Up ahead, Irgzid warned, was a large cavernous home to a roper. The troglodytes would feed it slaves in order to get safe passage through its home. Dacien recalled that ropers were surprisingly very intelligent and spoke Terran, so Zhedd offered to try and negotiate passage.The chamber itself was at the base of a steep cliff face, and held a petrified forest, clearly swallowed by the earth some millennia ago. Zhedd mounted Banshee and flew into the chamber, calling out to the roper. It responded, demanding some form of tribute before it would allow the party to pass – and indeed that dire bat looked particularly tasty. Zhedd flew back to the party, and led them down the cliff face with the plan of summoning a bat to appease the roper. It recognised the casting of a spell, and enraged, dared the party to cross its domain. (DM note: it was a nice idea – maybe summoning it out of sight and earshot of the roper would have been better!). Keeping an eye out for the roper, it was hard to tell what was stalagmite and beast, so it caught the party unawares and ensnared Zhedd, Mendel and Faldak. All fought off its strength-draining power, and started hacking at the strands wrapped around their middle. Ji dashed forward and started pummelling the creature with his fists. Stephanie and Antony started helping the others escape, but Antony found his strength drained by the roper, and was barely able to move. Dacien stepped up and dimension door’ed himself, Mendel and Faldak right behind the roper, allowing the group to flank it and finally destroy it. Having looted the treasures the roper had collected over time, the party camped in the cavern to rest from their encounters so far. The next morning, Mendel, Ji and Faldak had thick dark scaly blotches on their skin – much like the troglodytes, and Stefanie and Zhedd set to work curing them of the disease.
The next day, Irgzid led the party to another chamber on the passageway the troglodytes use to collect the shadow pearls. This was lit by a strange translucent shimmering blue veil that bisected the cave. Ghostly images of tribal warriors occasionally flitted across the veil, and whispering voices that uttered strange prophecies about lizard kings and demon fish. Dacien used his divination magic to analyse the magical wall, and was nearly overcome by its power – clearly artefact level magic at work in its construction. Dacien later spotted that the wall had a slight curve to it – that it may be part of a large sphere, with a centre likely some miles deeper in the earth. Irgzid impatiently beckoned them through, and the party gingerly followed. The air on the other side of the veil was noticeably drier, and a strange back and forth flow of breeze reminded them of breathing.
A little further down the tunnel, Irgzid paused at a large fissure in the wall, and explained that there was a small community of strange humanoids that lived nearby in a place they called ‘Barbas’, Which Zhedd thought sounded like the elven word for Haven. Irgzid had not visited in some time, since he was a child on a trading expedition. He offered to take the party there to meet with the peoples, and the party agreed it couldn't hurt. The settlement was guarded by a maze lined with dangerous and deadly yellow and brown moulds, which Faldak navigated the party through with Ji’s help. A clattering from up ahead caught the party’s attention, and 8 hook horrors were visible lined up against the settlement wall, banging their arms on their shells to raise the alarm. Pale faces appeared at the wall, and after the party had reassured them they carried no disease from the troglodytes, the party were granted entrance to Barbas. They were greeted by the village leader, Vertram, a tall albino with features similar to a kobold. The other villagers were a strange albino mix, with features from several different humanoid races – orc, goblin, but in odd combinations within each person. And they seemed to be able to interbreed. Vertram led them through the village, where the party saw water being conjured into a large pool, with copses of large fungi nearby being harvested. Vertam mention that a being called ‘Ruffel’ was their spiritual leader, and had recently foretold of the strangers arrival – a signal for Barbas to be deserted. Ruffel was found to be the skeletal remains of an elf, kneeling in prayer before a series of religious verses carved on the walls of the cave, each speaking of Ruffel's guidance for his followers. One verse added more recently stated that strangers would signal the time for the people here to move on, under the guidance of Ruffel. Vertram indicated that only recently had Ruffel spoken to him and given him this vision. Mendel knew something of the albino Shadow Elves and their worship of an immortal named Rafiel – it seemed that these isolated creatures were somehow related. He passed on contact details for his house in Darokin, and wished them well as the village began to pack up their belongings. It wasn’t clear how they would get off the island, and Vertram was not even aware of the island or the sea, but they seemed confident that ‘Ruffel would guide them’.
Before they left, Vertram offered to show the party another place where the blue wall was visible – near the ‘Sleeping One’. This was in another small cave, where a statue of a large fish-like creature rested next to the blue wall – beyond which blind cave fish were visible flitting around in the light. The wall appeared to be holding back the sea water. The statue was puzzling Dacien, who had heard of creatures known as aboleths, evil psionic fish creatures that enter a state of hibernation when deprived of water. A slow sloshing heart beat could be heard by pressing an ear to the statue, and getting the statue wet turned the other layers of stone to sickly mucus. The party eventually decided to hack through the statue and kill the slumbering beast.
As the party continued on the main passageway, Irgzid became more excited growing closer to the presence of his ‘ancestor’. A large chamber appeared up ahead, and Irgzid dashed forward calling out to the spirit. The chamber was an inverted ziggurat, of Oltec design much like the engraving the party had seen on the Great Wall at Tanaroa; upon further inspection, Mendel saw the engravings depicted the victory of an Oltec civilisation over some threat from beneath the earth. The lower half was flooded (strange, within the blue veil), and fallen pillars former a makeshift bridge over the dark slimy water. The pale ghostly figure of an aged troglodyte appeared atop the bridge, and greeted Irgzid, before turning to the party. He explained he was a spirit of the troglodyte clan leader of old, and was trapped within this chamber, unable to rest until the threat to his kin had past. This site was where the Kopru exchanged shadow pearls for the slaves the troglodytes brought them, and the ghost had observed many of these exchanges and how his troglodyte people had slowly succumbed to the disease proximity to the newly created pearls seemed to cause. HE also explained that the areas outside the chamber were strangely devoid of water, and as the kopru were an amphibious species, they must suffer the lack of water in order to sustain the production of the pearls.He then pleaded with the party to seek out whatever artifact the kopru used to hold back the sea water and flood their production, or at least provide a distraction for the party to then assault their stronghold. Ji became increasingly suspicious of the troglodyte spirits words, and pushed the questions whilst the party looked for other clues. Dacien examined a strange sigil carved on the ceiling that looked to have been recently modified. The ghost said he had seen the kopru fly up and resculpt the sigil - and urged the party to undo their work. Dacien then used a spell to examine the sigil and found it to be an aboleth glyph that had once enhanced their ability to enslave other races, but now had been altered to suppress that ability.
The ruse was up. The troglodyte ghost admitted that he was an illusion created by the aboleth to make communication with them easier. He lied to Irgzid to find help, to lead a strike back against the kopru. The aboleth claimed to have lived in a large city deeper in the earth, which he called Golismorga, and waged a war with the Oltecs in their empire of Thanaclan on the great plateau of the Isle of Dread. The Oltecs somehow cast the water out of Golismorga and drove the aboleths into hibernation.The kopru had found him, and used a decanter of endless water to revive him, trapping him in this pool, whilst suppressing his enslave ability. The fact the kopru could alter the glyph suggested they had learnt much of the secrets of the aboleths, although for whom it was not clear. The Aboleth also mentioned being a servitor of beings beyond the knowledge of even the Immortals, and that Zargon was a patron - a name the party recognised from dealings with Thanti Sparrow on his travels from Cynedicea. He still begged the party to destroy the artifact that held the water at bay, to disrupt the kopru activities - but the party were more resolved to find a way to destroy the kopru and not release countless aboleths from their slumber.
The party pressed on in search of Golismorga and the kopru, a glum disillusioned Irgzid travelling with them. An encounter with some ghostly spectres did little to improve Irgzid's mood (Note: I got the level drains wrong, so he should strictly be a spectre too, but I'll let that pass!). A little further along the party came across a chasm with three narrow bridges across. Insects swarmed at the bottom of the gulf, around 3 more hibernating aboleths. A trio of rhagodessas scrambled up the walls to attack the party after Dacien froze the swarms around them with his magic. Girding themselves, the party continued their journey deeper...