Loose Ends – Chapter Twenty

4th Day of the Claw of Winter: (February):

Entering The Underdark:

The story continues within the expanse of the Underdark.

Sigune, Mirafir and Galan are through, but the Portal has vanished behind them. As far as Sigune is concerned, they have stepped through into an inky black void with absolutely no orientation point except for the loose stones and solid rock beneath her feet. This is darkness beyond that of any Magical Power. This is a Darkness that has existed forever and has remained untouched by light since the beginning of time itself. With eyesight completely negated, a sense of touch stimulated only by the surface she stands upon, her hearing begins to compensate.

The steady, thoughtful breathing of Mirafir, coupled with the smell of patchouli oil are unmistakable. But Galan is not so easily identified. His breathing is shallow and quick, almost as if the air itself is suffocating him. From out of her small bag Sigune draws Galan’s ‘Continual Light’ Dagger. Instantly all three Adventurers are blinded by the enchanted light. Sigune, without ‘Infravision’, is the quickest to adjust to this change. Her eyes gradually focusing on the hundreds, no thousands, of tiny insectoid creatures of all descriptions that have gathered to bask in this alien illumination.

Location - Underdark Tunnel
Location – Underdark Tunnel

Her gaze sets upon Galan, squinting and rubbing his strained eyes. His skin has paled even more than usual, and once his hollowed and shadowed eyes have opened, contrast sharply with the waxy skin. He has grown weaker and an inescapable claustrophobia has set in. This environment is not the natural choice of an Elven Ranger of the forests, and Galan is tormented by the miles of rock which press down upon him between here and the surface, separating him from the air, the forest and the sky above.

Galan: “We are the Underdark and it is no place for an Elf.”

Sigune: “Come! Zere is no time to lose. Vee must track down Szora and Frimly! Galan Tara – vich vay did zey go?”

Galan says nothing, yet his eyes betray everything. Dropping to one knee he tenderly traces his fingers over dust and stone before raising his head to look at Mirafir and Sigune.

Galan: “They went this way. (He points north) I don’t think they were moving fast and they have spent some time searching the area from which we appeared.”

Once on his feet again, the three colleagues move swiftly down the dark passage of the Underdark. The air is warm, stale and does not move. Looking around, Sigune’s peripheral vision is filled with the thousands of creeping and crawling creatures that flock from the light, making all of the surfaces appear as if they are alive.

Galan: “My tracking is no longer required. I’m certain your eyesight is keen enough to discern the chalk markings left at Elf-knee, or Dwarf-shoulder, height.”

The labyrinth of tunnels, openings and chambers, are all of natural form, carved by ancient waterways now left dry, or possibly some of the inhabitants of this Underdark. Just the steady drip-drip of saline condensation has left its mark in the form of a multitude of different sized Stalagmites and Stalactites, reaching from above and below like some cyclopean teeth. The oppressive silence, so easily broken by movement and whispers, is encroached upon by distant muffled echoes.

Galan: “It must be them. We are gaining on them, perhaps around the next corner and past the junction?”

Location - Underdark Tunnel Fork
Location – Underdark Tunnel Fork

Farther ahead, the Roguish Frimly and his stocky leader, Thora, also hear the approach of the bulk of their fellows.

Frimly: “Shall we give ‘em a … surprise? I mean, they could be imposters?”

Thora: “Dinnae be ridiculous, Thief! There is nae Illusionist in all of thae Forgotten Realms who could recreate that dreadful racket! Stand doon an’ wait fer thaem to get closer.”

The companions are reunited and following brief recapitulations, Thora makes a decision:

Thora: “Aye, well, it looks like we are 9-12 miles under Faerûn; I would guess approximately 8 miles south of Daggerford. If we head north, maybe we can find an exit to the surface?”

Mirafir: “Zagyg save us all, that would mean we are in-between the first and second level of the Underdark.

Mirafir realises that Sigune is the only one benefitting from the ‘Continual Light’ spell and for the sake of inconspicuousness casts ‘Infravision’ on the Paladin. The party continues north through the twisting darkness until tired legs begin to fail. A decision is made to seek a place of rest and Mirafir, who possesses uncanny luck in finding such places, leads the party to a small cavern. The party had now been moving since they used Mirafir’s ‘Mirror of Mental Prowess’ to enter Torleth’s Treasures (10:00 am), Fought with the Wizard (13:00 pm) and had now been travelling around the Underdark for over 8 hours (21:00 pm).

PCs - Taking A Rest
PCs – Taking A Rest

5th Day of the Claw of Winter: (February):

After two uneventful four-hour guard shifts later, plus the use of some regenerative Magic and a fast broken with dried fruits and dried and salted meats restores the party to full strength both spiritually and physically. Even Galan is looking less waxy, his complexion regaining a little colour, as the Shadow Strength drain he had been hit with back in the basement of Torleth’s Treasures finally recedes.

Mirafir: “We must assume that the exits from the Underdark to the surface will be few and far between and most likely guarded.”

Galan: “Indeed. And if we are unable to find our way to the surface we can only hope that the Lady Bronwyn notices our absence and uses the ‘Mirror of Mental Prowess’ to find us here in the Underdark. Then once the ability to open a portal has re-charged, it may be our only hope of escape!”

Mirafir: “Very true. And since we only used it yesterday that means we will be down here for a week at least. Food and water may become … scarce…”

On this cheery note, the Adventurers continue their journey northwards. After some distance, Thora discerns that they are walking steadily upwards.

Thora: “Aye… It would seem that we are indeed rising up towards the surface. We must be very close already to Daggerford – possibly even beyond the town.”

Frimly: “And if I’m not very much mistaken, I can ‘ear the sound of rushing water up ahead. Could it be an underground river, perchance?”

The Adventurers stand as silently as they can and listen intently. Sure enough, the sound of rushing water, like a river, can be heard distantly ahead of them.

Thora: “Wizard, can yae nae use a wee spell to help us find the way oot?”

Mirafir: “I fear my abilities in this respect are not exacting enough for our requirements. A divination is no longer possible since we are still within a ‘Reading’. But only three stages are left, ‘The Mists’, ‘The Broken One’ and ‘The Healer’.”

Thora: “What use is Wizardry anyhoo? Och, it causes more problems than it solves! Let us proceed to the running water we can hear, perhaps that will give us a clue how to get oot of this accursed maze.”

Location - Underdark Cliffs
Location – Underdark Cliffs

As the party passes another junction, the sound of flowing water becomes louder. Focusing on the way ahead, Thora can see that the tunnel opens out into a chasm. This must be where the water is. Moving ahead cautiously and expecting attack at any moment, the Adventurers reach the end of the tunnel. It opens into a huge chasm that expands both up and down beyond the bounds of our ‘Infravision’. Mirafir, fearing the worst, casts ‘Stoneskin’ on himself.

Some light is created by lichen which clings at certain points to the sheer walls of the abyss, while a billowing Mist rises from the unseen water flowing far below. Both sides of the chasm are a honeycomb of cave entrances, some larger than others.

Sigune: “Vot shall vee do? Go across?”

Mirafir: “Perhaps I can fly up and have a look how far it goes up? Or maybe it would be better to send Frimly?”

Thora: “Och aye! We’ll send the wee laddie with a rope over to the other side so we can all get across. Let’s see how that goes, eh?”

Frimly: “Oh that’s very nice. So I get to do all the dangerous work again? I’m clearly not being paid enough for this Adventuring business.”

Galan: “I have much training in the use of Rope and am a better Warrior than the Rouge, let me go.”

Mirafir casts ‘Fly’ and Galan traverses the chasm with one end of the 100’ feet of silk rope to fasten to a stalagmite on the opposite side but slightly to the right (East). The rope is fastened and Sigune begins to make her way across the makeshift bridge. Suddenly, the bizarre sound of loud buzzing can be heard as two swarms of giant hideous bug-like creatures emerge from holes in the chasm, Stirge.

Monster - Strige
Monster – Strige

Striges are bugs from the Underdark, bird-like creatures that drink the blood of their victims for sustenance. They have four small, pincer-like legs that they use to clamp onto the necks of their victims. They are rusty-red to reddish brown in colour, and their eyes and feet are yellowish. The dangling proboscises of stirges are pink at the tip, fading to grey at the base (near their heads).

They swarm Sigune and one of them successfully bites her in a sensitive place not entirely protected by armour. She swats the monster and its putrid green innards are splattered across her thighs.

Mirafir casts ‘Web’ across the chasm where Sigune stands, capturing most of the flying fiends swarming around her as only one of the Striges manages to escape the sticky ‘Web’.

The second swarm is caught in a second ‘Web’, cast again by the Wizard and now all of them buzz furiously from within the Elven Wizard’s threads. Without further hesitation the reaming party members traverse the chasm as quickly as they can. Thora, who is last after Mirafir had crossed, hurries as quickly as she can as the sound of something (or some things) clattering down the passageway from whence she has come can be heard. Sure enough a horrendous creature, with huge hooks for hands emerges from the opening, Hook Horrors.

Monster - Hook Horror
Monster – Hook Horror

The Hook Horror is a bipedal, underground-dwelling monster that looks like a cross between a vulture and a man with hooks instead of hands.

The Hook Horror stands about 9’ feet tall and Weighs almost 350 pounds. It has a tough, mottled grey exoskeleton, like that of an insect. The creatures front limbs end in 12’ inch long hooks. The monsters legs end in feet that have three small hooks, like long, sharp toes. The beasts head is shaped like that of a vulture, including the hooked beak. Its eyes are multifaceted. It is thought that the Hook Horror is distantly related to the cockroach or cave cricket.

It’s hideous beaked face sweeps from left to right and spots Thora as she climbs along the silk rope. Hooked hands may be good for fighting but not much use for rope climbing, so the furious beast begins to hack at the rope until it is cut from the stalagmite it is fastened to. Thora is almost across to the other side so the monster does the Adventurers a favour by helping them to recover the rope while Mirafir helps Thora up on to the other side.

Galan fires off a couple of ‘Magic Arrows’ back across the chasm but the creatures quickly retreat out of sight – perhaps to find another crossing point. For good measure, the two subterranean fly-filled webs are ignited, instantly toasting their unwilling occupants.

Thora: “Well that’s a right scunner! There’s nothing for it, we’ll just have tae keep moving! One door opens, while another fills with a gantin hook-handed wee monster!”

Angry roars can be heard echoing throughout the honeycombed chasm so the Adventurers follow their diminutive leader’s advice and hurry Northwards along this new tunnel. There appears to be an increase in the amount of luminous lichen lining the labyrinthine tunnels in this section, and a definite rise in humidity can be detected in the oxygen-starved air. Following several twists and turns and a series of junctions that leave the Adventurers with decisions to make that can only be decided on a ‘gut feeling’.

Thora: “For some time noo we’ve been going downhill. It looks like we’ve missed thae high road and are on the low road. But unless I am very much mistaken, I can feel in ma bones that there is a large chamber just ahead, possibly filled with water.”

The glistening condensation on the walls and the distant whispering echo of water lapping against some pebbly shore seems to concur with Thora’s estimation. 

Location - Underdark Lake
Location – Underdark Lake

Galan: “I see it too. There is an opening ahead. It must be a large cavern, filled with water. Some space in this oppressive rats’ nest is most welcome – I can barely breath in this confinement!”

Thora: “Aye, my Elven friend. But let not your irrational fear of these wondrous rock formations cloud your better judgement! Where there is space, there may be foes. There may be unforeseen dangers ahead: be wary!”

A grim silence befalls the party. Weapons are stealthily drawn and a cautious marching order is decided. 

The narrow tunnel begins to widen, gradually at first, until a view of such unfathomable enormity is unveiled that several gasps of awe escape. A rocky and pebbly shoreline lies at the feet of a terraced descent to the black water which caresses and laps its whispering lament to this lost chamber of wonder and Darkness. As their eyes gradually adjust to the scale of this unknown Underworld, huge lichen-illuminated columns can be seen rising from the watery ocean up into inconceivable heights. Small islands dot the visible shoreline but beyond the vision of the Adventurers lay league upon dark league of subterranean sea.

Thora can no longer remain silent, whispering:

Thora: “I have gazed upon the great chambers of Runedardath, I have heard tell of the mighty underground cities of my forefathers, but little did I know of the Underdark and its magnitude.”

The surface-dwelling party members, even the Elves, do not contradict their bearded guide and leader. To have set eyes upon this subterranean ocean is a gift even to those who fear the dark and that which lies in the dark corners beneath the earth, in the Underdark.

Their wonderment is suddenly interrupted by a rhythmic splashing sound that can be heard above the whispering waves lapping at the shore below.

Galan hisses:

Galan: “There is someone swimming towards us! With some difficulty: just one arm would be my guess!”

Thora: “Aye, I see too. It is a wee lassie and she swims as if a demon is behind her! Wizard: what can you use your Spells to ‘Detect Magic’? Be it Malignant or benign?”

Mirafir: “She is still too far for me to say. She looks to me, judging by her unusual features, to be of subterranean origin. But that demon of which you speak, look! Behind her, a rowing boat! She is being pursued!”

Staring into the Darkness, the Adventurers see a rowing boat. At its fore, an indiscernible humanoid figures stand holding illuminating Orbs on poles and clasping some kind of throwing weapon. They are gaining fast on their prey, whose face, occasionally visible with each struggling effort to rise above the water and push forward, is filled with frantic fear.

Thora, as ever the Heroin, rushes down to the water’s edge in an effort to aid the weary soul.

Location - Underdark Lake
Location – Underdark Lake

No one says anything, but all are thinking the same thing. The ancient legends of the Underdark have reached the surface and used as stories to frighten children for as long as memory persists.

Mother: “And make sure you do your chores! You wouldn’t want the wicked slavers from the Underdark to come and take you!”

The Forgotten Realms Wiki