The Rod of Ruin

Chapter 5

Tunneling toward the Keep

They entered the cave in two by two cover formation. Or at least they would have, had any but Grumble known what that was, or had experience in soldiering. They were all warriors certainly, Grumble mused, but not soldiers. Valsharress was sort of a soldier, her being part of some group that protected forests or some such, but he doubted the Hamadryad put much stock in, say, siege tactics. De’Val certainly wouldn’t be the soldiering type since the pay tended to be pretty poor and Amon Al’abun’na-ir was too much a lone wolf for soldiering. Certainly they had battled together many times but Grumble got the feeling Amon was mostly fighting in the same place and against the same enemies rather than actually fighting with the group. Grumble shrugged. That would come. They’d only be together a couple of days and were only just learning what each could do.

He looked about the cave, dim light from the entrance showed several smaller shafts branching off from the main tunnel. They were large enough for a man to crawl through – provided the man wasn’t a hulking Warforged – and looked to Grumble to have been made by a creature rather than being just cracks. He turned to ask Amon if he knew what beast could make such tunnels. He was gone.

Amon shimmied through the confines of the little tunnel. It was clearly made by a creature of some kind and Amon meant to kill it. He hated tunneling creatures as he hated all creatures. He heard a chittering sound but couldn’t tell where it came from in the echos.

De’Val looked around sharply as a chittering sound echoed around him. He, Grumble, and Valsharress had taken the left fork in the cave and found a larger chamber. Several smaller tunnels ran off from the walls but it was too dark to see where they led. A surprised and angry yell burst from a tunnel to their right followed by more chittering.

“Do you know what tha..Aargh!” De’Val cursed as a large segmented thing with sharp looking pincers leaped at him from another tunnel.

Valsharress’ form morphed and grew until her now familiar armoured form stood tall. She swung her staff at the new menace, striking it’s hard carapace. It squealed and darted back down a tunnel.

The other sounds of fighting to the left continued. Grumble strode over to the entrance and reached as far in as he could. His hand found cloth and he heaved, pulling a green ichor covered Amon out. They both collapsed backwards as a pincered head poked out of the hole Amon had just left. Grumble extricated himself and stepped backward to get space to draw his sword only to fall through a brittle covering and into a pit, walls smooth and floor a harsh mess of wooden spikes.

“Ray of FROST!” came De’Val’s cry and freezing sleet covered the insect. It vanished backward as more chittering came from all around.

Valsharress looked meaningfully at De’Val as she pulled a flask if oil from her pouch. She threw it down one of the tunnels as De’Val began to do the same. The flasks shattered and oil splattered over the earthen walls. De’Val let loose a lightning strike that lit first one entrance then another. He couldn’t be sure if screams could be heard over the conflagration but silence descended once the flames died down. Valsharress helped as Grumble climbed out of the pit and shrugged off the minor damage taken by the fall.

The cave continued from the far end of the chamber and the group began moving out. Another pit was found, like the first but missing the covering Grumble had stepped though. This one had a dead creature like the ones they had briefly fought.

“Kruthik’s.” Amon said now that he could get a good look at one.

“Any weaknesses we should know about?” Asked De’Val but Amon ignored him.

This time they came silently. One jumped at Grumble from a dark corner as he was looking down into the pit and slashed at his back, it’s sharpened mandible skittering off the Warforged’s armoured hide. A second fell from the ceiling onto Valsharress’ back and tried to gnaw at her tough wooden armour whilst the third burst from a side tunnel and swung a scythe-like mandible at De’Val’s leg.

Grumble spun, sword in hand and opened the Kruthik’s face with his blade, coating the floor in green blood. As Valsharress slammed her back into the cave wall trying to crush the beast the cave was lit up blue by the lightning that cascaded around De’Val’s arm and shot out into his foe. Small blue electric arcs played over the dying beast as it curled it’s legs up into itself. Again Valsharress slammed her back into the cave wall and as she came forward the foul insectoid lost it’s grip and fell to the floor. Valsharress wasted no time in stabbing the butt of her staff down into its middle and gave a half twist as green liquid pooled around the corpse.

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