At Yulash the party found that the Red Plume garrison were surrounding the ruins with a wall and watch towers. They went up to a nearby wooded hill which overlooked the camp and made a map.
The Red Plumes and hired labourers were building a wooden wall around the ruins. The heroes had heard that sometimes monsters emerged from the Underdark from Yulash, but it was rare.
“That’s a lot of effort,” said Zelda. “Something must have happened for them to want to build a wall around ruins no one lives near.”
“So what do we do now?” asked Minimus. “Sneak in after dark? That wall isn’t finished, it wouldn’t be a problem.”
“Here comes someone else,” said Cundall, pointing. “Looks like lovers this time. Chauntea save us.”
Chauntea the pig grunted at her name. The trouble with being on a lookout is that other people think it is a good place to visit too. The party had had to hide several times, once from lovers – a Red Plume and a serving girl, once from a drug user smoking what Minimus identified as “silkroot”, and once from a woman bringing the Red Plume guard dogs up for a run. The heroes vacated the entire hill for these last visitors, in case they were detected.
They withdrew part way down the far side of the hill for a couple of hours while the lovers went at it, and they decided what to do. After a long discussion, they decided to sneak through the camp after dark. And if they were caught, they would demand to see Vuhm Yestral, the commandant in charge of the Red Plumes garrison at Yulash. They had met him before at Cundall’s Hole when there was only a wall around it (see Szith Morcane Rescue – Part 1).
In the end this is what they did. With no one in metal armour and all stealth taken, they managed to make it through into the ruins. They followed their map to the ruins whose basement led to a tunnel providing access to the Underdark. The descent was a harrowing experience, as they had been warned. The only thing more suffocating than the walls of the narrow chimney was the crushing darkness that quickly enveloped them. If that wasn’t bad enough, Marie and Minimus had to put up with Zelda and Cundall bickering about the fact he had traded in the dagger of Lolth for the Deck of Many Things. However, before long, the party arrived at the bottom. Cold, ankle deep water trickled around the island of jagged stone they were standing on, flowing towards the northeast.
“This isn’t right,” said Cundall. “The water is too low.”
“Something is wrong,” agreed Minimus. “Something must be blocking the river upstream.”
“We want to go downstream,” argued Zelda. “Whatever is happening upstream isn’t our concern.”
“But it’s going to be a problem for us too,” said Minimus. “We’ve used the Waydown River several times to take us to Sporedome or wherever. If it’s this bad downstream, then no one is going to be able to use it.”
“Will we have time?” asked Marie. “Our mission might end up being time sensitive.”
“Minimus is right,” said Cundall. “We have a chance of fixing this now. I think we should go look upstream a ways. Let’s vote using our thumbs up or down method.”
They all voted in the end to go and have a look at what was causing the blockage to the river. They had moved upstream for about an hour, when the saw the culprit. A dam built of river rocks spanned the entire river, with some water spilling over the top and through the fitted stones.
Investigating the dam soon brought out the culprits – four umber hulks. The battle was a tough one for the party, due to the magical eyes of the umber hulks which could (and did) caused disorientation and confusion in those who looked at them. Party members were thrown into the water (or walked in, confused). Cundall shapechanged into a killer whale in the dam at one point and had Zelda riding on his back, firing arrows. Then Cundall got confused and while trying to bite an umber hulk, bit Minimus instead. In the end the magical beasts were killed, and a shatter spell plus a few bashes from a killer whale body, destroyed the dam wall for good. The Waydown River was flowing once more.
“I think this river should be named Cundall’s River now,” said Cundall. “It has a good, folk hero kind of ring to it.”
“Oh no,” said Zelda. “You’ve already had the sinkhole named after you. How big do you want your head to get?”
The party continued down the tunnel, walking beside the now flowing river. They found the side tunnel leading to Zortaga, with a little bit of the river splitting with it, and followed it for some hours. The party came to a section that seemed choked with spider webs. A dense amount of webbing appeared at another tunnel veering off to the right.
“Wait,” whispered Cundall. “Look!” He pointed at a large net strung across the tunnel, cleverly hidden amongst the webs. They approached it carefully.
“It’s not set up properly,” said Minimus. “I think it’s part of a trap that hasn’t been set up yet.”
“Which might mean the person who started to set it up might be up ahead,” said Zelda.
“They might be using it as something to tie up any pursuit,” added Marie.
“Let’s go carefully,” said Cundall. “My giant brain tells me they are probably up ahead.”
Cundall’s new giant brain was correct. Around the bend they saw the scaly posteriors of a group of kuo-toa as they leaned over a barricade fence of root and rock. Their attention seemed to be focused downstream.
The party opted for diplomacy, and after a moment of fright for the kuo-toa to have potential enemies sneak up on them from behind, they talked to Marie in Undercommon, although one of them, a kuo-toa whip (acolyte) named Shoolpop could speak halting common. They were keeping watch for mind-flayers who they expected to come down the tunnel at any moment. The party told the kuo-toa they were powerful adventurers and that they were heading in the direction where the mind flayers were apparently going to come from. This caused some concern amongst the kuo-toa, with the consensus being the party were all going to die, and could they leave their valuables with the kuo-toa before they left. More discussion revealed that the kuo-toa had not actually seen any mind flayers, only heard from some duergar that a mind flayer colony known was on the other side of the duergar community. The kuo-toa had, according to their own legends, been slaves of mind flayers at one point in their history, and would fight the mind flayers rather than let it happen again. There had been bad blood between the duergar and the kuo-toa, and so offers of an alliance were rebuffed.
“Besides,” said the kuo-toan arch-priest, “they’d have to come through Zortaga, the duergar community, first to get to us.”
“What is down that tunnel,” asked Cundall, pointing at were the spider webs were thickest. The kuo toans looked at Cundall as if he did not actually have a giant sized brain.
“Spiders,” they said.
“Maybe we should go look,” said Cundall. He was pretty sure that was not the entire story.
It turned out the kuo-toans had been training the spiders not to attack them, so they could run into the spider lair and not be attacked by them, but anything that was chasing them would be. Cundall decided this was as much as he needed to know, he wasn’t going to rob the rather scared kuo toans of one of their primary means of defence. They said their goodbyes and continued on their way.
To be continued…