22 Kythorn 1481
After discussing our plans, Declan decided to stay in the village to help Sildar organise the former Redbrands while the rest of us, Hema now included, headed to the mines with Gundren to seek his brothers. We spent the day travelling.
23 Kythorn 1481
Arriving at the mines and entering, we soon found the corpse of Gundren’s brother Thardrin at a makeshift camp. While Karrod was off scouting the nearby tunnels in the form of a spider, the rest of us were attacked by a pack of ghouls – I spent most of the battle paralysed, but Hema and Shandri had little trouble dealing with the foul undead. Karrod returned to tell us of a large ooze, which was very slow moving and of little threat while we were awake, and we searched the camp. On investigation it was apparent that Thardrin had been dead for about a week, killed by multiple stab wounds from weapons, but there was no sign of Gundren’s other brother Nandro and the camp contained only camping and mining supplies. Gundren wished to remain at the camp while the rest of us began searching the mines, but asked us to take Thardrin’s body with us and find a large pit to throw it down, as is the dwarven custom.
We began by following the tracks of the ghouls in case there were more of the creatures around and they had a lair somewhere, but encountered only a single ghoul in our travels through the twisting tunnels – though we did find many ancient skeletons in rusted armour from the long ago battle for the mines between dwarves and orcs. Arriving at a junction with a large pool area to the north and a stairway leading up, a doorway opened into an old barracks room containing three more ghouls. Once these were slain we opened the barracks’ other door and found a crossroads, one branch opening into a large cavern with many old skeletons scattered around the floor and carvings on the walls. Deciding the barracks seemed far more defensible than the mining camp, we left Thardrin’s body on one of the bunks (after Karrod claimed Thardrin’s fine boots for himself, which is apparently another dwarven custom) and went back to fetch Gundren.
Leaving Gundren and his brother’s bootless body in the barracks, we investigated the pool area. The waters were dark and opaque and smelled strongly of fish, with a trickle of water that didn’t even ripple the surface coming from a three foot wide tunnel to the north next to another set of stairs leading upwards. Ascending these stairs, we came to a doorway with the sound of voices speaking the goblinoid tongue on the far side. Bursting in, we surprised a group of five bugbears in a room with the far door heavily barricaded. After a short battle, with one bugbear trying to flee through the door we’d entered by yelling for help, half the bugbears had been slain and half taken captive. The captives seemed eager to negotiate, telling us that they had been hired by a male drow who pays well, that the door was barricaded because the mines are infested with undead including skeletons, zombies and a flameskull, telling us a bit about the layout of the nearby tunnels, and saying that if we let them leave and return to their tribe they would teach us a sentence of the goblinoid tongue that would help us open negotiations with the other bugbear mercenaries in the mines. We agreed, spent a few minutes being instructed, and let the bugbears flee.
Heading back down the stairs, we followed the directions and went up the stairs next to the barracks room where Gundren was waiting, soon coming to a large cavern bisected by a wide chasm around which stood a number of bugbears. We greeted them with the sentence we’d just been taught, but they seemed hesitant and wary so we switched to the Common tongue. Though they had their hands on their weapons, the bugbears stood aside as we entered the room and advanced to the edge of the chasm, seeing a male drow at the bottom of a twenty foot pit. The drow tried to flee up a ladder on the pit’s far side, but Karrod leapt the pit in a single great bound (aided by his newly acquired boots?) to stand at the head of the ladder and push it away from the wall. The drow managed to cling to the rock face as Hema and I raced down into the pit to stand below him and Shandri watched from the pit’s near edge. The drow scrabbled at the wall, fell to the floor and surrendered while the bugbears left.
Questioning the drow, he told us about Black Spider (a male drow) and the four gigantic spiders that accompany him, told us that Gundren’s other brother Nandro is being held prisoner in a room near Black Spider, and offered to retrieve Nandro and bring him to us if we let him live and let him leave afterwards. We agreed, let him lead us to a corridor near the large chamber Black Spider occupies, and were soon greeted by a maltreated and malnourished dwarf stumbling hesitantly towards us. We greeted him in whispers, led him away and returned to Gundren to reunite them, informing him of Thardrin’s death on the way.
We then returned to deal with Black Spider, who was flanked by two bugbear bodyguards while his pet spiders lurked on the ceiling. Black Spider deflected Karrod’s initial attack with a magical shield, so we took down his two bodyguards. Seeing how quickly we dealt with them, Black Spider cast a spell that turned him invisible and attempted to flee down the corridor, but targetting the sound of his footsteps I cast a spell that dropped him into a sorcerous slumber while the others dealt with the spiders, the claws of Karrod’s bear form able to reach them where they lurked on the ceiling while Shandri and Hema had to climb on a large dwarven statue to reach, at least until Hema’s blows impacted some of the spiders such that they lost their grip on the ceiling and fell to the ground. The last spider tried to flee down the same tunnel Black Spider had attempted to use, but we brought it down.
Searching the area, much to our shock we discovered Nandro bound and gagged in a side chamber and realised that the dwarf we’d delivered to Gundren was actually another shapeshifter!