Capt Aramis watched as Lord Van Buren’s lightning rail car moved off into the east. Hatheril seemed more crowded than usual to him, perhaps it was all the mourners who were turning out for Sherriff Borik death. He had already past four makeshift memorials on his way to the lighting rail station would likely see a few more before he left Hatheril. He had a few more things to do before he could return to Sword Keep, but already the mewling was starting to get on his nerves. He sighed and turned back to push his way through the throngs of people to finish his work quickly.
It was late afternoon by the time he returned to Sword Keep. He had kept his horse at a fast pace all the way back so that he could make it back with enough time to put thing in motion before night fell. He quickly conferred with his First Lieutenant Emach and then headed off to find the Supply Officer to arrange all the gear and animals that they would need for the upcoming mission.
“At ease soldiers,” he said as he entered the briefing room an hour later. “We are on an urgent mission of high importance. You were all handpicked for this assignment and we’ll need your skills on this infiltration and recovery mission. We’ll travel fast and hard, so pack light and get some shut eye, we leave at dawn. Dismissed.” Capt Aramis flipped through the recruit files as the soldiers filed out of the room. The mission team would be comprised of Vician (a scout), Ashe, Demetrion, and Meri (the intel officer) (add character description and bio here)
When the magical flare went off a few days later they were already tired from the hard pace they were keeping and they were several hours past the Lurching Tower. They reoriented themselves to the flare’s location and then pushed their mounts faster. They covered the ground with good speed and didn’t encounter any trouble until they were well into the mountains near the Mournlands. It was while they were trying to secure a rope line to enter a cave opening some 50 ft below the cliff face that they were found by a hungry ogre. Unfortunately for the ogre, Aramis and Ashe make quick work of it and tossed the carcass over the cliff. The team had a harder getting into the cave than dispatching the ogre, almost losing all their rope and one of their own before getting the party through the opening. Good thing Vician had those Boots of Spider Climbing.
Meanwhile, back with the Hatheril Sherriff Department, we find the HSD team exploring their large cave and finding three exits. The first exit is a small hole in the wall some 30 ft up that probably opens to the cliff face. The second is a cavern with glowing mushrooms and the third is a dark passageway with stalactites and stalagmites. A brief exploration of the mushroom cave leans the HSD to find that it ends in a cliff that drops off down some 1000 feet or more, all covered with glowing mushrooms. The team briefly considering throwing Brigid over the ledge, but she quickly clarifies that while she can fly, she doesn’t fly like a bird and doesn’t think she can land safely at the bottom of the cliff. Disappointed, either by not being able to throw Brigid off the cliff or because she can’t fly, the team backtracks to the first cave and collect glowing mushrooms along the way to use as markers.
Before entering the last dark tunnel, Harlan figures out a way to combine some of the glowing mushrooms with a sunrod to make a semi permanent glowing marker. “Here, give me those things,” he said as he took the mushrooms from Drack, “and stop eating them.” Harlan made a small pile of the fist sized fungi, stacking them like a mini pyramid, then sticking a sunrod in the top mushroom. Still kneeling, he closed his eyes and raised his hands over the little pyramid, then began to chant, “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.” Suddenly the little pile flared brighter then stabilized into a steady green glow. Had anyone examined the pile closely they would have noticed the mushrooms seemed to have fused together into one large, misshapen fungus. And an even further examination would have revealed that the previously individual fungi to now look sort of melted, oddly shaped, something like little octopodes. (Gee Scott, you could turn this into a plot thread if you’re reading this!) But none of this was noticed as Riven was already scouting the next cavern. Harlan stood up without noticing either and moved off to join the others at the mouth of the next tunnel.
“Clear!” whispered Riven from the next tunnel. He peered through the dim light and could make out the beginning of the next tunnel through the stalagmites and stalactites. He made as much noise as a ghost as he glided his way to the next passageway. “We ought ta mark our passage,” Drack shouted somewhere behind him. “Good idea,” someone said followed quickly by a loud bashing sound as someone hammered away at the stalagmites to mark their passage. “Queen’s Blessing!” Riven thought, “so much for sneaking up on the monsters down here.” CRASH! Another stalagmite goes down. “We should have just brought a brass band with us to announce our presence,” mumbled Riven. CLANG! CLANG! CRASH! Drack moved up near Riven and accidently knocked over some rocks. “Oh yeah, we did,” sighed Riven.
The party continued down the next passage finding it clear and easy to follow. Looking back they could see the broken stalagmites and the faint green glow of the mushroomsunrod back in the first cavern. The tunnel turned left and they lost sight of all that. They continued downwards, well they assumed they were moving downwards since they no longer had a dwarf to detect sloping passages, until the tunnel opened into another large cavern with a large lake. From here they could follow to the left or the right of the shore.
They turned right and followed the shore and cavern wall as they made their way further into the darkness. “Wait, did you see that?” said Riven as he pointed at the lake, “I saw something.” “Is it something us eat?” asked Drack. “Where? Where?” squealed Brigid as she hopped from foot to foot. “I think I see it,” said Riven as he dove into the water. He rose a few seconds later clutching a small golden Eberron dragonshard. “Let me see that,” said Lord Von Buren said. “Why, this is probably worth some 10,000 gold pieces in a good market,” he said as he examined the stature. “Invest it in property,” he said as he tossed it back to Riven. Riven dove back into the lake to look for more treasure while the rest of them wondered where it came from and how it ended up here. “These cave formations and water patterns would indicate some sort of seasonal or cyclical water overflow, probably moving from the other cave to this one,” muttered Harlan as he peered around the area. After searching for a few more minutes with no results, Riven gives up on finding any more treasure.
The Sword Keep Troop, after throwing themselves through the cave opening find that the bottom of the cave is a giant forest of giant mushrooms. Completely undisturbed, these mushrooms had grown to completely cover the cavern bottom and grow to unusual size. The lack of animals and pristine fungi lead the team to believe that this would be an ideal place to came undisturbed, but the decide to press on instead. Cutting through the fungi jungle takes longer that one could imagine, but finally the team nears the edge as the mushrooms start to thin and decrease in size until they find themselves in front of small tunnel with a running river. The team continues to follow the tunnel/river deeper into the mountain.
Elsewhere under the mountain, after wringing out his cloths, Riven again takes point as the group continues to follow the shore of the lake. Harlan occasionally bursts out with mutterings that are either a reference to something he just learned from the book or geological trivia. Their tunnel opens into another large cavern and Riven signals back to the others. “What?” yells Lord Von Buren as he made his way up to Riven while brushing his hands over his clothes trying to clean off the dirt and mud. “Shhh! I signaled that we should sneak by here,” hissed Riven. CLANG. Drack moved up. “Me sneak good,” Drack rumbled. Riven rolled his eyes.
The party paused here to assess the situation. Off to the left they could make out what looked like a large termite mound, only it towered some 40 feet tall. “I think we should avoid that and sneak down that other tunnel,” whispered Riven as he pointed out the tunnel mouth off to the right. “Good idea,” answered Brigid. “This,” whispered Riven to Brigid and LVB as he held up his hand, two fingers downward and moving back and forth as if it was walking, “means be quite and sneak.” “I know that, goodman,” snapped Lord Von Buren as he dusted off his front. “Keep up,” said Riven as he took off towards the passage to the right. Harlan paused to make another mushroomsunrod marker as the rest of them sneaked their way to the next tunnel. It suddenly occurred to Drack that the big mounds might contain bugs he could eat. “Wait,” Drack said. “No, keep moving,” replied Harlan, as he tried to shove Drack forward. Drack snorted and started moving forward again.
The tunnel continued until it opened into a smaller cavern that contained a small lake. The party followed the shore on the right again, but this time they found the cavern closed down on the lake and they could just make out a whirlpool near the edge where the ceiling meet the water’s surface. The team backtracked then followed the shore along the left side of the lake. Again the water and cave walls closed in and blocked further progress. Riven peer into the darkness and thought he could make out a sandbar some 50 feet past the shore. “Wait here,” Riven said as he jumped into the lake. “He doesn’t need to breathe, I wonder how he speaks,” mused Harlan as the minutes passed. Finally Riven cleared the water and walked up the sandbar. “CLEAR!” he yelled back to the party. The other quickly made their way over to the other side and Drack almost got dragged down with his armor, but Brigid quickly grabbed him and pulled him to shore. “Thanks,” Drack said between coughing up water, his respect for Brigid going up. “Sure,” she replied in a happy chirpy voice, then she bounded off after Riven into the next tunnel as Harlan made another mushroomsunrod marker.
They continued down the tunnel while Harlan started a lecture on water tables and the flow fluctuations. “See here?” said Harlan as he pointed to some indistinguishable marking, “This is a clear sign of intermittent saturation. And look at those, why you can clearly tell by these markings that…” No one was listening.
The party slowed as the neared the end of their tunnel since they could hear some sort of commotion up ahead. The next cavern was large and spacious with exits both the left and right sides, but in the middle of the cavern a Dire Bear and a Hook Horror were battling for territory. Riven turned to look at everyone, then lifted his hand and wiggled the two dangling fingers. Brigid and Lord Von Buren stared at the Sneak signal and nodded. Riven headed off to the left exit and the rest of the party moved out behind him. Fortunately neither monster spared them any attention and they moved into the next cavern. This cavern was full of glowing mushroom and was the base of a cliff that seemed a 1000 feet up. “Huh, weren’t we just up there?” asked Harlan.
The party moved back into the cavern with the battling monsters only to see the Hook Horror split the bear in half. Riven and Harlan quickly take aim and finish off the wounded horror before it can attack them. As Riven searches the area, Drack decides that the horror looks enough like an insect to warrant a taste and he starts munching on one of the hooks. “Mmmm, good tasty!” Drack mumbled through a mouthful of ichor and chitin. Bridget and Lord Von Buren looked away quickly and tried to suppress their gagging.
Elsewhere the Sword Keep Troop keep trekking through the river/tunnel until it ends with a water fall. The troop jump into the lake below and cross over to the shore. As they emerge from the water they find themselves facing a small party of Myconoids. They are non hostile and after a few attempts the troop is able to communicate. They explain that they’re searching for a “man building” and the Myconoids think they know what the troop is looking for and offer to take them to it.
The Myconoids take the SKT to their city and offer them food (mushrooms) and refreshments. After some trading, the leader agrees to show Capt Aramis the castle. The Myconoids lead them through down through several levels of the city built into the descending terrain until they reach the bottom. Off in the distance they are shown what the Mycinoids believe is their goal. While discussing their next course of action, the Hatheril Sherriff Department step out from the adjoining tunnel.
The teams catch each other up then head out together to the castle leaving the Mycinoids city behind them. At last there destination stands before them, a castle looking thing surrounded by a moat of lava. The teams decide to slip up, with one group setting up camp while Capt Aramis, Brigid, Ashe, Vician, and Riven decide to breach the castle.
After circling the 140 sq ft castle, they find that there are two doors on opposite sides and a small land bridge near the assumed back door. The team crosses over the crumbling bridge and enter the first room. There they find Carrion Crawler and two Rust Monsters. The team quickly realize that they brought three archers and a pike man, but no meat shield to hold the front line for the archers. They pay for this mistake when Capt Aramis loses his armor to the Rust Monsters before the team finish them all off. And while Capt Aramis picks up the pieces of his broken magical armor, Ashe tosses the carcasses into the lava moat.