The going was monotonous as the party proceeded into the darkness of the tunnel. Despite having crossed more large cracks and holes in the tunnel walls and floor, they had seen no sign of any living creature, although they did pass more picked-clean skeletons. The only sound was that of their own footsteps. The vile smelling glands retrieved from the yellow-shelled bugs hadn’t become any more bearable with time, and made eating normal food nearly impossible simply from their presence.
Just when everybody was starting to contemplate how and where to rest, the air suddenly felt slightly fresher. There was a refreshing chill in the air, and a sense of air moving. Soon, there was the distant sound of flowing water as well. The left wall of the tunnel suddenly ended, revealing a vast cavern. The torchlight makes it hard to see any details, but clearly reflected off of stone and brick, Prominently carved into the nearest corner in foot-high letters, wass the text “Narak-Nalun” in the Old Tongue.
Darak decided to try the light wand he had found before once again, hoping to get a better view of the situation. Several minutes of swinging and experimenting with the wand later, nothing had happened. Frustrated, Magus took the wand and started waving it around wildly, banging and bouncing it off of the walls, ceiling, and party members. It jolted into life, sending a beam of light surging into the cavern for a couple of heartbeats. It revealed a city built inside of a smooth dome-shaped cavern, the flat roof reflecting light downward. Magus grinned, handed the wand back, and the party moved in to start exploring the abandoned town.
The eastern half of the town was dominated by a large multistory building, built out of stone bricks. Much of the wall on the side facing the tunnel consisted of an ornate mural depicting dwarves drinking, eating, drinking, sleeping, drinking, laughing, and drinking. Some steps led up to an entrance that still managed to look stately, despite the darkness and obvious years of abandonment. The letters inscribed in the stone nearby bore the name “The Builder’s Blessing.”
The party entered, and was immediately accosted by the faded but all-too-familiar stench of orc. The building seemed to be an inn of some kind, and from the look and smell of things, orcs traveling through the tunnel had been using it as a rest stop. The party discovered a swarm of red bugs in a kitchen area… and were pleased to note that the swarm immediately dispersed and fled, apparently driven away by the insect glands they had recovered from the large yellow bugs in their last fight. Some more yellow bugs on the roof, however, were not impressed, and charged the one carrying the glands. The fight was brief, but afterwards, the party decided it was time to rest before exploring further.
After a rest, the party returned to a door they’d discovered in the inn that stood out: the large metal door still gleamed, carved with exquisite craftsmanship. It bore the image of an armored dwarf, massive shining hammer in one hand and bright shield in the other, facing off against a dragon rearing to strike. The shield bore a crest of two crossed golden feathers. Some of the party recognized the figure and his crest: the legendary dwarven hero, Thormin Starshield. The door was solidly locked, and scratches in the nearby stonework bore testament to previous fruitless attempts to open it. Arkan proposed a simpler plan. After spending several minutes gauging the door and its surroundings, he placed his hands on the stone to either side. With a tremendous crack, the stone surrounding the door split. Arkan gave the door a push, and it fell inward, along with several inches of stone all around it.
Inside was a well-furnished bedroom. Although slightly dusty, it was neat and unspoiled. The large bed in the corner was crisply made. Trophies lined the walls, beasts magical and mundane. The party took particular note of a dragon claw and the invisible head of some magical beast. A desk stood on one side of the room, lit by a single red candle that apparently had been burning for the untold years since the room and city were abandoned. An attempt by Gyth to extinguish it by pinching the flame resulted only in singed fingers. On the desk was a book. The first part of the book appeared to be a registry of guests at the inn, but the last few pages held the following text:
It is over. We no longer have any choice: we must flee while fleeing is still available to us. I still do not know what happened to the great cities, or how the foul orc-kind defeated them so quickly. For nearly a year now, we have cowered in our hidden home, hoping that one day the tunnel would be unsealed and friendly faces greet us, telling us how the war was won and Teledil and Amnadil reclaimed. That day has not come and I fear it never will.
The sun will not last much longer. I have expended all of my wealth so that my people may have light and food, but at last it is at an end. We idle away our days in the arena, or in song, or in drink. When the plague of devourers appeared, not many had the will to fight. As their mayor, I could have compelled them, but in my stubborn pride I did not. And I have payed the price.
My son is dead. He took my hammer and my shield, hoping to win glory by doing what his father would not, and sought out the blue-shelled one. I will never forget the sight of him stumbling through the door, a ragged stump where his fighting arm once was. His last trembling words to me were an apology that he had failed, and that the blue-shelled one yet lived. But it is I who failed him, for if I had been at his side, he would never have fallen. I buried him in the High Vault, in a place of honor where the sun will always shine brightest upon him.
I have given the order to evacuate all of the citizens that remain. The master of the school is, I think, the only one who believes we will ever return, but his mind is gone. He refuses to believe that his best pupil is dead.
I have sealed the High Vault. It is a tomb to the best dwarf who I’ve ever known, and who I will never see again among the living. The gate will only open to those who speak his name, to allow them to honor him. May my shield guard him forever, and may we both find each other one day in the halls of the Builder. I, Thormin Starshield, do end my record.
The party also found a small chest under the bed, containing four silvery potions and a wand with a large obvious rune about where the thumb would go. Darak tried pressing it, producing a fireball that set the bed on fire but miraculously didn’t kill anyone.
Further exploration of the city revealed a “dip-well”, a shallow well with a constant flow of water through the bottom…not a true well as much as a piped convenience. The party passed a series of merchant stalls that had been long abandoned and looted. At the center of the town, they found an octagon-shaped plaza, centering on a still-running fountain. They also found some shards of thick glass.
A nearby building proved to be a school of some kind. The abandoned bookshelves contained one item of note: a short primer on basic arcana, which happened to have an illustrated diagram and instructions of a light-wand on one of the first pages… the workings of that item, at least, are no longer a mystery.
The session was cut short before the party could explore any further…