Having taken a moment to regroup, the heroes were about to press further into the Sacred Stone Monastery when they were surprised by a sudden change of plans. Panapapi Ticcotarp Copperspackle was clearly out of sorts, acting more strange then normal, and at one point leaving with Skault, only to return shortly without the huge Uthgardt. In his brief absence, the heroes were joined by two Zhentarim agents sent by Nalaskur Thaelond sent, Ioboplu Iigrestri and Itiwiw Ghurkiog.
As the heroes continued their discovery, eventually they ran aground of the Abbess, a powerful woman they would come to know as Hellenrae. The Abbess called upon the servants of her god, Ogremoch, creatures of stone and malice known as gargoyles. With the help of the gargoyles Hellenrae beat Iobo and Monish Knight into unconsciousness, forcing Rinn and Ghurk to surrender.
After their surrender, the heroes were moved to cell in a subterranean level of the monestary. Knight and Iobo, eventually regained consciousness within the dank earthen, iron-barred, cell. As soon as they could conceivably lift a pick, they were forced to join the others on the subterranean level, mining stone to use for reinforcing the monastery above. It was nearly impossible to tell when a day passed amidst the tunnels they were forced to work in shackled servitude. There was only the reprieve of too-short rest periods to mark the passage of time, and the heroes existed in a near constant state of exhaustion. More than one captive had fallen dead in their labors, and the only mention of the event was the complaints of the oorog overseers who complained about the slim amount of meat of their bones, as it was their intent to sup upon the corpses of the recently deceased in the evening.
What is more, at random intervals prisoners were removed for the cruel amusement of the Duergar that patrolled the monastery as mercenary guards. Of late, the gray dwarves most recent amusement had been one of taking obviously weekend and emaciated captives and showing them a bounty of food prepared from the kitchen above. They used their natural ability to enlarge them selves to stick the food in a crevice atop a particularly slick stone wall, and mock the captives as they tried and clambor up to the food in desperation, all the while throwing rocks at the poor unwitting participants.
The heroes have gotten to know Ghurk and Iobo a little better. Haling from Womford, these two have grown up in the service of the Black Network. Although slightly more common than bugbears, Ghurk as a dragon born always felt removed from the others, and formed a friendship with Iobo based off a metal sense of feeling different. Ghurk and Iobo have been working together for years now, mainly in the protection, mercenary, and assassination side of the Zhentarium’s interests.
In addition to the heroes, there are quite a few captured townsfolk and merchants who are now forced to labor beneath the earth, seventeen in total. The woman and children were mainly made to haul the stone up to the surface level, perhaps because there was less fear of them running off. They were all malnourished, and heart breaking to behold. The normal quiet Iobo voiced a general disgust and lament at the circumstances wherein this is how they slaves would spend their childhood.
Among those forced to work below, was a group of Reghed barbarians that Knight assumed were mentioned in the report provided to him by Inglor Brathren. They were tall of frame, though they are now sickly thin, and always seemed to be cramped within the subterranean confines. Among them was the orc that was mentioned in the report, though he said little. Apparently he was en route south to issue a warning to Triboar, though of what, the heroes cannot say. When the Reghedmen were asked if they were of the Storm-Gorgon tribe, as Inglor’s report mentioned, they looked a little indignant
“We are not Uthgardt!” Their female leader had proclaimed, somehow summoning what little vestiges of pride her captivity had not robbed her of. “Besides, there are no Storm Gorgons, not for a decade to more.”
The heroes had also come to meet Brundelthar, a Harper scholar who was with the delegation that brought the heroes to the Dessarin Valley in the first place. He confirmed that the earth cult ambushed the Mirabar delegation south of Belliard. Earth cultists and their captives were ferried across the Dessarin River by pirates who received his stolen beloved books as payment. Bandits who rode giant vultures ambushed the earth cultists somewhere in the Sumber Hills. The bandits captured the delegate Deseyna Norvael. Brudelthar and the rest were brought to Sacred Stone Monastery. The sage was put to work, but delegates Rhundorth and Teresiel were taken below to an unknown fate. Brundelthar tries to keep up a positive demeanor, but his health is declining rapidly.
Recent, hulking beasts, half man and half bull have been seen and heard in the monastery. They were sent from “Below” to watch the monastery until more monks can be recruited.