Vizeran expected the adventurers to accompany him to Menzoberranzan, but little did he know, they planned on setting off his “dark heart” ritual in Mantol-Derith instead.
The party traveled for many days, passing over precarious ledges, deranged rivers, and sinkholes, as well as beautiful caverns. Eventually they encountered a stout adamantine tower sitting at the edge of a cliff. The door didn’t appear to have any obvious handle or hinges. Four gargoyles kept watch atop the tower’s battlements.
While Reschi and Urza tried figuring out how to get inside, Goder sent Bluebell up to provoke the gargoyles, who predictably came to life and attacked!
After the party defeated the gargoyles, Urza thought long and hard, and remembered a wizard long ago who was said to own a tiny cube that could magically turn into an enormous tower. He decided to cast identify on the tower to learn its activation words, taking the time to cast the spell as a ritual. And while he worked, Pike sweet-talked the tower door into opening.
Inside the tower, a pair of hezrou demons ambushed them!
With the demons defeated, Vizeran claimed the tower for himself, but the party wasn’t about to allow that. They decided Pike should keep it.
Continuing on, the party found themselves entering a complex of dwarven mines, evidenced by the rusting iron rails and scattered ore carts. Dark shafts dropped into unknown depths, while tunnels stretched off in random directions. They ended up getting lost in here for a number of hours.
Finally the party found a great cleft in the wall ringed by a profusion of sigils and glyphs. Stacked to either side of the opening were two mounds of severed heads. Urza inspected the invocations, dire curses, and the inverted names of gods scrawled around the cleft in dried blood. He could tell that this place had been consecrated in the name of Baphomet.
Goder heard a pitiful whimpering, and discovered a gnoll hiding in the area. He offered it a goodberry, and gained a lifelong servant. The gnoll warned that Baphomet himself hunted in this area, along with dozens of minotaurs. They’d killed the rest of the gnolls living here when they moved in.
When a sudden tremor shook the ground and caused dust and dirt to fall from above, the party decided it was time to leave. Baphomet was coming!
Goder prayed for guidance and led his companions quickly out of the labyrinth to the shores of Darklake, where they spotted a deep gnome hauling a boat up out of the water.
Jimjar pretended to be relieved to see the companions again, and explained that he’d just escaped from Gracklstugh and was on his way to Blingdenstone. Sauerkraut convinced him to take them back to Gracklstugh.
And so, to Gracklstugh they went. The city was much quieter than the last time they’d been here. The harbor looked to be abandoned, the streets empty, the windows and doors all closed. The silence was eerie as the party made their way toward Themberchaud’s lair.
Here they found a group of duergar priests and soldiers milling around talking with each other. It sounded like the Keepers of the Flame had come to the conclusion that Gracklstugh’s salvation lay in eliminating Themberchaud before he became a bigger threat. In the process, they were planning to acquire a new and far more powerful patron.
Goder walked up and demanded to speak with Themberchaud, and when Gartokkar (leader of the Keepers of the Flame) told him the dragon was indisposed at the moment, the kobold summoned a swarm of bats to show he was serious. The priests all backed down, and the soldiers lowered their weapons, and the adventurers were allowed to pass.
Themberchaud was honestly glad to see the companions again. Urza and Goder used message to speak with the dragon telepathically so the eavesdropping duergar wouldn’t hear their conversation. To make doubly sure, Reschi played a song that fascinated and charmed the invisible soldiers, and then the bard asked them to give him all their money.
Themberchaud was convinced his Keepers were deliberately oppressing him, but the dragon knew that he was effectively trapped in the caverns of Gracklstugh even if he were to win his freedom. The companions had a solution to that problem: Reschi or Pike could polymorph him into a bat, sneak him out of here, and then Urza could cast water walk on him so he could join them on their voyage to Mantol-Derith. Themberchaud agreed to this plan, accepted the polymorph, and after Sauerkraut shoveled the dragon’s hoard into his bag of holding, they all got out of there.
When Gartokkar and the priests confronted them outside the dragon’s lair, Reschi and Sauerkraut fast-talked them into believing the dragon was napping right now and had asked to be left alone.
Surprisingly, Jimjar was still waiting for them in the boat. Everyone piled in and shoved off. Mantol-Derith was only about 40 miles away now, and they hoped there would be no more interruptions along the way.