In which the group meet some Dundorin, and find themselves fighting for their lives against a weird denizen of the deep...
16:00 – The caravan arrives at the outer defences of Karrag'Durzal.
However, as they turn into the valley that leads to the heavily warded path that reaches the keep's front gates, they spot a gathering of about fifty Dundorin, the standards of two separate clans snapping in the breeze – the Ardo'Runar (engineering merchants) and the Brunardoin (mercenaries, prospectors, bodyguards). The gathering appears to be peaceful, though with typical Dundorin paranoia (or many would say pragmatism) the extensive decorated walls of carved stone have been fortified with heavy shields and are patrolled by squat, armoured figures.
As the group move towards the makeshift camp, a small group of Dundorin emerge; one dressed in fine robes of dark red velvet, edged in gold, the others clad in finely crafted plate armour, each adorned with the skin of some golden furred creature (identified by Grigori as Aurumvorax) . The robed Dundorin (who has honey blonde hair and beard, and bright blue eyes), waves as the caravan nears, and appears to be smiling warmly.
Aramyn waves back, a grim smile on his face, and slows the caravan down until it stops by the group.
“Brother Stone Tooth, by Thoridane and Danaduin, what terrible timing” grins the blonde Dundorin.
“Galdar Ardo'Runar, 'tis good to see ye” comes Aradyn's reply. “What's with the outpost, are our cousins in Karrag'Durzal such uncouth dogs that they would see kin freezin' in the mountains?”
Galdar shakes his head, and looks pained. “Ye'd best come into the camp, and I shall tell ye what is happening over a pint or three”.
16:05-16:25 – The group accompany Aramyn as he meets with Galdar, and the leader of the Dunodorin contingent – Khazzadar Brunardoin; a scarred and grizzled Dundorin with a clawed artifice arm, a rune-scribed patch over one eye, and no beard – and the current situation is explained...
The two groups of Dundorin are about to head back to their clan holds after being attacked by the Dundiir of Karrag'Durzal as they moved along the road to their keep. This was despite them flying their clan colours and runes as protocol demands, and making an open display of their strength in numbers and weapons. Attempts were made to contact the Karrag'Durzal Dundiir, but no one within answered. Unsure of what to do, but reluctant to face their cannons again, the two groups are heading off in the morning. They advice the group to do the same.
Aramyn is greatly disturbed by these reports, and puts it to his cousins that the Karrag'Durzal would not open fire (and even more importantly, miss) unless they had a good reason for keeping them away. He proposes a small group head towards the keep to try and find out what is going on, and, if possible, to lend aid.
16:25 – 16:35 – A plan is hatched (Aramyn is aware of several disused tunnels, dug when the silver mines were being expanded, and likely used now for ventilation, and he feels that a group could move through these and gain access to the keep from its mines), and volunteers are sought.
The group state that they shall only go if paid properly. Aramyn offers them 300 gps, but they refuse, demmanding 400 gps and another of his Blunderbusses.
Aramyn gives a disgusted snort, spits on the ground and tells the group that they can stay and watch the caravan whilst he is gone. He then looks towards his cousins, and they offer (in the case of Galdar, with great reticence) troops to accompany him.
However, spotting his reluctance to donate soldiers to the cause, Seren suddenly puts it to Galdar that, for 400 gold and an Aurumvorax skin (which lends fire resistance to anyone wearing it), they will go instead of his troops. Eager to save his valuable soldiers from harm, the merchant agrees (though he is bullied into sending two of his soldiers to accompany Khazzadar and the unit of warriors he will be leading into a separate area of the ventilation tunnels).
Thus, the group agree to accompany Aramyn into the darkness beneath Karrag'Durzal.
17:35 – As darkness and cold steals across the mountains, the group arrive at a series of squat, stone chimneys; ventilation pipes that lead into the tunnels Aramyn spoke of. Aramyn breaks the moss covered lid off one, revealing a tube of carved stone, roughly 4' wide and choked by cobwebs, which falls into gloomy darkness. A stone is dropped, and the sound of it hitting deep water echoes back.
17:36 – 17:50 – One by one, the group climb down the narrow tube, which ends, 60' below; 20' above the surface of a lake of mineral rich, rust-smelling water, still as a mirror and bitterly cold. Bats the size of small mice fill the air, sweeping around the group without ever striking them, and transparent cave fish flit away from the alien invasion into their silent, aquatic world.
Gorthias misses his footing at one point, and sustains some significant injuries as he tumbles 40', striking the water at speed (although the landing is softer than it would be were the surface solid, he still hits with enough force to shatter bones and draw blood).
17:50 – 17:55 – Shivering, teeth chattering, the group swim (with the aid of the swordmage, who, as an elemental humanoid is perfectly at home in the icy waters), towards an area of shallow water to the north of where they have landed, which leads to an island studded with stalagmites and stalactites, and covered in the guano of the hundreds of bats that swoop and chitter in the darkness above them.
However, as the party draw close, a particularly large stalagmite in the middle of the area suddenly reveals itself to be something else. A huge, bloodshot eye opens towards its tip, and a wide mouth, filled with rows of savage, stone teeth yawns towards its base. Festoons of whip-like tentacles, covered in minute, saw-like teeth of flint unfurl from its sides, and immediately begin to whip about, many snaring bats in the area, two, flashing out towards the party.
“ROPER!” Screams Aramyn, and then there is only battle.
17:55 – 18:00 – The battle is short lived but sees significant harm being visited on the group. The monsters tentacles steal the strength of those they grab, and its mouth removes vast chunks from anyone unfortunate enough to be bitten. To complicate matters, where the bat guano is thickest, an invisible miasma of toxic gas hovers (though fortunately, the constitutions of the group prove too strong for its poisonous effects).
Aware that they may face other opponents before they can next rest, the group hold back their most potent attacks. However, they have to use the best tactics they can to stop the monsters consuming any of them.
It is difficult, but eventually, the monster is cracked open, its soft body exposed to the merciless blades and spells of the party, and it gives a final, rumbling scream as its guts are torn out and burned by magic.
The battle is over, with all party members beaten, but alive.
Aramyn searches through the monsters guts and discovers several uncut stones of value (he pockets a Garnet). A stone bearing magic is also found, and given to the barbarian – a stone that can temporarily enchant a weapon if rubbed against it...