On the way back from Cundall’s Hole, with about two hours travel until the party would arrive at Elventree, they came across a horse laying, unmoving on its side in the middle of the road. Closer inspection revealed multiple stab wounds which killed the animal. Evidence of a struggle was apparent all around, as Zelda’s keen eyes fell on an immobile body on the edge of the woods. The humanoid creature had long white hair and black skin – drow! Before everyone was able to completely take in the situation, Elanil Elassidil, leader of Elventree and Harper agent ran out of the woods, brandishing a rapier. She was out of breath and had blood soaking her white shirt. Many of the buttons on the shirt had been ripped off. A lyre was slung over her back. She saw the party and ran towards them.
“Oh, thank the Gods! They’re coming!” she yelled.
A second later six drow ran out behind her. They saw the party and yelled and ran to attack, two of them running towards the wounded elf harper. Marie quickly cast haste on Elanil enabling her to quickly run away from the pursuing drow.
The battle was short and sharp. The drow were dead in moments, apart from one female drow who stood blinking in confusion after Cundall had cast lesser restoration on her. Her name turned out to be Lualyrr – she refused to give her clan name – and now she was recovered from the madness, she was horrified at what had happened.
“It was like I was in a dream,” she said in heavily accented elvish. “But I couldn’t wake up, I thought I was invincible, that I was going to rule, what madness it was.” She looked at the other dead drow and sneered.
“They were unlucky, weak. I deserved to survive.”
Cundall was doubting the efficacy of his lesser restoration spell until he remembered that actually this would be a typical reaction to the death of companions for drow.
Cundall cast healing magic on Elendil and put her saddlebags, bridle and saddle into the boat to transport to Elventree. On the way back Elendil told them she had been returning from meeting Olisara Lightsong at The Stop when she was attacked by drow who slew her horse. The drow were clumsy and uncoordinated, otherwise she probably wouldn’t have survived, she put that down to both the madness and the fact the drow were attacking during the day, unheard of behaviour for them.
The following day back at Elventree the party was invited to a meeting of the Moonsea Emergency Council.
“Do you think we should go?” asked Cundall.
“Of course,” answered Marie.
“Don’t know,” said Minimus. “I was hoping to go carousing again.”
Zelda looked at the druid and the halfling. It was one of those looks.
“Well, it’s just an invitation,” grumbled Cundall. “We don’t have to go.”
“We’re going,” said Zelda, firmly. “And you’re both coming if I have to drag you by your ears.”
“All right, all right,” laughed Minimus. “We’re going!”
The meeting was held in the Hall of the Unicorn – the temple to Meilikki, a nature goddess and tended by Seranolla the Whisperer, the gnome priestess and senior member of the Emerald Enclave. Other faction leaders were present, including Chaab, faction leader of the Zhentarim; Dornal Whitebeard, dwarf leader of the Lord’s Alliance faction; [[Zern Xerkstil | Zern
Xerkstil]], half orc paladin and leader of the Order of the Gauntlet; Nymarrath, elderly elf and head of the Silver Shadow Cave – temple to Selune in Elventree; Murssvayas Dhuurniv, drow wizard, emissary from the drow outpost of Szith Morcane and leader of the enclave of drow refugees just outside of Elventree; as well as Seranolla and Elanil.
As the meeting started, the following information was discussed:
- Szith Morcane, a drow outpost, has recently been taken over by the fire giants of Maerimydra led by Hledh
- The Council are concerned about this new threat and need to have it further investigated. This is why the Council have asked the characters to attend the meeting.
- The drow that Elanil brought back with her has confirmed all of this information, but has also informed the Council that Solom Ned’razak, a drow archmage and former leader of Szith Morcane, is alive and being held captive in the outpost.
- After Szith Morcane was captured, most of the fire giants and their slaves have left, leaving only a token force there.
- That has been just about the only useful information that the drow prisoner has been able to give them. She had been suffering from the madness of Graz’zt.
- Seranolla believed that the drow are coming up to the surface through a sinkhole that opened probably due to recent rainfall and seismic activity stemming from the events in Mulmaster. Locals have starting calling it “The Waydown”.
“Actually, it’s called Cundall’s Hole,” said the druid, a little annoyed. “I created it. It’s Cundall’s Hole. The Waydown is a stupid name. If anything it should be called ‘The Way Up’ because that’s how we got out of the Underdark.”
There were a few hard stares from the people of the Moonsea Emergency Council, but Cundall refused to be cowed.
“We believe some of the drow are coming through a recently excavated hole to the Underdark being called ’Cundall’s Hole’ by some,” said Seranolla. Cundall could have sworn there was a twinkle in her eye. “It is
two days from Elventree, and about half a day’s travel from Hillsfar. Hillfarians have already been attacked by maddened drow.”
“We need information,” said Elanil. “Solom Ned’razak can provide that for us. We’d like you to go and rescue him.”
“And our reward for doing this?” asked Minimus. He saw Chaab nod slightly in approval. The council offered the characters a purse containing 1,000 gp if they could bring back Solom Ned’razak alive and unharmed, and half that to return his body.
“We’ll do it,” said Cundall, resisting the urge to barter and looking too mercenary. In reality he would have done it for free, he told himself, but it was nice to be paid. The other party members nodded.
“Time is important, we need you to get to Szith Morcane before he is killed or moved to Maerimydra,” said Elanil. It is a long way using the river, but maybe the myconids of Sporedome know a quicker way. Please ask them."
The party headed out the same day for the two day journey back to Cundall’s Hole. As they reached the hole, the amount of activity was surprising. Around Cundall’s Hole the party saw a contingent of human soldiers -members of the Red Plumes by the look of it. The soldiers wore splint mail, carried shields and longswords, and had shortbows slung over their shoulders. Most of them looked very young, more new recruits. They were overseeing a group of human laborers building a wall around the hole. Nearby there was a wagon filled
with barrels and crates. Many of the laborers were in line drinking water from the barrels and grabbing tack from the crates. The Red Plumes talked with them pleasantly and helped them carry the heavy stones they were using. There was also a winch whose rope leads down the hole. An older man in armor was arguing with another over a table strewn with plans.
Cundall told Zelda and Minimus to stay with Ziggy and Elum. He and Marie moved forward. As the pair approached, a few of the soldiers step in front of them and blocked their way to the older soldiers.
“What can we do for you travelers?” one of them says pleasantly.
“I am Cundall, folk hero and druid of Chauntea,” said Cundall. “What are you doing here at Cundall’s Hole?”
“Cundall’s Hole?” asked the Red Plume, puzzled.
“Never mind,” said Marie, interrupting Cundall’s indignant tirade. “What is going on here?”
“We are building a wall, the Guard Commandant Vuhm Yestral,” the Red Plume pointed towards the elder of the two men at the table, “has been tasked by the First Lord to do so after drow have been attacking the people of Hillsfar. Now please tell me why you are here.”
“What is your name?” asked Cundall.
“Jon,” said the Red Plume they had been talking to.
“Well Jon, we were planning to go down into Cundall’s Hole,” said Cundall. “We have an important mission.”
“Wait here,” said Jon, and went and talked to the Guard Commandant.
After listening to the soldier, the older man beckoned Marie and Cundall over to a nearby tent. The tent was appointed with chairs and a table. He took a ladle from a barrel in the tent and drank from it. He then offered some to Cundall and Marie, who accepted. It turned out to be beer.
“I buy it from the temple of Chauntea in Hillsfar,” he said. The Red Plume officer then sat at the opposite side of the table from them. He introduced himself as Guard Commandant Vuhm Yestral, and waited for their introductions. He then asked to hear about their “mission” into the Underdark. Marie took the lead and, knowing that the Guard Commandant was a member of the Lords’ Alliance, decided to be honest about their mission and who had hired them. When the members of the Moonsea Emergency Council were mentioned he nodded.
“I know Dornal Whitebeard, of course,” he said. “I have met him at the Lords’ Alliance faction camp, although I don’t advertise my presence. How can I help?”
“We’d like passage through to the Underdark,” said Marie.
“We can lower you down into the Waydown with our winch,” said Vuhm Yestral, “no problem”.
“It’s called Cundall’s Hole,” said Cundall. “I created it, I want to name it. I just want a feature named after me. I’m a folk hero after all.”
At the Guard Commandant’s blank look Cundall explained once again how Cundall’s Hole was created. When he finished Vuhm Yestral said he would put up a sign naming it Cundall’s Hole.
“Least I can do,” he said. “I’ll make the arrangements.” He called over Jon and gave him orders. After Jon left, Marie asked if there was any news from Hillsfar.
“Things are bad,” admitted Vuhm Yestral. “The madness takes more people daily, those that can have banded together for protection and to share resources. All the clerics are casting restoration spells all the time – they’re exhausted. I’m out of favour with the First Lord, this man Gheriot is his new favourite in the court. When this problem of… Cundall’s Hole.. came up, they saw it as a good way to get me out of the city. I am loyal
to the First Lord and to Hillsfar, but I do not trust this Gheriot. I think he has poisoned the First Lord’s mind which would explain why he is having bad dreams.”
Marie and Cundall told Vuhm Yestral what they knew about Gheriot, and the big day of bloody games at the Arena that were intended to supply souls to Graz’zt.
“It all makes sense!” said Vuhm Yestral. “I must return to Hillsfar and see what I can do. I fear it will only see me banished, but I must try.”
Jon arrived to say the party’s boat was ready to be lowered into the Underdark with the Red Plumes’ winch.
To be continued…