The Eroding Empire

Of Blood and Balance [Part 2]

Session 6

The three adventurers decided to move further, deeper into the dungeon. In fact, they had no idea if they were going deeper or not, but they knew that they were moving further away from the guards barracks where the survivors were congregated. Oddly, after about six hours of moving away from the Fair, the came across a stretch of dungeon that looked slightly familiar. They soon came upon an open door, and peering inside they realized that they had somehow found their way back to the quarters of Maerun Prekare – the mage who had been controlling the living dungeon until he had been killed by the Verisiels. The first time the party visited this room they were rushing to find an assassin before he could kill again, so they didn’t have much time to search this room.

This time, however, they gave it a thorough search, reading through Prekare’s personal library. Their research revealed something that could provide a clue on how to get the dungeon to rise to the surface. According to a theory in one of the books they found, livings dungeons have a kind of symbiotic relationship with its dungeon inhabitants. If the inhabitants all perish due to starvation, disease, or conflict, the dungeon has to return to the surface to replenish its supply of dungeon dwellers. The theory posited that the living dungeon must use some kind of pheromone or mind control agent to lure surface dwellers into the living dungeon. Prekare had scribbled notes all over the book containing this theory, declaring it to be “fanciful, unfounded nonsense,” but were the theory to be true, then the party could force the dungeon to surface by killing all of its inhabitants. But how many would they have to kill? And would they be able to kill them before they themselves died of dehydration? And, of course, there’s no guarantee that the three adventurers wouldn’t lose their own lives at the hands of the dungeon dwellers anyway.

Having been on the move for nearly a day now, and given the relative cleanliness and comfort of the mage’s quarters, the adventurers decided to take a rest there. With waterskins already half empty, they limited themselves to a mouthful of water each to moisten their throats before they slept.

They awoke several hours feeling slightly refreshed, but still thirsty. As they were leaving Prekare’s quarters, they noticed a segment of dungeon stone that Prekare had been researching. According to his notes, the stone was ever so slightly lighter than a rock of its type should be. Closer inspection revealed that the rock was actually riddled with tiny holes, so it was more like an incredible hard and dense sponge, rather than solid rock.

With the pangs of hunger and thirst growing in the pits of their stomachs, morale was starting to slide as they mapped their way around the dungeon for another five hours or so. Their moral sank lower when they came across a recently-beheaded human corpse lying on the stone floor. Blood had been sprayed everywhere, and they noticed that the blood was slowly seeping into the sponge-like dungeon stone. Their once-proud heads sunk even lower when they located the corpse’s head and identified it as one of the few guards that had been protecting the Fair survivors. The passageways were familiar to them so, fearing the worst for the survivors, they rushed back to the guards barracks.

They were relieved to see two guards posted outside the entrance to the guards barracks, immediately indicating that whatever had decapitated the other guard had been satisfied with that and hadn’t moved on to attack the survivors. When they entered the barracks it was silent, as each survivor sat alone with their thoughts. Any injured had either passed away or stabilized, so there was not much else for the survivors left to do but to remain quiet and not move about so as to conserve their energy. When the survivors noticed that Syrion, Thybalt and Lythvard had returned, they bombarded the adventurers with questions made croaky by their parched throats. Had they found water? Food? A way out? How could they be gone for over 24 hours and come back empty-handed? The questions grew louder and angrier as the crowd realized that the adventurers had no good news for them.

Mayor Sequito rose to his feet and implored the survivors to be quiet, arguing that loud voices were wasting valuable energy, and also more likely to encourage dungeon monsters to come and find them. The party quietly reported what they had found to Sequito, who implored them not to give up, and to once more venture out into the dungeon. They were the Tameronians only hope. Syrion, in a heroic gesture, gave his last waterskin to the survivors. Shared between fifty people it would only amount to a mouthful each, but it was better than nothing. Leaving the sound of frustrated and desperate complaints behind them, Thybalt, Lythvard and Syrion struck out from the guards barracks in a new direction.

After several hours of slow-progress through the topsy-turvy dungeon tunnels, with Lythvard maintaining his diligent map-making, the party came across an door in the floor, hanging open, making a rectangular hole in the ground. Syrion descended on a rope and found a room that had been turned on its side. All furniture had fallen to the far wall, which had now become the floor. Tables, chairs, wine bottles, and a lot of treasure chests lay smashed at the bottom. Syrion poked around in the debris, but he could find no food or water, and there were only a few coins.

He did, find, however, a large, well-maintained account-keeping ledger. The party surmised that this must have been the vault where the Fairmaster kept all the profits from the Fair. According to the ledger, the treasure chests should have been full of gold, yet they were mysteriously empty. Inspection of the ledger also had the name of a company that the Church was using to periodically transport the profits from the dungeon to Santa Cora. With nothing left to gain from remaining in this room, Syrion hauled himself out of the vault and they continued on their way.

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