Chapter 04: On Elathon's Trail

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Session Number: 105
Date: Sunday 24 July 2011
Venue: Densial's
PCs & Players:

Arrian Rog1/Clr9 (Fergus) (kills: none)
Feren Rog10 (Yeran) (kills: none)
Rowaine Pal10 (Craig) (kills: none)
Tomen Rgr9/Drd1 (Ash) (kills: none)
Troll Wiz10 (Densial) (kills: none)

XP Awarded: TBA

The party rest at Trina, discussing strategy as they wait for Elondel to complete manufacturing the antivenom. Troll advocates leaving Feren at Abbey or Elondel - not Trina.

Not long after dark, Trina informs Troll that three demons are approaching the bramble hedge that surrounds her grove. Troll asks Trina if she can hold them off; she believes so.

"Go to Abbey, Feren," Troll says. Feren leaves. A few minutes later Trina reports that the demons have disappeared. The party discuss how the creatures might be able to sense Feren when Abbey interrupts, saying that three demons have entered the outskirts of her domain. She is confident that she can defend herself and Feren.

"Have a go," Troll says. "If they get through, send Feren back here."

Two minutes later Abbey reports that the demons have been dispatched. At Rowaine's prompting Trina and Abbey compare the demons they each saw. They look the same - arachnid in form, like the creature the party encountered two nights before.

Do the party leave Feren at the monastery? Rowaine is not comfortable with this option, thinking of the last time her home was besieged by spidery enemies. How are the creatures so effortlessly finding Feren? Could the party throw them off the scent with magic? Could Trina do anything? She says she can make something in a couple of weeks to hide his nature from herself, but to her knowledge she is the only entity that is capable of such intimate examination. Rowaine asks Trina how Feren's aggressors are able to pinpoint his location, seemingly over such vast distances. The Tree of Life is unaware. Troll says that while he has not heard of a spell capable of the feat, it is at least theoretically possible. The caster would probably need some sort of access to the subject.

"Is Feren emitting something?" Rowaine asks. "Trina, can you tell us whether Feren is radiating anything unusual for one of his species?"

"He projects nothing that I can sense."

Troll asks the same question of Abbey and gets a similar answer. Abbey does point out that she cannot sense magical radiation. Troll gets Feren to remove all his magical items, then examines him with Detect Magic. Rowaine also checks for evil emanations. Feren glows brightly with divination magic to Troll's eyes. Its signature is similar to that of a Locate Object spell. He seeks out Ethalyn and repeats the process; she bears no sign of any dweomer.

"Would the wizard who cast this spell have had to have been close to Feren?" Rowaine asks Troll when he returns.

"Probably," Troll replies. Both look at Feren. He explains that he has been in the elven realm for some time and has had dealings with many elves, including Kanafels. He has even spent time with his Uncle Theodric.

Night passes. Troll readies two Dispel Magic spells. It takes both of them to remove the dweomer on Feren. Troll checks the other party members but finds no sign of the divination magic. Hopeful that this will be the end of the nightly demon encounters, the party collect the five stoppered bottles of antipoison that Elondel has prepared, then return to the Underdark.

Trina's branch is in much better shape than when the party last looked upon it. New shoots have already sprouted and begun to grow. Rowaine asks Trina more about the location of this branch. While Trina does not know its exact whereabouts (the branches do not convey that information), she does know it lies some two thirds of a mile beneath Kanafel territory. Rowaine suggests taking to the air; the others agree. Rowaine walks through the barrier and commences summoning Harley. While Rowaine is deep within the throes of calling, Tomen and Troll see a large, low, centipede-like creature approaching.

"Is this a friend of yours, Trina?" Troll asks.

"Yes. She will not harm you." As it gets closer the creature's nature becomes more apparent. It is reptilian with a mouth full of dangerous-looking teeth. Harley appears next to Rowaine.

"Heads up, love," Rowaine says to her mount. "We think this is a friend, but be on your guard."

The creature veers to the left and begins circling around the barrier. Satisfied that they are not about to be eaten, Troll conjures a Greater Disc, climbs up behind Rowaine and the party get airborne.

Rowaine directs Harley to the northeast passage, about a thousand yards away. It is little more than a a rough hole, irregular and narrow enough to prevent Harley safely flying down it. Harley lands and Rowaine readies her lance. The party enter.

The passageway winds for many long miles without branching. Not even Tomen can reliably say what direction they have been travelling.

"This isn't going to work," Troll says. "We cannot simply wander around in the Underdark, hoping to stumble upon Elathon. It is too dangerous and we don't have the time."

"You are right," Rowaine says. "I suggest we abort and go to the entrance that Elathon took. At least that way, we have a chance of following in his footsteps."

The party reverse course and return to Trina, then consider their travel options. Walking would take the better part of two weeks - far too long to be of any use to Elathon. Flying would reduce the time, but still nowhere enough. Troll could teleport himself and three others to Furlagh, but never having been there, the odds of arriving safely are far from certain.

Ethalyn runs up, excitedly. She tells of reports that several of the Avarriel gardens have morphed into fast-growing plants, enshrouding the queen and princess' chambers in hard plant material, effectively keeping Theodric's people out of their tower. Trina bears the hint of a smile. Troll tells Ethalyn their current predicament. "There are any number of mages here at Trina," Ethalyn says. "Would you like an introduction?"

Ethalyn introduces the party to Eldevar, a mage of a minor elven house who is both familiar with the Kanafel capital and has a Teleport spell prepared. He suggests that Furlagh may not be particularly safe at present and instead offers to teleport to a country estate outside the city. The party excuse themselves and seek out Riaz. He knows the elf and his family, describing them as loyal to the Roielles.

Troll, Rowaine and Harley are chosen to accompany the mage. They will head in the direction of the Kanafel garrison and survey it before Troll returns for the others.

Eldevar teleports Troll, Rowaine and Harley to the edge of a field bordered by a low stone wall. A wooded area grows beyond the wall. A stately country house can be seen on the other side of the field.

"If you travel west," Eldevar says, pointing, "you will come to a road. Follow it north and you will reach the protector's garrison."

"I think I should scout out that house first," Troll says. "Just to be sure."

"I will come with you," Rowaine says.

"Never mind. Let's just get on with it."

Rowaine and Troll thank the mage; he bids them goodbye and disappears. The trio climb over the wall and follow it westward down a hill. It is not long before they find the road. Troll and Rowaine mount Harley and the stone flyer launches into the air, quickly leaving the ground more than a thousand feet below. They track the road north.

After two and a half hours the group see a castle and fortifications ahead. Rowaine directs Harley to land. Troll studies the surroundings, then teleports back to Trina and returns with the others. Feren, who has been inside the garrison before, describes the structure as three fortified towers joined by walls that form a rough circle spanning two hundred yards. Inside is a single cavern: the entrance to the Underdark that Elathon is said to have taken.

Feren says that Elathon has spent a fair amount of time here - more than himself. This area is somewhat of a 'pain point' in the realm and receives more of its fair share of attention from the Roielles. Elathon has served here militarily. Feren knows that the troops are almost exclusively Kanafel. They are stationed aboveground, but perform day patrols into the Underdark. They have tried longer patrols that span more than one day but have lost too many lives to the denizens of the Underdark's upper reaches. Drow have been sighted here.

Rowaine tells Harley to take her underground and look for caverns or passages. If she finds any large, uninhabited caverns, she is to glide inside.

Together, they sink into the earth. The next sensation Rowaine feels is the cold, damp, lightless and cheerless chill of an Underdark cavern. She lights a sunrod.

The cavern is roughly oval in shape, its width varying from 25 to 35 feet. The wider ends bear passages that lead away into the dark. Rowaine quietly asks Harley which one leads to the surface; Harley indicates one. Rowaine asks Harley what else she saw before coming here. Harley describes several other passages that join up farther down. This particular chamber is around three hundred feet below the surface. There is a much larger cavern deeper down, but Harley sensed large beings within.

Rowaine and Harley return to the others and ferry them one by one into the small cavern. Tomen immediately looks at the walls, ceiling and floor.

"This place is well-travelled," he says. "There is a long history of heavy-booted feet."

"I hear something," Feren says, interrupting the ranger.

"What?"

"Not sure… Metal on metal. Very faint, coming from that passageway."

"That's the way up," Rowaine explains. "Let's get moving!"

Tomen takes point while Feren brings up the rear. Less than a minute later both Feren and Tomen hear the noise.

"It's louder," Feren says. "And the pace is quicker!"

"Troll, got a Disc handy?" Rowaine asks. Troll obliges, then climbs into Harley's second saddle position. The others board the Disc. Harley hustles down the passageway with speed and grace that belies her size and weight. Two minutes later, the sound of a horn comes from behind.

"The alarm horn!" Feren says.

"Harley, is the big cavern ahead?" Rowaine asks her wolf.

"Yes," Harley replies in terran. Harley's gravelly, canine voice makes the words sound like a rockslide. "Very big, like the cavern with the tree."

"Keep going, love," Rowaine says, her voice nowhere near as rough. "Leave them behind."

Harley bolts onward for a full, tense five minutes before the passageway blossoms into a huge cavern. Rowaine covers her sunrod and urges Harley into the air, mindful that the wolf said that this space was occupied. The darkness is disorienting, but at least there is no sound of imminent pursuit.

"Follow the ceiling," Rowaine tells Harley, trusting the creature's darkvision. Harley continues to climb as the ceiling gets higher.

"I cannot see the ground any more," Tomen says, indicating that it is at least 120 feet below.

"Harley, do you remember the exits from this place?" Rowaine asks.

"One, two, three, four," Harley says. "One goes down. The others go up."

"Take us to the exit that goes down, love," Rowaine says. "Go as slowly and as quietly as you can."

Rowaine, Troll, Feren and Arrian struggle with the pitch darkness - or is it completely dark? Directly ahead, there is a faint light source in the distance.

"I think I have heard of this place," Feren says. "This is as far as the Kanafel patrols venture."

As Harley wings closer, the light is seen to illuminate the end of the cavern. At about three hundred yards out, Rowaine motions Harley to circle. The light is from four burning torches, belonging to eight elven soldiers. The exit is blocked by a wooden barricade that looks to have been hastily erected. Half of the soldiers face into the cavern, half face the exit.

Rowaine appraises the barricade. "Troll, can you make us all invisible? I cannot see that obstacle standing up to a stone flyer at full pace." Rowaine senses Harley tense up at her thought.

"Won't that leave the guards unhurt?" Troll replies.

"I don't want to hurt them, Troll."

"Why not? We we don't want them marking this spot."

"We don't want them dead, either."

"Well then," Troll continues, "shall we ask them to move?"

"Risky. These are elven warriors, sent as far into the Underdark as their superiors dare. I think we have to assume that they are competent. Chances are they will follow their orders, in which case we are forced into a battle that I don't want to fight. I just want to get past them."

"Harley ferried us here," Tomen says. "Could she not ferry us to the other side?"

Troll shakes his head. "We would have to land and leave some of us in an area where there are other big things wandering around."

What to do?

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