Back in town, we talked with the only non-untrustworthy individual in town: the halfling proprietor of the Halfmoon Inn. She said that she'd never heard of Murkelmor Grimmerzhul, someone mentioned in a letter we had found in the slaver outpost. However, she had heard of the Grimmerzhul Trading Post, which apparently are run by, surprise, Duergar. As we were resting up to talk with them the next day, the crazy sage, Vadriar, came to us yelling out omens of doom and gloom. He seemed quite emphatic in his ravings, and it was clear that he wasn't going to stop yelling and spitting out droplets of saliva into our dinner unless we agreed to follow him the next day, so we finally relented.
The next day, we set off to the Cisterns, and travelled through a maze of twisty corridors, all alike. Eventually, we came reach our destination, and was immediately beset by a Grick and several Troggies, including one that looked like a Shaman. We hadn't been expecting trouble, and it was just myself, Octane, and Paelis, not exactly the most fierce force in one-on-one fights. We were quite worn out by the battle, especially because there was some strange rune in the middle that the Troggies kept standing in that appeared to be giving them strength, but eventually we prevailed. However, (and I called it!), Vadriar turned into some sort of "Oni" as Octane called it. He looked like a giant flying Ogre that was very magey. The Oni tried to take us captive, threatening us with death, but Octane whispered to me that the Oni was more bluster than brawn, and we were able to threaten him into letting us free, or face death himself. It looked like we really rattled him, since he even paid us to leave him alone. Hah!
Octane did have a chance to examine the strange arcane circle that the Troggies were in. He said that the Troggies were Torog worshippers, and that they were trying to complete a ritual that would have collapsed the Seven-Pillared Hall. Another reason to distrust magiky types. Just as well had they succeeded, I think, so long as we weren't in the hall when that happened. But anyways, on our way back, we encountered Alvin who was stumbled in drunk. He said that he knew the way back, but I wasn't so sure. We ran into a group of undead that most certainly were not there on the way to the Cisterns. We dispatched them with ease, and found a curious silver key on them.
Back in town, we tried to find Orontur, but he was nowhere to be found. Doesn't he care at all that his city was just hours away from total destruction? He probably had foreseen it and chickened out.
We rested for an evening at the Inn, and set out the next day to the Trading Post. The Duergar there were (surprise, surprise) rude and unhelpful. They said that they didn't know who Murkelmor was. I wasn't going to let them off that easily. I politely informed them that it was of utmost importance that we locate this Murkelmor, and that we'd be happy to wait by their Trading Post, and petition their patrons for the whereabouts of Murkelmor. Despite the reasonableness of my proposal, the uncivilized and savage Duergar decided that they'd rather try to kill us instead. In contrast to their belligerent and overt actions, we instead showed our humane and enlightened nature by beating them to unconsciousness with our axes, arrows, swords, and thunderwaves.
After subduing our attackers, we informed them that since they had taken physical action against us, that we now had reasonable cause to search their premises and seize any evidence that may relate to our ongoing investigation of the kidnappings of the humans and halflings. We found a note that proved the complicity of these Duergar. It was from Murkelmor that requested provisions to the Horned Hold for the "merchandise". We also found a supply of gold and magical items that was no doubt involved in the slave trade, so we seized them under the forfeiture statue of section 2, subsection 15.1 in article 5 under the Adventuring Act of 525, 2e. We tried to talk to the "sheriff" about these criminals, but he seemed only to be upset at us. Doesn't he care at all about the law?
We asked around town, and found a Drow merchant,Gendar, who seemed to be well-versed in area. He was willing to tell us about the Horned Hold, but had three tasks for us. First, he wanted us to deal with some "witch" who lived high in the mountains and who was harassing his messengers with flying beasts. We set off the next day to strike out a bargain. I talked with the Shadar-kai witch, asking her to leave Gendar alone, in exchange for information about "softer" targets to strike. It seemed again, like a reasonable request to me, but again, the inhabitants of the Underdark showed their nature by attacking us unprovoked. It was a difficult battle, but Ocatne proved his worth. He managed to hurl one of her guardian constructs down the mountainside, where it landed in about a few hundred pieces. It was a tough fight, especially when the Gargoyles showed up, but when the combat turned against the witch, she decided to run away. Octane, again, proved his worth by running after her, and heroically slaying her by shooting her in the back with his magic missile. We again siezed the evidence of their wrongdoing before leaving for the Hall.
Gendar was pleased in our progress, and agreed to tell us the location of the Horned Hold if Ocatane, Erawin, and Paelis went to the Court of Bones for the second mission. The third mission was to retrieve a scepter from the Horned Hold. He had a Dwarf warrior, Rampage, show us the way, and we set off the next day. The Horned Hold looked like a series of tree octagonal towers overlooking a deep crevice, with bridges connecting the towers to each other. Trixie the rogue reported that it looked like the main entrance was guarded by several Orcs. We asked her to go back and secretly unlock the portcullis, so that if we needed to, we could enter in to talk with the Orcs face to face. I walked up to the gate, and asked the Orcs if they would let us in, so that we could speak with their leader. They were quite rude, and told us to get lost, so we decided that they needed a lesson in civility, as taught by the ends of our spears and axes. It appears that the lesson stuck, as they were much more agreeable after Trixie ran them through with her rapier.
We entered the next room, which appeared to be a forge of sorts, and encountered some Duegar and more Orcs. They were quite surprised to see us, and it wasn't long before we had pacified them as well. Continuing across the bridge into the next tower, we encountered even more Duergar, in addition to some sort of giant walking crossbows. They didn't appear happy to see us either (or at least the Duegar didn't; I couldn't tell with the crossbows) , though the situation was rectified in short order by Rampage's maul. However, one of the crossbows somehow managed to open a door to the third and last tower, giving away our presence. We barred the gate while we rested for a minute. Overall, I was impressed with the progress we made. Even without either of our finger waggers, we managed to subdue three groups of Duegar and Orcs with ease.
As we were resting, it looked like the rest of our group had arrived. They had finished the Court of Bones with surprising ease, and Erawin followed our tracks. Rampage and Octane ran off to deal with another group of Duegar, when the barred door had be broken through. A fierce battle ensued, and even though some sneaky ones got past us to inform another group, we were able to hold the line. However, a Cave Troll managed to run away, bringing back many of his friends. We fell back to the entrance, barring it again and resting for a few moments. While we were resting, Rampage returned, though Octane was nowhere to be seen. Rampage said that he was valiantly chasing fleeing enemies, in the finest traditions of Kord.
I knew the next battle would be difficult, so I gave a few words of encouragement, telling them that if we were slain, they'd probably toss our bodies into the chasm, so that we probably shouldn't let them do that. My speech must have worked, because even though during the battle, five Spined Devils showed up, peppering us with poisonous spines, we still prevailed. At first, I was concerned that Octane wasn't around, and that a we'd really need a wizard for this fight. Fortunately, we did have a wizard: their wizard kept attacking us, hoping to incapacitate us all, but all she managed to do was render her own devil allies blinded, dazed, prone, and poisoned. Rampage also was a flurry of action, repeatedly knocking Murkelmor off his feet, while I struck at him from afar with my spear. Kord also rewarded us for our valour, striking down Murkelmor for being too cowardly to fight me in melee combat after being knocked prone.
After Murkelmor fell, the fight left the remaining ones, and they fled (no doubt with Octane Stone ruthlessly pursuing them until they had all fallen to the sting of his magic missiles).