Cast of Characters
Garret Kahneus - Half Elf Valorous Bard
Alaric Rose - Elf Archer Ranger
Zelmar Tarien - Eladrin Orb Wizard
Gaknar - Half Elf (formerly Goblin) companion character (striker)
Annie Ramsey - Human companion character (defender)
Into the Underdark
After they defeated Finch's debt collectors, the party entered a tunnel that took them gradually down, about 300 feet below the surface. Garret soon learned that the maps that they'd obtained were of fairly poor quality, as there were many side tunnels that weren't drawn in and many blank spaces. Still, the party traveled through the nearly total darkness (phosphorescent fungi and small lodes of glowstone occasionally offered dim light) until they rounded a bend in the tunnel and noticed a brighter (though still dim by surface standards) light up ahead. Alaric scouted it out, and discovered the King's Highway. On the map it showed up as simply a large tunnel, but this unique Underdark feature was carved by the god Torog himself. After being wounded and then cursed by his Primordial rival right before he delivered a death blow, Torog's injuries are unable to heal themselves, and he is trapped in the Underdark. He made the King's Highway in the late stages of the Dawn War as he rampaged, nearly insane with frustration, through his new domain. This section happened to carve through large lodes of glowstone (hence the light), and contained (as is common along the King's Highway) puddles of the god's immortal blood.
After walking several miles, the party heard footsteps coming from one of the side tunnels. They readied themselves at the entrance, and out stumbled Zelmar. He recently escaped a cave-in as his mentor stayed back to battle a rival, and unable to return the way he came he has been wandering through the tunnels for about a day. Alone in a dangerous place, he decided to travel with the rest of the party. He did use Mage Hand to grab a sample of Torog's blood in a vial, though when he turend it upside down it slowly started to dissolve the cork, so he keeps it out while they travel (the Mage Hand holds it, floating beside him). As they traveled further, they were forced to make camp in a small side tunnel just off of the King's Highway. They also heard footsteps and felt a strong mental presence while traveling the Highway, and were terrified as an Illithid passed through a junction in the tunnels opposite them. The intrusive presence that accompanied it seemed to be pre-occupied and in a hurry, which was lucky for the party. It simply looked at them and moved along. A few minutes down the Highway, they found the body of a humanoid that had had its brain eaten by it. Testing the effect of Torog's blood on flesh, Garret and Annie dipped the corpse head-first into one of the puddles. The blood seemed "excited" as it rippled slightly when the head was submerged, but otherwise it had no effect.
When the party finally reached Forgehome they were turned away at the gate. Security was heightened recently, and no outsiders were allowed in the city without being vouched for by a local. They tried to convince the guard to send for Brocc (the Gnome that they were seeking out), but he didn't allow them to pass. As they made camp nearby, they were approached by a Dwarf. His name was Heldrek, and he told the party that if they helped him out, he would get them into the city. He was a mining prospector that was currently working on a small mine nearby. About a week ago, his workers never returned. After a few days he assembled a team to investigate, but they never returned. Now it was the party's turn. They followed him and descended into the shaft. There were dozens of bodies (the miners), and all had been stripped of all metal (the wooden handles were all that remained of their tools). Their hands were all missing, and several large fungal orbs floated lazily about, with some fungal humanoids (Myconids) standing guard. The fight was extremely tough for the party, as the spore orbs floated in and boxed them at the bottom of the shaft. When killed, the orbs exploded. Zelmar's first round in the party was an awful one, as his AoE missed the 2 Myconids but hit 2 spores (catching everyone in the explosion). This was after the Myconids had used AoE's of their own. The party was already low on HP at this point, and it only got worse from their. The Myconids had the ability to spread damage, making focused fire virtually useless. The party never maneuvered out of their corner, making them easy targets for the Myconid's AoE's and the spore's explosions. Zelmar's dice were determined to cursed, as he consistently rolled extremely low (and with all of his AoE's, he had many chances to roll). Even Alaric's normally crit-enchanted dice were of little help. The combat dragged on with the party boxed in and constantly on the defensive, with many characters getting knocked unconscious often. Alaric spent standard actions to perform Heal checks on more than one occasion, and at one point Garret was able to spend a surge after rolling a 20 on his death save. Second Winds were used, and Garret's Majestic Words were all spent. Many potions were also drunk. In the end, Gaknar and Annie were both killed.
Garret was ambivalent toward Gaknar's death and for a while it was assumed that the party just left his body in the mine (after this fight they fled the mine). Heldrek wanted them to investigate further, and Garret finally agreed that if he payed for Annie's resurrection they would clear the mines of all hostile creatures. Heldrek wanted something valuable to keep as collateral. Garret offered the crystal that they were going to show Brocc, but Heldrek didn't think it looked like anything special. So while Alaric and Zelmar stayed with Annie's body at a temple of Moradin, Garret and Heldrek sought out Brocc. Heldrek went to an Alehouse (no outsiders allowed!) to learn the Gnome's whereabouts, and then they headed off to meet him. When Brocc opened the door a bucket of water fell on Garret's head. He then had Garret come inside (Heldrek, distrustful as he is, insisted that the Brocc meet them outside) to prove that nothing else would happen, but when Garret stepped back out a pressure plate caused a black, oily substance to spray in his face. Brocc found the practical joke amusing. Garret said that his friend just died and he wasn't in the mood, but Brocc didn't see what that had to do with anything. He offered to look at the crystal, but then ran into his house and shut the door. Garret simply sat down and cried for about 10 minutes, at which point Brocc came back out grinning, and stated "third time's the charm!"
Brocc was actually very impressed with the crystal. He told Garret that not only was this a Fenorian crystal, but it was a stable Fenorian crystal. The last time he'd seen one was when his grandfather helped Aston Grimslade (now a vampire, as the party discovered at the Grimslade Ruins) figure out how to stabilize them. Normally Fenorian crystals release a steady stream of uncontrolled energy, but once stabilized that energy can be more reliably harnessed (usually as part of a specific magical effect requiring a command word). Stabilized crystals are extremely rare largely because Aston Grimslade and Brocc himself are the only two people who can reliably stabilize them. A few other individuals (namely Vistun Selfeer) are known to be less capable at the process, often being unsuccessful or only temporarily stablizing the crystals. When Garret tells Brocc that this crystal was originally used to augment an Arkhosian sword, Brocc says that given time he can probably discern the crystal's function. He offers to trade it for the only other stable Fenorian crystal that he has - one of Aston's original creations. It's part of a ring that, when worn, protects the wielder from the effects of unstable Fenorian crystals. Garret tells Brocc about the Volksair monster, and Brocc agrees that it's almost certain that much of its power comes from unstable Fenorian crystals. The ring might allow the party to escape should they have another encounter with the monster, but they should excercise extreme caution when confronted by it, as the ring is unlikely to give them enough of an advantage to defeat it.
Satisfied of its value, Heldrek accepts the ring as collateral. The party then waits while Annie's ritual is being completed. Alaric decided that he would miss Gaknar, and Zelmar agreed to provide half the cost to have him brought back to life. Jokes about the two having joint custody ensued. Just for fun, they wanted to have Gaknar Reincarnated instead of simply Raised. So I drew up a Reincarnation chart, set the ritual's level at 6 (2 levels lower than Raise Dead), gave it a lower component cost, and finally rolled the d%. Turns out Gaknar was reincarnated as a Half Elf, and upon the party's request a d4 was rolled to determine his gender. So now Gaknar is a female Half Elf, though he still has the same voice and is still attracted to females (indeed, his new set of Half-Elf hormones have resulted in him finding Annie "cuter than she was before"). If Gaknar had been a source of comic relief before, the Reincarnation just stepped it up a notch. To top it off, now that Gaknar is the same race as the party member who dislikes him/her the most, I even gave him/her a Bard power as his/her Dilettante.
After a night at a very barebones inn (their rooms were a small cave with a boarskin on the floor for a bed), the party re-entered the mine. The next encounter was against several more Myconids. Dwarven bodies littered this area as well, though these seemed to be warriors. A rust monster was also present, and it went straight for metal-clad Annie and devoured her armor. The fight was still won fairly easily, and this is where we called it a night.