Children of Netherhearth
In need of dreamwort
Inspecting the tomb of the xilix matriarch, you saw many stone panels on the wall inscribed with xilix script, as well as a larger panel with what looked like an intricate map or chart, possibly of cave systems, interspersed with annotations. You realised that to decipher them, you would need Stanley, as he had mastered the complex Ritual of Linguistic Comprehension of the Erydes’ priesthood.
On your return to Netherhearth you reported to Hubert, captain of the guard. He chastised you for your “rash” decision to explore the sealed part of the tomb after your victory over the ratkin, but nonetheless seemed impressed with your victories. Similarly, Father Winston was impressed with your bravery and willingness to help protect Netherhearth’s people, but concerned that you didn’t seem to be placing enough priority on your own safety. He reminded you that you were the most capable youngsters of your generation, and that Netherhearth would increasingly come to depend on you as time goes on.
Finally, you relayed your tale to Viceroy Edward. Although relieved that the band of ratkin had been despatched, he was alarmed that a xilix ruin lay so close to Netherhearth, and furious that you had disturbed it more than necessary. Your justifications were met with disbelief and scorn, with the viceroy insisting that any possible benefits from your explorations were completely eclipsed by the risk of Netherhearth being discovered by denizens of the Underdark, creatures powerful enough to enslave or devour all of Netherhearth’s people.
Viceroy Edward also firmly rejected your suggestion that the citizens of Netherhearth could someday return to the sunlit world. He pointed out that the lot of the Netherhearth commonfolk was better than almost anytime or anywhere in Gyre’s history. In no uncertain terms, he warned you that he would tolerate no talk that would undermine Netherhearth’s stability with “dangerous ideas”, and pointedly reminded you that he could exercise his power to exile someone purely at his discretion.
With the xilix tomb already cleared, however, he did agree that Stanley and an escort of guardsmen could return to the tomb to decipher the xilix script. Finally, he took the xilix artifact from you in order to study it further.
A couple of days later, a young married couple, Tarin and Betha, who were collecting scrim in some nearby caves, were torn to pieces by a rat swarm. This was to presage an increasing number of incursions into Netherhearth by aggressive rats during the Skystone’s night phase. Over a two week period, these attacks led to an epidemic of Filth Fever in humans and livestock. In response, the viceroy prohibited anyone from leaving the main cavern unless escorted by guardsmen.
Soon after, Caitlin summoned the three of you to a meeting with the Knitting Circle. There Magda told you that the Filth Fever epidemic was taxing the Knitting Circle’s ritual healing powers to their limits. She asked you to fetch some Dreamwort, a fungal remedy for Filth Fever, known to grow in Scrim Palace, a cavern of magnificent luminescent fungi a few hours walk away. Agreeing to her request would mean defying the viceroy’s prohibition on leaving the cavern, but Magda insisted that the need was great and that she would do what she could to assuage the viceroy’s anger.
Although Magda’s tale was delivered with conviction, Grindle (with her finely-tuned insight) sensed that something was amiss in that Magda hadn’t made any attempt to convince the viceroy, Father Winston or the Council of the need for the Dreamwort. Grindle pressed Magda for anything she might be withholding. While Magda seemed impressed with her perceptiveness, she revealed no more, simply asking the group to trust her judgment. Magda then gave you a map to Scrim Palace, and suggested they you leave first thing the next day.
You departed the next morning after being given three precious luminen vials by Caitlin. You journeyed through tunnels alive with Underdark flora and fauna, most notably large numbers of aggressive rats devouring anything they came across.
En route to your destination, you saw some glowing arrows etched into the wall that led you to a small hideout with the remains of a fire and a meal of cooked rat. Etched into the ceiling in glowing letters was a poem:
Greetings, young fools
You seek the Dreamwort
But only I have it
So ‘tis I must be sought
To discover my lair
My haven of light
You’ll face a trio of wonders
Three tests of your might
A great cavern of light
Though the light is now lost
A spidery bridge
(You should tip-toe across)
And an arterial flow
A great underground vein
Follow my marks
You have so much to gain
You finally arrived at Scrim Palace, only to find that the rats had devoured all the luminescent fungi within – hundreds of square feet of it – including the Dreamwort you had been sent to recover. Spotting another glowing arrow indicating a tunnel leading off the far wall, you decided to keep following the directions of the poem’s author.
But halfway across the cavern you were set upon by a group of three ratkin, including a wretch, which used its signature power to summon rats of all sizes to attack you, from swarms of regular rats through to a particularly diseased-looking one the size of a pony. After a desperate struggle, you fought off the horde and killed one of the slingers, while the wretch and the remaining slinger fled.
During the fight Leo was badly injured. The pain and adversity activated his latent archmage ability, but it also caused curious glowing blue-white markings to appear down the length of his arms, like symmetrical luminescent tattoos in abstract designs. After the fight their glow faded somewhat, but the softly glowing markings now seemed to be a permanent feature of Leo’s anatomy. None of you had the faintest idea what they could signify.
After a rest to heal your injuries using Grindle’s Ritual of Injury Negation, you entered the far tunnel and continued following the arrows. However, it seemed that allowing the wretch to escape had consequences. Presumably it had sought out its comrades because, soon after, you heard behind you a distant chorus of chittering echoing through the tunnels and growing ever closer. You were being hunted.