away. Nip recovered it, and hid it away.
Knowing that these things would be expected back quickly with another slave, they started to creep down the hall. Stealth may have been easy for Weco, but the presence of a Knight Celestial in full plate armor makes it substantially harder. Anders' tendency to talk loudly and rush in didn't help, and he almost gave them away. But the Dungeoneers convinced him to stay back just long enough for Weco to approach the end of the corridor. There was an opening in the rock, and firelight of some sort was spilling out. As he peeked around the corner, he saw what looked like a hound from his childhood nightmares, crunching on what looked like the leg bone of a big'un, although Elf, Human, or something else was unknown to him. No matter how horrifying, this was nothing compared to the winged beast throwing the hound more body parts.
The monster is eight feet tall, not including the leathery wings it was holding tight to its body. It has curved horns like a mountain ram, with smaller, sharper horns below them. The bestial face is covered in hair, and the creature's incisors must be at least four inches long. It's muscular body is unclothed, revealing cracked, red skin, but no indication of any gender. The powerful legs are like a dogs, with the monster standing on its two enormous, clawed toes. Its sinewy tail twitches, and it uses a war fork to toss body parts to the beast beside it. It laughs as the hound savages another leg.
Weco pulled back, letting the group know about it. Anders grabbed the Nelwyn, and charged into the room, rogue held high. The monsters spun on them, and the fight was on. They made short work of the hound, although Ulfgar was constrained when it became apparent that these creatures had no fear of fire. But the horned fiend was another matter. While they surrounded it, and brought all of their force to bear, it was a formidable foe. First, it focused on the Dwarf that killed his hound, yelling something in an ugly language that no one understood, yet in the end understood all too well. Thrusting with his fork, and lashing out with his tail, he dropped Nip in a few short moves. Toren was enraged, putting aside his shield to pick up Nip's axe, and began to swing with everything he had. Anders moved in, calling on the power of his God to heal the small Dwarf, and popping a health potion for him. Weco distracted the fiend by slipping his rapier into its back, and it howled and turned on him. A thrust, a whip, and a thrust, and Weco collapsed into unconsciousness, blood flowing from several wounds. Ulfgar and Toren continued to chip away at the devil, and Anders once again showed his worth by healing the Nelwyn. He again offered a potion, but Weco knew the value of those and tucked it away. The monster focused his ire on the Paladin, realizing that if he went down, the others might not be able to revive him. But it was too late - slashing from all sides, each member got in several blows, and the fiend succumbed. It self destructed in a column of hellfire, leaving behind nothing but ash.
Exhausted, the group considered barricading themselves in and resting. But they didn't believe that this was the only destination for the prisoners, and they had seen a heavy stone door in the tunnel they just passed down. Taking some healing potions, they recovered as quickly as they could, and approached the door. Weco determined that the door was safe to open, and so they pulled on the door, revealing the chamber inside.
Ritual de lo Habitual
The room was a mostly round chamber carved from the rock. The floor was almost entirely covered in a huge summoning circle - beyond it was an altar, flanked by two robed Drow and a Priestess, reading from a book on the altar. They reacted quickly, but not as fast as Anders. He charged, dodging through the various short people, and leapt to the altar, Planting his bloody boot in the middle of the book, he brought his great sword crashing down. The priestess was rocked, and only the fact that she fell into the wall kept her upright. The Dungeoneers charged in, flanking the Drow and hitting the robed assistants, hard. The assistants were hurt, but the Priestess called on her dark magic, and a wave of energy spilled from her. The wounds on all the Drow knit before their eyes.
The assistants could not get past the guards of any of the party members, and the priestess did not have time to heal again. They pushed hard, cutting down the assistants quickly, and then focusing on the Priestess. She cried out for her Deity, and the party sent her to meet it.
The party took the time to take stock of what had found to that point. A few weapons had been picked up, and there were some gold and silver on the Drow in the ritual room, but Weco was beginning to think he'd never make up his expenses here. The iron 'coins', three inches wide and a half inch thick, continued to disturb everyone who held one. The largest prize so far was the Priestess' ritual dagger, and the book from the altar. Even with Anders bloody footprint in the center, it might still reveal something.
The group each looked for a place to take a quick rest, although they were divided on whether staying on a magic summoning circle, or in a room with a pile of gnawed on bones and the corpse of a hellish hound was the better choice. In the end, they made it through without being disturbed.
Temple of Doom
The party explored a bit more, coming across a cave full of bats, and another ending in a deep pool of water. Eventually they found a winding passage, that lead to what looked like an ancient temple, buried in the rock who knew how long ago. While none had even seen one before, collectively they came to believe it was dedicated to Diabolus, the Devil of Evil, Greed, and Pride. They approached cautiously, but sure in their skills.
The temple was a long room, held up by several columns. In the back, there was a stairway going down, and a room off to either side. They avoided the rats as they looked about, and started to look through the various crates. Toren found a keg of ale, and decided to start drinking. Anders poked around with him, while the others headed downstairs.
Nip was the first down, and paid for it. As he got to the t-section at the back, Weco's sword pulsed, alerting him that there was someone there. He did not have time to warn them, however, as a figure stood up and stabbed Nip in the side. She did, however, get close enough to lose an arrow, hitting the cloaked figure. Ulfgar was surprised, and took a moment to sort out what was going on.
Nip's scream brought Anders charging down, although Toren stayed to finish his draught. Nip, Ulfgar, and Weco all got in a quick blow, then the hooded figure made a motion and a thunderous sound broke crashed over them. Their eardrums nearly ruptured, and everyone on the lower level screamed in pain. Worst of all, the cloaked figure was gone.
Their luck held, though, as the figure appeared right in front of where Toren was finishing his ale. He screamed, and everyone redirected to where the figure had appeared. His one trick did not get him out, and he was doomed before he could take another step. As they Ulfgar delivered the killing blow, his hand unclasped and a coin fell to the floor. It was the same size as the coins they had found before, but this one was golden. They all stared, but Weco was the first to grab it.
It almost immediately started to whisper seductively to Weco, promising power and glory. He quickly put it away, cutting off the whispers. The group started to search the body before them, and discovered that he had a bag of holding, stuffed with a number of books. He also wore some impressive armor, and had a few other sundry magical items. In the end, Weco was happy with his haul, although his dreams of becoming a mining magnate had been dashed. He was happy enough to take the improvement in his monetary fortunes, and head back to Bandar Philia. He kept the ritual knife, planning on discussing it with Venfaren. He also kept the coin, with the same intention.
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