The resident difficult PC, a gnome priestess of elemental fire, refused as usual to allow us all a smooth start. She wandered out to the edge of the city to look at the stars (“astrology proficiency check”, you see) while the other PCs looked for her. The stars hadn’t changed too much since she had looked at them the previous evening. “But I need practice.” Sure, fair enough.
Meanwhile the half-blind half-elf warrior priest, the druggie priestess, and the half-elf wizard are searching streets & cupboards for her.
After a rust monster, out from under the city for an evening snack, disintegrates and munches on the gnome’s mace, she yells curses and runs. The sounds come to the attention of the other PCs.
“That sounds like Serenio!” “I’d know those curses anywhere!”
By the time the other three reach her, the metal bands and working parts of her crossbow have been turned to rust. The monster munches. Only Pretty, the half-blind half-elf’s dog, can seem to penetrate the rust monster’s scales. Ichi (Pretty’s person, the nearly blind guy) slashes at the rust monster with his long sword, which crumbles to rust. The monster fixates on Ichi’s belted dagger, ignoring the plentiful rust pile at its side. It keeps missing the dagger. Serenio stabs at it with a crossbow bolt, which bends and snaps against the hard plates of its hide. Ichi tosses a flask of oil behind it. Splash!
All this time the pacifist half-elf wizard and neutral priestess opt out of this fray for personal reasons. Serenio kicks the monster and hurts her foot. Ichi tries to distract the critter and trick it into walking into the oil spill by throwing copper pennies. Rust monster wants dagger. It misses. “Throw the dagger into the oil!” orders Serenio. She stabs it with another bolt. The tip crumbles. Dagger gets thrown, rust monster follows it into oil. Serenio tosses burning tinder, but it fails to catch. RM munches, turns, fixates on dagger again. Its feet are covered in oil. Serenio tosses burning tinder: WHOOSH! Horrible agonized shrieks as RM burns.
The air is filled with the scent of thick, hot iron, burning blood and scales. The RM flares in violent flames for long moments. The pacifist hippie half-elf cries. Ichi proclaims that they have successfully defended the ferrous metals of Dambricks from certain doom. Two tipsy halflings wander by as the creature burns. “Oh, gods, it stinks! What did you do?! That’s terrible!” “Oh, you’re awful!”
After the encounter with the rust monster ended with the creature in screaming flames, the gnome, Serenio, had a headless mace and a useless crossbow, while Ichi’s long sword had been mostly consumed; he still had the hilt.
Ichi: “Let us find a tavern. I am an inveterate gambler. Surely I can win new weapons for us from some hapless adventuring fools!”
And so, back at The Joyous Slaker, they saw no adventurers. Not a weapon in the place. They crossed the street and stepped into Candlewick’s End for the first time. The place was extremely posh for the Dampbricks area, which is generally quite poor. But here, couples sat at romantic dinners in plush leather chairs, the lights were low, the staff was idle, and the grimy adventurers were unwelcome. Feeling awkward, the four left.
“Let us find a dive bar,” amended Ichi. And the diviest bar in town was the Ratskeller, out past the ruins of The Stinking Nightshade, which had been firebombed the previous night by an angry mob, and which the party intended to explore; but first, they needed to replace their destroyed weapons. And they would do so by gambling for them, since the weapons shop, aptly named The Rust Monster’s Corpse, had put out it’s “Closed. Please Call Again!” sign for the evening.
At the Ratskeller, greasy ruffians milled about the door, drinking and mingling crudely on what passed for a patio, but really was just the street outside. Ichi and the others pushed their way through, drawing dirty looks, sneers of derision, and amused stares. Clearly, there were many regulars at the Ratskeller, and clearly, Ichi, Serenio, Eleusis, and Alena were not them.
Inside the door, a half-orc bouncer stopped them. “What do you want? Who are you?”
“I’m a singer,” said Ichi.
“Oh really?” said the half-orc.
“We’d like to come in,” said Ichi.
“Sing first,” said the orc, pointing towards the stage.
“You—sing,” insisted the bouncer.
“You—orc,” mouthed Ichi.
Next thing he knew, he had been bodily moved back out the door by the half-orc. The other three, all women, were apparently welcome to stay. They followed Ichi. And on they all four went, and as they went, they passed the ruins of The Stinking Nightshade once more. It was about 10:30 in the evening.
“Might as well take a look,” Alena suggested.
“There’s nothing in there!” yelled Serenio, who had taken a quick look around after the rains had quenched the fire the night before.
“Well, let’s just have a look,” the other three insisted.
“Fine!” Serenio begrudged.
At the burnt-down wreck of The Stinking Nightshade, stone ruins remain. The party investigates a stairway revealed by last night’s fire. Eleusis starts down the stairs. She is charged by a dozen starving giant rats. They want to eat her. She uses her Priestess of Cambrisia power: incite fear! Rats promptly turn and cower. They huddle at the far end of the chamber downstairs. The party, fumbling with confusion, and scared of the scared rats, manages to open a door in the downstairs chamber while the rats cower. They head through, down more stairs.
The first thing they hear upon closing the door behind them is a terribly intimidating roar. Ahead of them, at the bottom of the stairs, they see strange two-headed, four-armed statues, carved to look like they are arguing. The statues point off in differing directions, while threatening each other with other arms.
More roars from the right-hand corridor. Clinging to each other closely with fear, the party hurries down the stairs and off to the left. Looking behind them, they see a monstrous, beaked beast, shaggy and filthy and enraged, chained to a wall. It pulls towards them and shakes the stones. Clawed paws scrabble on stone. The beast squawks and roars. The party gets as far away from this thing as possible. They run through a doorway ahead, into a chamber featuring double doors and a corridor opposite those.
Eleusis looks down the passage. The passage degrades into a rough-hewn corridor that snakes away at a 90 degree angle.
The group opens the double doors carefully. The room beyond is dominated by a steel machine. Wooden levers protrude at one end, while pipes poke from the other. These pipes have been plastered into the wall, sealing them smoothly where they pass through the stones. On the other side of the machine, more levers. Beyond the machine, there is another door to the right and a grated vent in a far corner.
Peering through the vent, Eleusis sees a passage. It is low, and actually seems to drop down a few feet. The passage beyond the vent smells fecund, like hot, damp earth, wet and humid.
Checking out the machine, the party sees there are a total of six levers, each of wood, and each currently in the “down” position. They decide not to mess with this thing quite yet, and open the door. Beyond it, two corridors stretch away from a right angle. Directly ahead of them, the party sees another door. This door has a three-foot square glass window. Behind the glass, metal bars.
Looking through the window, Eleusis sees nothing. Cautiously, she opens the hinged glass.
“Helloooo…?” she inquires. “Anybody there?”
No response. The cell beyond seems empty.
“This place is creeping me out,” says Ichi.
They travel down another corridor and reach another cell. Beyond the barred glass window of this one, a forest of fungus grows. A man-like thing of fungus sits gloomily on a rock. Slowly, it becomes aware of them. Eleusis opens the window. The figure rises. It trudges towards her. The thing has no mouth, and sad eyes. It raises stubby arms with stubby fingers as it approaches. Eleusis drops the glass of the window back into place. The fungoid figure reaches the door and grabs the iron bars with its pudgy fingers. It stares with melancholy eyes through the window. The party wonders about it. The decide caution is called for. This mushroom man drops his fungoid head in weary resignation. Its mushroom cap thunks against the door, forlorn. Some in the party feel empathy for the creature. Serenio wants to let it go. Cooler heads prevail, for now, and the group turns to check out the third cell, thirty feet down the corridor, directly opposite the fungus figure’s cell.
The third cell features a beautifully-carved statue, with bejeweled eyes and artistically ornamental fingernails. Exquisite detail.
“Treasure!” proclaims Ichi.
But what if it’s a trap? thinks everyone. Huh. Perhaps they should return to the machine or explore the other corridor in the room before the double doors and the machine room. Yes, that’s it. They do so.
After touring the strange and sparse zoo (or was it a prison?) that also held a too-ornamental statue, the party backtracked. Back through the machine room, back through the double doors, and down the rough-hewn corridor that jogged sharply to the right. And again it turned on another right angle, opening up into a small cave-like chamber. To the left, this opened up into a larger cavern. Across from the cavern opening, a worn wooden door, and diagonally across the way from that, a metal cylinder had been set into the wall. The cylinder held a keyhole. After some hushed consideration, the party opened the door.
There sat a dwarf. He sat on a crate, enjoying some soup. He looked up at the intrusion and blustered, “What—? What?? What are you doing?”
“Oh, just exploring,” Ichi said off-handedly.
“Exploring?! Exploring what?” demanded the dwarf, rising now to his full four feet.
“You know, the ruins. Of the Stinking Nightshade. This place,” said the half-blind half-elf, gesturing casually to encompass the underground complex.
“Ruins!” shouted the dwarf. “This is my home!”
Ichi frowned, fearing he had some bad news to break to this dwarf. “You do know,” ventured Ichi gently, “that the Stinking Nightshade burnt down, don’t you?”
“Yes, yes, of course I know that!” yelled the dwarf. “How—how, when did you get in here? When? Oh, damn… that owlbear was making a racket earlier.” The dwarf frowned.
“Are you a slave?” asked Ichi, perhaps with a bit of impropriety. “Has Voz enslaved you?”
“What?! No!” barked the dwarf. “I was a slave, but not Voz’s.” His brows furrowed. “Say, you all need to leave,” he said decisively.
“We’re not going anywhere, buster!!” Serenio shouted. Everyone turned to her and blinked. The dwarf’s hair stood on end.
Ichi cleared his throat. “Um, yes,” he said, moving forward in the space cleared by Serenio’s shout. “What is this place?”
“It’s my home!” yelled the dwarf. “GET OUT!”
Ichi and the others pressed the dwarf for information. It went on like this for long moments.
Finally, the dwarf brightened, as if struck by a sudden notion. “Saaaay,” he said, taking a friendly tack. “Wanna see something neat?”
“No,” replied the four in unison.
“Oh, I insist,” insisted the dwarf, pushing past them with his stout little body. He went out into the small cave, producing a key ring. He stuck a key in the cylinder and turned. The party protested, demanding to know just what he was doing.
“You’ll like it, just wait,” he said off-handedly. Then he bolted back to his chamber and tried to lock them out. But Serenio and Alena were quicker and ducked into his chamber before he could shut the door. Once inside, the dwarf threw himself against the door, but Serenio had ganked his keyring, so he couldn’t lock it. He struggled to keep the door closed against Ichi and Eleusis, but failed. Ichi forced the door, sending the dwarf sprawling back. Ichi then pinned him. Eleusis came in quickly and closed the door. When the dwarf had turned the key in the cylinder, they had all heard a grinding noise, as if some portcullis or other thing best left shut were opening.
“What. Did. You. Do.?” threatened Ichi through clenched teeth. The dwarf was mum. Ichi, being a warrior-priest of justice & revenge, after all, let his nasty side out to play. He backhanded the dwarf, bloodying the dwarf’s nose in the process. “What did you do?! You opened something, what did you open?!”
The dwarf spat blood and looked suddenly pathetic. He gasped, then glared. Ichi threatened him again.
“Scorpion!” bleated the dwarf. “I let the scorpion out…”
The party considers throwing the dwarf out into the dungeon beyond and allowing the scorpion to have its way with him, but then think better of it; after all, if the scorpion killed the dwarf, they would still be trapped in this room, unable to leave without dealing with the creature. By browbeating the dwarf into submission, they convince him to trap the scorpion and help them set the fungus-man free.
The fungus man is happy to be free, but doesn’t know which way to go to get home. The dwarf knows. He leads fungus-man and the party down more corridors and through another lab and past another machines, down even more corridors and to a dead end. At the dead end, he taps and twists an extruding rock, and the dead end opens onto a natural stairway of slippery stone.
Everyone descends. At a landing, the dwarf asks Alena, who has been telepathically linked with the fungus-man through exposure to some of its spores, to ask it if it knows where it is.
“Nooooooooo…” murmurs the fungus-man mournfully, or sensations to that effect, through their telepathic link.
The party descends further into what Ichi conjectures is the Underdark.
“Ask him again,” says the dwarf.
Fungus-man hesitates, then sends happy signals through the telepathic link, and begins to trudge down a corridor.