Around the 10 o’clock hour while I sit slightly reclined near Zeph enamored with his mug of ale and me waiting for the gnome to either fall off his chair or stumble upstairs to his room. Nearby the Earth Bender sits positioned atop a table eyes closed and humming aloud in deep meditation. Sherwood continues his staring toward the direction of the entrance. While trying to count the number of mugs the gnome has vanquished, a pair of cloaked females with holy symbols of a skull with a fireball behind it stroll into the tavern removing their hoods as they enter. They speak to me directly saying, “We would like to talk to your group.” The other acolyte says, “The high priestess has sent us…because you did a good thing.” They hand over three potions of healing and amulet of emergency healing with most of the group agreeing to give it to Hung Lo. Before departing, Zeph asks them, “Do need us to do anything?” The pair continues toward the door ignoring the little humanoid. We remain in the saloon until last call and I carry the gnome to his bedchamber to sleep off his drunken state.
I rise from a lumpy mattress that covers an aged bed frame before dawn, awakened by either the distant thunder of an approaching storm or the anxiety of an unknown future with the notion of three evil deities attempting to become an all powerful evil entity. After pondering my life for what seemed hours I bring my stiff and sore muscles with me to the ground floor of the Able Coach Inn, where I am met by an already slightly intoxicated Zeph. We stop by to consult the high priest of Saint Cuthbert in an attempt to gain information on the Ebon Triad. Jierian Wierus can tell us only of the rumored attempt of the cult to merge the three evil gods into one all powerful being. He suggests we visit the garrison to see man who is a priest of Herroneous and that this deity and Hextor are enemies. Once we gain entrance into the garrison, an attractive female paladin responds to our query with a “Wait a minute.” Not much new information was achieved during our 10 minute visit with the high priest of Herroneous. They are considered heretics among the believers of those three deities. He also mentioned that merging three powerful gods into one being is not logical. Maybe these cult members all want to see the age of worms resulting in the destruction of much of the civilized world. He ended with, “That’s all I can help you with, but if you come across any of those Hextorites you should take care of them.” “If you haven’t told Alaston about this then you should take some time to do so.” Before we depart, I show him the letter from Shenk to Filge. We bid farewell and cross the worn paths of Diamond Lake to ask Alston about this bottled green worm. Once Alaston spies bottle green worm becomes animated, saying, “My studies show that the worms are related to an ancient Temple located under the earth and it just so happens to be under Diamond Lake.” I ask him this is related to the Ebon Triad. Without hesitation replies, “Yes”. He further explains, “It is under the Dourstone Mines.” “I fear that Dourstone is somehow involved and I believe the Temple is already occupied.” Alaston further suggests we parlay with Smenk, since he and Dourstone are bitter rivals. He then says in a raised and animated voice, “These worms definitely part of the spawn of Kyuss….so this whole Age of Worms thing is true.” “That is some scary shit…. good thing you guys are here!” After some time arguing with Hung Lo, I defer to him and we trudge off to try and gather information from Smenk. We are made to wait outside his residence as we observe many bodyguards milling about in the vicinity. He begins asking, “What is this intrusion about?” Hung Lo slams the incriminating letter onto his desk and then Smenk studies the note briefly saying, “So” He continues, “Why are you talking to me?…. why don’t you talk to Dourstone?” Hung Lo tries to further interrogate, “I want to know how deep you’re in?” Smenk replies, “How deep I am in what?” “Everyone knows I don’t like Dourstone….so what!” “What do you think you have there… a note that says things are going on that I’m concerned about?” He states further, “Doesn’t everyone know about this?” “I am going to tell you this because I don’t have time to deal with you in any other way.” “Especially since you guys are pestering little shits.” “Listen the deal is this, I hate that Dwarven little shitface.” “I am going to let you in on a little secret…. I saw shit down there that turn you white!” Smenk goes on, “Listen I will make you a deal, go into the mines find out what’s going on…then that will be one less person that I must compete against.” Simultaneously both the gnome and the Earth Bender respond, “What’s in it for us?” Snidely Smenk retorts, “What’s in it for you?…. I let you leave my house alive!” Straightaway the Earth Bender states, “We were going to do that anyway.” Followed up by the gnome in a raised voice saying, “I’ll teleport out of your house bitch!” “I don’t need your generosity…. I’ll turn the group invisible and then teleport us out of here!” Smenk calmly responds, “If you take out the Triad I will be in your debt.” The Earth Bender says, “We will take over that mine.” The gnome follows up with, “I always wanted to own that mine.” I pipe up, “we’re moving in to the Old Observatory.” Sidestepping the real issue Smenk remarks, “If you guys take out the Ebon Triad I will give you the deed to the Observatory.” We turn to walk out when Smenk alerts us, “You guys have to get to the elevator which means… You have to get by the miners, guards and the foreman.” “Remember you can’t just go in there and start killing people.” We get the sense before leaving a man of his stature is showing signs of being visibly shaken by the presence of the Ebon Triad Cult. I ask, “So do you know of a backdoor?” He responds, “I don’t know of anything… about him, but his mining operation is poorly run.” “He pays his workers shit and pays the guards more; he figures that the guards are there to keep the workers in line.” Before we depart Smenk had some vital information. He states, “The nighttime guards are Dwarves and in the daytime they are human.” The group has a long protracted discussion about strategy when entering the Dourstone mine and the final result being a reconnoitering of the mining operation. We observe guards in teams of two making rounds each hour. Additionally two guards watch from a tower and two guard the gate. The group heads to the Feral Dog to question some of the Dourstone miners. After Zeph points out the miner from Dourstone, I throw down five gold pieces onto the table. I ask him, “Tell us about work, and tell us the layout, where you work.” “My job sucks dude…I work all day mining for copper.” Hung Lo interjects, “Are there canaries in the mine?” The worker replies, “Does a bear shit in the woods?” The worker asks, “Why do you guys ask?” The Earth Bender replies, “We need a job.” I ask him if he can draw us a map and ask how many levels are there. “I believe two, but he also built an elevator,” He quips. Hung Lo inquires further, “Who goes in the elevator…. are there guards?” He returns, “No one goes on the elevator…Guards?….Yes there are guards.” “Dourstone found new veins down there.” Hung Lo ended the conversation with, “Thank you sir……don’t go to work tomorrow.”Before we depart, Sherwood notices a white-haired elf approaching our table. As the soon recognized elf approaches, Alstan states, “I heard that you found some crazy shit in Whispering Cairn.” Zeph responds loudly, “Shhhhhhh!” He continues, “Hey how about this?” A sack is gently placed on the table. The Earth Bender begins to open the cloth bag saying, “What’s in it?” We look up to thank him and he has disappeared. Studying the contents we find four potions of invisibility. We quickly travel down to the depths of the mines arriving at the mine elevator unmolested. A number of signs warn miners to stay away from the shaft. The elevator is blocked off by wooden boards, but the Earth Bender just creates a hole in the stone alongside the shaft. With a sense of urgency the group steps into the elevator and descends some 200 feet. Before us is the expanse of the big chamber and as we step off the crude elevator we are accosted by three chain armored barb-tailed assailants. Hung Lo begins to explain that we are from the Miners Guild and we are checking on safety, but the guards are not buying it. All three let loose a volley of crossbow bolts with Hung Lo managing to deflect enemy crossbow bolt. Unfortunately for Sherwood he was unable to defend himself against another which lodges in his upper thigh. Instinctually I raise my trusty large shield blocking another crossbow bolt and sending ricocheting into the gray stony ground. Zeph reacts quickly blasting all three enemies with magical missiles causing them minor injuries. Sherwood draws back upon his longbow launching an arrow that burrows into flesh of his chest. I move to engage the enemy injured by Sherwood’s arrow, doing him serious injury but not killing him. Sherwood finally drops the seriously wounded enemy guard with another well-placed shot from his elvish longbow. Meanwhile the gnome uses his talents to increase the damage capability of the party weapons. As I cleave into the guards with cage I sense the power of the magically enhanced bastard sword. An unseen spell caster weaves dark magic and hinders the movement of both Hung Lo and Zeph. I catch sight of the enemy cleric retreating into the eastern hallway but being distracted I am injured by an enemy flail. Meanwhile another foe succumbs to the earth Bender’s missile of stone caving in his cranium. Zeph uses his talent to teleport me adjacent to the evil Acolyte of Hextor. The drawback swing and channel the energy of a missile into my sword causing grave injury as my sword burrows into muscle of his right arm. As blood streams from his wound the cleric next to me begins banging on the door. The combined attacks of Sherwood, Hung Lo and Zeph drop the final enemy guard in my second sword strike fatally wounds the retreating cleric. We search the guards finding three potions of healing and four skeleton keys besides the weapons and armor they possessed.