D&D 5E: The Road Not Taken

Valrak'shi Journal Entry 13

It seems like it has been quite some time since I last made note of my travels, but it has in fact been only a short while. If time were measured by experience only, many weeks older I would now be.

I’ll start where I last left off…we were on the wagons with the Derro, following a rough tunnel out of the Duergar city, looking for Neverlight Grove.

We traveled for many miles over the rough ground before coming upon a cross-section of paths. These tunnels seemed to be unused by most, but the Derro didn’t hesitate to turn the Steeders into them. Soon we were following an oddly smooth tunnel, approximately 10 feet in diameter that looked to be made by a large purple worm at some point in the past. After the many pathways of the Underdark riddled with unknown obstacles strewn about, this passage seems eerily smooth and quiet…

The Derro speak little, but do mention that these tunnels are known to very few and they use them to travel quickly between their city and the Myconid community.

Currently they are carrying 6 sacks on their wagons…of what I don’t know, but I’m curious to attempt a peek inside at some point. What would one trade a creature such as Stool that would be of any value? The two seem to have no concern for safety and are quite comfortable along the route. I feel it’s odd though…the elevation of the path stays strangely consistent. Having spent a lifetime underground, you have a sense of elevation change as a surface elf can tell where the wind blows, but it is somewhat disquieting how long we travel with no change up or down. It does, however, make for even quicker travel between the two locations. How does one keep such a secret as this!? They tell us it will take about 24 hours and that once a purple worm uses a tunnel, it never reuses it, so at least from that threat we should be safe. Or so we thought…

About 16 hours of travel later, the Derro make mention that we’re getting closer. The fungi on the wall have started to change; this is their indicator that the next path to Neverlight Grove is coming up soon.

As we move closer, we hear rumbling ahead of us…and the entire tunnel begins to shake and vibrate. Right in front of us the floor caves in, not 10 feet from where the front Steeder was pulling. Stopping quickly we all rush up to check what has happened, arriving just in time to see the end of a large purple worm, hardened rock-like scales flashing along it’s back…and then two shadowy figures pass behind it.

Out of the hole, two demons dart towards us, buzzing their grotesque wings as they close the distance. They seem to be similar to some we have already encountered during our travels below. They are accompanied by a harsh screaming sound, echoing down the tunnel behind us.

Lutien shoots first, plugging many arrows deep into the demonic threat. It screams in pain as it claws at his arrows, but it’s far from beaten. It screams again, buzzing close to Gal, Stool and Lutien, stunning them in their tracks. The other is near Ian and he wastes no time enacting a spell that freezes the beast in place. The face is hardly recognizable, but it appears almost afraid and just stops in place. I didn’t waste the opportunity, I dash quickly around it, attempting to land a successful thrust with the shortsword, or even a glancing blow with my palms but sadly all of that sitting on the wagon must have tightened my muscles, I flailed about unsuccessfully. On top of that, being so close I became poisoned by some type of spore the being released. Take note my brothers, attack this creature from afar should you ever run across it!

Looking back I see one of the Derro and their mount making haste back down the way we came. In the process Gal and Stool fell from the cart but didn’t seem to take any serious damage. Lutien on the other hand takes off running towards the receding cart screaming “come back with my arrows!!”. I wanted to try to stop him, but before I could move I felt the vibrations again like before…and moments later the head of a dreaded purple worm burst up from the tunnel beneath. It’s mouth agape with rows of teeth and chitinous plates along the face…it opens its mouth in a silent roar, swallowing the Derro, cart and Steeder all in one bite. Gal wastes no time, he drops into some type of spell, weaving his hands and intoning dark syllables, thrusting his fingers out towards the worm. I see nothing happen between the two, but apparently something does…the worm stops completely, then seems to struggle against an invisible force…and then crashes face first back into the hole (taking one of the demons along in its maw) and moves away from our party as quickly as possible. Not knowing what transpired but not wanting to waste the opportunity, we quickly finish off the last demon and look around somewhat dazed. How quickly our expedition had changed.

We take a minute to dress our wounds and to do a quick search for Lutien…but afraid to go too far for fear of losing our way. We finally just figure, he’s an intelligent Elf, we’ll just have to move forward and hope he can catch back up. If we don’t see him soon we’ll backtrack but we want to make haste away from this area in case another worm shows up, or something more foul comes to investigate all of the commotion.

We make our way over the chasm in the path that the worm used, getting a full run and jump. Oddly enough, Gal gets a run at the ravine, hurtles himself across like a wet noodle and mid jump blurts out “Aha! Bellemi!! Her name is Bellemi!” Landing in the most unusual of way, he catches his footing and starts whispering intently to his familiar who is now landing gracefully upon his arm.

Gathering ourselves once again, we head north the way we were going, with no real idea in mind as to which path will lead us to Neverlight Grove. I continually look behind as we go, keeping an eye out for Lutien and hoping he returns safely. The darkness is tugging at him more and more each day.

We notice the fungi and lichen seem to be getting thicker and more abundant. About that time fissures start showing up along the walls…many of them big enough for a person to get into, possibly 40 or so! We discussed which path to take, but there really was no clear indication as to which would prove fruitful so Gal sent Bellemi searching ahead for us. It seems the path ahead didn’t change for a mile or so…way too many avenues to check for just the one familiar. We all know that the longer we sit here, the more likely we are to become a potential meal for whatever Underdark beast is lurking near.

After a little while, I look around and notice our myconid companion is no longer with us. Looking around quickly we determine he’s wandered off, for what reason we can’t imagine. Possibly he was close to home and ran off in that direction? Could he be hurt? We decide the only way to increase our chances of finding the Grove and Stool is to split up. I decide to venture off alone as I figure I’ll be more likely to sneak quietly by myself, and Gal and Ian stick together going down their own tunnel. We agree, 15 min down a tunnel and back again, that way nobody gets too far in, and we’ll each know which tunnel the other is in should we not return on time.

The first tunnel proved a waste, but the second that I ventured down, I came across a beast you rarely see. A Nothic…they were hungrily devouring a humanoid, too far gone for me to make out much of anything other than it being larger than Stool and smaller than our party members. Seeing 4 of them and knowing that stealth was my ally, I took note of the numbers and position and then carefully made my way back out of the tunnel. Being one man down we’d not want to fight them all together, but I definitely didn’t want to have to tackle them solo, my story will hopefully be written for years to come.

Making my way back I informed the others of the beasts. We agreed it best to avoid them if at all possible. We decided to head back out, one more time…we want to help find Stool but also realize that he made his choice to wander off, or so we believe, sometimes poor choices come with grave consequences.

Luckily for Stool though, the very next fissure I searched I found him, apparently fallen headfirst into a hole. I pulled him back out as he squirmed, obviously relieved. I am looking forward to returning him to his home, not because of any dislike of him but because rash decisions like this cost us time and put us all at risk.

I return just as the others are exiting their tunnel and Gal explodes into motion, rushing over to engulf Stool in a full-body hug, yelling loudly and incoherently along the lines of “don’t do that ever again!”. Ian chuckles and shakes his head while casually sheathing and unsheathing his blade. Sadly their reunion is cut short by rumbling…something was apparently alerted to our presence, and looking around it doesn’t take long to figure out what that something is.

I can’t say I’ve ever seen or even heard of this monstrosity before…it’s very large, almost like a large bear, but with a gaping maw and several tentacles weaving to and fro as if an enlarged version of a snake-headed scourge of a Priestess of Lloth. It’s shaggy and the same color as the ground around us.

For whatever reason, it locks onto me and running on all four legs charges me. Along the way Ian slashes across it’s flank drawing a large line of blood, and Galathalas blasts it with a black beam of energy. It roars in anger and pain but continues on. As it gets closer I limn it in Faerie Fire, making it an easier target for all. It doesn’t seem to register or care one bit…

Reaching down into my ki I prepare for a last minute dodge, just barely skating out of the way in time. By now, it’s infuriated and turns to dash back towards Ian who drew first blood. I lunged out for a quick hit but missed it. Gal used his wand and successfully stuck two of the tentacles together with a viscous globule.

Ian, correctly interpreting how dangerous this foe is to us in close quarters, casts a spell on it to stop it in place, causing it to not be able to move for an overwhelming fear grips the mind. Having seen this spell before recently, we know not to attack it, but to use this opportunity to make our escape. We quickly skirt the beast and make our way back into the fissure I found Stool in, having learned from him that it is indeed the path we need.

We travel for a bit through the dimly lit corridor, noting how many varied kinds of fungi and lichen are along the walls. Before we know it, we come out into a cavern of sorts. A putrid smell permeates the entire area, that of mold…wet and warm, stagnant…the perfect home for a myconid community it would seem. There are gigantic beige stalks all around, similar to a forest in the world above. The humidity and mist lingering all around makes it hard to see very far ahead, but we can see enough random lights throughout to know the area is fairly large. We continue walking forward on the spongy ground, following Stool who is excitedly making his way between the many fungi and stalks before us. The strangest part of the entire place though…is the quiet. My own breathing seems loud to me, I feel the need to exhale loudly just to make sure I’m not stuck inside of a silence spell.

Stool tells us via his spores that he wants to go down towards the lake, down to where the leader of the Hunters is, a creature by the name of Lumbamud. Traveling around the southern portion of the lake we eventually come in contact with a very large mushroom looking entity, this “Lumbamud” we assume. The two myconids spore and communicate, gesticulating excitedly towards one another. As we stand there, more of them come up to get in on the apparent celebration. Lumbamud allows his spores to reach us and thanks us for returning his friend to him. It is odd hearing “joy” expressed in one’s mind like that, but that’s the best way to describe it.

Lumbamud tells us he would like to take us to the leader of the Grove, so we follow him forward. Not long after a very large mushroom-looking creature comes out and stands before us. It communicates via the spores how pleased it is that we assisted in returning Stool. He assures us that we are safe in the Grove and to be at peace and rest a while.

I sit on a spongy surface, relaxing as I finish this long journal entry. The beings here seem to be as pleasant as any would expect, but a lifetime in the Underdark doesn’t allow one to let their guard down completely. Unsure as to how long we should stay with a known Drow party looking for us, I take my rest where I can but keep my eyes on the way we came in. You can’t be too careful.

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