This deep underground, it is merely an allegation to say that there is daylight in the world above. If there is, it is wasting while the Heroes just stand around.
It is early afternoon on Day 7. Captain Ironhaul is busy receiving reports on exploration and combat encounters. A Scout informs the Party of the current situation.
There are three battlefronts in play right now, at three points on the 4th Underground level that mark the limits of the Dwarves’ exploration. The Duergar and Dwarves of Khör are evenly matched; assistance from the Heroes would be welcome, but is not crucial to success.
Almost all stairwells up to the 3rd Underground level from the 4th Underground level, in territory now controlled by the Heroes’ allies, are completely barricaded. Two stairwells in a Storage Room recently won by the Dwarves, however, are not blocked. Scouts have chanced up these stairs, and returned quickly to report considerable noise coming from the level above, particularly around the exit of the stairwells above. There are reports of shouting in Undercommon, and possibly also the sound of fighting. What is happening up there is unclear.
The Heroes are determined to make a bold foray into the 3rd Underground level. They discount the possibility of other stairwells in the 4th Underground level being accessible. At the same time, they set aside aiding in the Dwarves’ clearing efforts on that same floor, as certainly their allies can manage it.
Their maps show that the Cistern Room, just down the hall from their current position, is a very tall structural space and actually has access points on the 4th and 3rd Underground levels. The decision is made to sneak into the 3rd Underground level directly by way of the Cistern. The Dread Pirate Wobberts tarries a moment, considering his odds of success at purchasing healing potions from their Dwarf associates, but decides that the stout soldiers are unlikely to engage in commerce with such an integral part of their survival kits. He hustles after his comrades.
Only two of their Dwarf allies remain in the 5th Underground floor Cistern Room; one watching the exit tunnel and the other pacing a loop around the cistern silo to scout for trouble.
Looking up, the Heroes see a challenge. There is a metal ladder fixed to the stone wall of the room, leading up fifty feet to an observation platform that hugs the perimeter of the four walls, marking the 4th Underground level. Offset, another ladder continues up another fifty feet to a higher perimeter platform – this one at the 3rd Underground level and overlooking the top of the cistern silo.
Jaques and Genive hop to it, taking care on the slime-slicked ladder rungs and having no issue with the easy DC = 5 Climb check. It is a breeze for deft Dread Pirate Wobberts. Lester takes no chances with climbing; he casts a Reduce Person spell on himself, and then casts a spell to have an Unseen Servant carry the quarter-sized Halfling by flight up to the platforms.
Arxius Cole has a bit of a fright when he almost fails his Climb check after only ten vertical feet of climbing, but he recovers and presses on. Kartug Igmutin, on the other hand, is built for nothing but ground-level operation. With full plate armor and a tower shield, the affable Half-Orc has the climbing finesse of an elephant.
His associates put their heads together and hash out a solution – with his iron wall of a shield strapped to his back, and a length of rope tied around his waist as a safety line, Kartug is in better shape to succeed. He makes it up, the last one of the group.
The view over the railing at the 3rd Underground level is dizzying; a hundred-foot sheer drop to the distant floor. A long-jump away is the open maw of the cistern silo, shadowy in their torchlight. The sound of swirling, flowing water is loud and chaotic here, as it echoes off the stone ceiling ten feet above their heads.
The door from this platform into the 3rd Underground floor is locked. Genive attempts to listen past the door, but its padded seals and the white-noise of the cistern make it impossible. Lester was smart to pocket the key hanging outside the bottom-floor access point to the Cistern Room, but there is no keyhole on this side of the door.
No other option but the obvious one. Genive uses the Chime of Opening, and the door unlocks and swings inward. The Heroes enter the 3rd Underground level for the first time.
Closing the door carefully behind the last of their troop, the hiss and rush of water flow is shut out. This floor is quiet and entirely dark. Lester casts See Invisible on himself. As their ears adjust to the silence, the Heroes discover that, far off in some uncertain direction, they can hear what might be shouting, very faint at this distance.
Genive and Arxius take point, in this narrow hallway that adjoins a main passage at right angles. Peeking around the corner, torches in hand, both Genive and Arxius Cole peer deep into the limits of their torch’s light. There are bodies against the walls, most dead for a considerable length of time, and even more evidence of fighting and looting and trashing here than on the floor below.
Their torchlight has given away their position. Footfalls sound from the direction of Genive’s inquiry into the gloom. The Spymaster sets her torch in a nearby sconce and steps back into cover. A force of Duergar Fighters, Enlarged, appear from beyond the limits of her light source. Somewhere behind them, a Cleric begins casting spells.
Arxius is hit with two significant spells in the course of this fight. One is a Moon Bolt that saps him for 2 points of Strength. The other is a spell all-too-familiar to the Dread Pirate Wobberts – a Mark of Doom upon the Human Fighter. To make matters worse, Arxius Cole is beset by a trio of erstwhile-Invisible Duergar Rogues who flank him, appearing from the other direction of the passageway as the Fighters had. Cole is wounded for 1d6 damage each time his long sword bites into a Rogue or Fighter.
Quick positioning sets Jaques in the ideal spot to spew a Cone of Cold, converted to Acid, down the passageway against the Duergar Fighters and possibly also the Cleric, hiding somewhere in the black abyss. It is a deadly spell and wounds those enemies terribly. Jaques will later land a crossbow hit against a Duergar Fighter, dealing exactly as much damage as would have been needed to drop the foe, has the Fighter not been equipped with a Spear-Block shield that absorbed all of that Piercing damage.
Genive falls back and shoots arrows into the Fighters. Lester makes a Summon for a pair of Celestial Dire Lions which, while arriving late in the fight after most of the foes are already dead or dying, have the distinct honor of fatally dismantling the Duergar Cleric. The Dread Pirate Wobberts fights valiantly but, wounded already from the fights early this morning, suffers too much damage and drops to comatose. He will bleed twice before the fight ends and the Halfling can administer a potion to revive him. Kartug and Arxius play their roles expertly; fighting back the three Rogues, and a fourth Rogue that joined in, as well as the five Fighters.
At last the enemies are all slain. The Heroes suspect the noise of this fight may have attracted unwanted attention. They must move and act quickly, before they are jumped again.