As Erijay, Kern and Bjorn stood peering into the passage, the sound of rustling underbrush came from behind. Erijay and Bjorn quickly doves behind some fallen rock and vines, while Kern slipped on his ring of invisibility. They saw a man emerge from the jungle, white haired and dressed in shining plate mail. Although winded, the newcomer looked up at the tunnel entrance and announced “by Veldes, I have reached the site of my quest!” After watching for a few minutes, the trio figured he was of no danger to them, and they emerged from hiding to confront the newcomer. They learned he was Vorn, a cleric of Veldes, who was on a quest from his god to track down the lair of the serpent god cult and destroy it. This cult once held sway in his homelands before being destroyed by the church of Veldes, but has started to reestablish itself. Further questioning revealed they were far from home, deep in the southern lands. And that there was at least one other magical gate in the area, through which Vorn had come. Figuring their paths, for the time being at least, were the same, Vorn joined the party as they advanced into the darkness of the mountainside.
And advance deep they did, as the wide worked stone passage lead them hundreds of feet before emerging next to a fast flowing underground river. The stream disappeared into the rock face just a short distance to the left, but a narrow path continued on the right side of the river. Moving the single file, the group advanced, the path soon turned past a rocky outcrop. Or so it seemed, for Kern (in the lead) fell through the path and into the river with a splash. Erijay threw the man overboard a rope, and Kern hauled himself dripping wet back onto dry land. Probing with a 10’ pole, Erijay discovered that the outcropping was an illusion, and the path actually proceeded straight forward. They were about to follow it when out of the water next to them shot four slime covered tentacles, battering Erijay, Bjorn and Vorn. Turning to face their foe, the four could see a hazy cloud of blue/grey in the water from which the tentacles emerged. When they struck next, all four aimed for Erjay and knocked the elf into the water. She was then drawn to the thing, filled with the overwhelming desire to serve her new master. While the others turned their weapons on the thing, Erijay was engulfed in its tentacles and started to get carried down the stream. Bjorn desperately cast web, hoping to block the hole through which the river exited the cavern. This worked, and a flurry of blows destroyed the creature and released Erijay from her servitude.
Unfortunately, at this point both Erijay and Vorn noticed their skin had been changed into a clear slimy membrane. And as it dried in the air, they both experienced excruciating pain. Vorn dove into the water for relief, joining Erijay who now found that due to the mucus surrounding the creature, she could now breathe water, but not air. Since retreating back down a dry passageway didn’t seem to be an option right now, they continued on. Erijay and Vorn advancing up the stream (which thankfully was only 4-5’ deep), with Kern and Bjorn on the path. Before proceeding, however, Kern carefully placed on the trail (facing away from them) the weird lizard head he was carrying in his sack, hoping it might serve as protection if the searchers outside followed them.
About 60’ further upstream, the cavern opened up. It was filled by a pool of water, which was fed by a 40’ high waterfall emerging from the rock face on the opposite side of the cavern. The trail continued around one side, and then switchbacked behind the waterfall to a cave opening above. Silhouetted by a light in the cave mouth were 4 humanoid figures. While Erijay and Vorn stayed in the water (and Bjorn hung back on the path), Kern donned his ring of invisibility and started to climb the path. The creatures above had seen him before he started climbing however, and one moved to pour something down the waterfall and then toss a torch into it. The falls immediately erupted in a gout of flame, scorching the merchant and causing him to slip and fall into the pool below. This got Bjorn angry, so he dropped a sleep spell on the cave mouth. Three figures dropped out of sight, while the fourth plummeted off the ledge and face-planted into the pool below. Although the body was pretty battered, Erijay and Vorn examined it, finding it was a frog like humanoid. Kern, meanwhile, climbed up the path and slit the throat of the three remaining frog-things. He also examined the cask poured into the waterfall, and found it to be still half full of oil. Scouting ahead, he also saw the 10’ wide corridor continued on quite a ways. Rather than risk being trapped alone, he returned back to the pool to help brainstorm a solution to Erijay and Vorn’s predicament.
By this time, Erijay found she was once more able to breathe air, the mucus having cleared her lungs. But she and Vorn were still unable to leave the water for more than 10 minutes. They waited a few hours to see if the effect would wear off like the water breathing, but to no avail. And had to deal with another group of frog-things that arrived to apparently check on the original guards. Finally Erijay tried using oil to stop from drying out, and that seemed to work to some extent. She could stay out of the water for about an hour before having to reapply oil or get wet. Which not entirely certain of the wisdom of turning themselves into walking Molotov cocktails, Erijay and Vorn saw no other immediate solution. Gathering as much oil as they could from the cask, the two lathered up and then followed Kern down the passageway, carefully tracking time to make sure they would have enough oil to get back to the pool if necessary.
The passage lead another hundred feet before opening up into a larger, worked stone room, faintly lit by a phosphorescent glow on the walls and ceiling. At the far end stood a pair of stone towers flanking a grillwork gate. Just to the right was a narrow opening in the wall. Kern crept toward the opening invisibly, noting a shuttered window in each tower. Reaching the narrow opening, Kern signaled the other three to follow him. As they crept along the wall, however, the shutters in the towers opened. In each stood a pair of creatures that looked like a 3’ tall cross between a chimpanzee and a man. Armed with javelins, they let these fly at the group. Kern responded with crossbow fire, and expertly snipped the two in the tower closest to him. The others were taken out by a hold person spell from Vorn. But alas, not before Bjorn fell with a javelin through the heart. With no way to help their fallen comrade at this time, they looted his body and hid it in a corner. Just in case they were able to come back for him later. Kern then threw a grappling hook up to one of the open tower windows and climbed up. He found a mess of soiled reeds and food waste on the floor, a rack of javelins, and a stairway down. Down he went, to find another room, this with a door which faced to into the other side of the gate. While invisible, he pushed it open a crack to look. Hiding behind each tower, he saw a mass of the same chimp-things, who were now spooked by the door opening all on its own. Hoping to build on that fear, Kern picked up one of the dead creatures in the tower, and still invisible brought it out the door like it was the walking dead. This spooked them even more, and the mass moved back towards the exit from the room. One, who seemed to be a leader, directed a pair to go out the exit, presumably to get help. Hoping to stop them, Kern whipped out his crossbow and started shooting. In this he was assisted by Erijay, who with Vorn had now climbed into the other tower. After several of the creature fell to the bolts, the remainder turned and fled up the corridor. A few more shots and they were gone. Kern briefly contemplated chasing them, but wasn’t keen and rushing into a potential trap and let them go.
Taking a few minutes to examine the side passage (ending in a blocked tunnel) and the gate (which caused a large spiked wooden frame to fall out of the ceiling right in front of the gate), the remaining three then sat to determine what their plan was from here …