Hetty used the gem from the slaadi first but it did not open. She then took some of the gems from the bag of holding an fed the wyrmling until the magic portal opened up. They all looked at one another and stepped through the portal.
Embedded in the west wall of this otherwise empty chamber is an arch gate. The keystone of this arch is carved to look like a gold dragon wyrmling, its mouth agape. They were in a room. No, they were in a one room house made of stone. It was not as nice as the construction in the Lost Level. Reva knew that they were now about the level that they had just been on and were closer to the Yawning Portal.
Looking in the bag of holding they saw that Skella was not in there. Halaster’s magic had held and she must still be on the Lost Level. They also realized that the portal that they had just come through was one-way only. They looked around the room. Jaspar could tell it may have been a small house but it was definitely dwarven construction and it was ancient. Perhaps some of the earliest buildings created in what was now Undermountain.
Henrik checked the door. It was not a mimic and it was not trapped as far as he could tell. It was not locked. As they we about to leave the room, Gyudd said I think I know where we are. But he was interrupted by greetings from two bugbears who welcomed them to Azrok’s Hold. They then asked for their identification papers.
Gyudd steps forward and says here is my pass. These are my friends and I can vouch for them until they can get their paperwork filled out. The bugbears recognize Gyudd and say that Azrok will want to speak with him.
They then asked that the group come with them to Registration Center to fill out the paperwork. Then, they will need to visit Azrok, their leader to give tribute. They explain that tribute must be given to the hobgoblin warlord in return for his hospitality.
Gyudd said that he will take care of the tribute with some of the spirits he brought with him. You see, I sell Wyrmwizz to Azrok for him and his clan. But I know he likes the Amberjack I distill so I think I am going to him the mini-keg I brought along.
The bugbears said please, now follow us. The Registration Room is to the south. The bugbear that had done most of the speaking so far said I will point out some of the areas of interest here in Azrok’s Hold as we make our way to the Registration.
They took a left and about 20ft away they saw a goblin with white freckles on his broad snout. He looks exhausted trying to keep a 10-foot pole steady with trembling hands. From the top of the pole hung a banner: a bloody handprint inside a hollow red triangle on a sheet of yellow-dyed cloth that had the look of flesh. They thought it must be this Azrok’s symbol on the banner.
They then headed south. They passed two hobgoblins standing guard outside a building, one in front of each door. They nodded at the bugbears and let them pass. To the west they saw a patrol made up of three hobgoblins and one that looked like hobgoblin captain. The captain also nodded and let the group pass.
They passed several more rooms with closed doors but no guards. They saw one more hobgoblin patrol on their journey south.
They finally came to a closed door where their bugbear escorts stopped. This is the registration center said the talkative bugbear. They will get you all set up. They noticed that the bugbear spoke in really good Common as if Common may have been his first language and not Goblin. This was not an ordinary encounter with these creatures. Something different was going on here. They entered the Registration Center. A hobgoblin wearing cracked half-moon spectacles sat behind a stone lectern and greeted them. He then directed each new arrival to one of the available goblin clerks.
There was one clerk person in the group not counting Gyudd who already had a pass-card and Pixel who all the goblinoids assumed was one of the group member’s pet or at most a familiar. The group did nothing to change their minds.
The goblins behind the desks interviewed everyone, drew crude pictures of them, and filled out papers with their names, races, ages, heights, eye color, skills, and home cities. The same information was passed to the manager who then entered everything into a large ledger.
Riva explored the top area of the room when she was finished. There was a little nook that had a door that looked like it had not been opened in years.
Once everyone was registered and have identification papers, the hobgoblin behind the lectern rings a bell, and the two bugbears that had escorted them before appeared and asked them to follow them to see Azrok.
Two hobgoblins stand guard outside this building. Once they saw everyone pass-cards they allowed everyone into the hall. This structure once housed a dwarven smithy, and the decor suggests as much.
In the northeast part of the room,an older hobgoblin sat on a throne of bleached skulls, with one foot resting on an iron anvil and one hand on the pommel of his greatsword. He wore a helm that covered most of his face and darkened his eyes. Whispering in his ear is a formidable female hobgoblin captain.
Attending the older hobgoblins were two bugbears, four hobgoblins, and six goblins.
Standing guard in the southwest part of the room were two worgs. They looked like they were in play mode instead of on guard duty.
The older hobgoblin must be Azrok.
Azrok welcomed them to his Hold. He introduced Lurkana his wife to them. She was the formidable hobgoblin that had been whispering in his ear. Pixel picked up on it right away and Riva not too longer after. Azrok was blind. He was hiding the fact with the helmet and by never looking directly at anyone. They could also tell that Lurkana knew. Examining Azrok a little closer Pixel noticed a ghastly pendant on a cord around his neck- a severed human finger that wears a platinum signet ring. Pixel saw that the symbol on the ring was a diving white falcon on a field of blue. She thought the symbol looked familiar but she could not place it. She knew that a platinum ring was not cheap so this signet ring was probably from a wealthy family, perhaps from Waterdeep (Next session have Jaspar roll history on it at Advantage).
Azrok spoke to Gyudd and said we are low on ale. We have several empty casks that if you are able to, could be taken back to Skullport to be used for our next delivery. Gyudd stepped forward and said gladly. But first, here is a cask of my Amberjack. Please accept this gift.
Vedra also stepped forward and offered a forge hammer and said add this to you forge tools and weapons.
Azrok thanked them both for their gifts and tributes.
Looking around the room Hetty could tell there was anxiousness in the room. She could not tell what it was but felt certain that it was not the group.
Azrok began to speak again. “You are welcome to stay in Azrok’s Hold for as long as you need. We recognize adventurers have often made long journeys to arrive at our doorstep. But I must warn you. We are only relatively safe. We are on the brink of an all out war with a group of Drow that have already taken over some of our territory. I am fearful that they will soon have the numbers to overtake this Hold and move onto Skullport.
Lurkana continued “We have heard rumors that the Drow have already infiltrated Skillport and their ultimate prize is Waterdeep. We do not think this small House of Drow are able to take Waterdeep by themselves but if the way were to open up the Drow could empty the Underdark and cause destruction starting in Skullport and then on to Waterdeep.”
Riva and Henrik could tell that Lurkana and Azrok believed that the Hold was one of the last defenses to Skullport.
Azrok said that Lurkana would show them to one of two guests rooms that they could stay in. They thanked Azrok again for his hospitality and then headed to the guest room with Lurkana. She explained along they way that the rooms were sparse but serviceable for adventurers as themselves. There was one room in the north of the area and one to the south. They chose the one to the north. Lurkana showed them the room and then paused for a moment before speaking.
It is obvious that you know of my husband’s blindness. The magic dagger that gave him the ability was stolen from him. The anxiousness that Hetty had seen back in the throne room suddenly made sense. What kind of magic dagger did he have? It was a Dagger of Blindsight. His mother gave it to him. Being blind from birth, his father almost abandoned him but his mother was sure of his greatness that would come as he grew older. She acquired the dagger and he was able to achieve great things including bringing us to Stromkuhldur or Azrok’s Hold as it is now known.
But I am jumping ahead of myself. I am hoping you all would be interested in finding his dagger and returning it to us. I know who took it. A small group of duergar who lied about being merchants. They were able to get close enough Azrok and then used their invisibility ability to make their escape. I also know that they were members of the Ironeye Clan.
Riva remembered that Skella had introduced herself as Skella Ironeye. Skella also had a dagger that she used in combat. She felt confident she knew who had the dagger. She gave a signal to Henrik. Henrik said to Lurkana. We just had a run in with duergar on another level of Undermountain. Since all visitors must have their sketches drawn, could be look at the sketches of the duergar and see if we recognize any of them? Lurkana said I can make that happen. Though their drawing abilities as you know are a little above stick figure you may see something. I will get them and return shortly. Riva told the others about Skella’s last name and that she had a dagger she used in combat. They wondered what the bigger need was: hindering the Drow or getting the dagger back to Azrok. Lurkana returned with the drawing. All of the merchants were male but they did recognize the Ironeye symbol that they had seen on the duergar on the Lost Level.
Lurkana said that if the dagger was returned to Azrok, he would be more capable of defending the Hold and possibly take the fight to the Drow in hopes of regaining their lost territory. It was settled. They would look for the dagger. Henrik already had a plan.
Lurkana was relieved. She said I think the duergar may be Skullport. That may be the best place to start your search. Also, you may want to speak with the Ambassor from Skullport, Ulquess. I can show you where his quarters are. He may know something.
We are prepared to pay you 1,000 gold pieces for the safe return of Azrok’s dagger. Again, I and he thank you.
And one more thing. Take this. You will need it more than us. She held out her hand and there was small obsidian key.
What does it do?
It will reopen an archgate for 1 minute allowing you to return to where you just came from. Touch it to the keystone and the portal will open. And yes, it has multiple uses. It has always worked for me.
They thanked her and she left to let them rest.
They decided someone should visit with Ulquess the ambassador while the others took a long rest to regain spells and health. Riva and Kataract went to see the Ambassador.
They arrived and knocked on his door. They heard an odd voice say “Come in.” They were not sure if they had heard it out loud or in their minds…They were hesitant but they entered the room.
The room’s centerpiece consists of two elegant chairs made of petrified wood arranged atop a circular rug. On a slender table between the chairs is a makeshift, three tiered Dragonchess set assembled from myriad pieces of other sets. Ulquess was moving across the room to meet them
Ulquess was a mind flayer.
For one of only a few times, Kataract was at a loss for words.
Ulquess asked them to come in and have a seat at the table so they could talk. Kataract sat down and Riva stood just behind his chair.
They asked about Skullport and its relationship to Azrok’s Hold. They found out the Ulquess was not a visitor but lived here. He said that Azrok and the leaders of Skullport felt the need for open communication and working relationship. They relationship had been in place for around 15 years. But it was more important with the more open threat of the Drow in the area.
They asked about the threat of the Drow. He replied he did not think they would ever directly invade Skullport or Waterdeep though Skullport was more likely in danger of attacks.
When asked about the duergar and the stolen dagger, Ulquess did not think that they were in Skullport. He then began to tell them a story about Undermountain…
The Shadowdusks were a Waterdavian noble family whose quest for political supremacy ended centuries ago after Shadowdusk wizards opened portals to the Far Realm. Twisted by madness and driven from their home, they sought assistance from Halaster and sank into the depths of Undermountain, never to be seen again-yet vestiges of the noble house undoubtedly remain above and below Waterdeep.
Riva and Kataract were not sure why they conversation turned to this but they took at it as more information about Waterdeep and they would pass it on to the others for possible investigation in the future.
Returning to the topic of Skullport, Ulquess said that the number one export and import for Skullport was adventurers. If anything happened either the influx of adventurers or to the city of Skullport, Undermountain would not be the same. And neither would Waterdeep.
They thanked the ambassador for his time and then headed back to the guest quarters to tell the others what they had learned. And how they had had a conversation with a freaking mind flayer that did not end up having their brains sucked out.
They finished their long rest and then headed back to the room where the archgate that brought them here was in.
Hetty touched the keystone with the obsidian key with a boost from Henrik. The gold wyrmling’s mouth closed as if it had a gem in its mouth. The portal opened within the arch and they all went through with Henrik and Hetty going first. Henrik and Hetty arrived on the other side and felt that they had received a boon. They each received added fire damage to their weapon attacks.
They would need this extra damage. Just the rest of the group came through the portal two gray slaadi appeared on either side of the door leading out of the room. They each had a greatsword ready to attack. The group jumped into action and soon both slaadi were defeated. Henrik took the two greatswords while Hetty removed the gems from each of the slaad’s foreheads.
They made their way through the level back the way they had come. But instead of entering at the main entrance they came through the side entrance to catch Skella and the duergar off guard. They entered and saw there were only 5 duergar including Skella left. There was also one cloaker and one xorn guarding over their duergar allies. The rest were splayed out across the temple floor with their necks ripped out or their chests caved in. Skella was relieved to see them at first. Then Henrik asked her to hand over the dagger. She said I do not know what you are talking about. The dagger he repeated. We think if it is returned to its owner the curse will be broken and you all and your people can leave the level. She replied that she needed to get into the vault to consult the heart of the mountain first. But Henrik was persistent and she agreed to hand over the dagger. Henrik took it and immediately he could see out to 30ft around him with no light. He assumed he could see invisible creatures but he did not see any. They gathered up what was left of their gear and Skella and her duergar clan said we came in the north entrance that was made by umber hulks. They started to head that way when one of the remaining duergar’s throats exploded. The invisible creatures were attacking again. One attacked Vedra and another attacked Riva. Kataract cast Faerie Fire and was able to get one of the creatures in its range. Riva recognized the outline. They were being attacked by invisible stalkers. They were able to take the one in the Faerie Fire down quick even with Vedra and Riva caught in it. Pixel summoned panthers to attack what they could. The second invisible stalker dropped at the same time a gray salad attacked Gyudd with its greatsword and spells. They rushed over to assist Gyudd who was not a bad fighter. They surrounded the gray slaad and soon it too had fallen.
There were only 4 duergar left out of over 30 when they had first arrived on the Lost Level. They were ready to leave and never return. The group began to escort them with Riva in the lead to the north passage leading to Wyllowwood.