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Tunnel of Doom is the second episode of the one-shot Into the Bowels of Vallenguard. It aired on July 10th, 2019.

Our Dwarven troop set out to explore the cave systems below Vallenguard. While they find some not so friendly creatures along the journey, they make a discovery of historic importance to one member of the group.

Summary[]

“Get up! Get up ye lazy sack of stones! There’s work to be done!”

The party is awakened from a dead sleep after a couple of days of rest by the sound of a bell and someone shouting. They stumble out into the cold of pre-dawn. They join the rest of the expeditionary corps around an unlit bonfire. A ragged dwarf named Hasper is brewing a strong coffee. He smiles and hums an old dwarven battle song as he works. Breakfast is bread and hard cheese.

A dwarf with prosthetic legs comes out to issue their work for the day, which is to find and clear a new passage that was discovered the day before. They’ll receive a share of the salvage of any valuables they find, and if they try to keep any of the valuables for themselves without first submitting to the treasury for valuation, they’ll be exiled. They offer a contract for everyone to sign. Yeastnor names Dagmar as his beneficiary in case he should meet an untimely end.

Morag consults her tea leaves prior to them setting out and has a vision, but she won’t tell the rest of them what it is. Yeastnor points out that every time Morag looks in her cup and starts laughing, bad things happen.

They march through cramped maintenance tunnels into the bowels of Vallengard, accompanied by the rest of the dwarven expeditionary corps. The air is dusty and the traffic of marching dwarves makes it more so. The tunnels are five by five, too short for men. Ahead they can hear voices singing an old miner’s shanty. They see a column moving towards them, marching back up from the lower levels of the keep. They’re wearing miner’s lamps, which reflect off the dust in the air. They’ve covered head to toe in dust and dirt. The dwarf at the back says, “The path is clear. If you find gold, you owe us a share.”

They continue down the corridor. After about 50 yards, they reach the area where the roof had collapsed. It looks like the room used to be a hub. It has three more passages branching off of it. There are still piles of earth and stone in the room where the passages were cleared. There are iron supports that the engineers have placed to prevent further collapse. The dust is still very heavy in the air, carried by cold drafts coming up from the passages that create a low howl in the room. As the team shuffles into the room, Moradin gives them all their work assignments.

Everyone makes sure they have all the equipment they need before heading off down their assigned passageway. The corridor is about 10 feet wide and 8 feet high and leads south. The ceiling is covered in cobwebs, and Dagmar collects some. The firelight from the previous room fades, leaving them in almost complete darkness. The tunnel is straight for about 100 yards, before they reach stairs that lead down into the darkness. There’s a crank winch next to the stairs that is all rusted and covered with ten centuries of dust and cobwebs. Next to the stairs are smooth channels that look spaced for carts to be winched up. They decide their order of march and begin to descend.

The stairs are slippery with dust and dirt, which everyone except Dagmar seems to deal with comfortably. Dagmar loses his balance and begins to fall, which sends Ragne tumbling off balance with him. Dagmar catches himself after about ten feet. Ragne tumbles down another ten before managing to stop himself. At the bottom of the stairs is a circular room with a circular opening in the floor. The room itself is fifteen feet in diameter and the hole is about five feet wide. There’s a thick chain attached to a large winch and a pulley attached to the ceiling. The chain disappears into the hole. Dagmar tries to turn the crank, but it’s corroded and won’t turn. The chain seems to be fully extended into the hole, with no slack left in the winch.

Yeastnor looks down the hole and Morag sneaks up behind him to give him a nudge, scaring him. Ragne lights a torch and throws it down the hole to try to get a sense of how deep it is. They estimate that it falls about 100 feet before landing in a puff of dust. Morag circles the room, tapping the walls with her staff, but doesn’t find any obvious secret doors.

Dagmar says, “Enough faffing about. Let’s go.” He steps into the hole and spider climbs down into the well. While everyone else tries to figure out how to get down there, Dagmar reaches the bottom. On his way down, he passed a couple of portals in the wall that appear to have been other floors at one point, but now they’ve collapsed. At the bottom is another circular room and a passage leading off to the south. The air smells corroded and has an acrid component he can’t identify.

Morag casts a spell and walks off the lip, then starts levitating downward. The other members of the party decide to climb down the chain. Helldust goes first, but loses her grip about 70 feet down and falls the rest of the way. Everyone else makes it down safely.

At the bottoms, there are bits of wood mixed in with the dust, which has an orangish cast. Dagmar explores the space and after a bit of time realizes that the acrid smell is probably urine. As everyone explores a bit, they notice paths through the dust that were probably made by some small creatures. Morag hears some skittering coming from the passage to the south. They enter the passageway that has mine shafts branching off this main passage about every five feet. Now they all can hear the scurrying. Yeastnor walks up to a mine shaft on the far right with the intention of trying to listen, but he finds a creature, about the size of a dog, with feelers and an arachnid looking face. It walks towards Yeastnor, probing with its feelers in front of it. One of the feelers reaches out to touch the head of Yeastnor’s ax, but he manages to dodge out of range. He yells, “Bloody hell, you lot. Something down here trying to touch me ax!”

Ragne looks around and sees more rust monsters skittering towards them down the mine shafts. Ragne gets ready to smack one of them when it gets in range. Yeastnor swings his ax at the monster, but misses as it dodges out of the way. Helldust moves to confront one of the rust monsters and, in a rage, hits it. It squeals. The one in front of Yeastnor tries to bite him, but misses. The one Ragne was waiting for comes in range and he hits it. It tries to bite Ragne, but was off balance because of the attack and misses. The one in front of Dagmar tries to touch his weapon, but he brushes them away. The rust monster in front of Morag is also concerned with food, but she shooes it away.

Dagmar advances on the rust monster in front of Yeastnor and swings at it with his shillelagh, but misses. Morag backs up and casts a spell and thunder rolls through the chamber, pushing two of the rust monsters back ten feet. Then she moves to a more advantageous position.

Ragne’s attack against his opponent misses. Yeastnor hits his opponent with his battle ax, then plays a couple of notes on his bagpipes to inspire Dagmar. Helldust, surrounded by rust monsters, concentrates on the one in front her her. It’s carapace splits open and spills juices onto the floor.

The remaining rust monsters attack. Yeastnor and Helldust both get bitten. Dagmar swings his shillelagh at a rust monster, clobbering it across the face. Morag casts a firebolt at one of them, “Fire! Fire! Burn!” and she cackles.

Ragne hits the rust monster in front of him, which is stubbornly clinging to live. Yeastnor casts dissonant whispers, which was vicious enough to kill one of them. At this point, the party realizes that their metal weapons are corroding a bit every time they hit the rust monsters. Helldust uses a spear to impale one of the rust monsters, but its feet are still scrabbling against the ground as it tries to get away. It tries to bite Helldust, but can’t reach her.

The other rust monsters attack, fighting for their lives and one scores a bite on Ragne. Dagmar continues laying about him with his shillelagh and clubs one on the head, splattering it. Morag casts firebolt at the next to last rust monster, killing it too. Ragne stabs the last rust monster with his javelin, then Yeastnor hits it, and Helldust finishes it off with a javelin shoved down through its carapace.

Dagmar tries a bite of the rust monster that Morag roasted, but isn’t a fan. Yeastnor explores the mine shaft he’d originally gone to investigate. He can see that about 50 feet down it looks like it curves off left and out of sight. Yeastnor and Ragne go into the mine shaft to explore it. It opens into another tunnel, where they find many more branching, intercrossing mined shafts. They don’t find any metal, just wooden supports and some remnants of old tools.

After some exploration, they find a tunnel that’s not a mine shaft. It looks like a hole that the rust monsters dug, that connects with a larger, apparently naturally formed tunnel, that continues on for miles. The moisture in the tunnel increases as they travel. Molds and fungi start growing on the walls, some of which are bioluminescent. Occasionally they find pools of cold water in low spots in the tunnels. There are white cave fish in the tunnels and unusually large centipedes which skitter into holes in the walls as the party approaches. The further they go, the larger the critters get.

Eventually, the passage opens into a larger, flooded cavern. There’s a drop into the cavern, which has a muddy floor. They use some pitons to secure a rope that they can use to lower themselves down to the cavern floor. Yeastnor walks up to the water, checks the temperature, and reports that it’s cold. Helldust uses speak with animals to talk to lizards on the wall that are laying in wait for the centipedes. She asks the lizard, “What’s in here?” He replies, “Food.” Helldust wonders if the lizards are afraid of anything and it says yes. Helldust then tries to speak with a fish to learn how deep the water is. It swims out and dives down. There’s a short wait and then it surfaces, leading Helldust to understand that it’s about ten feet deep. Ragne walks around a corner, looking at the water, and he finds something very large coiled up in the water. It strikes at him, biting him and immediately wrapping around him. The rest of the party hears splashing and Ragne grunting, then they see something swimming towards the deep end.

Helldust sees giant coils twisting and turning under the water as she wades out. She tries to communicate with the snake, but its mouth is full of Ragne, so all Helldust gets back is that it’s happy and excited about the meal it’s about to have. Helldust wades in there and grabs hold of one of the coils and is pulled into the deep water. She hoped to grab the jaws and pry them off Ragne, but she lost her grip on the snake and is now floating freely in the water. The snake squeezes Ragne, who is being crushed in its coils. As the snake rolls, the others see Ragne briefly come up out of the water, his eyes bugging out. Morag casts a witchbolt, which goes flying wildly through the cavern. Yeastnor plays an inspiring song on his bagpipes for Ragne, then casts dissonant whispers at the snake. It doesn’t seem terribly bothered by it all, but does take a little damage. Yeastnor then casts a healing spell at Ragne, “Get better. Get better.”

Ragne wiggles himself around so he can drive his sword into the snake, using hunters mark. The snake convulses and drops Ragne. He can feel the snake still swimming around him. Dagmar wades into the water as far as he can, pulls out a leaf to create his flaming sword, and slashes viciously into its hide. The flame hits the water and kicks up some steam as the snakes continues to convulse.

Helldust swims to a better position, then whips her hair around and screams in rage as slashes, putting a big cut in a coil as the snake rolls around. The snake strikes at her, but Helldust dodges. She hears the snake, “Food. Pain. Food. Food. Pain.” Morag casts a witchbolt at the snake. When it hits, the water on the snake’s skin sizzles. Yeastnor shoots hits the snake with a crossbow bolt. Ragne, from underwater, stabs at the snake’s underside and divine power courses through the snake. As the snake rolls, its momentum pulls the coil across Ragne’s sword, creating a huge gash. Viscera begins to float to the top and the snake stops moving, floating there.

Ragne takes a trophy. Morag casts levitate and walks out across the water to see what’s to be seen. As she follows the water, she finds another raised tunnel floor on about the same level as the one they were in before. The rest of the party starts swimming after Morag. They notice that the lizards start down the wall, as if they’re no longer afraid.

Morag, ranging out in front of the party, finds a small cave with no visible ceiling. It appears to be the way the snake enters and exits from the cavern. The rest of them leapfrog their way up onto the ledge and catch up to Morag. They decide to take a short rest while they can to catch their breath. Yeastnor plays a restful song while they do. They can hear the lizards feasting on the dead snake in the other cavern.

The tunnel out of the snake’s lair leads to the north and begins angling back up towards the surface. The moisture and mold recedes as they gain altitude and ends in another cavern where they’ll need to climb up to a ledge to continue. They realize they’re only a few hundred feet from the surface. They all leapfrog up to the ledge and they are in a room with scraped sides. Examining it, Morag thinks that the scrapes look animal in origin. Examining the floor, which is covered with sand and shards of stone, there are also some small crushed bone fragments. Dagmar notices a patch of thin, wispy reeds poking up out of the sand. He goes to investigate. The reeds prove to be feelers and a creature bursts up out of the sand and rakes its claws along his side.

The umber hulk roars at Helldust, who responds by attacking it with her sword, but it bounces off its carapace. Ragne stabs it with his sword. There’s a lot of dust in the air, which spares the party from the umber hulk’s gaze. It swipes Dagmar with his claws and then bites his leg. Morag casts a witch bolt at the umber hulk, but it misses. Yeastnor casts dissonant whispers, which hurts it a bit. Afterwards, Yeastnor casts a healing spell, “Feel better you stupid bastard.”

Dagmar creates another flaming sword and swipes feebly at the umber hulk, but can’t connect. He retreats out of range, but the umber hulk gets another swipe in as he goes, then bellows again. Dagmar says, “Yeah, we heard you the first time.”

Helldust hits the umber hulk and a chip of its armor goes flying. It howls in anger. Ragne hits the umber hulk again and it retaliates by biting him in a frothing battle rage. Then it turns and looks at Morag, meeting her eyes. For a moment she feels a little mesmerized, but she shakes it off. Morag casts another witch bolt, which hits this time, then she averts her eyes. Her black energy wraps around the umberhulk and radiates around it like a Van de graaf generator.

Yeastnor looks at the umber hulk in preparation for shooting his crossbow, but he is caught by the umber hulk’s gaze. In his confusion, he attacks Dagmar, hitting him with the back of his battle axe and knocking Dagmar out. Helldust rages, averts her eyes, and hits the umberhulk with her sword. Ragne also averts his eyes and stabs it.

The umberhulk hits Helldust with a claw and then bites her. Morag’s witchbolt continues to shock the umberhulk. You can see its armor cracking and black streamers going into its flesh. Yeastnor manages to shake off the effects of the umberhulks’ gaze and keeps his eyes averted as he heals Dagmar. He says, “What happened, Daggers?” Helldust says, “You hit him in the head!” Yeastnor apologizes.

Dagmar averts his eyes from the umberhulk and casts ice knife, flinging it directly into the umberhulk’s eyes, where it sticks and then explodes. Helldust averts her eyes and and stabs the umberhulk. Ragne also averts his eyes and stabs it. The umberhulk retaliates against Ragne, clawing him twice and then biting him. Ragne crumples to the ground. Morag continues her witchbolt and the pain intensifies. Yeastnor plays a song of inspiration for Dagmar, then casts a healing spell on Ragne, which brings him back up. Yeastnor says, “It wasn’t me this time!”

Dagmar throws another ice knife at the umberhulk. It pierces the umber hulk’s armor, but then falls to the ground before exploding. Helldust slashes the umberhulk’s flank. Ragne holds his action, ready to attack the umberhulk the next time it attacks someone. The umberhulk swipes at Helldust with his claws, both of which miss, but it does bite her. Ragne missed with hie prepared attack. Morag continues her witchbolt, Yeastnor fires his crossbow and misses. Dagmar casts a healing spell on Ragne.

The umberhulk is starting to look a little bit stumbly and the battle rage has gone out of its eyes. Helldust stabs the umberhulk, which cleaves a huge rent in its armor, then takes a step back. The umberhulk misses with its swipe. Ragne tries to slash at it with his sword, but misses. The umberhulk attacks Helldust. Morag twists her witchbolt and her energy briefly escapes from the umberhulk’s eyes, before it slumps to the ground. Morag searches the corpse and finds some coins and a gold earring.

Most of the party starts looking around its lair. The second room in the lair has some inedibles mixed in the sand. There’s a suit of battered and scratched plate mail. It’s heavily damaged from the umber hulk’s attempts to crack it open to get at the flesh. They also find two mithril battle axes and a mithril dagger. There’s a damaged leather pack and it contains three travel glass bottles that have a clear, syrupy liquid that’s lightly pink. Also inside the pack are some scroll cases. Sifting through the sand, they find some more coins and a map. In one of the rags of clothing in the sand, they also find a note. The map is an overland map of the area around Vallengard.

Dagmar opens the bottles to see if he can tell what the liquid inside is. It smells of rose water and tastes pleasant. A little experimentation indicates that they might be potions of healing.

Morag asks Dagmar to let her see the scrolls. One of them looks like a spell that can turn her into gas and the other one looks like some sort of anti-magic spell. After their explorations, they decide to spend the time here to take a long rest. The night passes uneventfully and they wake in the morning feeling a bit sore, but otherwise in good health. Morag brews some tea, then she reads the leaves to see what the day may hold.

They travel several miles, in some places being as close as 20 feet to the surface. The closer they get to the surface, the more collapsed tunnels they find. Eventually, the tunnels begin to descend again, this time quite steeply. In some places, they have to scramble down from ledge to ledge. There’s a dank, musty smell to the air, like an old tomb and rats. Suddenly, the tunnel ends and drops down into another cylindrical room. Light filters in from the surface. They find dwarven stonework, though it doesn’t look similar to Vallengard. There are stones circling the walls and sticking out about half an inch from the wall and stairs leading down to another circular room. In the center of the room is a large stone. There are three solid metal doors that go to the north, east, and west. They have a layer of corrosion on them and are carved with deeply laid dwarven designs and inlaid with mithril. The runes on the doors declare them to be belong to three ancient dwarven clans. The rock in the center of the room has marks on it similar to those in the umber hulk’s cavern.

Yeastnor walks up to the door and gives it a little bang. Everyone hears the rumbling of rock grinding together and the stone in the middle of the room stands up. They hear a big crack and the stone opens up. They hear a far-off voice that says, “Trespassers, back to the dirt from whence ye came!” It rears up and then throws itself forward to try to smash Helldust and its black, shiny eyes open. It stops, calms down, and walks back. The voice says again, “Please forgive this poor keystone. It didn’t recognize thee after so many long befores.”

Morag asks, “How long have you waited here, guardian?”

It says, “Many befores.”

It informs them that the clan’s tombs have been corrupted. It says it has been corrupted from within. Morag encourages Helldust to give it a command, but Helldust is cautious. She asks if the Ironbraid vault is corrupted and it says it is. It also says that the other two vaults are intact. Helldust asks the guardian to open the Ironbraid door. The guardian recites something and the door to the vault begins to open. They can smell a hint of smoke in the air from the tomb.

Helldust invites the keystone to accompany them and it says it’s his duty to guard all three vaults, so he cannot, but he will submit to Helldust’s punishment. Helldust says she wants him to go with him to atone and afterwards he can crumble to dust. He says he can’t unless there are shards of all three forges (descendants of all three clans) with them.

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