The companions, after receiving the necklace chain gift from the pond creature they had rescued, start to realize the daunting task ahead of them in scouring the city looking for the 400 pearls that the Grey Witch tasked them with finding. How could they ever find them all? They remembered the swarm if insects and the devourers torturing their queen they had passed the day before. They didn’t stop to help then, but perhaps they could help now. And if they help the insects, perhaps the insects would return the favor. And surely a whole host searching would be better than just the 3 of them.
So they start off. As they get to the spot where the insects were seen the day before, they saw a few again. Then a few more. Then a whole giant swarm started to make their way towards them and surround them. The bustling mass begins to press in. Dirdrik is quite apprehensive the whole time but does not strike. As they are about to be overtaken, Amris attempts to cast Spider Climb, but is unable to concentrate sufficiently. Instead of scaling the wall, Amris is dazed and everyone can feel the energy flowing out in a POOF. The insect creatures nearest to them all simultaneously take a few steps backward, hold their position for a moment, then start to move in a pattern, clearing a path for the companions to travel that leads deeper into the alley, toward the insects’ hole. Then the insects converge and cover them, crawling over everyone with pinchers smacking. However, the flesh is not being peeled off their bones, merely their clothes. The companions are stripped, brought down then hoisted onto the backs of many of the insects and sent down the tunnel, crowdsurfing so to speak.
They are brought along through passage after twisting passage, such that even a gnome would get lost under ideal circumstances. They are then brought into a small room and left there. Dirdrik describes the situation to Amris and Kel. Soon, an entourage of 8 insects start to approach, including 1 that looks different from all the others – looks similar to the one that the devourers where torturing and was assumed to be their queen. The other queen (princess? Queen’s mother?) starts talking in broken Common.
“We need you help. We need you magic save queen. Save queen we give you anything.” The queen and Dirdrik talk for a few minutes. The insects offer a rod of power and a map to help the companions save the queen from the “smoke breathers” – presumably the devourers. The map is of the smoke breathers’ lair, there is one entrance and the insects believe there is another. Having little choice and both wanting to help and receive the insects’ favor, they agree and their equipment is returned. But not being able to put it on very well in the dark, they and their equipment are brought back to the surface. Kel picks up the rod – it is a skeleton Necronic Rod made of tvool with dark red orb on end allowing the bearer to add more power to their current spells or, if they are lucky, able to cast any level 5 spell as a level 9 character. One insect is conspicuously separate from the others, looking back at them as if waiting for the adventurers to follow. So they do.
They are led through the city to a spot where a side street splits off to the right. Here there is a giant whole the entire width of the side street, with the pavement sloping inward all around. Their guide scampers off. Amris peers down and believes he sees 3 devourers mulling about down below.
They believe they are at the larger entrance shown on the map, with the lair stretching out to the right. With the path ahead looking unsteady due to the collapse, they backtrack a short distance and head down the first passage that presumably leads off parallel to the hidden underground lair.
They head down the street, taking the first left which should lead them over the heart of the subterranean expanse. Then the ground starts to give way. Before they can decide to run for it or not, they tumble down, where the earth opened as if to swallow them.
Amris, already quite weak, and Kel both land quite hard while Dirdrik lands on a cot. They appear to be in an ancient medical room. Rectangular, lined with cots, large stacks of casks on the far end and cabinet and metal door on the other end. The casks all appeared to have been filled with brandy, but have long since half-evaporated and gone bad. Amris and Kel consider maybe Kel should try and use the rod to heal them, but decide to wait and then serendipitously decide to look in the cabinet just as they are about to try and leave. It is filled with health potions. So they all get to full health and divide up the remaining 12 vials and attempt to leave.
The metal door is slightly ajar, with a wheel in the middle. First Dirdrik tries both the wheel and pushing the door, but they don’t move (he’s also afraid of breaking them if he puts his whole strength behind it). Then Amris tries – something in the wheel mechanism snaps so that it will now spin freely, but he is able to push the door open.
They emerge onto a long catwalk. It is hard to make anything out in the dark, but the catwalk extends to either side, with a vast chasm in front of them. The walls are all lined with iron plates, and the ceiling is about 25-30 feet above the catwalk. On the left the catwalk ends fairly quickly. They start to go to the right, and pass a ladder as they do so. Then they see a landing of sorts where the catwalk sticks out farther, with a gap in the railing and a lever a few feet away. Unsure of whether to pull the lever or not, they continue down and pass another ladder. Farther down, a tunnel emerges off to the right, but a short ways down there is the result of a massive cave-in, so they turn around and continue along the catwalk. It ends at another metal door, this time with no wheel visible. They try to push it open, but it doesn’t open and fearing making a racket, don’t push with all their strength.
Amris looks down one of the ladders, and is barely able to make out 2 giant lobster-like creatures at the bottom about 300 feet down. Unsure of where to go, they are considering pulling the ladder when Amris talks them into trying to stack up the casks from the medical ward to build an escape pyramid, with the idea of continuing to look for the back entrance the insects had mentioned. They attempt to do so and send Kel up, but he can tell once he gets up there that the ground above is not at all stable near where it caved in previously under their weight, so they abandon that idea.
So they resolve to pull the lever, hoping to see some kind of cable car approach. And when they do, one does. Kel and Dirdrik get in, and Amris pulls the lever again with the idea of jumping on before the door closes. Unfortunately, the door closes immediately and the cable car moves off, stranding Amris. Fortunately Kel had cast light on Amris’ staff so he wouldn’t be in complete darkness (for now).
Kel and Dirdrik are carried along in the cable car in the vast darkness minus one Amris. As it feels like they are starting to approach the far side, the car abruptly stops and the chime dings. Kel immediately grabs onto the side and Dirdrik follows suit. However, nothing happens. They are enclosed in the car/cage, however there is a trap door in the middle of the floor, and a small lever near it. Kel casts light again and, indeed, they are only 150 feet or so from the far side. Then the car drops – a few feet.
Kel starts to try to convince Dirdrik to climb out the trap door, climb up the car and shimmy across the cables to the other side. Dirdrik starts to believe it is a good idea, and pulls the lever near the trap door to check it out. Underneath, there are no handholds but a ladder does extend to just underneath them. Then Dirdrik remembered the “ding” from when the car stopped. About this time, the cables start moving again but the car does not. Apparently Amris has repulled his lever to retrieve the other two, but something perhaps broke. Kel and Dirdrik start to climb down the ladder.
Meanwhile, Amris’ light has gone out, so he casts Flame, lights a candle, then tries the other door again. This time he is able to open it, and finds a library. The main item of interest is a half-finished letter that warns of creatures summoned to destroy any evidence of Shadow Flame.
Back at the ladder, Dirdrik and Kel continue climbing down. While the ladder looks like metal, Dirdrik senses that it somehow just … isn’t. They can tell they are climbing into the top of a small building that the 2 creatures, now much more easily seen, are circling but not getting too close to. As the creatures are not reaching the base of the ladder, they continue down and go into the hole in the roof of the building. Once they get in, they see that it does not have solid walls, but rather a series of columns. Fortunately, the monsters are not trying to get in, not even sticking their antennae or claws in. They find many very-old writing desks and a trap door in the floor. So they go through the trap door, and find a short ladder.
As soon as they get under the floor, they can see through the ceiling. The whole floor of the vast room they were crossing appears to act as a one-way mirror. And the whole underfloor has debris scattered throughout it, including piles of scrap metal and the occasional tool. They continue crossing and get to the far side, where there are two more ladders descending from either side of the companion platform far above, with trap doors down to the underfloor. They quickly scramble up one of the ladders. This draws the attention of the creatures and the start to charge, but they are not quick enough.
Above, Kel and Dirdrik find another lever and pull it, to see if the car will come to them. It does move, but instead of coming nicely to the landing, crashes into the wall several feet below them. It appears to be out of order. The catwalk goes off to either side, but they find nothing of interest. They do find one tunnel going back that also ends in a rubble pile, but to one side they find a crack in the iron plating. A soft light emanates from beyond, but appears to be produced by neither sun nor flame. A multitude of tiny footsteps are visible going back and forth through the crack. A smell of death wafts over them from the hand-carved tunnel beyond. Figuring this is where they must go, they start back to pick up Amris and tell them what they found. They wave their staff to Amris on the far side. He is just able to make something out, but Kel and Dirdrik don’t spot Amris’ reply.
Before descending back down, Kel casts light on top of the far ladder and shoots off a magic missile. This does seem to distract the monsters, but a short ways down Kel slips while climbing down the ladder in the dark and falls to his death. Or would have, if Dirdrik hadn’t caught him just in time.
They reach the bottom safely, Kel holding onto Dirdrik, and go back across the vast expanse on foot, paying careful attention to not get lost. As they climb up the ladders again, they again just get beyond the reach of the creatures swinging for them.
They meet up with Amris and each relates the tale of the past hour. They plan to go back to the crack in the far side, but as Dirdrik and Amris are discussing it still, Kel has started down, and they hurriedly follow after him, Dirdrik carrying Amris on his back.
Kel casts flaming sphere to distract the creatures, but as he is almost to the bottom they go after Kel. One swipes at Kel and misses. The other hits him with it’s antenna, and all of Kel’s gold pieces disintegrate. Kel starts firing magic missiles at them, using the rod to supercharge the missiles. He twice does 10 points of damage on one, and it scampers off. In between shots, Kel has also climbed up a ways, but is still just within reach when they leap and run up the wall as high as they can, and gets Kel for several points of damage. Seeing that this attempt is futile, they all start to head back up to regroup and try again later.