The next morning, after descending into turtle’s cavern, the group makes their way back to the Library. Sentinel and Rand force open the mechanically hidden door, which opens into a 20ft wide stone room, steps going up, a desk to the left, with papers, files, all disintegrated. Bork finds a scrap of paper that looks like some kind of record of work hours. While Aven checks for traps on the stairs, Bork strides on up. A hall leading left passes some stairs going up, and terminates at a fork; to the left, submersed stairs down, presumably into the flooded room; to the right a path on the same level, leading into a large dining area with alcoves fitted with spartan bunks. In this room they find a single skeleton, falling apart, with no legs below its knees. The room looks like it was evacuated in a hurry. Backing out, they move toward the upward stairs into a cylindrical room, with ladder leading up to a trap door. The door gives a bit, but seems to have been covered up from above. Rand and Bork knock the door off the hinges and as dirt piles in, Bork teleports them both to safe cover. The path up simply leads back into the forest above.
The gang head back to the library door with the grease trap. The door opens into a dark tunnel, unnaturally cold. The stone steps inside are irregular. Suspecting a trap door, Rand presses them and they give a bit. The group fashions Bork with a rope line and after walking in about 10 feet, the trap is sprung and the floor converts to a steep grade ramp. Surfing down, Bork eventually reaches the end of the rope and hollers up briefly before cutting the rope and freely sliding further. Moments later, Bork teleports back behind the rest. He reports that 300 more feet or so down the hole, he caught onto the lip of a pit. 100 feet down into the pit he saw a black ooze with a legion of eyes and mouths. Whatever it was had seen him and was making its way up. Across the pit, in a far chamber he saw a bigger aboleth, floating in a room working on a apparent ritual with magical lights and circular formations joined by a small group of skum. He was barely able to make out a high pitched voice, presumably the aboleth’s, sounding out in pain or anger.
Resolving that descent into the pit is not the safest way to approach the aboleth, the adventurers tread back past the turtle’s chamber to find another route: past the recently sanctified room of sacrifice and into a swampy, fetid-smelling room, the stream terminating into a pool. Under the water’s surface lie four large spherical objects, across the way a large archway. Upon further inspection, the objects appear to be eggs, with evil auras; presumably baby aboleths. Bork dives in with a bomb, narrowly escaping an attack on his will, and obliterates the ova. As they explode, maniacal abolethean screams echo from the direction of the archway, “IMPOTENT UPSTART MORTALS! MY POOR BABIES! CANNOT SUMMON THE OLD ONES, THEIR HERALDS MUST DO. PREPARE THE SACRIFICE!”
They all charge through the archway and descend a long staircase. Shah turns invisible and hustles forward. The sound of a large chain crank can be heard; Aven charges ahead, “They’re turning a big wheel, and someone else is down here!” A refrain of screaming voices. Fraas gives himself and Zinn protection from evil and they follow down. In the chamber, noneuclidian runes are dimly glowing on the walls behind a large hovering aboleth in stony carapace armor. Shah approaches a female half-orc cowering in the corner, wearing only tattered rags, who is making an apparent escape toward the stairs. Aven unleashes his pepperbox, Rand charges in smiting the beast, Sentinel runs toward. Rand is almost compelled by the aboleth’s enchantment, but shakes it off. An invisible Shah runs over to the crank wheel, just as it locks into place. A cacophonous crescendo of evil voices rings out, as the black oozing Shoggoth emerges from the pit next door and moves toward the room.
Rand rushes to the crank, charging a skum on the way. The echoing voices confuse Fraas as he unleashes a devastating fireball upon Aven, Zinn and the escaping half-orc. Taking it in stride, a smoldering Zinn charges at the Aboleth while shooting her bow. Sentinel dragon punches the aboleth. The aboleth begins babbling. Rand can hear the unseen Shah’s voice nearby, babbling as well. Confused, Bork bombs Gfed to the edge of consciousness. Rand pushes the crank. It doesn’t budge, so he tries again, and it moves ever so much, clicking once. The runes start to fade, but the black oozing creature is still moving forward. Fraas regains a bit of composure and fireballs the aboleth. Zinn notices Rand’s efforts and helps the crank back another click. Gfed scorching rays the aboleth. Sentinel moves to help with the crank; it locks into place and the runes fade, but the large black creature is still coming.
The aboleth creeps toward Zinn and smacks her with a tentacle. Rand takes a defensive attack and slices through the aboleth with his holy great axe. Its stony carapace turns clear and dissolves into slime. Bork bombs the remaining skum, accidentally hitting the still invisible Shah. The two skum still standing try to push the crank against Sentinel’s strength and one stabs at him. Rand simply cleaves them dead. The Shoggoth drives forward, but strikes an invisible barrier at the threshold of the room, withdraws, and the screaming voices quiet. Fraas and Bork collapse.
Aven supplies Zinn with a water sphere to put the fire on her still burning garments out. Suddenly, the skin on her arms start to dissolve and the air burns her, so she stays in the water sphere, although she can’t hold her breathe for long. Sentinel carries her up to the pond where the aboleth’s eggs were, as she appears to be stable as long as she’s submerged. Rand, carrying the unconscious Fraas and Bork, heads up the stairs and approaches the mysterious half-orc, who introduces herself as Laush. After some convincing that the group are not a threat, she offers to heal everyone in the area. Rand, Gfed and Aven look for Shah, who after about six minutes reappears near the crank, unconscious. Gfed throws a pebble toward the Shoggoth pit, which flies right through the mystical barrier in the doorway.
Rand graciously offers Laush some of his extra equipment and he tells her about their goal of ridding the mote of evil. Laush says she was walking in a mine on her mote, then suddenly she was in the woods, fell through a hole and ended up here. She is from “Laush Gurak” which Gfed recalls is an orc stronghold mote. Laush is not evil and she mainly wants to return home, where evil humans have been enslaving her people. Upon reaching the pond with the dead eggs, Rand lays hands on Zinn. In doing so, Rand reveals himself as a paladin, Laush backs away, “Paladins are enemies, treacherous!” She mentions her grandfather, Gaël Corentin, is an evil paladin oppressor. Aven and Gfed exchange knowing glances, secretly recognizing the name as a great human hero of Ayn, slayer of orcs, who is still active today, and on a mote of the other side of this world. They all make their way up the ropes back to the forest floor. During watches, Laush approaches Zinn and asks if Zinn could help her get her storybook back. Zinn is a bit shocked and shares her storybook with Laush, and convinces Laush to ask the rest of the group to go back down tomorrow to look for it.
In the morning, Bork has regained a bit of consciousness and drinks a healing tonic. Shah and Fraas also both stir to consciousness, however something is very wrong. They both wake up screaming once they see their friends “WHO ARE YOU! WHERE AM I!?” Shah unsheathes his dagger, which immediately starts speaking to him, and he drops it, startled and aghast. Fraas and Shah share panicked glances, “RUN!!” Gfed invokes a calming spell, but they are both still very much confused as to who they are, where they are, and why this strange group has brought them here. Eventually, the calming spell wears off and the two run off in different directions. Sentinel chases down Shah and Rand tackles Fraas. The two are bound with rope, but still causing quite a ruckus. Rand suspects this amnesia is some kind of after effect from the Shoggoth. “Fraas, your name is Fraas; we’re your friends!” “Frogs? My name is Frogs? I guess that sounds right.” “And you are Shah.” “Shaaaaaah what? Shaaaaa?”. The binding, perhaps obviously, does nothing to still their panic. Fraas begins shouting “Help! Help!” and works his way free from the bindings. He doesn’t make it far before Rand tackles him again. “Help! Help!” Bork warns him to be quiet, but it doesn’t work, so Bork proceeds to work Fraas unconscious with his club. After several hours of attempts, Gfed finally is able to cast the group’s scroll of miracle and thus repairs Shah and Fraas’ memories. Fraas, having wetted himself during the incident gets Aven’s help in washing his garments, after which he quietly air dries them, only moderately embarrassed.
Seemingly back to normal, the party descends to inspect runes in large room. The inscriptions are disrupted by ritual designs, but Fraas is able to comprehend them, as it is in the same language as the other arches in this area: “tread ye not into the chamber of the king of nightmares”. In search of Laush’s book, they make way to the only unexplored room in the aquarium, from where the spiked net was shot at Shah. Past the ballista, is a small living quarters for a group of skum. After quickly dispatching them, the group finds tool-making and metal-melting equipment, and a book that appeared was intended as fuel for the smelting fire. Gfed grabs a crumpled, torn-out page near the furnace and hands it to Laush. After detecting magic, it has the same aura as Zinn’s book, but the torn out page is no longer magical, even after Gfed uses a mending spell to reinsert it.
Three days pass on the way back to town. Archibald reports that Yannik came and went. Fraas plays chess with Sentinel on the airship deck. Rand visits his family, his mom still sad about his father’s departure. Bork convenes with Archibald about borrowing the use of his eye. Sieffre’s daughter, Sylviana and Gfed play music in the airship’s galley. Shah washes his clothes and floppy hats and goes to find the magistrate who implores, “will you stay longer this time?” Bork brings Archibald’s eye to Zinn and Laush, who look at their books, with no effect on Laush’s repaired page. Bork gives Laush a potion to comprehend the runic writing; the same runic language found in the library during their recent dungeon experience. Rand checks on the progress of the town’s aerial defense prototypes. Beck has things under control. The refugees seem happy to have tasks. Azariah is now working with Archibald, putting her knowledge of spices to good use.
Fraas makes his way up to the crow’s nest, where he finds Belheim Zinn sleeping under tattered covers with piece of moldy cheese and stale bread. She said Zinn told her to meet her here seven days ago to help find her family. Fraas takes her down to the ship’s galley to get a proper meal and rallies the rest of the group. Belheim Zinn looks skittish, and meekly asks for help finding her husband and child. Rand tells her that it’s our current objective and we’re working on a plan. Laush sits down next to her, and shares an instant bond with the young half-orc as she voraciously finishes off her meal. Aven, possibly inebriated, can be heard across the room talking a poor sailor’s ear off about some new idea.
Rand takes Belheim Zinn to go speak with Azariah at Archibalds. When he gets there the two are rapt in jubilant conversation. Archibald provides some refreshments, while Azariah and Rand discuss the details he needs to make way back into Belheim. She agrees to gather intel from the other refugees and produce a parchment with all the information she can get. Belheim Zinn gulps down her first taste of ale, and in response her face is equal parts intrigue, disgust and euphoria. As he takes his leave, Rand notes how strange it is that Azariah and Archibald are always giddy around each other and they both went upstairs together. He thinks it must be some kind of coincidence.
At daybreak, when the group gathers, Aven is nowhere to be seen. One of the sailors reports that he went off saying he had some brilliant idea, “powerful beyond your wildest dreams.” He may have been drunk. From the ship they hear a large BOOM! SPLASH! Flotsam near one of the beaches. Fraas adopts cloud shape and heads toward the source; the rest follow along the shoreline. Weird little gears, red, bloodstained fragments of wood, fleshy bits, Aven’s hat floating next to the dock, with bits of scalp and an ear still attached. A fish surfaces to gulp down a floating eyeball.