75. Back in the Lair of the Illithid

The Kuo-Toa commander leads the party and the four dwarves to the teleport disc, on to the lair of the Illithid and finally to the steel ring. Once again the party are struck by the pressure and humidity of the lair. Twenty Kuo-Toa stand guard near the arrival disc. Gordon hears the commander order half to follow him and the rest to stand ready to guard the dwarves who will arrive and collect the bodies of their fallen.

He nods towards the Illithids’ fortress beyond the huge winged statue and begins walking. The ten Kuo-Toa fall in behind the party.
The party are forced to wait outside the gates while the commander and his counterpart in the fortress discuss the party and their mission but eventually they are led into the workshop dome and to the steel ring. A Kuo-Toa stands by the ring, guarding it, another sits at the book strewn table, reading.
Two cables are attached to the 3m diameter steel ring and connect to two metal boxes. One is a simple black box 50cm by 20cm by 60cm tall with a glowing green crystal on the front. The other, a much larger and complex box, has one of the black globes on top, which displays the mindflayers strange symbols. 5 crystal balls are spaced unevenly around the rings circumference.
Through the ring the party can see another large room, dimly lit with ivory panelled walls and a large steel cylinder in the centre. The room looks unkempt and dirty and there is no sign of activity.

Talo cranes his neck over the shoulder of Gordon and Gildor trying to catch a glimpse of what the state is of the portal and to get an idea of to where Thraim may have recessed himself.

“I have no idea how we are going to repair this situation. My skills are in breaking and putting back together the breakers. Do we all go in and see if we can find a way out with the king?” Talo eyes the room for any signs of combat or remains of the occupants who have passed the threshold of the weird doorway.

Talo can’t see any signs of combat or anywhere the king might be hiding. What he can see is a 9 by 9 metre room with a 3m diameter cylinder in the centre. The cylinder seems to be hollow with archways cut in the front and back. Talo thinks it might be a spiral staircase or a well going down but he can’t see any steps from where he is. Looking beyond the cylinder (north), he can see a 3m wide corridor stretching away with light at the far end. There appear to be sealed archways on either side of this corridor and perhaps a junction half-way down. Lighting is poor, coming from a window in the ceiling at the far end of the northern corridor, there are similar windows in the room but these are dark.
There are also corridors to the left and right of the room, making it a junction of sorts. The floor is dirty and littered with rags, the odd bone and there is a strange fungus growing from an unidentifiable heap in one corner.

A black box similar to the smaller one on this side of the ring sits just inside the room. It has a cable attached too but Talo can’t see where it goes.

Gordon looks to see if it has the glowing green gem as well, or perhaps a black gem where the green one is on the box on this side? Does he recall there being any more of these ‘boxes’ in the workshop area, perhaps with glowing green gems? If there are, Gordon will grab one before they go any further.

Unfortunately the box is facing the wrong way and a quick hunt of this and the other rooms finds no sign of any other similar boxes.

Gildor examines the machine and calls out for the king to see if they might hear him from this side. Maybe they left a sentry in case someone came looking for them, “Hello. Your majesty are you there? Hellooooo! Can anyone hear me?”

There is no reply.

Gordon looks around the workshop and through the ring into the chamber beyond. “If I remember rightly that plaque on the wall says summat like ‘Living crew rooms’ and the walls and stuff looks a lot like the weird stuff the main Ithiliad dome is made out of. I think they may take us to the different parts of the same place. So if we go through this portal and we know there is no way back then I think we will have to find our way to the chambers we saw the lightening spheres in and the exit there. What do you think guys?”

The gnome turns to the Kuo-Tao commander, “Commander may I request that I am allowed to inspect the entrance to the main Ithiliad dome, I believe these two places are somehow connected and I need to look for some clues there.”

When The Kuo-Toa refuses Gordon’s request Munin whispers to him that this is definitely where Thraim went. They had plenty of time to look around the rest of the mind-bending complex and found no signs or anything that looked like the chamber through the ring.

“So it looks like this is our route in, we just have to hope we can find a route out as well.” The gnome looks around the faces of his comrades to see if they comprehend that they may be on a one way ticket with this mission.

“Has anybody tried throwing a rope through this ring to see what happens, can it be pulled back Munin?”

“So do we go through the no return portal and try to track the King down and then find an escape route, or do we go through the main dome and hope we can find our way to the crew rooms and the King that way?” asks Gordon.

Kalam played both course of action offered by Gordon in his mind, using his Illithid knowledge in an effort to ascertain which one of the two was the best course of action.

“Gordon I must admit I am at a loss here with these contraptions, I have no idea which way makes more sense. If you wish to lead that is fine by me and I am sure everyone here. Your knowledge is what is of import now not brute force, do what you think is best”. Cynan says this from the rear as he is careful not to touch anything knowing this his not a realm he is familiar or comfortable with.

Kradorn follows along the mission moving forward nicely. He didn’t mind giving the pole-arm to the fish-man… people. That was why he purchased it. The fish-men seem to know more about the mindflayer’s magic then they do. Hopefully the’ll find the king.
Seeing that there is no threat, Kradorn relaxes and watches. Taking in the surrounding, just in case something goes south.

“I say we go through and find our way out. Waiting for him to find his way out is going to be too long.” The dwarf has little to add in light of his inability to fight anything here.

“Gordon, this is beyond my knowledge. I’ll follow your led,” says Gildor. “As long as these controls have not been touched we should go to the same location the king went to, right?”

“Let us try this idea to tighten something at the end of a rope and see what happens when we pull it back.” says Kalam.

Munin shakes his head “Of course we tried pulling them out with a rope. But as I said, the ring only allows travel in one direction. If you throw a rope through and try to pull it, it won’t come back. It behaves as if the damn thing’s nailed to the ring. Things only go one way.”

“Right then, are we all set. Let’s go and find Thraim, I do hope he hasn’t strayed too far from this point.” With that Gordon hefts his axe, gets a good grip on it and walks towards the steel ring. He takes a deep steadying breath and steps through, hopefully followed by the rest of the group.

Gildor says, “I’m with you Gordon. Once we get past the ring let me lead the way so I can make sure there are no traps. Saphire stay close my dear. I don’t like this anymore than you do but we have to save the king.”

Gordon’s foot lands on a hard marble-like floor and he steps through into the cool, darkness of the room beyond the ring. The air hums and a slight vibration is evident from the floor. Somewhere off to his left a faint and distant animal noise echoes through the corridors.

Gildor follows next, moving past Gordon and into the room. The elf cautiously looks down into the shaft in the centre of the room. It drops about 30-35m with lit archways about 7m down and at the very bottom. Handles or ladder rungs are set into the walls between the northern and southern arches but they are spaced 2.5m apart, too far to climb down.
To the east, Gildor spots something large lying in the corridor (2), though in the darkness it’s hard to make out what it is.

To the west Gordon can see three, short humanoid forms lying in corridor. They look like they’ve been there a long time. It’s hard to tell what they were but they have a dessicated look and plant or mushroom fronds seem to be growing out of them.
The thing in the corner of the room with fungi growing from it looks like another body but it’s not a creature that Gordon recognises. It might be a Kobold but it’s a little too big. Gordon turns to the box on this side of the ring and finds that where the other box had a green glowing gem, this one is mostly dark, except for an odd blink of red every five seconds.

The box is connected by a cable to a knotted ball of wires, which in turn connect to a fragile looking loop of silvery wire which forms the perimeter of this side of the ring. Small crystals hang from this loop and Illithid text surrounds it.

The last of the dwarves step through the ring and Munin growls “Right, well he ain’t here. Where to next?”