Rage of Demons

Back into the Underdark

Once the companions reached Gauntlgrym, everything happened so fast.

They met with King Bruenor Battlehammer, who invited them to feast with delegates from five different factions and discuss what could be done about this demon incursion. Driz’zt the drow ranger was there, too, as well as Pike and Eldath and even Glabbagool.

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King Bruenor suggested the party strike a deal with Davra Jassur who represented the Zhentarim. She had a contact in the trade post Mantol-Derith who knew the way to Gravenhollow, an ancient and secret stone giant library. But Reschi already had a magic ring, given to him by the devil Bazelsteen, that could help the party find the path to Gravenhollow, so they didn’t need Davra’s help after all.

Before heading back into the Underdark, Goder, Pike, and Sauerkraut snuck away from the rest of the party to rob the Zhentarim delegation.

After that, they journeyed into the depths for days and days. They stumbled upon the remains of deep gnome refugees slaughtered by rampaging demons. A few days later, a swarm of chasme demons buzzed overhead, and the companions were wise to avoid them. Eventually they reached the shores of Darklake. From here, Reschi led the group down a seemingly endless tunnel. They heard singing from up ahead—a basilisk, which they circumvented.

Finally they arrived at Gravenhollow. Inside the great basalt gates lay the biggest library any of them had ever seen.

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A galeb duhr detached itself from the wall, introduced itself as Hourm, and offered to show the adventurers to wherever they wanted to go.

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They soon discovered that time passed differently here. Past, present, and future all blended into one. The companions met Bruenor Battlehammer and Driz’zt, and Elminster, and even Graz’zt. Sauerkraut was not happy to see the demon lord, as he was still kinda mad about the body snatching and attempted murder thing.

Elminster told them that the demonic incursion was caused by a wizard named Gromph Baenre of Menzoberranzan. He refused to say more.

Graz’zt was convinced that Lolth, Queen of the Demonweb Pits, was behind this. It wouldn’t be the first time her agents in the Abyss lured her enemies into throwing themselves into struggle.

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Goder revealed the stonespeaker crystal that Hgraam had given him back in Gracklstugh. Elminster taught the kobold how to use it, and so he witnessed a vision of Gromph summoning the demons—except the spell didn’t work right. Lolth’s influence on Gromph changed his spell! The wizard ended up summoning more demons than he could control, as well as a bunch of powerful demon lords!

The companions had a lot of questions. Why didn’t the celestials do anything about this crisis? Why wasn’t Elminster providing more than just vague clues? Why hadn’t the demon lords all come into the Material Plane before this? Why didn’t they just go home on their own? What about the devils?

Elminster told the party that another wizard was here looking for them, by the name of Vizeran DeVir. Hourm took them to find this wizard.

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Vizeran told them that he knew how to defeat the demon lords. After years of research and gathering spell components, he came up with a ritual that would do the trick. But he didn’t want to speak of it here, where the walls literally had ears. He asked the party to meet him at his tower to discuss the matter in private.

And so to Vizeran’s tower they went.

Here the wizard explained his whole plan. His ritual was called “the dark heart,” and it would bring all the demons together to one place, where hopefully they would all kill each other. With their physical forms destroyed, their essences would return to the Abyss. But Vizeran didn’t want to plant the dark heart by himself. This was where the adventurers had a part to play. He requested their aid in protecting him while he performed the ritual.

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Pike remembered Vizeran from his time in Menzoberranzan. The wizard did not follow Lolth as the other drow usually did, and it was Gromph Baenre who engineered Vizeran’s disgrace and exile for not being a follower of Lolth. Pike trusted him, but the other party members weren’t so sure.

Vizeran suggested performing “the dark heart” ritual in Menzoberranzan itself, which would surely lead to a genocide of all the drow in the city. He was really set on vengeance here. The companions did not approve of that plan. But they still wanted his help in defeating these demons. So they agreed to follow along… for now…

Sauerkraut snuck away again to steal anything from Vizeran’s tower that wasn’t magically trapped.

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The City of Sails

The companions followed the Black Raven River south until they reached the Blackford road, whereupon they continued their journey west, toward Luskan.

It took them four days of walking to get there, and when they finally reached the City of Sails, their storm giant companion, Serissa, said thanks and goodbye and returned to the sea. The rest of the party was eager to find out what this place had to offer. They reunited with Pike, and met a new companion, a human paladin named Vanin.

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Luskan was a beautiful city, but crowds of refugees filled the inns or huddled in the streets, all with stories of demons running rampant throughout the countryside. The resources of Luskan and nearby Neverwinter were stretched thin putting down one incursion after another.

As if demons weren’t enough, frost giants had recently raided the city, though it was apparently an unsuccessful attempt, for the wreckages of their ships still smouldered in the bay. Goder sent Bluebell out to see if there were any valuables left in the giants’ ships.

And to top it all off, hundreds of pilgrims from all over the Sword Coast had also gathered in Luskan to celebrate the Wet Parade in honor of Auril the Frostmaiden.

A sketchy-looking commoner gave the party advice on where to stay the night, but he was only a distraction for the pickpockets that stole all of the companions’ coin purses, as well as Saurerkraut’s bag of holding. The party chased the kids down, following them down to the harbor to a ship that had been turned into a tavern. The barkeeper scolded his children for stealing from adventurers and returned all of their money. He also asked them to deal with a gang that was supposedly having a bad influence on the kids. The gang liked to hang out at a dinner-theater called the Red Panda.

It was at the Red Panda that Reschi found his old performing troupe. They were halfway through a reenactment of the battle between the Arcane Brotherhood wizards and the white dragon Arauthator when the companions arrived.

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After the show, Reschi introduced his old friends to his new friends: Chihiro and Haku the actors, Kemh the sound master, Leelly the dancer, Grandma Yubaba the director, and Theodore (Big Ted) the Cyclops. Much drinking and partying ensued.

A horned devil named Bazelsteen swaggered into the bar and challenged Reschi to a musical duel. They both cheated, but Reschi won, and so the devil gifted him a ring of spell storing and returned to Hell. The ring came with a spell already stored in it: find the path, and it was attuned to a place called Gravenhollow.

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Saurerkraut and Pike went off on their own to burglarize a house. That’s when Pike revealed himself to be a demon in disguise! He was sent by the demon lord Graz’zt to infiltrate and destroy the adventuring company from within. After dispatching the satyr, “Pike” threw his body over one shoulder and went off in search of the rest of the party.

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The demon found them down by the harbor. Goder, Bluebell, and Reschi were sitting on the docks talking about the musical duel while Urza and Vanin were enjoying their drinks on the Red Panda’s outdoor patio. “Pike” was about to attack when Goder realized something was up, and the party brought their full might upon this demon.

At this point it was late into the night and everyone was drunk and tired, so they found themselves a place to stay and called it a night.

The next morning, a bird landed on Urza’s windowsill. She turned out to be a druid with a message from King Bruenor Battlehammer who requested the party’s presence in Gauntlgym straightaway. Eldath and Pike (the real Pike) had informed the king all about the demonic incursion in the Underdark, and he wanted to talk more about it with the rest of the party.

After the druid flew away, the party went to the Host Tower Arcane, where Urza spoke with the Archmage Arcane through his apprentice’s scrying orb about rumors of drow wizards in Menzoberranzan who were meddling in planeshifting. The Archmage wanted Urza to investigate, offering membership into the Arcane Brotherhood in exchange. Urza agreed to look into this matter—especially since he himself was interested in planeshifting.

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Glacial Rift of the Frost Giant Jarl

Chief Ojin’s scouts led the party up into the mountains to the glacial rift of the frost giant jarl. But that was as far as the kobolds were willing to go.

Goder, Mythri, Reschi, Sauerkraut, Smak, and Urza lowered ropes and climbed down into the rift, where they found the entrance to the frost giants’ lair.

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Goder scouted ahead and found a guard post. He tricked the frost giant into coming out into the open, at which point Reschi used charm monster to befriend the giant. The companions learned that the new giant in charge here, Grugnur, had killed the previous jarl and established the worship of the Horned King.

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Smak, in a moment of clarity, explained that the Horned King must be a reference to Baphomet, which made sense because frost giants didn’t normally live in maze-like structures like this rift here. Baphomet was the demon lord of savagery and brutality, and had a fondness for labyrinths.

Reschi and Sauerkraut tricked the frost giant into storming off and picking a fight with the other guard. And so, while those two duked it out, the party slipped past them down the tunnel leading directly to the jarl’s hall.

This is when Sauerkraut wanted to scout ahead. The satyr found a cavern littered with refuse and bones, and a barracks full of frost giants all resting and relaxing. Continuing on down another tunnel, Sauerkraut found a great hall, and a side passage blocked by a huge boulder. Sauerkraut returned to the party, got a pygmywort mushroom from Smak, ate it, shrank down to tiny size, and then went back to that blocked passage, slipping in through the gap between the boulder and the wall.

And here he found a white dragon, dozing upon a mound of treasure.

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Sauerkraut tried to steal a pricey trinket, but alerted the dragon, who flew into a rage. Sauerkraut barely made it out of there alive. The dragon’s fury could be heard all throughout the complex. The giants in the barracks rushed down to investigate.

The adventurers didn’t know what was happening until Sauerkraut came and told them everything. They prepared themselves for the dragon’s arrival. Having the drop on their foe gave them a considerable advantage, and they managed to defeat the dragon with their bigwig mushrooms and lots of spells.

Two frost giants and half a dozen ogre servants arrived at the scene. They beheld the body of the white dragon, and would have attacked, but Smak (still huge-sized from the mushrooms) convinced them that he and the huge kobold over there—Goder—brought a new, more powerful dragon to replace the lame old one. Somehow the deception worked. The giants ordered the ogres to clean up the mess, and returned to their posts.

The huge-sized companions passed many giants on their way to the dragon’s lair. Whenever anyone asked, they just said they were hill giants bringing in a new dragon for the jarl. The mound of treasure was all theirs for the taking! Sauerkraut loaded up his bag of holding.

Now it was time to find and confront the frost giant jarl.

The muffled shouts of a prisoner caught their attention. Goder thought it sounded like a giant shouting threats at her captors. So the party detoured down another tunnel to check it out. Here they found a storm giant chained up in a cavern with a table and some chairs and rugs and dishes.

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After they freed her, she introduced herself as Princess Serissa, daughter of King Hekaton. She said that Jarl Grugnur had requested a meeting with all of the giants’ leaders. She had been chosen to come hear him out. But Grugnur was mad, she said. He wanted the giants to worship some demon lord and join together in hunting down and slaughtering all the humanoid races. She agreed to join the party in defeating him.

They made their way toward the jarl’s throne room, but got stopped by a guard on the way. Smak couldn’t deceive this one so easily, and combat ensued.

The noise of the fighting caught the attention of Jarl Grugnur himself, as well as the fire giant he was talking with. Grugnur sent one of his guards, and the fire giant, and his two winter wolves, to go kill the intruders.

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There was an epic battle!

In the end, Jarl Grugnur was defeated. But at great cost…

Smak died.

The party looted everything they could stuff into Sauerkraut’s bag of holding, then carried Smak’s body back to Dragon Rock, where they mourned the loss of their friend.

Princess Serissa agreed to accompany them west as far as Luskan. Reschi hoped to meet back up with his troupe of traveling entertainers there. And maybe they could find a high-level cleric to resurrect Smak.

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Escape from the Underdark

The party followed Loobamub through a bewildering maze of tunnels and caverns until at last they saw light—actual sunlight!—coming from up ahead. Together they rushed forward, finding themselves in a grotto. And on the opposite end was another tunnel that sloped upward. That’s where the light was coming from.

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But then Elvara and her henchmen appeared out of hiding, blocking the party’s exit. Loobamub ran for cover while the rest of the party engaged the drow in combat. Elvara summoned giant spiders to aid her, while Jorlan and Shoor rushed into melee, and the other drow fired their crossbows at the party. Urza incinerated three of them with a fireball.

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One of the drow was also a priestess, and she summoned a yochlol demon. Elvara summoned more spiders, and the adventurers started to feel a bit overwhelmed.

Then Glabbagool showed up. Everyone was glad to see their gelatinous cube friend, who held the demon at bay while taking quite a bit of punishment itself. Reschi healed the gelatinous cube and inspired it to back up so Smak could get in there and start slapping.

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Mythri shot a witchbolt at Shoor, and Goder finished him off. Pike attacked Elvara in melee, keeping her on the defensive.

Eventually the companions defeated all the drow. Jorlan surrendered. They tied him up and sat him down in a corner while Goder went topside to see if it was safe out there.

The kobold found the ruins of an Uthgardt village, some trolls eating the remains of the villagers, and goblins scrounging for loot. The party decided to take a long rest inside Reschi’s tiny hut in the grotto.

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The trolls and goblins were all gone the next day when the party emerged from the cave mouth, which was actually the mouth of a really big burial mound. Smak remembered hearing that Uthgardt barbarians often buried treasure with their dead. This motivated Sauerkraut and Goder to go back down into the grotto to look around some more. They found a Frostbrand greataxe.

Pike volunteered to go with Eldeth and Glabbagool to Gauntlgrym while the rest of the party went along with Goder on his journey home, which would take them north to the foothills of the Spine of the World Mountains.

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Along the way, the companions chatted with Urza, learning that he was in fact from another plane called Dominaria. Since the topic was brought up, Sauerkraut said he was from the Feywild—which amazed Mythri, especially, because she was also from the Feywild!

Finally, after six days, the party made it to Dragon Rock, which was the home of a community of kobolds. Goder’s wife was happy to see him return alive and well, and all the kobolds were happy to see the dragon egg he’d brought with him. The kobolds threw a great feast to celebrate this joyful day.

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The next morning, Chief Ojin talked with Goder about the frost giants who’d been slaughtering everyone in the region. They were now led by one named Jarl Grugnur, and made their lair in a glacial rift not far from here. Ojin wanted Goder and the adventurers to go put an end to these frost giants once and for all. She would provide scouts to lead the party there.

Goder returned to his friends, and everyone agreed to go fight some frost giants.

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Neverlight Grove

The companions decided that the king’s consort had to go, so Reschi commanded Horgar to leave. As soon as the king was out of sight, the party jumped the succubus. She didn’t stand a chance against the six adventurers.

Talking with the king later, the companions learned that a group of drow from Velkynvelve had recently arrived in the city with a couple prisoners: a myconid sprout and a mountain dwarf. Smak’s heart leaped at the mention of his little mushroom buddy. Reschi convinced the king to send a detachment of Stone Guards to the inn where these drow were staying and bring the prisoners here.

About an hour later, Stool and Eldeth reunited with the party—along with an eladrin sorcerer named Mythri, and together they all left Gracklstugh. Now the question was, where to next? Eldeth wanted to go to Gauntlgrym, home of the mountain dwarves in this region, while Stool wanted to go home to Neverlight Grove. Since the myconid colony was on the way, the companions decided to stop there first, then to Gauntlgrym, and hopefully out of the Underdark after that.

The party traveled for three days (or cycles, as the Underdark denizens called their “days”) before reaching Neverlight Grove.

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The first myconids the companions met were a group of Hunters, as they called themselves. Their leader, one called Loobamub, filled the air with rapport spores—which is how the myconids communicated with non-myconids—welcoming the newcomers to Neverlight Grove. Loobamub clarified that myconids did not kill, but merely tracked down creatures that had died near the grove and brought them here to rot and join the cavern’s compost heap. Loobamub was pleased that Stool had been returned, and suggested the companions visit the two sovereigns, Basidia and Phylo.

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So the adventurers were led through this enchanted landscape of mushrooms, and eventually met Sovereign Phylo and Sovereign Basidia. Phylo seemed especially friendly, declaring with its rapport spores, “This is a wondrous time, for Neverlight Grove is on the verge of something great, something marvelous! Celebrate, as the day of joy is nigh!” Sovereign Basidia did not show such excitement, instead offering the companions the safety of the grove and a place to rest as long as they wished as a token of gratitude for returning Stool home. Phylo kept raving about “the Great Seeder” who lived beyond the garden, who could answer any questions the party had. Goder noticed that Basidia looked uncomfortable with Phylo’s behavior. Even Stool stepped closer to Smak, whispering to the bugbear that the harmony between Phylo and Basidia seemed to be off.

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Sauerkraut followed Phylo after he left, while the rest of the party went with Basidia. This led the satyr up to the top of a plateau and into a thicket of mushrooms, where dozens of humanoid Underdark creatures were buried in the ground, mold and fungi growing on and around them, all muttering and murmuring and whimpering. Some were more buried than others, and Sauerkraut was horrified to see one head turn toward him and let out a scream that ended suddenly when a mushroom burst through the creature’s mouth.

Meanwhile, Basidia continued the tour of the grove for the rest of the party.

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They met a myconid architect named Gasbide, leader of the Circle of Builders, who shared its dreams of bizarre, elaborate structures no myconids would ever need, inspired by visions of Abyssal palaces. Gasbide asked many questions about the architecture of the surface world, bristling with an excitement seldom seen in myconids, asking for every minute detail. It was further revealed that Gasbide dreamed of building a fungal tower “even greater than Yggmorgus,” hoping to break through the Underdark to the surface world, possibly “with the aid of Araumycos,” though Gasbide didn’t really understand what Araumycos was.

Basidia told them that another group of “softers” (the name myconids used for fleshy creatures) arrived not too many cycles ago and accepted Phylo’s offer to meet the Great Seeder, but were never heard from again. Furthermore, Phylo had created a new Circle within the grove: the Circle of Masters, which had recently been taking most of the carcasses the Circle of Hunters brought in, as well as sending groups of myconids outside the grove without telling anybody.

This is when Sauerkraut rejoined the party and explained everything he witnessed upon the plateau. Basidia worried that some fiendish disease might have infected Phylo and the myconids from that Circle of Masters, and requested the adventurers go put an end to this, one way or another.

And so they did. The party ascended the plateau and made their way through the forest of mushrooms and across the half-buried humanoids, where they confronted the master of this foul garden. Unlike the other myconids who communicated through their spore clouds, this creature spoke with a mouth: “Let the love of the Great Seeder embrace you as you become one with her chosen, the Great Body!”

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After defeating the horrifying creature and its spore servants, the companions continued on toward the mushroom tower. Along the way, they witnessed a bizarre parade of myconids and spore servants who danced along and then performed an obscene ritual of some sort—like a parody of a wedding rehearsal.

Leaving the wedding party alone, the companions finally made it to the tower, where they saw scores of myconids and spore servants dancing and laughing and vomiting in reverie. The ground here was even more saturated with writhing and moaning bodies.

And there, inside the tower, was the Lady of Decay herself: Zuggtmoy.

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As it turned out, Zuggtmoy planned to “wed” Araumycos (an enormous fungus occupying a large area of the Underdark). After uniting their powers in an unholy mockery of matrimony—in truth, a demonic rite of domination—Zuggtmoy would gain the power to transform the whole of the Underdark into her new Abyssal domain!

The companions decided that it was time to leave Neverlight Grove. They returned to Basidia to warn the myconids that a demon lord had taken over Phylo’s Circle of Masters and that this place was no longer safe for them. Basidia rewarded the party with whatever they wanted to take from the compost pile, then began preparations for an exodus from this place.

Loobamub offered to show the party a way to reach the surface, which they wholeheartedly accepted. Smak said goodbye to Stool, and the adventurers and the myconids went their separate ways.

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Whorlstone Tunnels

Goder, Pike, Reschi, and Urza followed another series of tunnels that they thought would lead them back to the alchemist’s door, and by the time they finally found it again, Urza was nowhere to be found. The wizard must have gotten separated and lost. But they found Smak and Sauerkraut, at least! The bugbear had simply followed his nose here from Darklake, and the satyr followed with him.

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They heard the sound of Droki’s footsteps approaching. Then the footsteps stopped. Then the sounds receded back down the tunnel. The derro must have spotted the adventurers waiting by the door for him.

Smak decided to kick the door down, and the party was immediately set upon by a couple invisible duergar guards. Since this whole area was suffused with faerzress, wild magic ensued every time Pike, Reschi, and Sauerkraut cast a spell. More duergar joined the fight, as did the alchemist himself.

After the brawl, the companions questioned one of the duergars they’d captured alive. He admitted that Lorthio the alchemist was down here crafting poisons for Gorglak, a warrior of the Stone Guard stationed at one of the outer gates near the Darklake District. Certainly Errde Blackskull, the captain of the guard, would appreciate this information.

Goder continued tracking Droki, following the elusive derro into a cavern where half a dozen other derro cultists were in the middle of some kind of ritual. The companions also noticed a two-headed dog trapped inside a cage, and on the far side of the cavern lounged an ettin.

Smak ate a bigwig mushroom and grew two sizes larger, and then he charged straight for the ettin. A titanic battle ensued between the two giants. The rest of the party engaged the derro cultists.

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Reschi and Goder inspected the spiral pattern the cultists had drawn on the floor, and they both went a little mad just from looking at it. In the center of the spiral was a small statue of a stone giant, and thrown aside in the corner was a crumbled statue of a two-headed stone giant. It was then they realized that the derro had been cursing the stone giants of Gracklstugh with Demogorgon’s madness, which was likely the first step toward delivering the entire city to the demon lord! Certainly the stone giants would appreciate this information.

Goder tracked Droki deeper into the maze of tunnels, past a dumping pit full of zombies, to a huge, well-lit chamber. The glow of faerzress and bioluminescent fungi competed with shafts of white light that fell upon naturally formed shelves along the walls as well as a rocky mesa at the center of the cavern. Atop one of those tiers sat a large brass egg. Atop the other stood a 50-foot-tall obelisk made of smooth black metal with a few noticeable imperfections, as though small parts of it had somehow chipped away. A lone derro sat close to the obelisk, gently patting and stroking its surface. The obelisk flashed once, the glow of faerzress around the cavern flaring in response. The derro squealed with glee as she snatched a notebook from the ground and wrote something down in it.

Droki approached the mesa and shouted up at the derro that intruders were coming. She put her notebook down and readied her crossbow. A spectator floated out from a dark alcove to join them.

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The companions had the drop on them. Goder shot the derro atop the mesa with two arrows, killing her, and Smak drop-kicked the spectator and then proceeded to dribble-kick the spectator against the wall while Sauerkraut and Pike blasted it with magic missiles.

Pike convinced Droki to surrender. The derro was convinced that the obelisk had been hidden here by the god Diirinka, but was broken long ago. Shards of it could be found all over the Underdark, and were magically absorbed into it when they touched its metal surface. The leaders of the derro were obsessed with finding these missing shards and completing the monolith, hoping to harness its unimaginable power to conquer Gracklstugh. Droki knew that when you targeted it with magic spells, the obelisk sometimes teleported treasure here… and sometimes teleported the caster away to who knows where.

The other derro’s notebook was filled with Dwarvish writing, specifially a long list of random items, mostly coins and jewelry. She also had a pouch of dust of disappearance.

Reschi cast a spell at the obelisk, which caused him to appear at the entrance to this cavern just before the fight with the derro and the spectator. He’d traveled back in time! Once he caught up with everyone in the timeline again (somehow), and he explained what had happened, Pike cast a spell at the obelisk and returned to the surface of Darklake right after the party had escaped from the flooded temple. He spotted the duergar in the boat fighting off that demon-mosquito, and swam over to help them.

Eventually Pike caught up with the rest of the party in the timeline (I have no idea how this works).

With the duergar conspiracy uncovered and the derro cult destroyed, the companions returned to Errde Blackskull to report in and collect their reward: an audience with the Deepking, Horgar Steelshadow V.

Goder fed Bluebell a bigwig mushroom and gave her the dragon egg, then sprinkled dust of disappearance on her and sent her off to deliver it to Themberchaud. When Bluebell returned, she told him that the dragon had crushed the egg and offered her one of his treasures as a reward. Apparently he thought the Keepers of the Flame were going to replace him. Goder didn’t like that development, so he went back to the obelisk, cast a spell at it, and went back in time so he could go with Bluebell to talk to Themberchaud. This time he convinced Themberchaud to allow him to keep the dragon egg as long as he took it far away from Gracklstugh. He picked out a fancy-looking fire opal as a reward.

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Next, the companions met with the stone giants, describing all that had happened in the derro tunnels to Stonespeaker Hgraam. He gave them a cryptic warning that they weren’t sure how to interpret, as well as a stonespeaker crystal.

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Finally, an audience with the Deepking was in order. Goder wanted a bag of holding to store his dragon egg in, and nobody in this city had one for sale or could make one, so he hoped the king’s consort, Shal, a known spellcaster, could help him out.

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As they talked with Deepking Horgar, however, it became obvious that he was only saying and doing what Shal told him to. Reschi charmed both of them, and that’s when the consort admitted that she was a succubus working for the demon lord Graz’zt. Her only task was to make sure no one tried to rid Horgar of his madness.

The companions wanted to do just that, so they discussed how they might go about ridding the Deepking of his consort…

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Gracklstugh

Goder, Pike, Reschi, Urza, and Jimjar made their way through the lightless, airless depths for what felt like an eternity before finally breaking the surface of the lake. But there was no sign of Smak or Sauerkraut. The companions did their best, searching in the black waters around and below them, but the bugbear and the satyr were gone.

From nearby came the sounds of conflict — weapons clashing, people grunting and cursing — accompanied by a dreadful buzzing sound. As they swam nearer, the companions found a crew of duergar aboard a keelboat battling what looked like a giant mosquito!

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After the demon was defeated, the remaining duergar thanked the adventurers for their help and welcomed them aboard. Pike claimed that his companions were his slaves, and that they were headed for Gracklstugh. As luck would have it, so were the duergar! They informed the party about the Deepking and the stone giants and the brass dragon who all lived in Gracklstugh. Goder was especially interested in this dragon.

The foundry fires of Gracklstugh warmed and illuminated the air — such a pleasant relief from the cold darkness the companions had endured thus far. Their duergar crewmates recommended they stay at the Ghohlbrorn’s Lair, an inn that catered to non-duergar. They were also rewarded for helping out: a cut of the day’s profits.

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The companions found the Ghohlbrorn’s Lair right away, met a bounty hunter in the common room who was looking for fugitives from Velkynvelve, and enjoyed a hot meal and actual beds.

Jimjar was still determined to make it to Blingdenstone. He described his home as a budding settlement well on its way to recovery after the attack by a drow army a decade ago. And since the deep gnomes continued to have regular dealings with the surface world, this was the party’s best bet to making it out of the Underdark.

Everyone woke up with stuffy noses and sore throats from the city’s perpetual smog. Urza found himself sneezing uncontrollably and coughing up black phlegm. Jimar, in an even worse state, decided to remain at the inn while the rest of the party went shopping. After cashing in all their loot, they had enough money to buy better weapons. Goder bought an expensive bronze crown, hoping to gift it to the dragon.

During their shopping spree, a two-headed stone giant suddenly burst through the bazaar, rampaging and murdering wildly. Some duergar guards, previously invisible, appeared and helped fight off the giant. The companions stepped in to help, too.

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When the giant was finally brought down, the guards thanked the adventurers and offered to bring them to Overlake Hold to meet Captain Errde Blackskull. Goder said a prayer over the giant’s dead body, and then the party went with the duergar guards.

At Overlake Hold, Errde Blackskull was disappointed to learn of the giant’s death. Still, she rewarded the adventurers with a magic rapier and a badge that would allow them to go visit the dragon unmolested. She also asked them to investigate reports of internal corruption — perhaps even demon worship — among the duergar citizens, and to seek out a derro named Droki who might know something about a demonic cult among the derro. The derro were treated like second-class citizens in Gracklstugh and forced to live in a ghetto referred to as West Cleft District.

The party accepted this quest, and made straight for the dragon’s lair. They’d look for Droki later.

Themberchaud, an adult brass dragon, was responsible for keeping the city’s smelters and forges ablaze, receiving treasure, free meals, and constant pampering in exchange. The Keepers of the Flame was a cult dedicated to tending to the Wyrmsmith’s needs. Gartokkar, leader of the cultists, escorted the party into Themberchaud’s lair.

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The dragon was indeed awesome and mighty, but obviously complacent with his lifestyle. Themberchaud sat on a mountain of treasure, quietly smoking a hookah, when the adventurers entered his presence. After dismissing Gartokkar, he told the party in secret that he wanted them to find the egg that had been stolen from him by derro burglars and return it only to himself — they were not to let the Keepers of the Flame know about any of this. Goder was especially eager to please the dragon.

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On their way out, Gartokkar asked the companions what the dragon had told them. He asked them to find the stolen egg and return it to the safekeeping of the Keepers of the Flame — not to deliver it to the dragon.

And so the companions headed over to the West Cleft District in search of Droki and a dragon egg. Here, amid the sagging huts and the reek of piss and poverty, the companions found a tunnel suffused with faerzress.

Pike ran into the glowing flakes floating in the air and cast feather fall, which ended up causing him to levitate. Reschi tied a rope to the drow sorcerer so he could be pulled along with the party until the spell wore off.

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Not long into their exploration of the tunnels, the companions spotted Droki in a small cavern filled with various mushrooms. As they watched, the derro with his funny hat plucked up a mushroom, ate it, and he became two sizes smaller! Then he slipped into a tiny crack in the wall.

The companions decided to do the same. They all ate that same type of mushroom (a pygmywort), they all shrank down to tiny-size, and they followed after the derro.

A maze of tunnels eventually brought them to a dense fungi forest with all manner of mushrooms of all sizes growing in here like trees. Urza gathered more pygmywort, while Goder found some bigwig mushrooms that would enlarge them when eaten.

While the companions were foraging, a group of eight myconids and two quaggoth spore servants danced into the area and told them about “the Lady’s dream” and some marriage that would be happening soon. Then they released spores that they called “the Lady’s gift,” but the companions each resisted the effects of the spores. And with that, the myconids and their spore servants danced into a mushroom and were gone.

Urza explained that this “Lady’s gift” must be like the tree stride spell but it only worked on mushrooms. But who was this “Lady?” Since myconids had no concept of gender, the wizard had a bad feeling it might be Zuggtmoy, demon queen of fungi.

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Continuing on, the party followed Droki’s tracks through a cavern with a huge mesa in the center. Reschi climbed to the top of the mesa and heard a cacophony of whispered voices from above, causing him to go a little mad.

Beyond the mesa were more tunnels that led past an actual door. Reschi and Goder stopped to peek into the keyhole and under the door to see an alchemist’s lab on the other side. The stink of chemicals was strong in there.

Droki’s tracks led them through more tunnels, and eventually to a cavern with three caged bears and two derro cultists. Spiral patterns had been drawn all over the floor in here. Droki spoke to the two derro, who told him that Lorthio, the alchemist he was looking for, was in the lab today. Droki took off again through a crack in the wall.

The companions decided to circle back and cut Droki off at the door…

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The Oozing Temple

After resting inside the lost Netherese tomb, the companions were just about to head out again when they noticed a scouting party of drow camped just outside the entrance. There were five drow, and they had a displacer beast with them.

Smak and Goder attempted to sneak outside, but the drow noticed them right away.

Combat ensued.

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One of the drow retreated but the others and the displacer beast were all defeated. The companions decided to get a move on, since Elvara and the rest of the drow from Velkynvelve would probably be here soon.

After a couple days of traveling at a fast pace, the party found a lonely hut situated on the edge of a pond. Goder went ahead to check it out, finding a fish rack and some netting and poles and oars in the area. Then the kobold heard a voice from within the hut.

This is when the companions met Telemachus Thistlefuzz, a deep gnome, and his brother Thomas, who was dead but had somehow become a zombie. Telemachus seemed to be in denial of his brother’s death and acted like Thomas was merely sick.

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Pike tried explaining to Telemachus that he could put the gnome’s brother out of his misery, but Telemachus was too distracted by his missing comb to really understand what the drow was telling him (Sauerkraut stole his comb earlier). So Pike knocked Telemachus out with a frying pan and dragged Thomas’s body outside to burn it.

Jimjar attempted to loot the place, but Pike chastised him about it. Jimjar did have a point, though — Elvara would eventually make her way here and would probably interrogate and kill Telemachus, so he was as dead as his brother anyway.

The companions decided to bring Telemachus with them. They didn’t want to take the deep gnome’s boat for fear of running into Demogorgon on the lake, so they found a tunnel that led in the direction of Gracklstugh.

This is when Jimjar admitted that he owed some powerful people in Gracklstugh a lot of money, and that his life might be in danger if he’s recognized there. But he was even more terrified of making the journey to Blingdenstone on his own, so he begged the party to let him stay with them, even if it meant visiting Gracklstugh.

The party navigated through a maze of tunnels and caverns for a couple more days. Then a violent tremor shook the area, causing a cave-in that injured some of them. They found the passage ahead to be blocked now, as well as the passage back the way they’d come. Fortunately, a crevice in the wall had opened up, possibly offering an escape route.

With only one option, the companions squeezed through the gap in the wall, where they found an ancient temple dedicated to Juiblex, demon lord of ooze. They met and befriended a sentient gelatinous cube named Glabbagool, who ejected a magical mace that could light up with green flame when wielded.

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Reschi wondered if Demogorgon’s presence here in the Material Plane was causing all this weird stuff to happen — that faerzress in the Netherese tomb, the spontaneous animation of Thomas’s body, and now Glabbagool’s miraculous sentience. Something wasn’t right down here…

Exploring the temple led the party to a room with a fountain wherein pilgrims used to leave donations. But as soon as the companions started searching the fountain for loot, seven grey oozes poured out from the walls to attack them!

With the oozes dispatched, the party looted some coins, a dagger, and a couple potions from the fountain. And if you’re reading this, you can have a potion of healing, too.

Next they made their way to a rough-walled cave where water poured through cracks in the ceiling. Evidently this whole place would soon be completely flooded. There was no time to waste.

Breaking through the cracked ceiling, and enduring the water that rushed in, the companions swam up into the darkness that eventually led them to the surface of Darklake.

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The Lost Tomb

Without Eldeth and Stool in the party, the companions weren’t sure where they were headed anymore. The prospect of escaping the Underdark altogether seemed distant and hopeless.

They continued on, wandering aimlessly through tunnels and caverns, until they arrived at a chasm that stretched as far as any of them could see. A network of spiderwebs criss-crossed all over the chasm.

Moments later, two goblins approached the adventurers, surfing along the spiderwebs on greased-up boots. The goblins introduced themselves as Yuk Yuk and Spiderbait. They offered to guide the companions to wherever they wanted to go, for a price. Pike convinced them that he was Shoor, Elvara’s lieutenant and lover, and that he was on a secret mission with these here “slaves.” The goblins happily sold them a gourd of grease and gave them directions to Gracklstugh.

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Yuk Yuk and Spiderbait also warned about the spiders who laired here, mentioning a deep gnome who’d recently been captured and cocooned.

The gnome turned out to be none other than Jimjar! After the companions rescued him from the spiders, Jimjar explained that he’d found an ancient Netherese tomb near here, but he didn’t have the nerve to go in there by himself.

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The companions followed Jimjar back the way they came, and down some other passage for a couple hours, before they finally arrived at a huge stone cube that looked like it fell from a great height to land in this vaulted cavern. Indeed, a crevasse in the ceiling above confirmed that this tomb probably did fall down here.

Urza shared what he knew about the Netheril Empire. He also sensed the presence of magical radiation — something the folk of the Underdark called faerzress, a remnant of High Magic that helped shape the Underdark itself long ago.

It was then Pike heard a sinister whisper: “I sense life out there. You must free me from this place!”

Jimjar agreed to a 20% cut on whatever the party found in there, since he was the one who’d brought them here. And so, inside they went.

In the entrance room they found a diorama along one wall depicting the sorceress Brysis Khaem as a Netherese noble in her prime, surrounded by attendants, slaves, and other trappings of wealth and power. Covering the opposite wall was a vista of fantastic floating cities, which Smak thought was mind-blowing.

A hidden staircase descended down to a shrine room with two doors. Pike collected some of the shredded tapestries and cast mending on them.

The party made such a racket opening one of the doors that they awakened the spectres of Brysis’s two husbands, who rose out from their sarcophagi to attack!

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While Goder and Smak fought with blades and fists, Urza, Reschi, and Pike cast spells that were affected by the faerzress. Urza ended up polymorphing himself into a winter wolf.

After defeating the angry spirits and looting their resting places, the companions found a hole in the floor hidden under one of the sarcophagi.

As soon as the secret room was revealed, Pike heard that whisper again: “Release me. Wield me, and I will make you powerful. We will gorge upon the lifeforce of your enemies.”

It was down here the party encountered Brysis Khaem herself, now a terrifying wight. But not so terrifying after Smak stunned her, and Reschi cursed her, and Pike finished her off with magic missiles.

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The mummified body of Brysis Khaem was holding a black-iron sword of life-stealing in one hand and a wand of fear in the other; she wore a necklace of fireballs around her neck, and there were also two potions and a heap of coins, too.

The party went back and opened the second door in the room above, which contained another pair of sarcophagi — and the spectres of two more of Brysis’s husbands.

After defeating the spirits and looting the room, everyone decided that it was time to rest. Reschi cast Leomund’s tiny hut, and the party took a long rest.

When they were about to head out again, they noticed a group of drow and a displacer beast camped just outside the tomb entrance. The drow were talking about the two goblins they’d interrogated and tossed off the cliff, and that Elvara would be here soon to help recapture the prisoners!

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The Haunted Stronghold

Following the passage out of Sloobludup, the companions arrived at the gates of a long-forgotten dwarven stronghold. Dozens of kuo-toa crowded behind them, the sole survivors of Demogorgon’s wrath.

The companions found this city to be totally lifeless, though Goder could sense the presence of undead here. They made their way to the library, where they found some old history books but nothing of value, nor any clues as to what had happened here.

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Eventually the party reached the other side of the city, where they entered a mine shaft. Here they found a large cavern full of zombies — hundreds of zombies! This must have been the fate of the dwarves who once lived here.

With the help of the kuo-toa, the companions fought through the horde of zombies and a zombie beholder to reach a passage on the other side of the cavern that led them outside the city walls.

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