The next morning, the group began the journey back up the trade river of the Vistula; a crowded and filthy trip of three days that went without any notable events. Reaching their home in Slaveport, the Outsiders escorted their “slaves” to Serpent Hold, and took a couple days rest to help heal and feed the crowd of former slaves. Discussions revolved around eventually bringing these people back to the surface, find them a home in Serpent Hold and allow others to leave with a handful of coins and some days food to get them where they wanted. In the meantime, they would be cared for and hopefully recover some strength. Among the loot from Explicitica’s lair, they uncovered one item of notice; Passara Elventree’s Brooch. Goblins were hired to clean the boat, and Brommik (in his trip to the local market) hired a local artist near Kuto’s Pool to paint “Wanted” posters of Passara, offering 1000gp (10pp) for her return (ALIVE!).
Vani gave Maple a large collection of gold (4000gp : 80lbs of pure gold!) and got her to head up to Sentinel and see about hiring some “muscle” and make contact with a surface merchant to begin moving the products he and House Outsider might acquire for trade. She was to scent-out rare goods from above (including wine from Berryshore), and see about bringing cloth and Gooberry Wine to the surface. Vani also sent her with another 2000gp (20lbs more) to give to his uncle in Broadwell for their little inn project. He and Illuria discussed various projects and plans for creating their trade coster. They discover that there are a huge number of goblins lurking on the edges of town, and hire the local Clothier to make “badges” for the * House Outsider. Seeking repairs to the “GlimmerPort” was agreed upon, and 20pp left to hire any members of the dwarven Stonebreaker clan that lived somewhere nearby, but came to town to trade on occasion.
Taking their leave, the Outsiders left Maple to make her way to the surface through the “safe” route, and they took the Necreme back to the Hole, on a three-day journey. The group placed Explicitica’s head on the prow of the ship, and turned it into a gruesome trophy. Slitehrtooth spent the journey licking it to the bone. Reaching The Hole without event, the group made their careful way back along the shadow beacons (using the last of their shadow oil to refill them), past the sleeping guardian to the precipice and its dock.
Making their careful way across to the only surviving tower, they explored the island down below along the water’s edge, covered in thousands of bones and skulls. The thunderous crash of water from the Darkmire above made conversation difficult, but hid loud noises easily. Finding little of note, they took stock of the vast bulk of the lake that lied below the mists and the Darkmire, stretching away south with numerous narrow clefts running away into the darkness. The water moved and seemed thick with oil and shadow, along with the ripples from the waterfall to the east and… something else… Brommik was able to see across the water to a cave level with the water’s edges, and the group decided to head towards it, using magicks to avoid touching the water.
Vani, using his magic boots headed across first, and carefully remaining stealthy, was able to explore the pebbly beach opposite. When all seemed clear, the group, crowded aboard Slithertooth, used Grignak’s “Floating Looter” to slip across to the beach. Following the rough beach south, they came upon a dark cave in the west cliff wall, and a silently floating wicker cage with iron rails. Two sets of raw stone stairs led up to the north and south away from the beach. Carefully entering the cave, they found it full of stalactites and stalagmites, and a massive brazen bull (Gorgon) that attacked! Snorting smoke and steam, it tried to gore and turn the Outsiders to stone, but fell quickly to their combined attacks. On one wall they found a pair of strange “exotic” saddles; one a war-saddle (that Brommik promptly took and placed on Slithertooth), and another riding-saddle, as well as a hyper-accurate stone statue of one of the local priests. Taking the elevator up, they found a broken bridge leading nowhere, and decided to take the southern passage, that leads up to the “Tapestry Platform”. All its bridges had collapsed, and the tunnel was crumbling and unstable.
Returning back to the beach, the group returned back north along the beach, following its rough passage around to the north below the cliffs, eventually passing beneath the very waterfalls themselves. Though slippery, they passed along the cliff beaches for some distance, winding along the edge of the oily lake, and eventually came upon another cave, this time in the east cliff wall. Stairs were roughly carved heading up along the cliff, both north and south. The beach here had patches of black sand, and from wihtin the cave could be heard the quiet whispers of a pair of guards. The typical-looking priests met earlier, they seemed ragged and worn, their gray skin showing them to be human in origins, though likely not having seen sunlight for awhile (if ever). Suspicious, Brommik rode up and spoke at length with them about the area, though they remained evasive. Eventually, they suggested the Outsiders move on towards “Shaalabhak’s Lair”, further south. When asked if he kept any prisoners (thinking that there might still be a Passara hidden somewhere), they replied “Yes, he keeps them all to himself… the greedy bastard…”. The Outsiders moved off south.
Continuing along the beach, they eventually spot what they suspect was “Shaalabak’s Lair”, a cave high up in the eastern cliff, roughly level with where the obsidian earth mote once floated, and the ruins of a pair of bridges jutting out from its edge. Again, riding Slithertooth, and using its superior climbing ability, Brommik took the lead, with Vani leading a rope up for others to follow. The group carefully gathered on a narrow ledge and looked down into a square pit of solid carved stone. Peering over the edge, they saw a horrid creature with tentacles surrounding its foul mouth rising from the center of the room. Dressed in tattered black robes, its entire appearance was just… wrong… Beneath the creatures were six iron cages, some of which contained prisoners that began yelling “Help us! Save us!”. Three iron-bound chests lay at the back of the chamber, glowing with arcane sigils.
As combat ensued, the group was forced to use limited ranged attacks and spent their time trying to force Shaalabhak into melee range. Eventually, they were able to do enough damage to the creature, despite its efforts to eat several members of the group, into retreat, whereupon it fly up to the cave entrance and drifted away into the gloom. The prisoners were revealed to be Durgen Glintstone, a minor dwarven priest of Moradin; Forgia Chase, the missing black market contact from Citadel; Sir Kareem Hastith, a minor Paladin of Larani; and Smote, a halfling rogue whom hte others seemed to have great respect for. Forgia greeted Grignak with a hearty “It’s about time!”. They were quickly freed and Forgia revealed that Passy had been present some time ago, but that she was singled-out by the “Viper’s Crown” ogres, who took her away because she seemed *"…extra special for their masters…". Brommik pouted for a while. Looting the chests proved difficult, as each was trapped with arcane magicks of different types, but eventually they were opened to reveal; bloody rags and clothing of past victims along with a handful of coins and personal effects; numerous glass jars filled with pickled humanoid brains; empty. Feeding and resting the group of former prisoners, they chose to take an extended rest, keeping careful watch for returning Illithids.
On the morrow, the group asked for arms and armor, promising they would leave this dismal tomb with or without the Outsider’s help. Brommik regaled them all with tales of his order “The Sword of Avarkiel”, and they agreed to return with him to Cragrapid Keep. They carefully made their way down the cliff face, and then began travelling back along the beach to the north, eventually nearing the cave entrance where the cultist survivors were laired. They had they former prisoners wait behind in teh shadows, while they went to “negotiate” with the cultists. Confronting the guardians, Brommik hinted that the cultists should allow them all within, to ensure no prisoners were under their control, and when they refused, he began intimidating them and initiated combat with the immortal words, “Convert NOW, or fall FOREVER!”.
Shadowy hounds leaped from the darkness and a horde of serpent priests followed along after them
attacking the group, along with a powerful shadow priestess. Using his impressive skills and strength to his advantage, Brommik managed to subdue almost all of them, including the priestess, and gained their surrenders (one met a tragic Maple-induced stabby death), though the hounds all died. Domingo stood out in a flying leap that took down the priestess in a single blow. When the battle was clearly completed, the cultists were disramed, though they were able to retain their “serpentine” armor, and one bore all their wavy swords and other weapons. Grignak took the priestess’ own “Staff of the Shadow War” for himself, and the former prisoners were loaded down with armor, weapons and other goods taken from the small barracks cave in the cliff. The former cultists chose to follow every command of Brommik with “Yes Ducklord, Master of Shadow, watch over us…” Domingo Colo was a little nervous.
The next few days were a long affair of shuttling the prisoners and former slaves along the stony beach, across the water and up the tower into the docks, and thence through the Darkmire (for the last time?), to camp at the ruined castle near the entrance. Then down the long trade river to Slaveport, the group managed to survive the journey with practically no encounters. In Slaveport, the group broke-up somewhat. Smote chose to leave the group when they reach Sentinel, seeking to explore the area. The latter prisoners were given 50gp and whatever arms and armor they chose from the armories of the Outsiders. The “common” people rescued from the cages in the obsidian earth mote were given 10gp each, a sack of food and a wineskin of watered ale. Anyone seeking passage to teh surface was promised an escort on the morrow. Some chose to stay in Slaveport, but many chose to go “home”. The pack guars were saddled, and half the group’s trade cloth was loaded up, and the plans were made to return back to Sentinel as a large convoy…