The Purge of Ellysia

Into the Underdark . . .

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The Underdark is a vast cavern of dungeons and cave that, legends say, twist and turn beneath the surface of the entire world. No one truly knows how deep they go, for very, very few every enter the Underdark who live to speak of its mysteries. While entrances to the Underdark are known, very few are commonly remembered, and many are guarded—not so surface dwellers can’t enter, but so that which lies beneath can’t escape. However, on occasion, bands of adventurers and treasure seekers do choose to journey into the Underdark, hoping for fortune and fame.

The ground is hard and flat. The adventurers find themselves in a large tunnel, perhaps 25 feet wide. The entire cavern is shrouded in shadow. To their left, the tunnel has collapsed, perhaps in the recent earthquake (but perhaps long before). Rocks and boulders are piled to the ceiling, unmoving. In other words, there is only one way forward: Down the path, sloping slightly further into the earth.

They continue through the tunnels . . . and hear a short shriek! And the sound of footsteps running in the distance! Maelokh casts the entire party is a shroud of stealth, covering their tracks, and they slowly continue through the tunnels. A few moments pass, when he perceptively hears the sound of heavy breathing, roughly 20 feet in front of the group.

It’s a drow! He appears to be some sort of scout. He has been badly wounded. Rather than attack, Maelokh trusts that there is good in all people, and he chooses to heal the wounded elf instead. Perhaps encouraged by their kindness, the Drow stays his swords and allows the party to continue traveling through the caverns.

The tunnel opens into a vast cavern. It smells rancid, like rotten flesh. It is enormous, larger than anything the adventurers have ever seen. In the middle of the cavern is an enormous lake. It is easily 2 or 3 miles wide. The cavern is not pitch black, but is made faintly visible by a giant pillar of speckled light rising out of the lake towards the ceiling of the cave, hundreds of feet high—if not more. The top of the pillar rises beyond sight.

The adventurers find themselves on the edge of the lake, perhaps 100 feet from shore. They can faintly see what looks like a small dock, with a rowboat. There is something at the base of the rowboat, but it is obscured from vision. The air smells absolutely rancid.

Oakson, choosing to investigate the object near the dock, approaches the water’s shore. As he does, he hears a few snorts of heavy breathing behind him, followed by a loud roar! He turns just in time to see a monstrous troll with three arms comes racing from a hidden cave in the cavern’s walls. The adventurers fight tooth and nail against the troll, but nothing seems to work—the creature just does not fall! One by one, each of the adventurers fall, leaving only Thurgall left. He, too, is attacked, and in a last ditch effort he parry’s the troll’s blow with a burst of fire, erupting the creature in flame!

As this happens, a crossbow bolt whizzes from the darkness. The Drow from earlier has turned on Thurgall! The half-orc quickly stabilizes him comrades and cuts the elf down.

Maelokh takes the Drow’s enchanted cloak, and the adventurers turn towards the lake. There appears to be another shore on the far side of the lake, with more tunnels leading through the Underdark. The heroes commandeer the vessel anchored at the shore, presumably belonging to the Drow they just defeated, and made their way out onto the waters. Approaching the large pillar, they discerned that it was none other than an enormous Drow city, with a giant statue to Lolth carved near it’s top. Dozens of boats drift in the water near it’s lower ports, and others silently float throughout the lake. The adventurers ensure that no light comes from their boat, and Maelokh casts them in shadows once again. They hatch a plan to overtake some Drow sentries and investigate how to escape back to the surface.

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Their plan works! After some time, they overcome a pair of Drow sentries traveling in an unlit rowboat, navigating the dark waters. Oakson transforms into a giant sea beast and quietly slinks into the waters, heading towards the Drow vessel.

Preying on the Drow’s fear of the deep and the monsters within, Oakson capsizes the vessel, striking fear in their hearts. One turns tail back towards the city, and Oakson lets him swim away. He casually nips at the feet of the other, leading him to swim right into the waiting hands of Maelokh and Thurgall, who pull him out of the water and pin him in the boat, interrogating him.

The frightened Drow provides helpful information, saying that there is no nearby exit to the surface….but the Dwarves know of such passages. The entrance to their lands can be found on the far shore.

Leaving the elf, the adventurers continue on where he directed him. On the far shore they discover an ancient door covered in what once might have been ornate coverings and decorations. The door is locked, but proves to be beyond Maelokh’s capacity’s, perhaps due to its magical seal. Thankfully, Oakson takes him time to cast the dispel magic ritual, unlocking the door and allowing them passage. As they pass through, the note that the wall above the door is inscripted with the words:

The Keep of Adrik-Urr, the last haven against the Dark Ones. // All who seek the Light are welcome here.

The open the door and see the front foyer of what appears to be a keep or military stronghold. The room is full of statues of dwarves and elves, in full battle armaments, scattered around the room. Bearded dwarves with great axes and bastard swords; elegant elves in flowing armor with ornate long swords. It is almost as if they are dancing, or acting out a battle around the room. The walls look to have once held murals that have long sense deteriorated, or been stolen away. In the center of the floor, near the door, the stone tiles covering the floor are shattered, as if forcibly smashed with great force, leaving a tiny crater in the ground, roughly the size of the head of a war hammer.

The door opens into a large atrium with a giant throne, which stands empty. At the base of the throne, to the right, is the bust of a dwarven head that seems to respond when spoken to. This room is large, but filled with rubble. After quite a bit of investigation, Maelokh (fluent in Dwarvish) discovers that the head is magically enchanted to translate on behalf of the Dwarves who must have previous dwelled here.

Delving through the Keep proves that the later rooms are much like what they have already seen—statues of dwarves and elves are decoratively and almost randomly spread throughout the entire keep. While exploring, the adventurers discover Adrik-Urr’s dungeons, and in them a Spectator! The young spawn of the dreaded Beholder. It uses it’s manipulative magic to turn the adventurers on one another, but it is quickly defeated, revealing a small hoard of treasure.

Deeper in the depths of the keep, they discover the scourge that must have defeated the dwarves. A basilisk! A treacherous creature that blinds any who look it in the eye. It is accompanied by other monstrosities of the deep: Hook Horrors, a fierce predator of the Underdark with a head reembling a vulture’s and the torso of an enormous beetle. The creatures are blind and communicate by echolocation, making them immune to the basilisk’s curse, and helpful allies in combat.

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In the end, the heroes were able to cut through the basilisk and its minions. The chamber they were in was at the bottom of the keep, and opened into the vast blackness of the underdark. Here, however, Maelokh uncovered one item of note: A belt on a statue, inscribed with the face of a dwarf. After spending some time resting and examining it, he determined that it was a Belt of Dwarvenkind

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DavidWalton

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