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 ?

Adventure summary

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.

The tale

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.

The characters

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 places

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).

The task

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.

The encounters

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 Sealing-Stone

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.

The Well

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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