Now armed with silvered weapons, Weddumlir Aleshield the Dwarf Fighter, Davroar Hollysword the Elf Cleric of Moriarty, Nathan Garney the Human Cleric of Everly, Meldor Ironforge the Dwarf Wizard, Acindor the Human Fighter and Thril Wolfsbane the Elf Fighter made plans to visit the section of the TEMPLE MINES where River Hopfoot’s map indicated they’d find the mushrooms and still requested by Azrael the Apothecary.
As Acindor surveyed the darkness around them, he noticed several stalagmites as he had before. He grew up in a mining family so he knew there weren’t supposed to be stalagmites in a working mine. Furthermore, he noted that the apparent rock formations weren’t where he spotted them yesterday. They were much closer — and there were more of them! He immediately realized he might be looking at a bunch of ravenous ropers.
Warning the others quickly, the party quickly surveyed their options. The tunnel to the north was blocked by a cave in to keep out the ghouls. The way behind them was blocked by lava flows. The way to the south and east were blocked by ropers. They reasoned that they might be able to escape by making a break for it with the handcar but worried that a roper blocking the track might prove too tough a barrier for their vehicle. Still, it was their best shot if they didn’t want to fight a horde of ropers at an extreme disadvantage!
Hoping to give them an edge, Davroar got the bright idea to cast a light spell on the handcar. As light spilled into the mines, the ostensible stalagmites cried out with cawing noises and each of them transformed back into Cuervos.
To the adventurers surprise, the Cuervos were unabashedly thrilled to see them.
“I told you they weren’t!” one of the Cuervos cried between excited crows. “They’re not zombies. They’re alive! We’re saved!”
On their leader’s cue, the Cuervos ran to the handcar. Davroar drew his mace, just in case it was an ambush.
“You have to get us out of here!” the Cuervos begged. “This place is swarming with the undead. It’s horrible! Why are you here?”
“We’re actually just on our way in,” Acindor said. “Care to join us?”
“No! Gods, no!”
“Suit yourself, Acindor said. ”What can you tell us about where we’re going so that we can be prepared?”
“Oh, that’s really simple. You’ve heard of Shettebrek, yes? You’ve heard of B.O.B.? Yes? Well, fear and death are the only things that remains in these MINES. Now listen here,” the Cuervos said. “We serve Hrafnagud and let me tell you, the Trickster God has nothing to do with whatever’s going on here. We’re getting out!”
“We would really appreciate anything you could tell us that might help us ahead,” Davroar pressed. “We know the safe way out. We’d be willing to tell you the way for some information.”
The Cuervos glanced at his comrades. “We’d be willing to trade for that shiny cart of yours.”
“Absolutely not,” Davroar said, “but we can tell you where to go to avoid the zombies that want to eat your brains for breakfast. That should be more than sufficient to trade for any information you might have that could help us on our quest.”
“Breakfast? That’s oddly specific. Is it morning? We’ve been down here so long… We just came from TYRAN FIRION. Barely got out with our lives. We were investigating the Cult of Nobody. You heard of them? Well, they don’t anything to do with us. Everybody thinks all Cuervos are part of that cult now. That cult is bad and what they’re up to in TYRAN FIRION is bad, but we didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“Do you know who is behind it then?” Acindor asked.
“Not yet,” the Cuervos admitted. “The problem is that my species are shapeshifters and we tend to change names and aliases a lot. We can’t unravel who is behind it yet, which is why we’re sure it’s another Cuervos.”
“Is there anything you might tell us about your kind that might tip us off as to whether they are Cuervos ahead of time?” Davroar asked.
“I can’t tell you that, but I can tell you that nobody in the Cult of Nobody has a name. Except their leaders. Everyone else is named Nobody. They take an oath to call themselves Nobodies, so if you run across a Cuervos and they won’t tell you their name, they’re probably Nobodies.”
Davroar nodded and gave them directions to leave the MINES by the path the adventurers had entered, warning them not to stop by the OFFICE lest they encounter more parchment golem.
The Cuervos perked up at the mention of the golem. “Those are the work of a logomancer. We ran into some of these parchment golem back in TYRAN FIRION. I’ve very troubling under the circumstances. You know what they say? Logomancy is one step away from eldermancy.”
“What is eldermancy?” Davroar asked.
“You don’t know about eldermancy? It’s the magic of the gods,” the Cuervos said. “The power to be a god, control a god or even kill a god.”
“I see,” Davroar said. “I have another word for that: wrong. If I meet an eldermancy, he and my god will have something to say to him.”
“And who is your god?” the Cuervos asked.
“All hail Moriarty,” Davroar said.
The Cuervos took a step back. “You serve the new strange gods. We are thankful for your aid, but I am compelled to warn you that if we meet outside these MINES, we are honor bound to kill you.”
”I will enjoy making your deaths painful,” Davroar said. “On your way.”
The Forge Tunnel Line
After the Cuervos departed, the party loaded aboard the handcar and made their way east down the Forge Tunnel Line.
Along the way, they noted a short tunnel on the left with a door. They stopped to investigate and found that a piton had been driven into the ground to prevent the door from being opened, keeping whatever was on the other side contained. They reasoned that it had probably been blocked by the goblin miners, Hedd and Not-Hedd and their cohorts, to keep out the ghouls.
Further down the tunnel, they passed two more short tunnels. The first was empty but the second contained a giant spider looming over a freshly made web cocoon containing a humanoid figure.
After a brief skirmish, the spider fled along the ceiling. Overcome with arachnophobia, Weddumlir refused to give chase. In fact, he was already headed for the handcar, intent on a hasty flight. Meldor on the other hand followed it and found that it had escaped through a large hole in the ceiling above the barricaded door they’d passed. Since they could do nothing else, they turned their attention to the spider’s intended victim, which was thrashing around desperately to free itself.
Acindor cut the webbing from its mouth to allow it to breathe; however, he almost lost his fingers in the process for he’d freed the sharp-toothed mouth of a ghoul! They quickly dispatched the foul undead creature before it could scream a warning to its coven.
Realizing that if one ghoul had made it past the defenses of the goblin miners, others might also be around, they proceeded with caution.
The Blocked Passage
Reaching the round table at End of the tunnel, they found the way north via the LOW NOTE TUNNEL partially blocked by a cave in.
Meldor realized that there might be a path through. Treading carefully, he threaded through the rubble, calling back to the others to watch out for a soft spot in the floor along the first stretch and a loose ceiling on the second.
Thril Wolfsbane followed next, discovering the hard way that the “soft spot” Meldor mentioned was a half-buried ghoul. The ghoul lashed out and raked the elf with its claws before the latter could think to get away. Nevertheless, he ultimately managed to escape the pinned ghoul and joined Meldor on the other side, shouting a warning to the others as he fled.
Davroar Hit the undead creature with sacred flame, cowing it somewhat.
Wedd stepped forward to dispatch the ghoul with his axe but, still shaken from his encounter with the spider, he overreached. His axe bounced off the top of the opening through the rubble. As the weapon rebounded off stone, he was clocked by his axe’s handle, knocking him on his back. The trapped ghoul attempted to grab Wedd’s ankle but Acindor tugged him out of harm’s way; it reacted to the loss of its prey with piercing screams.
The ghoul’s screams were answered by howls from further south along the LOW NOTE TUNNEL.
Nathan Garney cast sacred flame at the trapped ghoul but the answering screams distracted him, diminishing the effectiveness of his spell. Fortunately, Davroar was able to silence it for good. Of course, the damage was already done. Two more ghouls could be heard scampering up the tunnel toward them as fast as they could, their inhuman claws skittering on the stone floor.
Nathan Garney made his way through the partially blocked tunnel while the others guarded his retreat. Unfortunately, he reached out to a steady himself on a part of the passage that was unstable, resulting in a shift in the rubble. He suffered only minor scrapes and was relieved to note that the tunnel remained passable.
Meanwhile, the ghouls leapt over the glowing handcar but the passage over blinded them somewhat, allowing the party the opportunity to get in the first strike as the ghouls got their bearings. Their first attacks were successful in instilling the undead creatures with caution. This resulted in a standoff of quick feints and dodges between Acindor, Wedd and the ghouls until Davroar intervened in this fool’s match, killing one of them. Wedd hit the remaining ghoul hard enough to cause it to stagger back, heavily wounded. The lone ghoul licked its lips, its eyes flicking between the party members before leaping back over the glowing handcar and retreating into the darkness.
After waiting to see if the ghoul would return, perhaps with some of its allies, Davroar, Wedd and Acindor made their way through the passage to the other side. Unfortunately, Acindor managed to try to steady himself on the same spot the other clumsy human had had trouble. While he made it through, the passage shifted and closed off behind him, trapping them on the other side.
It was now pitch black for the humans, except for a soft purplish glow that emanated from the second passage on the left from time to time.
Drawing their torches, they quickly lit them up and surveyed the tunnel ahead. As they passed the first intersection, they noted the eyes of a giant spider, presumably the same one they’d encountered earlier, reflected in the torchlight far, far down the tunnel. It watched them balefully but did not move.
At the second intersection, they peered down a passage to the west identified as the TYRAN FIRION LINE TUNNEL on Nathan Garney’s map. The tunnel was filled with mushrooms. In evidence were wooden buckets and crates that were once used top harvest the mushrooms, but these were lying neglected and the mushrooms had apparently grown unchecked. They could also see a handcar sitting at the round table intersection of the TYRAN FIRION LINE and MID NOTE TUNNELS. Further down the line, they could see the glow of lava.
As they turned their attention to the north, they could make out where the LOW NOTE TUNNEL ended. River Hopfoot’s map indicated that the still Azrael the Alchemist had sent them after was located in a short tunnel near the end of the line. The screams of ghouls could be heard from a longer tunnel near just before the still tunnel; however, Davroar’s elven ears could tell that the ghouls were on a different level.
Nathan and Acindor joined Davroar as he made his way to the still. Peering down the tunnel from which the ghoul screams were heard, they could see a hole near the tunnel’s end lit by an orange glow, perhaps by lava. The shadows of ghouls danced on the tunnel wall.
Proceeding further north, they found the still. Dividing it into three sections, they each picked up a section and turned around to take their prize back to the others.
A lone ghoul stood looking at them, looking just as stunned to see them as they were to see it. each set their section of the still down carefully. The ghoul lashed out at Davroar but he was able to dodge aside with elven grace. The trio finished it off quickly before it could sound the alarm.
Rejoining the group, they made their way along the rail track to the intersection of the MID NOTE TUNNEL and the TYRAN FIRION LINE, where they loaded the still onto the waiting handcar. As they surveyed the mushrooms and considered best how to harvest them, they noted sticky rust-colored places where blood had been spilled. The bodies were missing, having either been eaten by ghouls or raised as ghouls themselves.
They also noted that the tracks headed west stretched out over a lake of lava. In fact, the next round table was resting on a plinth of rock in the middle of the subterranean lake of lava. To the north, they noted that a cave in had blocked off their access to the PULLEY WORKS. The south tunnel of the MID NOTE TUNNEL back to the FORGE was, of course, also blocked.
With few options for escape, the players hoped to complete their shopping list for the SKY BAZAAR merchants of SMUGGLER SPEAK before the ghoul horde in the tunnels below them became aware of their presence.