Chronicles of Khaldun: Crux of Eternity

Truth or Consequences, Part 8

Freeday, Sunsebb 7, 552 CY (50 AN)

Bezaldooz, Bosabrieln, Peren, Torinn, Obash, Hurm da Wurm, and the two remaining goblins (Tobg and Gark) continue down lightless tunnels. After roughly an hour, they see the flickering of torchlight ahead. As the figures approach, the Shields of the Sorrowfell can tell it is a group of tanned humans, bearing the javelins and piecemeal armor of orcs. Most of the Shields and their associates hide, while Bosabrieln steps into the middle of the path and calls out just before the torchlight falls upon him.

The group falls into a defensive position, but quickly surmises the lone half-elf is no threat. The leader, a dark-haired woman named Citlali, indicates she and her band are trying to flee the Underdark. It swiftly becomes apparent that she and her associates are the last of their tribe, no doubt captured as Caveghost Clan passed through the Feywalk Woods. (Although Citlali and her band do not know the woods by that name, and so the two groups have difficulty relating their positions.) Caveghost Clan recently started traveling faster and is clearly heading somewhere; the confusion allowed Citlali and the last of her warband to make their escape.

Citlali estimates Caveghost Clan’s numbers to be roughly 500, with a couple of ogres. They carry roughly 60 slaves with them. The leaders are the orcish warlord, his mate who is missing an eye and is perhaps some manner of priestess, and a shaman who never communicates, only speaking to cast spells. Bosabrieln gives them 100gp and instructs them where to find the sinkhole leading up into Heathwood. From there, she may either travel south across the plains to find her homelands, or travel northeast to find the town of Beeheath. She thanks them and both groups continue on their way.

Another two hours pass, and as the Shields are considering whether or not to bed down for the night, Bosabrieln and Peren see a strange glint ahead — the low ambient light reflecting off a wobbling surface. Bosabrieln shouts, “CUBE!” as they prepare for the onslaught — five gelatinous cubes, traveling down the hallway in a moving wall, consuming all in their path. Battle is swift as the air fills with arrows, javelins, and spells. They are hit with one of Bezaldooz’s fireballs as Peren conjures a wall of fire, prompting the things to change direction. As they slowly attempt to flee, the Shields chase them down and destroy them. They find 21cp floating among the cubes, which they ignore, so the goblins gather the coins.

Although they have been traveling for eight hours, Peren can tell they are only a couple of days behind, and gaining on the orcs. (He likewise notes that by the footprints, Caveghost Clan likely numbers 663, along with two larger creatures. Those are probably the ogres. Among the footprints, he thinks he sees the distinctive, rolling gait of a single mind flayer.) He advises everyone to press forward, so they march a couple of hours until Bezaldooz and Hurm the Wurm are too tired to continue. Bosabrieln conjures Mordenkainen’s magnificent mansion, and the Shields rest.

The next morning, Waterday, Sunsebb 12, the Shields continue. After two hours of walking, they mark five large, snakelike creatures, softly glowing red. They carry spears, and look to be salamanders of the sort found in Flamefall Tower. The Shields do not parley; Bezaldooz conjures an ice storm, and the others move in for the kill. A few moments’ confusion, and the deed is done; Peren and Obash are slightly burned from close contact with the beasts, but little the worse for wear. They find 81sp among the strange beings, which Obash takes.

Five hours later, they encounter the incorporeal forms of the hungry dead. They barely even break stride to defeat the seven ghosts, as the creatures fall before blade and spell.

After another hour, Peren takes stock of the situation and wants to press onward; they are likely only a day or so behind Caveghost Clan. The Shields all agree. Torinn takes to carrying Bezaldooz so that they can continue on without interruption.

Another three hours, and just as Bezaldooz is musing about being attacked by hook horrors, a pair of large, vulture-faced, hook-handed beasts creep out from among the rocks. Peren summons a group of fey allies — in this case, diminutive, cloaked, goat-legged goblins he recognizes as darklings — who converge on one of the hook horrors upon his command. Although the hook horror kills one of the darklings, Peren and the other three finally kill it. Torinn and the others make short work of the other hook horror. Peren and his remaining darklings spend a half hour or so carving up the hook horror to harvest its hide.

Two hours pass, and as the Shields are ready to collapse and Bosabrieln prepares to conjure Mordekainen’s magnificent mansion for the night, three spindly, black, humanoid beings made of rock creep out of a seam in the earth. Bezaldooz recognizes them as some form of construct, but wants to sleep, so he vaporizes them with a well-placed sunburst. The Shields enter the mansion and rest.

Bosabrieln is awakened in the night by a sending from Headmaster Jepson, saying, “We need to talk about Sleet. Contact me at your earliest convenience.” Bosabrieln replies, “Noted. Talk in morning. Slaves leaving Underdark via Heathwood.” He returns to sleep.

The next morning, Earthday, Sunsebb 13, Bosabrieln gathers the others and informs them of the sending in the night. After some discussion, he notes he will need to leave the mansion so that he may project image and speak with the Headmaster. Peren and Obash stand guard.

When Bosabrieln arrives in the Headmaster’s office, he is sitting at his desk, working. The Headmaster explains that Barnabus Sleet called together a council of various government leaders in Duchy Jepson, explaining his plan to declare war on Scandshar. He is meeting with the other settlements in the region to request aid. Of note, however, he extracted a letter of introduction from Duchy Jepson, and the Headmaster suspects this will be seen as Duchy Jepson declaring war on Scandshar. The Headmaster felt Bosabrieln ought to know this, lest something happen to Jepson in the meantime. But the Headmaster doesn’t fully know the capabilities of this man Sleet, and so no one in town feels comfortable saying, “No,” to him.

He notes that he recommended Sleet head to Kiris Dahn first, so he might still be there. But he does not know where Sleet is now.

Bosabrieln also reports the Shields current activities for the Headmaster’s consumption. Before he returns to his body, he takes a moment to look out the window and gaze upon the sun again.

Upon his return, everyone returns to the mansion to discuss matters. They don’t make a firm decision, apart from finding out whatever Sleet is up to. Once decided, they continue on their way.

They have been walking for roughly four hours when they are ambushed by a group of man-shaped things. These things have ragged loincloths, stone-colored skin, lank black hair, and spiked bone clubs. Of note, they are completely eyeless. They come pouring out from among the rocks, taking up flanking positions and lashing out at the Shields. They manage to kill Tobg and Gark, as well as injuring Hurm da Wurm, but once the Shields figure out what’s happening, a well-placed fireball and Peren and Torinn make short work of the ambushers.

They travel the rest of the day before they hear the murmuring of many voices. They have successfully found the caves where Caveghost Clan is camping for the night.

While the others find hiding places, Peren scouts ahead. These caverns form a tangle of passages and tunnels. The elite troops — outfitted in plate armor, like Obash — guard strategic points, including the entrance. The two ogres are bedding down near the entrance of the cavern, as well. Soldiers and civilians are scattered throughout the caverns, bedding down for the night. They form a general ring around the slaves, whom are kept in the middle where they can be monitored. In a ruined shrine in the back of the cave, the camp’s leaders have placed a pavilion. They — the chief, his mate, and the silent shaman — are currently making the rounds, making certain everyone is situated for the night.

All told, Peren counts twenty-five elites, twenty-five half-orc warriors, and maybe 200-300 warriors. The count of 60 slaves seems accurate.

He returns to the Shields and reports his findings. They agree to wait, sneak into the camp, and attack it from the rear, working their way to the slaves in the middle.

Once they are reasonably certain everyone is settled, they enact the plan. Their group of six manages to easily enter the cave network and make its way to the back. Finding a shadowed corner, they wait for an opening, and then launch out of the darkness.

Battle is sudden, swift, and chaotic. Bezaldooz opens with a fireball directly in front of the ruined shrine so that it will catch the elite guard and whomever is within. The others rush out of the shadows, and as Peren starts carving through guards, he sounds the horn of Valhalla. Twenty-one mighty warriors appear in the entry to the ruined shrine and begin pouring into the gap. Obash and Torinn wade into combat — Torinn having taken an adrenaline pill recovered from the Sentinel so long ago, and so moving at abnormal speed — as Bosabrieln steps forward to begin ensorcelling orcs. Hurm da Wurm starts harrying orcs with arrows.

The berserkers make short work of the chieftain’s mate, while the chief himself lasts only ten seconds against the rampaging horde. Peren rushes into the shrine to confront the shaman, but is surprised to find that there is only the tentacled face of an illithid in his place. The wounded creature is no match for him, as he cleaves twice into it and severs its head.

The orcish forces collapse after that as berserkers start spilling out of the shrine. Bosabrieln begins ensorcelling orcs with mass suggestion, ordering them to protect the slaves in the middle. Mass confusion erupts as conflicting orders begin flying about. The Shields and their allies make their way towards the middle, where a tense standoff emerges: once some of the orcs realize the leaders are dead and a score of their numbers must be charmed, they threaten to begin killing the slaves. Bosabrieln convinces them that killing the slaves will not spare their lives; the orcs relent.

Convinced that a modicum of order is restored, the Shields gather the slaves and bring them to the back of the cavern where they may be better protected. Gathering in the ruined shrine, they discuss their next move: how will they transport the slaves and what will they do with over five hundred orcs?

Their discussion is interrupted when the berserkers bring the broken body of a skeleton, clad in leather armor and wearing a dagger and a backpack. Torinn presents the dagger to Hurm, figuring he’s been through a lot with the deaths of the rest of his warband, while the others investigate the backpack. They find a sending stone within.

After deliberation, Bosabrieln decides to use it. He conveys the message, “You’ve reached the Shields and you have our attention.” Whomever is on the other end conveys, “The Shields? Perfect! Wait there, I have something to discuss.

A tense ten minutes pass before a creature appears, a robed skeleton with pinpoints of red glowing in its empty sockets. It wears an ornate headdress and has the bearing of a wizard. Peren can sense, however, that nothing is there, and stays Torinn’s hand when he moves to strike it with his axe.

It introduces itself as Lazghul, the Opal of Chaos with the Teeth of Jet and the Dress of Silence. Lazghul notes that he’s not supposed to be around these days, but well, he recently met with the Scandshar Six, and he’s sure they told people, so the cat’s out of the bag. This is roughly when Torinn decides he doesn’t want to deal with this, and leaves. Obash and Hurm follow.

The creature indicates that they have a problem in common: several off-worlders have arrived here, including a wizard named Sleet and another man called Pete Loudly. This motley band of adventurers has traveled across many planes throughout the multiverse, and gathered many resources and allies in their travels. Of interest to Lazghul, Pete Loudly has something he does not want to see used — a piece of Perpetual Ice, something that will freeze any water it touches. If introduced into a body of water, it would rapidly spread to every other body of water, bringing Fimbulwinter upon the world. While Lazghul might be interested in the end of the world and the quiet death of everyone within it, for various symbolic reasons, he does not want this particular doom to come about.

And so he has contacted the Shields in the hopes that they have further information, or that they can plan how to deal with this circumstance.

Lazghul notes that Pete Loudly has bought a few properties in and around Scandshar, including Castle Chilikov. He and his associates — Loudly, Sleet, and a group of four elves — have been delving the slave pits beneath Chilikov, freeing slaves and generally making the standard nuisance. They are currently residing in the Bleak Theater on the precipice of the Underdark, staging expeditions throughout the dungeons beneath Castle Chilikov. They have already disrupted the Iron Manacle, a small slaving outfit working in tandem with the Peacocks, as well as the orcs with whom they were dealing.

He further notes that these people have allies: Sleet apparently keeps an army of demons in his castle, while Loudly has a giant flaming skeleton as well as crew and soldiers for his spelljammer. If they mean to take Scandshar, they might be able to do so.

After some back-and-forth, Lazghul notes they do not have to decide right away, as they have a method of contacting him. Peren, however, notes that they can probably help one another now: if Lazghul can help transport the slaves out of here, he can have access to the 500 or so orcs in this cave. Lazghul would have to wait until the morning to make the necessary preparations, but this can be done. They agree, and Lazghul disappears.

Once the Shields reconvene with Torinn and fully discuss the possibilities of this being a trap or doing a lich’s dirty work, their plan changes. They will use a handful of teleportation circle spells to transport the slaves to Argent. They will warn the orcs that the bogeyman is coming, and they should all flee — tonight — if they value their lives. Even though Lazghul might be lying, most of what he told them jibes with the information they already had, so there is likely some earnestness in what he says. Given how things are escalating, they will have to leave the escaped drow for now, instead investigating Sleet first. Bosabrieln has a plan to speak to Sleet, which he communicates in a sending to the Headmaster; the Headmaster says he can pass it along. Their next plan will no doubt hinge upon however that interaction goes.

As such, they tell Obash to take any orcs he wishes to recruit before they head to Argent. They are going to leave the sending stone behind since Lazghul can probably track it. They consider leaving a note, then think better of leaving too many symbolic ties behind for a master wizard; Peren orders one of the orcs to write the note instead, indicating they had other plans, but when the orc balks, Peren slays him and orders the next in line to do the same. He complies, writing a letter about how the Shields have reconsidered their arrangement.

Before leaving, Bezaldooz takes a handful of dirt from the ruined shrine so that he may teleport back to this location.

With that, the orcs prepare themselves to head deeper into the Underdark while Bezaldooz uses his teleportation circle spell four times to teleport the Shields, sixty slaves, and Obash and his recruits over to Argent.