9 Sorrow, continued, as remembered by Birel
After defeating the remaining hejkins in their lair, we were able to take a breather and claim what loot was to be had. Most of the hejkins had nothing of value, but we scavenged about a hundred dragons from the bottom of the chuul pit, and the leader had a couple magic items of note—Zuri identified gauntlets of braxat power which Bost took (along with a non-magical but lavishly dyed belt) and a safewing geode amulet which I claimed. There was also a small room off to the side containing a table and some ink which Zuri appropriated, explaining that it could be used for rituals.
We were tired from the battle but still too wound up to sleep, so Vilsis and I headed back out to check on the door we saw earlier that seemed to have some sort of ward or rune trap on it. When we approached this time all signs of magic had disappeared, presumably due to the death of the hejkin chief. We left it locked for the time being and returned to the hejkin lair. It stank, but at least it was cooler than the desert, and it had only one entrance to guard. We slept.
Upon waking we proceeded back to the door—there was nowhere else to go—and forced it open. A short way down the hallway a pair of alcoves branched off to either side, each with a basin of liquid and a cup. One was maroon and the other aquamarine, which brought to mind the story of Junius and Crespa, but we could find no sign of Felix or his sword, so we continued on.
Eventually the corridor opened up to a large chamber where we encountered some reptilian-insectoid creatures known as kruthiks. The first few were ornery but not especially dangerous, but we soon found out that those were just hatchlings, and when the parent appeared things became much more interesting. Vilsus was quite successful at picking off the runts, but the large beast boasted a sturdy carapace which seemed nearly impossible to penetrate. Fortunately most of its attention was focused on Bost, who does not bleed easily himself. Eventually we took the creature down, but the battle was fatiguing.
In addition to the door through which we entered the chamber, there were two more doorways, but one was blocked by debris from what appeared to be rather thorough cave-in, so we went the other way. This took us through a corridor that had off to one side a tiny room with robe scraps and broken jars, and a sizable crack in the wall on the other side. The first substantial room we came to contained the remains of the kruthik eggs. (Looks like kruthiks may have arrived relatively recently through the crack in the corridor and set up house, after which the hejkins locked, reinforced, and trapped that door to avoid fighting them.)
Continuing on we came across another pair of alcoves with urns and some grim-sounding warnings, possibly to discourage looting of the following chamber, which was quite a find. The chamber itself was unsettling, with statues depicting some sort of hybrid snake people, and a shallow pit full of small snake skeletons which produced a hissing sound despite no visible signs of life. But most importantly, there was a chair on which was set, nestled in a pile of bones, a magnificent sceptre with a golden pommel. I was about to reach for it when some of my companions brought up misgivings, going so far as to suggest that we just leave it alone. Zuri claimed that there was real magic still at work in the room, but that sceptre is probably worth at least as much as Felix’s sword, and I’m sure we could sell it to Choum for a good price even if we never find Felix. The discussion started to get heated when Bost, who had been looking pensive, finally declared, “Well, the adventure is scaled to our level.” This halted the conversation while we all tried to figure out what he was talking about. I guess it must have something to do with primal energy. In any case we all agreed that we could leave the sceptre alone for now while continuing our search for Felix. It should be easy enough grab on the way out.
Delving deeper into the caves we entered yet another corridor, which forked into a mossy door on one side and a passageway with a dim green light on the other. Vilsus and Zuri, being the quietest of our troop, ventured off to investigate the light. They described it opening into a large room with an altar in the center and walls covered with carvings of snakes, each of with a pair of dimly glowing green eyes, casting an eerie glow about the room. We went through the mossy door.
The room this entered into was covered by fungus, as were a few crouching shapes off to one side. We stepped along the pit to investigate, keeping our distance from the amorphous masses, which brought to mind stories some of us had heard of myconids, walking fungi noted for completely inscrutable behavior. According to legend they behave neither like people nor like animals, in some cases staying inert and aloof despite cajoling and even threats, and in other instances flying into a fury without provocation.
While we were discussing this I looked back and noticed that the shapes were now blocking our exit, although none of us saw them move.
Until they opened their eyes.