Weary, worn, and wounded from the climactic battle against the last remnants of the Tower Girls gang, the heroes set about fortifying the room so they could rest and heal in peace. Thusly rejuvenated, they continued onwards.
The unexplored set of stairs that wound downwards emerged into another large hall. Along the walls sprawled the crumbling remains of ancient mosiacs. At one end of the hall stood an immense set of double doors made of silvery metal. Two burning eyes were inscribed into the surface of the doors, with two sets of runes set between them.
Setting about exploring the remainder of the hall, the heroes pillaged a couple of rooms that looked they belonged to the Tower Girls’ wererat leader, but their explorations soon led them back to the silvery doors.
The Thassilonian runes set into the door were quickly translated to determine that they spell: “LISTEN” and “THE EYES.” Billy, thinking back to the puzzle box at Heidmarch Manor, stepped forward to rearrange “LISTEN” to “SILENT,” but drew back in pain after only moving two runes, having found that the surface of the strange silver doors burns as hot as a branding iron.
After much discussion and debate as to how to best proceed and avoid getting burned, Kiara – tired of the vacillating – steeled herself for the pain and rearranged the rest of the runes. She drew back, her task complete, and her hands near-crimson from the door’s unnatural heat.
Torsten then spoke. “They see,” he said, indicating the other set of runes, but made no move towards them. Lelandra rearranged the second set of runes, earning herself a set of seared palms, and – with a grating shiver that rumbled through the tower’s very stones – the doors split open.
Now Torsten took the lead. The heroes moved through the age-decayed remnants of a well-appointed foyer, and down a set of stairs. Whereupon they found themselves in some kind of bathhouse. The thick air stank of bat guano, as the walls were slick with deposits. The bath itself was a murky green pool of still water.
As they moved deeper into the room, investigating the two passages leading onwards, the still waters of the pool began to move. Two hungering blobs of primordial protoplasm slid out of the water, their masses creeping towards the unsuspecting heroes.
However, amoebas are not masters of stealth, and as such, weapons with soon drawn and battle ensued.
Alwyn, seeing that the situation is well in-hand, decided to explore down a narrow side-passage that led deeper into The Crow. Lelandra followed to watch his back.
The passage opened into a deep cistern, with a small ledge on the side, on which was scattered the remains of hundreds of fish – their weak, small bones crunched beneath the heroes’ boots – along with a pair of unusual giant spiders. These particular spiders had long coats of hair, and bright crimson markings on their backs. The arachnids turned on the pair, hissing viciously, and spitting out gobbets of sticky webbing. Alwyn promptly found himself entangled in the binding threads. One of the spiders clattered up the wall to dangle above Alwyn’s head. Alwyn would have none of this, tearing away from what restricted him with a yell, and split the creature in twain with his greatsword as it moved forward.
The other spider threw itself at Alwyn, all thrashing legs and biting pincers. Alwyn skewered it on his sword like an Underbridge kebab.
They returned to the bathhouse to find the amoebas hacked into tiny gobbets of goo. The heroes proceeded into the left-hand chamber, where – to the north – a set of stairs leads further downwards. A number of keen eyes pick out a poorly-concealed door set flush into the stone on the southern wall, and Lelandra pried it open.
Inside, a thin passage lend winding southwards, to another narrow ledge over sloshing seawater. A worn wooden plank rested at the end of the ledge, crossing over to a squat stone pillar, upon which sat a wooden bucket.
Lelandra moved across the ledge, edging towards the plank, but the stones beneath her – polished slick through sea and spray – offered little grip to her boots, and she went tumbling into the water, finding herself face-to-pincers with another of the black-and-crimson giant spiders.
Kiara dashed through, keeping her balance on the slippery ledge, but as she stepped upon the teetering plank, it slipped from the ledge. Throwing herself forwards, she managed to catch her fingertips on the rough surface of the bucket-topped pillar. Immediately, her nose was assaulted with the stench of rotting flesh, as through the gaps in the bucket’s boards she could see a pile of bat corpses.
The remaining heroes piled in, battling the water spiders, which skittered up the walls to harass them with pincer and claw. The arachnids were quickly dispatched, dropping back into the frothing, bloody sea with great splashes. Lelandra was hauled back onto the ledge. Torsten retrieved Gyro – who had slipped from the ledge during the battle – with a well-thrown lasso, just as she started to sink below the water.
Alwyn and Billy – hanging at the rear of the group – heard a shrill scream coming from the north, and turned to see a faint form disappear down the stairs. They gave chase, Alwyn popping the stopper to a freshly-prepared mutagen as they barreled down the winding steps.
Straight into a worn catacomb, its walls bare of bodies, but its floor a disturbed mess of dirt mounds. Out of which poured ants of the giant variety.
Back to back Alwyn and Billy fought, trying to hold off the insects until the rest of the group arrived, but a number of raking bites from giant mandibles put Billy on the dirt.
Fortunately, only moments after Alwyn found himself reinforced by his allies, and set to work butchering the remaining ants.
Afterwards, they moved to secure the position, as Billy would take time to recover. They quickly spotted that a secret door had been carved into the southern wall, while an obvious passage lead out of the room to the east.
Lelandra spotted the fresh footprints of a small creature impressed into the dirt of the ant mounds, and identified them as the tracks of a mite: a small, blue humanoid that often laired in abandoned structures such as these. And where one mite was, a whole tribe of them would be nearby.
What other dangers lie in wait for our heroes? Just how many mites are there, secreted away in the dank lower levels of The Crow?
Find out next week, as our heroes continue their quest for the pieces of the Shattered Star.