Albaeri Mellikho, owner of the Mellikho Stoneworks, and Ulhro Luruth, a local tanner, try to control the frantic crowd of locals who have steadily gathered around the decaying sinkhole. Cries of “Someone do something!” and “A rope!” are heard amongst the crowd. Despite their efforts, Mellikho and Luruth’s attempts to divert attention away from the pit below go unheeded.
As the party looks on, Tap arrives on the scene curious to learn what may have caused the tremors. The party gets their first glimpse at a strange swirling tattoo appearing on Tap’s bare chest. Adran identifies an odd pulsing behavior to the tattoo, while Zachary hastily scrawls notes on the phenomenon before returning to the matter at hand.
Reunited, the adventurers investigate the commotion with Aurgros taking the lead. Sidling close to the edge, a portion of the earth nearly gives way beneath him. He leaps aside before falling into the pit below. Mara Westwind forces her way through the crowd and offers a rope by which to climb down and aid the fallen children. The party agree with her rescue plan, and Zachary leaves the Driftglobe in Aurgros’s care. With the help of additional townsfolk, Mara ties one end of the rope around Aurgros’s waist, lowering him into the depths.
Zachary, meanwhile, keeps a close watch on Albaeri, taking keen note of her physical and vocal mannerisms, while Aurgros reaches the bottom of the pit. Just as his feet find the floor below, Papu grabs hold of the taught rope and slides down. Aurgros activates the Driftglobe, then focuses his efforts on tying the rope to one of the children so that they can be hoisted up to the surface. Papu, meanwhile, attempts indulge his curiosity by exploring what dark regions of the sinkhole he can uncover, but lack of a light source swiftly returns him to Aurgros’s side.
Once the first child is returned to the surface, he is embraced and carried off by his loving parents. Tap places a subtle light spell on Adran’s backpack, who is subsequently lowered into the sinkhole. The rescue continues with the hoisting of another child from the pit, and Zachary is now the next to be lowered.
After the final child reaches the surface, Tap takes hold of the rope and begins to climb down without being tied to the end and lowered by Mara and her volunteers. As he prepares for his descent, he catches sight of Albaeri Mellikho motioning to Luruth, who proceeds to sink into the crowd. In a moment of distraction, Tap loses his grip on the rope and plummets into the soft mound of dirt collected directly beneath the pit’s open maw.
Aided by additional light sources, the party begins to explore their surroundings and find a natural cave with a passageway leading northward and a stone doorway to the east. Near the eastern door lie four dusted cloaks, which Aurgros, Tap, and Adran don, though the fourth is too large to fit Papu. Once through the doorway, Zachary casts a disguise self spell to gain the near-uncanny appearance of Albaeri Mellikho.
Descending down a long stone stairway, the party discovers Dwarven stone sentinels posted alongside a evened-out pathway leading eastward. Papu, concerned over the potential for traps, investigates the sentinels, uncovering hidden pathways directly behind each one. The party elects to follow the northern secret path, ignoring the straighter path leading further to the east. The pathway itself is quite narrow and rough along its rocky walls, but leads to an open square room. In a corner of the room, they find a pile of rotting corpses with much of the flesh torn away. While investigating the bodies they aggravate several giant rats who swarm and attack. Dispatching the vermin, the party proceeds with their investigation. Several of the older bodies appear human, while a more recent corpse suggests a halfling or someone of small stature. Each skull also bears a symbol that was carved into the forehead, which Papu identifies as the mark found scrawled on a piece of scorched parchment in Grund’s home. In an opposite corner lie several articles of clothing and aged mining equipment. Amongst the refuse, Papu also identifies a leather-bound journal embossed with the moniker “KV.”
The party proceeds through an adjacent passageway that connects to another open square room where a small boulder appears to be hovering in the center. Perplexed, Zachary gathers more notes while the others debate over its significance. Papu, unfazed by the spectacle, experiments by moving the boulder from its original position. After a few choice movements, the party surmises that some force is managing to suspend the rock within a 10-foot radius from the center of the room, and proceed onward, satisfied with their findings.
A southern connecting passageway leads the group to another stone door. The party cautiously makes their way into a much larger room containing the statue of another Dwarven sentinel stationed atop a pedestal at the room’s center, as well as several small valuables lying at its feet. Before the party has a chance to investigate more thoroughly, a group led by Elak Dornan don stone masks and announce themselves as the Bringers of Woe. As they ready for an attack, they are shocked to discover Zachary disguised as Albaeri Mellikho among their ranks. Uncertain of her motives, demand that she deliver “the signal” before lowering their weapons. “Albaeri” acquiesces by motioning toward Dornen as if readying to offer the “signal” he requested, but instead unleashes a brutal eldritch blast delivering a near-fatal blow and tearing away his stone mask.
Combat ensues, and the party is victorious, though one member of the Bringers manages to flee, escaping back along the northern path. The party recovers and proceeds to inspect the room and the stone statue. Using his knowledge of the arcane, Zachary reveals that the statue is in fact the petrified remains of an ancient Dwarf, now long since dead and far beyond repair. The party also lay claim to a selection of gems and gold laid at the dwarf’s feet, while Papu receives a sacrificial dagger that bears the word “Reszur” on its hilt.
Tap, meanwhile, catches the faint sound of someone calling for help in an adjacent chamber to the west, sealed by another stone doorway. The party investigates and finds a tall stone monolith standing at the center of another large room. At the foot of the monolith lay a disheveled human male sprawled on his belly and held in place with large boulders positioned atop each of his limbs. Rescuing the man, he identifies himself as Randal Buckman, a stonecutter for Dornen Finestone who was kidnapped by the Believers and being prepared for sacrifice. As the party administers aid in the form of a healing spell and water, he reveals the tale of the Believers that he uncovered and identifies several town elders by name. He also reveals that the half-orc Grund served as a guard whose duty was to allow safe passage to any who called out “A Believer approaches,” and capture any who failed to deliver the signal by triggering a trap consisting of several steel cages suspended above the passageway. When he overheard the commotion in the eastern room, he abandoned his post and fled toward the cave where the party had first arrived.
While still quite exhausted from starvation, Buckman offers to stand guard and try to capture any remaining Believers who try to dispatch the adventurers. Papu leaves Buckman with one of his daggers in case of danger, and the party resumes their investigation. Returning to the larger path with the petrified dwarf, the group enters through another doorway to discover a small entryway, and another Believer who was trying to flee. Identifying himself as Baragustan(?), he pleads for the adventurers to spare his life and admits that he was only following the commands of an “earth priest” known as Larrakh. He buckles from the party’s questioning, and grovels at their feet not to disturb “the delvers” in the room beyond. With few details remaining to them, the party hog ties Baragustan (?) and leave him in the entryway, entering through the eastern doorway.
They party uncovers a vast darkened tomb containing several massive stones in various configurations about the room. Lined along the walls are stone alters bearing the remains of ancient figures. Before the party can investigate in greater detail, the priest Larrakh engages the party, warning of their imminent defeat at the hands of the Cult of Black Earth. The party advances to attack, only to find their movements slowed by the priest who rushes toward the southern wall. Tap breaks free of the spell and attempts to impede the priest’s departure, with Augros close behind. Delivering a volley of arrows and spells, the two try their best to assault the priest while the other party members struggle against the spell’s effects, only to discover that the priest’s defenses were more than they bargained for. Finally free, the rest of the party rush to engage the priest, but not before he reaches his goal. Larrakh triggers a mechanism in the wall and departs through a secret passageway, unleashing a rockslide to block his escape…