Greyhawk: Gem of the Flanaess
Part Two - Chapter Ten: Return to the Ruins
It was on Earthday, the 6th day of Fireseek, in the Common Year of 581, when the Company of the Green Dragon defeated the monstrous troll known as Swamp Thing in a gladiatorial match at the Pit. Later that night, while celebrating their victory down the street at the Green Dragon Inn, the band decided it was time for them to resume their explorations of the ruins of Castle Greyhawk. So the following morning, that of Freeday the 7th, still on a high from the cheering crowds and their glorious victory of the night before, the band and their original group of henchmen made their preparations and set out on the way for their ninth expedition into the ruins. It had been five weeks since their last visit, but despite this little had changed, or at least it appeared so when they first arrived. After making their way across the unnerving and treacherously narrow bridges that led to the War Tower, the band passed by the graves of the dwarves who had once guarded the tower, a grim reminder of the ongoing struggles for control of the ruins and the rumored treasures that lay hidden below. With one last check and the casting of a couple of light spells, the band entered the ruined tower through the secret door by the front entrance and made their way downstairs following a path that was now becoming very familiar to them. The sweet and musty smell of corpses decaying on the third level had lessened considerably since their last visit, a testament perhaps to the presence of scavenging creatures that feed on such things. One thing that had not changed on the third level however, were the zombie troglodytes that greeted them once again as they entered the large chamber just prior to the southern lift room. Though the band had destroyed the zombies on their last visit, it appeared that Gaerdar, the leader of the duergar, had reanimated them as a first line of defense against incursions from above. As before, the band let their henchmen battle the zombies so they could get in some real combat experience. Unlike the previous time however, without Bingo, Bongo and Bono there to aid them, the other four henchmen struggled against the zombies. Early in the battle, Ashba had one of her scorching ray spells backfire and she burned herself badly. Except for a couple of magic missile spells he had memorized, Thiedge’s spells were mostly useless against the zombies. Nikki, with his rapier, was completely ineffective against the zombies, though he stood up front and held most of the zombies off the spell casters. As a result, he received most of the injuries and was badly wounded by the end of the battle. Fortunately, he was much tougher than the other three. Jamis started off by using his bow but had to eventually use his sword and managed to score a few hits on the zombies. It was Ashba though, who after being badly injured by her own spell, did most of the damage by far to the zombies and destroyed more than half of them almost single-handedly. When the battle was over, Rohnam used a wand to heal all their henchman’s injuries. But at the same time, a voice called out to them from an unseen being nearby. The voice identified them as the Company of the Green Dragon and after Zeke confirmed this, an invisible duergar then made himself visible. He told the band that the duergar had been wondering when they would return to the ruins, and then expressed some dismay at the destruction of the zombies. But recalling the alliance between the two groups, the duergar offered to escort the band to the next level to see Gaerdar. The band accepted the offer and followed the duergar into the lift room where several more duergar then lowered them down on the lift. On the fourth level, where he had apparently now moved his residence, the band then met with the leader of the duergar and spoke with him for a bit. Gaerdar told the band that the duergar had made considerable progress during the band’s absence, having cleared out most of the fourth level of debris so they could utilize the food producing altar and other resources, insuring that starvation was no longer a concern for them. He also told the band that they had been doing surveillance on the 7th level where the half-orc clerics of Nerull were still in control. According to their contacts, the half-orcs had been busy trying to build a tunnel to the upper levels, an alternate route past the ruined levels directly above them, so they could once again reconnect with the surface world. So far, there had been no clashes between the duergar and the forces of the half-orcs. But Gaerdar assumed there would eventually come a day when the duergar would have to wage war on their former masters. So in the meantime, the duergar had been preparing themselves, trying to make sure they would be ready when that day finally arrived. Of course, if the Company of the Green Dragon should take the lead and defeat the duergar’s enemies beforehand, then the duergar could avoid this seemingly inevitable war. And so it was to the duergar’s advantage, according to Gaerdar, to aid the band in whatever way they could. This was despite the fact that Gaerdar and the forces below, who were led by the much feared ogre magi of the lowest level, all worshiped the same deity. Exactly what Nerull thought about this however, was anyone’s guess. The same could be said about how Tadwin fit into all of this. It seemed that, for the time being, Nerull would remain silent on the matter. Or, on the other hand, if Nerull had expressed an opinion, that opinion was not being shared with all those involved. Nevertheless, in an effort to aid the band in their endeavors, Gaerdar again offered to send his trusted lieutenant, Kaelegg, along as a guide as he had done before. Kaelegg then quickly gathered his meager equipment and moments later, he and the band were being lowered, past the duergar complex, into the level below. It was on the fifth level then where the band used their ropes to lower themselves to the sixth level while the henchmen stayed behind on the fifth level to aid in the band’s return. On the sixth level, the band made their way to the two sets of stairs leading down. One set of stairs, which lay beyond a door, was a trap, according to Kaelegg. So they avoided it, and descended the other set of stairs. Near the bottom of the stairs, Tadwin used an arcane eye spell to scout out ahead. With his spell, Tadwin was able to spy on more than a dozen ogres spread out over several rooms, but closed doors and dead end passages prevented him from seeing any further. The spell served its purpose however, and the band felt they were well prepared when they continued down the stairs and attacked the ogres. Initially, the band cut down the first group of ogres with little effort. But if there was a mistake made on the part of the band, it was in the assumption that the ogres would be very easy to kill. They soon discovered though, that the majority of these ogres were well trained and well equipped, and as the ogres mustered a defense they became more difficult to kill than the band had anticipated. This is not to say that the ogres posed any real threat to the Company of the Green Dragon, for the ogres were still heavily outmatched by the powerful band of adventurers. Nevertheless, the ogres managed to occasionally wound one of the band members and when they did it was more often than not a fairly severe injury. Gradually however, the band waded through the ogres taking them down one by one and leaving a trail of carnage behind them. When they were done, they searched the ogres and their rooms for any valuables, and came up with more than a dozen golden sword sheaths for the ogres’ over-sized broadswords. They also found a few black cloaks hidden behind a barrel of ale, that Kaelegg said were identical to the cloaks worn by the priests of this level. One room that the band came to was cloaked in magical darkness. But using a pair of magical goggles that Brom had recently bought in the city, Brom was able to see into the darkness. With his dark-vision, Brom saw that the room contained a small horde of golden objects ranging from furniture to statues. Unfortunately, when he tried to descend the stairs that led into the room, he was suddenly struck deaf and blind. Sensing that something bad had happened to Brom, Tadwin reached in and pulled him out of the room. Though he could not speak, the band quickly realized what had happened to Brom, and soon after they also realized that the only means they currently had of healing Brom’s maladies, was to use a powerful, one of kind potion that they would prefer to save for another time. The only alternative, though, was to take him to a cleric who could heal him. Since the band had only gotten started just a short while before, this was not an easy decision for them to make. But Kaelegg assured them that Gaerdar would be willing and able to cast the necessary spells. So, somewhat reluctantly, the band made their way back upstairs and eventually returned to the fourth level where they explained to Gaerdar what had happened. Gaerdar, of course, agreed to cast the spells at no charge to the band, but said he would need to rest first as he did not have the proper spells currently memorized. This meant that the band would have to wait for quite some time before they could continue on. So in the meantime, the duergar directed them to a room where the band could make themselves comfortable and offered them the use of their kitchen and bar. Tadwin, however, decided to use some of the time to try and retrieve the golden objects found in the darkened room. Taking a few people with him, he returned to the seventh level, and cast a couple of unseen servant spells. The first unseen servant managed to set off the rest of the glyphs of warding that remained on the stairs and was killed in the process. But the second unseen servant was able to drag the golden objects out of the room where Tadwin and the others could safely collect them. After hauling all of the treasure back up to the fourth level, the band could do little else but rest and wait. It was about one o’clock in the morning on the 8th day of Fireseek then, when Gaerdar was finally ready to cast the spells needed to heal Brom. Once the spells were cast, the band grabbed their gear and set out once again into the levels below. Following the same procedure as before, the band was soon picking up where they had left off. Fortunately, it appeared that nothing had changed during the time they were gone. Across the hall from where the darkened room was, there was a door. Beyond it, the band soon came upon a small octagonal-shaped room with a shaft in the center. Brom descended a ladder in the shaft, which only dropped about ten feet, and scouted out a passageway beyond. This passageway eventually came to another shaft leading up ten feet to a secret door. After Brom returned to his companions and described what he had seen, Kaelegg confirmed that this area of the seventh level was apparently constructed by the priests of this level without the knowledge and approval of their masters below. Therefore, in order to enter the rest of the level, which Kaelegg described as an entertainment level for the slaves, complete with a gladiatorial arena, the band would have to locate and pass through a number of secret doors. Following the passageway back to the secret door, and then stepping through it, the band entered a wide hallway with a set of double doors to the right and a large chamber to the left that contained some very large objects made of gold, including two life-sized statues of trolls and a golden couch. Though the band could detect no magic in the area, they were very suspicious of the arrangement and the apparent value of the golden objects and they suspected a trap. So they opted to investigate the double doors first. Beyond the double doors, the band came to a large chamber with blackened walls and which was occupied by what at first appeared to be a large gray dragon with mottled red and brown scales. As the band entered, a dwarf-like creature that Kaelegg identified as a derro ducked into a set of double doors on the far side of the room. The band immediately attacked the large monster, which was held in place by golden chains, and although it breathed fire like a dragon, the band soon realized, due in part to its lack of wings, that it was actually fire lizard. Though it did cause some injuries to the band, they managed to kill it without too much difficulty. With the fire-lizard dead, the band investigated the room beyond and found, in addition to the derro that had run away, a huge nest, obviously that of the fire lizard, and inside it, a very large egg. Realizing that the egg was very valuable, or could even be useful to the band if they wanted to have a fire lizard guardian for themselves, the band left it alone for the time being with the intention of retrieving it later. As for the derro, the band questioned him and got a description of what could be found in the nearby chambers. The derro, who called himself Danu, then pointed out a secret door beyond which more derro slaves could be found along with several troll masters. When the band was ready, they opened the secret door and entered a chamber occupied by four trolls who were busy operating winches and raising a lift from below. On the opposite side of the lift, a couple of derro were drawing something on the wall, and nearby was a large stone slab that rested on a long series of golden rollers set into the floor, which apparently served as some kind of conveyer. The band attacked the trolls and the derro joined in as well, making use of their natural ability to cause damage with sound bursts. Using the tried and true tactics the band had developed against trolls, the band was able to kill them with minimal injury to themselves. Then again they questioned the derro, who pointed out three doors beyond the stone slab. Two of the doors led to rooms with nothing but mining equipment, just as the derro had said. But the center door led to a room where some of the derro apparently slept, as well as another door that lay beyond. This second door, the derro failed to mention, was actually trapped. So when the band went to open it, a trap door opened up beneath Brom and Corvyn. Brom was able to dodge to the side and catch himself. But Corvyn fell twenty feet into the pit below and got banged up a bit. This caused some of derro, who are known for their cruelty and disliking for humans, to snicker a bit. Despite this, the band did not retaliate in any way and after pulling Corvyn up from the pit, continued on their way through the door. The next chamber that they entered was another sleeping chamber for dozens of derro, though there were only four asleep at this time. It was guarded by another troll that the band quickly dispatched. By this point, some members of the band were getting anxious to fight the leaders of this level and began asking how to find them. But the derro urged them to finish taking out the trolls first. One more troll was found in a room to the southwest, and after killing him, the band entered a room to the northeast that served as a dining hall. In here were two more trolls and six more derro. The band, with a little aid from the derro, quickly killed these two trolls and had a look around. Nearby, they found a kitchen and a pantry, along with crates of food and barrels of water and ale. The derro showed them where plans had been made for creating a tunnel through the pantry and other storage rooms and which would more directly connect the lift from below to a chamber beyond where they were in the process of digging a tunnel that led up. The derro then led the band to the chamber where they were digging the tunnel. Inside, along with a huge pile of rubble that was being hauled off while others above were adding to it, were two dozen more derro busy at work. But once it became clear to these derro that the trolls were dead, all work came to an abrupt halt and many of the derro began to cheer. There were now more than forty derro all gathered together here and many of the derro began to eye the band with looks that made the band somewhat concerned. For the time being, however, the derro became content with simply raiding the kitchen and the pantry while they plotted revenge on their previous masters. The band, meanwhile, convinced Danu to take them to the door that would lead them into the rest of the level, where the half-orc priests could be found. So Danu guided the band back into another area they had passed by earlier and, beyond a short flight of stairs, indicated a secret door. Beyond this secret door, the band found a short passageway and a couple of doors to either side. The first door they checked, Brom found was protected by a glyph of warding. He was able to remove the glyph and open the door, which led into the personal quarters of one of the priests. Here a rust-red and black blanketed bed sat beside a desk and chair, and tapestries portraying various scenes of death adorned the walls. Lying about the room were a golden-hilted sacrificial dagger and a few malachite religious tokens. The desk was locked, but Brom was able to pick it. It contained writing materials and notes on several things all written in undercommon. Tadwin looked through them and found that there were notes on the attempt to build a lift and a stairwell leading up, as well as the success of their entertainment level in boosting the morale of the derro slaves. There were also a couple of black books including one that listed guards and slaves who needed to be watched. While some of the band was busy looking about the room, others were still in the hallway when three large ogres suddenly came from around the corner and charged at them. Moments later, the door across the hall opened up and a half-orc priest within began casting spells. Fortunately for the band, the priest’s first spell appeared to have no effect and Zeke was able to cast a silence spell in the room, preventing him from casting any more. Corvyn, on the other hand, cut down the other ogres fairly quickly, but found that these ogres were using poisoned blades and before long, Corvyn was in serious trouble and in dire need of some healing from Zeke. The priest, meanwhile, who was very difficult to hit, produced a scythe and used it along with some clerical abilities to attack Tadwin, hurting him badly and causing him to back away. But Brom snuck in behind the priest and with a few deadly sneak attacks he soon had the priest reeling from his mortal injuries. The band was then able to kill their attackers, but once again they found the ogres and the half-orc priest to be more formidable than they had originally expected. When the battle was over, the band was forced to use most of their healing spells as some of them were very badly wounded. Once everyone was healed sufficiently, they searched the bodies and the other room for anything of value. The priest had magical plate armor and all of them carried more items of gold. In addition to much of the same things found in the first bedroom, they found in the second one a secret compartment in the desk. Inside it was a list of thirteen derro names and a passage in undercommon that read, “These derro have escaped with mining instruments and cannot be found. I suspect they entered the secret area near the elite ogre barracks.” Kaelegg could not shed any light on whatever this meant. But the band decided it was time for them to retreat back to the fourth level. On the way, Tadwin scouted out a few areas using his spell to detect for secret doors. He found one near the fire lizard lair and another near the ogre barracks. He also investigated the track of golden rollers and found that it led to a collapsed area where water poured out of the rubble into a crevice in the floor. And finally, Rohnam used the helm of intuition that he bought from Zeke and was able to determine that in the area where they had suspected a trap and passed up previously, there was some reward to be gained, though not as much as there appeared to be and there was indeed some danger there as well.