During the Second day of The Gathering, many disturbing rumors were floating around, but the one that proved the most interesting to Nero Torvus and Oskar Dankil was the one about the disappearance of Grelnik Nickerwick and Goran Steelheart Scourge of Hyland.
Oskar and Nero’s paths intersected as they both did more research to find out what happened to the gnome. The pair decided to work together as the clues began to indicate that the researcher and the Barbarian Conqueror had disappeared together. From Morwin the Mouse – they learned that Steelheart and Nickerwick had left the city along with Goran’s bodyguard Therrick Gorgonskull, but had not left the island, headed toward the northwest.
Nero and Oskar agreed that Goran’s purpose was most likely to enter the access tunnels for the levitation system on The Gathering Island, with the intention of inverting the island and killing everyone on it.
The pair tried to convince anyone they could get to listen of the danger, but could not get anyone to take them seriously, so in desperation, they ended up recruiting Kyrian Stone, Hobb, Harold Smith, and Dane (one of Morwin’s hirelings) to assist them in tracking down Goran and the Gnome on their own.
About an hour out of the populated region of the island, near the coastline, the group found signs of excavation and located a shaft leading straight down into the ground. Climbing down, they opened a mystically powered door, and fought a pair of medium sized centipedes, which managed to give Kyrian a nasty poisoned bite before the group killed them. After about 45 minutes in the tunnel, the lights went out for about five minutes – and then came back on. The group decided that the risk was imminent, and pushed hard to get to the end of the tunnel end before Goran could accomplish his goal. In the process, Oskar suffered severe fatigue and muscle strains from having to make his short legs keep up with the faster humans.
Upon their arrival at the end, Nero had to once again expend mystical energy to open the doorway. The door opened onto a huge globe shaped chamber, with a dropoff leading about twenty feet down to what had been the ceiling when the island was upright. At the ‘bottom’ was the corpse of a massive fifty foot centipede, collapsed near a 20 foot hole from whence emanated a steady stream of mystical energy that pulsed and writhed up through another hole at the top of the room. An inverted platform ran around the circumference of the large room, with another stairway leading down to a chamber where a light shone through a window.
Nero decided that any avenue to stop the barbarian leader that did not involve dying at the hands of him and his brute of a bodyguard was a preferable to rushing in and trying to fight the pair, so he convinced the group to slide down to the corpse of the giant centipede and push it into the mystical energy stream to disrupt the flow. Upon reaching the bottom, the group discovered that several of the massive creature’s ‘babies’ had survived the battle with the Free Tribesmen, and taken refuge under the corpse of their ‘mother’. As the group began to push the massive vermin, the smaller ones were disturbed and came out to feed.
Meanwhile, whatever the gnome was doing in the control booth succeeded – at least in part, and the whole island shifted by about thirty degrees, throwing Nero into the pit, to be saved by a last minute grab by Harold, and Oskar was left dangling by his fingertips as he too was thrown by the sudden shift. Once the two endangered heroes were pulled out of the pit, the group redoubled their efforts to push the monstrous mutated centipede into the energy stream. Their success, however, was not without price. As the energy stream was disrupted, and the island leveled back out – they attracted the attention of the massive man known as ‘The Minotaur’. Therrick Gorgonskull jumped and slid down to join the party. With one devastating blow, he slammed Harold with the force of a rushing bull. The barbarian warrior’s great club collapsed the cart handler’s rib-cage and sent him flying back to disintegrate in the mystical energy stream.
Enraged, Hobb began swinging his club at the assailant with manic fury, as Kyrian rushed to his aid, and Nero sent firey darts at the monstrosity of a man. Oskar placed a blessing on Kyrian, which seemed to help, as Therrick missed two lethal blows, but Kyrian’s own attacks were likewise deflected without harm. The same could not be said of Hobb, who managed to dislocate the man’s knee with his desperate attacks. Unfortunately for Hobb, this managed to draw the warrior’s ire from Kyrian, and The Minotaur caved in the simple dwarf’s head with one destructive blast that sent the body flying.
Nero, his magic depleted, realized that if he could give off mystical energy to open doors in this place – then perhaps he could draw upon its energy to replenish his own. Reaching out to the energy stream, he pulled in the raw power – and cast it out in another fiery dart that once again staggered the enemy. With a roar of pain and fury, Kyrian took advantage of the opening and brought his bastard sword down on the distracted opponent’s injured knee, severing the limb and dropping him to the ground.
Distraught and outraged at the terrible price that had been paid for this momentary victory, Kyrian Stone called out a challenge to Goran to come down and join his bodyguard in hell. The wily Chieftain would not be so easily baited for so little gain however, and decided to give the group their ‘victory’ for now. He exited the chamber via another passage with the gnome scholar in tow.