Arauka burst out of the burned husk that was once Crab’s Cup, in hot pursuit of the direction of Keith’s pattering footsteps…only to discover the streets outside barren and silent. No Keith to be found…somehow, this slippery halfling had evaded his particularly keep senses once again. As he grumbled under his breath and returned to his party, he cursed the bastard who ever first discovered the arcane arts.
A few hours later, the group brought the news of the lair below the former Crab’s Cup and of Keith the Halfling. Lady Kyoko thanked the party for their work putting this strange organization on their heels, and assured them that they would be able to help the women in captivity. But as they were talking, Kyoko’s Orc Sergeant at Arms, Lob, burst through the door, his usually stoic demeanor broken by a mask of confusion and urgency. He bid the Lady “Must come to the grand hall…one of the lost miners has returned and…you must see this with your own eyes.” The party followed Kyoko and Lob down the corridors to the grand hall where a small crowd had created a circle around someone. When they got close enough, they saw the poor fellow.
Horribly disfigured with a strange flesh-eating disease (that looked oddly similar, albeit way more extreme, to the group of leper-like infected that Lady Kyoko cared for in the upper reaches of the Iron Palace). He babbled his way through the lady’s questions, until Kyoko had a satisfactory jigsaw puzzle of what happened to his mining party: this male dwarf had been wandering the wilderness for many days, probably weeks. The expedition had been working on a particularly interesting vein of ore at the base of some mountains a few days west of town when their camp was suddenly attacked by a giant badger, and he described a sort of “black fire” that enveloped the creature (sounding very similar to the effect of the giant boar that the party encountered as they approached the city). He claimed his fellows barricaded themselves into the mine as the badger attacked. This dwarf made contact with this black fire and the badger as he retreated into the wilderness and very quickly became ill as this disfiguring disease spread through his body. His feverish haze caused him to stumble aimlessly through wildlands until by luck he was spotted by one of the guards on the walls of Jiyutoshi.
The lady Kyoko bid the party to please help the expedition and rescue anyone they could find. There were 15 folk on this expedition, 14 remaining with this fellow accounted for.
As the party ventured through the wilderness following the vague directions of the raving lunatic, they eventually came upon the mining camp. It was in chaos, the remnants of their belongings (along with several corpses) strewn every which way. Arauka noticed some extremely large paw prints and determined them to be those of a giant Badger, confirming the story. As they cautiously ventured into the mine, they experienced a number of challenges, as well as many more corpses of miners: Rust monsters, run-away mine carts, some strange floating monsters that appeared to form from Stalagtites.
Eventually, they came upon a large Dragon Statue, which upon approaching closely enough began to speak in a deep, booming voice: “You approach the realm of one to whom you must first prove your worthiness. You are not known to him, but your hearts are being watched. Answer wisely these riddles” and then asked them 3 riddles. Upon successful completion of all 3, the dragon began to spew water from it’s mouth, the water hitting an invisible barrier behind the party. This sudden “room” they found themselves in began to fill up very quickly, but an observant member of the party noticed a small hole on the ceiling and suggested simple patience, that once the room filled up enough with water, they could simply swim up and out the hole.
As they did, they found themselves magically pulled up the dark crevasse, and when they all emerged, they found themselves in what could only be described as a mini canyon…almost like a giant courtyard many hundreds of yards in diameter set deep into the middle of the mountain, but with the sky open above them. This craggy glade had it’s own waterfall and small river, many large hillocks and plenty of trees. As they observed the land around them, suddenly the ground began to tremble, and from the ground burst a Giant Badger. Screaming in from above came a Giant Eagle, and from around one of the large hillocks came a giant Hyena! A fierce battle ensued, and once the last of these unnatural beasts fell, the ground again began to tremble!
On a flat, rocky outcropping at the top of the largest hillock in the center of the miniature valley, the crew saw a large, standing stone disc rise up. As they got closer, they saw that one one side of it, around the diameter, were many finely-hewn shalestones and copper in a mosaic-like design…they approached with caution…