"Captive Zukazon" - October 12th, 2002
The Deep-Gnome Workshop
The Finders had spent the night in the small tunnel between Jeremiah's artificial cave-in and a very very complex and ancient secret door. Oren and Zeek had stepped through a dimension door and had gone scouting beyond the cave-in...but had not returned. William Fitzpierce had found his way to the party, and had arrived with a mysterious man calling himself "Crane." After a good rest, the the party was ready to continue deeper into this portion of the Underdark...and delve into the mysteries of Zukazon.
Casiel examined the secret door, and after several attempts was able to figure out how to open it. Beyond was a large room, with the sounds of talking, the beating of metal and other signs of industry. A row of crates stacked six feet high concealed the party's entrance into the room. It was decided that Damon Kradock would cast a spell in order to become invisible, and explore the room...and the hallway beyond. Damon through a piece of metal across the room in order to distract the gnomes from the door he was about to open. But this drew the attention of the watchful Meglifergen...foreman of this shop.
Damon pushed Meglifergen, thus becoming visible...and said, "You should be working harder!" Damon went with the story the party had come up with: That the part was a group of weapons-dealers who were trying to work a deal with whomever could provide a profit. Collin and Damon had a long conversation with Meglifergen, learning the following things:
1. The gnolls attacked the deep-gnomes with the help of gnomish traitors...led by the King's own Chamberlain, Doctenfornos.
2. That 2/3rds of the gnomes had died, but that the remaining 1/3rd worked as slaves for the gnolls.
3. A powerful crystal in the King's chambers focuses and controls certain elemental energies the gnomes have tapped into.
4. That the gnomes had tried to destroy the crystal, but had failed to turn the 3 rods that stabilized the massive crystal.
5. If the crystal is disrupted, there would be a melt down, and probably an explosion that would destroy Zukazon.
6. The worker's women and childre were being held in the mines, and that destroying the crystal would destroy everything in the mines.
7. That the gnomes were making parts for tunnelling machines being used to clear flooded and damaged tunnels.
8. That the only thing keeping the gnomes there, was the fact that if the workers escaped...the women and children would be killed, and also the reverse.
9. Molash kept his "court" in the King's old chambers...with the energy crystal.
10. Molash is "overly-large" to be a human, but he is well-spoken, magic-proof, and very fast.
Collin offered to help the gnomes free themselves, and asked what help the gnomes would need. Meglifergen stated that if we could get word to the women and children to flee...that would free up the workers to flee also. Damon asked which of the women and children the party should contact, with an eye towards which one would be most likely to be believed by the other women and children. Meglifergen said that his wife, Freegenugen, would be the best one to contact.
The party retreated to their tunnel for 12 hours, in order to allow Meglifergen to go to his quarters, and return with a personal item belonging to Freegenugen. Once we had a braid of her hair, Jeremiah began to scry Freegenugen...and found that she was cooking and serving food to a female 1/2 elf with dreadlocks, a couple of bugbears, and a white albino gnoll shaman. Jeremiah waited for Freegenugen to go into the next room, and then contacted her with a sending spell. Jeremiah told her to remain calm, and that he was delivering an important message from her husband. Freegenugen began to scream, "Who are you...who is that talking!" Jeremiah quickly told her that the women and children must flee...and that the workers flee also. With the scry spell Jeremiah could see the Shaman and other approaching the panicked, and obnoxiously loud, Freegenugen...and then our communication with her was cut off as all went black.
Jeremiah was extremely frustrated, as were those other party members who he let know what had happened. As for Meglifergen and the paladin Ruhdin...Jeremiah was more selective in what detail he shared with them. After all, had not the message been delivered!?! Collin cast a sphere of invisibility that encompassed the rest of the Finders, and at shift-change, they made their way out into the hallway. Following a map given to them by Meglifergen, the party located a secret door, and behind it a series of ancient tunnels. Soon, the party found itself outside the gnome king's chambers, peeping through a hole in the wall at Molash's current seat of power.
Molash's Court and the Crystal of Elemental Power
There were tons of people coming in and out of the chamber, making deals and swearing loyalty to Molash. Dark dwarves, drow, gnolls, ogres, and other terrible creatures all came in and out, performing their various deals and politics. The Finders studied the scene for hours, waiting for that perfect moment when Molash's forces would be at their weakest. They studied the patterns of the comings and goings...looking for possible shift changes, meal times, specific duties that may draw away a fair portion of this dark being's forces. That's when Zeek in his ethereal form appeared to us...waving his arms, and making very little sense. Unable to verbally speak, much of what Zeek wanted to tell us was lost, but it was clear that Oren was lost in the mines below.
Ruahdin spoke first. "Listen to me...each and every one of you. Below us in the mines are hundreds of women and children deep gnomes...and if our message did not get through to them, well...then, they will all die when we damage the crystal. And now we know that Oren...our good friend...is trapped in the mines, as well. We must set out for the mines...make certain the women and children escape, and save our friend Oren."
Damon's voice was clear, and held no sarcasm. "We each must do what we must. I am normally against splitting the group...but in this case I am not so sure. Someone must remain here...study Molash and his throne room, divine the weaknesses that must be obvious if studied for a sufficient amount of time. But I would not dare ask you...a holy paladin...to not follow your heart. Do what you must, or you will regret it all your life. I for one intend to stop Molash...and save ten thousand kobolds...men, women, and children...an entire culture really. And if a few gray, ugly gnomes is the trade-off we must make to save thousands and thousands of lives, then I guess I'll have to live with that the rest of my life."
Collin nodded. "Let's not be distracted from our ultimate goal...the entire kobold nation, or what is left of it, depend on what we do today. I have no real love for kobolds...but I'm not sure I have any really love for deep gnomes, either! My real interest is in the Azure Kingdom...and the demon plague that currently grips it. But if I must be diverted from that goal, at least let my time here be spent saving as many lives as possible.
Jeremiah laid his hand upon Ruahdin, "I will make you as a wisp of air, and imbue you with the nature and attributes of the ethers that lie between all things. God-speed, paladin...save the women, save the children, save our friend Oren...and we shall do our best to stave off the destruction of the kobolds."
And Ruahdin and Zeek were gone....They made their way to the depths of the mines, warned the women and children, and rescued Oren from a deep pit he had fallen into. They escaped from the mines with some thinking and a bit of cleverness, but what of the rest of the party? Luckily Ruahdin returned to the party, in the form of wind and ether...and a plan was set.
An Attempt, Followed by an Escape
Collin would pose as a messenger from the demons, come to visit Molash. Ruahdin would continue being a wisp of cloud (from Jeremiah's spell) and swirl around Collin for effect. The rest of the party would be invisible (spells from Damon and Collin) and turn the rods holding the crystal in place. No one was foolish enough to believe that the Finders could take on Molash and his forces. No one had any illusions about taking him on in direct combat. Either trickery would save the day, or a quick escape would be neccesary.
The party made its move when the room had as few a number of guards as possible. Collin opened one of the doors leading in to the huge chamber, with the paladin swirling around him at his feet. "I AM AN EMISSARY FROM SHE WHO SUCKLES THE HOARDS OF HELL!"
Molash turned towards the open door, as Ogres began to move towards Collin. "Ahhhh, the Finders. I've been waiting for you." When Damon heard that Molash immediately knew exactly who Collin was with, he began to pull the other invisible party members closer to himself, whispering for them all to hold firmly onto each other.
Collin never skipped a beat. "Finders? I know not of what you speak...I have come with a message from my masters."
Molash laughed loudly, and clapped his hands together...mocking Collin.
Damon whispered harshly in Jeremiah's ear, "Plane shift us...get us out of here now."
"Are you sure?" Jeremiah did not want to jump the gun.
Damon clutched those around him tightly "NOW! The gig is up."
Collin looked over his shoulder, "Get me out of here!"
...and they were gone.
A Second Chance is Passed On
In SonaNyl the Finders were contacted by the Magistrate, The Honorable Demisis, High Mage and protector of the world of Scoalabow. He had an offer to make. "I can return you all to the throne room...to the crystal...and to Molash, with Oren and Zeek by your side. You can finish your task...you can kill Molash...destroy the crystal. You have but to say the word."
Collin shook his head, as did several other members of the party. "No. Molash knows who we are...he knows our intent, and all that awaits us in his throne room is death. Death for us all."
Will brushed some dried mud from his breastplate. "My goal is to free the Azure Kingdom...and bring it under the control and protection of the Empire. Now is not the time to face Molash, and his throne room is not the place."
Damon tipped his head in respect to Demisis. "Thank you for your offer kind sir. I want to see Molash's end...we all wanted to see him dead. But the deck was stacked. We could not succeed there. We have to keep focused on our real goal...the demons. If we die saving the Underdark, it only benefits our real enemies."
Ruahdin shook his head. "I can't believe we're going to let the kobolds fall to Molash. They asked for our help...begged for our aid. How can we ignore this injustice."
Jeremiah was frowning. "Knight of the Rose, the kobolds asked only that we gather information for them, and that we have done. As soon as we return to Kempin, I will contact Dakkot, and let him know exactly what is happening, and what they are facing. That fulfills our obligation, and their expectations. Molash dead...the crystal destroyed...both would have served justice in this case. But our deaths, earned in an impossible fight...that would only hurt our Kingdom...and the people that are counting on us to free their lands from the demon hoards."
And the Finders turned down Demisis' offer, and returned to the World of Kempin a short while later....