Players: James Dean-Hughes (Phaid), Neil McClean (Gellis Tarn), Neil Simpson (Quarlius), Graham Reynolds (Bruce)
Date: 5 August 2008
Phiksday, 26 Geomyr 1082 PS
Waking late, after a heavy toad session the night before, Gellis enters the common room of the Mercenaries Guild in time for lunch. It is here he meets Bruce who is waiting for the arrival of Baron Faith. Amman has apparently left to conduct priestly business elsewhere in the city. Not wishing to think what a cleric of Tiamat would be up to, Gellis orders a round of toad.
Faith arrives in good time, with a new human companion. The baron introduces Phaid. He is a man of guile and cunning, a man quick with a blade and quick with his wits; but above all, he is a man with a boat. Phaid is immediately welcomed into the group, and Gellis buys him a cigar. Faith says that they should get acquainted and then, this evening, they will go by boat to the sewer outlet and try the entire pantomime again.
That evening Phaid, Gellis and Bruce meet Baron Faith and Quarlius in Bartertown. Phaid’s boat is small, but as long as it keeps them out the water, and therefore out of the maws of hungry crocodiles, it will serve its purpose. In a ridiculously short time (when compared to yesterday) Phaid ties up his boat beneath the foul-smelling pipe, that is continuing to ooze filth into the Darkenmere. Phaid has also had the presence of mind to bring a rope, so gaining entry to the undercity is much easier too.
Once within, Gellis leads the way. He is almost entirely certain that he knows where he went wrong yesterday. They follow the fetid passageway, bent nearly double by the low ceiling and with faces hovering inches from the sewer water. As Quarlius watches a seemingly unending stream of suspicious floaters alter their course and flow around him, he reflects how fortunate he was to master that ritual of fastidiousness yesterday evening.
Fortunately for all, Gellis remembers to zig, where yesterday he zagged, and they come across a new tunnel into the Undercity that adjoins the sewer. Filth-encrusted brick gives way to natural stone as the group press on. It is difficult going, but eventually the party blunder into a large stone chamber. The place is filled to the rafters with goblins, and a fight quickly ensues.
There are a very large number of goblins in this chamber. They were clustered around an altar of some sort. Away to the left are large double doors inscribed with the image of a dragon. Bruce and Phaid charge forward to engage as many goblins as possible, while the others hang back. Gellis identifies the portly goblin chieftain and let’s fly with an arrow in his direction. Seeing the danger, the chief grabs one of his minions and yanks him into the field of fire. Gellis swears inventively. A phalanx of goblins now forms around their fearless leader.
The fight isn’t really going as well as the party might have hoped. Seeing that things look dire, Quarlius rolls up his sleeves and drops his most powerful spell into the arena. Three quarters of the goblins fall into an enchanted sleep, and the rest scarper into the surrounding tunnels. The chief was one of those to escape, but Gellis doesn’t feel like going after him.
Pleased to have overcome the threat, and happier to take credit for it, Baron Faith walks toward the large doors on the eastern walls and examines the engravings. He then looks at the altar, and the reverence in which the goblins have kept this place. “It seems that they have been treating this reliquary of Tanmash as a religious artefact.”
“The what with the what now?” enquires Gellis. The baron sighs. He turns and speaks to Gellis as one might to a small child. He reminds Gellis of the Scroll of Tanmash’Mhor. He says that Baron Sarlan suspected they can find the scroll behind these doors. The scroll is an historical artefact of importance to the Royal House of Mhor. That’s all the rest of them really need to know.
Faith walks over and wakes up one of the goblins with his foot. Dragging the goblin to his feet, he enquires to his name and the purpose of his people in this place. The goblin, Vex, is a simple minded creature, although not simple-minded enough to think he has a hope of escape. Using honeyed words and ill-concealed threats, Faith gains the goblin’s trust. He explains that his mighty mage could have obliterated all of them by merely twitching his eyebrows, but Faith did not want to cause undue carnage. He has come to reclaim an artefact of importance to his family. Something that the goblins have been keeping save for him. Now, what’s behind the door?
Vex doesn’t says that he hasn’t been behind the door. No goblin has. They protect the place from intruders. They know that it’s important, but they don’t know why. Vex doesn’t even know why they guard it, but he assumes their chief does.
Undiscouraged by this lack of helpful intelligence, Faith orders Vex to open the doors. It seems the best way to discover if they’re trapped, and Faith sees no reason to waste good mercenaries needlessly. In short, the doors are opened and the party enters into a long corridor. The further down the corridor they go, the more nervous that Vex becomes. However, the baron’s raptor-like grip on his shoulder dissuades the goblin from trying to escape. The baron tells Vex that a great new life awaits him in the Secret City. He can become the baron’s servant! Won’t that be nice?
The corridor terminates in a small antechamber. There are stone doors off this room. Bruce and Phaid work together to prise the doors open. Inside the room is the statue of a dragon, roughly twenty feet in height. The head of the statue is touching the ceiling. Resting in one of the claws is a scroll tube, that is not made of stone. Undoubtedly this is the item that the baron wants to lay his hands on.
Gesturing his companions back, the suspicious and eagle-eyed Gellis suggests that getting hold of the scroll won’t be as easy as strolling in and taking it. The floor of the chamber is littered with the bones of numerous races. And there is something about the statue. Its eyes seem to be looking at the party. Gellis expects little short of a swift death if he enters. The baron reminds him of his contract and pushes him in.
Gellis slowly approaches the statue of the dragon. He is a fingertip from the scroll, when the bones on the floor begin to vibrate. The statue shudders as colour and animation flood into it. No-one sees Gellis move, but suddenly the ranger is out of the room and standing behind the rest of the group. The dragon completes its transformation, and very soon a large black dragon is staring down at the party, its hands still tightly holding the scroll.
Baron Faith steps forward. Parley is evidently required here. He speaks to the dragon, who reveals that its name is Croxamkellvandarlis. But they can call it Croxam. It hasn’t had a meaningful conversation in many years. Mostly, it just animates and kills people. Why shouldn’t it do exactly the same to the baron and his companions?
Croxamkellvandarlis? Quarlius has heard of this creature. Long ago Karris’Mhor was administered by eight chromatic dragons. History tells how Croxamkellvandarlis and his companions Sveargithkepeskoth, Virlynbensvelkear, Laraekedarsthyr, Lorsvekedarsthyr, Maekrixothokent, Vythsominakvivex, and Talzkarisiablet came to the city in 32 AS. Their arrival was the start of the Guardian Wars, which only ended when the eight Guardians established their dominion over Karris’Mhor. Over the centuries they played a significant role in the politics and the society of the city, but one by one they were either killed, left or disappeared. Croxam himself disappeared well over five hundred years ago. In fact he only disappeared a few years before the death of Tanmash.
Gellis looks at Quarlius. He can’t work out what’s more impressive: that Quarlius knows all this stuff, or that he can pronounce those dragons’ names. Croxam appreciates a good scholar, and says that he will let the party live if they depart. Faith says that they have come for the scroll. Croxam hints that he might be prepared to bargain. There is something he wants called the Key to the Crucible. Find that for him and the scroll is theirs. Faith says that it’s a fine offer, but he needs a moment alone with his companions to talk.
Faith leads Phaid, Bruce and Quarlius back down the corridor to the double doors. He turns to Quarlius. “What’s the Key to the Crucible?” he asks. Quarlius isn’t sure. He says that all Guardians had the power to appoint Prince Consorts, although they didn’t use that power themselves. They had a literal key, symbolising this power, that they passed onto someone else. The Key could either mean the item or the person that they passed it on to.
These days the power that resided in the Guardians, is now with the Iron Dukes. Duke Griff of Crucible probably has the Key to the Crucible, but he’s likely to have passed it on. Maybe to his son, Marques Kellit. So the key could either be an item in possession of the Iron Duke or his son, or it could be Kellit himself. Faith is very pleased that he brought Quarlius along.
Baron Faith says that this is a delicate situation that needs to be dealt with by someone with tact and diplomacy. An alliance with one of the old Guardians would be very important, and there could be a link here to a larger horde. They need to tread carefully, and under no circumstances is Gellis to say anything. The baron says that he has a plan. Sadly, the rest of the party never get to hear what the plan is as Faith inadvertently triggers a booby trap and buries himself under half a ton of rubble. No one saw that coming.