Chapter 04: Into the Underdark

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Session Number: 75
Date: Sunday 28 November 2010
Venue: Fergus'
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr8 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Emily Ftr3/Rog6 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Feren Rog9 (Yeran) (kills: 1 earth glider)
Rowaine Pal9 (Craig) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBC

Dark elves! The words themselves conjure images of stalking, relentless, merciless death in the service of a loathsome goddess. "As if surface elves weren't enough trouble," Rowaine thinks. She recollects what she has been taught of the drow at the monastery, finding it wanting. Minehome had apparently experienced the wrath of the drow at around the same time as the formation of the monastery, but they had thankfully not been seen since.

The day grows long. The party call upon Abbey and ask for her guidance.

"Drow? Hang on, cherubs, I'll get Elondel. He knows more about them than me. If only we could talk to Saju, he'd know for sure. Lesee now…"


"Saju, yeah. He's the smart one. Y'know, every family has one."

While the combined towers' knowledge is patchy, the party learn much. Drow are the undisputed masters of the deep, lightless places of the Underdark. Other creatures might be larger and more capable of individual mayhem, but nothing dares interfere with the matriarchical houses of the dark elves. They spread their chaos outwards and upwards beyond their borders (like their surface cousins, they would not call them so). Occasionally they will venture as far as the surface, but have only been encountered above ground at night, possibly because of their aversion to bright light. They are intrinsically magical and intrinsically resistant to magic. They are known to use a sleep-inducing poison on their weapons.

The party request equipment from Elondel and Trina: silk rope, antivenom potions, and plenty of sunrods. Rowaine returns to Trina.

"How does transportation to your branches work?" she asks, worried that their entry may result in an exploitable return route to the surface. "Who is able to use them?"

"Any of Roielle or Roulae blood, or any they direct."

"Alright," Arrian says, "let's go. Trina, is it light where your branch is?"


Rowaine and Emily each activate sunrods. Feren asks Trina to allow everyone passage to the Caverns of Tears.

The party appear in a dark place. Their sunrods illuminate a tree with leaves and fruit, despite the darkness. The stone floor is on a slight incline. The tree is ringfenced by many layers of metallic shards connected by bulbous metal masses. They arc upwards, together forming a chaotic dome roughly seventy feet in diameter, centered upon the tree. The individual elements of the dome look chillingly like arachtria. The whole structure is motionless.

Rowaine looks about, Detecting Evil but sensing none. The hair on the back of her neck disagrees.

"Trina," Arrian asks, "Can you see these things that look like metallic spiders?"

"I can see metal stuff. The same as your armour."

"Can you see any in the shape of spiders?"

"Sort of…"

"Those are arachtria."

"For the sake of argument Trina," Rowaine says, "what would happen if something like a metallic spider should threaten your branch?"

"Nothing. Anybody can threaten a branch. If they were to attack, then I would probably send something to fight back - ask something to fight for me."

"Has that happened here?"

"There have been a number of the dark bretheren who have come here over the centuries and attempted to burn my branch. I have asked them to leave."


"I have friends I can call upon."

Rowaine turns to the others. "What under the earth would have caused arachtria to fuse into a hemisphere?" No one answers. She approaches the structure, trying to determine if there are indeed separate elements, or whether the whole structure is fused together. Fifteen feet away she stops. It is hard to tell from this distance.

"If these are arachtria," Arrian says, "then they are being poisoned by our imithrium equipment even as we speak. Shall we wait for the imithrium to kill them?"

"I don't know how long it takes, Rowaine says. "I wouldn't know how long to wait. And I don't think we should wait."

Arrian approaches the dome. It looks as if the shards are layered twenty or thirty feet thick. It is dark beyond.

"Borrow an arrow, Feren?"

Arrian takes Feren's arrow and leaves it lying at the foot of the tree at the centre.

"There. If they are arachtria, that ought to worry them."

Arrian wrenches his eyes from the dome and focuses on the ground, searching for paths or signs of passage. He does not find one, but a blackened area of the dome catches his attention. Blackened and pitted, as if caught in ephemeral flame.

"I wonder if this was a Fiery Burst," Arrian says. "Looks like one." The damage is centered about a metal body and extends five feet in every direction.

"I wonder if there are any other signs," Rowaine says, heading to the blackened area. "Broken arrows, perhaps?" Together they find three arrows, not broken, in a line all pointing in same direction: through the dome wall. They look the same as Feren's imithrium arrows.

"It looks like Troll was here," Rowaine says, "and he's not here now. He must have got through this somehow. Could it be as simple as walking through?"

"I'll go," Feren volunteers.

"Not first, Feren," Rowaine says. "You are the only one who can get us back."

"Me, then?" says Emily. "Or Blink?"

"What about summoning Harley?" Arrian suggests.

"No, not yet. She'd have a hard time getting through all that metal. And for all I know, the dome continues underground."

"Blink," Emily says to her little reptile, "go have a look, will you?"

Blink flits through without difficulty, weaving with dazzling speed. Emily and the others lose sight of him but he keeps chattering telepathically to Emily:

"It's dark and big out here. I can't smell anything alive. There are walls behind you."

Arrian examines one of spiderlike shapes in the dome, looking for signs of deterioration. He sees none. Blink circumnavigates the hemisphere but cannot sense anything save his friends. He returns to Emily's shoulder.

"Alright then, one after the other," Rowaine says. "One exits before the next enters." Emily begins, followed by Rowaine, Feren and Arrian. All wind around the metal projections without touching anything and exit out the other side.

"If those arrows are Troll's, they have been there for about a day," Arrian says to Rowaine. "I don't see that the arachtria have deteriorated at all… Isn't that what is supposed to happen?"

"I've not seen the sustained effect of imithrium on arachtria," Rowaine says. "I don't know if it just causes them to stop and die internally, or if it causes then to rot externally. It could just poison them. I dont know whether we'd see anything." Rowaine looks at the structure from the outside. "How long has this been here?" she wonders aloud. Rowaine jumps as she sees a figure within the dome. It is Trina. She wanders along the inside, looking at the metal quizzically.

"Trina, are you or your branch responsible for this in any way?" Rowaine asks.

"No. This was one of the masters. A Roulae."

"How long ago?"

"Five thousand years or so. I don't know why. It doesn't make sense."

"Did he survive?"

"Survive what?"

"What he did."

"Well, of course. Why would he not? That's silly."

"I was wondering if it was a retributive strike or a martyrdom, something like that..?"

Trina's brow creases. "I don't understand… Sorry?"

"You don't understand sacrifice?"

"Well, yes… No, he made this."

"Oh," Rowaine says. "So this wasn't swarming with these beasts and then they were stopped, he actually assembled this?"

"Yes. It's the same as your armour. Same stuff."

"Huh!" Rowaine addresses the others. "We can't tell if this stuff is imithrium alloy, can we?"

"I can't," Arrian says. "Elondel probably could. When we return, we could take a sample."

"But why is it here?" Feren asks.

"Why?" Rowaine says. "Why do you put a fence around your house? It would make quite a sensible defence of the branch, wouldn't it?" Rowaine says. "Having it surrounded by a hemisphere of imithrium."

"I don't think you understand," Trina says from within the dome, looking around. "It's just one big thing."

"Not lots of little things?" asks Feren.


"So maybe it just looks like arachtria," Arrian says. Trina wanders off. The others turn their attention outwards. There is the hint of a wall behind the dome, and absolutely nothing in front. Their light and the sounds they hear suggest that this cavern is very large. The ground is uneven and rocky.

"So, do we travel in the direction that the arrows point?" Rowaine asks. "Or find a wall and follow it?"

"Let's follow the arrows," Arrian says.

"OK," Rowaine says. But before we do, I'm going to leave a sunrod going inside the dome. We should be able to see it for a good distance, making it easier to return."

"Good idea," Arrian says. Rowaine activates another sunrod and tosses it through the dome. It comes to a stop near the tree. Its light glints off hundreds of surrounding metal facets, making a very visible landmark. Rowaine then lights another sunrod, checks the arrows and throws the light source in the direction they indicate. The group walk towards the sunrod and Rowaine retrieves it. She takes a bearing again and repeats the process, so as to hopefully move in a consistently straight line.

Better idea for next time: split into two groups. The first group goes off, keeping the second group in line with the dome. They stop after a certain distance, then the second group catches up. Repeat.

After forty minutes of chasing the sunrod, the group have covered about a mile at half normal speed. The echoes change; the elves in the party begin to make out a wall ahead. The lit dome is still visible behind.

On approach, the party spot a passageway in the wall, half-natural, half-hewn. The group head towards it, noticing a warm breeze on their faces originating from within. Arrian searches the area near the passageway and finds an arrow on the ground. Its head points inside.

"Shall we pick it up?" Rowaine asks. "We have seen it, it serves no other purpose."

"What harm is there in leaving it?" Arrian asks.

"Something else might find it and follow it."

Arrian looks back towards the dome. "If we are not back here in six hours, we lose the light to guide us back. Let's leave it here, pointing back towards the dome."

"I sense wisdom in that," Rowaine says. She reorients the arrow to point at the dome. The group then enter the passageway.

Line of sight to the dome is quickly lost as the tunnel slopes downwards and meanders left and right. Its width varies but never drops below twenty feet. After twenty minutes, about a mile, Arrian motions the group to halt.

"I see a glow ahead."

"Natural?" whispers Rowaine, her human eyes unable to make it out. "Flickering?"

"Steady," Arrian replies in hushed tones. "Orangey red."

"I'll go on ahead," Emily offers. She hands her sunrod to Feren. "Lower your light sticks, I don't wish to be silhouetted!"

Emily scouts ahead slowly, allowing her eyes to adjust to the near-darkness. Twists in the passageway result in her quickly losing sight of the others. The warm breeze on her face continues. The glow that once seemed imagined becomes more pronounced, then Emily senses an opening ahead. She crouches down and sneaks forwards.

The passageway opens into a large cavern, bathed in an orange glow. The floor drops away abruptly at a ledge around thirty feet beyond the tunnel mouth. Emily crawls forwards and peeks over. The cavern floor is around two hundred feet below, terminating in a considerable amount of rocky rubble. Nearly half a mile distant is the source of the light: a gently curving, glowing red river traversing the cavern floor. Beyond it, bathed in the river's glow is a keep, built into the cavern's far wall. Though hard to judge at this distance, Emily guesses it must be at least two hundred feet tall. Emily looks left and right. The ledge continues in both directions beyond vision, subtlely curving inwards. She spots an arrow lying on the ground to the left, pointing farther along the ledge. She creeps backwards and returns to the others, revealing what she has discovered.

"You saw no movement?" asks Rowaine. "No signs of life? No scouts?"

"None that I saw."

Emily leads the way to the ledge. Arrian looks out and sees the keep. He too sees no signs of movement. He looks for breaks in the glowing river that might indicate a bridge. He sees nothing of the sort, but his scan picks up a flicker of movement: three shadowy figures, this side of the river, heading their way!

Damn. Our light.

"Sunrods!" yells Arrian, looking behind him at his well-lit companions. "Hide them!" Rowaine throws the sunrods into her backpack. Arrian beckons Rowaine and Feren forwards.

"Something approaches!" he says through clenched teeth. "Three somethings!"

"What?" Rowaine says, searching the darkness.

"I don't know!" Arrian says. He casts Magic Vestment, touching Rowaine's shoulder to target the spell. He looks back out over the cavern floor and reacquires the figures. They are making short work of the quarter-mile distance; he estimates they will be directly below in about a minute. They occasionally seem to disappear for a short time, then reappear farther on. He then casts Bull's Strength upon Feren. The elf feels his chest, arms and thighs swell with unnatural vigour.

"We need to move from here," Rowaine says. The party retreat just beyond the mouth of the passageway and look out to the ledge, silhouetted by the river's fiery glow.

Rowaine fumbles for a sunrod, wrapping it in a rag and holding it inside her shield. Arrian casts Magic Circle against Evil, centred on his paladin. Arrian mentally prepares his next spell (Recitation), while Feren mentally prepares a stab. Rowaine pushes her consciousness forwards, seeking evil.

"Who has our rear?" Arrian says.

"Blink," Emily replies. Her pseudodragon hops off her shoulder and covers the passageway behind.

Scarce seconds later, a creature emerges from the stone floor ahead. Something large, flat and evil.


It was disappearing as it was diving underground.

[Denz] Have you read about these? They're awesome! I didn't know you could get that many hit points!

"The light and truth of Corellon Larethian engulf us!" Arrian utters. His allies are charged with intensity. Feren steps forwards and adopts a defensive pose. Rowaine calls out to the celestial plane, seeking her mount. Emily takes a more direct appproach. She shoots two arrows at the creature. Both are on target, but both ricochet away harmlessly. Arrian casts Divine Power on himself.

Feren waits, his rapier poised should the creature close. Rowaine hears Harley's answering yap and senses her presence in the stone to her right. "Good," she thinks. "Stay there, my love, let's see what this creature is about." Rowaine senses Harley's emotional state. Her stone flyer has sensed the presence of something and is worried. "What worries Harley?" Rowaine wonders. She snaps her attention back to the threat in front of her. Its long tusks suggest caution. She hefts her axe, shifts her weight back and and waits for it to approach. Emily's next two arrows go the same way as the previous two; she cannot seem to generate enough tension on her bowstring to penetrate the creature's tough hide. Arrian's spell however does not require anything as gauche as penetration. Corellon Larethian's Searing Light strafes the creature, burning a line along its upper side. The creature rears and launches itself forwards, aiming to skewer Rowaine on its protruding horns. Both Rowaine and Feren are ready, however. Rowaine's axe descends and bites deep, driven by her Moradin-powered fury. Feren's stab is turned by the creature's thick, stony hide. The creature's momentum buries its horn into Rowaine's side. Harley emerges from the stone wall in much the same way as the creature. She attacks the creature's hind quarters but does not make an impression.

Feren tumbles past Rowaine to his right and stabs again. The creature, mindful of the stone-attuned creature at its rear, turns slightly to foil the attack. Its move, however, does not consider its other threat: Rowaine. Moradin's paladin drives her imithrium axe through the creature's leading edge, smashing its face into the ground.

Critical Smite! 3d10+42 = 63 dmg!

The creature's constitution shrugs off the massive blow. Rowaine follows up with another: not as well-aimed, but her blade tastes outsider blood nonetheless. Emily activates her amulet's False Life ability. She considers angling an arrow around Rowaine, but hesitates due to the risk to her ally. Instead, she rolls left, regains her feet and looks for other targets. She knows there are others out there! Arrian prevaricates: heal Rowaine or press the attack? He leads with his long sword. His first attack bounces off stony hide, his second leaves a mark. The creature rears up and attempts to engulf those it faces. Its tusks pierce Rowaine's shield arm and side; as it shakes itself free its toothy maw rips at Rowaine's unprotected midriff. The bite nauseates her but she manages to shrug it off. The creature's gigantic 'wings' slam Arrian and Feren into the tunnel walls. Its barbed tail lashes out at Harley but the stone flyer is just quick enough to dodge. Incensed, Harley bites back but her jaws fail to find purchase.

Feren ducks low and feints a stab towards the creature's underbelly. It follows the move but does not anticipate the rogue's deceitful thrust into its maw. Feren's blade slides between teeth and punctures the back of the creature's mouth. Rowaine follows up with two well-timed chops left and right. Arrian's long sword descends, cleaving the creature's upper surface. His follow-up thrust is turned by the creature's stony skin. The creature again gores and bites Rowaine as its wings slam towards its flanks. Arrian manages to sidestep; Feren does not. Once again, Rowaine reels from the creature's nauseating bite but pulls herself together. The creature's tail whips out towards Harley but comes up short. Harley snaps down on the creature's tail, crushing and tearing at it with her savage teeth.

Feren feints left and stabs right. His blade sinks deep. He gives it a quarter-twist before withdrawing it. The creature shudders, then collapses. Arrian casts a Cure spell upon Rowaine.

earth_glider_battle_01.jpg earth_glider_battle_02.jpg

Harley stops growling and returns to her mistress' side, looking outwards. She tells Rowaine in terran that the creature lying on the floor is an earth glider, a native of the elemental plane of earth with a voracious appetite. They wander the deep places and will eat anything. They are a tough kill, even for a pack of stone flyers. Like Harley, they can Tremorsense and are resistant to all but bludgeoning weapons.

Great. Only two more to go!

[Denz] If you're reading the book check out the next creature ordinally, makes an earth glider look like a puppy dog. CL 9 and in the underdark? You're playing big boy games now :)

[Craigo] Hmmm… Elder Brain… Challenge Rating 25? Four Hundred And Eighty Four hit points? You're gonna need a bigger boat :-)

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