Berend - Dwarven Fighter 4
Corrash - Dragonborn Warlock (Fey-Pact) 4
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard 4
Finial - Half-elf Paladin 4
Jonas - Human Ranger 4
Mord - Dwarven Fighter 4
Romto - Halfling Cleric (of Pelor) 4
After returning Penelo to the warehouse and sealing the entrance, the party turns their attention to interrogating him and finding out what he knows. Penelo is pragmatic in the face of coersion and quickly admits that he handles the logistics of a secret smuggling operation which is exporting many tons of the strange ore to various locations across the plain... although for what purpose, he doesn't know. He also assures them that he knows little of the creatures chased by Jonas, other than that they are acting as middle-men for the biggest buyer of the rainbow florock, a mysterious client about whom he is similarly ignorant. Neither he nor Azimuth Royt have any interest in who is buying the material or what they are doing with it, as long as the money keeps flowing and they receive their cut.
At this point the party reveals that it was in fact Royt who hired them to spy on Penelo. Realisation seems to dawn on the half-elf as he suddenly understands that he has been set up to take the fall for an operation which is by the day getting harder to keep hidden. He decides to tell them the rest of what he knows in return for some measure of protection, but this doesn't turn out to be much: the feline creatures take one delivery of florock a week down to Goffer's Ledge, an abandoned mine-working on the north-west wall of the Gash. If the company is interested in finding out what the stuff is and where it's going, that would be a good place to start.
Penelo is secreted at the mansion as a special favour, and the party descends carefully to Goffer's Ledge. The mine is old and boarded up, but through previous disuse betrays the regular passage of the creatures they're following, allowing the party to delve into the darkness after them. Almost a full day of difficult descent ensues, as the mine opens into a sprawling Underdark catacomb. Bottomless fissures, freezing waterfalls, and a web-encrusted underground lake are just some of the hazards overcome in the pursuit, and although the party eventually loses track of the creatures, they do eventually find themselves on what appears to be a path marked with iron stakes deep int he darkness.
Following it, they emerge into a huge cylindrical tunnel whose surface glistens strangely in warm azure light emitted from sconces hammered into the walls. Approaching footfalls from the west turn out to be a group of finely-dressed drow, strolling with purpose down the tunnel but snootily ignoring any attempts made to address them. The party decides to follow, and soon encounter another stranger travelling in the opposite direction: a halfling, pulling a wheel-barrow full of multi-coloured mushrooms.
Questioning the friendly fellow (and discovering that his wares are somewhat... mind altering), he informs them that he has just come from the Seven-Pillared Hall of Saruun Khel, an underground trading post where creatures of the dark can trade in neutral territory under the protection of the Mages of Saruun.
Saruun. The name is familiar, not a person but a place, the destination for whatever artefacts were removed from the burial site outside Winterhaven, and it seems, at the heart of the current mystery as well...