They continued on down beside the small tributary river. The tunnel turned sharply, and the area opened into a large cavern, partially lit by faerzress. About halfway into the cavern, the party heard screaming. It appeared to be an ambush!
Zelda blended into the shadows and fired arrows at the oncoming duergar, who were seemingly insane. She caught sight of another figure, taller and slender, hiding behind a stalagmite towards the back of the cave. In league with the duergar, or scared of them? She couldn’t tell.
Meanwhile the rest of the party made short work of the remaining duergar, who were yelling in Undercommon about “smiting” and “if you strike me down I will rise stronger than before!” None of them did. They lay dead and broken, their blood pooling in hollows in the cave floor.
“Well, that was odd,” said Minimus, wiping his sword Companion on the ragged clothes of a duergar.
“There’s something else here,” said Zelda, pointing to the rear of the cavern. The figure emerged from behind the stalagmite and approached, its hands up and showing empty. When it got close it removed its hood, showing glistening tentacles where a mouth would be.
“Another mind flayer,” grumbled Cundall.
“Another?” echoed the mind flayer’s thought in their mind. “You have met another of my kind?”
“Huum,” replied Cundall, “in Sporedome.”
“I know Huum,” said the creature. “We are from the same pool.”
“Why are you here with these…?” Marie indicated the dead duergar.
“I am searching for another of my kind, an aberration of cognition,” said the mind flayer. “My name is Galuum, of Ryxyg. These duergar tried to attack me, so I mind-enslaved them, thinking them useful tools. However they were too badly tainted by madness, and started fighting amongst each other about which of them was the true god. I was about to kill them myself when you showed up.”
“Why are you looking for another illithid?” asked Marie.
“Our Elder Brain had thought we might stay neutral during the demon infestation,” replied Galuum. “We were not affected by the madness, although our slaves were. Despite word that Orcus had taken control of a large illithid colony far from here, we thought – we hoped – we would not need to risk ourselves and take direct action. It was a constant topic of debate in the colony. Then one of us accepted ‘gifts’ from the demon lord Graz’zt. Gave him different power, and he was corrupted and lost. This is unacceptable. This one we now call ‘Rogue Thought’ and he knows too many of our secrets to be allowed to live, as if his heresy and defection was not enough. We hunt him, we think we know where he is, but we must confirm. I am hunting him.”
“Can we help?” asked Cundall.
“Mayhap,” replied Galuum. “We suspect he is hiding behind slaves in a faerzress dense area that warps magic and deflects our own powers. If this is the case, a more brawn approach my be required. With your permission Huum will contact you if this is the case.”
“You have it,” replied Cundall, ignoring the looks of the others.
The illlithid nodded and moved off.
“What?” demanded Zelda. “We’re doing jobs for illithids now?”
“Look, they’ve been fence sitting for a while,” said Cundall. “They’re ready to take action against Graz’zt. Why not get on their good side and they can help us more directly. A colony of mind flayers could be useful allies.”
“Well, when you put it like that,” said Zelda, thoughtfully.
They continued towards Zortagra.
Within a couple of hours of meeting Galuum, the party heard the roar of rushing and falling water down a nearby passage, indicating a waterfall. Once they reached the waterfall, they easily found a trail leading over the falls marked with the painted images of a squid being split by a sword.
“On the right track then,” said Cundall.
“Of course,” smiled Zelda. “Olon’s book has been very helpful, plus the information from the duergar fiddler. And of course, you have me. Hard for me to get lost, even down here.”
“We’ve been adding to the book,” added Marie. “It’s going to be a valuable work one day.”
Another hour of travel along a well used tunnel and it appeared to end at a 40-foot-tall statue of a bulette bursting out of the stone it was carved from. Its eyes and jaws were closed. In its right claw hung a huge bronze gong. They approached closer and it became apparent the jaws of the bulette was the gate.
“They’re not going to be able to be forced open,” said Minimus, looking at the jaw mechanism.
“Well then, we either wait for someone to come out,” said Cundall, “or we ring the gong and talk our way in.”
“We should wait,” said Zelda, “so we have more inform….”
Cundall rang the gong.
To be continued….