Needless to say, the group followed the poor bastard into the cave. The walls were slick with moldy growth and the musty air elicited occasional muffled coughs. As the light slowly faded into darkness, Dietrich grabbed onto the armored shoulder of Volech, whose elven eyes helped guide the now blind human through the twists and turns. Shush however, struggled to keep pace, her vision also ill-suited to the dark. She stumbled, reaching out to catch herself on the wall of the tunnel.
An involuntary squawk echoed as Shush’s taloned fingers closed around a large spongy protrusion. She quickly withdrew her hand, and as she wriggled to her feet, she felt the caress of a thin, slimy appendage on her shoulder. The feathers on her arms raised in anxious dread. Blinded, the poor kenku had little chance. A massive tendril slammed into her side, lifting her off her feet and into the opposite wall.
Ahead of her, she heard the shouts of her allies and the clangs of weaponry. Once more struggling to her feet, Shush drew her rapier and swiped into the darkness blindly, her blade meeting only stale air. Another tendril whipped across her back. The blow stung horribly and she could feel several feathers break under her leather armor. Spinning quickly, the kenku once more lashed out with her blade. This time, there was a satisfying squish as it connected with something in the black. Further down the tunnel, a bright flash of blue light suddenly illuminated her enemy.
An abnormally large growth clung to the wall, its four long tendrils whipping wildly. A large chunk was missing from the top of the fungus where her blade had landed. The flash lasted only a moment but Shush had finally seen her attacker. She ducked low beneath the flailing appendages and stabbed up at the creature. A tense second passed before she heard the sound of tendrils slapping down against the ground. Hands shaking from the adrenaline, she unlashed a torch from the side of her pack and lit it with her flint. The Kenku peared closely at the peculiar purple fungus and stabbed it once more with her rapier for good measure, before turning and rushing up the tunnel.
Barreling around a slight bend towards the cries of her allies, she came to halt in front of a pitiable scene. Dietrich sat propped up against the cave wall, attempting to clean a bleeding gash on his chest, his eyes slightly glazed over. Ruby kneeled next to him, handing him a clean cloth and helping him to dress the open wound.
“Thank heavens you’re okay hun. We didn’t see you fall behind, and then we ran into these.” Ruby nodded toward a smoking and unmoving fungus above Volech.
“And then we ran into these” the Kenku mimicked, gesturing to her drawn rapier.
“You dealt with one yourself huh? The others are up ahead are still fighting.”
Dietrich clambered to his feet. “Thank you for the assistance my dear. We should join them before the goblin tries to eat something.” He set off at a light jog, his face stoic but wincing with each step. Echoed voices and scattered clanging could still be heard up ahead and the three rounded another bend just in time to see Ghazgrot gleefully sink his fork into a weakly writhing fungus, its tendrils falling limply to the side. Captain and Volech stood nearby over a fourth limp form.
“Well that was shitty.” Volech grumbled, and peeled off his half-helm, revealing a flowing mass of smoky black hair that fell just past his shoulders. His eyes were a wispy, greyish blue but most interesting was his series of small, well healed scar lines. Though not unhandsome they crossed his face at peculiar junctions and added a rugged texture to his otherwise immaculate elven features. He frowned at the large dent in his helm and dropped it to the ground. “Can we just finish this job please?” He pointed down the tunnel to the mouth of a small cavern.
The party crept closer, checking the walls thoroughly for more of the abominable plantlife. Peeking into the opening, they saw a cairn made of small stones which occupied the middle of the otherwise empty cavern. A long straight stalk rose from the center, occasionally emitting small bursts of spores.
“Uhhhh what is that thing?”, Ruby asked turning to Dietrich.
Dietrich adjusted his glasses and poked his nose in a little further. “It appears to be a cairn, that is, of course an antiquated method of burial, or marking of ceremonial ground.”
“I was referring to the spore-spewin’ bean sprout.”
“Oh… I have no idea.”
Captain was the first into the room, stalking around the edges of the wall until, finally content that the rod would take no adverse action, she strode up to it confidently.
“I don’t think it’s gonna do anything.” The tabaxi set down her crossbow and reached into a large satchel, retrieving an empty jar. She waited until the stem shuddered with an oncoming burst of spores, and then quickly stuck the jar overtop, catching a large amount of the spores within. She turned and shrugged to the rest of the group. “They might be useful.”
The rest of the group slowly filed into the room, and began examining the site, as the alchemist quickly broke off the stalk and pocketed a large segment of it. That the necromancer wished to unearth the cairn was no shock, although I’ll admit to a polite surprise that the paladin so willingly followed through. Underneath the rocks was a peculiar looking form. A humanoid body to be sure, but thoroughly coated in thick fungus and a soft bark.
“Unless there are any objections, I’m just gonna smash this thing,” Volech rasped looking at Dietrich for approval.
A nod given, Volech brought down his hammer on the corpse only for it to crumble easily. The form was hollow on the inside and the war-hammer had no trouble breaking through the barklike exterior.
“Most peculiar,” Dietrich muttered, as his eyes were drown to a rust-colored mold inhabiting the back wall, distinctly different in color and texture to the rest of the typical fungal growth. “We need to burn this place. The entire thing.”
Ghazgrot, who had been standing in the corner humming and playing with an eviscerated tendril suddenly poked up his long goblin ears. “We build fire?!”
“Well yes, that is the only we we can be sure that…”
“Ghazgrot get lots of wood.” the goblin dropped the tendril, and bolted out of the cavern screaming, “BUILD BIG FIRE! BUILD BIG FIRE!”
Sure enough, the weary companions stuffed the cavern full of grass, hay, and small branches, eventually lighting the fire which quickly spread to the plant life covering the walls. They stood at the top of the pit as they watched the smoke curl out of the cave and into the night sky. Together, they turned and headed back to Raven’s Crossing to receive their reward and some well earned rest. I still remember the sight of these naive young adventurers, smiling and chatting amongst themselves; recounting their version of events in the tunnel. It was refreshing to say the least, and though my attention was diverted by more pressing matters, I decided to keep tabs on these young men and women. At the very worst, they were entertaining. Perhaps one day, I thought, they might even be of use to me.