A quest turns into an interesting diversion for Aponi, Skelly, Tristana and Adrie, as the four become embroiled in the local politics (and lore) of Foursquare, a city with a labor problem. Arriving tired and somewhat saddleworn from their 3-days ride, the group takes up residence at a failing establishment known as “The Pegacorn.” Under the (evidently inept) management of one Dudley Plurp, the tavern/inn is more than grateful to have guests, especially one of such reknown as Aponi, a Knight of Silversword, represents. Instantly endeared to the talkative innkeeper, the group decides to aid his fortunes as they investigate the whereabouts of Robilar and Zhelig.
The combination of Aponi Brightblade’s influence and Skelly’s resourcefulness gains the party enough information to glean a general direction of the legendary adventurers. But it is the surprising appearance of Phineas Mumford that represents the greatest breakthrough. A dead ringer for Dennek (and obviously possessed of more information than he is letting on), Mumford agrees to lead the group to the mythical lair of R & Z.
Of course, this adventure does have to wait until the “big concert,” created, marketed, and executed by the group, comes to pass. A combination of performance by Skelly, plus the arrival of “nice ladies” and adult beverages (procured in part by the party Paladin, who reconciles the actions in her own inimitable fashion) makes the do a smashing success. A major sidelight of the preparation also includes agitating the local dwarven battle ragers to basically quit en toto as guardians of the Clockwork Quarter, where the Gnomish engineers have been unable to pay them. A previous trip to the Gimli mines points to disaster. Once the Dwarves find this out, they are more than happy to head that way to solve the problems of the currently inaccessible mines — but not before spending an evening at the new hot spot (i.e., the Pegacorn).
Somewhat refreshed from a night of revels, the group makes its way into the hills east of Foursquare. Two days ride, and they are in the foothills, where the temperatures are much colder than below. As advertised, they find the entrance to the supposed lair of R & Z, only to find the natural cavern already has occupants — a squad of Lizardfolk who claim the cave is “sacred.” Choosing diplomacy over combat, the party pays off the Lizardfolk leader with a valuable gem owned by Tristana. They are granted access to the cave, where they find a large Dragon skull, the “sacred object” of the Lizardfolk. Other than that, the cave appears empty.
But, of course, that is not the case. Tristana’s magic detection abilities detect a dwoemer coming from a water pool at the rear of the cave. Intrepid Skelly prepares for a swim, only to find that the water is illusory. In short order, the group members trudge into the “water,” making an eerie trek down a flight of stairs, surrounded by the glassy illusion.
They eventually come to a landing, where the body of an unfortunate thief lies, his head removed. A quick investigation reveals a sprung gas trap. Evidently, the thief’s failure proved his undoing — at the hands of his compatriots.
The bodies of those compatriots are found quickly, as the group investigates the passageways and chambers beyond. Locating a secret room of levers, the group quickly deciphers the machine, unlocking all the traps in the hall and the chamber beyond. The smartly avoid the fake door that killed the remainder of the previous adventuring crew, and head down a secret side passage. In short order, they find the lair of Robilar and Zhelig, a converted Dwarven outpost, built long, long ago.
Unfortunately, no one is home, so the group is on its own to find the object of their search (all “for the greater,” to be sure). The group encounters and overcomes guardian skeleton in a large entry chamber (Aponi taking the brunt of the attack for her compatriots). Two locked doors are easily passed, thanks to the clever Tristana, who recalls the story of Zhelig and Robilar’s love, the woman who caused their falling out, Beatrice, aka “The Radiant Rose.” The names are used in the exact correct order, and the party enters the lair proper.
Their good fortune continues, as, confronted with various travel directions, they go EXACTLY where they need to, passing through a secret door in a library, down into what can only be Zhelig’s laboratory. Here, their luck temporarily changes. As they search for the Gem, Tristana makes the unfortunate decision to pilfer a chest, out of sight of her searching colleagues. The chest launches a poisoned needle, which knocks Tristana unconscious and activates the guardians of the chamber — a pair of Stranglevines and a nasty Myconid. A life-and-death struggle ensues, in which Adrie falls to the Myconids deadly spores. Aponi revives Tristana long enough for the mage to unleash a fire blast, which has the unfortunate side effect of interacting with all of Zhelig’s half-finished experiments on the table beyond.
Yet, despite the very real chances of horrid magical aftereffects of such a combustion, the party, blessed by Raciata herself its seems, emerges victorius. The Stranglevines explode into a mass of fire, their weakness readily apparent. Stalwart Aponi delivers a massive blow to the Myconid, and somehow, someway, the group overcomes its mistakes. The contents of the chamber are theirs.
In short order, the Gem of True Sight is found. Certain “essential” items are removed from the chambers (but personal items belonging to Zhelig and Beatrice are left behind, at the Paladin’s insistence). Tristana makes use of a teleportation circle found in a side chamber, and the party is instantly back at their campsite, where Mumford has been tending their supplies and horses.
So, the mission to the mountains is a success. But rather than ride back to Daudale, the group instead decides to head to Omerton, and then, Rhoona, location of yet another Iron Circle. They head back to Fourquare for a night at the Pegacorn, before sending word to their friends of their direction of travel. All told a good 10 days has passed, and much has gone the group’s way. They can only hope their friends have fared as well.
Somewhere to the east, Dengar, Aelle, and a band of rogues is hot on the trail of Herion Aldadir, the one accused of being “The Bad Seed” himself. A motley crew of heroes and ne’er do wells, they are faced with the wilderlands between Dozelmair and Daudale, a land few bother to travel, and from which fewer still ever return.
To be continued