After another exploratory foray into Khaz Zirâk, Frëa had come up with the idea that the derro worshipping the beholder Taxul may have knowledge about the slave trade in the area. There was even a slim chance that Kaisha herself would be held captive by them. With intelligence from the illithid Daldruum about when Taxul could be expected to be away from the lair, she wanted to raid the derro area, and hopefully interrogate some of their captives. Falin, Lewis, and Rusty volunteered to join her.
Their first day’s journey south was quite eventful, culminating in a battle against a large group of bandits. Those that attempted to flee were hunted down, and the whole gang were laid out by the wayside to shock and sicken passersby.
The group spent the night at the Southern Watchtower, and then had an uneventful next day, as they crossed Drycliff Valley and came to the chasm before the North Gate. A few giant vultures, feasting on the drow corpses laid out in the sun, were scared off from their meal, and the adventurers descended into Khaz Zirâk.
At an intersection, they were ambushed by a group of hunting quaggoths, which they slew. From their thonot they recovered a matching bracer to the one recovered from another thonot in an earlier raid.
Once down to the Central Hub, the group started looking for the way up to the waterworks. When they were getting close to derro territory, they entered the mostly dry waterways, and so bypassed large numbers of derro, who were probably intended as some sort of guard against raiders.
When the group left the waterways, using magic to mask their otherwise noisy exit, they found themselves in an area with many, unprepared derro, including two savants with magical powers. The mad derro masses were more annoying than dangerous, but did prove quite a distraction from fighting the two savants. The group finally managed to kill one savant, and all the derro outside a large reservoir area. The adventurers then flooded that area, ridding themselves of the cackling, crazy menace. Presumably, at least the one surviving savant must have escaped the watery death, given his demonstrated capabilities.
The group plundered the derro’s small treasure trove, and interrogated their slaves. One of these was the unfortunate drow Ardulax. He had been ordered to put on a magical crown by his superiors, but the crown had turned out to be a helm of opposite alignment. His colleagues soon tired of Ardulax’ newfound softness and pacifism, and threw him out. He was captured by the derro while wandering alone.
Since Ardulax showed an interest in tending the sick and injured, one of the derro savants taught the drow about medicine, and he became a capable healer.
Ardulax also had quite a bit of information about the general situation in Khaz Zirâk, although it may be somewhat outdated given the length of his imprisonment. The illithids have their local colony in the Royal Mansions. The group of various outcast drow which Ardulax used to belong to has allied themselves with the illithids, and have their bases in the Noble Mansions. The illithids are at odds with the beholder Taxul, and the adventurers suspect that Daldruum provided them with intelligence, specifically so they would inconvenience the beholder and its derro worshippers. If that is the case, it has certainly paid off.
When asked about the likely fate of Kaisha, Ardulax said that if his outcast drow had captured a dwarf, and wanted to sell her as a slave rather than doing something more unspeakable, they would probably try to sell her to the duergar. A sizeable group of them live somewhere in the lower city areas, probably in one of the mines.
Finally, Ardulax told the group that the derro savants had been trying to find a way to get up through the waterworks to the mountain lake on top. While their magical powers would probably allow them to get there personally, apparently they needed some ordinary derro to come along. Ardulax did not know why they wanted to do this. It was thought that with water breathing (and perhaps some sort of cold protection) it should be possible to get up through the waterworks and arrive in the lake itself, but it might be easier to scale the mountain from the outside.
The group freed the rest of the rather brutish prisoners (drow, derro, and one quaggoth) and left them to their own devices. Then they activated a Rune of Teleportation, and brought Ardulax along. He has a trying time ahead of him as a drow in human lands, and may well be relieved to aid adventurers in the future in their missions away from Chepdale.

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