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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…