The gamble to sail the the less traveled, and often perilous skies, leagues beneath Star Crater Island, was now becoming of questionable value. Thus far, the Night Ranger had avoided other skyships in its journey, and with it any potential entanglement with elves. The cost of avoidance had been paid in damage to to the Night Ranger. Marn had performed a near impossible task in adapting the Night Ranger’s drivetrain to accept the shaft salvaged from the water wheel and purposing it as a serviceable driveshaft for the ship’s propeller. The cost of elven avoidance had also been paid in time. At present, they estimated that they would be days late for delivering the cargo to Mount Ore if they were to keep their previous pace. However, with the makeshift propulsion system in place their paced would certainly be impacted for the worse. The delay was bound to slip to weeks as the Night Ranger limped away from the small island settlement.
Weeks passed as the Night Ranger journeyed on toward the lower reaches. In time, Ortag’s delirium came to an end and his annoying return to form soon had the crew considering drugging or poisoning his rations to keep the remaining days of the trip serene. As they pressed lower in altitude, the temperature steadily began to rise. All on board began to feel the oppressive heat that plagues the dwarven islands due to their proximity to the Flaming Skies. Eventually, the unmistakable mountain of rock that that is Mount Ore was sighted in the distance. The Night Ranger limped into the port city of Ironport, the only place of service to travelers seeking trade with the dwarves. Decker had made the previous trip to Deepsky Citadel from Mount Ore and remarked at how desolate the docks looked compared to their visit here only a couple months past.
They drifted into port. While the crew began mooring the Night Ranger to one of the docks, Captain Jack Blades went to check in with the harbor master. From a distance, Decker and Zev both noticed furtive glances from the harbor master toward Ortag. Captain Jack and the harbor master exchanged some hushed words and a subtle exchange of cogs. Captain Jack returned down the docks to the Night Ranger with extra purpose in his footsteps and abruptly ushered Ortag below decks and out of sight. He then filled the rest of the crew in on the information that he had just learned. The word around town was that there had been elves asking around and offering a reward for information or delivery of an orc matching Ortag’s description. It would be best to keep Ortag hidden during their stay in Ironport.
“You’ll owe me those cogs I spent to spare your hide… With interest…” Captain Jack growled at Ortag while the lumbering brute glowered and seethed in his cabin.
“Ortag SMASH puny Dwarves!” was all the Orc said in acquiescence.
Captain Jack passed Marn a bill of trade and gave him a charge to go meet with the Tordiff Splinterpants, the local engineering merchant to whom the Night Ranger’s mining materials cargo belonged. Tordiff Splinterpants also was the owner of the Ironport dry dock and Marn was to negotiate an exchange of a share of their profit in the cargo delivery for time at dry dock and repairs to the Night Ranger’s propulsion system. Decker, more skilled with persuasion, opted to tag along with Marn and aid the negotiations. Zev and Skuttlebutt were feeling a bit cabin mad from the confined time on the boat and decided to tag along as well and stretch their legs. In the meantime, Captain Jack was off to talk with a broker he knew, Tog Splitbeard, and see if he could find a buyer for the salvage cargo that they had picked up on the island where they found Zev and the encounter with the elementals.
The party made their way to Tordiff’s office and found the old gray-haired dwarf at a desk performing some repairs to a small engine. He was irritated in the tardiness of their delivery, but some smooth talking from Decker quickly alleviated the tension and they rapidly came to an agreement for securing the needed repairs to the Night Ranger. They also learned that commerce had been light lately due to increased suspicion of elvish traders in the area that had been cutting shady deals and using strong-arm tactics to suppress local business. As they were finishing negotiations, a weasely little dwarf burst into the shop and was quickly tossed out by Tordiff. He apologized to the party and said that the guy was named Gerlin and had been hanging around for a few days trying to get him to open some worthless box for him.
As the party left the shop, they were quickly accosted by Gerlin and pestered to help him open a box he’d found while exploring an abandoned silver mine. He had lost his friend to a needle trap on the box’s locking mechanism and was trying to find someone skilled enough to open it safely. He offered the use of his lockpicks and a share of the box’s contents if anyone could open it. Skuttlebutt agreed and deftly disabled the trap. Inside, they found a measure of silver power. Gerlin seemed excited. He promised that there was more wealth of this type to found behind similar locking mechanism in the abandoned mine and offered to guide the party there and cut them in on a share of whatever was found. Decker negotiated for a even share between all of them and arranged to meet the dwarf again in an hour to begin the expedition.
Decker sought out an arms dealer named Hax Stoneteeth and got his elvish leather armor correctly fitted. He also asked Hax to put feelers out on finding a bow or firearm. In the meantime, Zev made purchse of a keg of ale and Skuttlebutt was more than happy to carry it back to the boat.
Everyone arrived back at the Night Ranger to oversee the unloading of Tordiff’s cargo, and the loading of Zev and Skuttlebutt’s bellies with ale. The cargo was unloaded and the Night Ranger was moved to the repair dock. Captain Jack returned with poor news. He had learned similar information about the suppressed market due to the elvish involvement and it was going to be difficult to get a decent price for their salvaged cargo. Tog Splitbeard had recommended that they sail up to Gateway and speak with Tomas Hawke about unloading their goods.
The time to meet up with Gerlin had arrived and Marn was suspicious of the whole deal. He voiced his opinion about just tinkering around the docks for a couple of days before they could get underway to Gateway. But the rest of the crew was curious and won him over to the adventure. They met Gerlin, who had secured a wheelbarrow, and they set off into the tunnels of Mount Ore.
They had travelled for about six hours through the dim interior of the mountain when they entered an area that was dimly lit by glowing lichen clinging to the walls. Soon, the passage gave way to a cavern forming the nexus to several different passages. Gerlin scampered across the cavern and motioned for everyone to follow him. Everyone stuck together and followed the path through the cavern that Gerlin had taken. When they had almost reached the other side of the cavern, a bolt of force streaked from the darkness of a nearby passage and created a bubble of force which immobilized everyone save Zev who was able to tumble clear of the attack. A voider priest had made the surprise attack and now was commanding a pair of Earthbane to assault the trapped heroes. They looked to Gerlin who now had a devious grin upon his lips, and then they saw two Ragers heed his command to attack. The void-mad creatures were relentless and it was a furious battle. As the tide of the battle turned in favor of the heroes, Gerlin escaped. In the end the heroes were victorious and went in pursuit of the guide who had betrayed them.
They found Gerlin in a dead-end passage that looked as if it was being used as a sleeping chamber. They exchanged heated words and learned that Gerlin had drawn them there to become converted into his army of glowmad under the banner of the Heralds of the Light. Even though it was at odds with Marn’s wish not to kill Gerlin now that he was subdued, Decker knew that it was a sin against the Lord of the Festival to let one live who was a worshipper of the void and trying to create outbreaks of glowmadness. He mercifully put an end to the miserable creature’s life. They gathered together anything of worth that they could find in the camp of the cultists and then made their way back through the tunnels to the docks. They were exhausted when they arrived back at the Night Ranger and slumber came upon them with haste.