Having discovered what appear to be ancient ruins under the mines, the party speaks to one of Reimar’s rangers, who tells them: “Thousands of years ago, the Atvar empire stretched across these lands, from the penninsula of Sargon all the way to Inalua. There are legends of an incredible treasure hoard hidden under the mountain.” He also warns them that minotaurs will almost certainly be arriving soon, in order to discover what happened here.
Malcer shows the moonstone to Invana to see if she can determine anything about its origin or purpose, but all she is able to tell him is that it contains a great amount of magic.
Returning to the cavern where they had fought the four troglodytes, the adventurers discover one less body than they expected to find, and drag marks leading to the next room. Following the marks across several rooms, they finally come to a room populated by several hostile mushrooms, who attempt to poison them with an emission of pungent spores. The mushrooms do not last long. Farther along, they run into several large, vicious spiders who seem to have been infected by the spores, and have forests of mushrooms growing from their backs; the spiders last a bit longer than the mushrooms did, but are still promptly dispatched by the adventurers.
Heading back to the cave entrance to rest and regroup, Invana tells some of the adventurers that the spiders have implanted something inside them, but she knows not what.
Back in the ancient ruins, past a closed door, they find a natural cavern with a stream running through it. The drag marks end at the stream. Leira hears something splashing in the water, downstream, and the party heads after it to investiage.
They quickly catch up to what appears to be a human-sized mushroom, dragging a dead troglodyte. “You are not troglodytes,” it says. “I think this is a good thing.”
The mushroom’s name is Pale; he is very pleased to hear that the adventurers are no friends of the troglodytes. “I am of the Frugron,” he tells them. “There are not many of us left.” Because troglodytes. He tells the party that the Frugron have lived in these caverns for thousands of years; the troglodytes began moving in aggressively in the last year. He invites us to meet the rest of the Frugron; “This troglodyte is joining the circle!” he says, with glee.
The party follows him to the rest of the Frugron circle, down the stream a bit, through a secret gap in the rock. The path opens up to a wider area, where another 19 mushrooms await. They appear to be communicating telepathically. Pale invites Riza and Thrall to join them in another room for the meld, and they accept.
In the other room, the Frugron Sovereign, twice the size of the other mushrooms, releases a cloud of spores into the air. Riza and Thrall quickly become disoriented, but in a good way. In their minds, they find themselves outdoors, in a light, airy clearing. They are looking through the eyes of someone else, apparently the dead troglodyte itself, experiencing its last living memories. It had just passed information to someone/something, and was waiting to see the fruits of its labors. In the distance, it watched a few minotaurs guarding the mine entrance, until a commotion suddenly arises inside the mine, and one of the guards departs to investigate.
Almost immediately afterwards, three small figures resembling dwarves but different, pale, and grey, emerge from the mines, carrying battle axes and a human head. They attack the minotaurs, quickly slaughtering them, and then reenter the mine, taking the minotaur corpses with them.
Thrall and Riza awake in a flash. Who are these strange dwarves? Where did they come from, and what is their purpose here?
Malcer recognizes them from their description as Dark Dwarves, driven into the underdepths by the wise and good dwarves of [closer to] the surface in a long forgotten war of aeons past.
In a small room off to the side of the Frugron’s chamber, Leira finds a chest hidden behind foliage; the chest contains an ancient shield, covering a scroll case. Inside, there is a map, marked with an X; an inscription in an archaic form of common warns, “Don’t touch the moonstones! Lest you awaken a powerful and destructive force.” Thrall suggests that the magic inside the moonstones might have been a barrier, keeping the Dark Dwarves contained. Perhaps putting them back would reseal it?
The map shows the river and the rooms that the party has come through. The X looks like it’s’ only a few rooms away…if they’re reading the map correctly. They ask Pale if he knows the room on the map: “Yeah, it’s close. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were troglodytes there. Last time I was there, there were three chests in the room, and beautiful etching on the wall.”
The party heads back to the entrance to report to Reimar. Thrall describes the Dark Dwarves to Hammond, Reimar’s dwarven cook. “It’s a treasure map!” he exclaims. “We have to find this!” They head back into the caverns, crossing the underground stream, following the map to…a dead end. An empty room, with marks on the floor where three chests clearly once stood. All that remains is the remnants of old treasure, bits of armor and weapons made of rusting metal…and the creatures feeding upon those remains. The adventurers engage the rust monsters with gusto.
The wall in the chamber contains a series of mysterious runes, just as Pale had described. Underneath the runes, a more recent message has been chiseled into the wall, in the same script that was on the map: “The runes on the wall are a code to properly tune the Staff of Alderman.” Thrall carves copies of the runes into Riza’s and Malcer’s shields:
They find a hidden door in the wall, and go through it to find a large chamber with an enormous pit in the center, populated by four troglodytes, a gremlin-like imp with bat wings sitting on top of a rock, and the three missing chests. The hidden door closes behind them.
The adventurers are able to defeat the troglodytes, but one of them shoves Harvek into the pit; the others rush to his aid, finding him clinging to a ledge around fifteen feet below. More movement is visible deeper in the pit; it looks like more of the dark dwarves that Thrall and Riza had seen in their
trip vision. Malcer begins launching arrows down the shaft as Thrall and Riza lower a rope and help Harvek up.
The imp speaks: “You’ve made a grave error. By removing the moonstones, you’ve broken the wards that kept my master contained. They’ve been building an army, and now…they’re ready.” The sheer number of dwarves making the climb up the pit reveals the truth in the creature’s words. “We need to get out,” Thrall says to the others. “Fast.”
“My master, Malagrim, will want to retrieve the moonstones that were taken,” the imp continues. “Woe to him that carries them…”
The adventurers quickly grab everything that was in the chests and head back to the cave entrance, carrying a message of doom along with the great treasure.