The Closing of the Under-deeps
La Fermeture des Sous-Profondeurs (4A 100)
Long after the War of the Ring, the Deeps of Moria are still a dangerous place for the Free Peoples of Middle-earth. A great Troll-lord, Umagaur the Pale, rules Khazad-dûm from his hidden lair near the Under-gates, far beneath the Seventh Deep. Voir Chapitre 13 – Les Sous-Profondeurs et Chapitre 14 – Le Royaume du Balrog. He calls himself the « Troll-king of the Hithaeglir. » His Orcs and Trolls once served the Balrog. They now rampage through halls long abandoned by the descendants of the Dwarves that carved them from the living rock. But through all of this gloom, a beam of hope has finally broken.
Over the centuries, many rumors have sprung up concerning denizens issuing out of the accursed Under-deeps. With the fall of Sauron, the Naugrim discovered that one such tale is indeed true. Apparently, soon after the coming of Felyashono the Valarauko, Durin’s folk constructed a magical Stone of Sealing designed to forever close the Fire-demon in his lair and seal the way up from the Under-deeps. The Balrog, however, captured the sacred monolith and hid it in his abode on the Sixth Deep. Afterwards, no one dared recover the Stone, for its location was unclear and all who approached the Valarauko’s abode perished.
Felyashono is now dead, his spirit cast from Ea during the duel with the Istar Gandalf. The Demon no longer haunts the Black Chasm. Nevertheless, both his successor Umagaur and his lieutenant Muranog guard the prized Sealing-stone. While hope exists that some foolhardy souls might be willing to find the ancient Stone and use it to seal the gateway to the Under-deeps, the fundamental question remains : who is brave enough, skilled enough, and lucky enough to risk their lives to make Moria safe again for the long-displaced Khazad ?
Requirements: A high-level party of adventurers willing to risk their lives to rid the world of a great source of evil.
Aids: A detailed map of Moria, plus the assistance of Cori, a Dwarf whose knowledge of mines and caverns should help the adventurers locate the gateway to the Balrog’s Lair.
Rewards: Whatever wealth the party can gather once Umagaur is gone—plus the gratitude of the Khazad, who will finally be able to return to their ancestral home.
Over a thousand years ago, in the time of Durin VI, the Dwarves of Moria dug their mines too deep into the rock under the great mountain Silvertine. Too deep, for there, far from the sun’s gaze, the unsuspecting Khazad cut into the Under-deeps and disturbed the rest of an ancient minion of Morgoth. The creature, a fearsome Balrog, had lain there trapped and hidden since the defeat of their master so many millennia ago. Stiffed, the Fire-demon slew his unfortunate rescuers. He then embarked on a campaign of death and doom that drove the Dwarves from their hallowed halls. Soon, the cries and grunts and screams of Orcs and Trolls rang through the corridors that had for so long reverberated with Dwarven song. The Dwarves were expelled from Moria, although they vowed that one day their people would return.
Before the Naugrim fled Hadhodrond, they constructed a magical Stone of Sealing. This round, magical, Mithril-inlaid cap fit the hole they accidently delved that opened the way into the Under-deeps. The Dwarves planned to seal the gate from the chasm below Khazad-dûm. They hoped close the path up from the bowels of Endor.
The Balrog defeated this plan. His power prevented Durin’s Folk from reaching below the Sixth Deep. Thus, the Dwarves’ efforts proved for naught. There was no way to reach the cursed hole. Later, as the war raged and the Naugrim retreated, they even abandoned the Sealing-stone. The Balrog subsequently claimed the Stone and set it in his lair—as the dais upon which he took his meditation every day.
Over thirteen centuries later, a Dwarf named Bali’ returned to Khazad-dum, hoping to make good on his ancestors’ vow. He marched on Hadhodrond at the head of an able Dwarf-host and challenged the Fire-demon’s supremacy. Unfortunately, the Balrog’s might had not diminished with the years, and the Naugrim proved unequal to the task. They briefly reclaimed their city, only to perish in the ensuing flay. Balin, the last King Under the Mountain died, and his people again vanished from Khazad-dûm.
Not long after Balin’s fall, the Fellowship of the Ring, under the leadership of the Wizard Gandalf, made their way through the dark halls, hoping to traverse Durin’s Way undetected. Their luck ran out though, when the Balrog himself emerged from his lair to do battle with the intruders. The Balrog engaged Gandalf in a struggle that claimed both lives. Thereafter, the Grey Wizard was reborn as the White, but the monster lay forever dead.
Once the Balrog had fallen, his foulest servant arose from the Under-deeps. He called himself Umagaur, the « Werewolf-slayer. » No longer forced to attend to his master’s ancient crypt, this huge, pale Troll-king took the Balrog’s place as Lord of the Black Chasm. He challenged and subjugated Ufgamog and Muranog, his chief rivals, and assumed the « Fire-throne » before the Dwarves could reclaim their kingdom. Thus, Moria passed into the hands of another terror.
While far weaker than his predecessor, Umagaur is a formidable foe. He relies on his wiles and his servants to maintain sway over the Dwarf-mansions. Ever-careful, he refuses to enter battle personally, leaving such risks to those who serve his whims. He maintains his well-cloistered lair in the chasm beneath the Seventh Deep, where he can keep watch on all those that would challenge his power from above or below.
Given Umagaur’s deep repose, a hardy group of adventurers could now make their way down into the old Balrog’s Lair and steal the Sealing-stone. They might even reach the Seventh Deep, where they could finish the job that Durin IV’s people left undone : the sealing of the foul Under-deeps.
For information regarding the Trolls Umagaur and Muranog, see Chapitre 17–5 – Quest for Durin’s Legacy.
A rugged Dwarf with dark brown hair and a twin-braided beard, Cori has ruddy skin and thick-calloused hands. His appearance betrays a life devoted to scratching precious metals out of the uncaring earth. Cori is, after all, an expert at building tunnels and finding his way through natural cave systems. His skills will prove invaluable to the adventurers.
Cori has also made a thorough study of the maps of Khazad-dûm. Although his maps are far from complete, he can fill in most gaps using educated guesses. Once he descends into the Seventh Deep, for instance, he should be able to locate the entrance to the chasm out of which the Balrog arose.
Although not an expert on Dwarven legends, Cori knows Moria’s rich history, especially tales about adventurers claiming to have made their way in and out of Khazad-dûm. He theorizes that Durin VI’s embattled people managed to get the Stone of Sealing down to at least the Fifth Deep before they were finally stopped. Records from Balin’s rule lead him to surmise that the Stone is somewhere in the Sixth or Seventh Deep. Cori has no clue regarding the Stone’s present whereabouts.
Since the Stone is by all accounts indestructible, even by the Balrog, it is undoubtedly still somewhere in Moria. Cori suspects that the Balrog might have arranged to keep it in a secure refuge, a hiding place near his own home. If so, it is probably somewhere within the Demon’s lair. This means that Cori must lead the adventurers down into the Sixth Deep, where the Balrog made his home. It is a daunting task, for though Umagaur has all but abandoned his master’s lair, other guardians block the way.
Cori never wanted to be an adventurer. He would have been happy digging mines for all of his days, but he could not find it within himself to pass up the opportunity to win Khazad-dûm back for the Khazad. Hardly excited about the prospect of placing his life in such jeopardy, he remains a reluctant and dour explorer. While he manages to occasionally affect a pleasant demeanor, the extreme stress constantly cracks his facade of amused confidence.
The GM will need to be familiar with the Balrog’s Lair (cf. #50) and Hwain’s Well-hall (cf. #56). The Stone of Sealing is in the Place of the Valarauko (cf. #50d). It serves as the top of the dais upon which the old Balrog rested when tired. The entrance to the Under-deeps and Urnagaur’s homee lies at the bottom of Hwain’s Well.
Should the PCs be interested in seeking the many fantastic treasures Khazad-dûm holds, you will need to know the King’s Chambers and Armory (cf. #54), the Chamber of Axes (cf. #27), and the Crypt of Alvis (cf. #31), too. (For more about these places, see Chapitre 12 – Lieux notables).
Led by Cori, the PCs must make their way to the Sixth Deep, find the Stone of Sealing and use it to cap Hwain’s Well. Along the way, they must avoid being killed or captured by Umagaur’s servants. Once the well is sealed, the adventurers may take advantage of the new situation by attempting to gather the ancient Dwarven treasures before someone else does.
Most of the encounters will be generated randomly on the Master Encounter Chart. Note that, by the time of this adventure, Ufgamog is dead and Muranog has assumed control of Umagaur’s forces as his reluctant lieutenant. The new leader of the Uruk-Ungingurz (see Chapitre 15 – Les créatures de l’ombre, which refer to Orcs and Trolls) is a Troll named Ulgrunk, one of Ufgamog’s former bodyguards. The other two-thirds of that bodyguard now serve under Ulgrunk’s rule and keep strict control over this particularly nasty Orc tribe.
The Stone of Sealing is a large piece of basalt carved into a four-foot circle. Backed with Mithril, the Stone is only four inches thick. Still, it weighs enough that it cannot be lifted easily, even by a strong man.
The magic Sealing-stone is one of Moria’s greatest masterpieces. Although relatively thin, it is unbreakable, owing to the intricate pattern of Ithildin runes inlaid across its edges and upper surface. Not even the might of a Balrog could crack this Stone. Legend says that its Quenya and Melkorin messages hold the same meaning :
« No one may pass without Mahal’s Blessing. »
The Sealing-stone now rests (face-down) in the exact center of the Balrog’s dais. A thin veneer of black basalt hides the Mithril disk that serves as the artifact’s backbone. There, Felyashono rested each day while the sun—the kindred spirit Vasa—reached its apogee. While protected from Vasa’s rays by several millions of tons of rock, the Fire-demon still felt its effects. For three hours around noon every day, he took his meditation while lying on his back on the stone platform. (He derived pleasure from the fact that he spent this time lying atop the one device that could have been used to trap him in the Under-deeps.)
When the PCs reach the Balrog’s Lair, Umagaur is away in the Under-deeps. The Pale One is much less concerned with the affairs of Khazad-dûm than he is with dealings below, and he is often absent for long periods of time. It happens that this is one of those intervals.
Still, the Balrog’s Lair does not lie empty. Muranog has appropriated the place for himself. He recently erected a sleeping pallet upon the dais, casually covering the Stone of Sealing. Muranog has seen the Stone before, but he has no knowledge of its nature. Umagaur knows of the artifact but, like his master the Balrog, the Pale One keeps the secret to himself. He dares not let an ambitious lieutenant like Muranog hatch a plot to trap him in the Under-deeps.
To obtain the stone, the PCs may have to tear the Balrog’s Lair apart They also face inevitable encounters and battles with Umagaur’s servants. Of course, if they can capture the disgruntled Muranog—which is no mean feat—he might reveal the Stone’s location. His hatred toward Umagaur is deep, and he would love to see his rival cast out of Maria.
By holding Muranog hostage, the PCs might be able to escape the Balrog’s Lair virtually unscathed ; however, remember that, should Umagaur appear, the lesser Olog will quickly become expendable. Umagaur cares nothing for his kin, especially those that fail to maintain their own freedom.
The act of moving the Stone down to Hwain’s Well is in itself a forbidding challenge. Since the artifact it is too heavy to carry for such a long journey, it must be rolled. Inspired PCs should realize that, in this way, it can be handled with ease, particularly with an adventurer guiding it from either side. While this method may prove difficult in some of the narrower passages, the PCs should be able to manage the task.
Hwain’s Well is the only known route to the Under-deeps. Originally filled with water, Dwarven miners drained it when they discovered what they thought was Mithril in the rock along the well’s old floor. Their decision to convert the well into a mine-shaft proved to be their undoing. Their cut into the Under-deeps below only served to awake Durin’s Bane.
While the Balrog reigned in Khazad-dûm, the Dwarves had no opportunity to use the Stone of Sealing. The Fire-demon initially kept the Naugrim at bay. (Besides, he rarely returned to the Under-deeps.) Then, once he learned of the Stone, the Balrog captured the device and bore it off into his lair.
Now that the Demon is gone, the situation has changed. Umagaur ignores the Sealing-stone. He leaves the Balrog’s Lair in the Sixth Deep for days and even weeks on end, confident that the location of the Stone remains a mystery. Thus, the time to seal the Under-deeps forever is ripe.
Hwain’s Well-hall is constantly guarded by three Tereg of Muranog’s elite guard. The trio must be defeated before the Stone can be placed over the well’s mouth. Then after clearing debris from the old (now-broken) porphyry cap, the Sealing-stone may be used as a lid. In order for it to work, though, the Stone must rest securely over the top of the aperture. Precisely set and aligned, its Dwarven runes may then « awaken. »
Any character (e.g., Cori) possessing skill in the art of runes should be able to accomplish this task, although it is a Very Hard (-20) maneuver. Once the Sealing-stone is in place, Umagaur rises ; if the nines remain dormant, he can dislodge the cap. Timing, then, is critical. The PCs have only 2–20 rounds to align and awaken the symbols.
Adding to all to this suspense, Umagaur’s creatures patrol in full force once the Stone is stolen. Scouring the Deeps for the PCs they may reach the Well-hall in time to create a climactic finish to the adventurers’ sojourn.
Once the Stone of Sealing has been placed and activated, it may seem as if the adventurers’ job is done ; in truth, it is only beginning. Although Moria lies free from the « Curse of the Under-deeps, » Hadhodrond is still infested with Orcs and Trolls and untold other horrors. So long as the treasures of Maria are there for the taking, these creatures haunt the Mansions until the unrelenting Khazad arrive to reoccupy their ancient home.
The PCs need not seek the city’s treasures immediately after trapping Umagaur in the Under-deeps. They should leave Moria, at least temporarily, to regroup and recover. If they wait too long, though, the Orcs and Trolls begin leaving without the prompting of enemy blades in anticipation of the impending onslaught of Dwarves. These creatures plunder Khazad-dûm’s remaining wealth—unless they are persuaded that doing so would burden them in their flight (or, better yet, someone beats them to it).
This adventure, then, can serve as a starting point for a long campaign dedicated to the retaking of Maria. It will involve the banishment of both the Balrog’s minions and other monsters like the Water-drake and the Cave-worms. The PCs may also have to contend with treasure-seekers hoping to profit from the reopening of the Black Chasm.
The adventurers can be sure that Moria will be a place well worth visiting for many years to come. For their success in trapping Umagaur in the Under-deeps, their names will be heralded by Dwarven bards for all time, and they can expect that the Khazad will count them as true Dwarf-friends.
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