A subtle morning fog surrounds the tavern that is lying in the center of an ominously quiet clearing amidst a dense, dark forest. A tall, slender man approaches. His pointy ears reveal his Elven background, a large, beautifully carved bow is strung across his back next to two delicate short swords. Patches of dark brown leather cover his body and his short hair is tied out of his face into a bun.
In few steps Vanovar reaches the tavern and seems to examine it intently. He looks up when he hears the not-so-subtle rattling of weapons. A rather tall looking dwarf is approaching him. Dalmor has a long, braided beard with lots of hair for his head, is wearing a full set of expensive looking armor and is covered in equally many weapons. The bastard sword on his back looks comically large for such a small man, but his great axe and crossbow prevent most people from commenting on his size, or anything, really.
Another creature joins them shortly after, a messy character with potions, books and other unknown items attached to his patchy cloth armor. The druid seems to be in a perpetually drunken state as he exclaims “Beer! Finally some ale!”. He is wearing a suspiciously large cloak with which he seems to be attempting to hide the small but well formed horns on his head and the bright red skin that covers his body. “I’m Shaitan. So, are we going in or are we just going to wait out here forever?” he burps. At this moment another Tiefling approaches. He is wearing a long, open robe, under which the blade of a large, two-handed scythe is peeking into the sunlight. His thick, black hair is growing wildly around his long, marked horns. “I go by Thecis” he announces.
After short introductions they enter the tavern. To their surprise they find it destroyed, blood splattered over the wall in grotesque patterns, furniture thrown over and the thick, heavy bar stools cracked. Just when they agree on taking some time to examine the place and figure out what had happened here, they hear footsteps on the roof. Ignorant to the potential dangers they approach the two wooden doors in front of them. Thecis steps forward and turns the door knob slowly. It swings open, revealing a fully stacked pantry. He enters and begins to fill his pockets and backpack with bread. “You never know when you need bread” he declares seriously.
The other entrance seems to be blocked. “I’ve got the perfect thing” Thecis states while summoning up a mage hand that magically attempts to push aside the massive closet barricading the door from the inside. After some failed attempts the group decides to use a crowbar instead, to force their way in. “I help, I help!” Vanavor pulls his crowbar out, hands it to Thecis, turns around and walks a few meters away. In a group (minus Vanavor) effort they manage to enter the bedroom, only to find it in a similar state as the rest of the tavern. Whomever had been living in here was long gone, potentially through the shattered window with the bloodstained border.
In a change of heart, the group thinks it is time to examine what or who was on the roof earlier, so they exit, investigate the outside and the roof shortly, only to find a further blood trail on it. In the distance Vanavor spies a smoked out campfire. “I can track this blood to its origin” says Vanovar. Shaitan disagrees emphatically “We need to wait for Amira!” Amira, the assumed inn-keep was supposed to be their contact person, but she was nowhere to be found. “She’s gone. She’s not coming back”, Dalmor shrugs passively. “It’s in our blood to figure these things out, we need to wait for her and figure out what happened here” Shaitan states. He pushes up the sleeve of his cloak to reveal his Enforcer tattoo “Why else do I have this?!” In an automatic gesture, the others lift their hands over their hidden tattoos. “There’s so much blood everywhere… why don’t you make use of it and leave Amira a message. We’ll be back” Thecis suggests.
Shaitan whips out a well hidden dagger and begins to carve into the outside wall “SHAI TAN WAZ HERE. WILL RETURN SOOON”. "Hurry and rush is rarely good, but sometimes it is something that has to." He turns to the group “Let’s get going then, why is everyone standing around, gaping at me?”
An hour later they are approaching the campfire Vanavor had spotted from the roof. On the little clearing they also see a cave opening, guarded by two half-man half-wolf looking gnolls. One of them seems to have made a sport out of digging everything that he can find in his nose out, and flicking it at his colleague. Although stealth is not of the essence here, the group quickly hides and begins to sneak around. Vanovar shrieks quietly as he spies another gnoll that the others have yet to see and in one elegant sweep jumps into a tree, begins to climb it and very heroically hides in it.
As one of the gnolls close to Vanovar is eager to relieve himself, the other awkwardly attempts to see anything but a peeing gnoll and looks directly in the direction in which the group is hiding. Gnolls, surprisingly, have both excellent vision and smell, allowing this one to smell more than a damp morning and his friends beer from last night, and thus he spots the squad with ease. A grunt later, his colleague drops what he is doing, grasps for the horn on his belt and goes to blow it. Thecis, attentive as he is, picks up his crossbow with incredible speed and shoots the gnolls hand, making him drop the Horn directly into the little puddle he was standing in front of. Dalmor also shoots his crossbow in an attempt of attack-by-surprise but is less lucky than Thecis. The least lucky of the group, however, is Vanovar. In an effort to hide further from the gnolls and improve his position, he begins climbing higher into the tree. This is when the beans that he ate the night before return with full fury. A loud undefinable sound alerts the two gnolls and a third one, a little further away, to his exact position. Maybe striving to hide his shame, Vanovar lifts his bow, aims and releases the arrow directly in between the eyes of one of the wolf-beings. Headshot! This will definitely help with the shame.
Suddenly, vines appear from the ground around the two remaining gnolls, clawing at their legs and feet, pulling them in and down. Shaitan’s attack seems to be very effective, as the gnolls are now stuck in their positions. A light blue beam is released from Thecis’s palm towards the attackers, hitting one of them right in the rib cage. Frostbite slowly crawls from the point of impact outward, taking the gnolls ragged breath away. In case the gnoll wasn’t having the worst day ever, Dalmor steps forward, draws his crossbow, fires and the gnoll falls, face first, into the vines.
While the group is mid fight with the three scouting gnolls, Vanovar decides to take the opportunity to surprise the stationary cave guards, by carefully prowling towards them. Behind him, the last gnoll charges towards Shaitan in a rage, but misses him when he trips over one of his friends legs. The last thing he sees is a searing red flame materialising in Shaitans hand, spreading onto his clothes, skin and body and slowly eating away at everything that is flammable.
Once the group is rejoined at Vanovars location, they catch sight of one of the guards abandoning his post and wandering inside the cave. Faster than the group can see, Shaitan is looting the bodies scattered on the ground. When he lifts his head disappointedly and shakes it, Vanovar decides that the more bodies, the higher the chance to loot something of interest. He clicks his tongue “Come here boy, come on, get your treat!” to the gnoll.
The gnoll responds with a confused, uncomprehending look and slowly retreats into the cave. The party cautiously closes in on the cavern. At the entrance they can see how deep it actually goes and that there are even structures within it. A long flight of stairs leads towards a light far below the earth. The floor is made of stone, the cave itself kept au naturel in earth and minerals. Vanovar and Shaitan are looking up above them at a sign written in dwarven script. Dalmor follows their gaze and immediately begins to decipher the writing. “Guys, give me a second to read” he says as Shaitan impatiently begins to tap his foot. “Khordaldrum” Dalmor whispers. Ignorant of any higher meaning behind the word Thecis shrugs it off and moans “Let's just continue”. They begin their descent.
At the bottom of the stairs, they step into a slightly larger room with lanterns hung strategically along its side. Strangely they are not lit - where is the light coming from? At the back of the room they can make out a perpendicularly adjacent hallway. Vanovar rushes over and slips around the corner, just to see a massive metal door that blocks the entire hallway. On closer inspection it is carved with thick, deep scratch marks, burns and other, unidentifiable blemishes. Thecis pushes the door, which seems to kick into life a mechanism as there are three loud clicking noises to be heard. Shaitan proposes that someone should check for magic effects that may have been applied to the door, which Thecis agrees to do. He is met by a breeze of magic - it smells stale as if it has been lying dormant behind the door for a long time and couldn’t wait to escape into the vast darkness behind them. Intrigued, Shaitan and Vanovar begin to inspect the door for any mechanical specialities, but they cannot find any further magic or mechanical evidence. Together, the group begins to push the door open all the way, which reveals just another hallway, perpendicular to this one. Again, Vanovar leads the group, walking through the metal door and then peeking his head around the corner. At the end of the hallway they are greeted by another, much smaller door. It is made of old wood, it is splintered and battered, but nothing compared to the metal monster they just passed by. One by one, the group members amble through the doorway, when suddenly, Thecis falls to the ground. Confused, the group assembles around him, whence he begins to snore loudly. Annoyed at his badly timed tiredness, Shaitan slaps him. Only after the 7th slap, Thecis opens his eyes wearily and grabs his head. “Ouch, why does my head hurt?!” Shaitan steps away quickly and looks at the wall. “What happened? Was it some incredibly dangerous magical spell that you could not have anticipated?!” Shaitan demands. Thecis shrugs it off “Probably didn’t eat anything. I’ll eat some of this bread and everything will be fine”. His words are muffled by the pieces of bread that he has urgently stuffed into his cheeks like a hamster. Shaitan bows “Our magic guy, ladies and gentlemen!”
In his endeavour to make himself popular in the group, Shaitan begins to chat to Dalmor while they are walking towards the door. “So you speak dwarven, ey? What’s.. Say, ‘friend’ in dwarven?” Dalmor shrugs “Melon”. “MEEELOOONNN?” Shaitans voice echoes off the walls in a manner that makes it seem to magnify and multiply, making the walls shudder. With a quiet ‘clink’ the lights go off around them. A muffled creak tells them that door ahead has slowly swung open.
In a well known fashion, Vanovar sticks his head in through the door. Ahead, he sees a new landscape - their hallway has been divided into three openings, each too dark and deep to make out where they lead to. Wary of what may lie ahead of them, Thecis crouches down until his chest is touching the ground and begins to worm his way through the doorway. In the new light of the opening, they see that the most right hallway is covered in what looks like webs that must have been hanging there for hundreds of years. The middle hallway is closed by a stone door, with a massive, clearly dwarven, face carved in the middle of it. Thecis senses something strange with the door, it is almost as if a soul has been trapped in it. After sharing this information with his comrades, Vanovar decides that the most logical solution is to attempt to open the door that is keeping them from this new adventure with, well, his body. He hits the door full on and slams to the floor. Right behind him, the same fate meets Thecis. Yet, their plan seems to have succeeded, as it has now opened far enough for the slender elf to easily slide through.
Once through, Dalmor approaches the stone door. The dwarven eyes move and focus on him with a piercing stare. “STOP”. The voice sounds less like a voice and more like a thunderstorm, right above their heads. “What is your goal?!” Dalmor returns to the party, who begin a hushed conversation “Maybe he’s talking about the text from earlier?” someone assumes. Dalmor marches to the door “I come at night, an unwelcome guest. I’m not real, but I can still hurt. This is Khordaldrum. Raise your axe, raise your ale, speak friend and enter”. No reaction. He rushes back to the group “That didn’t work” he grumbles. After some deliberation he stomps back over: “Melon!” Random words are flung at the dwarf at a somewhat high speed, but the door looks rather unimpressed.
“Never mind, won’t be happening today” Shaitan shrugs, winks at the group and clearly signals them to hide. Their awkward attempt at tricking the door seems to work. “What year is it?” it growls in a low rumble. Dalmor looks at the group, a slight sweat has broken on his forehead. “3096” is the answer after much debate. “In what year was the first Dwarven city built?” the next question comes without hesitation. Dalmor seems less agitated now, although unsure. “70!” His gamble costs him dearly, as he crashes to the ground and begins to snore. The walls of the cave begin to tremble and quiver. The group looks around, panicked expressions framing their faces. They could swear that the walls are moving more than just like an earthquake. Right behind Shaitan a finger appears to crack out of the wall. Dwarven shapes that they had not noticed before are now becoming more and more visible in the walls all around them, and they are seemingly coming to life. The rumbling stops. Shaitan rushes to “wake up” Dalmor - 5 loud smacking noises later, Dalmor shakes his head and gets up slowly.
Vanovar, seemingly unimpressed by the whole situation, decides to give the leftmost opening a try and disappears from view. Abruptly, his field of vision is obscured by a green filter - everything he sees seems to have a green shine to it. He quickly turns to look back at the group, but he can only see some body parts, as he is too far into the cave at this point. “Guys?” He yells. No response. They don’t even seem to hear him at all. “Seriously, guys?” “Enforcers?” He attempts. Not even a slight reaction. When Vanovar walks towards the entrance of his chosen hallway he seems to run into another issue. Whenever he comes too close, he gets forced back, as if hitting an invisible glass wall.
“Guys? Do we know when the first city was built?” Dalmor is asking the party. “Wait, shush Dalmor. Where is Vanovar?! Vanovar ?? VANOOVAAR?” Shaitan squawks. Vanovar, on the other side of whatever it is he is stuck in, doesn’t hear a word of what is being said. While Shaitan and Dalmor are trying to figure out where Vanovar disappeared to, Thecis decides to have a closer look at hallway number 3, as the spider webs would easily give away Vanovars location.
Shaitan decides to walk into the leftmost corridor, hoping that he can see more, a little further on. Without his knowledge, he passes through the same barrier that Vanovar had walked through minutes earlier and suddenly Vanovar appears in front of him. Simultaneously, he vanishes from sight for Dalmor. Dalmor gasps for air and is stopped in his tracks. Thecis, already on his way back to the group, notices this and rushes over. When he realises what has happened he quickly removes one of the books from his backpack and begins to browse them hastily. Rapidly, he finds what he was looking for “Magical Firewall”, he reads out. “It’s some sort of veil, often used as a trap in combination with a pocket dimension…. Mmhmmhh” he mumbles, more to himself than Dalmor “we cannot see or hear them, and they cannot see or hear us... Also, they are trapped. They will die in this pocket dimension if we don’t do anything!” he concludes. Dalmor immediately begins to look for any hidden panels, to his best knowledge a favourite of the dwarven kind.
Meanwhile, Vanovar and Shaitan have also come to the conclusion that they would much rather not be stuck somewhere that looks this green, and begin to investigate the room. Vanovar is walking around when he makes a step forward and hears a nearly soundless clicking noise, that non-elven ears would have overheard. He recognises a pattern of colours, certain tiles are different shades and when stepped on, they seem to disappear. Underneath, a vast, endless seeming, white nothingness awaits that he does not recognise. At this moment Dalmor finds a hidden panel in the wall and slides it backwards. It reveals a lever, which Thecis does not hesitate to pull. In the room the tiles disappear, and the room becomes black.
The room that Shaitan and Vanovar are housing disappears from their sight. The room seems to fall out from underneath them, but suddenly they are standing right in the middle of it. They realise quickly that the veil has been dropped, and now they can see the truth of what the room really is. The walls are decorated with tapestry, except of the longest one, which is split into three. There are three weapon holders, each holding a staff, sword or shield. Thecis and Dalmor express their happiness very calmly over being able to see Vanovar and Shaitan, who are rather puzzled by the events that have just occurred to them. One thing that the entire group is certain of, is that the weapons and shield in front of them are cursed and trapped, possibly even illusions. “Are dwarves always like this?” Shaitan requests frustrated. Dalmor shakes his head “This has been made by dwarves, but the plans came from somebody or something else.”
Thecis and Vanovar seem to have very little intent of staying in the cursed room as they make their way towards the spider hallway “Let's let this room be and check out the spider hallway. Much more interesting anyway” one of them grumbles. Once the group reaches the opening, many attempts are made at removing the spiderwebs, which are currently making it impossible to pass through. Thecis seems to sense that something is wrong with the webs, that they are magically enhanced in some way, but more importantly also brings to attention a strong magical presence at the end of this hallway. They agree that this is the way to go, and one by one they make their way through the webs at a slow pace. It’s a little like walking through chewing gum.
Surprisingly, its Thecis who emerges first from the webs, to see a rather particular scene in front of him. Mid air there is a staff floating, being held by the hand of a scrawny, middle aged man whose body is badly mauled and has definitely been decaying for a little while. Vanovar steps forward in an attempt to destroy the webs that are surrounding the corpse, which has as effect that the webs begin to vibrate and tremble, all the way along the room until they reach the end of their line of sight. Shaitan, not a fan of spiders, bolts. Without looking back, he runs into the direction they came from, but once he notices that he is alone, he slows to a halt.
In a manner unknown to him, Dalmor steps forward and reaches his hand out towards the staff, which he can just about reach. A web appears from behind and entangles Dalmor until he can no longer breathe. He falls to the ground and slowly gets dragged away into the darkness. Quiet clicking noises can be heard echoing through the vast cave system that even Vanovars elven eyes cannot make out.