Cast of Characters
Austin as the keen-witted Goblin Rogue
Emily as the kind-hearted Gnome Wizard
And Maxx as the firm-footed Genasi Monk
Apologies for not being as detailed in the description of the outpost as might be appropriate. For full details on the beginning of Out of the Abyss, Wizards of the Coast offers this PDF: http://media.wizards.com/2015/downloads/dnd/DDEOutoftheAbyss.pdf
The cold, uneven stone lay beneath him. In another place, another time it would have felt welcoming, the smooth contours complementing his back. After days of grueling, often absurd labor at the hands of the dark elves the earth would have been cool and refreshing. The lashing from the other day still throbbed like the sting of a jellyfish and in his sleep the it radiated like the rotating lens of a lighthouse.
He followed that pain. In his sleep it was surrounded by shadow that gave way to the clamping jaws of a massive centipede. The centipede's legs clattered and the stone shifted revealing not the firm base of rock, but the roiling mass of chitinous shells, of other multi-legged things shifting rapidly below. Turning then, trying to wrest away from the biting creature he fought and stirred, waking in a start to the low embers of the fire at the center of the cave.
A dozen other prisoners lay in the dim light. The goblin who kept to himself despite being approached by the mischievous twin Deep Gnomes Topsy and Turvy of purple skin and thin black hair. He saw the Forest Gnome hold tight to something in her hand that caught the light like a bit of glass or perhaps a small gem as she stirred and for just a moment cried out before waking herself. Eldeth, the red-haired Shield Dwarf was already awake at the edge of the shared cell, eyeing each in turn as if weighing their worth. Stool, the curious faceless mushroom on its stumpy legs, waddled over to the awoke Genasi, their cap fluttering and bouncing with each flat-footed step.
He nodded morning to Stool who crouched for a moment, releasing a cloud of familiar spores that smelled, just a faintly, of the puffballs in the high woods of home.
"You stirred, friend, more bad dreams?" Stool asked with their familiar, eager telepathic voice.
"Aye. Another. Never dreamt of big bugs before," he responded with a flicker of thought. The spores were still disconcerting, but it was easier to speak in this way than risk a beating from the dark elves.
"You probably haven't been a slave to the Drow before, either."
"No, suppose not," he said, grasping his knees in a tense sit.
"Havin' a lil' tea time with your mushie, are yeh?" Rort the massive Orc mumbled as he came and crashed into the stool, knocking him onto his round cap. The Genasi could hear the cries for help, though tinged with familiarity after days of near-constant bullying from the Orc.
Not one for words, the Genasi rose and bumped his bear, rocky chest against the Orc, who fell to his backside. The Genasi gave Stool a quick but gentle push back to his stubby feet, allowing Stool to scurry back toward the Forest Gnome, now joined by the rotund, fish-like Kuo-toa Shuushar who seemed to gladly bear the brunt of Rort's attacks and the Drow's cruelty.
Rort shoved himself up, bellowing, "Yous gonna take it now," hefting a bit of zurkwood to swing at the Genasi.
"Friends, now, no need for that," the Goblin rushed between them, his stature comical compared to the two ready to go to blows. "No need to do the elves' work for them," the Goblin gestured toward the gate where the two guards were being talked to by JimJar, the new Deep Gnome slave. JimJar was wagering with the quiet guards on who might win the tussle.
"S'pose not, blockhead," Rort retorted. "You get in my way agin, 'spect a shove over to the crawlies in the webs."
At the edge fo the cave the Forest Gnome had awoken to Shuushar's comforting. "Such anger," he said, his voice always sounding like it came from below an inch of water and smelling none to pleasant beside. Not that any of them did, the Forest Gnome though.
"Getting antsy. All of us, I figure. Wish I could get to my spellbook myself. Feels like my noggin has an itch I can't scratch," she said to the would-be mentor. Stool had joined them and Shuushar set a comforting, if clammy, wet hand on the mobile fungus.
"Always itches to scratch. I've sought calm in my days. A calm that would serve us all..." began Shuushar in another one of his longwinded discourses on the values of patience and pacifism, that violence had so harmed his people yet he might preach an alternative. And so on and so forth.
The morning meal--broth and a dense, dark cake made from the Underdark's local fungus--was slid under the gate in rough bowls. The tall, white-furred creature carried four over to the Forest Gnome and her companions.
"Saying your morning prayers, Shuushar?" He said eloquently with a hint of the highland elf accent. He handed down the plates of food to the others.
"And you, Derendil, up to your morning exercises with the other Quaggoths?" Shuushar retorted with a smile.
"Now you know I have nothing to do with those beasts. I've been transformed into this shape by my foul brother, the usurper of Nelrindenvane, and drugged down into the Underdark where the Drow captured me."
Stool shifted over the plate and seemed to sit on it, followed by a distinct slurping. The fungal cake was dense and nutritious, even if it felt and tasted very much like soggy bark with occasional bits of extra "protein" the cooks put in in jest. No matter its make up, it did give them the energy to tend to the various mundane tasks of the outpost of Velkynvelve.
~ ~ ~
The Goblin was marched with Rort and the Genasi to the far barracks, a broom shoved into his hands, and ordered to sweep out the dorms. A group of off-duty guards played cards at a table of polished zurkwood between the dozen common bunks. Watchful red eyes of the guard elves observed him, the Genasi, and Rort as they swept and wiped the spartan dwelling. The Genasi cast occasional glances the Goblin, a quiet and sneaky sort, who winked at him. The Genasi took the cue and clumsily checked Rort into the back of a card-playing Drow, who dropped his cards revealing his hand.
Turning and standing tall, the guard raised a hand and slapped hard at the Orc who cowered at the angered elf. Taking the opportunity, the Goblin ducked behind a bed and lifted the lid from the footlocker. Mostly full of common clothes, he shifted them about and found a vial of dark green fluid with a stopper. He dropped it under his sackcloth clothes and it faintly clinked against his manacled belt before coming to rest.
Meanwhile the card players taunted their friend in Undercommon, the language of the Underdark, who had taken to kicking and slapping at the sniveling Rort. The Genasi, seeing the harsh scene, whispered a quiet prayer and stepped up adding, "My fault. I'm the clumsy one. I pushed him when I slipped."
"Well you ought to be more careful," the guard said in lilting Common. "You're liable to get someone hurt." He took a dagger from his belt and ran it over the Genasi's chest, which had gone from a gentle tan to a tawny orange from the everpresent damp.
"Aye. Going to." The Genasi felt his muscles tense, knowing that he could lay low this elf but would end up with an arrow or two for his troubles. His training at the monastery had taught him so much, but not how to fell a half-dozen elves at once.
"Do that," the guard said, running the blade's tip along the Genasi's chest, leaving a long thin cut that dripped one, two, three drops of blood to the ground. "Now clean that up. I have coin to win back."
~ ~ ~
Stool carried the bucket of mop water around on their cap, squatting as the Forest Gnome needed to refresh her mop. JimJar and the ancient looking Deep Gnome Buppido had been given cloths and brushes too. The Forest Gnome smiled at seeing JimJar freeze, long ears perking almost straight up alongside his bald pate, upon seeing the massive, many-armed sculpture of Lolth, the Spider Queen of the Drow. The glimmering violet lanterns gave the stone a peculiar sense of depth and, yes, motion that had shocked JimJar. The Forest Gnome, she had seen its like in the religious tomes.
A dark creature of grim power, though the specifics of worshipping Lolth were often left only to the Drow. Instead, the texts were riddled with the habits of surface spiders: Cannibalistic young, hunting from the shadows, intricate webwork to catch prey, the use of exotic and deadly poisons.
The Gnome rubbed at the sore spot from her capture: the bolt wound, mostly healed but scarred on her shoulder, that had made her freeze up and fall to the ground. There she watched impotently as they manacled her around her waist and wrists and ankles. Her body ached against the bindings just as much as her mind squirmed for study.
The towers of the outpost were carved into the stalactites from the top down, the largest reserved for the menacing shrine to Lolth, the middle for Priestess Ilvara who carried her menacing tentacle rod, and the lower for her Lieutenant. The descended to clean the perfumed quarters of Ilvara, Stool hopping down each step trying to keep the bucket balanced. Up came Ilvara, stern-backed with a top-mounted braid and dark mail, followed by her Lieutenant a few minutes later somewhat disheveled.
"Wasn't there a different one before?" the Forest Gnome muttered in her native tongue.
"That's the case," Buppido said quietly in Gnomish. The guards at the entrance's stirred and the two gnomes redoubled their cleaning. Buppido looked over to the surfacer and mouthed, "Scarred," before focusing on wiping down the finely lacquered vanity and chests.
Keenly watched by the guards was a chest on top of which sat a pair of stone bracelets etched with runes and wrappings trailing from them. The runes, the Gnome recognized from the tattoos that traced along the Genasi's arms.
And the chest, she thought, that's where I would find my book of spells.
~ ~ ~
A dark elf in fine mail banged his ladle against the bucket of broth. He spooned out the broth and tore hunks of the dense cakes and slid them under the door. As the Goblin approached, he could see that while the left half of the elf's face was elegant and smooth, his right was lined and brutally scarred. And the matching hand that scooped out broth was gloved and missing two fingers.
"You," the elf whispered, "you'd get out of here given the chance. You want to escape, right?"
The Goblin, smart enough to not trust a Drow, looked him over, took the bowl and the bread, shifted his shoulders and walked back to the dark edge of the cell.
After Topsy and Turvy came the Genasi.
"Aye. I'm interested."
The scarred Drow looked the Genasi over and shrugged.
"I'll come back to check on the guards. When I do, I'll unlock the gate. Make an escape an hour after I've left."
The Genasi nodded and took the bowl.
The Goblin sat next to the only Drow in the cell who had stuck to the shadows. His finery had been torn and damaged and while he still stood with confidence compared to the other prisoners, his red eyes were lined with doubt.
"I saw something in the barracks. Think you know what it is?" the Goblin asked. The Drow looked at him, saying nothing. "A glass tube, stoppered, with a dark green fluid in it."
"Drow poison," he said, "Sarith's the name, Goblin."
"And why are you on this side of the bars?"
"They say I killed my fellow soldier. Don't remember it, but they say I did it."
"And did you?"
"Can't say. We were on patrol and next thing I knew his body was there, bleeding out. There are plenty of things out there that can kill you, but nothing cuts quite like a Drow blade."
The Goblin felt his arm, the scars that had regrown on his coarse skin. There was truth in what Sarith said.
~ ~ ~
They argued and disagreed, but time was running out. The Genasi moved to the side of the cell near the gate. The Goblin approached. The Forest Gnome kept her distant, her hands sparking with potential.
"Eh," the Goblin said, "one of 'em Deep Gnomes 'as died," he gestured with a thumb behind him. "Going to do anythin' abou' it?"
One guard approached, then the second, and that's when it happened.
The Genasi thrust his weight against the unlocked door, shearing the mechanism and plowing into the guard on the left. Simultaneously, the Goblin grabbed the guard to the right and jammed the flint blade into him a half dozen times, which dripped not just with blood but with the Drow poison he had secreted away. The Genasi dodged away from swinging blade of the guard, ducked low, and shoved hard. The banister creaked as the soldier's foot slipped and the weight of his armor carried him over the side and tumbling into the net of giant spiderwebs below. He screamed as they lunged on him, their webs holding him back, bites quieting him, and their rapid weaving encasing him in moments.
"Time to go," the Genasi said as the others stirred and moved.
"Five gold says the rockman doesn't make it through," JimJar offered to Buffido, then to Derendil as they rushed past. Rort and Sarith took the moment to charge the pair of guards at the far tower near the Quaggoth den. Crossbow bolts shot at them, but they dodged deftly, unweighted as they were, and heaved the ledge where they tumbled, screaming, until splashing into the deep pool far below.
The Goblin, wielding his poison soaked flint blade, charged into the near guard tower. The guard therein dodged out of the way but was pushed off his feet by the Genasi. While the Drow struggled to attack, the Goblin plunged his dagger into the Drow's side. Meanwhile, the Forest Gnome scurried up the flight of stairs to find the Drow armory. She grabbed a few daggers and threw other items below, gathering the attention of the other escapees who suited up with whatever fit their bodies or their hands.
Rort took the lead across the spidersilk bridge which swayed under his bulk. A trio of iron tentacles lashed out at him with a rich, sultry laugh! He lost his balance and fell over the edge toward the spiderwebs below! As the others rocked about, the Goblin fell to one side but held on tight. A barrage of bolts rained down on them from the far side, Stool taking two to their cap. Derendil heaved them onto his back and began moving onto the creaking bridge.
The spiders below, having secured a few Drow, moved closer to the struggling Rort. The Gnome tossed the silken rope over the side of the bridge, waiting for the reassuring tug, clutched the cord tightly, and flung herself over the opposite side in a wide arch! Rort, the rope secured in the moment tugged hard and wrenched himself free just as the spiders came upon him! He kicked wildly as he carried the rope behind him.
Perhaps the spiders were fed well-enough after all!
In a burst of speed, the Genasi charged over the flexing and swinging bridge and ran headlong into the Drow guards! Priestess Ilvara ducked into the shrine room just a step faster than the Genasi. And as they fell a returning volley of bolts crashed around him and clinked against the armor of the Drow.
That blasted scarred one was nowhere to be found.
The Goblin heaved himself onto the bridge and dashed toward the fallen guards, cutting them between the plates of their mail as best he could.
The Quaggoth-Elf Prince Derendil carried Stool along and tossed him ahead as he grasped a Drow by the ankles and slung him against a second that had risen to a knee. Whether it was armor or bone, the crunch was a heartening sound to the escaped slaves behind.
Upon the bridge Rort leant a hand to the Forest Gnome, the silken rope clinging to the bridge below. They were swept along with the wave of slaves toward the platform. The Goblin ducked around the corner just as a tentacle slashed his face and neck, opening a vicious wound! He rolled into it and flung his flint blade at the priestess, hoping that the poison was stronger than Lolth's blessing. The statue looked over the scene, unmoving.
"Our gear!" the Forest Gnome shouted as Rort carried her past the door. The Drow Lieutenant sneered as he closed the door to protect the Priestess.
"Not today. Today we live," Rort said, hauling the Forest Gnome toward the lift in front of the barracks. Derendil hefted Stool onto his shoulders once again as the other escapees followed shortly behind.
They squeezed onto the Lift just as JimJar wagered, "Twelve silver that one of you sell us back to these louts within the tenday!"
And a bolt found its mark on JimJar's back as he moved toward the lift. He teetered, his eyes growing wide around, and Shuushar reached out for him. But the poison took effect and JimJar's hand went limp and he tumbled below toward a pair of awaiting giant spiders.
The lift descended, picking up too much speed until snap the brake in the lift triggered! The silken rope squealed and snapped sending them tumbling into the water below!
The Forest Gnome's shoulder popped as it connected with the water and the brutal stone below. The Genasi thrust Stool, who floated, toward the shore and grabbed the sodden Goblin by his rags and after them. Rort looked at the damp Forest Gnome, so far from home, and threw her over his shoulder.
And they ran. They ran into the dark beneath the world. They ran with the grim hope that their wits and their skills might keep them safer than whatever horrors would await them as slaves or sacrifices in the Drow capital of Menzoberranzan. And with the hope that they might outpace their captors in the depths of the world.
They were fools for hoping so.
~ ~ ~
This campaign was discontinued.
Image Credit: Jama Jurabaev, http://conceptartworld.com/artists/jamshed-jurabaev/