Hive Day 2 (Uath 14)

Back to The Hive

Back to Hive Day 1 (Uath 13)
Ahead to Hive Day 3 (Uath 15)

Uath 14 – midnight

Awn is ready with dispel magic for the blackstone, and the group is now ready to press on. She casts her spell, and the blackstone wall fades from existence. Beyond it is a narrow, circular tunnel, leading down. Carnail resumes the lead, and the rest of the Team follows in their previous order.

Unlike the natural cavern, or the carved skull, this is a perfectly smooth tunnel through the limestone bedrock. It is ten feet in diameter, but circular, so that they can only walk in single file on the narrow portion at the bottom of the curved walls that is flat. The tunnel slopes down, at an angle that is rather too steep for comfort – they will tire soon. It would be dangerous to fall, hard to stop. Fortunately it is completely dry and free of debris.

Carnail walks a bit ahead of the rest, using her spear to probe ahead for pits, but as much to steady herself against the slope. She goes slowly and carefully, checking the walls and ceiling for side-tunnels and shafts, keeping her glowstone just bright enough to see around her. Fortunately the tunnel is so narrow she is unlikely to miss anything larger than a crack or slit.

After perhaps half an hour, Digger and Fogey begin talking quietly to each other. They seem to have noticed something about the rock walls. Carnail asks for an explanation. Fogey calls her back to him and she holds her glowstone against the rock face. Fogey points out a line dividing two kinds of rock. He says that they are several hundred feet below the surface now, and have hit the bottom of the limestone that underlays Lake Quag. Now they are passing into basaltic rock, the Oerth itself, the same material the Yatil Mountains are made of. [12:30am]

Carnail nods, but is not sure what to do with the information. She reckons they are as deep now as the lowest levels of the undercity, if not lower, but that is just a guess.

Carnail has the group spread out, more distance between each person in case of a fall, and warns them to be on alert. Then they continue.

After another twenty minutes or so, Carnail can see a space ahead of her – it seems that the tunnel has turned completely vertical, and drops into a shaft of unknown depth. Easing forward, Carnail sees the light of her glowstone spilling into a much larger space below, as if the tunnel they were traveling in has intersected a much larger tunnel from above. [Carnail makes Int check to appreciate tunnel. Fogey fails Int check to spot mineral]. [12:50am]

Carnail calls for quiet and the lights to be dimmed. “This may be it – we don’t want to be seen yet,” she hisses. Carnail calls for the rope and Reamer produces it. She ties one end around her waist, and indicates silently for the others to lower her down. Digger she motions to guard the rear, and he moves a ways back up the tunnel.

Carnail puts out her light, then closes her eyes and gives herself a minute for her infravision to adjust. She crawls to the lip of the shaft and slides herself over. There is a sudden drop, then a jolt as the rope pulls taut. She is spinning slowly in midair.

As she spins, she strains with her eyes – yes, there are walls and a floor – but this tunnel is indeed much larger than the one they were traveling in. It seems like their tunnel has intersected this one through a hole in the ceiling. She thinks if they lower her a bit she will reach the floor before the rope runs out.

Carnail reaches out with her ESP, searching for the mind of Fogey. He seems surprised, but then settles down. “Yes, m’lady?”

“Lower me…slowly.”

Fogey whispers to everyone on the rope and they lower Carnail. Split Lip is standing at the edge, holding the rope up to keep it from wearing on the sharp lip of rock, but this makes it so that Carnail spins and swings more and more as she is lowered.

In a few moments Carnail touches down lightly on a hard stone floor and the rope goes slack. She is perhaps fifteen or twenty feet below the others. There are walls near at hand but this larger tunnel continues in two directions as far as she can see.

Carnail unties the rope and searches again for Fogey’s mind. It is faint but there – she is at the extreme range of her ESP. She tells him that she is about twenty feet down, and in a tunnel. She will scout while they sit tight. She hears his acknowledgement.

She first needs to check whether she is on blackstone, but doesn’t want to risk a light. She takes off a gauntlet, kneels and feels the surface. It is definitely rock, and very smooth, with a fine layer of dust. But she does feel slight variations in height, some minute depressions. So far, all the blackstone she has seen has been perfectly smooth, like polished glass. She does not think this is it.

Carnail uses her gloveless hand to open a belt pouch with nothing more than a quiet click. She removes her special coin, the mirror-token. Squaring her shoulders so that one of the open tunnels is in front of her, she walks to the right hand wall and leaves the coin at the base. It is about fifteen feet to the wall – making this whole tunnel some thirty feet wide. The floor is smooth and level, not rounded like the tunnel above. At the base of the wall her foot catches on a slight ledge in the rock, but she does not trip. She feels around – it seems just like a natural protrusion of the rock floor, nothing special. Here at the base of the wall the floor is much rougher than in the center of the tunnel – she is definitely not on blackstone. [1am]

Carnail keeps close to the wall and begins walking carefully forward, making as little noise as possible. After a few steps she has a sense that she is on a very gradual downslope. She turns around and can see the ceiling tunnel opening as a dark black against the light black blur, with just a hint of red glow that could be Split Lip. The tunnel is straight and uniform. She walks down until she can no longer see the ceiling hole behind her, but has not seen anything different.

Carnail turns around so the wall is now on her left side. She returns all the way to the ceiling hole, and then continues as far in the other direction. This way is slightly uphill. She does not see or hear anything.

Carnail returns to where she came in. She finds Fogey’s mind, and gives the command to start lowering people, in order of weight with Split Lip first, but Lee last. One at a time, they come down without incident.

When Digger is down, Lee coils the rope and descends with her boots. Meanwhile, Digger asks Carnail if they can have light – there is something he wants to show her. Carnail says just a little. [1:10am]

Digger borrows Fogey’s glowstone, and goes to the wall of the tunnel. He opens up just enough light to see the wall, and spends several minutes going over it, looking high and low, back and forth along the length of the wall.

Finally he says, “Ah-ha!” and waves them over. In the mix of the basaltic crystals are faint minerals of a deep green color. “Now, I’m no mining engineer, but every wee gnome is taught his crystals. And I have no idea what that is. I saw the same thing in the tunnel above – I got looking at the walls while I was on watch duty.”

Carnail looks at it dubiously. “It’s not jade?”

“No, jade is metamorphic – that is, the rock it is in has to have been changed. This is just normal basalt.” Fogey nods his agreement, but is carefully studying the crystals and sucking at his cheeks as if trying to remember something. “I might know that,” he says slowly.

After a long pause, Fogey continues. “I think that is a special Underdark mineral. It has some magical properties I am trying to remember.”

Carnail asks, “The stuff that drow armor and weapons are made from? Super powerful but gets destroyed in the sun?”

“No, no, but supposed to be abundant around drow cities – that’s it. It interferes with transport and scrying magic. The drow build their cities near natural concentrations of it so that things can’t teleport in and out.”

Carnail recalls the difficulty they had getting in and out of Erelhi-Cinlu – how they had to walk in and out and had to be transported by a miracle from Ulaa at one point.

Carnail lays her spear against the wall and walks a distance away, then calls it to her. It appears nearby with no seeming hesitation.

“Noted – thank you, Digger and Fogey.” Carnail calls the Team members in close so she can speak softly. “My guess is the hive is down. But we don’t want any surprises and don’t want anything behind us. So we are going to clear the uphill tunnel first. Same marching order, you guys know the procedure.” Everyone nods agreement. [1:20am]

With Carnail leading, the group proceeds up the main tunnel. It is over 30 feet wide and nearly 20 feet high. The walls and ceiling are somewhat rough, but the floor is worn smooth, as though it has seen years of travel across its surface. The tunnel runs straight and true, and as they party follows it, they sense that countless others once traveled this path, much as surface dwellers might travel the King’s roads of Furyondy. Carnail recalls her time in the Underdark, and marvels that two parallel worlds can exist so close to each other and yet be so independent. No one in Traft, no one in Perrenland for that matter, knows about these roads, and the creatures who traveled them surely did not care about the humans living just above them on the surface.

After about 200 yards, they find their way completely blocked by tons of collapsed rock. Digger and Fogey examine it. Noting large cracks in the walls, they say there was a cave-in or collapse here, going floor-to-ceiling and beyond – there doesn’t look like any way around it.

Satisfied that their back is safe, Carnail turns the group around. They pass the ceiling-hole and continue, staying close to the right-hand wall. On beyond the ceiling hole, Fogey notes the concentration of the green mineral is increasing. The center of the tunnel’s floor is more worn than the edges, as if thousands of feet wore it smooth in some forgotten age, but dust now blankets it as if it has been long abandoned. Lingering traces of stone carvings appear on the walls and increase in frequency as the group proceeds.

After about 350 yards of moving forward and down the tunnel, Carnail notes a wide patch of floor in front of them that seems to be moving, and is slightly warmer than the stone floor. She calls the rest of them to halt while she moves forward cautiously to investigate. [1:50am]

As she approaches, she can smell dampness – the moving floor is actually a moat of water – it seems an underground river crosses their tunnel perpendicularly. It is perhaps twenty feet across, and then the tunnel resumes, but it seems there are large fallen stones on the far side as well.

Carnail sticks her spear in the water – it is deeper than the length of her spear. There is a slow, but definite, current. The river cuts across the floor of the tunnel, but not the walls – there is a gap of only a few inches of air above the water’s surface in the side tunnels from where the water is coming and into where it is flowing. They will need to be careful crossing or they could be swept down the side tunnel and held underwater.

Carnail calls the party forward to the water’s edge. They take one end of the rope and she the other. She switches out her ring of free action for her ring of water-walking. She steps across the river’s surface, moving forward and to the left to compensate for the current pulling her right. Once on the other shore, she sees that the fallen stones are in fact two massive rectangular slabs. They are thick, but can be climbed over. Beyond that the tunnel is blocked by something else, but for the moment she concentrates on the party. Leaning back against the slab to support her weight, she pulls on the rope and the party does the same until it is taut and level. Then they cross one-by-one, hand-over-hand with just their arms and heads above water, now in reverse order of weight, with Digger leading. They all come through soaked and chilled by the frigid water, but unharmed. Split Lip is last, and the party is challenged fighting the strong pull of the current against his massive frame, but finally pull him through. Even he did not touch bottom. The party celebrates their safe crossing, but Carnail thinks to herself this is yet one more barrier to their escape in case they need to flee. [2am]

Digger and Fogey examine the slabs in front of them, and the walls alongside. They remark that the slabs are actually the remains of huge, perfectly cut doors that would have closed to block the tunnel. They must have been perfectly balanced on their hinges, for they obviously weigh several tons. They are now shattered into several pieces each, but each piece is larger than any of the party could move.

Scrambling over the fallen doors, they find that the tunnel broadens and the ceiling rises beyond, but that the tunnel is completely blocked off. This time not by a collapse, but by a flat surface of worked stone as if it has been walled off with huge basalt bricks. At waist level are numerous slits in the rock, none wider than a hands’ width. The wall continues up to the ceiling, but above them is some sort of wide ledge or projection.

Lee levitates up to the ledge, and finds that there is an opening into the rock wall beyond it. She also finds traces of rusted gearing and other machines, but has no idea what they once did. She throws down the rope and one-by-one the party ascends. Carnail goes back into the dark recess. There are some empty machinery-rooms at this level, but also a narrow staircase with short steps leading down.

She takes the staircase down to the level of the tunnel floor, where there is an archery gallery. The slits the party saw facing them before were arrow slits, making this some sort of gatehouse to defend the tunnel. She pauses a moment in thought, then extends her hand forward as if holding a bow – the slits are too short for her. She calls the party down and has the various races try them. The slits, and the stairs for that matter, seem proportioned for a race somewhere between Digger and Fogey in height. She asks them what they think.

All of this, they conclude, indicates an underground race with advanced engineering. Tyrants don’t build – they just carve out of rock with their disintegration rays, at least from what they have seen so far. But they float – they don’t need stairs. Whoever built this gatehouse were not tyrants, they were a humanoid race of the size of small dwarves, and they had great knowledge of building. Carnail nods. [2:10am]

This bottom floor of the gatehouse has a single open doorway in the back, which returns them to the main tunnel. It looks as it did before, but now the green minerals are dense along the walls. They seem to catch the dim light of the glowstones and then release it over time, so that a green glow trails the party as they move down the tunnel. Now Carnail is definitely reminded of the walls of the drow city, Erelhi-Cinlu. She again calls for her spear and it comes to her without hesitation. Fogey says that likely there is no problem with short-distance travel, but the magical interference from the crystals might prevent long-distance transportation. Carnail nods, meaning their rings of recall may be useless. Fogey adds that if they are going to call for the equipment box, now would be a good time to do it, as it might be impossible later on.

Carnail returns to the interior of the gatehouse, and calls for the chest, as well as the small box. After a few minutes delay, they arrive. She checks their contents and stores them in the lower floor of the gatehouse. [2:20am]

Carnail returns to the group, and they proceed down the tunnel. After less than a hundred yards, they find their way blocked by a second massive cave-in. Carnail and Lee explore the face of the rocks, seeking any means around it. On Carnail’s side (the left), high on the rock face almost at the level of the ceiling, is a narrow crack where the wall split during the collapse.

Hive xp (5)

After climbing up to it, Carnail can see that the crack goes in a few feet, and then opens into a much larger chamber. She can make it through easily, but it will be a squeeze for Split Lip. Carnail calls the Team up to her location, and she leads the way through the crack. She has to worm her way on hands and knees for a longer passage than her height, but soon emerges on the other side, on top of a large scree slope like the one that blocked the tunnel.

This slope, however, goes down into a huge cavern. The floor of the cavern is dominated by strange structures. Many of them are demolished, nothing more than rubble themselves, but a few of them still stand. To the left, the walls of the cavern are barely visible, along with several tall towers that extend all the way to the ceiling overhead. In front of Carnail and to the right, however, the walls of the cavern lie far beyond her sight – the number of buildings is uncountable, as many more lie beyond her vision. [2:30am]

Carnail and her team scramble down the rock slope and out onto the cavern floor. She decides to first investigate the closest tower, but their way there takes them in front of one of the few egg-shaped buildings that is reasonably intact. The structures appear to have been designed for a species somewhat shorter than humans, as the doorways are diminutive openings no more than five feet high. This seems to match the proportions of the gatehouse. Every one of the structures is cylindrical in shape, although they vary in size and height – some are obviously one story whereas others are probably more.
The Team listens carefully outside the entrance to the building (1-4a). They hear nothing from inside it, but off in the darkness, all around them, are the faint but unmistakable sounds of insects scurrying over stone. BIG insects.

Image: Slave Quarters 1

Carnail, Reamer, and Jizam enter the building. There is a short entryway leading to a large round common room. The common room has numerous small rooms branching off of it, and a stone staircase leading to a second story. Carnail ignores the second story, and tells the others they are looking for a way down. All of the furnishings have long since rotted or crumbled away, so it is difficult to tell the functions of the rooms. In one that is either a kitchen or washroom, judging from the stone basins that remain, they find a narrow staircase down to a finished storeroom. From there, a crawlspace in the wall opens. Carnail, stooped, can squeeze through – but the rough-hewn tunnel twists and turns and soon branches – she wants nothing to do with this. They return to the rest of the Team outside the building, and proceed to the base of the tower (1-3). [2:50am]

Hive xp (6)

The tower is made of mortarless slabs of basalt, the same as the buildings but with much larger pieces. Like the buildings, it has been polished round and smooth by some unknown process. It is perhaps thirty feet across at the base and narrows slightly as it ascends. No top is visible, for it goes right up to, or perhaps through, the roof of the cavern they are in. There are no windows or arrow slits, but there is a single open doorway at ground level. [3am]

Carnail enters. The interior is completely open, a single round chamber that goes up as far as she can see. A stone spiral stairway, set into the wall but without railing, starts at the ground floor and winds up into the darkness.

She has the Team enter, but goes up the stairs with Lee, only. The two women ascend the staircase, noting the shallow steps, built to the same diminutive proportions as everything else. They climb easily a hundred feet at are certainly higher than the ceiling of the cavern they were in below before they arrive at the top. They emerge in a room which features a solid stone floor all the way across the interior of the tower and a domed ceiling. Large, open windows ring the observation deck completely, though they have to stoop to see out of them. [3:10am]

Image: Observation Tower

They look out across the vastness of an even greater cavern than the one they saw below. They are perhaps some forty feet off of the floor of this one. This floor, however, is not smooth and worn. Rather it is very rough, with ridges and ravines but also stalagmites. On one side of the tower, the ground slopes gradually down, on the other, up, so that they, and several other towers that Carnail can barely make out, seem to be on the periphery of a vast underground mountain. Far above them the ceiling of the cavern is unseen – but points of light flicker and shine like stars at some unknown distance.

They return to the ground floor and explain their findings. Digger whistles in admiration. The team proceeds counter-clockwise around the perimeter of the “living quarters” (as they have taken to calling the cavern of the buildings). Fogey paces off the distance, and announces that it is roughly a hundred feet to a support column, and then another hundred to a second tower. They glance in the open doorway of the tower, but do not enter. They proceed around the wall to another support column, a third tower, another column, and then a fourth tower. Near this tower is one of the largest of the egg-shaped buildings they have seen, but one that lies almost completely in rubble. [4:10am]

As Carnail examines the tower entrance, Lee, in the rear, hears the rubble behind her shift. She turns to see a giant centipede emerging from the ruins of the building. It looks for all the world like any normal tunnel centipede, but is fully thirty feet long. She draws her sword and ignites it, but the creature is on her immediately, pinioning her arms to her sides with a huge pair of mandibles, while other, smaller, mouthparts work to open a hole in the dragonhide armor covering her breast.

Image: Giant Cave Centipede

Though Lee is helpless, the other members of the Team fan out along the length of the beast, attacking it. Carnail’s spear pierces it twice; Split Lip’s huge sword cuts a deep gash across its back. The blows of the others rain down along its side, but bounce off of the hard chitin exoskeleton. Suddenly Jizam appears visible next to Lee, his back to her and the butt of his dagger protruding from the great faceted eye of the creature. The centipede’s head thrashes wildly, and Lee is jerked about like a rag doll for several seconds. Then, its convulsions gradually diminishing, the creature eventually stills. Lee sets herself free.

Hive xp (7)

Image: Slave Quarters 2

The party listens quietly for several minutes. Anything about surely would have heard the sounds of their struggle. When nothing arrives, Carnail takes it as a sign that this cavern is indeed deserted, aside from the centipedes themselves. [4:20am]

The Team continues exploring along the exterior wall, leaving the body of the creature behind them. They pass by another support column and arrive at a final tower, this one in a “corner” of the cavern near where the block wall changes its direction abruptly. This tower, unlike the previous five, has its gateway blocked by a smooth face of blackstone. [4:40am]

The Team continues along the straight wall, passing support columns but no towers, until another corner, whereupon the wall starts to curve again, paralleling the curve in the much longer outer wall. After a hundred feet more they come to two towers, thick and rising to the ceiling but without visible entrance. In between them is a gap large enough for a wagon to pass through easily. It seems to leave the cavern they are in, leading to another part of the underground complex. Carnail says that they will come back to that after they have finished this cavern. Fogey says that it is by now easily two or three in the morning and that they have been going since yesterday morning. He asks for a rest and a spot of food. [5:10am]

Carnail acquiesces, but makes a mental note to talk to him later. “Not here in the open”, she says simply, and the group approaches the nearest intact structure – a small two-story building similar to the one they explored before, next to a much larger but mostly collapsed building.

Carnail enters first and is immediately attacked by a Giant Cave Centipede in the common room; this one even bigger than the last, if that is possible. It ignores her displaced image and attacks her directly, probably feeling vibrations or heat. She fends it off and strikes two spear blows. When it starts to back away she finishes it off with a third strike. [5:20am]

Hive xp (8)

Carnail has the rest of the Team enter the building, and Fogey distributes more of the food he created before. It is bland but nourishing. The centipede reeks of a vinegary alarum pheromone. Fogey and Digger argue over whether the smell will attract other centipedes or repulse them, but no more are seen for the duration of the meal. [6:20am]

Image: Slave Quarters 3

The Team leaves the building to continue their travel around the periphery of the cavern. They follow the curving inner wall to a second gate, much like the first and flanked by towers. This one, however, is impassable, blocked off by a ceiling collapse. Two hundred feet beyond that they are back to where they started, at the base of the scree slope down which they entered this cavern. [6:40am]

Image: Slave Quarters 4

They turn about and return to the open gate, venturing into what they now call the “Inner City”. What was before the inner wall is now revealed to be the outer wall of this smaller, round space. A new, even shorter inner wall is ahead. Both walls pass from floor to ceiling and both are made of the large basaltic blocks.

The center of what is essentially a single wide avenue is relatively clear, but the edges, against the two walls, are littered with moldering debris of what was once wood and cloth. If the cavern from whence they came was living quarters, Carnail imagines this to be a trade district, with shops lining both sides of the street. All are now in ruin, however. Occasional hunks in the center of the street are recognizable as having once been carts and wagons.

The Team proceeds counterclockwise around the great hub. The first feature of interest is a great, straight boulevard intersecting their circle and running off at great distance into the darkness (1-8). It looks identical to the tunnel through which they arrived at this city. Carnail surmises that it is likely blocked off at some point and says they need not investigate. [7am]

Continuing on, they find along the outside wall a pair of towers flanking an open gate (1-11), narrower than the one through which they entered the hub.

As they pass beyond the portal, the dampness is immediately noticeable, as is the smell of rich soil and decay. It is as if the whole place is some sort of bizarre underground garden, and those who have been there are immediately reminded of the fungus gardens of Cyndicea. Everywhere they look, the Team sees growths of mold and fungi covering what must once have been structures. In the middle of a great open area are huge, towering cylinders covered in brightly colored growths. To either side are what appear to be large buildings, also coated with various spores, molds, and so forth. The sound of insects feeding, both great and small, is immediately noticeable.

Carnail pauses, looking about. “There is nothing here that we cannot come back for later,” she says, and leads the Team away.

The next opening in the outside wall appears to be another tunnel leading away from the city (1-9). This one, however, is noticeably blocked off by collapsed rock. [7:20am]

Image: Lower City 1

Continuing on, the Team finds up against one segment of the outer wall a strange pile of debris that might have been a shelter of some sort (1-5a). While the material that composes the formation is without a doubt the same stuff that lies scattered throughout the rest of the place, it certainly looks recently constructed, rather than naturally occurring. Also, it uses the materials as already debris, rather than being the ruins of a once-whole structure.

Image: Shelter Street Detail

Carnail inspects the pile and finds a single, low entrance. Stooping, she clambers in. A single, small interior chamber is no more than 5 feet across. Suddenly, what appears to be a rotten section of beam moves and shifts unnaturally, becomes eminently flexible and lashes forward to strike her, bouncing harmlessly off of her armor. She backs out of the structure and waits, but nothing emerges. “Stay away from here until later” she says. [7:30am]

The Team continues until they reach another opening in the outer wall. The tall, narrow gateway parts to reveal a ghost town (1-12). Stretching as far as they can see are dilapidated buildings, long abandoned, lining narrow streets. Some seem ordinary, almost familiar, in their design. Others are constructed in wild styles of architecture so that they can only imagine what sort of creatures would find comfort in such a place. [7:40am]

Image: Ghost Town

Carnail leads the Team down the narrow streets and past a few houses, but it quickly becomes apparent that the place is deserted. “This we will also return to,” she says, as she leads them back to the gate.

“And what of leaving nothing at our backs?” asks Fogey.

“That applies to tyrants only. I have no doubts that these places are crawling with bugs and other pest monsters. But there is nothing here that will come after us, will stalk or threaten us. We can exterminate them at our leisure once we are safe from the tyrants.” [8am]

Continuing clockwise around the outer wall, Carnail is frustrated that they have not yet seen any means of entry to the inner wall – just identical stone blocks, floor-to-ceiling.

A second gate in the outer wall leads to a different perspective on what is most likely the same ghost town. [8:10am]

A large gap in the outer wall leads to a tunnel, likely the fourth entrance / exit from the city (1-10). [8:20am]

A narrow gate leads to the melodic sound of lightly falling water. For some reason, the area is much lighter than any they have yet seen, and even Lee and Jizam are able to see without difficulty. The glow appears to be emanating from vast pools of water in a huge cavern (1-13). There are two tiers of water; the closer one higher and flowing down into the second one, which flows out of sight. A catwalk skirts the edge of the water to the left, but soon is buried under a collapsed section (1-13a). To the right, broad steps lead down into the first pool of water.

“Likely there are water creatures here to fight,” says Carnail tonelessly. “We return later.” [8:30am]

Image: Lower City Water Room

The Team continues around the outer wall, where it seems the same collapsed section that buried the catwalk has also blocked off a large portion of the outer wall. Carnail goes over the sketch maps she has been making and concludes that they are likely on the opposite side of the collapse that prevented them from entering the inner city when they first arrived.

A bit more around and they are within sight of the collapse that blocks the lower gate of the living quarter chambers, and within sight of the first break they have seen in the inner wall – a pair of towers whose entrance is barred by blackstone (1-5a). Ironically, this lies nearly within sight of the upper gate through which their came. They spent two hours walking the long way around the inner wall when the entrance was easily at hand by turning right rather than left. [8:50am]

Carnail makes a few adjustments on her map, now that they have come full circle. She is trying to approximate the size of the city, assuming the parts they have not yet seem are symmetrical to the living quarters cavern. A fair assumption, since everything they have seen has been symmetrical, at both large and small scale. It occurs to her that the city plan looks like the face of a tyrant – the inner, inner city, where they have not yet been, an eye. The water level like a maw spewing forth spittle. The towers like eyestalks. She stifles a yawn – perhaps she is just tired and imagining. What time is it? Hard to say, but more than likely they have been underground a full 24 hours, with just food breaks and one rest outside the skull cave.

Map: Lower City 2

“Okay,” she says. “We are going to hole up for a while. I want Awn to get her dispel back before we penetrate that blackstone gate.”

Carnail leads the party back to the first tower, the one she and Lee ascended. [9am]

Carnail calls for two-hour watches, with her and Fogey at the first watch, outside the doorway, and everyone else inside. With no bedrolls, they make themselves as comfortable as they can on the stone floor. After some nine hours of movement, climbing, and battle, with most of them in armor, the others are soon in fitful sleep.

Meanwhile, Carnail speaks to Fogey in hushed tones outside the tower. She tells him that she is taken aback by his constant calls for rest and food. She’s not worried now because she believes that they have not been discovered. Taking it easy is not a problem. But there will come a time when she will need him to be ready for longer outings and a faster pace – with no complaints. She will have need of his skills – when they finally find tyrants, it will be exceedingly demanding, mentally and physically. She wants to know that he will be ready.

Fogey listens to her politely, then, when she is done, produces a stubby pipe, fills and lights it. He takes a few pulls, and then replies thoughtfully. He tells her that he is wise enough to know the difference between a situation requiring immediate action and one that does not. So far, as she has said, things are fine. It is important for him to keep up the morale of the others – many of them are not as used to dungeoneering as she is. Humor, rest, and food are all essential for maintaining them in peak form until the tyrant battle. Furthermore, during any battle with tyrants, she will be relying on his will to resist the tyrant magic [that is, his saving throws]. Dwarves are highly resistant to magic – but in his case, that means he needs to be well fed. Rest assured, he tells her, when they fight tyrants he will be supporting her to the utmost. He just wants to guard the Team’s resources so they are all at maximum capacity when that happens.

After Carnail and Fogey come off their watch [9am-11am], they switch with Reamer, Digger, and Jizam. Jizam watches the stairs from inside, while the other two take Carnail and Fogey’s places in the doorway. [11am-1pm]

For the last two hours, Split Lip and Lee are on watch – Lee inside, and Split Lip outside. [1pm-3pm]

After the rest, Awn recovers her dispel magic [3pm-3:45pm] and Fogey his CLW from the previous day. Everyone is now at full spell capacity. Carnail estimates it is now around midday of their second day out. Fogey serves his created food – they haven’t eaten in some ten or eleven hours, and even Carnail is hungry. She supplements the bland fare with more extravagant meals from her bag and shares with everyone. [3:45-4:15pm] Just before they set out, Carnail asks Reamer to cast his infravision on Jizam. She also modifies the marching order to put Awn, who can see better than Lee, in the rear, so that it is now Carnail, Reamer, Fogey, Jizam, Digger, Split Lip, Lee, and Awn.

Finally, the team sets out from the tower and returns to the Inner City. They proceed directly to the blackstone blocking the gate (1-5b) to the inner, inner city. Awn casts dispel magic and they pass through. [4:25pm]

Immediately they notice that there is no ceiling – there are walls in front of them and behind them, but the walls go up as far as they can see, high into the darkness. They are in some kind of empty stone courtyard, absent all the debris and wreckage of the hub outside except for occasional pieces of loose stone. The walls do curve around, to the right and left, limiting what they can see. They spend a moment examining the wall in front of them. Jizam says that he thinks he can make out, just at the edge of his sight, a ledge above them.

Lee levitates up to the ledge. It is in fact a ramp, built to spiral around the wall, which seems to be a great central column. It goes lower to her right, and up to her left, at about the grade of a steep mountain road. She guesses the side going down meets with the floor at some point. It will be hard to climb, but much easier than bringing everyone up by rope. She walks along it a bit to test it. Parts of it seem firm enough, and lower down she even spots a guardrail. But above, much of it has crumbled away from the edge, so that what is left is dangerously narrow and perhaps not strong enough to support weight. She returns to the Team waiting below. [4:35pm]

Carnail says that they will be circling all the way around the column before they start up it, so she takes them clockwise, away from what should be the lowest part.

On the far side, directly across from where they entered, they find a curious structure (1-6a). [4:55pm] Rising up from the floor at about halfway between the inner and outer walls are four thick stone columns set into a square. They rise up out of sight. These columns each have a groove cut into them on the inside corners, so that all the cuts face into the center of the square. Set closer together inside the square are four rounded, threaded columns. High overhead, at the limits of their sight, is some sort of platform which seems to intersect both the inner and outer sets of columns. Digger takes some time pondering the structure, and finally says that he believes the platform is some sort of activated lift. Turning the inner columns can raise and lower the platform, he believes, because it is fit into the threads. Carnail looks critically at the stonework of the lift, and shakes her head. “We are taking the ramp.”

Image: Lower City 3

A bit beyond the curious lift, they find where the spiral ramp (1-6b) reaches ground level. [5:05pm]

Before they start up the ramp, Carnail has them all rope themselves together, using the full extent of the rope and spreading out as much as possible in their single-file marching order. [5:15pm – 1 hour of Infravision]

They start up the ramp. It is steep but otherwise easy at first. After they have taken a complete circle around the entire column, they are about forty feet off of the ground. Here the railing is gone and the ledge is crumbling and narrow. There are even a few places with complete gaps that need to be stepped over. Finally, Carnail comes to a gap too broad to be spanned without jumping. She has Reamer and Fogey move up to the ledge with her, and then moves back past them. She turns, runs, and throws herself across the empty span, landing neatly on the stone of the other side – which, to her relief, holds firm. After that, the Team members take turns supporting one person at a time over the gap, sustained by the rope.

After a second complete turn around the column, they arrive at the top, some eighty feet off the floor. [6:15pm – 2 hours of Infravision] Surprisingly, the inside and outside walls still continue up as far as they can see. But the ramp ends in a small platform (1-6b), which turns into a flat, level catwalk crossing the space between the inner and outer walls. The outside walls have become much closer to them, and bear large circular openings. The end of the catwalk enters the outer ring through a rectangular tunnel.

Image: Upper City 1

Hive xp (9)

Carnail leads them across the catwalk. Halfway across, the way is blocked by a set of columns, supporting a domed structure that can only be the top of the lift they saw below. In between the columns is a huge, square hole in the floor easily twenty feet across. The columns themselves block the space around the sides of the catwalk, so that it would be dangerous to try to go around. Carnail decides that the safest way across is to jump diagonally, first to one side and then back to the center, rather than attempting the whole 20 feet across at once.

Image: The Lift

With Fogey and Reamer behind her as before, Carnail leaps, easily clearing the distance. But this time, when she lands, the stonework beneath her gives way, and she tumbles over the edge into the blackness for a terrifying second before the rope pulls taut. Fogey strains to keep her from falling further, and finally manages to pull her back up to the ledge. A few more stones crumble and fall, then she is able to pull herself up. Carnail crawls along the narrow ledge that remains, and then across the gap to the other side of the catwalk.

Image: Don’t Fall!

Once she is on the other side, it is a relatively simple matter to haul the Team over, one at a time, suspending them above the void. Digger quickly examines the structure – there is a ladder up into a covered dome portion that contains gearing. Quickly and gratefully the Teams moves into the covered tunnel. [6:25pm]

After a short passageway, the tunnel ends with a door in the wall in front of them. To the left and right the corridors continue, curving back around out of sight. Stone doors line both the inside and outside walls.

Carnail enters the door directly in front of them, on the outside ring, first. The perfectly balanced stone door moves aside to reveal a stark chamber of stone with no decoration at all (2-9). It is completely empty. [6:35pm]

The next room over, counterclockwise, is similar. However, there is a moldering pile of robes and sacks in one corner. [6:45pm]

Carnail now turns to the inner circle. First, she has the Team extinguish all lights. She doesn’t like the large open windows, where lights could be seen from any other room on the inner circle, or above or below for that matter.

This is also a bare stone room, but larger than the outer ring rooms (2-7). In the center of the place is a large depression in the rock floor, almost like a very large wading pool, although it is currently empty and completely dry. Nothing in the room provides a clue as to its use. Along the back wall is hole cut into the stone itself, still containing a large intact pane of glass to make a window. The pane is larger than anything that could be made by humans without magic. [6:55pm]

Image:[Upper City 2

Carnail spends some time in the room, trying to divine the function of the pool. She stands in it – at the center, the rim is about the level of her mid-thighs. Eventually, she gives up and leaves, carefully shutting the door behind her, and then allowing the Team to light their glowstones faintly. It is a difficult balance – she wants the glowstones lit, because when they go out it will serve as a proximity alarum for tyrants. But she does not want them so bright that their light will give away the party to tyrants that would not otherwise have noticed them. She decides that they will explore the outer ring first, so that they can leave their lights on the whole time.

The next room is empty like the previous two. However, as soon as she enters, Carnail can see that there is a large hole in the ceiling, more than four feet across. “Lights out!” she hisses, and “Split Lip in here!”

After the bugbear enters, she boosts herself up. She stands on his shoulders while he grabs her ankles, allowing her to stick her own head and shoulders up into the hole. There is a cylinder rising up through the rock as far as she can see. Above the top, faint pinpricks of light – she surmises that she is seeing up into the cavern above. She takes off her glove and runs her hand over the rock. It is perfectly smooth – more likely than not, the work of a tyrant rather than a pick and chisel. Split Lip lowers her down and they leave the room. [7:05pm]

Rather than a door, the next opening on the outer wall is a doorway – a recessed alcove in which is set the rounded form of one of the observation towers. It is set into the stone floor but rises up to meet the ceiling and likely beyond. The entryway, however, is blocked by blackstone. Carnail regards the gleaming black surface while she thinks out loud. “Why are all these rooms empty? What was this place?”

Jizam answers, though his tone is doubtful. “Well, if the level below us was for commoners, for workers, than this level might be for officials. Not tyrants – the stone doors are square and require hands to open. But perhaps for the creatures they used to rule the city – the intermediaries between the tyrants and the workers.” Carnail nods, bidding him continue. “And if these quarters were considered special, privileged, the leaders would want a room with a view – something on the inside ring with a window. The outer ring rooms were likely for storage or servants. If there is anything left, it is probably in the inner ring.”

Carnail agrees. “Okay, we switch over – inner ring doors only – but no lights.”

The next inner ring room is as empty as the first – but with the same stone pool or depression. “What is this for?” muses Carnail, but this time, no one answers. [7:15pm – 3 hours of infravision]

The third inner-ring room is the same. [7:25pm]

The fourth inner-ring room has a door opposite the second tower entrance, but this is blocked by blackstone like the first. When Carnail opens the door, she thinks at first that the room is identical to the previous three, but then she notices an object in the central pool. [7:25pm]

She can see that it is warmer than the stone lining of the pool, but only slightly so. She approaches slowly. It is the size and shape of a large shield crafted for a man. It lies on the bottom of the pool with the outer side of the shield up. As she gets closer, she can even see the relief work on it – it is a fine piece of armor, indeed.

Carnail steps into the pool, gently prods the shield with her spear. Immediately it flushes red, then white, with heat. It shoots off of the ground, expanding and flattening in the air. In less than a second it is the size of a large carpet: it wraps completely around Carnail, smothering her. She topples over, arms pinned to her sides, feet bound. Carnail lies
in the bottom of the pool, entirely covered and unmoving.

Rnd 1 – Reamer is the first into the room – his wildly-swung sword bounces off the hide of the creature, which has become as hard as stone. Next to Carnail’s skin, however, the thing is a mass of muscles, slowly squeezing the breath from her.

Rnd 2 – Reamer plants his feet, hacks straight down, and is rewarded by his blade cutting into the thick, plated hide. Fogey enters the room, but does not draw his weapon. Instead, he begins a chant, hoping to help the others. Digger’s sword is turned aside by the hide, but Jizam is able to pierce its flesh with his dagger. Total 10hp done, 2 rounds of suffocation.

Rnd 3 – Reamer’s blows are ineffective, as are Digger’s. Perhaps aided by Fogey’s chant, Jizam stabs it again. Split Lip runs up and cleaves down with his massive sword, delivering the greatest blow yet. Carnail feels the force of the blow, and the creature shudders in pain. Seizing the opportunity, she tries with all the force of her giant strength to open her arms. A small gap opens near her face, and she gulps in fresh air before it closes again. Total 22hp done, 2 rounds of suffocation

Rnd 4 Lee and Awn enter the room – now all are present. Lee hangs back, since no one has anything lit and she can’t see. Reamer, Split Lip, Digger, and Awn all hit the creature. A sap-like blood is flowing freely, and the creature’s hide is rent in numerous places. Many of the blows pierce Carnail as well, but she does not complain. Finally the creature stops squeezing her, and she is able to throw it off.

Total 59 points done to creature, 26 to Carnail, Carnail at 62/88, 3 rounds of suffocation.

Carnail staggers out of the pool and takes a few moments to get her breath. “Well done, gang,” she says simply.

Hive xp (10)

Digger slides down into the pool, pokes around with his sword. The sound of metal clinking can be heard. “There are coins here,” he says. “Maybe gems, too. Could I have a light?”

“No,” answers Carnail. “No light. Cover the pit – we’ll come back for the treasure later. The centipedes won’t take it.” She directs the others in stretching the body of the creature flat like a rug and laying it over the pool, flush with the floor.

The Team checks the next three inside ring rooms. They all have the depressions in the floors, but all are empty. In between the last two, the outer-ring wall has a curiously-shaped, large door. It is blocked off with blackstone. Carnail estimates that they are halfway around the inner ring. [7:55pm]

The next room they check is decidedly different. The stone door is the same, to be sure, but there is no depression in the center of the room. There is furniture, however – or the remains of it. A rotting divan lies on its back against a far wall, and a smashed table lies in flinders in a corner. The remains of a rug are moldering on the floor, while a shredded tapestry dangles precariously from a hook on another wall. On the wall opposite the door is a single large, round window. Surprisingly, the glass pane is still intact. Carnail checks the room (2-4) just long enough to see that the tapestry and rug are not covering any hidden exits, and moves on. She turns the table over in her mind, though. Up until now, all the debris has shown signs of age, neglect, abandonment. But that table was definitely smashed – something violent happened here. What? Why? [8:05pm]

Image: Upper City 3

The next six rooms are all the same – decaying furniture, evidence of once rich living quarters, with occasional signs of violence. [8:15-8:55pm; four hours of infravision] Carnail still checks the floors and ceilings, but doesn’t even bother with the wall tapestries, as there is nowhere for a side passage to lead except to a room already checked or about to be checked. One room (2-4a) has a tapestry that is remarkably intact, and possibly worth something, but she does not bother to examine it. Jizam’s infravision is likely nearing its limit, and she would like to finish this level before they are forced to rest again, if possible.

Map: Upper City 4

Carnail tells the team that they will now be examining the outer ring rooms. Lights are put on again. They have three already done, as well as the sealed tower. Continuing on, the next three outer rooms are as empty as the first three. The first room flanking the tower also has a hole in the ceiling, matching the room on the other side of the tower. [U-14-9:05-9:25pm; five hours of infravision]

After that suite of three rooms is another tower, sealed off by blackstone, and then another three rooms, and then another sealed tower.

The next space in the outer ring that could be occupied by three rooms is instead filled by just one – or at least, there is a single, large, central entrance – also blocked by blackstone as noted on their last transit of the ring. They proceed to the next tower – which actually has an open entryway. Leaving this unexplored, Carnail pushes the Team to the next set of rooms.

These are similar to the inner circle rooms across from them, but with no windows and with less furniture (2-6). There are also four more towers, all of them blocked by blackstone. In all, nine of these rooms are opened and checked. [10:05-11:05pm; six hours of infravision]

Image: Upper City 5

The final space on the outside ring has a large set of double-doors, but these lie in ruins, having been ripped from their mountings long ago. Carnail enters. The chamber curves to the left and is decorated in a most peculiar fashion; upon every available surface gleam multifaceted mineral deposits. It is almost as if she is walking in a crystal garden. Two rows of crystalline columns flank a pathway that leads deeper into the place, and alcoves lie to the sides. Colors dazzle, facets sparkle, and the whole place has an eerie, reverent quality to it.

Carnail advances, and the Team files in behind her. Just as she takes a few steps forward, she sees motion ahead. From out of one of the alcoves appears a short, squat, but powerful-looking beast. It has three muscular arms and three legs. Its jaws seem to be on the top of its head. It stares at Carnail with menacing eyes, then takes a few steps forward, growling and gesticulating with its hands. Carnail backs up slowly, keeping the others behind her, until they are out in the corridor. She waits several minutes, but the creature does not emerge. She shrugs and tells the Team it is time for them to go rest.

“And the creature?” asks Lee.

“I think it is a xorn,” says Carnail. “A creature of earth – possibly sacred to Ulaa. But even if it is not, it didn’t follow us, and didn’t attack when it had the chance. Therefore, we needn’t bother with it until after the tyrants. Priorities.” [11:15pm; seven hours of infravision.]

Image: Xorn?

The Team withdraws to one of the outer ring rooms – not one with a hole in the ceiling, and shuts the door behind them. As they enter, Jizam loses his infravision. It has been nearly eight hours since they have eaten, and twelve since those on first watch have slept. Fogey shares what is left of his created food from before, as it will be going bad soon anyway, and everyone eats before they turn in. [1:15-12:00am]

Ahead to Hive Day 3 (Uath 15)

Back to Hive Day 1 (Uath 13)
Back to The Hive

Hive Day 2 (Uath 14)

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