79. Escape from the Vegepygmies

“We are surrounded'” Kradorn yells. “Pick a direction and fight like hell” he continues yelling. He draws an arrow back and prepares to fire at the tentacle.

Gildor casts Web on the mutants to the south in such a way that the cylinder is caught in the web leaving a path to get to the golem that should be free.

Gildor’s spell sprays webs from the western wall, across the central cylinder and to the southern wall of the east corridor. Each block either side of the cylinder is 6m across, 6m deep and from floor to ceiling. The southern mutants throw spears and darts at Gildor but all become entangled in the webs as do their weapons when they charge and attempt to hack through it. There must be about 100 of the horrible little creatures.

Gordon is sure he hears one of the louder voices amid the cacophony of the northern group, shout something like ‘We eat flesh, fresh, bloody soon family!’ There is a roar from the tribe and they surge forwards.

Gildor says, “I’m not sure who to fight here or if we need to fight at all. Gordon can you make out anything they are saying? Maybe they know where the King is and can help us find him.”

Seeing the creatures launching their attack, Kradorn loosen arrows towards the other group.

“OK fellas, the ones coming from the North ain’t friendly and want to eat our flesh,” calls out Gordon. “I’m guessing the others to the South have similar gourmet ideas. Looks like we’re going to have to fight our way out of this!”

Seeing the advancing hoards from the North Gordon prepares and casts Summon Swarm a short distance ahead of them so that the swarm will gather around their front ranks as they advance. He will maintain his concentration as long as is practical and he is protected from any which get through.

Gordon’s summoning of the swarm takes the form of a swirling, column of birds, brightly coloured but with odd looking short beaks. By the time the swarm has formed, half-a-dozen of the little mutants (the smallest being barely 60cm tall) have charged beyond it, screaming and waving their crude weapons in the air.

Kradorn hits one of the smallest of this group but the sheaf arrow seems to have little effect on the creature, despite it being hit square in the chest. Kalam shoots too but misses.

As the mutants come screaming down the corridor towards Gordon, Captain Munin and his sergeants form a line in front of the gnome, shields and axes ready. Kradorn swaps his bow for his sword and Talo moves forward to lend his axe to the fight.

The maniacal mutants hit the shield wall and two go down immediately under the dwarves axes, Talo brings down another of the tiniest ones and Kradorn hits another with his sword. The creatures don’t seem to be made of flesh and blood as such, their bodies having the tough, fibrous consistency of a root vegetable and their blood is clear and sticky.

In the short fight that follows, axe and sword reduce the little mutants to chunks. Gordon thinks he caught about a dozen mutants with his spell and the only one to emerge from the swarm is quickly dispatched by Kradorn and the dwarves. No one is injured in the fight, the only damage being a couple of dents in the dwarves armour.

Gildor’s web seems to have caught about 10 of the mutants and double that number of weapons, after a few mutants tried to cut or force their way through the sticky strands. By the time the fight has finished behind him, Gildor notices the mutants pulling back from the wall of webs, leaving their trapped companions behind. Whatever is in the shaft is caught too, two of its tentacles tangled in the webs, sparks crackling from their ends.

“What in the underworld are these things.” Kradorn asks as he wipes his blade clean. “They weren’t any flesh and blood we have seen…dead or alive.”
“But either way I don’t believe the King came this way.”

“The Gods alone know Kradorn, some kind of nature golem perhaps,” replies Gordon. “Captain Munin you and your comrades have my thanks for providing me with a defensive line, I cannot maintain the swarm without keeping concentration which isn’t easy with an overgrown root vegetable bashing you.” The gnome gives the captain a wry smile.

“This one chamber we have opened does not look like any sort of lodgings I have come across before, I don’t think it is the chamber of a captain that much is certain. Let us continue down this corridor and hope these creatures leave us behind long enough to find what we require.

Gordon slips his pack off and starts to rummage through it to the bottom where he finds a steel ring which he pulls out and holds up. Dangling from the ring is a red coloured bone rectangle and a crystal in a silver fitting. “I think this may be what we need.” With that he makes his way to the first door along the Northern corridor and tries pressing the button.

Gordon manages to keep the swarm intact despite the distraction of the mutants and his own fumblings. The purple door slides aside with a swoosh at his touch, revealing a light bright enough to temporarily blind those trying to look into the room. When their eyes have adjusted they see a clean white space 6m by 12m, divided in two by an arch. The western walls lean out into the room and along the northern section of this wall are a series of 10 narrow alcoves. In each alcove is set a small, black, glass panel covered in glowing symbols. Panels 2 to 9 all bear an alien symbol in the centre with a couple of small lines of unchanging text along the bottom, while number 10 shows the same set of red scrolling symbols Gordon saw on a similar panel in the small hexagonal room with all the seats. The screen in alcove 1 shows a similar scrolling sequence of symbols but these are green, apart from two yellow ones.

At the end of the room is another door with no coloured band around the buttons.

Gildor is making his way back to the party when he hears a commotion back in the main east-west corridor, followed by the sounds of brutal fighting. Moving quickly but cautiously back to the western end, he peeks down the corridor and sees twenty or more of the little mutants fighting each other with murderous brutality. More mutants pour into the corridor from opposing side passages adding to the carnage.

Kradorn follows Gordon sword at the ready. The sword seems better with dealing with the plant people Kradorn thinks.
“Is there any sign that the King went this way? Would have had a passkey… bone to get him in here?” Kradorn says to Gordon.

Kalam stayed within formation. He was aware that the small humanoids were closer to them than the creature, so he allowed for time to switch between weapons in case they would be attacked by them. Then he aimed his crossbow at the tentacled creature and started firing as soon as it came within normal distance. Perhaps the old saying about “the enemy of my enemy…” would work in their favour with the small people.

Gildor quietly makes his way back to the group and quietly alerts the group, “There is a bunch more back where we came from. We need to make some headway on these doors and fast.”

The party pile through the door, Gordon last, so he can keep his swarm going until the last second and then with a swish the door is closed. The party and the dwarves stand in the little room in silence for a second before Munin asks Cynan. “Right, where to now?”

Talo inspects the lit panels in the room, “these look like they may be controls or indicators for the doors out in the hallway. Not sure if we can open them or if we should even consider opening them.” The dwarf screws up his face and ponders the situation. “Well, I think we can either choose a side and fight for them or we can play around with the controls in here… I am in favour of fighting for the group that is not evil. Of course,” he looks to the others, “I am prone to want a scrap.

“How about we open the door, I do a detect evil and then we fight against them? Unless they are all evil – in which case we can try and lure them back to within range of the golem. How about it?”

Talo casts a familiar orison and scans the area. “We may benefit from heading forward through that door.” He points to the portal with his axe.

“We have avoided additional harm so far but if the way forward is clear, we should take it. Even if there is evil ahead it likely will not expect our entry.” The dwarf nods to the rest of the group. Talo forms up with the rest of the party in their traditional small phalanx in preparation for their incursion into the next room.

Talo’s prayer reveals no evil beyond the northern door way, east he detects multiple sources and south about 30 to 35 metres away, a powerful brooding evil, intelligent and malicious.

Gildor will help search the rooms outs and fall into formations as needed. Gildor will get his sword and buckler ready and get his other gear stowed. “Saphiria stay close to me my dear. I’m hesitant to use your breath weapon on these creatures as I don’t know how it will react to our flooring or walls IF we are above our world we have to be careful of our surroundings”, Gildor says this out loud and mentally to Saphiria so the others hear as well. “Gordon, I wonder if a sleep spell will work on these creatures?”

The northern door hisses halfway open, then jams. Peering through reveals a room much like the one you’re in though there seems to have been some sort of fire or explosion here. Another machine covers the whole length of the northern wall, and at first glance Gildor takes it to be an oven or series of ovens. One of these has exploded causing a short lived fire and littering the floor with a heavy glass door and various half melted components of the machines innards. The three ceiling light panels glow a deep pulsing red.
Another smaller room can be accessed via an arched door to the east and this room has a purple door at the far end.
Cynan draws his blade thinking finally something I understand here. He moves to protect the spell casters. but ready if needed to assist any companions. As always a quick prayer to Ringheru prepares him.

Kalam was alert, a bolt in his crossbow ready to be fired towards any enemy right when he perceived a hostile intention. While cautious enough to avoid the front line of their formation, he was ready to fill in any gap if necessary. He also paid very close attention to the distance between him and any target of any of his bolts, ready to switch to his blades if and when combat reached that stage.

Talo tries to pull the door further open.
He’s assisted by a couple of the other dwarves and manages to get the door three-quarters open, more than enough to get through into the room beyond.

Once inside he looks around, then stops. “Gildor, would you mind taking a look at this room ? There may be more tricks than what meets the eye. At least more than what meets my eye.”

Gildor moves into the room and looks about but can’t see anything untoward, certainly no traps he’s familiar with but then, this place is very strange. In the 6mx6m room to the east, is what the elf first mistakes for some sort of metallic spider suspended over a smooth steel table but the ends of all the dozen or so limbs end in a variety of knives, pincers and less obvious tools. The thing hangs inert and below it on the table, sits a long black box 6cm x 6cm x 18cm with what looks like a grip sticking out the bottom with a trigger (like a crossbow has). Both ends of the box are engraved with a symbol consisting of a leaf shape beneath the close symbol used on the doors.

Talo’s tentative glance into the room catches on the contraption. The dwarf approaches the one thing he understands, the trigger, and makes a few cautious manipulations of the mechanism, careful to retreat if the movements become autonomous.
“Perhaps we can draw them in here and give ’em a whack with this! Maybe on our way back.”
Talo approaches the next door, “Gildor, can you check for traps? I would like to know how far on this path we can get before a dead end. Same formation?” The dwarf readies himself for the next room by casting detect evil to sense if there is anything untoward in the following chamber.
Talo’s eyes narrow as he recovers from the insight of the spell. Talo then describes as best he can the impressions of the evil on the other side of the door.

Talo detects evil and close by but the sources are minor and petty and receding as far as the dwarf can tell.

Gildor isn’t sure what to make of this place and knowing what’s behind them he says, “Well, I think we should keep pushing on and I would stay clear of any contraptions we don’t know anything about. We might end up hurtin ourselves trying to use the beast.”

Talo’s hand recoils at the suggestion. “Good point! Let’s keep on then.”

“Let’s push on and see if we can find a way out of here and keep looking for those card things to open doors. LG needs the master cards so it can help us find the king. Let’s get a move on shall we?” says Gildor.
“Stay close Saphiria. I don’t much like this place.” If everyone follows then Gildor will lead the way. “Gordon stay back a bit so the fighters can get in position in front before the doors open as you get closer to it.”

Talo’s eyes widen at the sight of his blaster’s kin. He picks it up and holsters it in his belt.

Gildor says, “Yes, let me check for traps my friend. I’ll scout about 10 yards ahead if no objections depending on doors and such.” Spot checks if anything spotted he will return to the group if prudent to do so.

Gildor signals he can find no traps on the door.

Talo gives Gildor the room he requires to conduct his searches and stealth while trying and failing to be as quiet as a bag of kitchenware.

Kalam stayed in formation with the rest of the fighters, alert and scanning his surroundings all around for strange noises and or creatures appearing. Still prepared for missile combat, but ready to switch to blades if the situation warrantied it.

Gordon approaches the door and Munin hits the button with the party stood ready, axes, swords and bows poised for a fight.
The door hisses quietly open and the corridor beyond looks clear. Gildor sticks his head round the door, looking back south to the junction Gordon cast his spell on. He signals it is clear and moves east following the corridor. He gets to the point where it turns north and peers round to see two of the vege-pygmies at the far northern end disappearing around a corner, one of them babbling to the other in their crude tongue.
The rest of the party cross the junction and move after Gildor.