Mysteries of the Nentir Vale

A thick fog

The year is 1482DR the year of the ageless one in the era of upheaval. It is the start of the month Readying in Fallcrest in which the fields are finally fully thawed and the farmers are beginning to plow and seed. Porters are finishing up for the night and the night watch are lighting the few oil street lamps on the Five Arch Bridge and main thoroughfares. There is no moon and a thick fog descends upon the town and settles thickly in Lowtown. Halfling workers and farmers converge to the relative comfort of the Lucky Gnome Taphouse inside they find a bizarre collection of adventurers.

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New Threats

There has been a great upheaval in the Nentir Vale come of late. There has been a rustling in the surrounding mountains. The dwarven tribes are restless. Vital trade routes into the Stonefang pass newly named the Black Phoenix pass have been reestablished. But this has caused a backlash; as the dwarves in Hammerfast have had exclusivity in trading ironwork in the Nentir Vale and now have new competition from the West.

Peels of lightning and thunder have been heard down in the valley below the infamous Thunderspire Mountain. Rumor has it that a great battle is imminent deep below in the ancient labyrinth of Saruul Khan and the Mages of Suruun that have run the Seven Pillar Hall with an iron fist are now caught in the middle. Black Fang Gnolls of the Moon hills have taken up the sword and tales of attacks on the Trade Road have become more and more common place.

It has been told that a minotaur ambassador has been sent to Fallcrest on behalf of the Mages of Saruun. But death follows on his heals as the town is thrown into a pitched battle with pirates, raging barbarians and blood lusting demons.

What has happened to the Illustrious Black Phoenix whose exploits include opening up the Stonefang pass and driving back gnoll raiding parties on the Trade Roads? A new set of unlikely adventurers rise from a Lowtown bar in Fallcrest – do they have what it takes to persevere? Fallcrest’s survival lays in their hands, will they be able to save the Nentir Vale from these new threats?

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Raid on Fallcrest

So this bizarre band of heroes consisting of an irresponsible Halfling rogue, a reluctant Paladin of Kord, an eladrin lush seeking revenge, an orphaned half-elf druid raised by bears and a minotaur sorcerer from the Underdark rose up to defend Fallcrest against a vast raid from minions of Demogorgon. They were able to thwart an assault upon the Grand Septarch’s Tower in which a twisted Underdark apprentice of Saruun in control of a Bronze Warder attempted to stop Nimozaran and his Halfling apprentice from completing a ritual on the teleportation circle at the pinnacle of the tower.
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The town was lucky to have wanderers such as these to jump to her aid in such a dire moment… or was it fate? Certainly Kord and Corellon were cognizant to such bravado and valor! What were the gods playing at? Why did Demogorgon’s gaze fall upon Fallcrest? What lays in the depths of Thunderstone Mountain plotting against the Nentir Vale?

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On to Thunderspire!

From the rumors they gathered in town they had heard that beneath the stormy peak of Thunderspire Mountain lies the Labyrinth, an ancient, ruined minotaur city. For over two decades, an order of wizards called the Mages of Saruun has controlled the Labyrinth’s upper levels,creating a relatively safe haven called the Seven-Pillared Hall. Here, underground denizens come to trade with the mages and with a small number of surface-dwellers who are in the know. Humans, halflings, dwarves, duergar, goblins, orcs, troglodytes, and others come to the hall to barter under the watchful eyes of the Mages of Saruun and their towering minotaur constructs. The mages have one rule in the Seven-Pillared Hall—maintain order. Visitors who leave the safety of the hall and venture into the Labyrinth do so at their own risk. For in the darkness of the Labyrinth, all bets are off and the truce enforced within the Hall has no bearing.

Thunderspire Mountain lies amid a wilderness of pine forests and rocky hills. The mountain’s pinnacle is usually wreathed in gray, foreboding clouds, but on rare clear days, it can be seen from a great distance.
The Trade Road, an old dwarf-made highway, passes near the mountain. It links the human town of Fallcrest
(about a two-day journey west of the mountain on foot) with the dwarf stronghold of Hammerfast (three days
east of the mountain by foot). In years past, travelers and caravans hurried past Thunderspire to avoid attacks from monsters lurking in the ruined minotaur city. Today, this part of the Trade Road is reasonably safe thanks to the presence of the Mages of Saruun. From the Trade Road, a steep cobbled path called the
Vale Road turns north and then cuts into the mountain. The road rises through a valley with sparse vegetation and ends at Thunderspire’s base. Small waterfalls and brooks wash down from the rocks above. A few shepherds, woodcutters, and trappers live in the vale. Their humble houses are made of turf and fieldstone and are fitted with stout doors to repel predators, including bears, wyverns, and griffons. The ruins of Saruun Khel beyond the Seven-Pillared Hall are collectively called the Labyrinth. The ancient minotaur city consisted of a vast maze of natural caverns, gaping chasms, hewn chambers, steep stairs, and twisting passageways. Most of these features remain to this day. The Seven-Pillared Hall and its adjoining chambers form a small part of Saruun Khel. Much of the Labyrinth remains dangerous and unexplored.

Traversing up the Khel Vale which consists of many switch-backs and ledges the widest part is crossed via a 100 ft. rickety rope and plank bridge. It was here that the group found the bridge to be trapped thanks to the keen eyed druid who was not distracted by the fanciful and fully entertaining Halfling. Not to be slowed by a simple delay such as this the bull-headed minotaur plodded on ahead – charging up and over the makeshift pitfall with such grace and agility one wonders what could stand in the way of this monster?

Patrolling the valley 2 wyverns saw an easy snack in the party and swooped in to feast. As the minotaur summoned fire and ice down on one of the dragon like beasts on one side of the valley the rest of the group attempted to hide from his mate on the far side to little avail. Seeing that his associates were not proficient in the fine are of skullduggery Finn bounded from his hidden location onto the wyvern’s back! His surprised comrades, in fear for the tomfool Halfling’s life, threw ropes secured to trees and reeled the flying drake back from over the valley’s edge like a prize fish. Seeing the creature up close and it’s pristine primal beauty the group decided to let the wyvern go and continued on their way up the mountain.

The Vale Road mets the Minotaur Gate about 4 miles from the Trade Road. This was the grand entrance to Saruun Khel. The road enters a 50-foot-tall stone archway hewn out of the mountainside. A towering minotaur statue stands on each side of the entrance, glowering down at the travelers.

Beyond the Minotaur Gate, the Road of Lanterns slopes into the mountain. Green light from copper lanterns dimly illuminates the road, which leads about half a mile into the mountain, sloping steadily downward over several switchbacks. The road is a brick-vaulted passage, 30 feet wide and 30 feet tall at its apex. Seventy-seven demon statues, each over 10 feet tall, stand watch along the corridor’s length.

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Assault on Thunderspire
our heroes battle the nefarious wizard Paldemar and others

The Gang of Misfit Heroes, upon venturing to Thunderspire Mountain, were hired by the Mages of Saruun to defeat the renegade Paldemar and foil his plot to wrest control of the Seven-Pillared Hall from his former comrades. To that end, they conduct incursions against Paldemar’s forces located throughout Thunderspire Labyrinth—the vast network of tunnels and passages the comprise the former Minotaur stronghold. After destroying the evil wizards Infernal Machine, they set to confront the wizard himself in a “deserted” duergar stronghold. The heroes breach the doors of the place to discover a poison-dart trap, a powerful vanguard of duergar warriors before facing the evil wizard, his norker allies and a bronze warder.

The heroes defeated Paldemar and chose to capture the renegade, rather than slaying him outright. With prisoner in tow, the party makes it’s way through the labyrinth to discover the faerie Zipgrass in a dark passage. The fey creature warned them of a group of Demogorgon cultists in the next chamber which were handily defeated. The party continued on, after this, and stopped to rest in a large cavern with a subterranean river flowing through a section. Suddenly, they were beset by a large force of Blackfang Gnolls—sent by the demon Maldrick Scarmaker to rescue Paldemar from the meddlers sent by the Mages.

The gnolls threw themselves upon the party with reckless abandon. A main force engaged in melee with the “do-gooders” as a Huntmaster rained arrows. Using the tumult, a pair of gnolls split off from the main force and freed Paldemar from his restraints. The wizard fled from the melee, toward a dark passage, but the quick-thinking heroes caught up with the renegade and, finally, slew him.

The party returned to the Seven-Pillared Hall to announce their victory to the Mages of Saruun. While waiting for their promised reward of 450 gp and a magic item each, the Mage of Saruun tasked them with clearing out their new holding—Paldemar’s Tower of Mysteries. The tower was a place holy with the worship of Vecna, Keeper of Dark Secrets. Accordingly, when the party entered the bottom level, they were set upon by a lethal necrotic fog, vicious Stench Ghouls and a hovering armored jar which contained a warped and evil brain.

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Battle at the Tower of Mysteries

With the evil, scheming wizard Paldemar slain, the party returned to the Seven Pillared Hall to report to the Mages of Saruun. As promised, the Mages granted them copious gold coin and magical gifts for both wrecking Paldemar’s Infernal Machine and slaying the fiend, himself. One task remained—clearing out the Tower of Mysteries. The raiders had cleared the second floor during their previous mission, but the 1st and 3rd floors still needed to be cleared of unknown hazards.

The party teleported into the ground floor of the tower, only to find themselves penned into a small stone room, with a veil of sinister-looking fog blocking their exit. The adventurers braved the lethal fog, only to come face to face with stinking, ravenous ghouls. A dread Enigma of Vecna and a mysterious Armored Jar—which hovered above the ghouls heads, periodically discharging necrotic energy at the heroes—sought to rend the heroes into shreds of flesh.

Battered and scarred, the party eventually emerges victorious. They found the teleport pad and immediately move up to the top of the tower.

Maldrick Scarmaker, the demon leader of the Blackfang Gnolls, was in the middle of some manner of dark ritual when the party appeared on the third floor. The men from Fallcrest are disturbed to discover a Drow elf warrior among Scarmaker’s tribesmen. A muscled barlgura demon heaved beside his new master.

Combat was quickly joined. Initially, the party were sitting ducks in an enclosed room. Scarmaker unleashed hideous magicks along with his allies’ skirmishing. The tide of battle quickly turned as Maldrick Scarmaker made the grave error of moving too close. He was rendered combat ineffective for the remainder of the fight. The adventurers vanquished all remaining foes, save the Drow—who surrendered. In exchange for his life, the dark elf reveals that he was but a simple mercenary hired by Scarmaker as muscle for his bid for power.

After the battle, the party discovered a treasure trove of scrolls and manuals detailing Paldemar’s research into creating the fabled Amulet of Saruun Khel—an item that would grant it’s wielder complete control of the Bronze Warders that the Mages of Saruun rely on to help them maintain control.

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A Passage Revealed

Having vanquished Maldrick Scarmaker, the party had eliminated all remaining, imminent threats to the Mages of Saruun. In reward for this task, the Mages allowed the adventurers to claim the Tower of Mysteries as their own. Using their collective coin, the Men from Fallcrest (as they’ve come to be known inside the Seven Pillared Hall) brought in clerics to purge the stain of evil Vecna worship from the premises. One of the clerics discovered Paldemar’s notes and research, and, unbeknownst to the party, delivered it into the hands of the Mages of Saruun. Far from trusting their employees, the Mages wished to keep Paldemar’s research into controlling the Bronze Warders secret forevermore. Perturbed at the news of the Mages’ theft of Paldemar’s research, Morph the Mage rails against the jealous and secretive nature of the Mages of Saruun.

The duplicitous cleric, however, missed a nondescript sheet of parchment. Written in an archaic form of Elvish, the letter was addressed to Paldemar and discussed a “mutually benefical” alliance and contained a crude map, indicated a meeting place many miles into the Underdark. While searching the tower, the Men of Fallcrest discover a secret passage on the ground floor of the tower.

The passage leads the adventurers deeper underground for days at a time. Finally, the reach a small cavern in which to rest. No rest was taken, though, as a geyser of caustic liquid exploded on the stunned heroes. Thinking quickly, the halfling rogue Finn Birchcutter severed the cap of a large mushroom and plopped it inside the mouth of the geyser—effectively shielding the rest of party from it’s next explosion. Soon, though, more terror as a large rock in the room began moving, revealing itself to be a dread Roper. The roper grabbed Tangarth Saruun with it’s tentacles, dragging the minotaur sorcerer to it’s waiting maw. Between the erupting geyser and the vicious roper, the adventurers were hard pressed—some even near death—but, eventually, the Men of Fallcrest triumphed and slew the foul denizen of the Underdark.

After catching their breath, the heroes proceeded further into this savage and alien land. They entered a large cavern that contained the ruins of a Dwarven fortress and were ambushed by more Grimmerzhul Duergar! A Duergar bloodmage made his presence known as he hurled fiendish spells towards the party, hampering their progress. The infernal creature would cut and gash himself then use the blood to power his magicks. More duergar—warriors, this time, shot bolt after bolt at the party, but failed to halt their momentum. The infernal dwarves were slaughtered.

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Nearer to the Source

The Men of Fallcrest continued on through the Underdark. Using the map drawn with the (presumably) drow letter, the odd party delved ever-closer to the former meeting spot of Paldemar and those who sought alliance with him. They entered a large cavern, filled with large, edible mushrooms. Myconids, fungi-based humanoids, appeared to be farming the mushrooms. One of the creatures spotted Morph and approached. The mage, currently in the guise of a drow, cast a few enchantments that both secured the myconid’s assitance and allowed him to communicate with the thing. They myconid warned Morph of “the masters.”

Thus, the party was not taken by surprise as a pair of dark elves began dropping magical globes of darkness in their midst. The rest of the myconids were alerted and ran to assist their masters. However, the myconid that Morph had ensorcelled was again utilized by the mage to rebel against their drow overlords. The plan worked and the myconids assisted the party in defeating the drow guards.

A short distance from the fungi cavern, the party entered another area and sprung an ambush on some foul-smelling Troglodytes. The melee was joined by hidden dark elf wizards who launched several unsuccessful attacks against the Men of Fallcrest. The party easily killed the brutish and repulsive lizards. With no sign of the drow wizards and no other visible opponents, the party began exploring scattered chambers and found them to be (mostly) dwellings.

Morph discovered a chamber apparently used as a makeshift tavern and proceeded to fill a glass with fine drow wine. The alarmed shrieks coming from the next chamber and belonging to Bundt interrupted the changeling’s relaxation period.

When the party ran to assist Bundt, they saw several drow, including the wizards from the Troglodyte melee bearing down on them. The combat was quick and brutal, with 2 drow fleeing the chamber.

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Fane of Miraal

Having finally reached the meeting place first mentioned in the mysterious letter to Paldemar, the party begins exploring side passages off of the main hall. They are nearly buried alive by a cave-in whilst tracking one of the fleeing drow warriors. The Men of Fallcrest discovered him waiting to cut a rope bridge spanning a dark chasm. Morph hypnotized the evil elf, compelling him to jump into the abyss. The stubborn and still alive drow climbed up the cliff wall and grabbed on to Benn Slouthestryder, threatening to join him in a death-plunge. Before that could happen, however, the drow was slain.

The side passage led back to the main hall and the adventurers chose to explore a large structure off the main hall. The building possessed two giant-sized doors and emanated a purplish glow. The cyclopean doors were festooned with bas-reliefs and carvings of spiders and webbing and, curiously, left ajar.

Finn Birchcutter, the curious halfling, proceeded into the building for a reconaissance. Inside, the dimunitive rogue saw a beautiful drow female,Miraal of House Xarzax, dressed in form-fitting chainmail and flanked by several demonic entities. Barely into the Fane, the halfling was spotted by a mounted patrol—a blade spider ridden by a drow warrior, suspended high on the wall.

After retreating out from the building, Finn shoved his little hand into his pocket and grabbed a handful of copper pieces. He proceeded to close the double doors and jammed the coins between them, locking them fast.

Miral’s minions threw themselves against the doors with all their might, but were hampered by the improvised copper piece ward.

MorphMorgath began an interesting parley through the door. Miraal mentioned that they might be forgiven their trespass on Lolth’s Unholy Fane if they would secure something from the Grimmerzhul duergar clan. To further edify the adventurers, the priestess produced Kevinneq, the heretofore unknown apprentice of Paldemar.

Kevinneq related to them that he had copied all of the evil mage’s research into the Infernal Machine; going so far as constructing a new one that would allow him to construct an item that would spell doom for the Mages of Saruun—the Amulet of Saruun . This item would, according to Kevinneq, allow the wielder to control not just one Bronze Warder, as the Mages’ of Saruun’s amulets do, but all of the constructs. Kevinneq just needs one more thing before he can finish constructing the magic item. What the party was tasked with was taking that special something from the duergar. The motley assemblage of adventurers have agreed to the task. So begins your descent into the truly unknown.

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A Deal Made
wherein our "heroes" go about fulfilling their end of the bargain...

The deal made between Morph and Miraal of House Xarzax requires the party to steal something from the Grimmerzhul mine. This something is a hunk of a metal known as Deep Copper. Deep Copper is copper that is exposed to the energies of the Far Realm. Certain areas of the Underdark, Kevinneq explained, are weak and are subjected to the influence of whatever otherworldly realm that they border. The Far Realm is an alien dimension were the very laws of reality are twisted and warped. This Deep Copper will allow Kevinneq to complete the Amulet of Saruun—giving the wielder complete control over all the Bronze Warders in Saruun Khel. The plan is that once Kevinneq finishes the amulet, then the drow will use it to eliminate the Mages of Saruun and use Saruun Khel as an outpost for unknown (but certainly nefarious) purposes.

The wizard Morph decides to stay with Kevinneq in order to learn the secrets of the amulet’s construction. The party proceeds down passages which lead to the King’s Highway, named for the legendary creation of the Underdark, when the god Torog tunneled throughout the earth in a vain attempt to escape from the realm.

Unbeknownst to the party, they were being shadowed by a Minotaur warrior named Minoan,who had been set upon by a monstrously large carrion crawler. Hearing the beasts shrieks and Minoan’s war-cries, the party jumps into action and quickly subdues the beast. Minoan’s stated goal is to restore Saruun Khel to it’s former greatness. He finds a comrade in Tangarth Saruun and they quickly determine that they’re from the same clan that disappeared from the minotaur empire over 300 years ago. The party eagerly recruits the new minotaur warrior.
Carrion
The party then travelled back to the Tower of Mysteries and then on to the Seven Pillared Hall. Stopping in the halfling run tavern there, they are approached by a rather tall (by human standards, anyway) man carrying a stone-headed hammer. After some difficult communication, he introduces himself as Onyx Soulcave and soon joins the party.

The misfit band sets out and, after a day of travel, arrives at the Grimmerzhul Mine. The stink of the place is the first thing they notice and it leads them to a guard chamber, wherein duergar task masters, ogres and a host of orcs clash with them. Minoan and Onyx, the new guys, charge up and down the chamber, delivering brutal beatings on the hapless orcs. Tangarth does his double-pointy thing and rains down death at a distance. Benn and his unnamed bear companion strengthen the party and allow for attacks from positions of relative safety. The ogre mercenaries deliver the most challenge, scoring a few good blows against the party. In the end, all of the humanoids and ogres have retreated or are dead. A fleeing duergar is slain by Tangarth (yet another charging minotaur!), right before he triggers a lethal trap that would’ve collapsed the floor of the chamber.

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