The party members are tossed into cells inside of an unknown structure. Also in the cells are an elven woman, a pair of men, and a third man, unconscious. Erdolliel escapes her bonds, while Bazrim talks to the two men, who call themselves Martal and Regim. Erdolliel questions the elven woman, who seems convinced that the group are somehow trying to give her false hope.
Erdolliel soon opens the lock on the cell door she shares with Eskard, but Martal and Regim then react by opening their own door with a hidden switch and rush to attack the elf and half-orc. With help from Nethezar, blinding Martal, Erdolliel and Eskard quickly drop Regim and subdue Martal, who flees back into his cell and closes the gate with his hidden switch.
The elf woman is persuaded that the party is not playing some ruse. She tells the group that she is Ilya Starmane, from a noble family in the Free City, and has been trapped in this place for maybe a month.
Martal promises to tell the group information in return for his sight, mentioning powerful superiors, but Kushnak has none of his talk. Erdolliel frees Ilya from her cell and turns to open Martal's. The "man" suddenly transforms, changing form to become apparently taller and stronger, but Erdolliel and Eskard quickly bring him down. After depositing the unconscious Martal in the other cell with Regim, Erdolliel looks around and finds the party's belongings in a chest. In another chest, a magic bag is found, and in yet another, some items that (the party later learns) belong to Ilya.
The party finds a hidden door to the south, leading to a large warehouse chamber. The group runs into what seem to be living boxes, but manages to fight them off. After some verbal sparring between Erdolliel and Bazrim, the group examines the area more. After finding a catwalk so old that it collapses the instant Erdolliel touches it, the group also finds a room stocked with boxes and bookcases arrayed with no apparent organization. Foregoing a detailed search for the time, the group instead makes their exit from the warehouse, whereupon an elated Ilya finally believes that the party really are not playing some despicable trick upon her. Ilya tells the group that, based on the look of the place, they are in the River Quarter, a part of the Free City outside the walls proper. She gives the group her periapt of health
with thanks and heads back to the city.
After seeing a sign on the warehouse naming it "The Sodden Hold," the group ventures back in, with the notion that (judging from the outside dimensions) not much of the structure remains unsearched.
Deciding to take the time, Erdolliel spends roughly two hours combing through the documents in the one room for some clue about the Sodden Hold. However, none of the documents seem newer than 10 years old. They detail the workings of the business that used the warehouse, which appeared to be part of the general shipping business of the Free City along the river. But the records abruptly stop, with no apparent reason (such as recession or lack of business).
The group makes way back to the cells where they were first deposited in this place. While the unconscious human remains where he was, both Martal and Regim have vanished. Erdolliel checks the unconscious man (believing him to have been dead) and finds him, in fact, alive, but only barely. After deciding that this man is a victim of the same assailants that imprisoned the party, the group heals the man enough to talk. However, the man at first gives nothing but inane babble ("Where is the fish?"; "When the moonlight is brightest, the badgers dance."; random giggling). While Eskard guards the man, he abruptly seems to become lucid and, after exclaiming that he's still in "this awful place," he lunges toward Eskard's sword. The warrior easily renders the man unconscious once more. The group decides to bring him with them.
Opening the door to the north of the cells, the group finds a large room full of stagnant water with weapons piercing the water's surface. Timbers stretch across parts of the room, making thin walkways. Erdolliel senses an unseen presence in the room, and Kushnak gives Eskard the power of flight. Once the warrior enters the room, two invisible beings strike out. Erdolliel is plunged by one of the "somethings" into the weapon-filled water below. While the elf deftly moves back to stable floor, Eskard is assaulted by the invisible things. Kushnak pulls forth a scroll meant to remove invisibility, but, for some reason unknown (except to Bazrim, who never reveals the secret), the spell has no effect. The group quickly comes to the consensus that, with their current means, they cannot fight these foes. With a departing fireball
from Bazrim, the group makes hasty retreat into the cell room and slams the doors. There is no pursuit.
Eskard carries the unconscious man from the cell and the group soon leaves the Sodden Hold. While the half-orc uses the remaining flight from the spell, the others discuss what to do next. While Erdolliel voices a desire to seek out Eligos, the others overrule her while mentioning that it may simply not be safe yet to enter the city proper. Eskard leads the group to a secluded grove where they can rest and revisit their plans.
As the group rests, during Eskard's watch, a young couple strays into the resting place. With some magic dust, they force the warrior into a magical sleep, though not before they transform into the forms of Martal and Regim.
The group wakes in a small room. They are bound and gagged, and Erdolliel is drugged out of her senses (and, clearly, her ability to loose herself from the bonds). They are captives of perhaps four alien-looking humanoids with yellow eyes and no hair. Using some magic cube, they appear to attempt to steal Bazrim's magically prowess from him. But something goes wrong with their item. The cube breaks and all goes black.
Nethezar, Kushnak, and Erdolliel awake, but find that Bazrim and Eskard, along with the humanoids, appear to have been obliterated. The remaining three, however, have new powers. Mourning their lost companions, the trio collects the belongings of the other two and exits. They find no sign of the unconscious man they had carried out of the Sodden Hold.
Day 40, Evening
As the sun sets, the trio heads back to the Sodden Hold, invigorated with their new powers (including magic they think will suffice to render the unseen things inside visible) as well as their vengeance.
They slip inside and find nothing different about the place until they reach the room with the weapon-filled water. The room was badly damaged by Bazrim's fireball
, and some of the central planks are no longer intact. After discussing their plans, Kushnak flies into the middle of the room. As expected, the half-orc is assailed by the invisible foes. Erdolliel lets loose her prepared spell with the desired effect: two large, amorphous beings takes shape, covered by glitterdust
. The trio makes short work of the now-visible beings, though they still don't know what they were.
Making their way through the plank-filled room, the trio finds that the last room contains a shaft leading down to some water with a giant bowl floating on top. Kushnak, aided by flight, and Erdolliel investigate the bowl. Eventually, Erdolliel dives under the water's surface to explore the shaft. After surfacing, once to get some light, and the second to give a status report, the elf submerges for a longer time.
When Erdolliel returns, she tells of an octopus monster that she killed and describes the room she saw. The trio then travel down as a group, Nethezar and Kushnak simply sinking to the bottom and walking. They enter a room, at the bottom of the shaft and at the end of a hallway, with a pillar, a lever, and a door to the south. Ignoring the level for the moment, they head to the south.
They first enter a hallway connect to living quarters of the place's occupants. Those occupants turn out to be the same alien-like creatures that had captured the group before. Erdolliel actually sees two of them changing from human forms to the alien-like forms. Easily defeating the first wave, the trio manages to capture one. Erdolliel interrogates the creature, but it indicates that it knows nothing of the cube device and knows only that they acted because they were told to act. Search of the bedrooms turns up a plethora of outfits and accompanying props.
In the easternmost room, Erdolliel discovers an illusory wall
leading to another room. That room is covered in mirrors, and, tied to chairs in the middle, are duplicates of the trio, unarmed and struggling to break free.
Soon enough, the tied-up Nethezar wriggles free, and both Nethezar's begin to argue. Next, the tied-up Kushnak breaks his chains and calls the other an imposter. The tied-up Erdolliel has more trouble, and lunges around while still tied in the chair.
Things soon become chaotic, with one Kushnak claiming this must be an illusion, but one Nethezar claiming that his magic detects no illusion, and the untied Erdolliel seems paralyzed by confusion. With patience virtually gone, Nethezar suddenly pieces together that, because their equipment makes it easy to tell which are the tied and untied versions, the only way there could be doubt about who is real would be if there was "always doubt." With that, the person Kushnak and Nethezar had thought was Erdolliel turns and attacks the half-orc.
With the confusion ended by the fake Erdolliel's attack, Nethezar shatters
the manacles holding the real Erdolliel. While the impostors looked like the trio, they were not equipped and could not fight as well. They soon fall.
Reunited with Erdolliel, the group has many questions to answer. Erdolliel informs that that, in fact, she was captured after she went to parlay for the lizardfolk (late on Day 38). After a bit more discussion, and odd banter from Nethezar, the group continues their search.
Returning to the hallway with the bedrooms, Erdolliel falls prey to a nasty pit trap with a false bottom and a silence
effect. Erdolliel's ingenuity and the others' perseverance get through the trap.
Heading to the other end, the group finds a planning room. Two tables, covered with maps, notes, and books are in the room, as well as an enormous map of the Free City nearly covering an entire wall. Before delving into the documents, Erdolliel discovers a secret door leading out of the room.
Passing through the secret door, the group enters a maze of polished metal mirrors. Moving slowly, the group encounters enemies, using cover of invisibility and manipulating odd triggers causing portions of the wall to slam into place, cutting of passages. Having disguised their number, the alien-like creatures nearly kill Nethezar. Erdolliel and Kushnak manage to more than even the odds, but the final foe nearly kills Kushnak, while Nethezar bleeds on the floor. Kushnak manages to revive himself, and he and Erdolliel kill the last foe, but not before Nethezar's lifeblood leaves him.
Erdolliel and Kushnak gather their things and Nethezar and make haste to leave. They return to the water-filled pillar room, through the lever, and seen the water drain out the bottom. With the help of air walk
, Kushnak brings them up the shaft, and soon they reach the open air (which the real Erdolliel had not seen for some time). After discussing what to do next, they find a secluded spot to hide and rest for the remainder of the night.
After the some comes up, Erdolliel and Kushnak bring Nethezar's body into the city, where they find the pyramid-shaped temple of Boccob. Inside, they meet a middle-aged elf called Scholar Venli. Venli arranges for some of the party's possession to be valued and exchanged from bringing Nethezar back from the dead. Nethezar, apparently, also made some arrangement of his own with Venli, and Nethezar turns over one of his journals to the church.
The trio make their way back out of the city to rest in seclusion. Nethezar furiously writes in a new journal the rest of the day.
Nethezar examines a gem Erdolliel found on the fake version of herself. The scholar discerns that the gem somehow holds Erdolliel's thoughts, so that her thoughts could be easily read with magic. Putting that aside for the moment, the group returns back to the warehouse.
Upon reaching the strange well, the trio finds that, somehow, the water level had returned. Erdolliel uses the same trick, tying the rope to herself, that the fake Erdolliel used. She swims to the pedestal below, flips the lever, and the water level begins to drop. While waiting for the others to ride down in the sinking bowl, Erdolliel spots someone spying on her.
After making some preparations, the trio heads back into the lair. To the south of the maze, Erdolliel finds a door leading to a throne room. Inside, she sees someone appearing to be Allustan. When Kushnak and Nethezar enter, the supposed-Allustan claims to have arrived looking for the group. The being has a surprising amount of knowledge and shares that the alien-like creatures are called "doppelgangers." Kushnak, unconvinced, argues with the supposed-Allustan, who then moves to strike with a spell. The trio, however, reacts quickly. A well-used blindness
spell virtually ends the fight. The creature changes form a couple of times: once to a hawkish old wizard and then to a brutish orc. While Erdolliel succumbs to a confusion
spell, Kushnak and Nethezar quickly dispatch it. Kushnak severs its head, and it reverts to the same alien-like form as the other doppelgangers.
Once Erdolliel returns to her senses, the trio begins to examine the room, but Kushnak sets off a trap. Erdolliel finds a great deal of treasure. She also finds a ring of keys and sees that this doppelganger has a strange symbol on its head.
Finally, on the throne itself, she finds a button. Pressing the button leads to another room. Inside, a whole slew of more treasure is found, a multitude of documents displaying the doppelgangers' infiltration of the Free City, as well as the following note:
I have a task for you, thrall. Meet me at the sewer junction beneath the cold forge and I will give you the details. There are some troublesome small minds that must be removed.
The note is signed with the same symbol found on the doppelganger's head.
Erdolliel returns to the throne room and examines the strange device at the west end. Near it, she finds other gems, like the one storing her thoughts.
The trio resolves to gather all of the information they have and bring it to Eligos. They return to the room with the large map of the Free City and also gather up the documentation there. But, before actually leaving, Erdolliel suggests camping in the lair so that Nethezar can try to identify the large contraption in the throne room the next morning. The trio returns to the throne room, where Nethezar and Kushnak secure the place. Erdolliel returns to scout of the entirety of the complex.
Erdolliel moves into water chamber. She is attacked by two drow and an aberration:
The elf flings a fireball
at her assailants and flees to meet up with the others. The trio makes their way back to the chamber. They fight and defeat both drow, but the aberration is no where to be found.
The trio discusses what to do next. Using the power of flight, Kushnak carries Nethezar and Erdolliel to the secret door from which the drow came. After about 50 feet, the tunnel behind the door abruptly changes in structure. It appears to join the Free City's sewer system, which the trio can plainly tell could involve several twists and turns without any trail they have the ability to follow.
The trio discusses the possibility of using speak with dead
to learn something, though Nethezar suggests that it may have limited utility. The other option appears to be get in touch with Eligos. Settling upon resting the night in the throne room, per the original plan, they carry the drow back to the throne room. Once there, Erdolliel searches the drow, finding useful treasure as well as a yellow phosphorescent fungus caking their boots. Erdolliel saves some of the fungus.
Erdolliel makes a full comb of the lair and the trio gets some rest in the throne room.
Upon waking, Kushnak prepares and casts his spell, speaking with one of the dead drow. The questioning indicates that the drow's master is an illithid, and its lair is hours away via the tunnels: "Near cold forge, find beggar's gold, in old and low places."
Nethezar then identifies the contraption in the throne room. It is apparently the device that was used to create the gem storing Erdolliel's thoughts. The trio destroys the contraption, and Kushnak saves the helmet.
The trio then makes way back out to the docks district of the Free City. Quickly deciding that they need answers, they head to Eligos' manor. While initially distrustful of Eligos, in light of the recent events, the trio explains to the sage what happened. Eligos confirms that the shapechangers were doppelgangers, and he explains some of their abilities. He suggests finding an investigator to pour of the materials the trio found to determine the full extent of the doppelgangers' infilcation of the Free City. Eligos then describes the illithid and how the note found suggests that the doppelgangers were merely the illithid's pawns. The sage explains that he does not know anything about "cold forge," but he knows about the phosphorescent fungus called "beggar's gold." Finally, at Kushnak's request, Eligos generates a list of possible new places for the trio to stay.
Nethezar muses that the illithid might have sent the doppelgangers after the trio, meaning that the illithid wanted the trio dead before they had killed the doppelgangers. He rhetorically asks what the illithid might do now that the doppelgangers failed.
Finally, in sending off the trio, Eligos recommends some spells that might protect against the illithid. He suggests either checking with an investigator of the City Watch or the clergy of St. Cuthbert regarding the doppelgangers' influence in the Free City.
The trio makes way to "Sam's Respite," where they rest and craft some items. Erdolliel learns from a patron that there is a smithy called "Cold Forge" in the Artisan's Quarter run by a human named Crusty Patten.
The trio makes way to the Garden Quarter to the Sacred Temple of St. Cuthbert. There, they meet Investigator Gust, a cleric of St. Cuthbert. Gust uses a Zone of Truth
spell to get all the details from the trio about the doppelgangers and verifies the authenticity of the documents the trio found. Gust promises to thoroughly investigate the extent of the doppelgangers' influence in the Free City, going as far as necessary. He indicates, however, that there is little he can do about the threat of the illithid. Finally, Gust even gives the trio a reward for the information they provided.
The trio then sells off some of their equipment and return's to Sam's Respite to craft more items.
The trio wakes and spends the day crafting and getting some more rest.
That evening, the trio relaxes in the dining hall of Sam's Respite, but they are interrupted by a messenger. The messenger delivers a written note:
My home is compromised. Need to meet as soon as possible. Caravan Park, outside the south gate, at makeshift tent bar. -E
While making their way toward the south gate, a quartet of guards takes interest in the trio, and Erdolliel sees one of them have slightly changing facial features. When the guards order to the trio to stop, Erdolliel lashes out on the offensive. For a short time, Kushnak is able to disrupt Erdolliel's attack, and Nethezar enthralls the guards with almost magical persuasive power. After two guards are sent away on random errands, true combat breaks out with the other two. Nethezar disables one with a hideous laughter
spell, and Kushnak slices the shape-changing guard wide open. However, the guard does not change form upon death as the trio would expect from a doppelganger. After quickly searching the not-doppelganger, the trio flees to the city wall and, via dimension door
, escapes outside the wall.
Once outside the wall, Erdolliel confesses that, after she saw the guard's features change, she heard a "voice" tell her she had to act. Kushnak surmises that a hair clip found on that guard must have effected the change of appearance, and Nethezar posits that the "voice" was a spell compelling Erdolliel to act.
The trio finds the makeshift bar in the Caravan Park, but after a long time, the trio decides that Eligos isn't coming. They sneak off into the forest near the Free City and, fortunately, manage to get through the night.
After waking, Kushnak sends an animal messenger
to Eligos, and the sage replies that they should meet him at his home. Nethezar helps the trio adopt disguises and talks their way past the gate guard.
The trio reaches Eligos' home, and Kushnak demands answers from the sage. After hearing a brief retelling of the events of the previous night, Eligos offers what he has learned:
- All the clues the trio has gathered point to activity of a cult of a minor deity, Kyuss, with mastery over the undead.
- The zombie-like creatures with worms are called Spawn of Kyuss, and their presence in the Cairn Hills region indicates increased activity of the cult of Kyuss.
- The Ebon Triad (dedicated to merging the gods Hextor, Vecna, and Erythnull into an overgod, which is considered heresy by the churches' dogma) is not itself a part of the cult of Kyuss, but the clues point toward a dangerous alliance between the two cults.
- Eligos suspects this alliance relates to the Age of Worms, a dark age when "life gives way... to something else."
- Many sources have bits of prophecy about the Age of Worms, but Eligos has never seen so many clues toward the Age of Worms as you have found.
- Eligos suspects that the illithid is likely connected to one or both of the cults.
For assistance, Eligos offers his services identifying magic items, offers to "stifle" issues with the Free City guard, and gives the trio a note good for a scroll of mind blank
. The trio takes some time eating the breakfast the sage provided, and Nethezar confirms that the hair clip is a hat of disguise
. After learning more information, Eligos reports that the three surviving guards had already reported that they themselves were also the victims of enchantment. Therefore, the guards will be looking to make the whole matter fade from memory.
The trio picks up the scroll and makes way to the Cold Forge smithy. After looking around inside and not finding any out-of-sight sewer entrance, Nethezar leads the trio in a ruse that they are Free City workers. The trio easily heads into the sewers under color of authority.
The trio begins scouring the sewers in methodical fashion, looking for the yellow phosphorescent fungus called "beggar's gold." After only a couple hours, they manage to find what appears to be the entrance to the illithid's lair. Entering the lair, Erdolliel sets off an explosion of yellow fungus, which must not have been the harmless "beggar's gold." The trio also runs afoul of shrieking toadstools. Erdolliel destroys the entire lot with a fireball
After some healing is administered to Erdolliel for the fungus spores she inhaled, the trio continues forward. In a tunnel, with a higher ledge on one side, the trio finds the floor covered in lantern oil. Erdolliel preemptively sets the trapped floor aflame. Kushnak and Erdolliel both cast fly
and take the fight to three drow hiding atop the ledge. While Erdolliel has some problems, due to the remaining effects of the fungus spores, the trio largely mops up the drow with little trouble.
Erdolliel scouts forward, and sees a large snake-like creature near a pool of water. Not waiting for provocation, Erdolliel lashes out with scorching rays
, but Nethezar, for some reason, rushes in to heal the thing. Both Erdolliel and Kushnak felt some magical tug on their will when they saw the creature. The creature casts an invisibility
spell and flees. The trio decides to ignore it.
The still-flying Erdolliel sneaks into the next room, which is an enormous chamber. She spots six drow that clearly are on alert, waiting to ambush the trio. Erdolliel gets the drop on them with an ice storm
. The trio engages with the six drow, the leader of whom appears to be a female drow cleric. The trio fairly easily bests the five males, but Nethezar succumbs to a confusion
spell. While Erdolliel cleans up the last of the men, Kushnak chases down the female cleric, as she flees further ahead. Kushnak deals a great amount of pain to the cleric, but she leads him right into the jaws of three monstrous six-tentacled alien creatures. The trio defeats the cleric and the three alien creatures.
The trio, having reached what appears to be the true entrance to the illithid's lair, decides to press on rather than give the creature a chance to use its network and cunning to strike at them again.
The trio bashes in the doors to the illithid's sanctum. Inside, the find a strange stone brain, which they ignore for the moment. They move further ahead, into the illithid's laboratory. There they find a much larger version of the six-tentacled alien creatures. The creature completely tears Nethezar in half, but Erdolliel and Kushnak manage to kill it. Despite the loss of Nethezar, Erdolliel and Kushnak decide that they still must press on.
The pair quickly passes through the illithid's museum and makes there way to the illithid's grand chamber, where the illithid itself, along with another of the tentacled creatures, waits to do battle. While Erdolliel quickly dispatches the tentacled creature, the illithid's magic and psionic powers completely disable Kushnak. Using the power of invisibility
to make the most of her cunning strikes, Erdolliel battles with the illithid as it fights back with powerful bolts of lightning. Erdolliel barely manages to bring the creature down.
Erdolliel explores the illithid's sanctum, and she finds a strange pool of water that, through some divination, shows her a view of the doppelganger's lair below the Sodden Hold. Erdolliel also captures a few tadpole creatures she finds in the large pool in the grand chamber. Finally, the pair searches the illithid's private chamber. They find a ledger written in an unknown language.
As they make their way back out, the pair stops to closely examine the illithid's museum. Erdolliel accidentally activates a trap that causes the large statue in the room to come to life. The extraplanar outsider, apparently grateful for its freedom, agrees to allow the pair to take a doll from the museum that curiously looks like Nethezar, as long as they leave everything else. The pair stops briefly to gather Nethezar's body, and Erdolliel discovers the the stone brain in the entrance is a trap, which she disables.
Erdolliel and Kushnak make their way back out, but stop to investigate the chamber to the south of where the drow appeared to reside. Kushnak easily destroys them, and the duo finds some captives of the drow. Erdolliel then hunts down the snakelike creature that was passed over before, and she and Kushnak kill it. The duo leads the prisoners back out of the sewers and into the Free City.
In the Free City, Erdolliel and Kushnak bring Nethezar's remains to the temple of Boccob, where, once more, he is raised by Scholar Venli. The trio then makes way to a new place to rest, sends a message to Eligos, and decides to take some time to recuperate and craft some new magic items.
Day 47 - 50
The trio lays low while Kushnak crafts an array of magical items.