They decided to take a long rest in the Chambers of Keeper Number Five. Although it had only been a few hours since they slept, they were all exhausted by the last fight.
Because Gaston was still looking furtively about, trying to locate the Helms, they decided to not let him take one of the watches.
During their rest, Clayton heard and felt some distant rumblings to the north east. One of the rock-chewing worms that made most of the tunnels around here was moving past about 100 yards away, grinding through a new tunnel.
Davidian thought he’d heard something about the creatures and that they spent a lot of their centuries-long lifespan dormant, only rousing briefly for mating. All the tunnels they had seen were very old so an active rock-worm was very unusual.
While Abraham was on watch, he heard a low wail, far off.
In the “morning” (although they had lost track of the time in the days they had been underground), they went to see the new tunnel. It passed through one of the older side passages, stretching a long way left and right, further than they could see either with darkvision or with the 40ft of light cast by the Inquisitor’s spell.
Davidian [the star of this week’s CSI Underdark!] found large splotches of blood on the side of the new tunnel and worked out that the creature was badly injured, probably a mortal wound and would not have gotten very far. They set off after it along the newly-created gravel-lined tunnel.
They found it about 300 yards further on, its bulky carcass blocking the passage. Davidian approached carefully to within 20 feet or so and could feel a soft breeze that ebbed and flowed. He realised with a start that this was the creature breathing – it was still alive! He started to sneak back when one of his companions asked, “Is it dead?” and the creature woke.
The multi-segmented body was lined with horny spines, the nearest segment was encrusted with small gemstones and six enormous diamonds. The segments all began to rotate scattering gravel and dragging the creature towards them.
The others ran, a few shot first, then ran, but Davidian was too slow, the enormous beast would be on him in moments…
Gaston grabbed him and carried/dragged him a little further away, just out of reach of the beast’s first rush. Getting to his own feet, Davidian, realising the creature was already badly wounded, sent magic missiles into the huge creature, causing it to roar in pain and somehow making it glow. In the pale light the gems glittered strangely, illuminating swirling patterns marking each of the segments. Their pattern confused the eye.
Mulan tried a Firebolt spell and the sparkling spinning gems reflected back at her.
Abraham tried his sacred flame attack and it almost got reflected, but the beast couldn’t move quick enough.
Clayton and Jock fired arrow after arrow into it as they continued to back away.
There was no way out of the tunnel unless they could reach the place where they came in.
Once again Davidian was too close and the monster’s next lurch forward would crush him…
Gaston stepped forward into the maelstrom of flying gravel, stabbing the monster again and again with his greatsword. Somehow he managed to frighten the beast, causing it to pause for a moment and recoil. [GM: Menacing Attack feature – a battlemaster manoeuvre]
The warrior became blinded by the swirling patterns and flashes, but held his ground long enough for Jock’s final arrow to finish it. It exploded, sending stinking slime to cover Gaston and Davidian.
The monster’s corpse was a treasure trove – six fist-sized diamonds at each end and dozens of other gems encrusting its body, trapped between the segments. The diamonds were “grown” in place somehow, not just picked up on its travels!
[GM: each of the 12 diamonds should be worth about 2,000gp and there were 100 assorted gems worth about 50gp each].
Davidian hacked away one of the beast’s smaller teeth so he could later grind a diamond into dust to make a component for one of his spells.
Wiping off the slime, they made their way back to the Great Stair. It’s still another 8 hours or so to Cobweb Keep, then another 10 hours below that to reach the actual Citadel of Shar Gazoth.
Two hours further, Davidian hears the sound of spells (eldritch blasts) from further ahead.
They cast enough Darkvision spells so that everyone can see in the dark and then scamper into hiding as best they can – Mulan sneaks ahead to see what she can see.
A grey-skinned gnome, naked and carrying only a couple of small pitchforks with bent-over hooks, comes running up the stairs and is about to dodge into a side passage. The naked gnome seems very similar to the faerie gnomes from Tanglewood – except that they were mostly brown and green with skin mottled like bark and hair like grass. The new gnome was grey as granite and hairless.
Mulan uses a minor illusion spell to whisper into the creature’s ear, “This way, up the stair, we are friends”
The gnome ducks back to the main stair and then its pursuers come into view. Two dark elves, no! As they climb into sight they have the bodies of dark elf women in chain shirts, black skin and long white hair, but the bodies of monstrous spider, big as horses.
The first of the two casts two more eldritch blasts, one hits the gnome who is staggered but keeps moving. It then closes, apparently trying to take the creature alive. Then the ambush is sprung. Spells and arrows hit the leading Drider and then Abraham casts Confusion on them both and they stand still for a while as our heroes hit the leader again and again.
The little gnome runs up to Davidian, who greets him in Fae.
“You are Forest-Friends? What news of the Tanglewood ? Does it still stand?”
In the heat of combat, it’s hard to communicate the details, but it seems that the gnome (Stilgar) is one of the Gnomes originally from Tanglewood, but from an isolated part of the forest that got cut off centuries before when the orcs cut down lots of trees on the lower slopes of the mountain range. The gnomes there were forced to hide in the caves and tunnels, eventually taking on a form more suited to survival in the underdark.
Stilgar had sensed some great tragedy (probably the death of Gnarlheart the Ent) and that magic from the Tanglewood was now inside the mountain. So he had come up from his deep caverns to investigate, been captured by the Drow then escaped and been pursued – they want him alive as they want the secret of the Maker!
“If you can kill these two, the rest (a dozen drow) are at least ten minutes behind so I’ll have time to summon a Maker and get away.”
Then Stilgar begins an eerie dance, clashing together his hooked sticks and calling a sing-song hooting noise.
Meanwhile they kill the first Drider but the second breaks free from the confusion spell and engulfs himself and Gaston in Darkness. Then it attacks Gaston with a poisoned longsword – it can clearly see inside its own darkness!
[GM: I made these Driders a bit non-standard, making them Warlocks with Eldritch Blasts and Agonising Blast and Devil Sight, plus a few other Warlock spells instead of the Cleric spells suggested in the monster manual]
Davidian used Dispel Magic to drop the darkness and when they eventually kill the second Drider, Davidian interrupts Stilgar’s ritual.
Stilgar notices Mulan (probably notices the magical faerie circlet she wears) and bows low saygin “Greeting my lady, I did not expect to see the betrothed of the Gnome King in these tunnels”
There is some debate about “betrothed” and Stilgar seems to realise he has said something he shouldn’t.
“Please let me call the Maker before the rest of the Drow arrive. I can carry you all to safety”.
After further questioning it emerges that the Maker is a different type of giant worm. This one can burrow through rock by a magical process that leaves no tunnel, the rock around it just vanishes as it passes and reforms when it has gone. The magical field extends about 4 feet from its body so it can carry passengers.
Davidian asks if it can take them to the Citadel of Shar Gazoth and Stilgar assures them that it can. He will be only too glad to assist the future Queen.
They let him complete his summoning ritual and within a few minutes the walls of the chamber begin to vibrate and then a giant worm emerges from the floor and flops out onto the stair.
Stilgar runs up the body, digging-in his Maker Hooks to either side. The others clamber up, attaching grapnels and rope and bent pitons. Then, guided by slight movements of the hooks, the creature exudes its magical field and passes into the stone.
It can’t “passwall” through living material so has to either go around major clusters of roots, or crash through. Where there are insects in the soil, the riders are pelted by the creatures. Everyone manages to hold on as Stilgar has told them that the tunnels reappear within about 18 seconds, reverting to solid rock. If they fell off, they would be lost forever.
Hearing this, Clayton decides to toss the Keeper’s Helm into the bedrock. [GM: Brilliant Idea!]
Mulan, who is carrying the other Keeper Helm, decides to do the same. Gaston grabs for it, unable to restrain himself, but it hits the edge of the magical field and is snatched away, lost forever in the solid stone.