Portals through Time

Traversing the Kardell Caves

Having spent a night at rest, the characters packed up camp and then prepared themselves for the journey deeper. Forming a circle around the goliath-built door, they lifted the heavy iron bar and dropped it with a heavy clang off to one side. They pulled open the door, steel and spells all ready and aimed at whatever might come out. Nothing came out.

Cautiously creeping forward into the next cavern, they found a massive chamber with tunnels spreading outwards both from their level as well as halfway up the tall chamber—where they thought they saw a hint of movement. When it disappeared they set to examining the tunnels, choosing the one that seemed to head most westerly.

Venturing for some time, much of the traveling was easy work—the tunnels were spacious and had few hazards other than the occasional pools of muck. Then, to their dismay, they found their tunnel opening into a large chamber—some thirty feet up one side, an pool of vividly blue-green liquid below that gave a light hiss when they dropped a copper down into it. Realizing how relatively branch-free the long tunnels they’d come down had been, the party concluded that if they’d picked the right tunnel there was no way to avoid crossing this room. Ever so carefully, they let Kilya take the lead, edging out horizontally along the cave wall, slamming pitons into small, sturdy cracks, then descending to the ground below.

Tossing their packs down to Kilya, the rest of the party followed, all enduring a few scrapes and bumps but only Cordelia having the unfortunate luck of slipping down into the acid pool—scurrying out only to find the burning acid still clinging to her skin and clothes and searing at her hands as she tried to wipe it off, though then moving to a corner away from her comrades to kick and shake the foul liquid off proved more effective.

Resuming their forward march, the party found the tunnel to have grown less hospitable as they pressed forward. Hours went by as they walked, doubled over and at times with their knees all but pressed to their chests as they had to squeeze through the narrow and bumpy path, often slipping down small rises or being cut by small stalactites they didn’t fully manage to avoid. It was with a collective sigh of relief, then, that they found the tunnel opening out into a small, circular room where they found finally stand straight, hands on their backs.

Examining the chamber, though, they found that it was a dead-end, except for a tall, vertical chimney, a goblin skeleton below a small blood stain at its bottom. Realizing that a slip here could have fatal consequences they unanimously agreed that attempting to traverse it would be madness, though when Cordelia sent Moose up to examine the room above they did find large fungus, indicating it was likely to be closer to the exit, or at least organic life. Nonetheless they realized they had to head back. Staring, for a moment, at the cramped tunnel welcoming them back inwards, they sighed and squeezed back in, knowing, at least, that there would be open traverse at the end.

The party took a night’s rest after their many hours underground, during which time they saw a goblin scouting party stumble onto their well-hidden camp and then, entering its magical ring of light, scream and run in surprise. The rest of the night passed without incident, though, and after they walked all the way back to the entrance—seeing the claw-scratched goliath wall as an unfortunate reminder of how far they hadn’t gotten—they found the next path to prove easier to finish. After hours of walking they emerged through an opening some twenty feet off the ground into the same room—they suspected, seeing similar features to what Moose had seen as well as a dark, funnel-shaped pit at one end of the room—they would previously have had to traverse the cave chimney for.

Climbing down into that chamber they noticed there were again small acid pools—seemingly just tinier versions of the large one they’d crossed earlier—and that the mushrooms they’d detected were most of three feet tall and black as night. Doomspore fungus, they reckoned, nasty things with spores that’d get into your lungs and for whom meat was their favorite meal. The last thing they noticed was that there seemed to be a number of tall, gangly creatures sneaking forward—away from them—through the cave. Pursuing at a safe distance and keeping the torch out of clear sight, they saw four of these tall, thin creatures—some seven feet tall but only a foot or a bit more across at their widest—two that seemed to have large, worm-like creatures on poles. Cavern chokers, they thought was probably what the tall ones were, but the worms they were unsure about.

Attempting to keep a safe distance, after a few chambers these things seemed to notice them, as they started striding from halfway across the room back towards where the party was standing. Hiding as best they could, they laid in wait, preparing as best they could for if battle were to be joined. But the chokes sent to investigate where the party hid were called back by a sort of bark and then they heard the sounds of battle—a very one-sided one, as far as they could tell. Realizing the chokers likely would head back through their position even if they won this fight, they decided to attack while they—or their foes, whichever side seemed manageable—were distracted.

The party found the cavern chokers and their worms—which now reared up off the floor displaying “mouths” that were a ring of horrible, toothed tentacles—attacking a small group of goblins. They prepared to fire as one choker’s fist came slamming down into a goblin, a horrible crunch and a whimpering as it did. They unleashed a volley of magic and steel, drawing the attention of the chokers and, after they realized the party presented the much larger threat, found themselves facing off against a half-dozen foes. They held resolutely, though, and—after some initial whimpering and retreating off into a corner—the goblins assisted, sending crossbow bolts flying into the backs of the chokers, and the day was won. They were dusting themselves off, cleaning the ichor off their clothes and gear, when one of the goblins stepped forward, pointing to his chest and saying, in a high-pitched screech, “Skid!”

Names were exchanged and then Skid started pointing past the end of the chamber—to where the party figured was most likely the west—and then repeating “Skid! Safe!” until finally the party understood and, nodding, followed him forward. He led them onwards, deeper into the caves, until finally they opened into the largest chamber yet, a tall, circular vault, a few makeshift barricades up at the entrances, holes carved in neat patterns in the back tall, roughly vertical wall, and a large fire built in the middle. Grateful for signs of civilized life, the party, led by Skid, strode forward.

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thedougman

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