The group hold still and listen. Taj corresponds with everyone. Marcus draws his sword, the oiled blade dead silent as it leaves the sheath. “How many?” asks Kaolin, receiving three raised fingers from Marcus by way of reply.
At their underdark guide’s behest they wait silently while sounds of a scuffle are succeeded by a meaty thunk and a harsh gurgling sound. There are sounds of movement for about the next twenty minutes until finally the faint footsteps can be heard receeding down the corridor.
After taking a few minutes for safety’s sake they round the corner to find one of the drow lying naked and mutilated in a large pool of blood. Strange and spidery glyphs have been carved across her nude form and her throat has been cut from ear to ear. Upon examination Kaolin is able to identify the markings as those of the Cult of Llolth, a spider demon from the Abyss.
Marcus says their path goes right at the next split while he is pretty sure the drow will go left to Erelhi-Cinlu, their capital many miles below and to the west. Taking a slow and measured pace they proceed until the tunnel splits. Taking the right hand corridor they follow the tunnel as it corkscrews tightly down deeper into the Oerth.
After descending about two miles they reach a large irregular cavern with thirteen tunnels leading off from it. Without any hesitation Marcus goes down the third one from the right. The tunnel continues downwards until it open out into a natural cavern whose walls are encrusted with multicolored crystals. Tavist examines them closely only to find them mere quartz.
Marcus steps over to a wall and picks up a small green crystal from the gravel strewn floor. Drawing the sign of a star in the air with it he then steps back. Seven crystals on the wall light up forming the holy symbol of Celestian. The stone wall melts away to reveal a plain but cozy round stone room with rations, basic weapons, a fire pit, and a spring arrayed around a modest altar to The Traveler.
While they bed down for the night Taj scribes more scrolls, two each of mage armor and shield this time.
In the morning Kaolin prepares her Heroes Feast for breakfast, getting everyone into their best form for the next leg of the journey. Before setting out Taj casts mage armor on Marcus, Kaolin, and Kattar.
Off through the damp tunnels of stone go our intrepid heroes as Marcus leads them through the eerie and beautiful landscapes of the underdark. One cave is filled with fungi larger than a human, another like the inside of a monstrous geode carpeted over its entire surface in crystalline formations.
After several near misses when traversing a tunnel colonized by cave morrays they reach a huge cavern. The tunnel comes out on the edge of a cliff, emptiness reaching out far beyond what mortal sense can register. “Alright, we camp here and wait for your other guide. Keep your eyes open for a dwarf.”
Leaning out into the rift Tavist hears the lapping of water in the distance below. Taj, meanwhile, makes more mage armor and shield scrolls. Sleeping in shifts they rest for the night.
Shortly after beginning the morning’s Heroes Feast a dwarf arrives. Clad in beat up looking leather armor with a shortspear over his shoulder the stocky figure does not look very menacing until they notice the illithid skull and the drow scalps hanging from his belt.
Introduced as Rurik Soulforge he confers with the group about their objectives. Taj is fascinated by the fact that he barely radiates any magic at all. Then she tries detect psionic and everything lights up! Studying is aura intently she realizes that he is an illithid slayer. The dorjes tucked into his belt reinforce that impression.
With several miles, most of it straight downwards, ahead of them the group decide that Kaolin should wind walk them under Soulforge’s direction. With the illithid slayer directing they proceed on an irregular course which takes them ever downward. After a few hours they reach what Soulforge says is the entrance to the prison. “Now I’ve never been inside before so be prepared for anything. Think about it, their prisoners are illithids. This place will not be easy.
A large cavern lies in front of them with a narrow land bridge to the other side. Beneath it the chasm is filled with glowing green gas which sits about five feet below the bridge itself. On the far side loom two twelve foot tall flesh golems constructed of illithid parts standing on either side of a portcullis. Taj and Rurik detect an illithid hiding in a nearby stalactite due to his psionic aura.
Continuing on their gaseous way the group rise up to the ceiling and confer. Then slowly and steadily they move along the ceiling and through the portcullis. Following the hall on the other side they find a storage room and barracks for about twenty mind flayers. Thanks to careful applications of conceal thoughts they do manage to remain undetected.
On the other side of the barracks they find the spiral the prison must be named for, a sixty foot diameter shaft falling deep into the earth. A spiraling path wraps around the perimeter wide enough for three abreast. The group proceed downward until Rurick detects an illithid presence, a urophion. Taj manifests conceal thoughts and intellect fortress (from dorje) before attempting to sneak by.
They are almost out of range when Kattar is detected, the urophion felling him with a mind blast. Taj uses telekinesis to move his slowly solidifying form away from the illithidae. Tavist and Rurick begin the half minute long process of returning to tangible form, Rurick’s figure pulling out its short spear as they do so.
While Tavist attacks with his laser pistol Taj batters the urophion with psionics. In response six tentacles lash out and drag Kattar, Tavist, and Rurick towards the baleful red eye of the beast. They are pulled across twenty feet of cavern floor before Taj manifests a cranial deluge blowing the illithid roper’s head apart.
Returning to the gaseous state they wind walk they rest of the way down the spiral. Exiting a set of stone double doors they enter an irregular natural cavern with iris style door (like on the nautiloid) on the far wall. Two illithid corpses lay in front of the door. One is armored and wears bladed tentacle extensions, the other is dressed in more typical illithid high collared robes. The warrior type seems to have met his end through prionics if the blood dripping from its eyes and earholes is any indication. The other died from a dagger wound, the hilt still protruding from its abdomen.
Tavist pulls out the dagger, it is of illithid make. Investigating the site more closely he decides there is too much illithid blood on the ground for the one stab wound. He and Taj beging searching the room for and sort of blood trail and find that there is one. It leads through the iris shaped dorway.
Stepping through they see an irregular junction of five natural corridors (including the one the iris entered). The blood trail leads to the one on the left, which angles upwards at a 45 degree angle. Moving their smoke like figures along the ceiling they cling to the darkness as best as possible.
At the top of the corridor the enter a large cavern containing an underground lake and a small beach. At the edge of the beach, peering down the corridor the way the party came, sits a mind flayer. Its robes are tattered and there are a raw and bloody marks visible on its wrists. Tavist floats down behind it and asks nonchalantly, “Are you trying to escape?”
While taken aback the illithid does not simply mind blast them. After a brief and close to the chest bit of negotiating he agrees to let them help him just as the sound of movements in the hall below reach their ears.
Urophion image by Wayne Reynolds from the WOTC Art Gallery