I am Gardain Glimmerstone, a faithful servant of Dumathoin, Dwarven God of mining, underground exploration, and caretaker of the dead. I was sent on the Nexus Expedition to act as a healer. Our mission was simple. We were to enter a planar gateway, and to secure resources in a newly discovered domain. We had done this sort of mission several times before. We made landing in Nexus with an Expeditionary Force of 4000 souls. We attempted to the secure the city and within a day’s time the majority of our Company was wiped out. Now, those of us who remain struggle to survive in this odd, unfamiliar landscape. We continued to follow orders, exploring the domain and securing resources. After a year’s time, the planar gateway was scheduled to reopen and return us home.
By our count … we have three days.
Nexus Expedition, Unknown Date. Preparation for Extraction.
Ψ I have prayed for guidance from my god, Dumathoin, the Keeper of Deep Secrets, and he has told us that we have two days to prepare for extraction before the gate opens to return us home. However, by my calculations, and the calculations of my advisors, we have three days. Again, the lack of night and the strange passing of time makes it difficult to manage time properly. We all agreed that we would prepare for the Gate to reopen in two days which seemed to be the most logical course at this point.
We placed members of our Company in each key location, leaving them with enough manpower to gather supplies and prepare for extraction when the Gate opened. The Druid remained in charge of the Water Node and Ant Farm, the Barbarian remained at the Mines, the Human Ranger was put in charge of the Hive, the Assassin remained at Highmark with our wounded and the Mindflayer ship, and the Paladin took charge of the Fire Node.
We agreed that finding a place equidistant to each of the key locations. Our Elven Ranger took on his task with his natural talent of understanding landscape and navigation. He chose a spot within a large cluster of stones featuring a large flat area to place the amulet and inscribe the proper sigils for the Gate.
As preparations were being made by my comrades, I continued to seek guidance in prayer, using a small choice of spells to ease my mind. Preparations were progressing well, and I spoke with our wizards to find out more about the amulet that was the focus for the Gate’s return. While inspecting the amulet, I realized that it did not seem right. I conferred with my companion, the Elven Mage, to confirm my doubts.
This was not the amulet. It was an ensorcered copy. Apparently Krell had given me a decoy and kept the other for himself. In discussing this with the others we all agreed that Krell had been affected time and again by forces we did not understand on this Plane. He had suffered some kind of psychic attack when he was crystalized at the beginning of the expedition, and then he had brokered a deal with a powerful Dragonic spectre to get us an advantage in the mine.
We all decided to return to the Mines to confront Krell and recover, at all costs, the amulet. The amulet was the key to our departure from this accursed Plane.
Arriving at the Mines, we were confronted by Gnoll guards. Two of them strung their bows, preparing the fire on us while two others fled probably to warn the main village. Our clever Elven Mage cast a spell that held the four Gnolls fast within webbing. We killed three of the mangy creatures, and I invoked the power of Dumathoin to dominate the remaining Gnoll. I ordered it to take us to Krell, and it obeyed.
We found that the Gnolls had disabled Dray’s work on the door that sealed them in and were now occupying the Dwarven village. The forges were hard at work, Gnolls manning them. The entire operation was being overseen by a large Mountain Troll named Grock.
We confronted Grock. We introduced ourselves, somewhat aggressively, as the Masters of the Mine. The Elven Ranger berated him for a time, intimidating the Troll and revealing that Krell had only recently put the monster in charge of the Forges. We explained that the Gnoll guards were ineffective and so we had killed them. Grock responded by killing the Gnoll that had led us this far, and then agreed to take us into the “Outer Dark” to find Krell.
Grock took us into the deeper caverns where we had met the undead host. He explained that he would go no further and departed. My comrades searched the area for clues and treasure, while I pulled out the small silver wand and attempted to make mental contact with Krell. I was successful, and saw a grassy field with Krell and a woman in an embrace. The woman looked at me, and said forcefully “He doesn’t want to talk to you now!” An suddenly the contact between myself and the Barbarian was severed.
I awoke on my knees with my comrades surrounding me. I explained what I had tried to do and the outcome. This served to further settle in our minds that the Barbarian was a traitor, willing or not, and would have to be dealt with appropriately. His deals with Evil had overcome him. He would need to be purged of its influence.
Moving on, we travelled through the caverns we finally returned to the place where we encountered the Ropers. We continued to explore these deeper tunnels, being wary of danger but keeping in mind that time was an issue.
At one point, we arrived in a forest of giant mushrooms. I immediately recognized it as a colony farm of Myconids, or fungus men. They are a race of intelligent fungi that live in remote reaches underground, far away from others. They are cautious creatures that deplore violence, with the exception of those who join adventuring parties and stray from home.
I informed my comrades that we would not be harmed by the Myconids if we did not disturb their territory and continued of directly. Everyone agreed to keep moving. We could see the small white creatures moving throughout the area watching us, but they made no attempt to hinder us. However, we did notice that a few began to follow us, probably watching for any violation to their farm or colony, but they remained afar off.
I started to keep an eye on the giant mushrooms around us, expecting to see at least one Shrieker. I had no idea if this Plane had Drow, but if these things were the slaves of creatures akin to Drow, or even Lizardfolk, many times they will plant Shriekers within the Mushroom forests.
A shrieker is a stationary fungus that emits a loud noise to attract prey or when disturbed. Shriekers live in dark, subterranean places, often in the company of violet fungi, whose poison they are immune, working together to attract and kill prey. However, I saw none as we moved through the fungi forest. However, I did notice a strange mushroom the size of an oak tree decorated with exotic colors and jewels.
Again, I warned my companions to keep moving as we needed to recover the amulet as soon as possible. I looked closer at the odd mushroom and only by the grace of the Three Gods I was able to discern the danger of it. It was, of course, a Dryad and its anchor.
Dryads are linked and bound to a single, special plant that serves as a source of its power. Shy, intelligent, and resolute, dryads are as elusive as they are alluring—they avoid physical combat and are rarely seen unless they wish to be and usually not for reasons beyond devouring a wayward adventurer or charming them to do their bidding.
I felt the creature’s influence as I meet its gaze. Even at this distance, I felt the power that the Fey employed. I resisted by sheer force of stubborn Dwarven will, and moved along behind my Elven friends, giving the Fey a scowl as I left.
Clearly the Mushroom Men and the Dryad had a partnership. I would have to remember to issue orders that this place not be touched when the Recovery Team came to plunder resources.
After what seemed like several hours of exploration, we came to a gigantic cavern. It reminded me of the tales of Drow cities in the Underdark. It was a huge domed cavern with a lake, and a mass of rocks at its middle. I could see a tower one those rocks, and I peered with my eyeglass to get a better look.
Amazingly, we were joined by our companion the Human Knight. He had used his well trained steed to catch up to us and explained that he was there to show his support against Krell and his traitorous actions. We welcomed him back into the Company and continued on after a very short rest.
Meanwhile, I whispered a prayer to Dumathoin, calling forth divine magic that would act as a Death Ward. I had used the spell many times on Krell in the past, but now it would serve to protect me from him. Surely, this dark tower was where the Barbarian now called his home.
I could see there was a large tower with flickering lights within and a dock below. I could see men and skeletons moving back and forth on the dock, gathering together supplies. I reported this to my companions, but then a frightening roar filled the cavern as a small pack of albino cave apes rushed from somewhere at the back of the cavern.
My companions immediately engaged them, although the Elven Mage pointed out that there were things moving in the water coming from the center of the lake where the tower stood. One of the Elves, I’m not sure which one thinking back now, informed me that magic had been cast that would not only allow us to breathe under the water, but also walk on it as if it were solid stone. Amazed, I stepped out and found that I did not sink.
While my companions battled with the apes, I focused my attention of whatever it was that was coming at us on the flank from the water. Perhaps it was a coincidence, but I assumed that this was a coordinated attack. As I continued to peer at the murky water, I was finally able to make our that it was Lizardfolk riding giant reptile steeds. There were two steeds, and four Lizardfolk.
I have no love for Lizardfolk.
I heard a gust of flames, and a bright light coming from the corner of my eye. I glanced towards my nearby comrades to see that they were making short work of the apes. To my surprise, I saw that the monsters were now encircled in a magic Wall of Flames. Shaking my head with a small smile, I realized that the advantage of stealth would no longer be on our side. I shouted to my companions that we were being flanked from the water.
I called on Dumathoin again, blasting a burning flame of radiant sunlight from my fingertip at the first giant steed. It burned the creature’s flesh and caused to to cry out. I hefted my mace and rushed forward, only half hearing the Ranger shouting out that I should not hurt the animals. Rolling my eyes a bit, I raised my Illithid-steel mace and smashed it into the shoulder of one of the oncoming Lizardfolk.
It didn’t take long to defeat the Lizardfolk once my comrades joined in. The Elven Ranger used an enthralling power to befriend the two giant lizard steeds. We contined to the tower as quickly as we could, only to find that they were mustering a defense with a shaman and his pet Behir.
We were able to hide under the water from the larger force that left the tower courtyard looking for us. Our Elven Mage used a combination of Invisibility and Flight to scout on the area for us. When they were far enough away, we entered the courtyard using Dimension Door spells.
While our Ranger and Knight used through ranged weapons to drop foe after foe with expertly placed shots, the Mage and I rained down death on the Gnolls and the Behir with the best destructive spells we had in our repertoire. Fireballs and Ice Storms rained down on the enemy. The Gnolls fell quickly, but the Behir was more complicated an enemy.
The behir is a serpentine monster that are about 40 feet long and weighs about 4,000 pounds. It can fold its limbs close to its long, narrow body and slither in snake fashion if it desires but more often it appears to be a huge dragon-like centipede. The coloration of behirs ranges from ultramarine to deep blue with bands of gray-brown. The two large horns curving back over the head look dangerous but are actually used for preening the creature’s scales, not for fighting. It usually attempts to consume its enemies by swallowing them whole. But worst of all, it can breathe bolts of lighting much like a blue dragon.
The monster’s lightning wounded each of us, and before I knew it the Knight was bitten and held within its crunching maw, and the Ranger was ensnared in it’s constricting tail. With the Gnolls defeated, it did not take long for the Behir to fall to our joint efforts. I was pleased to see that although all of us took some damage from the battle, none of us were seriously injured.
We could see a bright blue light glimmering at the top of the dark tower, and heard chanting coming from above. As I called on my god’s might to open another Dimension Door that would transport us to the top of the tower, the Mage flew upwards to the top to see what was happening.
The top of the tower was flat allowing for the ritual that was taking place. Using the wands that allow us to communicate telepathically, the Mage explained that there was an altar with several cultists surrounding it. A leader was in the process of lifting up a hammer to shatter the amulet which was laying on the altar. Off to the side was a throne where Krell sat, transfixed. He was cut in several places allowing his blood to flow freely along grooves that filled the sigils and runes around the altar.
I knew right away it was a blood ritual, and I was fearful that we were too late. And then the top of the tower flared with magical flame and an explosion rocked the entire rocky outcropping holding the tower in place. We all looked up to see that the Mage had dropped a Fireball on the top of the tower. We all laughed, and stepped through the Dimension Door.
We appeared on the tower to find that the cultist were still recovering from the blast of the Fireball. The Ranger dived forward and recovered the amulet, tossing it to me. I put the amulet on, and began chanting a prayer to Dumathoin to destroy these heathen clerics. I called on one of my most potent offensive spells, creating a Blade Barrier.
I pointed my finger at the altar, calling forth an immobile, vertical curtain of whirling blades shaped of pure force to spring into existence. The blades bit and slashed into each of the cultists, soon leaving them in pieces on their own altar. Once they were all dead, I dismissed the barrier.
We all took stock of the situation, and I handed the amulet over to the Mage for verification that it was the true amulet that we sought. Using his magic, he was able to confirm it easily. We all looked over at the same time to see Krell stand up from the throne, groggy but conscious.
The Barbarian stood there near the throne and seemed confused. I walked forward, and extended my hand to him. He took it, shaking lightly. He was severely injured, cut in several places for the blood ritual. It was obvious that he had suffered during the dark ritual.
“What happened,” he said weakly. “Where am I?”
I sighed, and reached up to pat him lightly on the shoulder. “You have no memory of what happened?”
He told me no. He didn’t remember anything that happened. I looked to my companions. It was likely that the Barbarian was telling the truth. He had been the instrument of some greater Evil. A witless pawn.
I turned back to him. I sighed again. “I wish I could believe you,” I said. And then in a sudden move, I shoved him with all my might. Surprised, and weakened, the Barbarian could not stop himself from being shoved off the edge of the tower.
I watched as he fell, and saw the splash as he hit the murky water of the lake below. “I don’t want to talk to you anymore,” I said as I walked to join my comrades.
We returned to the surface and returned to the spot that had been chosen for the Gate. All things ended well, you see, as the gate did finally open for us. Our people strode through the glimmering Gateway and we gave them our reports. I also gave them my other logbook containing information for each site, the resources there, and instructions for gathering goods.
Finally, the mission was over. As I walked through the Gateway to return home, I knew in the pit of my being that I was a different person. I had not been affected by the blue crystal or sold my soul to a powerful Evil being, however the mission had still warped me through and through. I had been affected by this mysterious world. And I hoped never to return to the godforsaken place.