Chapter 3, Part V: Before the Fog

After taking out the massive rock creature, the Marx entered the mine that was now fully accessible. Warrek ran ahead, shouting out for his colleagues with the hope that at least some of them were still alive. To his and the party's pleasant surprise, the majority of the miners were okay, though a few seemed to be on their last leg. They had managed to make their rations and water supply from weeks ago last, however they were nearly out of supplies by the time the Marx made their way into the mine. Warrek and some of the younger more sturdy miners helped to bring the older and weaker of their colleagues out of the mine and off to the village.

The Easy Marx stayed behind briefly to investigate the area. Gyome noticed a brief shimmer near the edge of the tunnel and told the rest of the party, who said they wanted to come back to have a better look, but the first priority was making sure the miners made it back to the village safely.

By the time the Marx and the miners arrived in Thetchery, Luidalia, the mayor, and a handful of the townsfolk had been on their way up into the mountains following the message relayed to Luidalia from the Dragonfly Airmed had sent.

A ripple of relief and excitement overtook the town, and the returned miners were quickly claimed by their friends and family. Those with skill in medicine attended to the wounded, ill, and weak. Chief Paws and Corky noticed Luidalia was watching the scene with a mix of relief and devastation. Quick to assist, Chief Paws went to the elder and told her that it wasn't her fault that she wasn't able to get to the miners. Although grateful for the attempt, Luidalia told him that it was her call to stop the efforts to excavate the mine, and that even if she didn't know they were still alive in there, she had given up on them. In order to not damper the bright mood sweeping her village, the elder excused herself and asked the Marx to come visit her the following day, after they had healed and rested.

On their way to celebrate with the rest of the town, a courier stopped Leozumin and presented him with a telegram.

Leozumin. Stop. You are needed back to Order of the Faded Chapters Outpost in New Elmsbury. Stop. Immediately. Stop. An Arlon Rail ticket has been purchased for you and is waiting at the Thetchery Station. Stop. Return alone. Stop. Immediately. Over.

Receiving this missive to return, Leozumin bid his new friends farewell, and headed to the Arlon Rail Station. Who would apologize for all of their tomfoolery now?

Upon entering the TGI Wednesdays, the Marx were greeted with uproarious cheers and gratitude. The mayor, and then multiple groups of grateful Thetcherians, called for a round of drinks for the intrepid heroes who had managed to save their friends and family members when no one else could. This feat had granted them all a huge bump in their reputation around the village (Level 3).

Warrek was enjoying the company of his colleagues and other villagers, his status restored after he had been proven right about the rock creature who had caused the collapse. Bertrand, the halfling who had sworn that the collapse was nothing but a run-of-the-mill accident was no where to be found.

Following their celebration with the grateful villagers, the Easy Marx headed back to the Adventurer's Guild to finally turn in their previously finished quest. Upon return of this quest, they were informed by Julee that they had reached Guild Level 2, which came with many perks, but also a membership fee, which was required of them before they were able to take any quests above a Guild Level 1. After paying the fee, Corky called their docent Maggie (Magpie) on his special sending stone.

Maggie informed them that while they were gone, there was an explosion at one of the factories in that wound up killing and injuring a lot of people. After this incident, the Voxowls were inundated with requests for membership from scared, injured, and grieving citizens. With the new activity and new sets of helping hands at the headquarters, Maggie had made sure to get the Marx's private room set up that they would be able to use when they returned to Gilding. She also told them that she was in the process of getting the wagon that Artem had requested set up for them, but that it wasn't quite ready yet, but might be when they made it back to Gilding. Finally, she gave them one more piece of information that would help make their travels easier in the future:

Meanwhile, I don't really know what the system is like in Thetchery, since none of us have really traveled that far, but if there are people who are in need of support, it might not be a bad idea to start a base there. We figured out how to link up headquarters, so if you do get the ball rolling, I'll send someone into Thetchery to set up a portal back to our base in Gilding.

If they could find three people in Thetchery who were interested in joining the Voxowls, then a Thetchery Headquarters could be set up and could act as quick travel location between sites once the portal was installed.

Chief Paws asked if Maggie knew anything about the mining company who owned the Mithril Mine in Thetchery, and she responded that the Mithril Mine and most of the other mines globally were owned by a man named Talon Shuck and his company, Shuck Mining. She informed Chief Paws that Talon was a shady business man whose cut-corner practices had caused many collapses, injuries, and deaths over the years.

The jump up to Guild Level 2 came with some new items and upgrades for most of the party members, including a Living Loot Satchel for Gyome, which took the form as a pocket dimension hidden up his sleeve.

While at the Adventurers' Guild, the party decides to pick up another quest from the board since they had time to kill before their visit with Luidalia the next day. They decide to assist Arthur, a mousy man who was hoping to get sick before his mother-in-law visited so that she would cancel her visit. Gyome used his spice grinder to poison Arthur, and then gave him a treat to cure his ailment when he was in the clear. Because of their exceptional service, Arthur increased his payout to 75 GP for their help.

After returning that quest to the guild, the East Marx picked up another quest to help Esme with her run-away chickens. Upon meeting Esme and hearing more about the problem, they learned that her chickens had actually been enlarged by her sister as a joke, and they broke out of the coop (which was meant to hold normal-sized chickens).

Some hijinks then ensued, and all 8 chickens were returned to Esme. Airmed then reduced their size back to normal, and Esme was so pleased with their work, she gave them an extra 10 GP, resulting in a total of 50GP for this task.

The next morning, The Easy Marx arrived to the Elder's Manor to visit with Luidalia. She was still rather down, but received the party gracefully. They learned that Talon Shuck had come to visit her following an investigation of the collapse and told her that they had scanned for life and had found nothing, so she was free to shift her resources elsewhere. And with the new crisis in Everness, she had done exactly that.

Luidalia was extremely grateful for the kindness that the party showed her, and their understanding that she would have never diverted the resources if she knew that the miners were still alive.

The Marx asked Luidalia if she would be able to hold off Shuck Mining until they investigated the mine, and she told them she thought she would be able to manage to do so for a week, but would likely not be able to hold them off any longer than that. Due to the tight timeline, the party decided to investigate the mine before going off into the Risorial Woods.

On their way up to the mines, a gnome with tiny glasses perched on his large nose and a heavy bag over his shoulder stopped them. Corky recognized him as one of the miners that had been inside the mine when they had opened it up. The gnome, however, explained that he wasn't a miner but a researcher and was in the mine investigating the rock and metal quality when the 'collapse' occurred. He said that he noticed that the further down a specific tunnel the miners went, the more the mine seemed to "react." He expressed that he was worried that that meant that they were getting closer to a magic vein in the rocks. He knew a small amount about magic veins, but he had a book with him that he was hoping to "sink his teeth into" sometime soon, and he hoped that would be useful to the party. He askedif he could tag along with them, which, after some debate, they allowed.

The party asked the Gyome, who introduced himself as Hippo, to wait outside while they made sure it was safe. In reality, they wanted to make sure there wasn't any snarl activity that would put their mission in jeopardy. Hippo said he was happy to wait, as it would give him time to dive into his book. As the party began to walk away, they noticed Hippo take out his book and a pair of special heavy metal utensils. He then used the knife and fork to neatly cut into the book and eat it.

Stunned, the party then began to ask many questions of Hippo and his unique appetite. Hippo explained that he had the ability to understand anything that he consumed, and so that he often ate books in order to "read" them as quickly as possible.

After about 20 full minutes of questions, the party entered the mine to investigate further. They noticed that the tunnel that Gyome had seen the shimmer at last time had some specific divots in the wall that seemed to have the most shimmery residue. After some trial and error, they realized that hitting two of the divots together in a specific order created a frequency that shifted the rocks away from the wall and revealed a swirling crystal of pure magic energy. Due to its shape and size, they surmised that this was a vein of concentrated magic that had been struck during the mining.

Getting input for Hippo, they learned that something was wrong with this vein-- it should not have been in this position in the mountain. They were usually miles under the ground. However, it was possible that some kind of disturbance had caused it to shift positions and rise up from the ground. The presence of the unearthly shimmer around it alerted the party that this disturbance was likely snarl related.

Hippo also explained that the magic from the vein is very reactive, absorbent, and volatile, and that certain types of actions affect it more than others. For example, being hit with specific frequencies could cause the crystal structure to fracture and break off. He said that tampering with one end of the magic can affect the whole system, since all of the veins are connected, and could cause explosions, leaks, or knots. If piece of the vein could be broken off, it will hold the magical energy in it and can be used as an arcane source or, when empty, a vessel to absorb high concentration of magic into a small area.

Hippo expressed that it was very dangerous, however, to attempt to mine a magic vein, and also felt deeply wrong. The veins were what made up the magic of their planet, and if someone was willing to chip away at it, it would be a breach of something sacred, and would be actively harmful to the home where they lived.

As Hippo left the cave, Professor Benson asked for a brief, private audience with the Marx. He explained that they currently had a problem: They were about to face a snarl very soon, and there was only one way he was aware of that would give them the opportunity to defeat it.

The only way I know of to defeat snarls is to absorb it. The last time snarls were handled, it was by the founders of Strixhaven. And I believe they were able to use a special kind of magic, one that was found inside of the Earth itself. I believe this to be that magic. And the only way to contain the snarl that you will face will be by using the crystalline structure of the vein. I recognize this is a reprehensible solution, and once that is far from ideal, but we will likely not have access to such a container again.

Chief Paws recalled a similar looking structure earlier on in their adventures. On the day that he met his good friend Louise Marsh in the witches' basement, they saw a crystal of pure concentrated magic that had been used to turn Louise into a mouse. He believed that this might be a viable source of the magical vein without having to stoop to mining the resource themselves.

They made a quick call to Maggie to send her into the house that was currently being haunted by their abomination and friend Goddard, and told her she would find crystals in the basement. They asked her to send those to them via the living loot satchel when she obtained them.

Finding this the best solution to their problem, and one that the Professor agreed was most preferable, the party then returned to Luidalia to let her know what they found. Luidalia agreed to block off that area of the mine as structurally unsound, and hire someone to guard the area to keep it safe from further investigation.

As they spoke, the front door to Luidalia's manor burst open and a tall, strong looking elf in full mithril armor stumbled into the home. He looked to be in fairly rough shape, injured and weak. He gasped out that the Forest Guardian had been compromised, and then collapsed onto the floor.

Airmed helped to stabilize the man, and once he had returned to consciousness, he explained that the Vanguard had been taken completely by surprise by the Forest Guardian, who was acting strangely and erratically. The elven man was devastated to announce that rest of his team had been killed by the Guardian, and that they had not been able to access Everness to help the people there.

Luidalia asked the Marx to let the only surviving Vanguard member rest, and told them that, after all they had done, she knew it was unacceptable to ask for their help once more, but asked them to please help their forest and their people in the sister village of Everness.

To help, she supplied them all with a present.

To Gyome, she supplied him with Mithril Scalemail. To Chief Paws, she gave a pair of Mithril Bracers. To Artem, she provided a set of Stone Pauldrons, made of the raw stone from the Mithril mines, as she knew he could not wear metal. And to Corky and Stefano Romano, she provided the puppet with a Mithril Plackart to make him a little more sturdy in combat.

Finally, the party received the Demystifyer, a handheld lantern that would guide them through the Risorial Woods.

She thanked them all again, knowing that the risk they took was a purely selfless one, and that whatever happened, she was eternally grateful.


Occurrences of Note:

  • Rescue of Thetchery Miners: Best possible scenario achieved (only 4 dead miners).
  • Reputation increase in Wen to Level 3.
  • Warrek's town reputation has been restored.
  • Significant positive relationship milestone achieved with Luidalia.
  • Easy Marx Guild Level increase to Level 2.
  • Leozumin leaves The Easy Marx.
  • Two additional AGI quests completed.
  • Party learns of factory accident in Gilding; Increase in membership to Gilding Voxowls.
  • Party learns of Talon Shuck and Shuck Mining.
  • Party learns of method for creating new Voxowl Headquarters in Thetchery (3 citizens).
  • Party learns from Luidalia that Shuck Mining surveyed the mine accident for signs of life and informed Luidalia that the site was devoid.
  • Full party introduction to Hippo the book-eating gnome.
  • Completion of Mine Sound Puzzle.
  • Party learns about veins of magic, and their use in fighting snarls.
  • Forest Guardian is currently compromised.
  • Party receives upgraded equipment from Luidalia.

Completed: December 2022