To Rise from the Ashes

The Day of Mourning
where were you?

Cyre was on the ropes in 994, after a century of war. Located in the most central position on the continent, the great nation was simultaneously able to strike at its enemies, keep them separated from one another, and yet was itself completely surrounded. Were it not for the near mastery over arcane power, the might of House Cannith – based in Cyre – and the valor and skill of her soldiers, the nation would have long before been crushed. Any other nation would have long before surrendered or been conquered. But not Cyre.

And yet 994 brought perils that threatened to overwhelm even such a great people. From the north, Karrnathi forces advanced on horse and foot, seeking revenge for Cyre’s recent attack on central Karrnath and the city of Atur. Princess Borann of Brelend led her troops from the west, combined with Bishop-Militant Grodan’s Army of Southern Thrane, advanced on a much smaller Cyran force.

For days the Cyran army, place cat & mouse with the larger enemy force – some say the odds were 3:1 against the defenders. Clever use of the tireless Warforged and the lightning-fast cavalry of the Metrol Light Horse slowed the attackers’ attempts at consolidating for a final attack. Finally, the armies met in what is now known as the Field of Ruins, on the Glass Plateau – once a great plain of agriculture. As the armies clashed, a great rumbling came from within the earth. Fire filled the sky, and a great light – silent, and brilliant beyond the brightest star – spread from deep within central Cyre.

No one knows what it was like within the borders of the Mournland, because no one who was there survived. Soldiers on watch hundreds of miles away in Thrane were blinded by the flash of light, and some deafened by the thunderous roar that followed moments later.

Where were you, and how did you survive when your homeland was destroyed?

A new day in New Cyre
which means that something bad has probably happened

The news traveled quickly through Misty Bottom, and then through the other neighborhoods: murder. A young woman’s body had been found at dawn under one of the docks, strangled by a length of cord still around her neck. It seemed that she’d been assaulted, too, as her modest clothes were torn asunder.

Two similar crimes in one month. New Cyre was already barely keeping it together and now this. The fear and anger were almost palpable by high sun, long after the Metrol Watch had removed the body and a priest of the Host was consoling the family of the dead girl. The town was on edge.

The Sons of Oblivion
...or how to build a dream

“Good, you figured out my directions! I figured it wouldn’t be hard for you two.” Luc stepped out of the shadows of the stilted shack, and smiled at Deaton and Amarack. “Thank you for coming” he said, motioning for three stools, as he moved to shut the door behind them.

The three seated on stools, looked at each other through the dim candlelight. “Well, I realize this is odd, I mean, while we have worked together, I think I know you two much better than you know me. But, I know that we all three share something in common. Do you know what that is?”

"String'm up!"
the sick bastard!

New Cyre was abuzz with the news that the murderer had been captured. Word of the sting operation launched by the Metrol Watch spread by late morning, and although there was revulsion at the crimes and the man behind them, and the fact that he was a government official, the cachet of the Metrol Watch grew quickly.

By late in the day Prince Oargev made a public announcement that a trial would be held and conducted “according to the highest ideals and traditions of Cyran justice.” In the case of this sort of crime, an official inquiry would be overseen by a prosecutor (the town has one), who would determine if the evidence available was enough to hold a trial. The prosecutor would recommend the charge and sentence to the crown, which would then, on behalf of the people, order the trial. The trial would include witnesses, presentation of evidence, and would be itself overseen by a judge, who would then present all the findings and a recommendation to the crown – that is, the prince – who would then decide guilt or innocence.

Given the profile of the crimes and the alleged perp, the small size of New Cyre and the relatively slow news week, this would probably all take place within the next week. Already people began talking of the construction of a set of gallows, as New Cyre did not have any, while others talked of wanting to bring back some of the older forms of execution, like drawing & quartering or other nasty means from Cyre’s past.

Some people made attempts over the days to make conversation about the crime with Amarack as he went about his regular business; and some few also tried to talk up Deaton Fameleux, although his normally taciturn demeanor kept most people away. A slight buzz of talk persisted about the girl involved in the sting, and where she might be…but no one seemed to recognize or know her.

An invitation awaits
to a quiet, intimate meeting

The summons to see Prince Oargev came in the form of a rolled parchment, in the hand of a member of the Metrol Watch. Constable Gibbs found Amarack at the docks, assisting in the unloading of a barge. Deaton Fameleux was tracked down a little later by the same officer, who found the former house guard strolling the streets of Bergen.

Your are hereby summoned to the presence of His Royal Eminence, Prince Oargev of Cyre, at His residence promptly at the evening bell, this day.

Into the hills
and into diplomatic talks

Dinner with the prince was informative and interesting, not to mention filling. Deaton was given a letter of marque and not so subtly asked to deal quickly with a loan shark who was bilking people out of their futures through high interest loans. After finishing his meringue he went quickly about the business of tracking down the loan shark and his enforcer and extracting from them the proof he needed to hand them over the the Watch, with a few bruises and cracked ribs added to the mix.

Meanwhile, Luc and Amarack headed south toward the mountains that same evening, making good time that night before camping. They would make contact with the small group of miners the prince had said were in distress first thing in the morning, and would discover that one miner was dead, the victim of some underground beast, and that the survivors reported that they’d been under surveillance by goblins up in the surrounding hills.
Not wasting any time, Amarack and Luc followed the lead of the miners to a small opening in a ravine and climbed underground, finding their way to a small cave, full of webs. Using both magic and the blunt force of Amarack’s hammer, the pair confronted and crushed a giant spider. They also found what the miners said was likely gold in a handful of rocks in a nearby flooded tunnel.

Once above ground again, the pair was alerted to the immediate presence of goblins up in the surrounding hills, watching. Amarack approached directly while Luc moved stealthily around to one side. Once in range, Amarack was confronted by a large hobgoblin, in rustic armor, who demanded that he and the others leave his land. Instead of attacking, the cleric began to negotiate with the savage warrior, refusing to back down, and refusing to be baited into insulting or attacking him. Luc transformed himself into the likeness of a hobgoblin and, although he could not speak much of the language, thoroughly confused both the hobgoblin chieftain and his two goblin flunkies to the point that G’Toch was willing to continue talking.

After Amarack told G’Toch of his flight from the Mourning and the plight of New Cyre, and how his honor was tied up with that of his people, the hobgoblin accepted an invitation to meet with Prince Oargev and discuss the possibility of some sort of pact or agreement between New Cyre and the Torvasch tribe.

Luc rode ahead to New Cyre while Amarack and his guests followed, eventually delivering G’Toch to the prince’s home for negotiations, from which all others were barred. His goblin riders were given humble food and drink and left to sit in the front garden, under the constant but polite watch of the house guards, while Luc and Amarack, after formally introducing the hobgoblin to the prince, were dismissed.

The tunnels kept going...
...and we're just not up to this

The note from the miners was short and specific, and included a simple map. The downward-sloping tunnel wasn’t that difficult to drain, at least enough to get through, and what they found on the other side was a surprise. It was obvious that the natural tunnels provided access to an improved, albeit likely ancient, set of larger tunnels. When they explored deeper into the hillside they found evidence of mining activity: a few tools, supports, and other long-forgotten implements and constructs.

It seemed that the spider tunnels connected with the end of a horizontal tunnel, probably the northern end of a set of improved tunnels. Coming topside, they searched among the hills and trees and found, about 1/2 mile to the south, a collapsed mine entrance, buried under rubble and dirt, with trees growing through the heap, obscuring it from easy notice.

The men believed that the old mine was of human construction, and probably hundreds of years old. Beyond that, they had little to add. They’d found evidence of living creatures: filth, more webs, and other refuse of beasts. After the death of Allyn they were unwilling to go any deeper into the tunnels without support – and who could blame them?

Prince Oargev, two days after his meeting with G’Toch, again dispatched Amarack, Deaton, and Luc to investigate the tunnels and, if possible, clear them in order that mining could begin. If precious metals or gems were in those hills, New Cyre would profit mightily.

You’ll have had two days after returning to town with G’Toch and getting back together with Deaton before the prince calls you to his house again and hands you the note and map from the miners. The map is pretty rough, and is only meant to show the openings relative to one another, and the tunnels that connect them underground. They’re not moving any deeper into those places until more muscle shows up.

Into the mine
...and back into history

The miners were glad that the armed men returned, and even more relieved to learn that the hobgoblin menace was not to be – a trade agreement had been signed, and it seemed that there would be peace and profit. Prince Oargev’s cachet increased along with that of Roget and Amarack at the news.

After taking a look at the collapsed mine shaft and the massive tree covering it, Luc decided that a few arcane thunder claps might loosen the dirt, which they did. After further thought Allyn and Randro made the call to work on opening the entry the next morning, with the whole team pitching in.
An uneventful and restful night followed, with breakfast followed by digging at the hole, enlarging it to the point that Amarack, Deaton, and Luc could climb in to rid the area of what were believed to be more spiders, given the quantity of webs found earlier by the miners. Some 20 feet into the hillside the tunnel opened into a chamber, festooned with web, where the three men were immediately attacked by two giant spiders. Placing himself in harm’s way, Amarack sought to block the movement of one of the beasts toward the unarmored Luc. The quick movements of one of the spiders enabled it to close with the cleric and bite him, knocking him unconscious with it’s poison. Deaton and Luc fought bravely, using sword, bow, and spell to chase off the other, follow it, and finally kill it. Hours would pass before Amarack would wake up, groggy and sore, but alive.

After mid-day, the team headed back into the mine, clearing more tunnels of leftover web and ensuring that no other threats existed. The main tunnel made a few turns, but overall headed back into the mountains, straight south, with numerous small side chambers where digging and mineral extraction had taken place long ago. A hundred or so yards into the mountain the tunnel opened into the first large chamber they’d found, and in it they found the animated skeletal remains of two men-at-arms, still eager for a fight. Replenished and ready for a scrap, the three Cyrans dispatched them in short order, and discovered on one of them an intact waist bag, in which was discovered a single scroll – of Halt Undead.

Along the eastern wall was the only way out, although it was buried in a collapsed pile of rocks. Enlisting the help of the miners, Amarack began removing the rocks, and when there was enough space to look into the next chamber Luc floated the lantern-wielding Mage Hand in…and had it jumped at by some angry figure. Quickly thereafter they removed more rocks, and out tried to jump a single ghoul, wearing the tattered clothes of a miner from long ago.
Deaton shot it, then moved in to swing at it after it raked Amarack with its claws. A few blows later it was dead, this time for good.

Exploring the new chamber yielded an ever-burning miner’s lamp and a magic ring on the ghoul, later determined to be a Ring of Know Direction.

The three men decided that a night’s rest to recuperate and plan for their next moves was probably the best course of action, and the miners were relieved again to know that they’d have some added muscle to help keep them safe as they mapped the mine and assessed the possibility of resuming extraction work there.

A lingering question fueled conversation over dinner that night: why had the mine been abandoned? It made sense that various creatures would make their homes there…but the undead? What had resulted in them being there in the first place? Unsettling questions, indeed. And yet the lure of wealth for New Cyre, and the prosperity it could bring the people was more than enough to drive the men forward.

We can move the story forward some during the week if you’d like. The chambers and tunnels you cleared are being fully surveyed by the miners, and the connection to the ventilation tunnel has also been fully cleared. I’m okay with dispensing with low-level encounters via OP – say, if you run across a swarm of rats or the like – and planning your delve here. I think that’d help us, actually, because it’d keep the story going and would give me – through your comments – a stronger sense of what you’d like to experience and how, so I can plan next week’s session accordingly.

Clearing the mine of more spiders
...enough to make it workable

The next day started early, with a modest breakfast, water, and a quick survey of the area around the campsite to check for any changes from overnight. All was well and calm, and so the plan for the day was implemented: Amarack, Deaton, and Roget would push deeper into the mine, with Allyn and Rourke in tow. Two other miners would continue their work from the day before, shoring up a tunnel closer to the surface. The remaining three miners would continue to work at the surface and keep an eye out for visitors.

Choosing the eastern tunnel, the five men cleared the opening – again, a seemingly deliberate cave-in – and pressed on, going down a sloped tunnel that was partially natural, partially improved. Deaton was first to smell a familiar, musky scent – that of spiders and webs. Luc used his Mage Hand to carry their lantern into the chamber, which opened to the left and right, with the back half full of webs. The floor at the back of the chamber was about 6 feet lower than the entry area, dropping off at a shelf that bisected the room from left to right; the area beyond the shelf was particularly heavy with webs.
Deaton moved stealthily forward and then very unsteathily tossed a rock onto the webs, trying to find out if there was anything alive back there. Movement and sound quickly followed, and then a swarm of fist-sized spiders burst from the webs and rushed toward the rogue. Backing up to the entrance. Deaton called back to his friends, who warily moved forward, not eager for another fight with giant arachnids.

Within seconds more movement occurred, as a giant spider emerged from the webs along the left wall and scurried along the wall to attack, first slinging web at Luc, cementing him in place. Spells and weapons followed, smashing parts of the swarm and striking at the spider. The spider landed bites and more splashes of web, but the skillful tactics of the three men drew then swarm and beast back into the tunnel some, restricting their movement and enabling the team to overlap their attacks.
On the verge of victory another splash of web came from with the chamber and a new attacked appeared behind Luc, the only man in the chamber itself. Upon turning, Luc saw a disgusting, bipedal spider-man, with clawed limbs and multiple black eyes glittering at him in the lantern’s glow. The team responded quickly, turning most of their attacks on the new foe, who was able to deal out some damage before trying to hide around a corner and retreating along the ceiling.

Seeing an opening, Luc blasted the scurrying spider-man with a frosty ray, knocking it from the ceiling, dead.

While the team rested, Allyn and Rourke burned off the webs and surveyed the chamber, finding two exits – on larger, one smaller – and the remnants of a mine work room, complete with broken-down tables and other implements. The smaller tunnel was mostly natural, wet, and had in it evidence of spidery movement – perhaps the beasts had crawled in here from there? Perhaps that’s where they found their food or a means of egress from the mountain?

The larger opening, at the back of the cave, was completely clear of webs only a few feet into it, and from it came a slight breeze of warm, fetid air, carrying the slight stench of musty undead. Despite the obvious danger, the team continued forward, leaving the two miners behind in the work room as lookouts.

Finding the reason behind the abandoned mine
and creating a solution

Some 70 feet or more down another slope – all carved tunnel – Deaton moved stealthily, the lantern floating near him to provide light. Upon coming to the end, where another chamber opened, he saw four still figures standing awkwardly about the room, and a glow emanating from the right side of the chamber. Upon entering the chamber two of the moldered undead began moving toward him, while the others lagged behind, seemingly unaware of his presence. Cracking and popping with rigor mortis, the two zombie miners shed dust and parts of their clothes as they shambled unsteadily toward Deaton, who attacked one as he called back to the others.

Seconds later Amarack and Luc were in the chamber, and another opponent appeared – a semi-translucent figure floating feet above the floor, winking in and out as it moved. The ghostly humanoid struck, draining away what felt like life itself, before Amarack called on the power of the Host. The burst of divine power from his holy symbol bathed the wraith in a nimbus of light, causing it to convulse in fear and pain, and sending it retreating back to the far wall of the chamber. It seemed that the power was expended on the more powerful enemy, as the zombies were unaffected.
The team quickly dispatched the remaining zombies, whose tactics were insufficient to threaten the skilled coordination of the three warriors. Soon, only the cowering, mad spirit remained, pinned against the back wall some 10 feet up, shaking violently as Amarack approached. Remembering the scroll they’d found, Luc and Amarack planned a simultaneous attack. Upon reading the spell, which should further fix the thing in place for a moment, the two spellcasters slung what spells they had at the spirit, knocking pieces of it off and degrading it.

In a mad rush, the wraith descended on them, incorporeal arms flailing and a spine-tingling howl screaming from its breathless lungs. More spells followed, and the thing was no more, its ectoplasm frozen by Luc, and the remaining pieces tossed into the lava chasm along with the zombies’ bodies.

Upon searching the cavern – which was mostly natural aside from the tunnel through which they’d come and the left side of the room, which had been dug out – they found two things of interest. First, the chasm, which was about 25 feet deep, held a thin stream of magma, about 1 feet wide and perhaps 8 feet long at the bottom. Glittering shards of gems and other minerals were visible in the dull glow from the molten rock, and the types of rock and color of the magma – a strange violet hue – led the miners and adventurers to one conclusion: they’d found a very narrow sliver of Khyber, the underworld of Eberron. The ancient, evil dragon’s body had transformed into a rotten complex of tunnels and in some places vast chambers that, together, spanned the globe. In it lived some of the worst horrors known. Khyber was usually not accessible this close to the surface, but in some places random upwellings could be found, and when they were they were capped, covered, and avoided. Perhaps the mine was abandoned because of this?

The second was another, small, chamber, accessible through a hole in the left wall: a burial chamber holding only a single stone table and the ancient remains of a hobgoblin, probably of some renown, if the barely-visible carvings on the walls and mighty battle axe left with it were any indication. The thing matched the visage of the wraith in that both were hobgoblins and both wore armor in the Dhakaani style. Putting their heads together, the team guessed that it was possible that something could have come out of Khyber and animated this dead hobgoblin of old, or perhaps something else left its spirit undead and buried for so many centuries.

The burial chamber itself had a small, long caved-in access tunnel in the upper part of one wall – probably the means by which it was accessed, improved, and finally sealed off, long ago.

The miners were eager to seal off this entire portion of the tunnels, beginning in the chamber where the wraith was found and moving backward all the way up the tunnel to the work room. “The more rock we put between us and an entry to Khyber – even one now plugged with a magma flow – the better,” stated Allyn emphatically. Reopening this mine would require all the usual risky work, and was now added to by the fact that at least in this one area of the mountain it was possible to access one of the worst of all places, Khyber – every miner’s deepest fear.

Over the next several days the miners and their security detail surveyed the rest of the tunnels, finding and killing some more beasts, but nothing else as dangerous as the undead or ettercap. The mine, by Allyn’s estimation, was worth reopening, and would probably yield a good amount of wealth for a while. It had been abandoned for security reasons, not because it was spent. With the help of Luc’s spells the miners were able to collapse to their satisfaction part of that chamber and the tunnel leading to it. They’d put more work into sealing that tunnel with mortar once they had some, and talked of their desire to have it warded and magically sealed, as well. That would be adequate, they believed, and would enable them to get to work in digging out wealth, rather than burying threats.

What’s next? Spending another week or so at the mining camp would open opportunities to interact with G’Toch and his people some more, so if you want to go that route please indicate as much in the comments on this post. The miners seem ready to go the next step, that of rebuilding enough infrastructure to restart operations. That’s going to take more men and materials, however, and they’d really like to have some magical warding and whatnot put on that sealed tunnel before proceeding, too. These are things that can only happen with the help of resources in New Cyre. Looking for other opportunities to improve the city and the lot of Cryan survivors means going elsewhere, too. ALl that said, you guys make good friends in the miners and get to know the mountains around the camp reasonably well, as well as the mine itself.


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