Showing Your Colors

Into the Unknown

Searching around the room, they find only dust in the dirt floored room. Rila takes the opportunity to volunteer her services again as a scouting rat and she squeezes underneath the door to the south before anyone can gainsay her. In the short hallway beyond she can see a door twenty feet to her west, a door ten feet down the hall on the same wall to the west, a door across the hall from that door, and a stairway heading down twenty feet to the east. As she begins to decide where to scout next mentally messaging her team, a small ghostly head pops out of the adjacent door. It takes the form of a ghostly dog that jumps at Rila as she scurries back under the door.  Returning to halfling form, Rila makes the case for trying to befriend the ghost. However, Ariel is the first up to the door and cracks it open to peer beyond. With soft words, Rila follows and attempts to calm the large ghostly dog. The ghostly dog runs past the group, makes a wide turn, then runs into the door west of the door they came from. When they take too long to do anything, it pokes its incorporeal head back out looking at them, panting. On opening the door, they find a room stacked with empty crates and glass bottles as the ghost dog sits up against the northwest corner of the room. Ariel and Leon look through the crates while Tormenoth investigates the wall behind the dog. He finds a clear outline of false paneling hiding a secret passage to the south west. Him and Rila take the short passage and push through the secret door on the other end to find themselves on the second floor of a large but abandoned shop. They freeze as they see a hunched humanoid moving back and forth mumbling to itself in the darkness. 

When it makes no moves towards their intrusion, they begin looking around while Ariel and Leon finish their fruitless search. Empty cabinets and shelves line this old building, including the other side of the secret door they came in through. There is a door to their east, likely connecting back to the hallway as well as a doorway below with a few beams of light piercing through from outside. The door is stuck, but a good shove from Leon opens it up, confirming their suspicion that it connected to the hallway. Unfortunately, upon passing the threshold, a number of runes light up around the door and there is a glow from the staircase to the east. The rattling of bones and uncoordinated thuds of rotten flesh fill the air as undead can be heard excavating themselves from gravel beyond the staircase. Despite being surprised by the rising of the dead, Leon and Tormenoth move forward to intercept the dead. They hack away and blast apart the creatures as Rila and Ariel catch up to add their own firepower, but the necromantic constructs continue to rise faster than they can dispose of them. The stairway begins to bottleneck, giving the two at the frontline some relief from their ragged claws and powerful bites, but it won’t last forever as the swarm begins to exhaust and wear down their already diminished health from the sewer battles. Rila takes the desperate move of calling upon a moonbeam, with Tormenoth agreeing to hold back the dead inside its damaging light despite the risk to himself. Even he is forced to retreat after unluckily suffering at the hands of Rila’s magic, but it breaks the necromantic curse binding a number of the undead long enough for Ariel to put herself in the way of the dead. They strike at her relatively defenseless body, but she didn’t go in without a plan and calls upon her dark powers to rebuke those who would dare harm her. The blast, combined with her forceful eldritch blasts gives the group enough room to push down the stairs and see where the undead are coming from. They see below a large gravel pit surrounded by glowing runes set into a ring of cobblestones, but as they see this a large undead dog pushes up from the gravel to attack. Sensing an opportunity, the group stays as far up the stairs as they can and uses the continuing moon beam and Ariel’s mostly healthy self to block the undead advance while the group blasts away at the glowing runes from a distance. When the last of the runes is destroyed, the undead still trying to claw up from the gravel pit cease moving, leaving only the large dog zombie to fend off. Without reinforcements, Ariel only takes one more hit before the team’s combined attacks cause the construct to crumble. As soon as the undead dog collapses, the ghost dog pokes its head out from the doorway and bounds over to lay down where its corpse lays. It closes its eyes and with a tired stretch vanishes. 

Not looking to trigger any more magical traps or deal with that creature they saw in the shadows of the main floor, the group as one decides to cut their losses and backtrack to the warehouse to go home. It is time to rest up. With some bandaged wounds and big meals, the group meets up to discuss their next moves while selling their recent acquisitions in Bogoreka. Their funds grow and then shrink again as they upgrade their gear and purchase a few trinkets. Leon heads back to the noble’s apartment to mend the wall as promised. The group decides what to do after their legal stone-walling from the Drow and decide their next best move is to instead go get more experience and money at an SSM dungeon. 

Upon arriving at the underground school, they checked in at the dungeon access corridor to learn about any changes since they’d last been here. Noting their level of experience, the secretary on duty notes that there is a relatively new dungeon that no one has gone very far into yet. Walking down the hall they find it marked off by a sign requesting that teams hold off until a proper magical analysis can take place of the ice core blocking the way. They leave the sign but ignore it and head inside to find a chilly corridor shedding frost around a floating ice bauble about two feet across. Standing close to the fragile piece of delicate ice shards is painfully cold, but Rila takes an immediate interest. Her, Ariel, and Leon put their heads together to figure out that this is acting a magical source of cold for the surroundings with no apparent shut-off. That cold is sustaining a thick ice sheet blocking the way to a room beyond. When they try to move the core, it begins to fall and break. Some quick reflexes by Tormenoth allows him to catch it despite it falling out of Rila’s hands and past Ariel’s, but not before half of it shatters. Shrugging their shoulders, the group puts the salvaged half in a bag and continues on.  

Entering the facility proper, they see that it is in good shape despite the ice, with the tiled floor and mortared walls and ceilings being made of an unusual stone and cement combination that has no buckled under the sheets of ice coating the place. They can guess based on size how quickly some of them will thaw at the rate the place is melting, so they move further in. Walking past soon to thaw chunks of ice blocking offshoots and hallways, the group continues until they find the remains of an office with some goods still inside the desks there along with a note detailing an evacuation plan before a preemptive freezing of the facility. In a closet they find a fur-lined lab coat with a note about a device eaten by “David” to be kept in a cage until it is passed before wrapping around to find a locked door, quickly opened by Leon’s magical knock, only to find a thick wall of ice in the way containing multiple large creatures. Retreating back to some of the smaller ice blockages, they find an accessible office door that upon opening reveals a large yeti in a broken cage. The fight is swift but brutal as the group launches their attacks then closes the door to avoid the retaliatory thrown ice of the yeti. Once it is dead, they investigate to find the cage is labeled “David” and then they throw a quick game to decide who is going to have to carve into the Yeti to find the swallowed item. Rila volunteers, annoyed by the urbanites in her group and knowing they wouldn’t do a good job carving up game. In its gut, they find a small purple cone on a necklace. On the shelf in this room they also find a map of the facility as well as a bag of rare Frost-Rye seeds, a hardy oat-cousin that blooms in blizzards. 

 Having spent time fighting the yeti and exploring, more ice has thawed. They use this to access an observation deck looking down over a large room. In there, they find jars of a frigid gel and its second door provides a path around the still frozen hallway full of beasts. The other side has a door to the Test Chamber they saw before and a stuck door to a small room. Upon entering the large room, they see fragile icicles lining the ceiling that fall regularly in the thawing room. Unfortunately, there are other creatures waking from their frozen nap, a group of armed goblins appears from one of the double-doors in the room. They have deep black skin that is hidden behind a coat of white fur, leaving them comfortable in the cold as they shake off the rest of the ice on their bodies and charge. Their pack tactics leave Tormenoth holding the doorway to keep them from the rest of the group while the others lash out with ranged magic. Tormenoth struggles to hold them off, taking a great deal of damage from their well-timed and coordinated attacks, but the battle causes many icicles to fall and strike everyone in the room. As the battle begins to turn, the goblins take to skirmishing out of reach of the slower, armored fighter while avoiding the firing lines from the doorway of the ranged casters in the party. This entices the group to step into the room to finish off the goblins, but also exposes them to the falling icicles too. It wasn’t enough to change the tide of battle and the goblins are defeated. When Leon checks another set of unopened double doors he finds a massive, plated worm with glowing red heat emanating from between its armor plates. He closes the door quickly and quietly enough to avoid notice and motions for everyone to back away carefully. The beast continues to slumber and checking the last double doors reveals a passage blocked off by ice containing a larger warband of goblins. 

Remembering some of the other areas still blocked by ice and wanting to avoid further engagements, the group winds around to some southern offices, keeping away from the area marked on the maps as “Ice Goblin Registry”. They do find those offices thawed enough to enter, but a pair of large, ice-covered rams are pushing and fighting head-to-head. In their enraged states they only notice the adventurers enough to recognize them as an obstacle to push their opponent into, forcing the group to dodge and back away. However, Ariel chose a poor direction to flee and was backed into a dead-end office. Luckily, in searching for furniture to put in the way or hide behind, she uncovered a secret door. In this hidden conference room she finds a set of keys on the table and a frosted chest. The chest holds a crown and a sleeping ice goblin matron with instructions that the matron is loyal to whoever wears the crown. On the other side of the secret passage, the others brainstorm a plan to get the rams out of the way to rescue Ariel. Their final plan involves using chains and ropes found here to pull on the horns of the two rams not to pull them apart but to direct their fight down a different hallway. Some tricky maneuvering sees the group reunite with Ariel who now has a small, pretty (for a goblin) goblin matron following her. The group decides they want to hit the vault at the front and leave, being low on resources and feeling quite winded.

While waiting for the last bits of ice to thaw in front of the large vault door, Ariel and Leon check what they can of the Ice Goblin Registry without being spotted by the goblins they can hear moving around the corner. They find only a slab of crudely carved rock and a written note attached: “Ice. Stab You. Red Ice.”  and “Give language tutor a raise. Hire etiquette tutor.” In a small box among the slush around the vault door, the group finds a second purple cone necklace, this time identified by the box engraving as an experimental yeti translation device. The vault door is still ice-cold to the touch, but is thawed enough for the group to try and crack its mechanisms. Without the combination, they are left trying to reverse-engineer its mechanism.

Leon is the first to see a possible way to hack the vault door, and with their bypass implemented, the door slowly slides open. On two pedestals inside, the group finds a huge, sealed box and a smaller heat-proof box. The smaller box holds what appears to be egg-shaped coals that heat up when touched. Rila identifies these as lava worm eggs that generally need lots of heat and pressure to hatch, but they also heat up on their own under pressure to incredible temperatures. The second box is cracked open by Tormenoth who finds a sleeping elderly man of unknown origins. After being roused, he seems dazed but introduces himself as Huron Tezoa and asks to be directed to his chambers. Seeing as water has begun to accumulate on the floor, lowering the air temperature of the facility to dangerous levels, the group takes this opportunity to leave while they can. 

Now flush with funds, they again go shopping but they also want to finalize some details of the red daring so they set up an info exchange with the Huntresses. It will be done in person in the secluded location outside of Styx’ cave. They aren’t waiting long before the other team shows up, but things are tense as each side takes turns giving information they’ve discovered about the Red Daring. It ends after a few rounds of traded information when the huntresses take a piece of info from the Dissonant Whisperers and then quickly flee. Ophelia is the last one to drop out of sight down the path, shouting “It’s nothing personal… sorry.”

With the huntresses gone, the group goes inside to talk with Styx and finds that Klythmnora has regained some of her consciousness, including her ability to shapeshift, taking a gaunt elvish appearance. Styx is quizzing and tutoring Klythmnora about current events while she was stuck in her failed dracolich ritual. At the same time, she helps Klyth fill in missing words in her vocabulary, correct slurred speech, and remind her of missing knowledge. Styx berates the group when they come to her without a concrete plan of what they’ll do in the Red Daring, noting with a sigh that there is still time to gather information. They had better win, and that it isn’t cheating if they don’t get caught. 

With that stellar advice, they decide to do a little snooping and head back to SSM. They know that it is being hosted by this school and built somewhere to the north of the capital dwarven city, Eissenrise. A short trip following the roads brings them to a half dwarven, half halfling town whose townsfolk might know something. The town elder, a halfling named ___, has some sons working on the Red Daring dungeons, but wants some help before he’ll give up any information. The town has been losing more goats to what they are guessing is a local goblin tribe in the mountains to the west. They haven’t harmed anyone yet so there isn’t a big enough bounty for anyone to go do something yet.

Searching the west, the group finds a mountain plateau that is host to a group of goblins. They go in stealthy, using tricks to lure the goblins into a large fighting group that they blast ruthlessly with fireballs. Before long, they mop up the stragglers and find a few of the goats that had run away in the fighting. The goblins had been ritually sacrificing the goats to an old obelisk carved with faded infernal runes. 

Happy for the return of some goats and the resolution of the goblin problem, the halfling elder is more than happy to share what he knows. His sons and many local dwarven laborers have been trekking up north some miles to work on the dungeon each day, living close enough that they don’t need housing on site. When his sons and the workers return that night, they are eager to talk about the construction site. That is, once their father berates them to stop being rude and answer the guests’ questions instead of wolfing down supper. They are reluctant to go into too great of detail, given their oaths about keeping things secret, but Rila wins them over by promising to keep things “among the smallfolk”. The two young halfling men are quite eager to show off the amazing craftsmanship and projects they’ve been doing on site for the exotic halfling. 

The brothers lay out what they know, despite all the secrecy measures taken by the site. They list a few areas that could be sources of more information on site: SITE INFO. Instead of risking getting caught, the group decides to stay for one day and befriend the town while having the workers do a bit of information gathering in their stead during their next workday. The returns will be lower, but the risk is almost nothing. They end up learning that three dungeons are being built, the smith is working with electricity and poison, and there is a rune carver working on large stone runes. Taking what they can get, the group heads off the following morning after another extensive home-cooked meal, most of them sleeping in the barn instead of the halfling-sized house. 

Back in SSM, they quickly go their own ways to check up on how their goblins, snakes, and amnesiac general have been getting on. Ariel decides that she is not a great parent, and reaches out to an old abbess for a place that the ice-goblin matron could live. Tormenoth gets Huron Tezoa settled into a guest dorm room with access to the school’s amenities.



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