A series of tunnels and caves made up a great lake deep in the depths of the underdark so murky and dark that it was impossible to see any further than 10ft in front of you while in it, hence the name The Dark Lake. All manners of creatures lived in these waters, but none navigated it as well as the race of fishmen known as the Kuo-Toa.
With unblinking eyes the size of dinner plates, a smell of rotten fish, slimy guttural voices and broken minds, they were not the most appealing of sorts. But aside from the Duergar of Gracklstugh who catered only to their own needs, they were the only ferrymen on the lake.
On a raft of Zhurkwood (which strictly speaking was not wood but rather a likening made of giant Zhurk mushrooms, which were incredibly dense) three of the Kuo-Tuo Fishmen were being paid to ferry a group of three men who had finished their contract work of guarding a trade envoy from Gracklstugh towards a drow outpost on the other end of the lake. Once there they had found out they would be returning on their own without the help of the Duergar. Grey Dwarves were very pragmatic and would not spend further gold on guards when the shipment had made its way, the transfer of gold having long taken place for the merchandise.
They were wildly different in nature and perhaps Gracklstugh was the only place that would bring these men together, with its xenophobic inhabitants and their never ending stream of work and the gold that came with it.
There was Ozan Shahmaran, a pure blood Yuan-Ti from Calimshan that most perceived of as a human with olive skin, well kept dark hair and mustache with a crow resting on his shoulder. But his eyes told another story, his pupils were thin slits and with eye lids blinking from the sides. Ozan had a way with words and an exotic look to him that made him irresistible to man, woman and beast.
A hulking bugbear named Belok came second. An unusual specimen. He had green eyes with red pupils which never seemed to stop glaring at the water. His arms were of great length on which he sported black bracers with stones that gave of a faint shimmer of green . Despite his size he was a stealthy and cunning warrior.
The third was a demonic beast named Kjamsi. Tieflings they call those touched with fiendish blood and once he may have been a towering specimen , but these days he skulked with a hunched back. His prized possession was a sacrificial brazier which he carried with him at all times.
The ferrymen left them at the docks and the three stated there business at the gates leading into the city where they in turn were granted access.
Hot acrid air, bustling sounds of industry and angry red glares of burning smelters greeted the trio as they headed for the “Bulettes lair”. The only inn that accepted non-duergar in the city. As they walked down the steps leading down to the inn, a derro dwarf named Bleepo came flying out the entrance, his nose shattering on the steps. Moments before he had been trying to swap a narcotic called “Steeder juice” to a pair of deep gnomes for some alcohol, when the innkeeper Reinduil Flaskmace decided he’d had enough of the vagrant. Derro dwarves were broken creatures, both of mind and body. Just as the duergar, they were descendants of shield dwarves taken into slavery by illithids, which had done experiments on them in the hopes of making a powerful slave race. The duergar were the descendants of the dwarves in which the experiments had been successful, gaining magical abilities such as being able to turn invisible. While the derro were the offspring of the broken and beaten bunch that had only just survived the experiments. Most of them dealt with mental problems, chaotic in nature and their stature was smaller than that of other dwarves. 600 yeas ago there were no derro in the city, but that changed when a powerful Derro Savant was able to gather the usually chaotic bunch under his control and besiege the grey dwarves. After being overpowered they were taken slaves only to have their freedom given back 400 years later. To this day they were still second class citizens in Gracklstugh.
The pair of deep gnomes sat on stone benches and drank Dark lake stout together. The two men shared a native tongue and race but not much more. Shantug had been raised in slavery by his parents under Drow control. He was unkempt, wore simple rags, a helmet magical in nature which gave him the means of understanding any language he heard or saw written, kept a walking stick by his side and seemed more at ease in the wilderness than in this urban territory. His compatriot Grishnak , was his exact opposite. Raised in Blindgenstone where his parents had good standing in society and he himself was a high standing member of the tinkerers guild. He maintained a well groomed look, his mustache trimmed and interchangeable glasses sitting on his nose. He also kept a stick of sorts by his side.
After a night of drinking both the pair of gnomes and the trio that had just docked eventually got some nights rest at their rooms at the inn. It was there that they found letters addressed to them from one Karnak Redhammer. Leader of clan Xornebane, which had duties connected to trade routes and prospects. The men at the inn had all taken contract work from Clan Xornebane before, caravan guarding mostly. But work had usually come from scouters seeking workers at the inn and an invitation to his home was a first for all of them.
Seeing as they were already familiar with each other, the men joined forces and headed towards the south side of the city. Centuries before there had been an earthquake that split the city in two. These days the south side was home to the more prestigious clans and it was not open to visitors without writs of passage, which the company of men had all gotten in their letters.
Moving through the south side they noticed most inhabitants stared at them on the streets, but eventually they arrived at the homestead of clan Xornebane and were brought to the private quarters of Karnak Redhammer.
There he told his men to leave him alone with the group of five. Karnak told them that he had little less than a year ago returned back from a trading expedition in which he and his men had been attacked in a bad trade off close to the surface. He was thought to be dead and his return took many months of wandering through the wilds of the underdark. Meanwhile his nephew Wurin Xornbane had been leading things in the clan, but with Karnaks return he again took the reigns. Recently he had noticed Wurin had been keeping wealth and information to himself and so he was exiled from the clan. Many soldiers of clan Xornebane left with him, the remaining men likely having spies in their midst. For these reasons he was forming a group of outsiders to deal with trade prospects and other duties .
First off there had been news of kobold wielding duergar weaponry in an area where a duergar mine had stood centuries before. So the band was given the task of examining the territory, track down the kobolds , hopefully find the lost mine and eradicating any living thing in it.
It would be a weeks journey on foot so the company went to the market and filled up on supplies and headed out. After some investigation work, killing a lone Hoked Horror, falling down a 50ft drop, collecting water from mushrooms and having a gay old time, they found tracks of what seemed like a tribe of kobolds. After following it they found a a crack in the cavern walls that lead through a tight tunnel with bells scattered on the walls and ceiling.
Grishnak easily silenced them and at the end of the tunnel they found the lost duergar mine.