From a side tunnel, the party watches the passing drones as they carry bulbous larvae upward. Fane finds it unsettling how they ignore the glowing light of his shield, but he trusts in Naali’s senses. Were it not for her, they would now be fending off those very ants.
Seeing no end to the line, the group slips further into the tunnel. “There are too many. We’ll need to find another way.” Duragilis remarks grimly. Fane nods his agreement, stretching his arms to dispel the onset of fatigue. Without a word Naali sets off down the tunnel, willing the others to follow. The path twists and turns away from the main hall until it opens into a large cavern. A stench overwhelms the group as they enter.
Against the far wall stagnates a large puddle of green slime. Countless ant carcasses lie heaped at its edges, their oozing entrails seemingly its source. “What darkness is this that has defiled these creatures so?” questions Duragilis in horror. Naali quickly silences him.
“Listen.” The group hears it – the slight sound of something dragging slowly across sand. Fane scans the room and spots the source at the edge of the light. A twisted thorax slowly inches toward the puddle, a trail of slime in its wake. Fane moves closer to investigate. As the silver light of his shield fills the cavern, he notices something else above him. A patch of slime hangs from the ceiling, and it’s moving…
...Elrick wakes in pure darkness, head ringing. Was the elven wine so strong it blinded him? With a snap of his fingers, he casts light on his situation. “Blast!” The wizard falls back, clutching his throbbing head as the brightness stabs like daggers into his eyes. Struggling to his feet, the mage notes the ground around him is damp and sticky. “I thought I was past the seasickness…” Cautiously, he opens his eyes only to be greeted by a ghastly sight – death litters the floor of the small alcove. The carcasses of deer, giant frogs, large insects, and a few humanoid shapes vary in level of decay. With eyes wide in horror, Elrick barely manages to see the giant ant at the mouth of the alcove…
...Moving in unison, Naali and Fane made short work of the attacking ooze. Duragilis’ arrows lanced into the other as it crawled out from the twisted ant carcass. A loud boom echoed down the tunnel ahead of them. Not knowing what it was, but thinking it could only mean trouble for their companions, they set into the tunnel. Another boom sounded and then another. Naali saw a hint of light as the tunnel bent in front of her. Headlong she rushed out into the path of two vicious looking ants, and there, beset by a swarm of ant hatchlings, stood Elrick the Orange.
The party was happy to be reunited, but still had others to find. Fane led them onward and into a large chamber. Frail sand pillars supported the ceiling and the floor more swampy than sandy. At the edge of the light, the group noted a shadow. Drudge knocked an arrow and took aim, but cried out in surprise as he saw who it was – Fangrim!
Fang turned toward the light and his body was sent flying into the wall as a impossibly large, two-headed ant appeared from the shadows. With a battle cry Drudge let fly at the ant as it rushed him. With thoughts only on his friends well-being, Fane left the Queen to his companions and rushed to aid Fang. The battle was fierce, but the party set upon the giant ants with a vengeance. Taking several hits in rapid succession, the Queen released a burning cloud that stung like acid. The ants seemed to thrive on it, while the party now found themselves overwhelmed.
Surrounded and struggling for breath, Naali’s defenses faltered and an ant equally as large as she latched onto her back with giant misshapen jaws. Naali fell, leaving the Queen a direct path to Elrick and Duragilis. Cornered, they feared for the worse…but fortune smiled upon The Torchbearers. The two heads of the Queen got tangled in her frenzy to finish off the intruders, and as she struggled to free herself, Drudge planted the crucial blow, dropping the deformed beast dead in a heap.
On the other side of the cavern, Fane persevered, fending off ants as he kicked rubble off of his buried friend. With a desperate shout of frustration, Fane was rewarded – Fangrim emerged bruised and bloody but with enough strength to help turn the tides. With the Queen down and Fang back in their ranks, the party caught a second wind and redoubled their efforts.But with the scent of their dead Queen fresh in the air, the ants just kept coming…
|Elrick’s Journal||Fane’s Journal||Naali’s Journal||Duragilis’ Journal|