Boccob’s Barge approached the dwarven citadel. While light could be seen through windows, no other signs of life were evident. The hammership flew an orbit around the citadel and saw only one docking cavern open. They entered the citadel and securing Boccob’s Barge to the dock.
Half-eaten, dead dwarves lay on the pier, their weapons broken and bloody. The lights the dwarves used to illuminate their corridors still shone. Straxius, Veya, Zinniana, Flint, and Sumner ducked into the first room they encountered. It appeared to be some sort of bathing pool adjacent to a sweat room.
More dead dwarves lay in the hallways leading toward a cluster of defense towers. The crew found some weapons scattered on the floor near a weapons rack, and a few unused suits of chain mail, but no life.
After the first set of defense towers, they continued down the corridor that ran along the remaining docks. More dead dwarves lined the halls, fallen by an unknown foe who seemed to fight tooth and nail, ripping and tearing… and eating their way through the dwarven defenses.
In the final docking bay, there were two small longboats. They quickly piled the gear they’d found so far into one of the boats, and then continued their exploration of the citadel. The crew passed through some crew quarters. Dead dwarves lay eaten in their bunks, others on the ground with broken weapons. Scattered among the defenders were others, tall humanoids with talons and jagged teeth: ghouls.
From the half-eaten state of the defenders, Straxius surmised the ghouls were being controlled by someone more powerful than themselves; otherwise, there would be nothing left but bloody bones. They continued into a great tiered room, lined with cold forges. The tiers led to a room in the center: the bridge of the citadel within the Great Forge.
Inside the bridge was a dwarf in fine clothes, torn to shreds, surrounded by his defenders and ghouls alike. The captain’s rutter lay open on the table, several pages torn out. Straxius grabbed it and they continued their search.
After exploring a few more sections of living quarters, they came across a market. Food stalls were overturned, their wares scattered across the floor, rotting. They group made their way to the stair leading down to the cargo hold.
Barricades made from cargo crates blocked the path through the cargo hold. Dwarves and ghouls alike lay strewn across the barricades. The clusters of bodies were a trail telling of a running battle leading from the upper level through the cargo hold to yet an even lower level.
Stairs from the cargo level opened into a cavern in the deep recess from which the citadel was built. The cavern was covered with ice and when they entered the first chamber, they saw why: a churning, bubbling fountain of ice. After a brief examination, Straxius realized it was most likely a portal of some sort leading to the para-elemental plane of ice.
Sounds from an adjacent cavern drew their attention. They entered to see ghouls gnawing on hanging slabs of meat. More interested in fresh blood than frozen entrees, the ghouls turned and attacked. The battle was over swiftly, but the crew moved to watch if their fight drew any other attention. One of the ghouls grasped a small sack with a few gems inside taken from its dwarven meals.
As they advanced through the caverns, they found another ghoul corpse, trapped beneath fallen rocks and ice. Something was clutched in its outstretched hand.
A black pearl.
It radiated almost overwhelming magic and after Sumner and Straxius examined it closely, they determined it was a piece of something bigger, a pommel stone, perhaps. They moved deeper into the caverns.
They entered a large cavern containing a small pond and a clusters of ghouls digging at a stone door. The crew attempted to sneak into an attack position, but Flint’s clanking gave them away, drawing the ghouls to them. Two of the ghouls exuded a horrible stench and seemed to lead the rest of the pack, splitting up to come at the crew from both sides of the pond.
The battle was short, ghoul were no match for the experienced crew of Boccob’s Barge. After the battle, they opened the stone door to reveal half-a-dozen emaciated, starving dwarves: the lone survivors of the citadel.
None of them were craftmen or casters; they couldn’t get the forges running so the citadel would move again. Straxius offered to take them to a safe port. They left the caverns behind and took the small longboats around to Boccob’s Barge. They agreed to give one to the dwarves and decided to keep one for themselves for use with their ship.
As they pulled out of the dock, they saw another ship approaching. The dwarves identified the ship as the one carrying the ghouls. The crew decided to return to their original course as the ghoul ship returned to the citadel. Straxius and the others surmised they returned for the black pearl they left behind.
Boccob’s Barge cruised through the phlogiston on their way back to Realmspace. Straxius and Sumner examined the pearl. After a few simple experiments Straxius realized what it was: the pommel stone to the Wand of Orcus. He told the others how Orcus would sometimes let his wand loose among mortals to wreak havoc. It was obvious that’s what the ghouls were after. Whoever was controlling them was using intent on reassembling the wand.
To what end, they did not know. They knew only that whoever was searching could not be up to anything good. The crew doubted they could peddle the pommel stone and throwing it into the void would accomplish nothing; some creature, some evil would be drawn to it.
Straxius turned to the book of charts and began to research the missing pages….