Journey to Fate’s doorstep: From the ruins to B’al Crek

The walls and floors of the stairway leading down are out of this world. Mordrock does not recognize the craftsmanship nor the type of strange marbled purple and black rock the corridor is made from. All three rooms down here are constructed with the same materials. In the first room the party encounters a table with a dead Ice Reach resident on it, missing the top of his skull and brain. A few Mindflayers and Intellect Devourers surprise attack but are no match for the party. In the next room, the party finds a Githzerai prisoner locked in a cage named Onas, who is drooling and appears to have endured incredible psychic and physical torture. Onas does not speak common so the party uses Nong as the translator.

After several heal spells, Onas coms to his senses, thanks the party and gives them a warning and a request for help; Onas is the last survivor of a raiding party on the ‘Ruins of Angdan’. During his torture he picked up glimpses of the Mindflayers purpose here. They established this outpost over a century ago and have extended their reach to a Goliath settlement to the northwest and west as far as Silverymoon. He has witnessed dozens of humanoids, some with grey skin, taken into this room and through a secret door which Onas believes is a route to a Mindflayer outpost. Onas tells the party the Mindflayer’s Elder Brain has located a Tarrasque trapped in a demi-plane and a sleeping Kraken under the sea of the Sword Coast; the Brain plans to unleash thousands of Intellect Devourers on both creatures to eventually subdue each of them. Once enthralled, the Brain will unleash the Tarrasque onto Faerun and the Kraken onto the Sword Coast. Onas realizes all of the captured humanoids taken through here are being turned into Intellect Devourers to feed this grand plan.

The party agrees to help Onas attack the Mindflayer outpost behind the secret door. Naismith leads them through the secret door into a corridor, and down into a small room. Inside the room there is a strange structure; Onas gasps as he recognizes the structure to be a qualith portal – a gateway to a Mindflayer hive colony. He proclaims the party to enter through the portal, seek out and kill the Elder Brain; this buys time for Onas to planeshift to his home, gather the armada and attack the hive colony. He hands Naismith a ring of Mind Shielding which also serves as a homing beacon for the Githzerai armada.

Onas psionically shields the rest of the party, which will last for one hour. Both of these are protections from being discovered by the Elder Brain as soon as they exit the portal. Onas starts up the portal, watches the party step through then planeshifts away.

Disoriented and nauseous the party emerges from the portal onto a plateau over looking B’al Crek, a MindFlayer city somewhere deep in the Underdark. The huge cavern where the city is located is familiar to Royce, Nong and Naismith in terms of cavernous lighting by way of illuminating lichen and other bioluminescence. From this height they can make out the city’s buildings and identify the largest building in the center of the city; they set out to head there in hopes of finding the Elder Brain.

The party tries to covertly approach the city, trying to fit in as best as possible. Royce, Nong and Naismith recognize familiar Underdark kin – Drow, Duergar, Grimlock, Quaggoth and Bugbear. Patrols of Grimlocks and Mindflayers walk the city perimeter. So far, no one detects their presence. The first building they encounter along the road into the city is where Mordrock catches the attention of an attractive human female carrying two flagons of wine, who opens the door of an octagonal building; she smiles and beckons Mordrock to follow her in. Mordrock pursues her and enters the building; eventually everyone else makes their way in.

Inside is luxuriously furnished in silk beds and chais lounges. Soft lighting floats around above as a half-elf bard plays softly on a harp; skimpily clad consorts of various humanoid races lie about the room eating, drinking wine or gambling. Two concentric rings of pink marble raise the floor slightly in the center which is occupied by a large insect creature and a beautiful angel in shining armor; both creatures greet the party warmly as they enter.

The Ice Devil and Erinyes instinctively know why the Drow’s Bane are in B’al Crek and jokingly point in the direction of where the Elder Brain resides. But they also suggest a game of chance as the Ice Devil pulls out a Deck of Many Things. The wager are the souls of all of the consorts or a magic item against whatever the Drow’s Bane offers up. Mordrock seems interested however the party cannot seem to decide on an offer when eventually Naismith makes his way in. Immediately, the Ice Devil and Erinyes, proclaim the wager is what Naismith has in his bag (i.e. the Wand of Orcus) as both devils stand-up and start moving towards Naismith.

The devils’ action causes a fight to break out. Naismith tries to exit the door and finds a wall of ice blocking his way out. The Erinyes takes to flight and fires poison arrows at the party. Consorts begin screaming and running out of the building while others hide in fear. Naismith goes down inviting the Erinyes to swoop down and begin searching his bag. In this vulnerable position, she succumbs to party attacks and falls herself. Shortly after, the Ice Devil falls too. Fifteen minutes later, a Mindflayer patrol enters the building from the south side right after the party exits from the north side, having confiscated a magical cloak beforehand.

The party quickly moves toward a main road to fold in with as many people walking to and from the city center. Royce abruptly stops the party as he recognizes up ahead a patrol of Mindflayers, Grimlocks and Intellect Devourers standing on opposite sides of the main road; the Mindflayers appear to be reading minds as people cross their path. The party is not registered in B’al Crek and will alarm the Mindflayers if they cross paths. Quickly, they detour off the main road into an open market; they make their way through Drow and Duergar vendors towards the large building in the city center. Someone successfully pickpockets Nong along the way.

They avoid another patrol reading minds when they hear loud cheering from a building not far away. They approach what looks like an amphitheater and notice a very unfair match inside – a Goristro, whom the crowd is cheering for, against 6 halfing slaves. Minutes later, the party feels an intense vibration wash over their minds and bodies; a female voice telepathically speaks out across the cavern, “We are under attack, we are under attack! To arms! To arms my children!” and repeats the phrase several more times. People look around at each other, then look up and begin pointing at the sky. Six portals above the city open, each sparking lightning and chaotic energy as large adamantine citadels emerge from each of them. Hundreds of individuals begin jumping off the citadels and diving down towards the city, slowing their pace as they approach the ground; these are the Githzerai armada who have finally arrived, seeking total Mindflayer annihilation.

The party runs toward the large building as Githzerai rain down around them. There is a moat surrounding the large building that is home to two hydra that emerge and fight the party. The moat spans twenty feet across. On the other side, Naismith sees two invisible Mindflayers guarding an invisible doorway. The invisible Mindflayers dash into the invisible doorway when the Githzerai begin to land and attack. The party fights the hydras but does not spend the time needed to take them down. One-by-one, they jump, run, or swim across the moat and dash through the invisible doorway.

Inside is a large room supported by eight monumental columns resembling tentacles. In the middle of the room is a hole in the floor and ceiling; shambling around the room are several walking brain golems. The party realizes quickly these brain golems are superior meat shields that soak up a ton of damage. Nong kicks a few down the hole in the floor about the time the tentacle columns come to life and smack everyone around; Naismith falls from the damage but magically recovers. Eventually the party jumps down the hole in the floor to avoid further damage after Naismith sees and hears two adamantine citadels crash into the city from the sky. Maybe the tide is turning against the Githzerai armada.

The hole leads to another room that contains walls and walls of brains in jars. The party continues to fight the brain golems; they also realize that as a golem goes down it explodes causing damage all around its body. Naismith notices the two invisible Mindflayers are in this room watching the party fight; they look ready to attack the party. A lot of time is spent taking down the brain golems and then the Mindflayers, which equates to significant damage to the party.

The Drow’s Bane must spend time to recover slowing their progress. During recovery, they hear from the room above a battle breaking out. Four Githzerai, one being Onas, peer down into the room from above; they are glad to see the party alive. The four Githzerai join the party in pursuit of the Elder Brain.

It takes a moment to realize how to unlock the floor lock but eventually they figure it out; the floor vanishes to reveal another hole. Jumping down they land into a room that contains two large pens with several humanoid slaves staring contently back at the party. A ritual is underway between three Mindflayers and a captive Half-Orc; the Mindflayers surrounding the Half-Orc, are in deep concentration; the kneeling Half-Orc reacts to the Mindflayers – first he begins to tremble, then his body stiffens as its skull falls open to reveal its brain. The brain turned Intellect Devourer, begins to move and falls out onto the floor.

The party and Githzerai launch into attack and wipe out the Mindflayers and Intellect Devourer. Onas can tell the slaves are under the Elder Brain’s control leaving them practically enthralled waiting for their turn at the horrid transformation ritual. Naismith notices on the wall two invisible windows; when he peers in, he notices each window reveals a demi-plane containing thousands of Intellect Devourers. The windows also have latches to allow for opening and closing. Onas says these Intellect Devourers are part of the master plan but there’s no time to deal with them so long as the Elder Brain lives. Another floor lock is opened and the party descends down into darkness.

They land in the back of a large room lit by torch light along the walls. A human and a huge serpentine beast stand in the middle of the room waiting for the party. The Githzerai and party attack only to watch the monk take down a Githzerai with the snap of his fingers. The serpentine beast lets out a string of lightning that hits several in the party and Githzerai. The pair appear to be the Brain’s body guards and it is a tough fight. Eventually the party is successful taking them down only to find two Intellect Devourers spring out from the corpses. The toll after this battle are two dead Githzerai, one being Onas.

There is a wall of force surrounding the Elder Brain’s room next door and the party is unclear on how to break it; dispel magic does not work. Naismith sees the wall of force extends into the ethereal plane so the party cannot use that plane to transport into the room. Given the walls are aberrant in nature, spells to move through rock are impossible either. Mordrock calls to Kelemvor for help and an angelic figure with ghostly wings and a dark visage appears. “What do you seek child of Kelemvor?”. Mordrock explains to the angel about the wall of force. The angel replies, “You have what you need to remove the wall, just look around”. The angel disappears after speaking. Someone figures out the wand has the potential to disintegrate the wall.

Nong takes the wand from Naismith and feels the power course through his body one more time. The familiar eye opens up in Nong’s mind as the eye closes in the mind of Naismith. “Join with me and we will destroy it and make it our undead servant!!” the Wand of Orcus says. This time Nong accepts the invitation to attune with the wand. Immediately the power fills Nong’s body but this time more happens. Nong opens his eyes and they are pitch black; his skin is changing color and he looks thinner. The familiar dark aura emanates around him and the wand but now with extreme intensity. The two Githzerai take a step back in fear of what is happening to their comrade.

Nong walks up to the Wall of Force and touches it with the wand; the wand unleashes a disintegration spell and instantly destroys the wall. Inside the room is a huge tank with glowing pink water. The party rushes in and is hit with a psychic scream leaving some stunned. The party feels their minds being probed and a female voice telepathically taunts them. A tentacle emerges from the water, grabs Royce and stuns him while grappled; it then drags him underneath the water; more tentacles lash out and attempt to strike the party. One Githzerai is grabbed but withstands the stunning effect of the grapple, and is also dragged underneath the water. Nong uses the wand to call forth an army of undead that rise up and surround the whole room; he commands them to attack the creature submerged twenty feet under the water. The skeletons and zombies obey, dive into the water and attack; some manage to hurt the creature just before the Elder Brain lets out another psychic scream and turns the undead into dust and bones. Everyone in the room feels the damage of the psychic scream t00.

Mordrock is now down, Nong and Naismith now watch what the Elder Brain does to Royce. A grappled stunned Royce moves toward the Brain where it reaches out and sucks Royce’s brain out of his head; Royce dies as the Elder Brain consumes the brain making it feel stronger. Naismith dives into the water to attack and Nong goes unconscious while being grappled. Naismith gets grappled by a tentacle and falls unconscious underwater; Nong miraculously wakes up from the brink of death.

The wand chastises Nong as he comes to consciousness. Nong stands up, dives into the pool and uses the wand to strike the death blow to the Elder Brain. The female voice telepathically screams as a psychic eruption explodes from the Elder Brain killing everyone in the room as it dies. Royce is dead underwater, Mordrock is unconscious on the floor, Naismith is unconscious underwater and Nong is unconscious on the water’s surface floating on his back.

After an hour Nong regains consciousness; after two Naismith stops choking to death and awakens and after three hours Mordrock opens his eyes. Both Githzerai are dead and the Elder Brain is dead too. The party is victorious but at a tremendous cost. They hoist Royce’s dead body out of the briny water and attempt to rest. Several Githzerai discover them and the party informs the Githzerai of the death of Onas and the others. After the rest, the Githzerai escort the party back out to meet Sithka, their Githzerai commander.

Outside, B’al Crek is raised to the ground; there are fires burning, dead are littered everywhere and the stench of death is strong. Through the smoke, they come upon Sithka, the female Githzerai commander. She knows who the party is from Onas and salutes them. Naismith, using Comprehend Languages, can understand Sithka, but is hesitant to use Nong as the translator given Nong’s new appearance. Sithka looks over the party and their dead comrade and invites the Drow’s Bane back to her adamantine citadel to recover.

The party gladly accepts and begins to follow her, with Royce in tow.