Mick Notgravelfinger and Sneakytoe approach the party—who have taken to calling themselves the Posse-Slayers in recognition of the frankly startling amount of killing they do—with a proposition: in the lowest parts of Rhiverpuhl, there are multiple entrances to the Estuary, a collection of caves and tunnels rumored to be full of treasure and connected to ancient settlements, long abandoned (collectively referred to as the “Isünderground”). Most entrances to the Estuary have been blocked off due to safety concerns, but one known entrance remains behind the Kilnor Dwarven Institute for Mental Wellness. Mick Notgravelfinger and Sneakytoe had sent four associates (Thorin, Fili, Kili, Bombur) from the Rock Top Inn Barkeepers Alliance to infiltrate the asylum and try to gain access to the Estuary tunnels for future treasure-gathering expeditions.
Nobody has heard from these four in about two weeks.
A few days ago, a fifth associate (Kathra) was sent to investigate, but nothing has been heard from her either.
The two barkeeps tell the Posse-Slayers that if they can find out what happened to their associates, the party can become honorary members of the Rock Top Inn Barkeepers Alliance and will receive full support in future endeavors. They also promise a monetary reward for the return of bodies: 1000g worth of gemstones for each body returned, 2000g worth of gemstones for each body returned alive. The party, obviously, accepts. They are given descriptions of the five dwarves, all conveniently of a rare hair color for dwarves—blonde.
The Posse-Slayers make their way to the very lowest levels of Rhiverpuhl, where the tunnels become rougher and older, and the bustle of the city dims to near-silence. After a few hours of travel, over the slight incline in front of them comes running a dwarf in light blue, loose-fitting clothes. He has time to shout “Help! Help me! They’ve—” before being frozen in place with a hold person spell from someone behind him. The party crests the hill to see two other dwarves in dark blue uniforms running up behind the first; they introduce themselves as Bartholomew and Marty and explain that they are workers at Kilnor, whereas the first dwarf is an escaped patient. Marty activates a black choker around the patient’s neck, rendering him silenced. After some discussion, Bart and Mart allow the Posse-Slayers to accompany them back to the asylum, though they tell the party that there haven’t been any visitors in at least three weeks. Bart also breaks the fourth wall with Calderón, the first time anybody else has done so.
Inside the Kilnor, Mart takes the patient away, a receptionist welcomes them and has them sign in, and Bart escorts them to an antechamber to wait for further instructions, locking and barring the door behind him as he leaves. This apparently activates a claustrophobic reaction in Mira, who decides to pick the locks in the room. They cannot follow Bart because of the barred door, but they proceed farther forward, into a viewing room with a large window (eventually revealed to be a one-way mirror) looking into a dining/recreation hall. In here are seated numerous patients, most of which are clearly not of sound mind. However, three of them are blonde.
Refusing to wait for Bart, the party heads into the reception room and tries to speak with and/or play Go-Fish with the the patients, to little avail. Grognak removes a choker from one of the patients, which merely leads to an intense bout of crazed screeching. The other party members begin to approach the blonde dwarves, but suddenly a spectral broadsword, seemingly made of black smoke, appears in the doorway to the dining hall and attacks Mira. Half of the patients in the room also begin to attack the party with their fists (the other half go get food from the counter—one blonde is in the latter group). Calderón and Mira ineffectively try to fight with the broadsword before eventually just closing the door on it, trapping it in the viewing room. Grognak and Gorthaur manage to kill the attacking patients with some help from some animated silverware; however, they only knock unconscious the two blonde dwarves attacking, hoping that these are some of the associates they’re looking for.