22:11 – 04:00 – The party move through the dismal gardens of the Rot Folk, and into the decaying tunnels beyond. Over the next few hours they clamber through the filthy labyrinth; sometimes swimming along rushing channels of stinking, slimy water, sometimes pushing through claustrophobic tunnels barely large enough to crawl through. Eventually they find themselves in a dank chamber of chewed stone, through which runs a vast stone pipe. Runes scratched into the pipe in chalk allow Ormid to calculate that this pipe leads to the outside world, that it is a drainage pipe.
With a word of muted power Evran cracks a section of the pipes curving top, forming a hole that any of them can fit through. Through this hole it is possible only to see surging, crashing water, blasting through under considerable pressure. There is clearly a vicious current in the pipe and no air pocket – a deadly combination. Evran recalls that the grates that lead to the outside world are usually spiked on the inside, so that large pieces of waste that somehow make it this far are shredded before being fired out into the outside world.
04:03 – 04:04 – Llewellyn, bored and eager to be out of the sewers suddenly grabs a length of rope and ties it around his waist. He then hands the other end to the Veteran, and with an impish grin (and to the rest of the groups' horror) dives into the pipe.
The rope immediately goes taut, and Ferrous and Ardwaine have to help the Veteran to pull the sputtering, half-dead vyrleen back out of the tearing waters, so strong is the current in the pipe. Llewellyn, when he is pulled free, is barely conscious. He vomits up thick gobs of mucus and sewer water, and lies shivering for a minute or two before he can speak in a reedy, gasping voice.
“S-s-s-tupid! R-real f-f-fuckin' s-stupid!”
04:05 – 04:10 – The group briefly discuss the sanity of the Veteran (who cannot drown and is physically powerful) entering the pipe and smashing the grid out so that they rest can jump in and ride the current out. This plan is abandoned when the group realise that they could still be quite high above ground level; the idea of being half-drowned and then splattered messily on the floor not appealing to them one jot.
Then the Veteran remembers his girdle, and with a silent force of will commands its magic to activate. At once glinting adamantine claws grow from his hands, and turning to the solid rock of the wall adjacent to the pipe, he begins to rip chunks of it away, the noise deafening in the confines of the chamber. Within a few minutes he has burrowed deep into the rock, forming a wide tunnel, and with a dull crack his claws suddenly punch through the wall and out into clear, night air.
Filled with sudden joy, he widens the gap and opens a way, allowing the fresh air to flow into the tunnels – its smell one of the best things the group have experienced for an age.
04:11 – 04:26 - After the initial joy, the party gather to consider what to do next. Firstly, they try to get their bearings by looking at the land outside, which they manage despite the sweeping changes to the landscape that have occurred since they were last here. They note the weird distortions of the local area, rendered by over a thousand years of continued eldritch decay, and puzzle about the two black fortresses, struck with vast restraining runes that rise above the black canopy of the alien jungles to the southeast. They note the various strange things floating at different heights above the ruins, as well as the weird lights and ripples in the air. They note with some confusion a constant fiery glow coming from over the immediate horizon to the southwest, and take very little comfort when Evran explains about the black fortresses being Unified Order “Gate Houses” - capstones to aberrant portals randomly opening in the twisting fabric of the tortured local reality.
At the base of the cliff within which they currently stand is a vast swamp, fed by the long line of sewage spewing pipes that thrust out the rock face from the New Laertraine sewers. The party note the 100' drop from the pipes end, as well as the ferocity with which the frothing, whitish-green waters erupt from them, and thank Leorn that they have not had to take that route out of the subterranean. The swamps are threaded with mist which shines in the half light of Lunum's waning light, and the only solid ground appears to be various hummocks of slimy moss dotted in the greasy waters, and a few tiny islands that have formed around the roots of wretched looking willows. By the time they are ready to move, the first distant glimmers of dawn and lightening the southeastern sky, and the morning star – Pyre – has started its refulgent climb into the heavens.
04:27 – 04:45 – Moving carefully in order to avoid any unexpected falls, or breaching any dangerous chambers below, the group follow the Veteran as he scoops a stepped corridor down the inside of the cliff using his claws. It takes a little time, but eventually the group are standing at the edge of the wretched swamp, their view of the land ahead now obscured by the filmy mist and the clouds of biting insects that seem to materialize the second they arrive. It is at this point that Llewellyn realises that he is not feeling too great – almost certainly a side effect of inhaling the filthy sewer water earlier.
The group discuss tactics and agree on two things; that they need to head directly into the heart of the ruins, and that they should do so on the backs of Ormid's Spectral Steeds. To this end, the artificer brings out several jars of residuum, and prepares to start a casting...
04:46 – 04:50 – However...
The water of the bog suddenly explodes with deadly motion, and four rubbery tentacles, covered in teeth and suckers, lash out towards the party. Most of the group manage to leap out of their way or parry them. Poor Ormid however, busily sorting through his backpack, is grabbed by one and hoisted high into the air, the slashing teeth cutting crackling lines into his armour.
The group form up ready to face this latest horror, and watch as a vast, slimy bulk half rises from the swamp; a huge amphibian of some kind – a thing of whipping tentacles, wide mouth and grasping prehensile tongue. Its eye rest atop a flexible stalk on top of its flat head, and it moves with powerful kicks of its unseen legs.
Evran warns Ormid that he has a plan but that it will hurt, and belts out a chiming incantation that causes reality to warp around the Froghemoth and the artificer. Both yell as parts of their body are bent and ripped by the disturbance, but Evran manages to teleport the grabbed artificer to a position next to him, rescuing him from the monsters massively fanged mouth.
Ferrous is not so fortunate, for a moment later and the poor thing has been grabbed, bitten savagely and then swallowed whole. Trapped within the burning, crushing depths of the Forghemoth's guts, all it can do is claw and bite at the suffocating interior in the hopes of killing the thing, or making it feel rough enough that it vomits him back up.
And so a tough battle ensues. The party are repeatedly grabbed, bitten, slashed, crushed and battered by the giant mutant, and at once point several members of the group are sent reeling as the monster utters a deafening croak which resonates like a thunderclap within their brains. The huge thing initially seems utterly unconcerned by even the most savage blows, and quickly proves resistant to both flame and spark, though the former makes it back off in alarm and the latter seems to slow it somewhat.
However, the multiple wounds cumulatively begin to weaken the thing, and as its fishy, watery bloody begins to flow ever more freely, it begins to slow down and to strike with less and less power. Its end comes at the edge of the Veteran's axe, just as it is lifting the warforged into its cavernous mouth to try and swallow him; the warrior driving his axe into the monsters head with enough force to shatter its rubbery skull and turn its brains to slop.
With a final wail the huge monster surges upwards in the water, before crashing, dead, back into the stinking mire.
04:50 – 05:15 – The group regroup and discover within the monsters guts the remains of a less fortunate explorer. Several items of power (a protective amulet and a strange totemic charm) as well as some riches are also recovered.
The group then patch their wounds (Llewellyn is now looking pale and is sweating – signs of filth fever) and Ormid conjures his ghostly horses. Whilst they rest Evran warns the party that in many areas of the ruins magic behaves erratically, and that the random effects can be significant in many instances. He also points out that their best chance of entering the ruins heart is through such unstable zones, as the Unified Order have to rely on mundane rather than magical means of defence, which means they won't have to deal with the usual barrage of abjurations, constructs and deadly conjured monsters...in theory...
05:20 – With the sky lightening, the group ride the flickering mounts into the darkness of the alien jungle, and off towards the heart of the ruins.