When we last saw our brave heroes, they were finishing up a day of shopping in the city of Artemis. In order to secure a 10% share of Flint & Steel, they formed a company of their own, called The League, Fellowship & Brotherhood Sworn to Discover all that is Unknown, Unconquered and Hidden. They went to a local magistrate’s office to have the Charter of their new corporation drawn up and notarized. After a much longer than normal wait, a clerk appeared, demanding that they follow her deep into the underbelly of the scary municipal offices. In a small office, deep underground, the party learned that an edict had just been passed down:
“All adventurers who wish to form a Chartered Exploration Corporation must pay Despicably Corpulent amounts of cash to the local government, to pay for damages to public and otherwise insured property that may or may not have been set on fire and urinated upon. So there.”
Their charter signed, and them much poorer than they thought they had been, our heroes made their way back into the streets of Artemis. On the way out, Olin’s sharp ears heard a soft voice saying “Ok, we can repeal that edict now, we got enough to pay for Poortown.” And another voice responding, “But didn’t we just spend as much as they gave us to push the edict through the Senate in the space of 2 hours?” To which the first voice replied, “Shut up,” then more quietly, “I hate you.”
The party spent their last night in Artemis back at the Cocoon Hotel. Ramahut fell into a deep sleep, finding himself once again in the pearl-palace dreamscape. But instead of following the silver carpet into the throne room, Ramahut elected to sit for 8 hours in the ante-chamber, wondering what the Platinum Dragon might want from him this time – after all, it didn’t go well the last time he dreamed of this place.
In the morning, the party enjoyed a traditional Balanian breakfast of fried otter tails, pond scum and broiled goat’s udder. The crazy cat lady did not make a repeat performance. Despite her absence, however, when our heroes went to the stable to collect Smokey and their new horses, they once again noticed fresh humanoid tracks in the bear’s stall.
The hardy company saddled up, and proceeded to ride through the streets of Artemis, across the river and into the lower merchant quarter, where the offices of Flint & Steel are located. As soon as they entered the borderline slum district, Halflings dressed in vibrantly colored clown costumes began to march out of alleyways and doors, all to the beat of a loud bass drum. When 50 Halfling clowns had gathered around the party, they began to sing:
Oompa Loompa, Ramabut Whelp! Never around when his partners need help.
Oompa Loompa, Ramabut Whelp! Answering peril with a sonorous yelp!
His only thought is collecting tongues,
And dancing in the blood of the unarmed ones.
He may not be brave, but he’s very kind,
Leading friends to their death from the very behind!
Ramahut barely kept his rage in check. Zog was singing along and clapping his hands, and even Smokey could tell that fun was being had – he marched along with a big bear grin to the sound of the drum beat. When the performance ended, the Halflings lined up beside the road, and Zog handed each one a few coppers for their performance.
At Flint & Steel, Fundo Draconia met the party, thrilled that they were ready to begin. “The sooner you get into that mine and sort out the problem, the sooner we can all go back to making money!” Fundo led the party out the city gates along a cart track to a small train station. The train arrived, circled a loop of track, and stopped. Billibub, a dwarf, and the train’s engineer, helped the party secure their horses in the rear car, and made sure they were all comfortable in the passenger car.
The train set off, and Fundo rode back to Artemis, bidding the party a happy farewell.
Zubair and Ramahut, neglecting to notice the sign forbidding passengers from entering the engine, went forward to speak to Billibub. Zubair asked some questions about the workings of the steam locomotive, finding that it was not, in fact magical, but worked by burning coal to heat water, creating steam, etc. etc. You all know how a bloody steam engine works, and if you don’t, I’m sure there’s a Wikipedia article about it.
Ramahut pulled a lever, and the train ground to a halt. Billibub, clearly not impressed, ordered Ramahut back into the passenger car. While Billibub worked diligently to get the train moving again, Zubair asked about what was happening at the mine. He learned that the last few crews who went down into the mine have not returned, and a few survivors of previous crews refuse to talk about what they saw. Zubair retired to the passenger car, none the wiser about what the party should expect down in the mine.
After a short while, the train came to a halt once again. Out the window the party could see they were in a channel that had been blasted out of bedrock, 10 feet high on either side to create a level train track. Billibub came back into the passenger car, announcing that there seems to have been a small rockslide that is now blocking the track. He asked the party if they would mind helping him clear the rocks so they could get underway.
Everyone pitched in, even Ramahut. But no sooner than he had bent to the task of lifting a small boulder, a crossbow bolt whistled by his ear. He whipped around, only to take another bolt full in the chest! Quickly shaking off his injury, Ramahut climbed the rock wall, to find two Halfling thieves firing crossbow bolts down on the party. “I’ll kill you you clowns!” But the Halflings jumped down into the channel to fight.
Two more bolts were fired from the other side of the track, and two more Halflings leapt into battle. The heroes quickly dispatched their would be robbers, and cleared the rubble, making way for the train.
An hour later, the train pulled into the miner’s camp. Benn asked to see the foreman. Billibub lead the party to a large tent, where the camp foreman, a burly dwarf named Gruff McBuff, was working out. Gruff shirtlessly re-iterated what Zubair had already learned from Billibub, along with brief directions through the mine to the other side. And the party set off for the mine, with Gruff’s well wishes – “I hope you don’t DIE” – fresh in their hearts.
In the mines, a sunrod was attached to Smokey. The party walked east down a short tunnel, which opened into a large chamber with a pillar in its center. There were 3 additional tunnels branching from this room, one to the south, one to the east, and one to the north, and of course, back to the west, the way they had just come. The northern tunnel was blocked by a recent cave-in, and two sounds could be heard: calls for help from behind the fallen rocks, and the sound of eating from the southern tunnel.
Feeling hungry, I guess, the party decided to follow the sounds of eating before they tried to rescue the trapped workers. Heartless bastards, every last one of them. For all they knew men could have been bleeding out behind those rocks!
Heading south, the sunrod’s light revealed a smaller room, with an enormous pile of dwarven corpses being fed on by 6 scary zombies. 2 corruption corpses, 2 rotwing zombies, and 2 zombie hulks. Like, zoinks, Scoob!
Zubair cast web on the room, immobilizing the zombies, and allowing Smokey and others to block the exit. Midway through the battle, a crippling blow was delivered to Smokey, and the bear went down. Much to everyone’s shock, there on the stone floor, where Smokey the bear had just been standing, lay a human boy!
Soon after that, the fight was over, Olin discovered a secret door. Benn went in to find a locked iron chest.
But wait – the 2 zombie hulks were getting up again! The horror! By this time, Smokey the … boy? had been stabilized and healed, and had run back to Zog who was minding the horses. While Zubair, Olin, and Ramahut fought the still apparently undead hulks, Benn’s greed got the better of him and he stayed in the secret room, trying desperately to unlock the chest, and presumably slink away with whatever was inside, never to be heard from again. At the last moment, however, Benn’s conscience kicked into gear, and he opened the chest, collected 500 gp, and a 500 gp diamond, and joined the fight. He even told the rest of the party about what he found. What a great guy!
Taking a short rest – “help, help! We’re still stuck in here!” – the party learn that Smokey doesn’t speak common, and seems somewhat attached to Zog, though he looks sort of uncomfortable in his human form. He also looks completely naked, and though they gave him a crossbow, they didn’t give him any clothes. We can only assume that every last one of them is a skeevy pedophile.
FINALLY, the party returned to help the trapped miners. Zog and Smokey, who worked clumsily in his human form, began to dig out the cave-in. Meanwhile, from the eastern tunnel, a corruption corpse and a rotwing zombie appeared! They were killed quickly, but then another pair appeared at the end of the hallway.
Completely going against everything he believed in, Ramahut rushed down the hall toward the zombies, and barely missed falling through a false floor pit trap with a 20 foot drop and poisoned spikes at the bottom. Oh well, the DM can’t win them all.
Most of the party successfully jump over the pit trap, leaving the 2 bear people to dig out the cave-in. No sooner were these two zombies killed, than another 2 appeared. Zubair cast light so they could find the spawn point and go home, for the little men inside their heads were tired after 6 hours of gaming. But alas! What they saw was another room, with a strange stone doorway that seemed to suck light into it. Over it was carved a symbol that kinda looked like this: C:= (if you rotate that clockwise).
On either side of the doorframe, were two pale humanoids with strange, black tribal markings, and black armor. They look kinda mean.