20 – 21 Etissa 2787
The party’s previous excursions into the deeper portions of the Finhold were both dangerous and profitable. As the party geared up for their descent into the sinkhole they discovered, they hoped that this new endeavor would bring a similar reward. Instead, they found something wholly unexpected.
Pearigren, the party’s designated scout, was the first one lowered into the hole. After 60 feet of featureless rock chimney, the area below her dangling legs opened into a cool, dark, dry cavern. She received a bit of a fright as she was lowered passed a large, four-armed, stone statue of a bipedal alligator god. The rest of the party descended one by one, spreading out along a steeply sloped rock that overlooked a large cave with a sandy floor. A quick investigation of the statue revealed that it was old, possibly very old, and showed signs of wear. Across the sandy floor, bones and a rusted manacle indicated that at one time, at least, intelligent beings used this cavern, though the purpose of such use was grim.
The party took the manacled bones as a warning and instead investigated a couple of smaller caves that led from the lower edge of the tilted rock to an area below and behind the idol. These caves descended and twisted somewhat and eventually met. Both looked as if they had been hand-worked a very long time ago but were so worn and collapsed that only a few signs showed that they were once straight halls. The walls of these caverns were pocked with what looked to be rat holes, though no rats could be seen. The party advanced cautiously into a small chamber riddled with rat holes and the sharp scent of urine. The walls were once ornately carved in bas-relief that had all but crumbled to ruin with the passage of time. The floor also looked to be finished, but settling and cracking had destroyed any semblance of order. With nothing more to learn, the party continued onward.
As they walked in the passage that joined this chamber to the first tunnel they investigated, eel-like creatures with long bodies and large mouths full of razor-sharp teeth darted out from concealed holes in the walls, returning to their lairs with lightning speed to chew whatever flesh they managed to rip from their prey. Fritzmaul immediately retreated from the area while the others tried to battle the creatures for a time. Galen was eventually so badly hurt that he collapsed from blood loss and would have died but Simba was able to drag his bloody body from the hall back into the chamber they had just left.
Once they had recovered from this attack, Pearigren led the party away from this side passage and back down the first tunnel they investigated. This tunnel led to a large cavern that might have one time been a grand hall, though now it was little more than a cave. Rat holes and cracks lined the walls and the party could hear a strange rustling and susurrus ahead. The far floor of the cavern was stained with what looked to be a dark, fuzzy carpet of fungus in which strange red sticks poked out periodically at odd angles. The cavern air smelled thickly sweet.
The rustling turned out to be from thousands of insects that fed upon the oily drippings of the red fungus, which was the source of the strange sweet smell in the chamber. This fungus was not simply a food source, however, as it also trapped any insect that was too greedy in a sticky mess, eventually killing it. As the party brought light into the chamber, a myriad of fat, white moths with wide, fuzzy antenna dropped from the ceiling and swarmed around the party. It became impossible to see anything in the swirling mass of white wings. Fritzmaul called upon his connection with the night sky to blast a couple of dozen of the moths, but they showed no signs of abating. The party withdrew up the passage they had just descended with the moths swirling behind and around them. Galen wisely placed a light spell on the cavern ceiling, which held the moths’ attention as the party retreated back to the large cave that held the steeply sloped stone.
With the lower caves explored, the party decided to move on to the sandy-floored area to investigate the bones. The large, open area and sandy floor were intimidating. It seemed like anything could be lurking under the sand to devour the unwary. They therefore descended into this area cautiously and sent only Pearigren and Galen forward to learn what they could about the bones, which seemed to be of some sort of reptilian, bipedal creature. The bones were picked clean and mostly intact. While they examined the bones, a thick, clear, jelly-like creature rushed at them from a small, nearby cave. The thing had four long, whip like tendrils that dripped a potent acid. It managed to lash and burn a few of the heroes before it was destroyed with magic and Pearigren’s well-placed arrows. The party regrouped to heal but had no time as the sound of their fight against the jelly had revealed them to the cavern’s true owners: troglodytes. These foul-smelling humanoids rushed from two side caves, wielding especially primitive stone clubs and even hunks of stone. Although the party suffered a few wounds, they were able to kill all those that attacked them. This battle had no sooner ended than a second wave of trogs rushed at them, presumably from somewhere deeper in the cavern complex. With the party weakened by so much fighting, this group proved harder to destroy, though they eventually killed all but one trog, who managed to get away.
Tired and low on spells and healing, the group decided to retreat to the top of the steeply sloped rock area and rest. While it may seem foolish to try and camp so near a known enemy, the terrain was very favorable and afforded the party plenty of cover while preventing any sort of ambush from attackers. They set watches for the evening, which passed peacefully until the middle of the night. Obosh was on watch, looking out over the sandy floor of the cavern, which he kept lit by repeatedly placing light spells on stones and throwing them from atop his guarding place. He was shocked, however, when the perfectly normal cavern suddenly wavered and a huge centipede appeared in the center of the area. He knew at once that it had been summoned, but could see no spellcaster or other indication of how the creature came to be. The worm’s many legs allowed it to charge up the steeply sloped rock face and race amongst the sleeping party even as Obosh managed to shout out a warning. Fortunately, the party slept with their weapons close at hand and sprang into action when they heard Obosh’s cry. Although Obosh was bitten twice, he resisted the thing’s venom. Just as suddenly as the huge insect appeared, it vanished in a noxious cloud before anyone could land a telling blow. The party remained alert for some time, but ultimately decided that their position remained secure. They settled back down to rest for the remainder of the night, which passed uneventfully.