Corvus Septum found themselves flying back from Aqium aboard The Sentinel, a Command Ship of the Legion of Aqium. They had a chance to speak with the operator of the ship, Zimble Sparkweaver, and he mentioned how Aqium had taken over Geargrind Island and confiscated all (dozen or so) gnomish airships. Aqium has since forced a handful of gnomes to pilot these vessels. This command ship is equipped with a spyglass and two ballistas.
The Messenger Bottle still worked despite being 1000s of feet in the air and the group got a dire message from Chancellor Gavin:
A call to all Agents of Decius
The Legion of Aqium is marching on the capital of Centum Treyopolis. Return immediately. If we lose the city the rebellion will fail and Astriminar will rule the world with an iron fist.
A new course was set for Centrum Treyopolis. Shortly after that the group got messages back from two of their agents.
Stath Cloudhelm was working on the task of rescuing Hendrick Zin in Zatha as he had been outed as a spy. Stath reported no new news in this and was reassigned to a new task of looking for the missing Legion Army that was making its way toward Treyopolis.
Lar Morningsun reported that he and his team were captured by Legion forces near the Temple of Earthstone, who confiscated his notes on both ancient temples as well as his thoughts on a third temple. Lar, the only one of his team, managed to escape and during his captivity was able to learn that Astriminar’s new tactic was to work the existing creatures/people/factions/ organizations in Decius against the Decius defenders.
Last, Lar learned that Astriminar was expecting great things from someone named Marlos.
There was no report back from Bliss at this time.
Corvus Septum flew to the capital city, landed in the Gren Mastius Shipyards in the docks, and made their way through the half-deserted city.
Gavin told them that the Legion of Aqium Army, which included a fleet of ships as well as two squadrons of dragons, had gone missing. There were seen in the southern islands, then passed by the Ashilwynn Elves, and then was last seen near Ad Rehnum. But now, nothing.
In preparation for the attack, Gavin moved most of the citizens to the old city underneath the ground level of the current city. He asked the group to check on the guard towers of this Barrius Ward, ask around and see how the citizens are doing, and to swing by the jail as well. Just before they left, the group felt the first of many tremors, which are common in this area.
The group made its first stop at the jail and ran into the ever vigilant head jailer, Olunt Durthane who had they fill out a lot of paperwork. As they entered they saw a familiar female tiefling bard in the cell. While Rigel 108 ran distraction, Evaine was able to speak telepathically with their agent.
Bliss informed Corvus that they had taken her off her earlier task and told her to instead follow up on a rumor that a potential Aqium spy was in town. She found that this person, Morven Caine had been arrested (by the Abyssal Blades) and sent to this jail. Bliss got herself arrested and thrown in with him. She reported that Morven had a conversation with the High Priest from the Temple of Memet and then shortly after he was released into the custody of some local guards. Details of this could be found in the mountain of paperwork on the dwarf jailer’s desk.
They found that Morven was released to the guard with a signature of Captain Scragg of the western guard tower.
Next the group split up and Evaine spoke to Captain Aloro of the NE Tower. The stern elven captain spoke of his fears of a ground invasion and that Chancellor Gavin should be preparing by pulling more soldiers in from the rest of Ilthor.
While that was happening, Rigel spoke with Captain Livia of the SW Tower, and surprisingly, the recognized them as Corvus Septum. She knew this because she herself was considered for this secret task force but didn’t make the cut. Livia asked a lot of questions and desired to be more in the loop as far as what was going on. Last, she asked about the two gnomes, where they in your group or one of the other ones? Rigel said this group, but what of these other groups. Livia mentioned three other groups: Blessing of the Faith, The Abyssal Blades, and Darkshade.
The two groups met at Dirk Fountain and discussed what they had seen so far. Bliss was now released and sent back to Chancellor Gavin to see if she could help out anywhere. After some discussion It was decided that Captain Scragg should be taken under custody for now.
Before the group could move a young woman came racing towards them, shouting for help. Her two brothers were taken captive by brigands in a nearby warehouse. Brodus was immediately on the move and the rest of the group fell in line.
It turns out that the brothers were actually members of Ten Knives, a band of brigands and this was a shakedown, as they took advantage of the distraction of the looming war. But with Brodus flexing, and Burpuller being 106-feet tall, Rigel was able to talk them down and convince them that this would end badly for them. The Ten Knives cut their losses and ran away.
The group confronted Captain Scragg (half-orc) and it was evident he was up to something despite what he was saying. After a brief struggle, he was taken to Chancellor Gavin for further questioning.
Evaine was greeted at the door of a local historian by young Landis who was struggling with ball-in-a-cup. Speaking with his grandfather, Lerth, Evaine was able to learn more of the layers of this city. This area was first settled back in the 1st Era as the first men, led by Dirk the Gnoll Slayer, carved out an existence for his people in a series of caverns. In later eras as the town grew, they built on top of the cavern. Then in the 3rd Era a city was built on top of the town.
Currently, citizens of the Treyopolis the city were being sent below to the old city. Beneath that are the Deep Caverns.
Of course, Lerth mentioned a certain pipe-smoking individual who was in here recently asking similar questions, specifically for ancient maps of the Deep Caverns. That conversation reminded Lerth of a talk he had with a local resident about a year ago who asked if Lerth thought there might be treasure in the Deep Caverns. Lerth was able to point the group towards Girduin.
The group split up again and some headed for the Temple of Memet, only to find the doors locked. After banging on the door for some time, High Priest Nehi finally answered the door. After a bit of a standoff, and a slight movement from one of the statues in the corner, a full fight broke out as the High Priest transformed into his true appearance, a half-dragon.
Meanwhile back in the house of Girduin, it was discovered that this regular citizen was trying to hide something in a chest. Opening it up revealed hundred of gold pieces. Finally Girduin broke down and confessed to everything. A year ago Girduin found a trapdoor hidden in his house that eventually led to the Deep Caverns. He poked around down there looking for treasure, but got scared off. Recently, Morven Caine learned of this a strong-armed him into helping him. Morven would use this point to come and go from the Deep Caverns (along with supplies carried by laborers) or else Morven would kill Girduin. If Girduin helped him, he could have this stash of gold.
Knowing that an attack was imminent from the Deep Caverns, the group sent word back to Gavin to move the citizens out of the old town and back to the surface, while they raced to the Deep Caverns to stop this.
Following a series of trapdoors and ladders, with each area staged with a sack of 50 gold pieces, the heroes eventually made their way to the Deep Caverns. Here they found the remains of a strange insect-like creature, full of puncture wounds. Next to it was trace amounts of a peaty-smelling tobacco spilled on the floor.
The next cavern was deafening as a large waterfall crashed into the floor here. From across the mist-shrouded cavern, the chitin-covered creatures leapt to attack.
The next room contained an empty censer with the stench of the insides of the kruthik the heroes just fought. Later they would be able to surmise that Morven created this censer from the dead kruthik near the ladder and used it to ward off the kruthik as he passed back and forth.
The heroes next came across what was the camp for Morven. It contained a full censer, supplies, camp related equipment, a gargoyle mask, and his familiar tobacco of choice.
Pinned up on the wall was a flag with the symbol of the Cult of the Black Earth
Also in here the heroes found a book on earth elementals, a nearly empty vial of poison (ingestible) and a couple of notes in Morven’s handwriting. Two passages were of particular note:
Must continue his feeding once summoned, all the way to the surface.
Shame about the Derro, creatures of the earth that can’t help Marlos’s cause.
The following chamber was filled with pitons staged around in the cavern in a pattern. Any dwarf could have told you this was set up in a way to exacerbate the cave in. Also in here they found a roughly chiseled out passage, as if humanoid creature broke into this room from another far off area.
Finally, a boon. the clear and sweet smelling water from the shallows pools gave off healing properties.
The first thing the heroes noticed as they entered was the nearly rhythmic sound of metal against stone. In the near corner a handful of white-haired, no-pupil dwarves picked away at the stone wall. These are the Derro that Morven spoke of.
Tied between two stalactites was an iron-bound cage contained a blue-skinned baby, asleep. But not a peaceful sleep. In its slumber it cries out with snippets of screams that sound like pure madness.
One of the derro had in his possession a strange looking staff that they heard from their rumors around town that Symus Azzo was looking for. The Staff of Madness.
The heroes took advantage of the surprise round and attacked. Little did they know that the Derro fetal savant (who was acting as a guard) could exchange himself with any of the players. Burpuller was taken over and began to attack Rigel, and due to a set of amazing rolls, they both fell into the water.
The fetal savant, now drowning, reverted back to its body and Burpuller smashed the chains holding the caged baby up and kicked that shit into the river.
Here was a staging area for the workers under Morven’s employ. The area was filled with mining equipment, hammers, pitons, etc. Sprawled out on the floor were the dead (poisoned) bodies of the workers.
Finally the heroes came to the end of their road. A large chamber with Morven slumped onto the floor. He begins to cackle with laughter, You’re too late! He’s almost here! Marlos commanded that your city it forfeit!
The ground started to rumble and you could feel a tremendous force surging upwards from beneath you. Everyone scrambled out of the way, just in time to witness…. Ogremoch!
The fight was epic! Brenna did a great job whittling down the Prince of Earth Elementals with Hunger of Hadar while Brodus continued to bash away at it. Morven tried to crawl back into the room but Rigel curb-stomped him. Ogremoch summoned several gargoyles from his own body and several heroes got dropped. But in the end, they did enough damage to send Ogremoch back to the earth from whence he came from.
Treyopolis was saved and the heroes returned to Chancellor Gavin, who was talking to a female dwarf. Her name is Bardryn Stoneheart who was also in town searching for Morven Caine. She and here dwarven brethren live not far to the northwest of the capital and she has been following and learning about the Cult of the Black Earth, and can retell the following:
- Seek power to destroy the works of civilization
- The Black Earth Cult is typically slow and methodical in their actions, but something recently has inspired them
- Led by Marlos Urnrayle who weilds the elemental weapon called Ironfang
- He has established a cult of followers and one of them is here.
- His name is Morven Caine and I fear that he has evil plans of destruction.
Chancellor Gavin pauses, remembering a local noble family with that same surname. He was banished decades ago, a particularly vain and cruel individual, seeking only beauty and power. Gavin things hard for a moment, before continuing, The exact type of person that Astriminar could sway to his side.
Gavin sighs, You will need to address this immediately. We cannot have such a powerful enemy this close to the capital, especially one that can summon Ogremoch again. Travel with Bardryn to the Sumber Hills and eliminate this threat once and for all.
The story continues in Against the Cult of the Black Earth