The new Caretaker doesn’t contact the Trade Union again for a week’s time. In the meantime, they turn their attention to the sealed vaults in Tattergloom Hall. Peluma unfortunately discovers the hard way just how clever Savatine Fell was at trapsmithing before she masters the art of evading his work. Once opened, the vaults reveal the hoarded secrets of many guild-clans: things that would surely infuriate the guild-clans if they learned other people had them. Peluma immediately runs off with the Night Sweepers’ belongings, and most of the rest are given back to the guild-clans in question (though not after some browsing). The exceptions are a book of secret rituals of the Gate cult and sacred incense of the Sun cult (which Sym keeps for himself), a Sewerjack map (kept by Dewlian), and some paraphernalia of the Four Gates. Peluma spends some time researching the Hermitage, and learns a little from the ranking Disciple Widderwatch, but some of her questions remain unanswered.
At the end of that week, the bells of the Clock Tower ring in an odd four-toned pattern, once every five minutes, well away from the hour. The Trade Union takes that as a summons and heads to the Clock Tower. There, the new Caretaker informs them that there are no pulse-stones stored in the building, but that he has determined how to create a new one. They are apparently crafted from blood quartz, and he tells them that it is usually obtained from the mines below the Forges.
The Trade Union heads for the mines, already prepared for trouble; given that the dwarves called by the Locksmith apparently came up through there, they certainly expect more danger below. It doesn’t take long for Fireboss Bellowsmelt to confirm their suspicions. She mentions there’s been trouble below, and tells them Oreboss Chrysovar will explain further.
Once they’ve taken the elevator down to the mines, the Oreboss elucidates. There have been ambushes, both from native beasts and from outland dwarves. He assigns two orcish miners, Chalked and Sidian, to go with the Trade Union and help them retrieve the blood quartz. Before leaving, Dewlian and Sym study a pair of very old gate-markings that lead to what Chrysovar calls “gate tunnels.” The two also joke about the tunnels being a gullet of some sort of great devourer… perhaps due to a half-remembered scrap of lore?
The orcs prove to be willing conversationalists, even if they favor hushed tones. Hinge is particularly careful during the journey, and his vigilance pays off: when listening down branching tunnels, he hears the sound of tapping. The miners warn him that it’s tappers, weird fey that will try to lure people into cave-ins, or lure beasts of the tunnels to the miners. The group proceeds forward with greater haste, but the tappers have clearly noticed them. The sounds come from many directions.
The ambush comes when the tunnel crosses another, lower way: an iron-shod tapper comes bounding down each side passage, while massive, armored, bipedal beasts with curved beaks and long hooks for forearms thunder down from fore and rear. The group moves back-to-back on the bridge to fight them. Hinge tries to hold off the two tappers and one of the hook horrors, which is a tall order; even when he knocks one tapper over the edge with Flattener, the other foes are still enough to nearly dismantle him. The fey level particularly wicked blows with their sharpened picks, and when they manage to bring someone down, deliver a nasty kick with an iron boot. At the other end of the bridge, Dewlian is hooked and nearly devoured, barely holding on before the beast flings him into the chasm. Sym’s magic helps to turn the tide, and Dewlian is able to clamber back up after a short skirmish with the other head-punting tapper on the lower level. Hinge falls in action, but both horrors follow suit, and Peluma pulls the head off one of the fey before the other flees.
The Night Sweeper brings Hinge back to functionality as the group rests. During the lull, Chalked curses and raises his pick against something on the wall; every member of the Trade Union sees some sort of glyph before the orc eradicates it. Though the two minors are unwilling to speak further, Dewlian eventually convinces them to tell him about the Great Devourer, an elemental prince of terror that the miners dread. The mark is one used by his cult, in an attempt to awaken the tunnels so he might feed.
With added urgency, the group moves to the area where the blood quartz was last seen. They find a particularly large and promising protrusion, but it’s surrounded by the same glyph: the quartz seems to be playing the role of the eye within the earthen maw. As Peluma works to carefully extract it, they realize that the quartz seems to be at the center of a body devised for an elemental, still part of the wall. It’s tense going that requires the efforts of the whole group, but they manage to free that piece, and find another promising chunk, before hastening back.
Oreboss Chrysovar explains a bit more about the enemy, and offers to purify the blood quartz before it’s taken to the Clock Tower. They accept, and Hinge agrees to dispatch more Battlemen to assist the miners in coming days. On the surface again, they bring the two blood quartz stones to the Caretaker, and spend a bit of time relaxing afterward.