Talbot is waiting for them, but he does not have much information and directs them to speak with the Mages of Saruun themselves. The mage they meet with, a man named Orontor, offers to give them information on the Rod, even let them leave with it, if they find a missing mage named Paldemar. They agree, and go to the first place they can come up with to find a missing person: the home of the Bloodreavers, deeper in the Labyrinth.
Notes: This was the first real skill challenge ever done in this campaign and the only one (so far) to use the vanilla system. The results were interesting, to say the least. Also, Lucan left early in this one to “report to House Medani,” though it has yet to be revealed what these trips to contact his house were actually for.
Zol, Barrakas 10, 998 YK (Day 24).
After an almost endless period of time, the party settles on calling themselves the “Eclipse Collective.” They inform Mr. Artauche of this, who is relatively uninterested, and wanted the name only for the sake of bureaucracy. Now that his forms have been filled, he grants them more details. They are to meet with one of his primary agents: a man named Talbot, who has been in the Seven Pillared Hall (the hub of civilization in the Labyrinth, maintained by the Mages of Saruun) for some time. He will have more information on the artifact Mr. Artauche desires, which is called the ‘Rod of Order.’ All that he is able to say about the item is that is reputed to have immense magical power, though he is uncertain what this power is.
Wir, Barrakas 11, 998 YK (Day 25).
The Collective arrives at Thunderspire. The mountain is preempted by a large cobblestone pathway leading up one side and gated by an enormous arched doorway, flanked with elaborate minotaur statues. As they arrive, Lythanis stops to admire the craftsmanship of the old minotaur civilization.
They find the door leading into the mountain is closed. Two imposing guards are posted outside, who inform the party that the Mages of Saruun have ordered the place closed to outsiders, for the time being. When asked why, the guards offer little information. The party decides after some not-too-careful deliberation that waiting until the guards must leave to sleep is the best idea. They wait until the sun sets.
At this point, the guards posted out front go inside through a smaller iron door to the right of the main gate… and two different guards emerge, for a changing of the guard. The party groans all at once, with the exception of the mute Eshunu.
Stahlstrauss attempts to intimidate the guards into letting them in by yelling madly at them. The guards care little for what he has to say (yell?), and Lythanis believes a different approach is necessary. He attempts to sneak around the side of the mountain, presumably to look for an alternate way in, while Stahlstrauss provides a distraction by continuing to yell furiously. Lythanis, however, is not stealthy in the slightest, and Stahlstrauss in unable to intimidate the guards, and the plan fails completely.
Fed up with the guards’ indifference to their plight, Lythanis launches into a long explanation of some obscure, almost-forgotten magic ritual used once to smite some group of mages’ enemies to intimidate the guards. Knowing the power of the Mages of Saruun, the guards are put somewhat at unease. One guard decides to go inside to check with the Mages about the Eclipse Collective’s business.
After some time, Zil’dejin grows impatient. He turns to the remaining guard and yells, “WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG?!” Stahlstrauss chimes in with a (helpful) “REALLY WHAT IS IT.” The guard is intimidated by the presence of the two large and menacing individuals, and so turns inside to find out what the holdup is.
With the two posted guards gone, Garmeth hastily picks the lock on the iron door, and the party goes inside. They find themselves in a roughly-made room carved out of the rock and dirt, in which a small guard post is set up. Another guard sits at a table inside. Lythanis lies to him about their motives when questioned, and the guard believes what he is told. However, he still does not let the party further into the mountain.
After some time, growing alarmed by the quickly-coming approach of the two gate guards, Zil’dejin offers a bribe of 500 gold to the guard, who takes it and allows the party to proceed without his attention. As they leave the side chamber, they find themselves in a well-crafted but dimly lit hallway, huge and descending downwards from the minotaur gate. They notice footsteps approaching.
Eshunu uses his knowledge of cave and labyrinth layouts to guide the party to an easily missed side-passage at the side of the long hallway, and the five quickly duck inside. The guards pass by, and the Collective hears a conflict going on in the room at the end of the side-passage. The voices are apparently hobgoblin and halfling. Curious, the party goes inside to investigate.
The hobgoblins, who identify themselves as the ‘Bloodreavers,’ are attempting to kidnap a halfling in this room. The Bloodreavers also have a grudge against the Eclipse Collective for interrupting their slave deal with Kalarel at Winterhaven. This deal is revealed to be the reason for the numerous captures there, including that of Stahlstrauss, Eshunu, Garmeth and Lucan, as well as the attempted abduction of Typhus. They are enraged as the party is identified, and are riled up further by Stahlstrauss’ taunting, and so they attack immediately, turning their attentions away from the halfling.
The fight proceeds quickly. Zil’dejin is in particularly good form in this battle, and is responsible for the final blow upon every hobgoblin slaver, which is also fueled by his immense hatred for slavery. The warcaster, who leads the small group of hobgoblins, attempts to take the halfling hostage, but is forced to drop him when Lythanis attacks him telekinetically and pulls him away, allowing the rest of the party to eliminate him. When the battle clears, the party speaks with the halfling, who introduces himself as ‘Rendil Halfmoon,’ claiming his family owns the only inn in the Seven Pillared Hall. He offers to guide the Collective there through the labyrinth to the Hall, and they accept.
Once at the Hall, they check in with the frequently-apologizing Talbot, a man with sharp features and a love of dark clothing. He tells them a bit more about the Mages of Saruun and their lock-down of the Seven Pillared Hall and the entire labyrinth. His information on the Rod of Order has so far been very limited, and he informs the Collective that their best bet is to speak with the Mages themselves.
After browsing around some shops in the Hall, they are accosted by the guards from earlier, and are brought to a teleportation circle connected to the Mages’ tower. Inside, a mage named Orontor offers to forgive their trespass and possibly even allow them to take the Rod of Order from the hall if they can investigate the whereabouts another mage of their order, named Paldemar. As it happens, Paldemar has been missing for a few weeks without contact. The party, seeing no other option, agrees, and Orontor gives them a small metal symbol (an eye with a snake wrapped around it) as proof they are working for the Mages.
They visit the Halfmoon Inn for directions, and with a map drawn by Rendil Halfmoon, set out into the Labyrinth to look in the first place they can come up with for a missing person: in the hands of the Bloodreavers, the hobgoblin slavers in the mountain.