The party quickly equipped themselves for the difficult journey ahead. While preparing their equipment, the group took some time to gather information on the Dundran Mountain area. Most of the information was about typical mountainous terrain, but some had heard rumors of Orc movement in the area. As they were gearing up to set out, there was a disturbance at the western gate. Since they were heading that way, the group decided to see what was happening. The remnants of a group of traders from Dunnkeep were straggling in. They reported being ambushed by a band of orcs. All their belongings were taken, as well as 3 women and 7 children. The group decided since they were heading that way anyway, they would track down the band of marauding orcs.
The party headed west, following the swath of destruction and trampled earth the orcs left in their wake. Near sunset on the second day, as the travelers approached Dunnkeep, they encountered a small orc party. It did not take much effort to smite the fowl beasts, but there was something very puzzling about this encounter. Attacking with the orcs were 2 jaguars of the Feywild. They were put down as easily as the orcs, but the party was curious as to how creatures of the Feywild came to be fighting alongside the orcs of Dunnedale.
Over several more days the party tracked the orc raiders west to the Dundran Mountain range. The party would have had to have worried about their food rations had it not been for the amazing hunting abilities of their ranger, and the unorthodox, yet effective, hunting method of their resident warlock. As they reached the foot of the mountains, the orc trail became difficult to trace. Luckily there was only one path that led deeper into the mountains, so the party headed in. After about a day of cautiously delving deep into the mountain range, the travelers came upon what could only be a pathway into orc territory. After all, there aren’t too many ways to interpret pike-mounted heads at the beginning of a trail. Ominous clouds had been gathering all day, but the storm did not break until they reached this point, almost as if nature itself was warning them of the path they were about to take. Despite the gruesome trail post warning, the party took the path, steeling themselves for what was sure to be a difficult fight. Rain pounded on them, making it difficult to see. The lightning and crashing thunder made it even more difficult to detect any danger. They walked along the mountain pass, eyes focusing on the ground in front of them and the tops of the craggy cliff walls to the left and right of the path. It wasn’t long before the adventurers knew they were spotted. Throwing axes rained down on them from concealed attackers 5-10 feet up on the cliff walls. The travelers took cover against the rock walls, returning fire in kind. As if the axe hurlers weren’t enough, the group was also besieged by a horde of orc brutes and minions. This group of assailants proved more resilient then the band that fell on the plains east of the mountain. But they too fell before the strength of the fighters.
The heroes pressed forward. The pathway ended in a large area encircled by shear rock walls. This was where the orcs had made their encampment. Crude shacks lined the outer rock circle. The ground had been trampled to dirt, and now was turning into a field of mud filling with pools of water from the deluge. At the back of the encampment, the party could see hanging cages containing some very scared, but living, human captives. In the center there was the smoking remains of a large fire pit. There were orc brutes and minions to the left and right of the fire. There were some more axe hurlers on top of the ramshackle dwellings. Behind the fire pit was the most startling sight. There stood an unbelievably large orc. He was clad in thick studded armor. His long hair fell wild behind his back, leaving bare a frightening, battle-scarred face. Behind this monstrosity lurked an orc shaman. His back was bent, his skin blistered and joints gnarled. He carried a twisted staff, adorned with feathers and dried, shrunken heads. Strange roots and vines hung from his neck and cloth belt. The orcs were clearly ready for their arrival. Raising a massive great-axe above his head, this orc titan let loose piercing battle cry. The orcs surged forward. With equally stunning ferocity, the adventurers charged forward to meet them.
Arjahn engaged the band of orcs to the left of the party. He quickly pounded the minions to dust, but the orc brute that led them was no stranger to battle. They both fought furiously, each delivering massive blows with their weapons. Meanwhile, Asura and Yolanda charged through the now extinguished fire at the orc chieftain, eager to test their mettle against such a powerful foe. Realizing the damage the axe hurlers could deliver from their position, Q and Dassarius swung to the right in order to end the threat.
The orcs fought viciously against the heroes. For every blow that Arjahn landed, his orc opponent responded in kind. Q and Dassarius found it difficult to take down their ranged opponents while simultaneously dodging the thrown axes. The orc leader was the biggest challenge of all. For every strike against him, he would retaliate with two. Matters were not helped by the orc shaman who used his ill-begotten magic to instill fear into Yolanda and Asura, clouding their judgment and limiting their actions. Nor were they helped by other orc brute and minions who also joined the fray. Once Q and Dassarius took down the ranged attackers, the heroes felt the battle going their way. The ranger and warlock focused on silencing the shaman as well as mopping up the remaining orcs. Asura and Yolanda continued to chop away at the gargantuan orc, swiping at the lesser orcs whenever they could. After many tense moments, Arjahn called upon the fury of Melora and smote his enemy with a righteous brand, the shaman and lesser orcs lay lifeless on the ground. But the great orc was not deterred by the odds against him. He fought more furiously than ever, but to no avail. He too was sent as an offering to the Raven Queen.
The travelers freed the captive humans who were grateful beyond words. Upon searching the encampment the group noticed another pathway squeezed between the might cliff walls. It seemed to lead south, deeper into the mountain range. They were eager to pursue this new discovery, eager to find the key to Dr. Cain’s blight. But being heroes of good conscience, they could not let these women and children fend for themselves after such a traumatic experience. They made another thorough search of the encampment, gathering all the looted goods onto the stolen cart along the wall. During the search of the shaman’s belongings, the group found a disturbing clue as to the reason for the orc attack. On a tattered piece of paper were the words “10 humans.” This did not seem to be a random attack by a marauding group of orcs. This puzzle piece had to wait, as the party had more immediate matters to attend to.
After loading up the goods, the travelers escorted the weary women and children back to Dunnkeep. Along the way, the group asked the commoners if they heard or saw anything else during their captivity. But the group only reported seeing orcs and couldn’t understand their language, so they had no more information. The citizens of Dunnkeep were extremely grateful for the safe return of their people. The party refreshed their supplies, contacted the local authorities about the orc threat in the area, and had an update sent to Eldin in Gridan. Now unencumbered, the party quickly set off back to the Dundran mountains, eager to explore the southern passageway.
After a few days, the travelers stood before the pathway. The carnage at the orc camp remained. No one seems to have come and discovered or disturbed the orcs’ eternal slumber. Without any hesitation the group proceeded deeper into the craggy depths of the mountain.
After walking for some time, the pathway led to a large, cave-like opening. Knowing that the white lotus supposedly grows in a cavern deep under the mountains, the party continued down the path into the pitch black depths of the Dundran.
Seeing the way forward may have been a challenge for average adventurers, but with Dassarius’ enchanted cloak and the fantastically luminescent sun rods, exploring the caverns depths was not challenging. What was challenging was not being killed by the cavern’s local inhabitants. Many large and nasty creatures called these caves home. The travelers discovered this while exploring one offshoot of the main passage. While walking down the side passage the party was surprised by several gargantuan leaping spiders. The spiders clearly had the advantage here, leaping from the darkness and swiping at the heroes, only to disappear again in to the black. Asura and Yolanda chased the spiders to the left of a great column in the middle of the cavern while the others went to the right. Dassarius, noticing the legs of one giant spider behind the great column, seared it with his devastating power from the Feywild. He was very surprised when, as he pursued the now bloodied spider, he found himself ensnared by pincer-like barbed hands. He was now grasped by a nasty cavern choker, whose long arms and spiney hands were designed for strangling its victims from the dark. This new threat left Asura and Yolanda to deal with the spiders while Q and Arjahn aided Dassarius against the chokers. Though initially surprised, the party regrouped and left these monsters as little more than mounds of gore. Only one spider had enough sense to retreat. As it made a final jump to safety, it found itself pinned to the wall with an arrow, a victim of Q’s unerring marksmanship.
The group was about to return to the main passage when Dassarius felt the definite presence of magic. Following his sense, he led the party to a deep pool of water at the southern end of this cavern. Dassarius was sure that source of this arcane feeling came from the bottom of this pool. Arjahn and Dassarius jumped in and swam down to investigate. At the bottom, they found an ornate looking box. Judging by its placement, it seemed to have been placed there on purpose. Wary of just grabbing the box, the two went back up for more expert help. Q went down this time and, after some examination, noticed a trap would be triggered if someone tried to move the box. With dexterous hands and a sharp mind, Q easily disabled the trap and brought the box to the surface. Unlocking the box was just as easy. Inside, the party was happy to discover a Bag of Holding. Not finding anything else of note in the cavern, they went back to the main passage and continued deeper south.
The main passage opened up into another large cavern. The travelers were instantly on their guard because of the large, thick spider webs that covered almost every inch of the walls and ceiling. Since this was the only way, the heroes went deeper into the spider lair. Towards the back, they noticed a corpse that was somewhat fresh. Well, fresh compared to the mostly decomposed remains of many creatures that were unfortunate enough to find their way down here. As they stepped up to examine the carcass, Yolanda, Asura, and Q were surprised by the leaping attack of several deathjump spiders. At that same moment, spiders of all kinds seemed to swarm out of the very walls and ceiling. One particular swarm seemed to coalesce into a large group and moved together to attack Q. As the heroes responded to this sudden threat, another deathjump spider dropped from its hiding place in the ceiling to attack Dassarius at the rear of the group. A fierce battle ensued as the heroes fought for their lives and the spiders for their dinner. The party was experience battling the deathjump spiders, but this spider swarm was difficult to deal with as there was almost nothing solid for their weapons to hit. Dassarius reached for a flask on his belt and loosed it at the spider swarm. In a flash of light and heat, the alchemist’s fire burst from the shattering glass, dousing the spider swarm in flame and dealing substantial damage to the rippling mass of legs and teeth. These beasts were no match for the battle hardened travelers and quickly succumbed to their might.
The travelers continued to the rear of the spider lair where the pathway now descended in a slope of slippery rocks. As the group cautiously followed, they all felt the ground underneath them violently tremble. Q and Asura had enough footing to jump to the sides of the pathway. Dassarius, Arjahn, and Yolanda did not have such luck. The very ground crumbled beneath them and they fell into the darkness. After a short fall, they became submerged in a rapid underground river which quickly carried them away. The raging rapid continued through several twists and turns before it reached a large pool. Looking up, the three adventurers saw an opening in the rocks above. Desperate for air, they darted up towards the surface. As they caught their breath, Yolanda noticed that all around this new cavern were lots of mounds of dirt, as if something had been digging or tunneling all around. As they exited from the pool, they found out what it was. Dassarius let out a scream of surprise as from the ground emerged several chitinous reptilian creatures. Arjahn knew these animals as kruthiks, and was wary of their churning, barbed limbs. From their nasty sounding clicks and hisses, Arjahn also knew they were not going to be very friendly.
Back in the passage, Asura and Q had to think fast. Since the river followed in the same direction as the passage, they quickly ran down the pathway, looking and listening for any sign as to where the river continued. It wasn’t long before they heard the cry of Dassarius’ surprise echo from further down the pathway. Asura and Q now began running headlong down the path to meet the one comrade they knew was alive, and in trouble. As they ran further, they heard the distinctive sounds of a furious battle. Q rounded the last corner that opened up into another large cavern. He saw his companions being swarmed by several adult and young kruthiks. As he rushed forward to engage, several more young kruthiks emerged from the ground before him. Knowing Asura was right behind him, Q slid past the younglings, moving closer to aid his embattled allies. Indeed Asura came charging in behind Q, savagely slashing away at the kruthiks in her path. Combining all their efforts, they party made the kruthiks wish they had just stayed underground.
Having regrouped and shaken off their latest near-demise, the group noticed a large passageway in the rear of this kruthik hunting ground. The path went back and curved around to the left. As the party walked on, a separate passageway opened up to their right. As they deliberated which way to explore, a choice was made for them. From the ground at the mouth of this new passage erupted the head of a humongous kruthik hive lord. It spat a vile acid upon the party, leaving them burning and weak. As quickly as it was there, the head vanished beneath the ground. The party could sense that it had retreated back in the direction of the new passage way. Knowing they wouldn’t be safe to explore the rest of the mountains depths unless this threat was dealt with, they pursued the kruthik hive lord.
Yolanda was particularly incensed by the hive lord’s acidic surprise and went charging after where she thought the kruthik retreated. The rest of the party followed up behind, but it was Yolanda who first stumbled upon the kruthik lord. It was sitting deep in its nest, surrounded by many of its offspring. Yolanda sprang into action, picking and swiping furiously at the onslaught of barbed, metal-like appendages. Arjahn was next to charge up into the fray, unleashing a scorching blast of lightning dragon breath. Both Yolanda and Arjahn were becoming quickly overwhelmed by the almost endless onslaught of kruthiks. As the rest of the party arrived to engage the kruthik horde, the hive lord used its massive spiked legs to walk around the wall to an advantageous position before blasting the party again with its caustic acid. Though the kruthik swarm was causing grievous injuries, the others decided the hive lord was the biggest threat to their survival. Asura, Q and Dassarius focused all their force on taking out kruthik leader. Using their most devastating abilities, the adventurers laid waste to the hulking beast. But they were far from safe. Both Arjahn and Yolanda had both fallen while holding the surviving kruthiks at bay. It was only through their sheer force of will, as well as some strategic healing, that they were able to keep fighting. Now that the hive lord’s acid was no longer a threat, the travelers were able to fight with their full strength. With their combined might they exterminated the kruthik horde. Weary from the constant barrage of monsters, the group hunkered down in the kruthik nest for an extended rest.
The time passed without incident. The travelers woke refreshed and ready to continue their mission. They went back to the main chamber where they were side tracked by the hive lord. They turned west and continued their search for the white lotus. After walking some time they came to beautiful underground waterfall. But there did not seem to be any other paths to take. This was the end of the line. Searching high and low, they did not find a lotus or a new path. They did notice that the waterfall sounded a bit different at its base than at the top. So Asura dove in the pool at the base of the cascade and swam underneath. She discovered an underwater passage leading behind the waterfall, but it was too long to swim. While she explored below, Yolanda discovered a tunnel behind the waterfall at ground level. Once Asura came up and joined the party, they set off down the hidden passage.
The pathway was narrow at first. But as they walked, it opened up wider and wider. Then, the walkway opened up into a massive underground cavern. The path continued forward, but now was flanked by deep, shimmering blue water on both sides. The walkway led to the middle of the cavern. The water on the sides was narrow at first, but expanded out to the far walls of the tremendous chasm. The back wall of the cave was lined with massive waterfalls, roaring loudly in the subterranean depths. But what drew the attention of the adventurers was at the end of the path. The walkway expanded as it progressed into the cavern to about 60 feet in width. It formed a peninsula in this underground lake. At the end of this peninsula there was a shallow pool of water. Many white and purple colored lotus flowers grew in the water. But in the center was truly an astonishing site. One lotus flower had grown tall, strong stems that lifted it from the water. As the stem got closer to the top, it seemed to turn from plant matter into some kind of organic crystal. The crystal continued to the top where a large, beautiful lotus flower had blossomed. It was not carved, but rather seems to have grown naturally out of crystal. This certainly was the white lotus that they sought. As they moved closer to retrieve the flower, a giant form burst from the water behind them.
Hovering above the water, framed by the billowing waterfalls behind, was a young blue dragon. “Do not disturb the sacred orchid,” it bellowed in guttural common that seemed to shake the very walls of the cavern. The dragon reared its head as its mouth charged with lightning, and the dragon released a blazing bolt that leaped from one hero to another. The dragon was keeping its distance, assaulting the group from afar with its lightning powers. The adventurers were far from helpless, though. Q, Dassarius, and Arjahn , refreshed from their recent rest, unleashed their destructive attacks upon the blue menace. Even Asura and Yolanda, though limited by range, were able to hurl their throwing weapons with enough skill and accuracy to do some serious damage. Dassarius called upon the power of the Feywild to curse the dragon with a powerful psychic attack, causing the dragon to land near the waiting warriors. Once on the ground, Yolanda used her enchanted pick to freeze the dragon within the party’s reach. The dragon proved even more dangerous up close, slashing with its claws and goring with its horn. The heroes were able to land enough blows so that by the time the dragon was able to escape to the air it was grievously wounded. As it flew above the shimmering water of the cavern, Dassarius hit it with one final Eldritch blast that engulfed the dragon in flames, sending its now lifeless body crashing into the water.
Arjahn cautiously slipped into the shallow pool encircling the crystal lotus. The water seemed to revitalize him, filling him with strength and healing his wounds. He reached up and delicately grabbed the flower. As he did, the area where the crystallized flower met the organic base shattered leaving Arjahn holding the white lotus flower. While Arjahn was carefully extracting this natural treasure, the rest of the party was busy gathering treasure of other types. They hauled the dragon out of the water to gather any valuable parts from its body. Yolanda was also able to locate the dragon’s lair and with the help of Asura and Dassarius, they hauled away quite a bit of treasure. They now had the white lotus. It was time to return to Gridan, revive Dr. Cain, and get some answers.