We last left our heroes struggling to come to terms with the brutality displayed by Thark in his rage. They still had a shard to find, however, and their quest took precedence over any lingering shock they might be feeling. Without their prisoner, they were left on their own to decipher the puzzle by which the two main doors might be unlocked.
In a stroke of utter brilliance, Knarra untangled the righthand door’s key phrase: “The eyes” became “they see”. Spurred on by Knarra’s discovery, Queck was quick to realize that “listen” anagramed to “silent”. She tapped the letters and they rearranged. She was so excited she barely noticed the burn from the infernal doors. Knarra rearranged “the eyes” and the doors swung open. They were through. Surely something epic lurked behind these doors.
Having learned from past rash actions, they crept forward. Bat shit was everywhere. They made their way around a corner and were confronted with a curious sight: some sort of underground lake had surged through the ground here, and on either side of it sat a gelatinous creature, baffling and hideous. They were slightly transparent and within could be seen bones and other detritus pulled up into the creatures as they oozed along the cavern floor. Unsure of what sort of threat these creatures posed, the party readied their weapons, but their unease was unfounded. The blobs were dispatched easily and with no untoward side effects. A few well-aimed missiles and a smash and bite from Thark and Kevin made quick work of the creatures, who made neither sound nor protest as their insides glooped onto the ground.
Their enemies dispatched, the crew surveyed their options. There were two passageways apart from the one they had come from, and with her keen senses, Queck discovered a third small passage hewn into one of the walls. Which way to go? Lester picked the hidden passage over Kenzo’s protestations that they should take the stairs downward.
Queck was first into the passage, Kevin not far behind. The others squeezed in behind her, Thark grunting uncomfortably at the compression of his massive frame. Though narrow, the passage wasn’t long, and Queck soon saw the opening at the other end. It led to another small chamber. At the back was a pool of water, and in front of the water, two large spiders dined on a disturbing repast of dead dolphin.
One of the spiders heard them, and scuttled towards the opening, clacking its mandibles in annoyance at having its meal interrupted. Trapped in the narrow passageway, the group found it difficult to organize themselves into fighting formation. Queck stepped through and past the spider, giving Kevin an opening. Knarra fired an arrow over their heads as Thark bellowed in frustration. Sick of being trapped when there were monsters to smash, Thark surged forward, bowling the spider over and pushing it back from the opening. The rest of the party piled into the chamber as the second spider joined the fray.
Now that they had room to maneuver, they dealt with the eight-legged fiends quickly. Finding nothing but bones and dead fish in the chamber, they squeezed back the way they came.
Kenzo again insisted that they should take the stairs. The rest of the party ignored him and headed down the opposite corridor. It led to nothing but more bat shit. Kenzo muttered an “I told you so” that everyone else ignored.
With every other avenue exhausted, they finally headed towards the stairway. Nigel, happily munching on his bread, offered a piece to Knarra, but was rebuffed with a sharp slap to the face. This was not the time for picnic lunches.
They had barely set foot on the stairs when Queck noticed something odd about one of the walls. Another secret passageway. Sure that this had to hide something of worth, she dashed down the revealed corridor, the rest of the party in tow.
The passage brought them to an opening only slightly above sea level. A thin wooden beam stretched out over open air, leading to a bucket suspended from a rope. Lester leapt onto the beam, bowed to his audience, and, with a nimble flip, was on his hands, walking across the beam. It creaked slightly, but held. He reached the bucket only to find nothing but dead bats inside. Queck called for Lester to toss a bat back to her, and the youth obliged before turning to make his way back over the beam.
As he strode across, the beam gave an ominous groan. He picked up speed as he felt it shift worryingly under his weight. With an enormous crack, it splintered, throwing Lester forward to scrabble for a handhold at the lip of the cliff where the rest of the party waited. Thark heaved him back onto solid ground, and the bard was saved.
Barely shaken by his brush with death, Lester led the way back to the stairwell. As they approached the opening to the secret passage, Queck held up a hand. She’d heard a cough. Something was waiting for them in the stairs.
The company charged, taking their opponent completely by surprise. He was small and blue-skinned—a blue dwarf. Could this creature be behind the disappearances plaguing the wharf?
Caught off guard, the blue dwarfie put up a pitiful fight and was soon knocked to the ground, bleeding out from his wounds. Queck recognized him for a mite, a hereditary enemy of her people. Her desire to smash his face in warred with her desire for the reward offered by the garrison for information regarding the disappearances, information that the hideous mite could provide. She sided with her greed and stabilized the creature, hoping that the Crow would offer more mites for her to slaughter. Thark picked up the unconscious creature and they continued down the stairs.
After trudging downwards for what felt like hours, the stairs opened out into a vast, dirt covered chamber, with another room beyond. The group crossed the room and approached the second chamber cautiously. It too was filled with dirt, some piled into massive mounds. Their movement into the room was mirrored by one of the mounds, which shivered and shed dirt as one of its residents appeared—a giant ant.
The party moved to the center of the room to greet the new foe. Lester pulled out a container of lantern oil and attempted to lob it at the insect to set it aflame, but his throw fell short and the oil pooled at their feet.
Closing in, the crew made quick work of the ant. As it stumbled to the ground, its exoskeleton split from head to abdomen, Kevin crowed in triumph. A rumble from one of the other mounds answered her. The party whipped around to see another large ant emerging from the dirt at their backs.
They quickly dispatched the second ant, but Kevin’s crowing attracted more from each of the other mounds in the room. Two more ants emerged, angry at the slaughter of their siblings.
Surging forward, Kenzo released a flurry of blows at one of the insects, crushing its thorax and tossing it to the ground. Thark smashed in the head of the final ant. They each stayed on their guard, waiting for more ants to appear, but it seemed that either there were no more, or the denizens of the chamber had learned it was better not to tussle with these intruders.
Leaving their weapons unsheathed and at the ready, the company explored the room. There was only one other obvious exit other than the way they had come, but that meant little in a place as riddled with secret passages as this. Sure enough, careful scrutiny of the far wall revealed an opening.
The company proceeded through, stopping just outside the entrance to another small room. Quietly, Queck indicated that she had seen something up ahead. Gripping their weapons with greater purpose, they filed forward.
A massive spider took up most of the room in the chamber. Stupefied by the size of the creature, the company paused. Ever quick on his feet, Lester threw a second container of lantern oil, and this time he made his mark. The container smashed against the spider’s carapace, drenching it in oil. Kenzo and Nigel both threw their torches, and Kenzo’s caught the spider in the head, setting the creature ablaze. It let out a chittering screech. Thark rushed forward and rammed his tusks at the spider’s multifaceted eyes, gouging a chunk out of its head. Having already sustained damage from the fire, the spider shuddered and died.
Sensing an opportunity for profit, Lester suggested harvesting the spider’s poison sacs. Very delicately, Queck extracted one, but had nowhere safe to hold the poison. The group turned to Nigel and his many clanking flasks. Unable to resist a chance to haggle and argue and generally be a nuisance, Nigel pulled out a flask and attempted to bargain with Queck. Annoyed and ready to move on, she snatched the flask out of Nigel’s hand and squeezed the poison into it, promising to pay him later.
The poison safely stowed, the group discovered yet another secret passageway. Peering through, they saw several more of the blue dwarfies. Filled with racist ire, Queck and Kevin charged down the passage, ready for slaughter. Attempting a two-pronged attack, Lester backtracked to the room where they’d battled the ants, and hurried down a second passage way to the room with the blue dwarfies. Knarra let fly with her acid darts, critically wounding one of the mites. Thark and Kenzo took down several others. The remaining two mites realized the hopelessness of their situation and attempted to escape past Queck and Kevin. As they tried to duck past her, Kevin darted her head out and savaged one of the mites with her beak. She whipped around and snapped the second mite’s head off at the neck.
The room cleared of mites, the troop headed back to the chamber with the charred spider carcass, and continued to the left down another corridor, which opened into a large hall. At the back of the room, a large mite wearing a bracer as a crown sat atop a goblin skull. He gabbled in surprise as they entered his hall. As they approached, he continued to chatter at them in Undercommon, but none of the party could understand a word of what he said. Lester attempted a question or two, but neither understood the other. Queck, having no patience for negotiation with a member of a hated species, dashed forward. Kevin beat her to the mite and began snapping at the creature. Knarra released a quick volley of crossbow fire and finished the mite off.