Yesterday had been a quite a day for each of the adventurers. None had really tasted of such trial and challenge ever in their adult lives, for never had they found themselves drawn by fate together with strange companions towards the completion of such a noteworthy quest – though each suspected each of having vastly different actual reasons.
Morning found them mostly well rested, and they made haste to return to the catacombs that they had discovered there in Keygen’s shop. With the now-trusty Keygen capering in their midst and the minds of the adventurers more keen to the task, the dungeons were inexplicably looking more friendly too. Surely a funhouse of loot, wonder and rescuable children awaited!
But many dangers were found to still lurk within the sombre majesty. Right off the bat, a band of chud-like assailants took advantage of a particularly un-stealthy room-entering routine that the party undertook, and soon the whir of arrows and the whoosh of swords was echoing through the great chamber. Battle was afoot. Benadrad hurled his alchemical contraptions to sew woe amongst the enemy. The priestly members charged bravely. Keygen even proved his mettle by blasting a crossbow bolt into one of the attackers from pretty far away, which feat the party members could hardly ignore as being evidence that maybe Keygen was actually dedicated to helping them.
Despite a vicious surprise attack, the detachment of bluish creatures in the great hall was completely routed. Its sole survivor tore off out of the unexplored back passage, and with little consideration, the small-statured cousins (who stated later that they believed the fugitive could lead them to its leader) set off in chase. Logahn and Celestine exchanged weary looks in anticipation of the coming foot-race in heavy armor, but they too followed the retreating skulk as fast as they could.
The chase led into the next room, down a shabby skulk-tunnel and to a fork. Theo, who had been leading the pursuit, stopped at this point mainly out of fear of being shanked by his quarry or by its more powerful friends, towards whom the party was definitely being led. So after a bit of catching up and then some head-scratching, everybody decided to proceed cautiously to the right into what looked like small room with no other entrance, at least judging by the map.
Apparently, this was where the skulks brought their garbage. Even the plagueborn Logahn found the putrid contents of this room pretty sick, and for a moment he longed to return to the pleasures of the illusory-forest-room, whose bittersweet charm he would certainly make his personal sanctum should they succeed in their goal of reclaiming these underdwellings. But a strange realization brought him back into the here-and-now: some of the trash was doing more than just stinking. It was fluctuating, and suddenly everybody realized that their quarry was standing right in front of them!
Or was it? The skulk did not look as spry or as mean as the one that they were pursuing. And more importantly, this guy didn’t seem to be “all there.” Literally. He was clearly a long ways down the path of becoming completely ethereal. But why? Surrounded by angry adventurers, it looked like he was going to have to explain a bit about himself.
Celestine came forward offering measured words, basically reminding the fading skulk of the obvious: that he stood no chance against them and his only real hope was to obtain mercy by providing information. But whether by virtue of its bestial nature or its woeful malady, the skulk decided to stick a sword into Celestine in a flagrant breach of trust.
Was it for the sake of pity that the adventurers did not then hack him to pieces? Not entirely. For though his surprise stab was vicious, it was clear the skulk had very little willpower left to resist them. Thus the party quickly coordinated to re-capture rather than dismember the wretched thing. Utterly disregarding his own relative size, Benadrad flung his tiny gnome body at the skulk and actually was able to tie him up long enough for Logahn to disarm him by spell. Celestine finally bound its arms with some rope.
“I’ll tell you everything!” cried the Skulk.
And everything it did tell. Or at least a lot. Apparently his “commander” knew about the missing children, and had set up shop in one of the chambers to the east. From what the adventurers could gather, this commander was some kind of bigger and meaner-than-average skulk. The prisoner was also eager to whine about his condition. He explained that he felt like he was fading out of existence. Logahn offered to end his suffering in exchange for more help, but this did not go over well. Still, the skulk went on to say that the fabled “malachite hold” was actually a level below them, and happily pointed out the stairway that lend further down into the second level of the under-city.
It was decided that although the skulk had stabbed Celestine, it was not right to summarily execute him since he had turned snitch for the adventurers. So Logahn just punched the daylights out of him until he became unconscious. Acknowledgements of success were shared, especially after someone found a key amongst the garbage labeled “Z”.
“Oh yes!” exclaimed Keygen, “That will open one of your doors!” Keygen was really becoming a pal.
After this excitement had concluded, the party decided to split up (always a bad idea!) and take a leisurely stroll around the rooms they had barreled through earlier while pursuing their prey. A spell had been set up to proximity-trigger the looping of some Elvish tragedy on a great big stage against the wall. Free entertainment! So a few of the party watched it, while some others rummaged around near the back of the stage for loot.
Lulled into a false sense of security, Benadrad and Logahn meandered off to the site of their earlier battle to pick through the remains of the dead skulks. They were unaware that sneaky Theo was only seconds away from making an unfortunate discovery behind the trap door.
Now on one hand there are your run-of-the mill fiends, but on the other there are the true creatures of the pit, that not only injure the body but also terrify the spirit with their very form! As soon as the stage door was opened, a ghastly appendage shot out, ensnared Theo, drew him down into the chamber and slammed the door. Astonished, Celestine tried to force the door, but it was being held fast; while beneath the floor, the trapped goblin was being combination crushed-lacerated by an arm that by all rights should have only belonged to one of the fel denizens of the deep.
Sensing her comrade’s peril, Celestine summoned the rest of the party with a mighty war cry.
Prying open the door only unleashed further doom. Another tentacle whipped out of the shadows and caught Celestine in a lethal embrace. Logahn, having embued his longsword with a blessing of fire, took this as his cue to start hacking. Whatever this thing was, its arms needed to be gone. Logahn swung for the tentacle grasping Theo.
The sword went clean through the arm and sliced it off, producing a shower of disgusting black gore. Everyone was pretty happy to see this. The tide had turned, and before long, the monster fell beneath a furious onslaught of steel and fire.
After the dust settled, the party took stock of their own limbs and wounds. All in one piece!