It wasn’t at all clear how long the Undaunted had been hiding out in the wreckage on the level known as “The Gizzard.” In the beginning, Legion and Merian were the only ones conscious; Nidalru was already unconscious after her duel with Master Throatcutter and Puki and Idris were battered by debris as the heroes fell into the Maw of the Stone Thief. It was a testament to the necromancer and paladin that they kept their allies alive, using a combination of magic, athleticism, prayer, and determination. Now, they hid amongst the destroyed buildings of Hildebrande, making sure to avoid ghoul, orc, and blockhead alike.
There was no way to tell time in the Stone Thief, so Legion and Merian couldn’t tell how long it took before their allies eventually regained consciousness. The fall into the Stone Thief had been brutal; while Legion had managed to save Nidalru’s life with his magic as the Stone Thief attacked, and Marian had managed to somewhat cushion Idris and Puki, the fall was still harsher for the latter two. As the heroes took stock of the damage it was clear that Puki’s and Idris’s were damaged beyond repair. Both heroes received as much healing magic as Merian could provide until Puki had regained enough strength to start contributing in a like manner.
As they recovered, the Undaunted began to wonder just how much of Hildebrande (and its citizens) were left alive. Idris, in particular, seemed especially grim, no doubt thinking of Judith and the secret quarters of the Golden Knights. A silence had fallen over Puki as well, the dwarf’s strange connection to the living dungeon contributing to his mood. Legion, however, was secretly excited; being in the Stone Thief again meant another chance to procure a shard, another chance for his quest to come to an end…
The heroes continued to make sure they avoided being seen until they were at full health, but that didn’t mean that they didn’t do scouting of their own; as soon as she was able, Nidalru insisted on establishing a perimeter for security reasons. At one point, she returned from one of her scouting missions with disturbing news: From a distance, she saw the black dragonic meet with a high-ranking orc and his crew. She overheard them talking; the dragonic was trying to get safe passage to something called “The Maddening Stair” which apparently was the only assured way of reaching the lower levels wherein he could “deliver a gift to his mistress.” The orcs were part of Grimtusk’s faction (Nidalru recognized some of the cant they used, as it was a derivative of the Prince’s Network Language), and offered to provide the passage in exchange for…something. Nidalru couldn’t make it out, as the dragonic moved in such a way as to block sight to the orc. Nevertheless, both parties seemed to agree and shook hands after which the dragonic followed the orcs down a passage. Faced with this information, the Undaunted had to decide what their next course of action would be.