Chapter 11 - Hall Of The Dreamers

The passageway opened into a roughly circular cavern. A ten-foot-wide ledge ran across the northern and southern faces of the room, with a passage leading away from each. Graceful arcs of natural stone bridged the two ledges in three places, although the easternmost bridge had collapsed in the center, leaving a five-foot-wide gap. Above, the ceiling rose up to a height of nearly forty feet, while below the ground dropped away an equal distance into a rubble-strewn gulf. What appeared to be six immense petrified fish lay on the floor of the crevice. The sound of whispering welled up from below, and the ground looked almost like it was moving.

Viselys looked down into the darkness, “I’d like to get a better look down there. Anyone have a light we could drop down there?”

Duxsil muttered some magic words and suddenly his pseudodragon familiar shone like daylight. After directing the pseudogragon pseudo-sun to fly up towards the center of the cave to illuminate everything, suddenly, the source of the whispering became evident; it wasn’t whispering at all but the chittering and scratching of a swam of insectoid creatures; some as big as a man’s fist.

“Bugs! Why’d it have to be bugs?” Saris groaned.

“You’re such a baby,” Liamae taunted, “What? Are you afraid of cooties?”

Just then, from the other side of the cavern came a sound very similar to the one below, but slower, and more deliberate. Climbing up onto the ledge blocking their path from this cavern emerged a horse-sized arachnid. This spider-like creature had a dark brown and yellow striped body. The front pair of its ten spindly legs ended in terrible discs studded with dozens of hooked suckers. Even more horrifying was their oversized head dominated by twin pairs of vertically snapping black mandibles the size of scimitars.

“Blackfang rhagadesa,” Urol identified grimly.

Saris, perhaps egged on by Liamae’s jab, moved out onto the stone bridge preparing to do battle with the creature, “Looks familiar. We encountered one of these creatures on the Blue Nixie when we were trying to get it back from Solar Vark. ‘Course, this one is about three times the size of that one.”

"Mommy's very angry" Duxsil pointed out.

“More like hungry,” Urol posited.

Ken-ji made a gesture and Teucihui dashed off to take the ledge that hugged the wall to try to get the creature from the back.

Suddenly, before Saris could close the distance to his mark, another rhagedesa emerged from directly beneath Saris, apparently having been hanging from the underside of the stone bridge. It took Saris very much by surprise, and he was quickly pinned. As its mandibles sank into his flesh, he screamed out in shock and pain.

“Yeah, so, maybe cooties is the least of your worries,” Liamae mumbled mostly to herself as she prepared a spell.

Viselys began to charge forward to help his friend, but noticed that the bug-crawling sound was coming from behind him, too. A third rhagadesa had emerged behind them, blocking the way back. They were effectively trapped.

“Damn!” Viselys cursed as he turned on the newcomer; he could do nobody any good if he became as incapacitated as Saris. “Somebody help Saris!”

Already committed to their course, Ken-ji and Teucihui continued to circumvent the cavern to engage the beast on the other side. Liamae began to fire Magic Missiles when suddenly a huge section of the creature attempting to eat Saris was just gone. A shower of dust rained down from where its thorax had been leaving the lower portions of its ten legs and most of its head and mandibles, which fell away doing no further harm. Those that were not immediately engaged in melee combat looked in shock.

Disintegrate,” Duxsil announced with a bit of pride, “It’s great … when it works.”

“Yeah, more of those would be nice!” Viselys noted as he hacked, slicing a huge gash through his opponent.

If Duxsil had been able to cast the spell again, it proved unnecessary as his friends finished off the remaining rhagadesa by more conventional means.

They then turned their attention back to the darkness below.

“Looks like six more of those demon-fish things we saw back in that other cavern,” Liamae noted.

“Looks like there’s something else down there, too,” Saris said, squinting.

“Yeah, a bunch of bugs. We already covered that,” Liamae snarked.

“No. BESIDES the bugs. Look!” He pointed at a bug-covered mound. As the vermin moved about, here and there, something glinted light back at them. Urol tossed a stone causing the bugs to scatter briefly, allowing them to see what they were swarming on - the skeletal body of a long dead kuo-toa; a shiny ring glinted on one of his finger bones.

“We could lower Urol down on a rope,” Saris suggested.

“I’m not so sure Urol WANTS to be lowered down on a rope!” Urol retorted.

“Nah, I got it,” Duxsil said and muttered another spell. He reached out towards the corpse and the skeletal hand began to rise as if reaching back. Then, after some invisible tugging, the ring shot loose with the finger bone still attached. The ring floated up to Duxsil, who removed the bone and examined the item with his magical monocle. “Hmm. A Ring of Evasion,” he declared.

After composing themselves, they continued on through the far tunnel, where after making sure everything was as safe as it could be Duxsil cast Secure Shelter for the group to bunker down and recoup. Viselys was keen for Duxsil to have enough magic should that Disintegrate spell be needed again.

Liamae took the time to heal Saris by way of apologizing for the cootie jab and to continue to make good on her word to Amella, though she didn't say so. The only thing she did say before snuggling up in to her bunk was directed at Duxsil. "I girl could get used to this kind of treatment, Duxsil. If you ever conjure up a hot tub in this place I may kiss you."

Duxsil chuckled as he laid back in his bunk, ignoring the raised eyebrow scrutiny Viselys threw at him. The group was soon settled and slept through the night.

Continue to Chapter 12...

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