Our adventurers head east, toward Core and the High Ice.
Along the road, daylight brings no encounters along the lonely road. Nighttime is a different story. A trio of goblins attempt to stop our party, but a highly coordinated intimidation via demasking by Nox, a telepathic berating by Tol, and an expertly whispered Vicious Mockery ("You're really small") by Capra laeds to the panicked flight of the goblics. The part takes over their campfire and Capra consumes the cooking rat.
The next night a quartet of giant rats stalks our party, but are no match for Nox's skeletal giant owl. A flurry of scythe, knife, and mine thrust culminates in a bit thigh, a crispy rat, and a short rest.
The third day is uneventful and the third night brings the party to the dilapidated ruins of Core. This city on the border is the last view of civilization before a bit of desert a lot of ice.
Wind buffets the party and they cannot proceed. Good thing there's a building with the lights on among all this rubble.
Inside the wind dies down and a giant well takes up prominent display. A few quiet patrons, a bar, and a surly looking barkeep surround the well. Investigating the wax paper windows reveals no wind outside, only opening the door connects to what looks like Core still outside.
The barkeep doesn't answer questions without gold. One gold, one answer. The bar is the Yawning Portal, the well leads to riches, and it costs gold to go up and down in the giant bucket hanging over the portal. Tol stands at the bar awkwardly, staring forward and offering gold coins. Capra decides to speak to the old man in the corner, since the barkeep is not forthcoming. The old man, who can't remember his own name, reveals that Durnan, the barkeep and owner, explored the depths of the well and came back rich and powerful. Durnan's trinkets and magical items litter the bar and may be what lends to his long life. The old man also tells of four adventurers, two of which are siblings of a prominent house, went down into the well a month ago. The matriarch noble of Oakhurst, a well off farming community, is offering a bounty for the safe return of her children.
Awkwardly out of options, the party descends into the well.
It's dark as they land on a flat. Good thing they all have Darkvision. Every single one of them. Darkvision. They even brought torches. Spoiler: they don't use any.
There are humanoid tracks, a month old, and giant rat tracks leading down the side of the cliff. The stairs lead to a fortress sunk into the ground. Some quick remembering of history reveals the fortress to be the Sunken Citadel, which sank into the ground a long time ago when a nearby volcano erupted. It used to house a dragon worshipping cult. Maybe there's stuff inside!
A trapdoor, a giant rat, a shield, and a door later the party is inside the remains of a circular tower. It's broken and leads up into darkness. Rat chewed goblin carcasses litter the room. Some quick wit from Capra reveals a hidden door and a level to open it to the south. Unfortunately, a metal pin stabs her hand as she pulls the lever. Fortunately, the pin is not poisoned or diseased. The door swings open, and Capra steps into the tiny room.
Three skeletal archers animate and take aim. Capra is injured before moving behind her beefier teammates. The skeletons continue to shoot arrows at close range disadvantage and somehow keep making their mark on Tol's stone body. Nox takes aim with her scythe, and ends up lodging its blade into the stone below her. Capra pokes her head around the doorway, casts magic missile, and all three miniature rams of energy break apart one of the archers. Nox recovers her scythe, bisecting another skeleton. The last goes down in a hail of Capra fire and mace arm and the party continues on.
Nox removes a spear pinning one goblin to the westernmost point on the circular wall. The body slumps and reveals some draconic runes. Good thing we have draconic fluency. It reads "Ashardalon" and some knowledge checks reveal that to be the name of an ancient Shadow Dragon. The party collectively says, "Huh, alright" and forgoes to the southwest door for the northwest.
A corridor, perception checks abound. Nada. Three doors meet them on the west end, one to the north, one to the west, and one to the south.
The north leads to an empty room. Really, it was very empty. The west leads to a large, reverse L shaped room with a fire pit, some torches around the room, a roll of sleeping fabrics with something whimpering inside them, and a large cage to the south with a broken gate. The party immediately leaves to check the southern door of the previous corridor. Poor sobbing whatever it is.
The door to the south is locked. We do not have thieve's tools. Or sleight of hand proficiency. Hilarity ensues.
Nox and Tol put their heads together to fashion a lock pick out of Tol's stone fingers. Capra pointedly plays with her metal hairpin. Against all odds, Nox and Tol succeed in making a lockpick and narrowly avoid breaking Tol's favorite fingers in their failed attempts at opening the door. Capra is also unsuccessful and compromises the integrity of her hairpin. Finally, frustration sets in as the party remembers their crowbars. The wooden door is promptly smashed off of its hinges.
Inside the tiny room is a rusted metal keg, with pipes connecting it to the floor. Hitting the keg reveals the sound of sloshing. A great push from Nox sends the top of the keg crashing to the floor and two mephits, ice and steam, emerge.
The battle is quick and decisive. Both mephits expend their respective elemental breath weapons but the party resists the worst of their effects. Fire and blunt hits weaken the ice mephit. Nox's necrotic hand holds down the steam mephit as Capra's chromatic orb completely dissolve's its body. A firebolt finishes off the ice mephit, and it explodes in a hail of ice crystals. Poking around the open keg reveals five tiny sapphires.
The party, needing rest, sets up a makeshift camp in the empty room across the corridor. Tol takes a seat at the door to listen and block out intruders.
I wonder what all the whimpering in the next room is about?