It took several days to get their local weapon enchantments and magical shopping done… There wasn’t much left in the budget after the weapons (Marty: +3 Keen, Kevin and the Kids +2 Fire/Lightning [for the flashiness], Benedict +2 Keen Fire, Raphial wanted +5 Stealthy Slick on his Smartclothes instead of a +4 weapon since the price was about the same, Jarvian didn’t let other people meddle with his mech, and Jack didn’t want any crazy elven toymakers of dark santa claus meddling with his gear – although that led to even more speculation as to what his home world could POSSIBLY be like), but an assortment of potions and the lesser local healing magic was relatively cheap.
The mission objectives were multiplying again… They wanted to (1) get through the mind flayers gate, (2) collect the core kids they’d enslaved along the way, (3) find out what the mind flayers were up to, (4) find a way to let the drow into the city to disrupt their operations, (5) find out about the artifact they’d dug up, (6) steal everything that wasn’t nailed down, (7) disrupt the mind flayer city a bit, (8) report back to the drow on the magic communicator, and (9) get on with their original mission.
Anyway, Ithulsin had slept long enough. He was a bit panicked when he woke up, but settled down quickly enough. He didn’t really remember being cut in half, but seemed to settle into being a drow pretty quickly – especially since Kevin had arranged for excellent meals and an assortment of luxuries to introduce him to the humanoid lifestyle and provide his new gear.
Fortunately, between the drow intelligence and Ithulsin’s, they could come up with a pretty good map. Given the size of their group, they laid in a few more slaves to up the total to 28 as well – large, strong, and stupid fit the bill. Cheap among the drow, very salable among the mind flayers. They didn’t even try to get any drow: they were resistant to mind flayer control – and outsiders buying drow would be looked on with suspicion in a drow city even if the local priesthood wasn’t buying and trying to educate them before liberating them.
With preparations complete, they waved good-bye to the city of the drow, with it’s blackmith, potter, cooper, butcher, and other businessmen at one per profession. Despite the quarrelsome and stupid slaves – and the equally stupid gate guards at the mind flayer city (too much programming it looked like) – the trip was relatively uneventful.
The mind flayer city was waterlogged, slimy, foggy, smelled bad, and had a slave market and a secondary, smaller, market which handled everything else. There was an eerie silence, broken by the occasional groan and whisper and by the constant sounds of dripping, running, gurgling, and splashing water. The group made sure that their tinfoil hats were strapped firmly on.
Kevin and Ilthulsin handled the slave-marketing, Jarvian was running scans and seismic surveys, Benedict held down the general sales booth while Marty took Gerald and did some stealthy scouting (in disguise, so they could drop them and blend in if necessary), and Raphial and Bard simply had a look around. There were plenty of rumors in the markets about the artifact – or gateway, or god – they’d dug up in a mine: the entire cavern lit up like daylight when it was found, the mine was promptly closed, only slaves have been sent in since then and the Mindflayers had been heard discussing disposal since – for some reason – they couldn’t go near it. The mind flayers were looking for human slaves from this “core” place, another deity had fallen in the drow godswar (Elistraee’s wizards somehow managed to make everyone on Toril forget her name), and the demand for slaves had gone way up since something seemed to be sucking the life right out of them (although serious efforts were going into keeping some special ones alive). There also didn’t seem to be nearly as many mind flayers as they’d been led to believe. Either they’d been bluffing all along or something was up.
Kevin started setting up to represent themselves as medical experts while Raphial studied the local architecture and set up some subtle magical sabotage and erosion-enhancement- much speeded up by Bard’s divination and transmutation. All the water works made it pretty easy.It also looked like the mind flayers wouldn’t be able to plane shift away. The Underdark’s standard magical interference with travel magic made it pretty nearly impossible.
Jarvian’s scans were turning up all kinds of anomalies – minor energy sources, a big energy source of in the distance somewhere, numerous objects from other dimensions, and a big dead spot in the scans. Various little sources of magical and psionic power scattered all around. The big source was likely at least partially positive in nature.
They did get one oddly talkative shopping mind flayer. He noticed the mental shields (and thought that they were either paranoid or very well-prepared), but noted that “the locals” were a bit too inwardly focused at the moment to notice much of anything. He also mentioned a back entrance to the mines – which Jarvian, feeling bored, promptly headed off to investigate. Kevin continued selling, trying to make a good impression rather than squeezing out every bit of profit, while the out-of-town mind flayer continued being – er – friendly. And ensouled. And probably not really a mind flayer. And evidently headed for the negative gate as well.
Meanwhile, Jarvain had arrived at the mines. Lots of guards, including a bored mind flayer. Checking the back door showed it to be blocked with a lot of rock. Fortunately he had a lot of missiles, so he could head in with barely a break in his step. Unfortunately, the blasts started drawing every mind flayer, guard, and combat-slave in the city – and the rest of the group had no idea of what was going on. The underdark’s usual interference was blocking communications.
Jarvian didn’t want to blow up the miners, but hadn’t found much except rickety supports, bits of aluminum ore, and the sounds of collapse rapidly catching up with him. He opted to head for the big energy source: at least that way the others would know where to dig.
Given the disturbance, the rest of the group decided to just disguise themselves as mind flayers and head for the central temple. It was forbidden to non-mind flayers, but it was probably where the kids and gate were – and it looked like outsiders were about to become pretty unwelcome. Too bad, but there were half a dozen ways they could have been detected as outsiders anyway. Too bad Jarvian was missing, but the odds that he was involved were fairly high. They might not be able to pull him out though. They took along the “visiting mind flayer” and a weird kobold that they hadn’t been able to sell (there was something weird about it anyway – not a soul, but something) as they headed for the temple. It was (1) get to the temple, (2) locate gate, (3) grab kids if possible, (4) call the elves (too bad they didn’t have more information for them).
The temple was a taste of chaos. The mind flayer disaster response wasn’t good. Kevin promptly started issuing orders – for the slaves to open the gates to the outside in preparation for a mass exodus, to gather supplies, and to bring the most urgent cargos – survival gear, tools to rebuild, and anything extremely valuable – to the temple to be evaluated because the slaves were “all too stupid to be trusted.” There was one mind flayer trying to give sensible orders, so they shot him and covered with an illusion… The slaves brought them lots of stuff for Daniel and Bard to scan for anything useful (defined as being valuable elsewhere, actual magic that might be worth hanging onto for other d20 worlds – the really locally potent stuff – relics, or new knowledge)
Jarvian was approaching the artifact, thanks to the liberal use of firepower on the walls to keep ahead of the ongoing collapse. It seemed to be some sort of glowing gem, so he scooped it up and started looking for an exit route.
Just about then, the drow called (Kevin was surprised to find that he seemed to have the communicators; he’d been letting other people carry them because he suspected they were at least tracking devices and probably bugged). Well, he had been about to call them anyway. The gates should be open, the place was flooding and collapsing, the slaves were out of control, and the mind flayers were diverted. The drow wanted to tell them they were being followed – by what seemed to be a House of Roses group from the description. The drow had hoped for more time, but would be sending some troops if they could.
They called the House of Roses to pass a warning to the backup team. M was perturbed that the group was aware of the backup group at all. He recommended that they get themselves through the gate as quickly as they could, the secondary team would attempt to retrieve the mech pilot and meet up with them as best they could.
(3 CP all around)