After narrowly escaping the worm, the two children led the party deeper into the dark tunnels below. For hours and hours, the group descended warily through burrowed tunnels and hallways of rock, interrupted only by perilous pits, twists and turns, and an ongoing high-pitched wind, ever howling at their heels.
The tunnels began to transition slowly into stone brick hallways, and the children slowed their progress, stopping to cover their eyes before reaching a turn in the path. Readying his weapon, Corvus peered around the corner, and was immediately hit with a pair of glowing red eyes of a stone idol (similar to the ones seen before in Farhoon Forest), which nearly dropped him to his knees. He steadied himself and called a warning to the others, and the party advanced with caution.
A few turns later, the stone walls and floors seemed to be intermittently transformed to ancient, golden wallpaper and carpeted flooring. A broken shell of a chandelier hung lopsided from part of the ceiling, and at the end of a long hallway, the party could see the dim flickering of a lit torch.
Led forward by the children, the party noticed a creature lurking at the end of the tunnel, a thin and wiry, pale, deformed humanoid, resting its hands through the gaps in a bright silver metal gate (made of Dragonsteel, a magical, unbreakable metal). The creature wore rags around its midsection and over its eyes, and immediately began barking at the children, gesturing them forward.
The children excitedly talked with the creature until it beckoned the party forward, who came reluctantly. The creature, though seeming blind, appeared to look them over, then paid the children in large mushrooms – one for each member of the group. Satisfied, the children ran away, as the creature pulled out a Silverwatch team medallion, emblazoned with the logo of the Dancing Dragons, and handed it through the gate to Corvus before letting them through.
Unable to understand any language, the creature managed to give its name as Ishk, and the party responded in kind, to Ishk’s satisfaction, before he began limping down a hallway, urging the others to join him. The hallway twisted until opening into a large arched room, adorned in places with golden wallpaper and sconces and lush red carpet, and others with dirt, rock, and ancient stone blocks. As they passed, the Stars noticed many other dragonsteel gates, some leading out to an enormous dark cavern filled with pairs of red glowing eyes.
Suddenly, a noise behind them revealed another creature, similar to Ishk, hobbling across the hallway in a different direction, with no clue as to where or how it appeared. Though unsettled, the party continued, as they still had their weapons and had yet to encounter any aggression from the creatures.
A short while later, Ishk and the party entered a large, dark amphitheater, where twenty or so of the pale creatures were chanting, bowing down to three robed figures in the center as shadowy wisps of glowing energy flew through the air. Reacting to your presence, the most ornately robed figure lowered a large tome and curved knife, ending the ritual, and the creature Ishk began to speak in its language, seeming to explain the party’s presence to the other creatures.
As they spoke, the other pale creatures began to climb near, encircling the Stars, Tsol, Perrath, Vorle, Smed, and Barl. Like Ishk, these pale deformed creatures all had dull red glowing eyes hidden behind blindfolds, appearing sightless but moving with unhindered precision.
One of the robed figures approached quickly, inspecting the Stars, before whispering to them and revealing himself as Nimbles. He asked them what they were doing there, then told them to be quiet if they wanted to stay alive. The cult leader, disliking their secrecy, cast a large Comprehend Language ritual, so finally everyone could understand each other.
The pale creatures were asking to eat the Stars, smacking their lips. Nimbles then introduced them to the cult leader and other robed figure as exarchs of Gormahoon, the god they serve. The Stars tried to play along and bluff their way through, which was almost successful, thanks to Janos’ timely use of shadowy magic, but the cult leader remained unconvinced, sending Vorle, Perrath, Tsol, and Smed away, and demanding the Stars prove themselves by taming a nightwalker named Bog’yon, who was mistakenly summoned from the shadow plane.
The Stars did their best to resist Bog’yon’s telepathic assaults, fending off his bodak servants until Bog’yon himself attacked them, while the pale creatures watched from above. Throughout their travels and trials, none of the Stars had yet seen a creature so powerful, and though they fought bravely, they were quickly dispatched, staying conscious long enough to see a great light from above sending Bog’yon back to the shadows.
Each of the Stars awoke, hazy, and they each realized their armor and gear was missing. Their injuries had been patched up by an amateur with old rags as bandages.
A new addition, however, was a strangely glowing stone shackle, attached tightly around each of their right biceps. Around the base was dried blood.
Somewhere was an echoing cry, and soft weeping. They were each in a windowless cell of sturdy stone walls and a dragonsteel gate, and only darkness beyond it, peppered with dozens of pairs of tiny glowing red eyes which seemed to burn into the back of their skulls. A dull glow from the metal bars gently lit most of the cell, but revealed little beyond.
They were captured.