After spending so many sessions trapped in Dwimmermount, I'll admit that I was glad to see the characters free to roam around the wider world once more. What I have come to realize is that, even though a megadungeon makes a terrific "tent pole" for a campaign, it's good to have regular breaks from it. Relentless megadungeoneering is a recipe for burn out, no matter how well designed the megadungeon and how enthusiastic the players and referee. I suspect a lot of the drag I felt in running recent sessions was due to the fact that it was one session after another of dungeon exploration without anything "palette cleansers" in between. That's why I had hoped, for example, that my players might decide to send their characters through the portal to Areon (or Kythirea) -- it would have provided a welcome respite from Dwimmermount itself.
Fortunately, there was a lot for the characters to do on the surface and they spent the entirety of the session doing it. I don't believe a single die was rolled the entire evening; I know there was no combat. Indeed, I spent an hour or so sitting back and doing very well little while the players, in character, no less, debated various courses of action amongst themselves. One of the interesting things that's evolving is that Brother Candor is seriously re-evaluating his place within the priesthood of Tyche. Now 7th level, he possesses a fair degree of power. He's noticed that the high priestess Morna has become more stand-offish and reluctant to aid him, possibly seeing him as a rival in the making. Likewise, he's come to think of himself more and more as being the Iron God's servant, or at least agent, which often leads him to wonder if perhaps he shouldn't break away from the temple of Tyche and start up his own cult.
There's also the fact that, since exploring Dwimmermount, Brother Candor has begun to wonder very seriously about the nature of the gods and their relationship to the world. Leaving aside the whispers of the demons, who claim there are no gods at all, there's the notion of the Termaxians -- or "false Termaxians," as the foreign magic-user Fulk called them -- that apotheosis is something that "true spirits" can achieve with enough effort. Likewise, Candor has seen evidence of gods other than the eight worshiped as part of the Thulian Great Church and it's made him wonder just what the truth is. Dordagdonar, though, as an elf, an unbeliever in any gods himself, is likewise interested in this question, which is why the two adventurers hoped they might find answers to their questions in hidden libraries either in Adamas or Dwimmermount -- if only they could find them.
There was briefly talk of approaching Saidon, the high priest of Typhon, about using his library, but Candor ultimately decided against it. Typhon's cult is officially support by the Despot of Adamas and would have little to gain by assisting a couple of ne'er-do-wells in undermining its position. Likewise, Saidon remains an ally to the PCs and Candor worried that such a request might jeopardize that alliance. That's why the cleric sent Gaztea to seek out the aforementioned Fulk. As a self-proclaimed "true son of Turms" and "servant of the throne of Thule," Candor thought he might know more. Unfortunately, Gaztea discovered that Fulk had not been seen in several weeks, after having had several meetings with cloaked figures in various out of the way places. With Fulk nowhere to be found, this left the PCs with one choice: the Boss of the Rats.
Following Rico's instructions, they descended into the sewers beneath Adamas, before coming to the court of the Boss, where hundreds of rats, mice, and other rodents were gathered, many with petitions to make before their leader. An important-looking rat came up to Candor and addressed him, while Dordagdonar and Dr. Halsey -- who insisted on coming along -- looked on. Using speak with animals, Brother Candor learned that the Boss was beside himself with anger and frustration, ever since his daughter, Muriel, had been kidnapped by some humans. Muriel was apparently already a source of embarrassment to the Boss for unspecified reasons and other rats were keen to use her to overthrow him and put themselves on the top of the rodent heap. Smelling an opportunity to make a deal with the Boss for mutual assistance, the PCs sought an audience with him.
The Boss's chambers were located inside a large wooden tun accessible through a grand -- to a rat, anyway -- circular door, with a raised dais at the far end on which the Boss stood. To enter, Candor and Dordagdonar had to crawl in on their hands and knees, while Dr. Halsey waited outside in order "to observe these fascinating creatures more closely." The Boss knew a lot about the characters, implying that his rats had been keeping an eye on them ever since the "zombie incident" several months ago. Brother Candor asked if the rats could help them locate some books that might answer some questions they have, leading the Boss to suggest they talk to another rat named Specs about that.
Candor also asked about Fulk, which led the Boss to explain that the magic-user -- who is from the city of Volmar, an ancient Thulian colony to the south that never fell and whose leader calls himself the emperor of Thule -- has been causing trouble for the rats. The rats make a good living by sneaking humans and others into Adamas through the sewer system. Lately, the passages they use have been blocked by human guards in the employ of Fulk and "a scary mug called Cyrus." Hearing the name of the Thulian vampire did not make anyone happy and led Dordagdonar to curse Candor for his having allowed the undead soldier to survive when they had several opportunities to destroy him. Fulk and Cyrus have teamed up and are bringing a number of wizardly types into the city through the sewers, along with a lot of "arcane equipment." Dordagdonar suggested that some of this equipment is likely the alchemical gear missing from Dwimmermount and that Cyrus intends to use to create more vampires like himself, though to what end he could not guess.
Needless to say, this didn't make the Boss very happy, who added that Cyrus was responsible for kidnapping his daughter as a way to ensure the rats' non-interference in his plans. Since the PCs want to find Fulk (and Cyrus) and the rats aren't able to do much on their own against him, the Boss suggested they work together to deal with this problem. In exchange, he'd help them get the information they needed and do anything else they could for the party. His only non-negotiable condition was that his daughter not be harmed, since she was "special." When pressed on what this meant, he stated that "she takes after her mother," which the PCs eventually learned meant that she could take on human form. In fact, Muriel spent most of her time as a human, getting into all sorts of trouble -- "She got us into a turf war with the Thieves' Guild a couple of years ago" -- and generally proving an embarrassment to the boss. If the PCs promised to bring her back safely, the Boss would spare no expense in helping them "whack Cyrus and that wizard guy."
The party agreed and then set off to restock their supplies and ponder how they might proceed. Brother Candor worried that Muriel might in fact not have been kidnapped at all but rather willingly working with the Thulians. If true, that complicates the situation considerably. However, they had little choice but to involve themselves in this bizarre matter, if only because Cyrus' release was their fault and the last thing they needed was more vampires on the loose in the city-state of Adamas.