The keelboat continued on its way after the encounter with the kuo-toa. After rounding a bend, the river tunnel opened up into a vast cavern that was nearly fifty feet high, dimly lit with the glow of faerzress. The tunnel widened into a rocky shore to the right, creating a 140-foot wide dry cavern adjacent to the river. The cavern narrowed near the back end and terminated in a set of twenty-foot wide steps leading to a pair of massive stone doors.
“This is our destination,” said Arrizz, pointing for Minimus to steer the keelboat to the river’s edge. They tied up the keelboat to large rocks.
“My people who were collecting the goods should be here,” the drow said. “I fear something has happened. We should be careful.”
“What are they?” asked Minimus, pointing at two statues amongst rubble. The halfling, along with Cundall, and Marie moved forward to investigate the them. Zelda moved further into the cavern, looking out for threats, flitting amongst the rubble, her elven cloak blending in with the background whenever she stood still. Arrizz stayed on the keelboat, also looking out for threats.
The rubble of two destroyed statues, each with both crustacean and female human features, littered the floor of the cavern. In the midst this rubble stood two crudely carved statues with glimmering pearls for eyes. One statue was male and the other female. Each statue bore a mix of both human and fish-like features, and had bat wings spread behind it as they reached for each other.
“Weird,” said Cundall. “I think this rubble is the statue of the kuo-toa goddess, Bliddlepoop or something.”
“Blibdoolpoolp,” corrected Marie.
“Whatever,” Cundall said, waving a hand. “The main point is someone has destroyed it, next to a her temple, and erected some other half kuo-toa, half demon statue.”
“Doesn’t sound good,” said Minimus. “I wonder if Olon and the Protectors have encountered these demon worshipping kuo-toa.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if they were all kuo-toa poo by now,” agreed Cundall.
“Along with Arrizz’s friends he was supposed to meet,” agreed Minimus. The halfling looked unhappy.
“What do you care?” asked Cundall. “His mission isn’t our concern.” Minimus didn’t reply.
“There’s a concentration of faerzress in this area,” said Marie. “We need to be careful about its effect on us. We’ve got braincap fungi, right?”
“Right!” said Cundall, patting his bag of holding as he moved towards the winged statues. He pulled out a dagger and reached up to the statue’s face and began to pry out one of the pearls. There seemed to be some sticky substance holding the pearls in place, Cundall assumed it was some kind of glue. However when the pearl popped out easily he suddenly realised it was not glue but some kind of sealant as a green-grey gas came billowing out of the cavity. Cundall coughed and retched, even though he had managed to avoid most of the poison cloud. The druid held up the pearl as if it were a sign of victory. Then peering into the vacant eye socket to make sure there was not another bladder of poison gas behind the other pearl, he popped that one out as well. Then he looked expectantly at Marie. The wizard sighed and used mage hand to pull out the other pearl once Cundall was out of the way. The poison gas cloud from that statue drifted harmlessly away.
“50 gold each, I reckon,” said Minimus, looking at the pearls in Cundall’s hand.
“Might be good for spell components,” said Cundall.
“There’s something going on in here,” said Zelda, with her ear to the stone doors, waving to attract the attention of the others. “Sounds like a ceremony.”
“Well, let’s go spoil it,” said Cundall.
They pulled the temple doors open, surprising the occupants. The scent of rotten fish filled this ruined hall. Puddles of murky water covered the green stones of the floor. Eight stone pillars carved with crude fish imagery stood in two rows in the center of the room. Three sections of the wall and floor were collapsed and filled with stagnant water. Near the back of the hall was a slab of black stone covered with bloodstains and four shackles holding a naked human male. He was surrounded by kuo-toa, one of which was holding a sacrificial dagger.
“Dorian!” cried Marie, recognising her brother. Zelda was already firing, and had six arrows away before the kuo-toa could even react. They did not take long to overcome, although one managed to escape by jumping into a pool, which was obviously much deeper than the party initially thought. Minimus popped Dorian’s manacles open with little effort using his lockpicks.
“What happened, Dorian?” asked Marie. Her brother, an ex-Red Plume, had been beaten and seemed exhausted.
“Attacked by the kuo-toa on the boat, and some white tentacles came out of the water,” said the young man. “They grabbed Olon and we didn’t see him again.”
“The others?” asked Cundall.
“Locked up in an oubliette with some drow,” Dorian replied.
“What’s an oubliette?” asked Minimus.
“It’s place you put people… to forget about them,” replied Cundall.
“The drow must be the ones Arrizz was to meet,” said Zelda.
“Are you able to walk?” asked Marie.
“Slowly, I think I have a couple of cracked ribs,” said Dorian. “Who said adventuring was all glory and treasure?”
“How did you get here?” asked Zelda.
“Those water filled holes lead to water filled tunnels,” said Dorian. He coughed and then winced. “The water filled tunnels lead to the other kuo-toa, their demonic leaders and the other prisoners.”
“Demonic leaders – I knew it!” said Cundall. “What can you tell us about them?”
“They have some charm ability,” said Dorian. “And they are smart, they use the kuo-toa’s madness against them. The kuo-toa think they are gods.”
Cundall was looking at the pools. “Marie, I think it is time for us to shape-change into something that can swim. Maybe crocodiles.”
And so Cundall using shapechange ability, and Marie using magic, both shifted into the bodies of crocodiles and explored the water tunnels. They found the kuo-toa breeding pools, filled with females and young and eggs. The found a lair of three giant white octopuses, partially lit by something glowing in a pouch. Cundall remembered the wizard Olon had a coin with continual flame cast on it, ( Sporedome – Part 1) and suspected that this was where Olon’s body had ended up. The octopi looked like they resented the intrusion into their lair, and so Marie and Cundall retreated.
Another tunnel surfaced into a hall broken perhaps by an earthquake. Gnawed bones and rotting corpses littered the floor of this barrel-vaulted hall. Crude drawings covered the walls of the room, each depicting a giant toad eating two winged humans. A hideous stench fills this enclosed space. The source of the stench was a huge toad demon, eating the remains of a drow. It watched the surfacing crocodiles with interest, but they submerged again before it could investigate them further. They returned to the others, changed back into human form and told everyone what they had seen.
“There’s another tunnel which no doubt leads to the demons and the oubliette,” said Marie.
“We need to rest,” said Cundall. “We’ve used up a few spells.”
“Surely not here,” said Marie. “It’s too close.”
“We don’t have anywhere else to rest other than outside the temple near the river,” said Cundall. “We’ll just have to take the risk.”
To be continued…