Our heroes travelled a few hours back to the Sacred Stone Monastery. When they arrived, they found the door to the basement had new locks on it. It proved nothing more than an inconvenience to Lavinia and soon they were standing before the large, dwarven door. The key they had still worked and they made their way down the grand staircase to the ancient stronghold below. When they found the main entrance, it had been boarded up. Nundro moved to inspect it when a crossbow bolt shot across the room, just barely missing him. Something was up. Nundro smashed through the board to find three ogres awaiting on the other side.
“Miraj has spoken with the prophet! The time is almost at hand!” spoke ogres, though this didn’t mean much to our heroes at that moment. Instead, they launched a devastating and hasty attack against the evil creatures. When the last one was standing, blood across his face, he said, “No! Miraj said it would be okay. The prophet speaks of our victory!” Nundro, for some reason, decided to let him go and the ogre ran. Samera tried to stop him, but Nundro was adamant and assisted the ogre in its retreat.
Nundro was pissed. He stamped down the hallway, straight for Miraj’s laboratory. He threw the door open, his companions hurrying behind him, and they waltzed inside. Miraj turned to greet them. “Where is our delegate?” asked Nundro. “Oh, he’s quite busy,” replied Miraj. “He won’t be joining us today.” Our heroes knew this was going south real fast.
“You see,” continued Miraj. “Our great prophet has announced that all we are trying to accomplish here is nearly complete. Everything you are trying to do will be for naught. So, my golem here will destroy you, we will forget all about you, and the Black Earth cult will reign supreme.”
The huge stone golem behind Miraj sprang to life. It and Miraj attacked, unleashing devastating blows on our heroes. The stone golem tried to protect its master, but it faced very intelligent opponents. After a few smart moves, they had Miraj on his heels. They weren’t ready for his invisibility spell, however, and the earth genasi suddenly disappeared from the battle. Alone, the stone golem didn’t last much longer and soon the flurry of attacks cracked it apart and it fell lifelessly to the floor.
Our heroes took some time to investigate Miraj’s laboratory. Tanwyn took a close look at the mixtures and substances brewing on the desks and though she couldn’t quite determine the purpose of most of it, she did see evidence that these were the tools of a rare type of magic; mud sorcery. There was little else to do in this room and they were no closer to finding Rhundorth. They knew they had to keep searching this ancient stronghold. They had seen the delegate, he couldn’t be too far…
A few more rooms brought a few more skirmishes. Black Earth cultists and warriors seemed to spring from every turn, but our heroes pushed forward. A long hallway brought them to a small room with a large statue of Ogremoch, the moving mountain. Feeling at wits end, Nundro thought he would try to draw out and anger the leaders of this place by defacing their god. He smashed apart the Ogremoch statue until it wasn’t much more than dust and rubble. It certainly drew attention. Men in hulking stone armour came barrelling in from the north, priests came rushing from the south and a desperate battle ensued. Even as our heroes fell those before them, more voices came from the north. A single soldier also appeared from the south and they decided to chase after him, hoping to gain some insight into this stronghold. It was too difficult to capture the lone soldier and they cornered him in the barracks, out of sight of the voices searching the halls. The guard was quickly intimidated by the powerful foes standing over him and he promised to tell them whatever he could.
He told them that he didn’t know exactly where the delegates were being kept. Someone he called, “the Prophet,” had ordered both delegates to be taken to a place called the Black Geode, somewhere down below he hadn’t been allowed to go. Our heroes put the guard on his feet and told him to take them to the stairs. The guard complied and they hurried down a few winding corridors, luckily not running into any more opposition. A few minutes later, they were standing before a doorway that the guard claimed led down.
However, our heroes were feeling worn and unsure. Nundro insisted they try to rest, though there was some trepidation amongst them. They locked themselves in a barracks nearby and hunkered down. Unfortunately, only an hour later, members of the Black Earth cult were banging at the door. Lavinia did her best to fend them off, but they were persistent. A moment later they kicked in the door and battle ensued. They felled the guard, but the priest took off running. They dashed after him and he led them through a few of the ancient dwarven passageways where they came to a set of heavy stone doors. The priest was caught and disposed of, but he had already alert whomever was inside.
Samera decided to play it cool. He knocked on the door, hoping to lull the enemies inside into thinking things were calm. But, he would be the one that was off-put. The door slowly slid open and one of the monks from the monastery above beckoned him inside.
“Come in!” came a grand voice. “Please, we’ve been expecting you!” Our heroes crept inside, not sure of what to expect. At first, it seemed that they had found a hall filled with elaborately detailed statues. But as they observed the desperate and contorted faces on the statues, they began to realize these were something else; they were actual men and women turned to stone by powerful magic. “Welcome, adventures!” said the very tall, cloaked figure at the end of the hall. “The Elder Elemental Eye told me of your coming! I am Marlos, welcome to my home.” The man pulled back his hood to reveal the twisting snakes upon his head. The man was a medusa.
He spoke with grandiose facade and displayed a mischievous smile. Nundro demanded the delegate. “Oh, our poor delegates,” replied Marlos. “They’ve been put to work and their contributions to our cause are just too valuable. You won’t be leaving with the delegates. You won’t be leaving at all. The Elder Elemental Eye showed me the way to Ironfang.” From within his cloak Marlos produced a large, gleaming war pick. “When I found Ironfang, I was shown my purpose. I was to gather the forces of the Black Earth cult and together with the power of the Elder Eye, we would summon the moving mountain himself, Ogremoch!”
Our heroes readied themselves. They knew what was coming. “We can’t have you interfering any longer,” said Marlos. He threw off his cloak. “Feel the wrath of Ironfang!” At that moment, from behind the many statues, the wings of a gargoyle stretched toward the ceiling. Magical runes ignited on its rock skin and it took flight. Battle raged between the petrified adventurers that had come before. Marlos’s magical sight drew our heroes attention, but they fought it and kept their eyes low. Only Samera and Nundro dared to stare down the medusa and did so, if only just.
Finally, after taking a fair beating, our heroes managed to take down the leader of the Black Earth cult. The room fell silent. Nundro took Ironfang for himself, a fine prize to be sure. A small building at the back of the hall was built into the cave wall. A single door led in and they opened it to find Marlos’s private quarters. After pilfering it of whatever they thought may be useful, they tried once again to hunker down for a much needed rest.
A hour or so went by before they heard the scrap of rock armour entering Marlos’s hall of stone. More denizens of the earth soon followed, filling the hallway. It was obvious they knew Marlos had fallen and an active search for our heroes was underway. They quickly snuck through the expanded arrow slit and crawled along a pathway of a giant chasm. It led them back into the heart of the dwarven fortress, where they realized the entire fortress had been mobilized against them. After some quick turns here and there, our heroes eventually found themselves in a room with a large ettin. It seemed more inclined to eat them than listen to anything they had to say, so Samera charged, axes held high. The battle was short, but taxing, and our heroes were left worse off than they’d begun.
The situation was becoming more dire by the moment. With little to no supplies and feeling drastically drained, our heroes came to the agreement that they should make a retreat for the time being. They quietly made their way back to the entrance of the stronghold. At the exit, however, were a pair of bulette’s and their master. Using some clever trickery, Fuss and Tanwyn lured the bulettes into an opposing hallway. As they raced across the hall, Tanwyn cemented their retreat with a darkness spell that covered their exit.
But, the Black Earth cult would have one more push against their attackers. As our heroes raced away from the Sacred Stone monastery, a trio of deadly gargoyles sprang up into the sky. They chased the speeding heroes, throwing rocks and diving with their claws open wide. They managed to knock Tanwyn and Nundro from their horses, but their trusted allies would not leave them behind. Though Tanwyn and Nundro would eventually come around on their own, it was up to Samera and Lavinia to put a stop to the assault. Samera tore apart one, standing toe to toe, before rushing toward Lavinia and throwing himself at the second. Once Tanwyn was awake, a single eldrich blast took down the final gargoyle.
Battered and broken, our heroes limped their way back to Red Larch.