After retrieving the journal and cipher of Vargo Gryne, Cendred and Robin return to Deimos, who immediately begins deciphering the journal. He informs them the task will take some time, and if they’re interested in making some money, he has a late shipment of rare solvents and unguents for use in his golem project. He offers them each five thousand gold to go to the city-state of Velanche, capitol of Velanaar, and find his contact there to discover the fate of his goods. Not interested in sitting on their hands, and hard-pressed to turn down such a handsome fee, the duo agree and set out immediately for Velanche.
They arrive in the dock district of Port Cavalier and begin their hunt for Cora Highhill, Deimos’ contact. She is a regular at the high-class tavern and eatery known as the Bawdy Gnome, so they start their search there. To their complete lack of surprise—such happenstance is all too common for adventurers—they find their old compatriot, Grunt, enjoying the dishes and drinks at the Gnome while pondering his own quandary (more on that in the next adventure). Since he’s currently without anything to do, he agrees to help his father and Cendred hunt down the shipment.
The bartender informs them that Cora, a regular, has not been seen in over two weeks. He recalls that she mentioned some business at the Shrike Nose Pub, down by the docks. The party heads out to check out the place. They find the Shrike Nose to be a much rowdier crowd, and highly suspicious of strangers. Fortunately, acquiring discreet information is Cendred’s specialty, and with a few drinks and well-placed comments, learns that Cora was here two weeks ago, sitting with a handsome human male in noble’s garb. The locals are pretty sure he wasn’t actually a noble, however—their kind are almost never seen at a dock bar like the Shrike Nose—but he had a distinct-looking silver ring, bearing a skeletal hand holding an open eye. His name, as they recall, was Calavander.
The trio head out to hunt down this “Calavander,” but are spared the trouble when a group of thugs, led by two half-orc brothers, jump the party in the alleys. After dispatching their would-be killers, the party roughs up a survivor for info and learns they work for Samson Calavander as hired muscle. They give directions to the estate, and the party sets out.
Cendred and Grunt disguise themselves quite cleverly as the half-orc brothers, with Robin in tow as a “prisoner,” and are welcomed past the guards into the mansion without so much as a whiff of suspicion. They find their way through the mansion to the basement, where Calavander is supposedly usually working at night, but there is no sign of him. After searching his bedroom, they find a hidden door in the wall with a staircase leading down into a sub-basement chamber. There, they find a strange sight.
There are two cages here, both small enough for a dog or perhaps a gnome or halfling. Indeed, Robin notes signs that one of the cages held a halfling not long ago. In the second cage is the crumpled and distorted body of Samson Calavander. On the far side of the room, a portal. Robin’s suspicions are confirmed with a quick glance: the halfling was recently taken from the cage through the portal.
On the other side, the party finds themselves on one of the Infinite Layers of the Abyss—specifically, the Rack of Gorvoth, home of Gorvoth the Mad, a Balor Lord. The landscape appears to be comprised entirely of rotting meat and bone; the stench alone is enough to drop a lesser man, but our intrepid adventurers are not lesser men. They tough it out, following the path through this dark and horrid plane on the trail of Cora. After inching their way through a forest made of pure darkness, they finally come to a great lake of lava at the bottom of an eighty-foot crater. At the crater’s center, across a great bridge, is an onyx tower. Undaunted, the trio heads toward it.
After deftly dismantling the trap and lock on the great double doors, the party enters the tower and makes their way up to the private chambers of the tower’s current resident: the bastard son of Gorvoth, a vicious half-demon named Argonoth. He holds Cora hostage, torturing her for information on the shipment of unguents. She’s in bad shape, so the party wastes no time rushing in to her rescue.
After a brief but violent exchange, Argonoth plays his ace-in-the-hole and sets off a contingent teleport glyph on the floor. Once he’s gone, they turn their attention to Cora, who is covered in demonically-cursed wounds that refuse to heal. Thinking fast, Robin uses a scroll of break enchantment they had found on Calavander’s body earlier. With the demonic curse broken, he heals the halfling without any trouble. After looting Argonoth’s treasures, they set fire to his possessions and make haste for the portal.
Cora makes immediately for the docks and goes about preparing Deimos’ shipment for immediate departure to Vaarsuvius. She stays one more night to have a celebratory drink at the Bawdy Gnome with our adventurers before escorting the shipment the next day, but when they arrive at the inn, Grunt is surprised to find he received a message in his absence…