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Darth Paul
Posted by the GM
Lord of the Lost
Journey to the Last Sea Part 9: Into the Deep
After about four hours of travel, the heroes arrived at the island known as the Lonely Butte. As they approached they saw the forested island plateau loom up from over the horizon, a wall of brown rock topped by a lush, green crown. There was no beach, only a wall of cliffs and reefs rising from the waters of the Last Sea. Their phantom steeds flew over the reefs, and they landed atop one of the stone quays jutting from the base of the cliff. A great cleft or chimney cut into the rock face rose nearly 200 feet to a huge, cave-like opening near the top. An elaborate mechanism consisting of wooden frames and platforms, giant's hair ropes, pulleys, huge stone counterweights, and an iron grate protecting the top of the chimney appeared to act as an elevator to the this cavernous cleft. A cluster of wooden and stone buildings squatted there, jutting out on rickety platforms over the sea far below. They were informed by a couple of men unloading a haul of fish from a nearby boat that this was Blufftown, and that if they were looking for drinks, the two inns above were always open. One was owned by a man named Sitko, and was generally safe. The other, owned by an old skinflint named Ordean, was a bit rougher. The heroes figured the rougher one was where they would find the dwarf. They dropped their illusionary disguises and headed over to the cliff face.

Approaching the elevator, they saw an obsidian orb floating above the winch mechanism that appeared to drive the elevator. Upon entering the great wicker basket at the bottom, the thing lurched to a start as the obsidian orb began to hum and the winch turned. Rising slowly and unsteadily, the heroes found themselves ascending the cliff. An unexpected complication reared its ugly head as the heroes ascended towards the trading settlement, As with the guardians and servitors that protected and maintained Saragar, the obsidian orb that controlled the lift was apparently old and prone to malfunctioning. When they were halfway to the top of the cliff, the orb slowly sank down to ground and the lift shuddered and stalled, threatening to plunge into the rough waters far below. Gurthmore used his enchanted boots to fly down to the winch, holding it in place while the rest of the heroes climbed off onto the cliff and anchored the lift. With Arshaka's telepathic guidance, the mul gladitator repaired the mechanism and they ascended to the top. They could only hope the orb would recover giving them a safe way back down.


Blufftown, overlooking the Last Sea. It was a long way up...and a long way down.

Consisting of two large inns and a handful of wood and stone buildings, the settlement was little more than a trading post used by the various hunters and scoundrels who eked a living off the island's flora and fauna. The two inns stood out, both being near the lift, and in the light of the lanterns hanging there, it was apparent one was in much worse shape than the other. Entering the run-down building with its creaking, stained floor and rickety walls, the heroes saw a motley assortment of hunters, pirates, ruffians, scoundrels, and thugs drinking cheap plantain beer from jacks made of dried gourds. A rough bar of bamboo and wicker ran along one wall, and a squint-eyed old man with stringy, white hair ppraised them as they entered. After plunking down a few gems to buy a round, the heroes saw a scruffy looking dwarf at a table in the rear corner, doing his best to go unnoticed. Despite his obvious fear the dwarf, Granuto, began to speak with Arshaka after the obsidian bard approached him in a calm, reassuring manner. . Before he could get his story however, the rough and suspicious crowd took issue with their presence. One, a scarred mul, stood up and began to challenge the heroes.

“You looking for a fight?” The mul growled. He was a ferocious looking mul with weather-beaten skin, squinted eyes, and several nasty scars lightly swinging a pair of cahulaks. A dozen or so pirates and ruffians stood unsteadily behind him, deep in their cups, making angry glares at the heroes. “Well, you got one strangers! I am Xiphos the Red-Handed, scourge of the Last Sea!”


He looked tough, but he didn't realize that Gurthmore and Rokkon looked TOUGHER!

Gurthmore and Stonedarr roared a challenge back, and a brawl broke out in an instant. There was an open hatch in the middle of the ramshackle bar's floor, one that opened to a two hundred foot drop to the sea below. With a mighty blow from the flat of his axe, Gurthmore sent the mul pirate flying after Stonedarr had bashed him upside the head with his twin blades. He had struck a couple of mighty blow with his swinging cahulaks, and they saved him from a long fall as he anchored them in the wood of the inn's floor before he could drop. The other patrons jumped in, but Chuka-Tet blasted some with sudden gusts of wind while Sark stunned the rest with a chain of lighting. Arshaka had punished a couple foolish enough to charge him, and managed to convince the scourge of the Inner Sea it was a better idea to just give up. He opted to take a dive – literally – and the fight was over. The heroes sat down to talk with Granuto, who was grateful for the plantain beer they provided.

Looking about furtively, the grubby dwarf began to speak in a harsh whisper. “It were about a month ago,” he rumbled, “that a feller came to Kharzdun, looking for a crew to do some digging up by Rivertown, at the base of Big Falls. He were a twisted, old half-elf or so it seemed, Said we'd be digging for some kind of old treasure, though he weren't too clear on what it was. Took us a week or so to get there and start to digging. It were tricky work, what with the Big River crashing down all around us and the like. But we cut through the rocks and found an old, worked cave beyond.

“Tunnels in the back wound down beneath the mountain, and he had us clear fallen rock from some of them places. When we was finished, he...the fella...he changed. It were Kosveret, sure as I'm sitting here. He laughed, and told us we was all done. But he also said, he couldn't have us talking. Old Arbanus dropped dead right there, blood leaking out his ears. The rest of us run, but a group of storm giants from up in the Thunder Mountains were waiting near the falls. They fell on us, with big hammers and lightning, and only me and Graucus got away. We knew it would only be a matter of time a-fore he got us, but I figured I could lose me self in drink until then. I don't know what he was a-wanting there, but I know that it were no good for anyone. But who would believe me? I guess you outlanders might, but the folks of the valley couldn't believe that one of the Mind Lords would ever do 'em harm. Even I still don't, and I saw the whole thing!”

When the heroes asked more about this hidden place, and the giants he had seen, Granuto replied, “It were a hidden place, buried under tons of rock, and located behind the Big Falls at the base. The tunnels looked old, like they hadn't seen the light of day in thousands of years. Saw all kinds of strange stuff down there, too. All kinds of crystal and metal stuff, and some skeletons. And them giants? One of the tribes from up in the Thunder Mountains most likely. They said they was serving him, the laughing lord, and that they'd see the world go back to what it was supposed to be. Said that nothing would get past them. That was a few weeks back. But,” he added, “old Arbanus said he saw tunnels down below that reminded him of the stories of the seaways, the passages that legend say the Mind Lords built beneath Marnita during the Green Age. Don't know if them stories are true. I suppose the Kuo-Toa might know more, what with Undertown being under the sea and all. I guess if you're looking to get there in a hurry, you could try and talk with the fish-men.”

With less than a day left, the heroes figured that was their best shot to reach the far-away mountains in time. After a sack of gems and a few words to Xiphos, the now-waterlogged scourge of the Last Sea, the heroes managed to get passage on his ship. He knew where to row to avoid the fish-men...and where they would likely attack. Leaving an hour later, under cover of darkness, the heroes, the pirate captain and his half-drunken crew rowed out from the Lonely Butte, looking for trouble.

The sound of wet feet slapping lightly on the deck could barely be heard over the creak of the mast and oars and the slapping of waves against the ship's hull. Through the half-light of the lanterns, Chuka-Tet saw several of the strange, slick-skinned, scaled humanoids the natives called Kuo-Toa moving over the rails and onto the deck. Their large, round eyes gleamed with ill intent under the light of the two moons. But the heroes were ready, both to fight and talk. After battering a few of the fish-men back into the sea, freezing them with gusts of icy wind and thunderous staff-blows well-placed alongside scaled heads, the Kuo-Toa were willing to listen to Arshaka's attempts at diplomacy. One of the fish-men cast a ritual using the Way that let them communicate, and after hearing what the heroes had to say about saving the Last Sea, he cast another that let them breathe in the water. He insisted they accompany him to speak with the Kuo-Toa's leader, and the heroes complied.


The Kuo-Toa took the bait. Get it? Fish-men? Bait?

The descent took several minutes, and the water grew colder and darker around the heroes as they dove hundreds of feet below the surface. Eventually the heroes saw strange lights ahead through the deep waters, and a city of sorts appeared. The buildings were constructed of stone and giant shells, and had odd, almost organic, shapes. Their large, round windows served as doors, and leering statuary was set everywhere. They were escorted to a huge, central dome-like building at the center of Undertown. After swimming up a channel into an air-filled, arena-like chamber, they were taken by trident-point to meet the Kuo-Toa's chief. While the heroes could not pronounce his name, enchantments translated it as “Deep Eyes.” A large, squat Kuo-Toa with relatively deep-set eyes, he treated fairly with the heroes, explaining that many of his people had died under mysterious circumstances over the last few weeks. Although he was initially unwilling to believe that one of the Mind Lords is behind these deaths, the heroes were able to convince him and gain the aid of the fish-men.

The heroes were taken to the entrance to the seaways running beneath Marnita. “Deep Eyes” explained that the tunnels were ancient and may be damaged in places, but the conveyance that ran through the tunnels should still allow the heroes to travel far more swiftly than they could by ship. An airlock-like structure beneath the great dome at the heart of Undertown opened into a vast chamber beneath the sea floor. Several huge tunnels intersected in this chamber, and a gargantuan, circular marble platform with an obsidian orb floating over its center sat there. The Kuo-Toa's leader informed them that the orb was used to levitate the platform down the tunnels at a high rate of speed, and he pointed out the tunnel that would take them to the complex under Big Falls to the northwest. He will explained that it would only take about two hours to reach the end of the tunnel, which is over 100 miles away, provided the tunnel remained intact. No one had ventured down the tunnel for more than two centuries though. “Deep Eyes” wished the heroes good fortune, showed them how to command the orb, and then departed.


"Hey Rokkon, why do you think these tunnels are so clean?
"No idea Gurthmore, no idea."

Although the platform lurched a bit at first, the heroes quickly fiound themselves flying down the 20-foot wide tunnel, which was pitch black apart from a dim glow emanating from the widely-spaced strange, green crystals set in the walls. The first hour or so went by without incident. At that point, the platform will slowed to a halt in response to a partial collapse in the tunnel ahead. One of the great stone lintels supporting the tunnel's roof broke centuries ago, and rubble had fallen around it, enough to prevent the passage of the huge, marble platform. Dripping water had formed a large pool that sat in the sunken floor of the tunnel. Gurthmore and Stonedarr made their way forward to investigate when, too late to stop the mul's forward progress, Rokkon and Chuka-Tet saw something shimmer and move in the passage. Gurthmore ran headfirst into a wall of translucent, gelatinous protoplasm and was sucked in. A huge, cube-shaped, gelatinous mass oozed forward with a wet, sucking sound, the gladiator suspended in it's bulk. Smaller oozes, nearly invisible in the pool of water, shimmered with iridescent color as they slid towards the heroes. But they overcame their initial shock quickly, and the two warriors' axes made quick work of the gelatinous cube as the rest blasted, slashed, and exploded the oozes under Arshaka's strident musical command. With the oozes dispatched, the heroes cleared the obstruction and continued on, until at last the tunnel began to rise slightly. But it came to an abrupt end, a few miles from their destination. A crack in the floor led to a waterway, one that had the promise of letting them through should the rest of the tunnel remain intact. Having come too far to turn back, the heroes dove into the cold, murky water, the enchantments of the Kuo-Toa enabling them to breathe underwater still....
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