The party departed from the secret armory they’d camped in and turned east – and saw a figure standing a short distance away. They approached slowly and saw it was a Troglodyte, its empty hands held down and outwards, apparently to show it was unarmed. The creature claimed to bear a message from the Dweller Below. Its master summoned the party to an audience, it said. The Dweller wished to speak to them though, when asked, it did not know why. The party was split on this – some thought an audience might be beneficial while others feared treachery. The Troglodyte grew anxious and even confused — it apparently could not understand that anyone would not instantly obey its master.
The party decided instead to revisit the ten foot-tall woman encased in the glowing light, and the Troglodyte, half forgotten, followed them. As they came before the apparent prisoner, Iban cast ESP and began to ask questions. She was a Djinn, she claimed, a prisoner of the Dweller Below who had been imprisoned here for decades. She was unsure of the magic that imprisoned her, but believed that she could be physically wrenched from the light by someone with great strength. Not wishing to be shocked as Nordak had been, Iban wrapped a rope about her, careful to avoid the light. Then, he Nordak and Arduin gave a might pull and wrenched her from the light, which instantly vanished. Greatly pleased, she named herself A’idah, a lesser Djinniya. She was most grateful and informed the party she would perform three tasks to aid them; they need merely call her by name and she would find them. Her knowledge of the Dweller was limited, she said. He was a Devil out of the pits of Hell, who had dwelt here for many decades. Why he dwelt here and not in his dismal abode she could not say. She had come to recover something stolen from her lord, but had been enmeshed in the Devil’s power ever since. He was immensely powerful, she warned but, like all his kind, could be held to any agreement he made, though she warned he would twist any agreement. A’idah had known of several courtiers that were loyal to the Dweller, including one middle aged man who acted as a butler or steward, but this was so long ago they were all likely quite old or dead, She agreed that sending a note with the Troglodyte calling for a safe passage to and from a parley was a good idea, and this the party did. They continued to question her on the mechanics of how she could find them and then gave her a first task — find the greatest, unguarded treasure on this level. Her only question was if she should inform them of the location or bring it to them – the party chose the latter.
A short time after the Djinniya departed on her errand, the Troglodyte returned, clearly much relieved it had not been blasted asunder when it failed to bring the party back with it. Its master had agreed to the party’s terms for a parley, and it was ready to escort them to the Dweller. This they agreed to do, and the Troglodyte led them across the level to the old bridge across the stream (and not the more direct way). Leading them further into natural caverns they’d not yet explored, they came to one area with a pair of Troglodytes an done of the immense cave bears they’d fought before. The bear growled lowly at them,. but was restrained by the Troglodyte sentries. Soon, the party reached an immense, natural cave lit by numerous burning gas jets throughout the walls. The floor and ceiling were partially smoothed and shone blackly in the weird blue gaslight. Present in this great chamber were many Troglodytes along the walls, all stock still and silent. Across the room stood a human with a large staff, awaiting the party. He was clearly a youngish foreigner, with swarthy skin and dark features. He named himself Hasdrubel in a strange accent, and he was the majordomo of the Dweller Below. He seemed a little odd and erratic, and only grew more so as time went on.
Hasdrubel bade the party follow him down a hall and into an oval-shaped chamber made of highly polished black stone. Inside were four red-skinned devils or demons, an apparent bodyguard for the dweller who stood at the apex of the room. The Dweller was clearly a devil of some sort, with a huge, domed bald head and black wings trimmed with silver. It was hideous to behold. The majordomo now tapped his staff and recited a litany of titles (His Grand Eminence, Stakkos, Under-Captain of the Second Legion of Dis, Fourth Templar of Orn, of the Greater Order of Kirlit, Adjutant of the Black Tower of Nandos, and Special Emissary of the Infernal Hierarchs, lately known to mortals as the Dweller Below). The Dweller grew explosively angry at this, shouting at his servant that it was the THIRD Legion of Dis and that it was “three days of the Torment for that transgression.” The majordomo blanched visibly at this, but said nothing. He seemed to twitch throughout this time, something not quite right about him.
The Dweller now spoke. As the party had suspected, he was angry with them for slaughtering his servants, which were hard to come by, he claimed. His desire was simple – a truce and agreement to not slaughter one another to no profit. He wielded great power, he claimed, but had no desire to spend it to destroy the party; he felt they would profit little from their own deaths. The party was amenable to this, and tentatively agreed to it. But first, they wanted to know if the Dweller knew of any dwarves in the area. He was unsure and asked the majordomo, who said that, yes, they had taken a dwarf prisoner a month or two past and he was now working in the Dweller’s mines. The party now asked that the Dwarf be handed over, but the majordomo mentioned to his master that the Dwarf had proven to be an excellent miner, better than any other slave they had. The Dweller then said he would not hand him over, unless the party were willing to pay well for this valuable slave. The devil was not interested in coin or other wealth, only magic it seemed. When the party did not make a specific offer, the Dweller suggested that the party bring him the staff of the sorcerer Pyx, the bird-headed monster the party had run into previously. The party was little interested in this task, and pointed out that this Dwarf might not even be one they were interested in. After some discussion, the Dweller had the slave sent for so the party could ascertain if they wanted to buy his freedom.
After a short wait, an incredibly dirty Dwarf was brought in. He named himself Thrir (son of Bifur, when asked his family or clan). He was lately of the company of Floi, the Dwarf captain that the party had been sent to find. Satisfied, the party now bargained for his freedom, eventually settling on a wand of polymorphing for ransom. This done, and the agreement for a truce sealed, the party was escorted from the Devil’s presence. Back in the greater cavern, where the Troglodytes were dispersing already, Hasdrubel asked the party quietly if they had any potions of longevity they would be willing to sell or trade. They did not, and the majordomo seemed slightly disappointed. At this point, they were turned over to a Troglodyte escort (perhaps the same as before or not – it was impossible to say for sure), who led them back the same route to the bridge over the stream. Here, it pointed north of the water and said “us” and south of it, “you.” Arduin, usually silent, now spoke up, strongly urging the party to immediately return and destroy the Dweller. He cited the (well known) tenet that Devils were the enemy of all the gods, and could not be suffered to live. yet, despite his vigorous protest, the party would not go back on the deal they’d just made.
The party now wanted to return to Morsby as soon as possible to hand over Thrir Bifurson to Nali. When he heard the latter name, the dwarf exclaimed, “Nali? He has twice the sense of his brother [Floi] which makes him merely an idiot!” As they travelled, they question him closely. Floi’s company, he told them, had been sent to investigate rumors of troubles in the Highlands which might threaten trade that the Dwarves relied upon. They had followed the track into the depths of the Highlands and quickly found the old Imperial Ruins, into which “Floi marched us into with all the subtlety of a cave in.” Once inside, they were taken prisoner easily by a horde of Ogres, Bugbears, and Giants. Most of Floi’s company, including him, were soon marched off in chains to the east, apparently to work as slaves for the “Giant King.” Thrir and another Dwarf, Orin, were “given over for the sport of the local garrison. We took ill of that and escaped.” Orin was badly wounded in the process and slain soon after when he acted as diversion to allow Thrir to escape. When asked, he did admit to leaving coded marks throughout the dungeon as to his plans and whereabouts that “any true Dwarf could read.” Pursued, he had fled deeper and deeper into the dungeon until at last he was taken by the Troglodytes and enslaved as a miner. “I joined the militia” he said, “so I didn’t have to be a miner. The gods clearly hate me.” He told them that the Dweller’s mines were a joke. They were short tunnels, dug slowly and haphazardly northwards by a mixed bag of slaves for no apparent purpose and to no apparent plan. The party speculated as to what he might want, but Thrir could not say. As for this Giant King, he only knew a little, namely that he was a new Power, seeking to take over the region for his own purposes, and was building an army — he thought the rest of his Company had been taken to become smithies in the Giant’s arsenal, wherever that might be. Whether or not they were a threat to the Dwarf Kingdom was unclear to him. Thrir would prove to be a smartass, but otherwise a good companion, especially once he had some decent food and a little ale. The party armed him with a magic mace.
As the party neared the exit of the dungeon, the Djinniya appeared and dumped a pile of loot at their feet, bemused at one of the items she gave them. Her first task was completed, she said. With no further instructions for her, she departed rapidly, saying she had much to do given her long absence. The treasure was quite rich, and included much wealth, a magical long sword Luck Blade, a full helm that could detect invisibility, and (ironically) a ring of djinni summoning. Pleased, the party departed the dungeon and soon were camped in a hilly area south of the Blueflood and the ancient Dwarf Bridges.
The next day, the party set out early to reach Morsby as soon as possible. In the afternoon, they were suddenly set upon by a score or more bandits. But the ambush turned badly for them, as the party was not surprised; the brigands were, however, as a fireball from Cadwalider exploded in their midst, incinerating half of them. Several others were shot down with arrows, at which point a few surrendered and the remainder fled back into the wilderness. Aided by Iban’s ESP, the party interrogated the two prisoners, a process which took some time. They were affiliated with the Giant King, it turned out, under the command of their Captain, Windrid the Quick, and under orders of his chief lieutenant, Ofrith Grimscar. Their officers had received orders to NOT attack the party, as apparently their movements and purposes were well known to the Giant King and his officers (he did not know how, but had heard the King had “other plans” for the party). However, their officer had thought the party would be easy pickings and laden with loot after departing the dungeon, and thus disobeyed orders to make a little extra money. In any case, war was coming, he said, though war between whom was not entirely clear. The bandits were very active west of Morsby, and other forces were active to the east, he said. Fighting had already broken out on the roads and in the wilderness. When the bandit’s information ran out, Iban tried to convince him to leave off this life and leave the region. The bandit agreed but was lying, so Iban slew him. His fellow, sorely wounded, chose to accept Iban’s direction and was allowed to flee, sans weapons and armor.
The party now completed the journey to Morsby and soon found themselves comfortably ensconced at the Inn, where they gave a pile of copper coin to Thrir, much to his delight. Nali was not there, the innkeeper said, though he stopped in every few days and was always sure to inquire if the party had been seen (they’d been gone nearly two weeks at this point). Otherwise, the talk was all of troubles on the roads and even now the river (where, it was said, giants had begun to bombard barges with rocks from the cliffs above). Many caravans and travellers had been attacked and traffic had dropped precipitously. The locals had grown very concerned to say the least. Over a good meal and ale, the party discussed what came next. The local authorities must be warned of the dangers, and Thrir must be turned over to Nali. Perhaps, they mused, the Dwarf and Elf kingdoms, and perhaps Manston or even distant Wellington, needed to be alerted and united against this Giant King. The party would consider how to do all this the next day…..
– Experience: 2640 XP each