Ascendants Rising - A Forgotten Realms Campaign

20th Flamerule, 1479 - The Year of the Ageless One (Part 1)

The group sets off, south, through the basilisk tunnel. Eventually coming to a large cavern with a chasm splitting it in half, a rickety bridge across the chasm, and poisonous natural gas billowing along its course.
While trying to cross the bridge, Apavan’s giant spider mount collapses the bridge, and plummets into the chasm; eventually succumbing to the noxious fumes.

Apavan teleports the party across the chasm, and the party continues on.

Eventually the adventurers come to a dead-end the turns out to have a jumble of rock that hide access to another section of caves. Beyond the piled boulders, the sound of mining picks on stone.

Crawling through the hidden entrance, Koji discovers two of the Winterhaven villagers at forced labor! Garrastan Rivers and Herold Traster, both local Winterhaven farmers, greet Koji with tears in their eyes.

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Warned of the group of duergar guarding over them in the other room, and a giant “beetle ape monster” they have with them, the party springs to the attack, surprising the duergar. The gray dwarves are quickly defeated, as is the umber hulk they had enslaved to help dig their tunnels.

In the other room, the party find yet another villager: Olivr “the Bird”, the local potter. The timid half-elf is eager to depart, so the party asks that Olivr and Herold wait beyond the hidden door while the group continues on. Garastan is determined to accompany the party, in hopes of find his wife Caitlynn.

As the adventurers work their way south, they encounter another work gang. Again, a hasty ambush serves the party well, catching the duergar slavers flatfooted, resulting in the rescue of even more villagers!

  • Jerrgen Long, farmer
  • Prerien Adriksin, basket weaver
  • Stefan White, half-elven weaver (textiles)
  • Brand Hruston, potter
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19th Flamerule, 1479 - The Year of the Ageless One

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This morning, with the aid of a crude map found on the body of one of the dead duergar within the Chamber of Eyes, the party set off in search of the duergars fortress: the Horned Hold. There they hoped to finally find the Winterhaven villagers.

Upon arriving at their destination, they find a VAST cavern, so huge that it dwarfs the Seven-Pillared Hall. Soon after entering the cavern, the party is ambushed by predators: a pair of ropers. The powerful creatures put up quite a fight. Thranduil, Garreth, and Koji are severely injured.

After the fight the ropers and their long journey through the Labyrinth, the party is so exhausted; the drop their packs where they stand and try to make camp.

Shortly thereafter, a duergar patrol wanders by. The party is far too powerful for the four duergar, and the gray dwarves are quickly overcome. But one turns invisible, and escapes! The party sets off in pursuit.

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The chase leads them to a bridge over a large subterranean river. Another battle with a half dozen duergar and two of their giant spider mounts!

Thranduil manages to calm one of the giant spiders, and Apavan happily claims him as his new pet.

The party preses on, and finds a work gang overseen by a handful of duergar. The slavemaster is whipping one of the slaves when the party happens upon the scene, and in a fury, the party attacks.

Unfortunately, none of the few slaves they free ends up being from Winterhaven. Nonetheless, Munder Gallowgate (a simple wanderer traveling to Cormyr from Ashabenford when he was captured by the Bloodreavers) and Will Datchett (a drover from Arabel in Cormyr) were impossibly grateful to have been freed.

The party decides its best if the two freed slaves stick with them until they can find a place to hide them.
Mundur has heard other slaves speaking of a tunnel to the north, leading into the caves behind the Horned Hold (which is carved into the eastern face of the giant cavern). He assumed it was a lie, but what little he heard was that those brave enough to risk the horrible torture the duergar inflicted on slaves who attempt to escape, were all killed by a monster that lurked in the tunnel.

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The party sets off in search of this back entrance, rather than taking the direct approach and simply marching through the front gate of the intimidatingly large and tough looking fortress.

As it turns out, the tunnel was home to a basilisk. Koji narrowly escapes being turned to stone, but the basilisk is slain.

The party rests for the day.

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18th Flamerule, 1479 - The Year of the Ageless One

The party arrives at the location on the duergar map. This is where the powerful ally that Murkelmor spoke of is supposed to reside.

A dozen or more undead meet the party in the first room of this ancient catacomb. Easily dispatched, the party journeys onward, only to encounter a series of deadly traps.

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The last room is like a wizard’s laboratory. Desks and tables, strewn with books, scrolls, endless vials and bottles of alchemical materials. But most disturbing of all is the huge, vile undead abomination that has been trapped in a magic circle. Not a wizards laboratory; a necromancer.

The party attacks the necromancer and his undead minions. Eventually slaying him and the vile thing imprisoned within the circle.

Unbelievably, it turns out the necromancer is Paldemar! The apprentice that the Ordinator Arcanus charged the party with finding. From Paldemar’s journal, it would appear that he had long ago
infiltrated the Mages of Saruun, intent on using them to further his own horrifying plans. The mad mage sought to make himself a lich and raise an undead army beneath Thunderspire.Paldemar had made a pact with Orcus, Lord of the Undead. Orcus had promised the mage (though it’s entirely possible this is merely the ravings of a broken mind) the secret to the ritual of becoming a lich, if Paldemar served him utterly.

But even more astoundingly, Paldemar learns from his sick god that it was Orcus himself that caused the fall of Saruun Khel all those centuries before, not the underdark god Torog as even the learned Mages of Saruun believed. Orcus had been manipulating everthing from the beginning. And when Baphomet, god of the minotaurs discovered Orcus plot, the civil war the errupted had nothing to do with a bunch of Torog cultists, it had to do with the rage and jealously of a demonlord of the Abyss destroying his own worshippers and people to repudiate another.

After all these centuries… Even the minotaurs themselves probably didn’t know the true evil behind their downfall, even as they were slaughtering each other. Only now, all these years later is it known by a living mortal. You are the only ones on Faerun who know the true reason why great Saruun Khel is no more.
Entries from Paldemar’s journal:

“…I was summon to the darkness of my Master’s chamber, he told me that an unproceeded opportunity had arisen that would bring glory to the Prince of the Undead. He wanted me to be the dark spear of vengeance that would bring the ultimate change of this world. But to do that he needed me to become… death.”

“…I met with the Holy One. Indeed had he faced our Lords presence, his eyes were rotting wounds of maggots, crying tears of blood. He told me what he had found when trying to raise an undead army from and old graveyard of a long forgotten temple.”

“…I think my master has guided my steps in recent days, as I have found a secret, long forgotten in the mist of time – a secret unknown even to the Mages of Saruun. I have decided not to disclose it to my masters, instead I will follow this path my self and revel in its glory. The Lord of Undead will guide my way. I will become his tool to bring undeath to the Mages of Saruun”

“… The barrier between worlds can be thin. Sometimes the darkness breaks into the light. This temple seems to be such a place, closely aligned with the Abyss.”

“… My Lord fills my dreams with visions. The Secret lies within the twisting tunnels of Thunderspire Labyrinth. I will have to infiltrate the Mages of Saruun to learn the real truth about what happened with the minotaurs of Saruun Khel, maybe that will lead me to the Secret of Eternal Undeath.”

“…The scene is set and all the pieces are dancing to my pipe, unknowing of the true purpose of their workings. The Bloodreavers were easy to convince to supply the Grimmerzhul duergar with fresh slaves in exchange of being allowed back into the Hall with their slave trade. The duergar has been eager to pay back for the slaves with mining work. The Blackfang Gnolls were the hardest to get on my side, but after helping them breach and loot the Chasm Fort, they were only too eager. They only thing I asked in return were the Silver Key, guarded during centuries by the traps of the Inner Sanctum and few loyal Baphomet followers that still remained within Thunderspire Mountain.”

“…Somehow I wish they all came to learn about the betrayal and their own folly in helping Paldemar – the Bringer of Change, when the flood of necrotic shadow water drowns them all, tying their souls to the Blood Lord’s cause and bringing them back to unlife as empty husks in Orcus new glorious undead army – all hailing to Paldemar – the Undead Horde Master of Thunderspire!”

“…Orcus has talked to me in my dreams. He is sending me a great shadow on wings to protect me from interference. Hail to the Dark One!”

“…Those meddling so called ‘heroes’ are threatening all I have come to create. I must stop them before they learn too much. I have hired Harwin the doppelganger spy of the Grimmerzhul duergar, to lead them into an ambush and eliminate them once and for all.”

“…So this is what caused the end of the Minotaur kingdom Saruun Khel! I have walked in the footsteps of my predecessors. I feel my Masters presence behind this unknown entity Torog – the Patient One, that the minotaurs’ found in the bottomless depths of the Tunderspire Mountain. The Blood Lord put their high priest on the track of doom, when the rest of the minotaurs finally found out my Master’s plan for his followers, Baphomets anger must have been endless – in the end leading to the genocide of the whole of Saruun Khel.”

“…Praise to the Prince of Undeath! The Secrets of Undeath and eternal life will soon be mine! I am on the path of Necrotic Mastery!”

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17th Flamerule, 1479 - The Year of the Ageless One

At the Chamber of Eyes, the party didn’t get much further than the front door before all hell broke loose.

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Apavan sense the prescense of magic upon the door, but misinterpreted its nature. Suspecting a harmless dweomer, and reached for the door latch, and a magical trap detonated. The trap sprayed acid from two nearby statues, and alerted the guards just inside the door.

The Chamer of Eyes wasn’t a very large complex, and before long the sounds of a raging battle at the entrance to their stronghold pretty much brought the entire Bloodreaver Clan to the fight.

A massive battle erupted between the party and the Bloodreaver Clan. When the dust settled, the Bloodreavers had been destroyed! If nothing else was resolved, if none of the remaining villagers were recovered, at least the people of Winterhaven had been avenged against the Bloodreaver Clan.

Among the dead: two duergar. Even more interesting, one of the duergar had a note detailed the purchase of the Winterhaven residents as slaves to be used by the duergar in their fortress, a place called the Horned Hold. The note was signed by a duergar calling himself Murkelmor Grimmerzhul. Presumably the leader of the duergar within the Horned Hold.

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But the note also speaks of an ally of the duergar. An ally that the duergar found distasteful, but powerful enough to allow him to purchase a few of the slaves from them. This handful of slaves was brought to this persons hideout within the catacombs, but for what purpose? Thankfully, the dead duergar had a map from Murkelmor, detailing where this “powerful ally” was holed up, so that the duergar could make delivery of the slaves.

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They also found an interest artifact. A metal sphere that Apavan named “The Sphere of Tzaruum’ze”. The sphere was and is able to record words spoken in its presence, to be played back at a later time. The owner, now long dead, turned out to be the minotaur priest that may have been (indirectly) responsible for the fall of Saruun Khel. It even described his discovery of this very temple, and the fateful events that ended a civilation. These were his words from the sphere:

…We are the pinnacle of the world’s civilizations! Saruun Khel’s greatness is unmatched and no one can stand against us! Praise to the Horned King – for he is the true Lord and master of our achievements.

…our explorations of the Thunderspire Mountain’s twisting passages and silent chambers have taken us deep into the bowls of the world. There, at the roots of the mountain, we came upon vast caverns. In the shadow filled chambers we found a crude, forsaken altar to some forgotten god of the black depths. A civilization lost in the dark, forgotten by mortals and with hope abandoned.

…I called out to the Horned King to learn more about this forgotten civilization. My divinations revealed that the deep caverns of Thunderspire were sacred to an ancient entity named Torog. It calls itself the Patient One. A horrible creature of eyes and mouths that waits in the darkness. We were about to leave the site when I was overcome with a strange urge to honor this forgotten entity, regardless of its insignificance compared to our sacred lord Baphomet, Prince of Beasts.

…My minotaur brothers begged me to see reason, but I was compelled to face the carving of twisted mouths and I spoke a silent prayer. Little did I expect to have my pray answered – and what an answer! Dark whispers of power unimaginable, promises of a new path for my people. It was Torog himself that spoke to me. Spoke to me in a voice of torment and blood. My soul was ripped asunder by that voice, and reborn. The voice made a request: the creation of this temple in his likeness. And then the voice promised blood. Blood and shadow.

…I, Tzaruum’ze, the High Priest of Saruun Khel have been expelled. Charged with blasphemy and branded heretic by the Throne of Bones. But I will not succumb. My dark master promises me another path – a path of Shadow and Blood. I will do his bidding, take my loyal servants and build a shrine for my Master. We shall call it the Palace of Zaamdul. There will I start the construction of the Bronze Singers that are the epitome of my Masters genius. How beautiful the Song of Breaking will be – how pure and true to the promise of Blood and Shadow.

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16th Flamerule, 1479 - The Year of the Ageless One

The party awakens, refreshed, in the Halfmoon Inn.

While resting at the Halfmoon Inn, in the VIP dining room, the party is approached by a merchant they noticed in the common area. The man says his name is Harwin, and that he’d like to buy the party a round of drinks, maybe join them for a little conversation. Thranduil becomes very suspicious, even belligerant. Harwin gets a little shaken, and quickly leaves the inn. Apavan and Koji steathily follow.

As Apavan and Koji set out in pursuit of Harwin, Dalsein follows them out the door of the Inn as well, but takes up a position outside to smoke a bowl and keep an eye out and to aid his companions if they come back with trouble. Moments later, the dragonborn mage (he the party later learns is named Surina) emerges from the inn as well, apparently very interested in Apavan, Koji, and Harwin’s exit. The mage hadn’t noticed Dalsein, and is startled when she does. She and her imp familiar return to the inn.

Apavan and Koji follow Harwin across the gloom environs of the Seven-Pillared Hall. He takes them on a winding path through the northern part of the outpost, past the giant minotaur statue and the magic circle at its feet (where the Mages of Saruun teleport to and from their doorless tower) around to the east, where they eventually lose him. All they see is a few duergar entering the Grimmerzhul Trading Post.

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Meanwhile, back at the outhouse, things were piling up. A man from deGrey’s past suddenly strode into the Halfmoon Inn – former Cormyrian Purple Dragon named Terrlen Darkseeker and two of his men. Terrlen recognized deGrey and immediately confronted him. deGrey never really spoke of his past, but cleared there was history between these two, and it was all bad. Their heated words quickly turned into a duel, and it rapidly escalated into a duel to the death.

When it was all over, the duel had spread into the street, and Terrlen Darkseeker had slain Tibault deGrey.

Moments later, Brugg and his enforcers showed up. Darkseeker and his men turned on the ogre and his henchmen, and the fight was on. In the confusion, Brugg’s hobgoblin and bugbear lackey’s ended up tangling with the party. Fortunately, the fight was stopped with the arrival of the Ordinator Arcanus, but not before Terrlen Darkseeker shifted into the form of a werewolf and fled the Hall (Koji in quick pursuit)!

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Nonplussed, taking it all in stride, the Ordinator Arcanus took command of the situation. Brugg was ordered to stand down (though he really wanted to take down the party) and the Ordinator Arcanus invited the rest of the party into the Inn for a word.

Koji managed to catch the almost mortally wounded Terrlen Darkseeker, and slay him.

The Ordinator Arcanus had many questions for the party, while also providing the background and history of the Seven-Pillard Hall. He told you about the long dead civilization of minotaurs who built a great empire, the ruins of the ancient city you see around at its center:

At the pinnacle of Saruun Khel’s might, great minotaur city of old upon whose remains you now trod, the minotaurs exploration took them to the vast caverns throughout Thunderspire. There they found crude, forsaken altars. The minotaur priests’ divinations revealed that the deep caverns of Thunderspire were sacred to Torog in his manifestation as the Patient One, a horrible creature of eyes and mouths that waits in the darkness. The minotaurs agreed to honor him even though they were devoted to the demon lord Baphomet. The first of these unholy places the minotaurs built in Torog’s name was the Chamber of Eyes. Little did they expect to have their prayers answered, and for their sins; they were. But not by Torog, though the minotaurs thought it to be so. It was Orcus, demon Prince of the Undead that answered them and bound the high priest to his will.

However, three centuries ago, when a ritual that would open the floodgates to the Abyss was almost completed Baphomet learnt of Orcus treachery. A battle for the throne of Saruun Khel erupted into a vicious civil war. The Baphomet loyal tribes faced the might of the high priest of Orcus and his loyal subjects. The demon lord Baphomet infused his followers with mindless fury, allowing them to defeat the heretics. War rage throughout Sarrun Khell. When Orcus subjects were defeated, the survivors took to battling one another until only a few minotaurs remained in the ruins of the once-great city. Some say that the madness and violence that descended upon Saruun Khel in its final days was Baphomet’s vengeance against his people for daring to offer sacrifices to another power – very few know the real truth.

The heretical minotaur followers of Torog are long gone. A few years ago, the Bloodreavers discovered the site and turned it into a defensible lair. They’re led by an obscene brute that names himself Krand.

The Ordinator Arcanus went on to explain that his apprentice, a mage named Paldemar, had recently disappeared. The Mages of Saruun had sent the wizard on a mission, and it was thought that the apprentice may have ended up tangled with the Bloodreavers in some way. He offered a reward of a magic Ring of Protection if the party could solve the mystery of Paldemar’s disappearance, and return him (if possible).

Koji rejoined the group and confesses that in his pursuit and battle with Terrlen Darkseeker, the werewolf bit him and must have infected him with lycanthropy! The party tries to find aid from the only temple within the Seven-Pillared Hall, a temple devoted to Torm, run by a dragonborn named Phaledra. Unfortunately, the priestess has no such power or ritual at hand.

The party sets off in pursuit of the Bloodreavers. Eventually they locate their base (thanks to a map provided by the Oridnator Arcanus). An ancient temple from the times of Saruun Khel called The Chamer of Eyes – an accursed shrine dedicated Torog, the King That Crawls.

After their long journey through the catacombs, the party rested the night before taking on the Bloodreavers in their home base.

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15th Flamerule, 1479 - The Year of the Ageless One

The party awakens this morning, within the Iron Throne mine, eager to set off in pursuit of the Bloodreavers.

The party spends maybe an hour, heading north through the mine, plunging ever deeper in Thunderspire, when they spot torchlight spilling into the passage ahead from an open door.

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Koji stealths to the door, and peers within, find that the largish room seems to be a guard post occupied by a half dozen hobgoblins… Bloodreavers. After another successful ambush, the party finds a captive in an adjoining room. But not one of the people Winterhaven. A halfling, named Rendil Halfmoon.

Rendil tells you that he actually lives within the mountain, in a place called the Seven-Pillared Hall. He says the Hall is something of a small outpost within the Labyrinth (the endless twisting passages the stretch for miles in every direction). He claims that the Bloodreavers, normally not welcome in the Hall, had been hanging around the Halfmoon Inn, run by his father. Curious, Rendil had followed some of them here, but they caught him spying.

Rendil seems a good sort, and promises the party show them the way, and that they can stay at the Halfmoon Inn if they’ll escort him back to the Seven-Pillared Hall.

The party agrees, and accompanies Rendil to the Hall.

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The Seven-Pillared Hall is wondrous in its way. A safe zone in a wilderness of great danger and malevolence. A giant cavern, home to scores of residents. Houses of stone and clay sprawl about the place. Others, carved from the walls of the immense grotto. The party looks about them in wonder as Rendil leads them across the Hall, to the Halfmoon Inn. And not without some trepidation. The Hall is home to many races that would normally be at each other throats, but they cross paths with the party as if its just a midday stroll. Dwarves, goblins, kobolds, duergar, even an ogre!

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The ogre introduces himself as the party is making its way across the Hall. He is Brugg, local enforcer for the lords of this tiny outpost: the Mages of Saruun. Brugg warns you to stay outta trouble, and waves you off.

At the Halfmoon Inn, Erra Halfmoon is relieved to see his son walk through the door. Then, angry! Once Rendil was sufficiently chastised and sent on his way, Erra assured the party that as long as they stayed in the Hall, they could count on lodging at the inn, and any help Erra could provide.

A few of the Halfmoon Inn’s patrons draw the party’s eye:

  • A halfling bard that calls himself Bennik the Wanderer, though the party doesn’t approach the young minstrel.
  • A dragonborn mage of some nature. The party learns from Erra that she calls herself Surina.
    Harwin, a human merchant.
  • A human who might be a merchant gives them an appraising look as the party crosses the room.

Other customers in the tavern included a few dwarves, another human or two, and a rare site: two deep gnomes (or svirfneblin) who mostly kept to themselves and seemed very confused when Apavan approached them in gnomish solidarity.

Erra briefly introduces the staff at the Halfmoon Inn as well:

  • Cirellas Broadhorn, the cook (race unknown, since he never left the kitchen)
  • William “Moody Bill” Young, the human bouncer
  • Dardara Millwood, human serving girl

The party gives their thanks to the halfling innkeeper and retire for the night.

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14th Flamerule, 1479 - The Year of the Ageless One

We’re close!

The next morning, we set off in pursuit. Only a few hours down the road, Tilman found the Bloodreavers destination: a mine. A mine at the base a titanic mountain, on the east side of the Thunder Peaks.
Note: We’re in Cormyr now. deGrey seems nervous about that.

Tilman says there’s a couple of cabins on the road, maybe fifty paces before you reach the mine itself. He guesses that they’re checkpoints for wagons hauling good to and from the mine, or maybe they’re guard posts.

He also reports that the mine is protected by a log wall, along with two wooden towers on either side of a sturdy wooden gate.

He couldn’t get a good look, but he saw maybe a half dozen uniformed humans (not hobgoblins) loitering around the cabins. He couldn’t see over the wall from where he was at, but he got the feeling there was definitely activity on the other side.

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In a stroke of luck (the Lady of Luck shines upon us once again), on the way back to us, Tilman stumbled upon a defile the looks like it ran perpendicular to the mine’s narrow valley. The tracks that led into the crack into the cleft in the mountain were barely visible. The old ranger followed the tracks as far as he dared, before he heard two voices from around a bend. Hobgoblin voices. He managed to get a quick look, and spotted two hobgoblins fifty feet beyond the bend, guarding an entrance into the mountain. Presumably a kind of back door into the mine.

The party quickly decides the back door would be wisest. The group packs up its gear, ties off the horses, and heads for the defile.

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When they reach the split in the mountain face, they encounter a happy-go-lucky gnome.

The gnome introduces himself as Apavan the Illusive . He has come in search of his sister, who was taken by slavers, and the trail has led him here. Apavan joins the party! A plan is quickly cobbled together, and the party springs a surprise attack on the guards. Caught completely flat-footed, the guards are dispatched before they can get anywhere near the door (to ring a nearby warning bell).

Next, a fight with a handful of hobgoblin and goblin guards in a tiny guardroom, just inside the mountain.

Tilman is almost overcome by claustrophobia, but with some inspiration words from Thranduil, he soldiers on.

Koji scouts the passage to the west, and fails to spot a pit in the floor. The Sun Soul monk falls into the pit, injuring himself, but that’s the least of his problems. The pit was rigged with a warning bell, which clangs wildly, echoing down the hall.

The party quickly makes its way down the very long, narrow passageway, hewn from the rock, leading deep into the belly of Thunderspire.

Just as they suspected, the party runs into a small group of hobgoblins sent to investigate. All but one of the wretches is killed. The hostage is put to the question, and quickly gives up his compatriots, who are bivouacked in a room at the end of the passage. And better yet: the passage does indeed lead into the mine.

Apavan, disguised as a goblin, boldly leads the party into the hobgoblin compound, pretending to lead captured slaves. Doing his best to mimic the goblin tongue, Apavan grumbles a greeting of “Hobgoblin-hobgoblin!” to the hobgoblin leader, while Koji puts on a show of being a bound and defeated slave. To his credit, the party does get halfway across the room before the hobgoblins discover the ruse.
A HUGE series of battles ensue. Battles the party definitely did not count on, and were incredibly fortunate to eventually survive.

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The fight with the hobgoblins (and a bugbear!) eventually spills into the next room, deeper into the mines, where a couple of human sentries join in the fight – AGAINST the party! As things turn against them and the goblins, one of the humans runs south into a hallway. Koji pursues, but is unable to catch the man.
As the party finishes the goblins, reforms, and charges into the rooms to the south, they crash into a mixed and organized force of humans, lead by a powerful eladrin warrior armed with a magical polearm. Unfortunately for the party’s foes, they are caught in a small section of passages, around a corner. Unable to spread out and bring their ranged forces to bear, the enemy is destroyed beneath the sorcery of Dalsein, and blade of Thranduil, and the fists of Koji. With one exception – Koji delivers a non-lethal blow to the eladrin leader, thinking to learn something of what’s going on here.

As the party is mopping up, checking through the area where the humans had come from, yet another foe is spotted in a southern passage.

ANOTHER fight breaks out. This one spilling into the courtyard of the mine entrance itself.
In the confusion, the eladrin leader ends up dead by Dalsein’s hand. Apparently the half-elf sorcerer can be cold when he needs to be.

A mixed force of humans, a dwarf, a couple of tieflings, a couple of hobgoblins, even a handful of kobolds do battle with the party just inside the mine entrance and into the courtyard.

Koji, ever eager to spite his foes, extends to deeply into the enemy forces and falls.The monks new allies haven’t formed as close a bond as he had with the Heroes of Winterhaven, and there is brief talk of abandoning the monk to his fate. But big things sometimes come in little packages, and if Apavan’s rush into the courtyard is any indication, his gnomish heart is big indeed.

The counterattack is a wild success, and Koji is back on his feet, and back in the fight.

When the dust settles, most of the forces outside the mine are dead. Some manage to flee, but not many.
The party does manage to catch one of their foes, one of the leaders – half-elf merchant named Malcroz “Manycoats”. After some brief questioning, the party learns that there were two merchant companies camped outside the mine. They were here to trade. Apparently goods traded to and from the Underdark have great value in certain circles. Eventually Thranduil lets the merchant go.

Between papers found in the mine and those interrogated, the party learns the following:

  • A merchant company called The Iron Throne owns the mine, though no actual mining is being done. It’s a front for trading with the Underdark. The Iron Throne, based in Baldur’s Gate, has a somewhat disreputable reputation.
  • Malcroz “Manycoats” was a merchant captain for a compay called the Twilight Traders. They do brisk trade with contacts in the underdark.
  • The other merchants were representatives of a company called the Merchant’s League, also out of Baldur’s Gate. The Merchant’s League was led by two tieflings, both slain in the battle.
  • You found a note on the eladrin captain within the mine. It warned of a Harper agent that had infiltrated the mine.
  • You found two notes on a dead priest of Bane, fallen in the battle with the party. Apparently the priests name was Thelzar Deningoth. One note spoke of a conspiracy between Thelzar and an unknown contact within the walls of Winterhaven! Apparently the contact and Thelzar had hatched the plot to take the people of Wintheraven as slaves (along with the help of the Bloodreavers). The note seemed to infer that Thelzar and the mysterious contact made have been a part of an organization they named “the Black Network”, and that they were not going to notify the Network of their plans, apparently intended to pocket the profit themselves. The second note seems to indicate that Thelzar was going along with the scheme, as he writes to his superior, named “Lord Maur”, informing him that nothing out of the ordinary has been happening at the mine.

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The party learns that the Bloodreavers are only a day ahead of them! They and their carts had passed through the mines, and into the catacomb of passages beneath Thunderspire Mountain.

The party rests for the night, just inside the mines.

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13th Flamerule, 1479 - The Year of the Ageless One

We awake this morning, still in pursuit of the Bloodreavers.

Our path leads into the mountains. The Thunder Peaks. Soon, the moutains swallow us. The East Way is not traveled much, this side of Winterhaven. The road is in rough shape. Overgrown and rock strewn in places. But it is dry here. The Bloodreavers will be moving faster now. We must hurry!

Once, before the Spellplague, the East Way was a major trade route to Cormyr. No more. In the chaos that followed that apocalypse, it years rolled by before the peoples of Faerun had rebuilt. In that time, the Eldeth Valuuthra, a group of extremely hostile and violent elves had taken over the eastern Hullack Forest, on the Cormyr side of the Thunder Peaks. The Eldeth Valuuthra have fought the other races, most notably humanity, for centuries. They blame us for the rape of the forests, for stealing their trees and their land. Now, travel down the East Way into Cormyr for a non-elf is near suicide.

We spend the entire day wending our way through the valleys and bluffs of the mountains.

We make camp for the night, hopeful that tomorrow will bring us within sight of the Bloodreavers.

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12th Flamerule, 1479 - The Year of the Ageless One

Uneventful day, spent riding the East Way road (heading west) in pursuit of the Bloodreaver Clan.

We pass the spot where Greylin, Etavia, and Jaskur Windersson, along with Rickul Tranndorn, managed to cut themselves loose of the slave caravn and tried to flee into the forest. Sadly, Rickul Tranndorn didn’t even make it to the treeline – shot in the back by Bloodreavers.

Rickul’s shallow grave can be seen from the road as we pass.

As night falls, no sign of our quarry, though the wagon tracks clearly continue on down the road.

We make camp at the feet of the Thunder Peaks. From here on, our path leads into the mountains.

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11th Flamerule, 1479 - The Year of the Ageless One

We awaken on the 2nd day of our mission to save the people of Winterhaven from the Bloodreaver Clan.

Last night we rode half the night to return Etavia and Jaskur Windersson to the village. This morning we set out once again.

Zekknar has not been idle in our absence. He has found some information in Valthrun’s Tower on Thunderspire and an ancient minotaur city said to be within its depths: Saruun Khel.

Zekknar’s notes:
A book within Valthrun’s library spoke of an ancient city within the heart of Thunderspire. A city once named Saruun Khel. An ancient minotaur city. A city the local subterranean denizens referred to as “The Labyrinth”.

According to Zekknar’s research, Saruun Khel fought many devastating wars with neighboring enemies centuries ago, but that it eventually fell from within. The book speaks of the minotaur demon lord Baphomet, Prince of Beasts, worshipped by all minotaurs. It speaks of Baphomet’s hatred for the gnoll god Yeenoghu, but hints that it was not the gnolls or their bloody god that laid low Saruun Khel. The book alludes to some other dark power. A god? Another demon lord? A malign evil that poisoned the minotaurs already dark souls. That perhaps Baphomet himself roused from his realm, from the 600th layer of the Abyss, a realm Baphomet’s priests name the Endless Maze. That Baphomet, horned god of battle, struck down the evil that had tainted his followers, only to turn upon those that had forsaken the demon lord, destroying them and great Saruun Khel.

His notes on minotaurs are sparse, but he did learn that not all minotaurs are thought to be evil (though most certainly are). Apparently Saruun Khel traded with the surface at one time, and while the city within the heart of Thunderpsire was by no means recognized as a state, surrounding lands seemed to at least tolerate the minotaurs presence.

He also found that minotaurs have a strange obsession with constructing mazes and labyrinths. They were reputedly industrious builders and cutters of stone, so expect a twisting warren of passages if you ever find the ruined city.

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