15th of Kelen : In the morning, during breakfast, the group was informed that a merchant from the local market, a Drow Clothier named Karafu, was seeking an audience with the “…newest House Matron or her representatives…”. The group assembled in the throne room and Karafu was allowed entrance.
Flanked by dwarven guards and several of the * Dawn Rock Clan’s chief members in residence, the Outsiders were assembled on the dias. When Karafu approached, he did so with utmost care and concern, bowing and stopping, bowing annd stopping, clutching a worn, though ornate wooden box under one arm. “Speak!” demanded Grignak. The conversation that followed was confusing, but the Outsiders learned a great deal about local politics and Drow relations.
It turns out, Karafu was a representative of the local merchants and while he apologized for the lack of goblins to gift the matron, he sought to pay tribute to the new drow matron of Slaveport. He was informed that the procession seen the day prior was of a guest clan of Drow to the Serpent Hold, and that the town was owned by * House Outsider, and its Matron, Illuria. It was explained that Grignak was its Master of Arcane, Brommik her Champion, Domingo Colo its Religious Adviser, and Vani Ander her Trade Adviser. It was further clarified that House Outsider would allow the denizens of Slaveport the freedom to act how they may, provided they kept the peace and maintained free trade and correct prices in the markets. They also stipulated that the slave-trade was the exclusive right of House Outsider, and all matters for its concern must be directed to House Outsider or its agents. A much-humbled Karafu presented his tribute of 250 gp worth of coins and small baubles, claiming them to be the collected goods of the town merchants, and was excused to inform his fellow merchants. * Sontonia Ironfold was presented with various accounts and coin to pay for the House’s expenses (mostly in House Vrama platinum), and the Outsiders made ready to leave on their next journey.
Boarding their rickety little double-hulled catamaran, the Outsiders slipped out the “back-door” and off down the trade canal towards the hidden cavern where they suspected Brommik’s girlfriend * Journeyman Mage Passara Elventree was being held prisoner. Other than a couple Oozes that tried to drop on their boat, early on the third day, the trip was uneventful.
17th of Kelen : The Outsiders reached the fetid cavern opening of The Hole and slipping down its length discovered it opened after several hours onto a vast, fungal-choked cavern. Still and silent, it was a swampy collection of mosses, towering black fungal trees, and impenetrable black water. In the distance, a faint glimmering could be seen, a shadowy light that seemed to glint at the very edge of vision. The only sounds were the creak of their boat and the splash of their oars in the water. The choking stench of decay overwhelmed everything else, and off against the left side of the cavern lay a tumbled pile of worked stone, only vaguely resembling a broken and ancient castle. They headed there, soon discovering a rickety dock with a large, actual ship anchored along its length.
This boat, a strange and rather ungainly keel-boat about 30’ in length, had several oars pointed upright from within, but no mast. Benches, arranged low in the hull were occupied by chained skeletons who manned the oars and sat motionless. A pair of lanterns hung from both bowsprit and rudder, and glimmered with the black flickering glow of magical lights. As they approached the dock to tie it off, a pallid “shadow” person emerged from the ship’s bow cabin, his face swathed in purple tattoos and dressed in spiked armor with numerous iron piercings all over his face and arms. “Well”, he rasped, “Who sent you?”.
Brommik took over questioning and after several unanswered queries regarding “Passy”, slaves and other matters, the figure stated “You are not supposed to be here… Sitheriel! Attack!”, and several low, amorphous and shadowy shapes appeared from the gloom of the ships and docks shadows to attack and try to surround the Outsiders. The fight was brief, though brutal, with the humanoid attempting to push off with his boat at its height, but Brommik and Domingo were dogged in their attacks and boarded the ship with heroic leaps. Both the ship’s master and his “hounds” fell to the Outsiders.
Looting the corpse they recovered a strange obsidian amulet (Later proven to be the ownership phylactry of the ship), a Mithril Chain Shirt +1, a Magic Spiked Chain +1 and a Potion of Vitality. The group quickly destroyed the skeletons, and looking around, headed up to a nearby ruined guardhouse. Within they found a large Blackscale and several smaller lizardfolk marauders. After these were dispatched, they recovered a male lizard folk warrior who was chained and imprisoned in a corner. Calling himself “Steersissk”, they were able to speak with him in draconian. He claimed to be from a village of his kind a half-day’s travel along the right-hand cave wall, that he called the Sharptooth Village. He explained that several shadow priests had taken his people there, and that when they came back, they were no longer living. He said that two of his companions had been taken there a day ago, and he knew not whether they lived. He said the human prisoners do not go to the Village, but rather take the boat off into the swamp. He also warned against visiting the ruins of the castle, since it was ruled by a “…fearsome shadow-fiend, like a great grey cat that walked…”. When the Outsiders chose to travel to the castle, he offered to stay here, since he was not able to help them yet, and would await their return.
Poking around the outer ruins, they found everything shattered and several doors leading into nothing, as though portions of the castle had not made the transition to this place. Enering the main hall, they approached the tall tower at its far end, and opened the final door to reveal a large feast hall, now crumbling and cracked, its faded murals peeling and several doors opening into the gloom of the cavern. Shadows gathered in all its corners, and a dim shadowed light glowed beyond to reveal foul viscera and gore smeared across its walls, floor and ceiling. The horrid stench of death overcame the presence of stale decay, and in the room’s center rose a rickety iron stairwell into the chamber’s roof. Corpses in various stages of consumption and decay were chained to the walls at various points. The group were not surprised, when a large cat-like humanoid strode down the stairs with shocking speed and snarled, “You should not be here… Good! I need fresh meat!”.
The fight was long, wiht the creature using both strange, otherworldy shadow powers and a vicious pounce and rake attack that proved devastating. It seemed immune to many forms of damage, but met Grignak’s and Illuria’s psychic assaults with growls and curses. When it fianlly fell to the combined might of the Outsiders (and not without casualties), the PCs uncovered an impressive hoard of silver and gold coins in chests along one wall, and several potions and jewellery in a worn silk pouch. Among them they recovered a Ritual Scroll (Remove Affiliction) and a magical Brooch of Shielding. Risking the danger, they slipped into the upper chamber, and found a simple, if huge throne of obsidian that dominated the chamber. Perhaps once an astrolabe or observatory, the walls were fitted with high, shuttered windows and the carvings of foreign starry skies upon its ceiling. They retreated from the chamber, having exhausted much of their resources and strength, and retreated back to the shadowed guardhouse for an extended rest.
During Grignak’s watch, he slipped back into the observatory, and after using his Arcane lore to identify it as “The Dusk Lord’s Throne”, attempted to “activate” it; but discovered it required Shadow Powers to employ. Dejected, he left and slipped back to the guardhouse, and awaited the dawn.
18th of Kelen : In the morning (?), Brommik, having pondered the “Throne”, chose to go into the throne chamber and “activate” it himself. Sitting upon the throne for over a minute and concentrating on his recently acquired shadow powers, he managed to turn on some sort of arcane switch, and was quickly encased in a shadowy cloak that dissipated to form a “shadow crown” over his head. He gained the Feat : “Dark Lord’s Crown”, which bestowed Cold Resist 5 and superior low-light vision (x4 normal low-light vision) in shadowed light). Whenever this or other shadow powers were activated, it displayed the Portent of shadows swirling and then coalescing about his head, like a shadowy halo…
Deciding they needed to rescue the lizardfolk if they remained alive at this point, they asked Steersissk to guide them to his old village, which he agreed to do. The Outsiders followed the ancient stone pathway that led along the cave’s foot for several hours, eventually arriving at a great mound of earth and moss beside a vast dark lake. Various fungal trunks pierced the mound from its interior, and gaps between the trunks were set with fungal timber and chinked with moss, thorny growths and mud. Choosing to take the “back door” in rather than the front entrance by the lake, they approached a tough little doorway of timbers and vines along one side at the end of a muddy little path marked with glowing magical black torches.
Slipping inside with Vani’s skills, they encountered several “Shadowscale Marauders” who used javelins, stone axes and a curious number of throwing pots with Dire Stirges inside, that flew about when released to attack everyone. Defeating them, they moved onwards to encounter a dark purple snaky beast with a woman’s head that dangled numerous tentacles. A wickedly barbed stinger tipped its tail. “Humansses”, the creature hissed, “Who are you? What do you seek?”. “Foolish creature!”, responded Brommik, “We are not humans and we come for Passy!”. When it became apparent comabt was about to ensue, it further whispered, “Interesssting… You must not serve the Missstresss…” Slipping into the waters of its small pool, the creature summoned a pet Scorpion, that was quickly dispatched, but the snaky creature proved a difficult opponent, despite its young age. Highlights of the fight included several failures of Grignak’s new Tanglefoot Bags, though he finally managed to nail the creature close enough to shore that the entire group could surround and beat it to death. They gathered “snakeblood” for Grignak’s Ritual to activate his relic, the Eye of the Serpent, and Grignak took soome time to search through the pond for treasure, literally tripping over a number of water-logged clay casks filled with gold and silver coins, a pouch of several pearls and a Potion of Healing.
Continuing further, Steersissk led them past a series of ruined egg-laying chambers inot the Great Central Warren where more Shadowscales with their pots of Dire Stirges were encountered, as well as the great leader of the tribe, the war-chief Kossandar and his giant “War Beetle”. The fight was surprisingly quick, though brutally so, and when their foes had been defeated, the Outsiders looted the lair of its treasures, while Steersissk rescued the two females he had come for from a pit dungeon off the main chamber. Lying in heaps in the war-chief’s quarters were almost ten thousand coins (mostly silver, but including a couple thousand gold pieces), a variety of precious objects (several gold goblets and an ornate silver platter), a couple potions and ritual scrolls, a Shortsword of Frost +1, and a suit of Leather Armor +3. With the new lizardfolk in tow, they fled tha chambers of the Shadowscales, and made their way back to the ruined guardhouse for a well-deserved extended rest.
19th of Kelen : With the morning, the Outsiders decided to follow the mysterious beacons that led off into the swamp (now with their shiny new boat and some lizardfolk to help row!). They searched the boat more closely, and found it to be named “The Necreme”. Located in the front cabin (It has a cabin?!?) they found several large clay casks of smoky oil, a mysterious scroll, some more treasure (coins, and a silver comb) and a masterwork lute. The scroll bore numerous musical notations and the odd passage:
“Play this, and the guardian at Black Mushroom Bend will subside – Esvele”
Vani took possession of the lute, and practiced his long unused musical skills using the keys found on the lute. The group crowded aboard the boat and began to follow along the chain of beacons into the depths of the fetid swamps. Each black-glowing beacon led them further on into the depths of the marsh cave, until at one point where they took a sharp turn, the waters swirled and groaned and Vani quickly employed his thievery skills to force the moaning creature of Black Mushroom Bend to quietly sink beneath the waters. after a good 10-12 miles on the boat, they began to hear the roaring of a series of falls leading deep into a chasm of some sort ahead, and finally sighted the “Landing”.
A squat stone cabin dimly illuminated by flaming magical torches illuminated a short peir to one side, where a pair of small boats were tied-up, and various supplies lay stacked and moldering. A suspension bridge of great timbers and iron chains ran off into the gloom beyond the cabin, below which the dark waters of the caves poured off into a vast chasm of unknown depths. As the Outsiders approached the cabin, they met a pair of tall gnolls, though they possessed impossibly large maws and licked the sides of their heads with long, prehensile tongues. The demonic gnolls engaged in a conversation, but refused to allow the Outsiders passage beyond the Landing without some sort of token. The Outsiders realized the long-lost (sold to elves in the market fair, actually) Amulet of the Earth Dragon was probably what they were looking for, and deciding they could not fight their way past the gaurds at this time, the group chose to pretend to be merchants seeking to buy slaves. That didn;t help either, so they agreed to leave, and slowly (and dejectedly) made their way back along the beacon’s passage, carefully ensuring they were all re-filled from the casks of shadow oil in the boat’s cargo.
20th-23rd of Kelen : Returning past the ruined castle, the Outsiders made their way back north, hauling tehir catamaran behind, while the Necreme slowly paddled its way back to Slaveport. On the first day along the trade canal, they were attacked by a pack of swimming ghouls that tried to drag the Outsiders into the canal to feast on them, but they were quickly dispatched.
Reaching Slaveport, the group had the catamaran moved back into its “backdoor”, while the Necreme was tied-up at the abandoned trade port below the local inn, “The Dark Man”. Returning to Serpent Hold, the lizardfolk were given the old “island chamber” in the lower cellars as a temporary housing, and were promised that a suitable new home would be searched out for them. The group also discussed various options for a House Symbol, deciding upon the golden sun rays on a black background, now noted as House Outsider’s symbol. They also discussed trade matters with the Matron of * House Morcane, asking her if she had any suggestions and offering to grant her a “percentage” if she looked after their collected mass of trade cloth. She agreed.
24th of Kelen : Vani and Brommik visited the Dark Man, the fortified inn of Slaveport, and hired a band of Duergar mercenaries present as mercenaries to watch over their interests at the ruined trade fort. They were promised 750 gp per month for this duty, and the pair then discussed getting repairs completed on the fort to allow some sort of official trade to begin, loosely hiring the Dawn Rock clan to contact the Stonebreakers when they got a chance and arrange such work. Domingo searched the market for goblins to act as future rowers of their new ship, the Necreme, and after cornering a pair near the edge of the market, he convinced the somewhat sentient one to bring many of its fellows back here to serve for handfuls of coins (2 sp per day per goblin!). Making the “Kissy Promise”, the lead goblin, one Skabris, scampered off and began the “Great Goblin Round-up”, bringing a number of future rowers to the PCs. The dozen goblins agreed to return back when summoned, and left Domingo to wash his boots and hand as soon as possible.
Grignak took the opportunity of “downtime” to use his captured snake blood to activate his relic, and with the notes he’d managed to acquire in the drow city of Pedastal, preformed his ritual. He gained the Feat : “Blood of the Serpent”, which imparted Resist Poison 5.
Rikar returned as promised, and did a great many things. He enchanted Brommik’s plate armor, sold a variety of minor rituals, and completed Domingo’s Ritual : “Truth of the Mirror”, binding that relic to the Deva.
Illuria found a human soldier, Galaron the Mercenary at Kuto’s Pool in the marklet, and hired him as a bodyguard, equipping him in his near poverty with numerous magic items recently wrested from The Hole and paying him well to ensure his loyalty.
That night the group discussed various plans, including trade matters and their return to “The Hole” to plunder its depths and rescue Passy and the other slaves.