A World in the Balance

Trapper, Keeper
The Gryphon's not looking so PeeChee

Game #34

Concerned by their previous run-ins with vicious undead beasts, the party cautiously makes their way further into the depths of the menagerie. The environment changes once again and they find themselves in a forest setting that is closer to what they are used to seeing. The next viewing area contains a wide array of ponds and tanks that have been broken and are dried up. One large pool is elaborately decorated and has rocky terrain built inside of it in addition to the normal pool. Closer examination reveals several decorations dedicated to Melora on the display and a plaque that reads ‘A Gift From The Most Illustrious King Delamodrin – A Protector Of The Sea!!’. In spite of their vast knowledge, no one can recall what this beast may have once been. The party also notices a small book lying in the bottom of the pond. Using her magics, Gwynne retrieves it and finds that it appears to be a leather bound journal. Although most of the pages are waterlogged or damaged, she does manage to find one passage that is still intact.

The path leads on to a much larger body of water. Aside from large stepping stones forming a trail, there does not appear to be another way across unless the group wishes to swim. Although they advance carefully, the adventurers are still caught unawares as they are attacked by two large frogs. The Protector of the Sea, which Opal now recalls is known as a craud, joins in soon afterwards. Several members of the group are drug into the water during the fight but in the end, they put the creatures to rest. They quickly cross the remainder of the stones, anxious to be away from the murky water and whatever else could be lurking below. On the far side, they find the path splits. The right path appears to double back towards the entrance but it has been washed away by what appears to be part of a river. Noting that the current leads off into the inky darkness they encountered before, they opt to not attempt a crossing and take the left pathway instead.

This path leads to a large spire of rock and continues to spiral around the pillar until it reaches the flat area on top. As the party reaches the end of the path they can see a large griffin chained to ground in the center of the spire. On the far side of the spire is a dark cave. The party slowly approaches the beast and as they move closer they can see that its shackles are made of a dark, dull iron that digs into the flesh of the beast causing it to bleed. The griffin’s eyes are milky, it feathers lack luster and are missing in several places and its fur is matted and mangy. Ghesh is the first to approach and although it cannot see, the creature feebly raises its head in reaction to sounds. Opal determines that the creature is alive although horribly mistreated. At Cauldrev’s request, Belhorn attempts to see if the shackles are enchanted but he is blinded by the vast amount of magic that appears to be present at this location and is unable to focus on any single item in the griffin’s vicinity. Gavin attempts to feed the beast and soothe it by speaking in Dwarven. As he leans closer to the beast, he can hear it whisper back at him, “Ware the Keeper”.

They do not have to wait long to find out what this ominous utterance might mean as they have drawn the attention of the Keeper by tampering with his prisoner. The ground begins to shake as a large behemoth charges out of the darkness of the cave. Mounted upon it is an undead dwarf wielding a long barbed whip. After he is dismounted, the Keeper quickly summons a pack of hounds to the battlefield to help defend him. The undead fight rabidly but are eventually brought down by the band of heroes once again allowing them to turn their attention to the abused creature in chains.

Soon you will see El Tigre

Game #33

Having rested well for the past two weeks, the party decides that it is time to continue on to the gates of Galdegfast. They quickly gather provisions and the rite of introduction for Fenryth Stormfist as well as a modified suit of chain mail for Ghesh to wear while the artisans enchant his suit of plate armor. Fortune smiles upon the adventurers and they are able to travel in the company of a dwarven patrol for the majority of their journey although things have been quiet since the ousting of Lord Amherst Drexel. A quick and cautious trip through sauvig territory leads the group once again to the dwarven crypt where the undead Warden of Galdegfast awaits them.

Gavin gets to practice his pronunciation as he carefully reads the lineage and deeds of the Stormfist clan at the sarcophagus. A moment passes before the stone lid begins to move and the party can see the now animated skeleton of Fenryth emerge from his sarcophagus. Unlike last time, there is now a ghostly image of the dwarven hero superimposed over the bones. “For what purpose do you summon the Warden of Galdegfast?” is the question posed to them by the shade. Gavin explains their quest and the information they are seeking about Haggart Grimgut.

After hearing their reply, Fenryth informs them that their quest for knowledge may not be worth the possibility of releasing the evil that is contained within the city. He explains that the city was place in stasis once they learned of the dead rising as it was the only way to keep the entity within from growing more powerful. Once the seal on the gates is broken, the darkness will continue to grow. He agrees to grant the group access if they will right the wrongs within Galdegfast and make it inhabitable once again for the remaining dwarves. When asked how they may right what is wrong in the city, Fenryth says that the glory of the city is shackled, the churches are desecrated and the heavens are amiss. He is sure that their path will become clear once they enter the fallen city. The party agrees to do what they can knowing that once they are inside, there is no escape unless they are successful.

Fenryth summons his undead contingent from the remaining crypts in case there is trouble and then leads everyone to the gates. On the way, Gavin asks him if he knew Delamodrin of the Cedar Tribune. Fenryth seems pleased to hear that Khuldark’s curse was broken referring to the battle against the elemental lord as ‘his biggest victory and his worse defeat’. Once at the gates, he produces his half of the seal and once the two pieces are placed in the doors, they swing open silently revealing a platform that overlooks the city below. Fenryth explains that they group will have to move fast to prevent the darkness from becoming too strong to handle. He also says that he may be able to help them access more of the city if they are able to reclaim parts of it. He bids them a brief farewell and seals them inside.

The domed ceiling of the large cavern appears to be enchanted to display the night sky but it has gone haywire causing there to be a sporadic and flickering light that allows some amount of visibility on the platform. Looking down, they can see the majority of the city is shrouded in blackness. On the edge of the gloom they are able to see a large building with several steeples to their right and an area to their left that is surrounded by a tall wrought iron fence with a large stone archway leading in to it. Three large staircases lead down into the city through terraced landscaping that is now in ruins. The party opts to take the center staircase which leads directly into the darkness. Soon, they are unable to see and light sunrods to illuminate their path only to find that those too become ineffective against the pervading gloom. They quickly retreat to the entrance of the city and decide to take the left staircase instead.

Upon descending they realize that the archway is crafted into the likeness of a large gryphon. As they pass through the arch, they can see flyers scattered about that proclaim the wonders contained within “The Grande Menagerie”. Hanging from the ceiling of the arch are several gilt cages but the doors lie open and they are empty. As they near the end of the entrance, the group can hear birdsong. Opal believes the singing is coming from nightingales as they are one of the few birds that will sing in the dark but something about them does not sound quite right. Past the arch way is a large courtyard with paths leading off into the depths of the menagerie. When the party enters the courtyard, the singing stops abruptly and they are attacked from out of the trees by a large swarm of birds that attempt to peck their eyes out. After fighting off the swarm, they can see that the birds have not been alive for a long time. Due to a collapsed building, there is only one way to take out of the courtyard. The path is marked with a sign that says “To Jungle and Ponds”.

As the group progresses down the path they notice the foliage getting heavier and the air becomes warm and humid. The path leads them into another open courtyard that is surrounded by what once were exhibits for animals. The remaining signs indicate that this area once held many creatures including displacer beasts and the dreaded girallon. Examination of the area disturbs some remaining residents and chattering can be heard from the trees surrounding the area. When the party moves toward the exit from the courtyard, several small four-armed undead monkeys appear in the trees and begin to howl at them. The adventurers choose to ignore the tiny creatures but it appears they have disturbed the mother of these babies as well. A loud thump behind them announces the presence of a much larger creature who appears to be very upset at having strangers near her children. The party staves off the frenzied claws of the small babies and the enraged attacks of the brutish mother but as the large creature dies, it lets out a final bellow leaving the group to wonder what other denizens may have been roused by the clamor from their battle.

General Discussion
With a cameo from Major Discoveries

Game #32

Having gained access to the inner keep, the party cautiously enters the highly defensible main courtyard. Although it appears that a larger opening exists in the back wall of the courtyard, it cannot be opened from the outside which leaves only two narrow staircases leading up to the second floor of the keep.

The second floor consists of a long hallway that wraps around the courtyard with several doors on the outside wall. Examination of these rooms reveal guard stations, barracks, servant’s quarters and a kitchen. By the looks of things, the keep was evacuated quickly by its inhabitants. The far end of the hall reveals two large rooms and a spiral staircase leading down. One room is clean and sparse with not much of note aside from an ornate plate helm on an armor stand. Opal recalls her sighting of The General during her reconnaissance and believes the helm completes the set of armor he was wearing. Ghesh takes the helm in case they come across The General later. The other room is much more ornate and luxurious. This room appears to have been vandalized as there are several pieces of broken furniture, a wine decanter has been smashed on the wall and the contents of the large writing desk have been thrown onto the floor. Ghesh finds a crumpled piece of paper on the floor and upon reading it finds that it is a letter from Mordant to Drexel. The adventures descend the spiral staircase into the rear of the keep.

At the bottom, they find several storerooms and the mechanism to open the wall that leads into the courtyard. At the rear of this area is a stone arch that leads into what appears to be a more formal waiting area consisting of sitting rooms and several benches. The party notices that the arch is engraved with dwarven runes which turn out to be a description of the duties and responsibilities of The General. Doors at the end of the waiting area lead into a large meeting hall suitable for business or entertainment. Belhorn and Gwynne pull back curtains on the far wall of the room revealing several glass doors that lead to a formal garden and balcony that overlooks the chasm that surrounds the Hold.

As they descend into the gardens, the party can see that they are overgrown and many of the pathways are becoming blocked with untended foliage. They work their way through the gardens and arrive at the balcony where they find The General. He is standing in the middle of the large balcony, glassy-eyed, slack-jawed and unresponsive. In place of his helm, he appears to be wearing a diadem with a black stone in it. As Ghesh steps forward to place the helm upon The General’s head, the group sees movement on the far side of the balcony. They see a small figure hunched over something by the wall. The figure immediately turns and leaps off the balcony into the darkness of the chasm below. Upon closer examination, the group finds that the figure was hunched over the dead body of Lord Amherst Drexel. He has been fatally stabbed in the back of the neck. The party notes that he is wearing a diadem with a white stone in it and after some arcane investigation, they decided to remove the diadem that The General is wearing. He begins to blink and is immediately on guard as he is surrounded by strangers. Questioning reveals that he has been unaware of the passage of time for close to a year. Confused by the state of the keep and the Hold, The General requests to speak with his Captain of the Guard. The party leads him to The Gilded Pick where Balam is located. Balam quickly takes The General away to discuss the events that have been occurring in the Hold while the adventurers are left in the hands of the innkeeper who appears to have a much higher opinion of them after their recent deeds.

After a much needed rest, the party finds that they have been summoned by Balam to the inner keep to discuss recent events at their convenience. The group decides to pay a visit to Elsbet Grimgut first to receive the information they are owed for the rescue of Myrden. Elsbet tells them that the cards were created by Haggart at the request of his dear friend Fenryth Stormfist. Fenryth was the leader of an elite group of adventurers known as The Quintet of Quinlaria who were planning on confronting a great enemy so he turned to Haggart for aid. As all of the members of The Quintet had become acquainted through their love of gambling, Haggart decided to make them an enchanted Five Man’s Folly deck. The only set that Elsbet knows about for certain is the diamond cards, one of which Belhorn currently possesses. This set was blessed by the church of Moradin and imbued with divinity upon its creation. She does not know how the other sets were created but she does reveal that the common story of Haggart’s disappearance is not true. Legend has it that he traveled back into the ruins of Galdegfast to retrieve notes documenting his unique process of combining precious metals and gemstones and to retrieve irreplaceable tools from his workshop. According to Elsbet, he actually went back to the ruined city to create a sixth set of cards. Since Haggart was a regular note taker and journalist, she believes that they may be able to find more information if they are able to gain access to the sealed city. Before they depart, Elsbet gives another card to the group for safekeeping since she believes there must be some reason as to why they are beginning to surface after having been lost for such a long period of time.

After finishing with Elsbet, the group heads to the inner keep to have their meeting with Balam. They can see that the keep is populated once again and several dwarven guards salute them and direct them to the meeting hall upon their arrival. Upon entering the great hall, they can see that Balam is seated in the chair at the head of the long table and he is clad in the armor of The General. He introduces the man in the chair next to him as his brother, Garam Silverhammer, who is easily recognizable as the previous General. They begin by explaining that there has been a change in leadership due to recent events in the Hold. The new General offers his thanks for the party’s invaluable assistance and puts the resources of the Hold’s artisan district at their disposal allowing each person to name what they would like for a reward. Finally, Garam asks what business brought the group to the Hold originally so he may assist them if possible. The group tells him of their search for information and asks if he knows of a way to enter Galdegfast. He informs them that the city has been sealed to keep a great menace contained and that the dead roam the streets of the ancient dwarven home. Although he is apprehensive, he believes that the adventurers may be up for the challenge so he tells them that the gates may be opened with a seal of which he possesses one half. The other is in the possession of Fenryth Stormfist who is now the skeletal warden of the city. He gives the group his half of the seal and offers them a ceremonial greeting that will wake Fenryth from his slumber in the ceremonial crypts near the mithril gate. They will have to convince Fenryth to give them his part of the seal on their own. Garam’s only caveat is that the gates will be sealed once the party enters so the evil can continue to be contained if they fail.

A feast is held in honor of the heroes during the siege. The party as well as many of the citizens are praised for their ingenuity and determination in keeping the Hold safe. The group takes a much needed rest from their adventurers thus far but the thought of what waits in the caverns below continues to cast its shadow in the back of their minds.

A Heated Battle
Is it hot in here or is it just you?

Game #31

The party finds themselves embroiled in a fierce battle with Lord Drexel’s bad lieutenants, The Four Aspects. Although the half-elves seem to be connected and the death of a member increases the strength of those left standing, the adventurers manage to best their foes in combat. Upon each of the bodies they find a simple amulet that contains the shards of a shattered gem except for Detta’s which appears to only contain remnants of plain glass. The backs of the amulets have a long hollow needle affixed to them that was imbedded into the flesh of their wearers.

Having eliminated the remaining barrier into the inner keep, all that remains is to find Drexel and The General and put an end to their plans once and for all.

Community Service
Beats litter patrol on the highway

Game #30

Two hours later, the rumble of machinery can be heard and Myrden successfully returns on the lift. He jogs the party’s memory and they give him the simple amulet that Elsbet entrusted them with at the start of their search. It turns out to be a dwarven speaking stone and after berating them for their forgetfulness, Elsbet tells them the dire state of the Hold. The group decides to venture forth into the city anyways in the hopes that they may be able to turn the tide of battle in the city with the help of the rescued city guard.

Upon reaching the top of the Shaft, they can see that the city is under full-scale attack by elementals. They quickly rush to Grimgut’s to meet up with Elsbet. She has turned her shop into a dispatch center and quickly hands out pairs of speaking stones to everyone. They rush off to The Gilded Pick to assist the gathered members of the artisan community. Through martial prowess and masterful skills, the group manages to stem the flow of attackers in the city and shore up the scattered dwarven defenses. It is determined that the half-elf contingent is behind the attack and it is decided that the best defense is a good offense. While the guard captain and his men tend to the remaining issues in the city, the adventurers head to the inner keep to confront the dwarf known as The General and the leader of the half-elves, Lord Amherst Drexel.

The group is surprised to find the gates of the inner keep are wide open. Two half-elf nobles in fine attire, Roland and Blythe, are standing at the gates idly conversing. Upon seeing Cauldrev, they offer him an invitation into the Clan Drexel Dynasty which he declines much to their disappointment. When the party expresses their wish to enter the keep, Roland informs them that Lord Drexel is in conference with the General and is not taking visitors. The party persists on gaining entry and when it appears as though conflict is inevitable, Roland calls two other nobles out, Detta and Amarynth. Detta minces no words and quickly draws her rapier. It appears there are going to be fisticuffs.

Gleaming the Cube
Skate or Die!

Game #29

Myrden reappears out of the shadows on the balcony of the great hall while the party is examining the corpses of their foes. It appears as if the ritual, although interrupted, was effective enough to hasten the destruction of the prison of Khuldark the Elemental Prince of Flame. The group makes haste to the courtyard to see about reclaiming the pieces of the statue from Shadara.

Many of their allies are dead or wounded but the adventurers can see that the combined might of the dwarves and kobolds has been sufficient to take control of the fortress. The party finds that the pedestal of the statue is located at the far end of the courtyard and quickly attempt to reassemble the pieces only to discover that they have been damaged to the point of not fitting back together cleanly. They call on the lapidary expertise of Myrden, who begins work on repairing the damaged joints. While this is taking place, the dwarves are warned of a possible kobold uprising if they cannot be convinced that the mage is their long lost fire god.

The party discusses options and escape routes and as Myrden nears completion of the statue, the cavern begins to quake ominously. It is evident the prison is almost breached. The dwarven contingent takes up a defensive position around the pedestal as Myrden attaches the last piece to the now completed statue. There is a bright flash of light and when the groups vision clears, they can see the elven mage returned to life. In dwarven, he says “Haggart, it is done.”

The mage realizes that his surroundings have changed and begins to question where he is and what is happening. Gavin explains that there is no time and that the prison of Khuldark must be reformed. He is also informed that the kobolds think he is their god reincarnated. The elf strides out of the courtyard through the masses of genuflecting kobolds and surveys the state of the cube over the lake of magma. He immediately begins casting complex magics. Although Gwynne and Belhorn are unable to understand the ancient magic ritual, they help strengthen the casting by retrieving the focus crystal used in the ritual to break the prison and by creating a channeling circle around the mage. After several long minutes, the mage manages to complete the spell and the prison is whole once again. He addresses the kobolds and lets them know that the one who trapped him has been contained and will not trouble them anymore. The kobolds erupt into a religious frenzy and things are under control for the time being.

The party learns that the mage is Delamodrin of the Cedar Tribune and they answer his questions about the changes that have occurred since his imprisonment. Shadara and Delamodrin leave to discuss the future of the kobolds with consideration being given to a plan of converting Shadara from queen to high priestess so she can continue to stay in the caverns. The Captain of the Guard brings dire news from the interrogation of some of the half-orc prisoners. It seems the ritual was to coincide with an attack on the Hold of the Mithril Wolverines. As many of the reliable defenders were sent to the prison in the citadel, the dwarves fear that there will not be an organized defense to help protect the city.

The group makes arrangements to meet with Delamodrin once again after the conflict at the Hold is resolved and then quickly show the dwarves the secret passageway out the back of the fortress. Instead of returning the way they entered, however, the Captain leads them to the passages filled with noxious fumes that appeared to be impassable before. This turns out to be a protective measure created by the dwarves to keep trespassers out of their mining tunnels. When the fumes clear, the party is led into the dwarven mining complex. At the center is the Shaft, a large passageway that leads up through the solid rock of the pillar that the hold is built upon. The entrance is guarded by a couple of half-elves who are quickly overcome. Judging by their provisions, they were planning on being on duty here for several days.

The decision is made to send Myrden up to the top so he can activate the controls to send down the mechanical lift necessary to get to the top. With a potion of spider climb and an invisibility potion to assist him, he disappears into the darkness of the Shaft while everyone below anxiously waits.

Fire It Up
Nobody likes the smell of burnt dwarf

Game #28

As the adventurers sing the blues in their new cell, they watch the two jailors slowly drink themselves into a stupor. According to their conversation, they are unconcerned since they will no longer have prisoners to look after once “the ritual” is completed that evening. Eventually the jailors meet their match and the liquor wins by a knockout. The captive dwarves quickly pull out improvised ropes but are unable to hook the keys with what they have created. Fortunately for the party, the half-orcs did not bother to notice that Gwynne was a mage of no small water. Using her usually useless party tricks, she quickly sends a disembodied ethereal hand to grab the keys. Gavin quickly opens the doors to all the cells and the jailors are bound, gagged and left to sober up in one of their own cells. Amongst the dwarves, the group recognizes not only Myrden but also the Captain of the Guard and the battalion that they fought the elemental with on their journey to the Hold of the Mithril Wolverines.

The Captain is determined to stop the ritual as dwarves have been taken as sacrifices and the completion of the magic will ensure the release of Khuldark. Myrden believes that stopping the ritual will not affect the outcome without the statue. The party informs the dwarves that they have the statue with a kobold army at the gates if they can get them open. The dwarves quickly relocate their armor and weapons in a nearby storage room and everyone quickly gets re-equipped. The Captain decides to storm the front gate with his force and the party is sent with Myrden to the upper floor of the citadel to stop the foul ritual taking place. The dwarves set out with deadly efficiency and make a large enough distraction that the group easily makes it to the great hall at the top of the fortress.

In a show of supremacy and force, Cauldrev flings the double doors open wide and is met by the gaze of several soldiers guarding cages with bars of flame. The missing dwarf captives are unconscious inside. At the far end of the hall, two figures can be seen performing the ritual wreathed in a circle of flames. The commander of the soldiers instructs his soldiers to keep the interlopers from interrupting the ritual. With assistance from Myrden, the group begins to wade through the horde of half-orc grunts. Ghesh attempts to shatter one of the cages and proves that they can be damaged by force. The party attempts to break the cages open to free the dwarves but only manage to break three of them before the remaining cages burst into flames. The dwarves inside quickly burn and rise from the ashes as fire imps. The shield also drops from around the priestess casting the ritual and her bodyguard.

Much fighting ensues and after a heated battle, the adventurers are victorious.

It Would Take A Miracle
Have fun storming the castle

Game #27

The party steps out in the path to confront the approaching enemies and finds that a small task force of half-orc scouts has been sent to ambush them. As combat progresses, the door into the citadel opens and more guards join the fray. The group overwhelms their enemies and finds themselves with access into the depths of the fortress.

Through a combination of skills, luck and boldness, the group makes their way to the front gate and prepares to open it to allow Shadara and her kobold army to press the attack. Unfortunately, in spite of their best efforts, their intrusion has been detected by the denizens of the fortress and they are captured by a large number of half-orcs in the courtyard. As the adventurers are disarmed, they are quickly taken into the depths to the dungeons.

They are summarily thrown into an empty cell. Examination of the area reveals several cells full of dwarves. The bulk of the guards depart and they are left with two jailors and a short list of options to consider.

I was going to use 7 seals but all I could rent was otters

Game #26

Knowing that no rational person would disturb a sacred burial site, the party carefully hides the pieces of the statue and Cauldrev inside a sarcophagus before traveling back to the Village of the Beetle. After returning Aldar’s wedding ring to Shadara, the truth of the statue and its origins are revealed to the kobold queen. Being the suspicious sort, Shadara heads off to Aldar’s grotto to verify the information. Shadara returns sooner than expected and rouses the party from their slumber. Having spoken with Aldar, she is now convinced that assembling the statue is the best course of action. Her main concern, however, is that the mage will need to be convinced to play the part of the fire god to prevent the kobolds from turning against them. She shares the location of the fortress where the half-orcs are located and lets the group know that she believes there is a secret entrance that the scouting parties have been using although she has been unable to locate it. The party agrees to infiltrate the fortress and attempt to open the main gates so Shadara and her kobold army can confront the mysterious occupants inside. They leave the pieces of the statue with Shadara for safekeeping and quickly travel back to the third level of the Lower Caverns as they have agreed to have the gates open within 24 hours.

Using the information Shadara shared with them, the party is able to find a set of concealed handholds that lead to a narrow passage through the rock. The path eventually leads to a barred doorway and a steep trail headed downward. The trail leads to the main gates of the fortress and a giant lake of molten lava. Floating high above the lake is a large obsidian cube emblazoned with a myriad of blue runes. The adventurers can see large cracks in the surface of the cube that glow a deep red. They suspect that this is the failing prison of Khuldark. They carefully navigate the steep and slippery climb back up to the secret passageway.

Examination of the area reveals blood stains on the floor and it appears as if there have been several fights in this area. Gavin opts to knock twice on the door but receives no answer. While they are deciding what course of action to take next, they hear stealthy footsteps from the path below. They quickly conceal themselves in the narrow corridor and prepare to confront whatever may be headed their way.

Lemme sum up...
I would explain but I have been unable to channel the spirit of Robert Jordan to ask for his Boon of Verbosity

Games #18 – 25 or so

After examining Garnath’s body more thoroughly, the group finds a hidden passage that Myrden must have escaped through. Examination of a dwarven cache reveals supplies and the torso of a strange crystalline statue. Although further examination of this level of the caverns does not turn up the missing dwarf, the party does discover that these ruins used to be a dwarven kingdom known as Galdegfast. They also come across a pair of mutant kobolds guarding a pile of supplies and although Ghesh scares them away, their purpose is left undetermined. Not wanting to travel down the spiral staircase that the kobolds went down, the group finds a collapsed part of the cavern that provides them passage to the level below.

On the next level, the group finds the remains of an ancient road and they follow it to the outskirts of a primitive kobold village that is surrounded by totems bearing the hides of giant bats. They skirt the village and find a unique building that appears to be made out of stone but is comprised of intricate design work that would be impossible to create using conventional tools. After studying the pictograms inscribed on the structure, it is determined that this is a monument to heroes and the adventurers find many skeletons of kobolds inside urns in the towers of the monument. One of the towers, however is completely sealed. Upon exiting, the group realizes that one of the boulders is not a boulder, but a mutated kobold that can cleverly disguise himself. He shows them how to get into the sealed tower where they find an arm of the statue. Upon seeing the arm, the kobold begins to genuflect and will not rise for several minutes. He eventually tells them that he is supposed to take them to the Village of the Beetle where they will meet Shimmershine.

The Village of the Beetle turns out to be much more advanced than the Village of the Bat. The scout leads them into a structure that is built on the the side of a large stone pillar in the middle of the cavern. Much to their surprise, Shimmershine turns out to be a human woman named Shadara. After learning of their discovery of the statue’s arm, she makes the group vow to find the rest of the statue and destroy it claiming that it houses the soul of a god known to the kobolds as the Fire Lord. In exchange, the group will receive safe passage on this level of the caverns so they can continue their search for Myrden. Cauldrev refuses and gets escorted back to the level above but is able to reunite with the group later on the road north of the village.

Using information from Shadara, the group is able to locate the remaining arm and the legs of the statue in ruins in the northern part of the cavern. They also locate a unique structure that they later learn was an ancient time piece that could broadcast light signals to the far reaches of the cave. A buried trapdoor lead to the laboratory of the Chronomancer, an ancient kobold who had put himself in stasis to await the return of the Fire Lord. After a difficult battle, the group discovers two more of Haggart’s cards and two tablets that could offer up some explanations if properly translated. At a loss as to where the remainder of the statue could be, the group sets out to explore the rest of the cavern.

Bypassing more primitive kobold villages, the party eventually comes to a black stone ziggurat with a glowing red obelisk on the top. While traveling the the base of the structure, they realize the ground is a carpet of bones that surrounds the ziggurat in all directions across the entire clearing. Examination of the top of the ziggurat reveals altars where sacrifices must have taken place at one time. Opal’s sharp eyes pick out movement along the cave wall where she manages to see a group entering a passageway carved into the stone. The adventurers follow and after Gavin cleverly discovers a trap, the party is able to overcome a patrol of half-orcs who appear to be traveling light. Keen observation and collective knowledge win the day as Gavin locates a dwarven rune of marking on the floor. Working together, Belhorn and Cauldrev manage to figure out the mechanism revealing a portion of the floor that can be removed. In a small depression beneath the stone, they locate the head of the statue, another card and a note from Myrden that reads:

They have found me. These items must not fall into their hands. Get them to Elsbet Grimgut

As the group prepares to leave the area, the sconces are suddenly light with a blue flame and they can hear faint applause. "Bravo! " a voice says. Upon turning around, they are confronted with the shade of Aldar who applauds them for defeating the half-orcs. Much is learned from Aldar including the true nature of the crystalline statue and the fire god and the fate of Myrden as well as what has happened to him personally. He tells them that he suspects the pedestal for the statue is in a fortress run by half-elves and half-orcs and asks them to take his wedding ring back to Shadara to convince her that the statue needs to be rebuilt. He also states that he believes the cessation of the earthquakes might mean that the elemental prince Khuldark is on the verge of escaping his prison.

After a brief side trip to the rather unpleasant third level of the caverns that proves to be unproductive, the party returns to the second level and prepares to return to the Village of the Beetle so they can meet with Shadara.


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