A family was certainly the last thing that Elloria had expected to encounter in the cavern. While the creatures angrily flew around and approached, the elf relaxed her stance. She didn't completely return to a neutral stance, in case things did take a turn for the worse, but she suspected that the insects would see that she did not mean to attack blindly.
The creatures spoke, as well. All the more likely that they could avoid a fight, then. They spoke a strange language as they approached, but soon switched to the western, human dialect that Elloria and Belvanaj were familiar with. "My apologies for dropping in like this," Elloria started, nodding her head down at the glowing creatures in a show of respect to them. "We are just passing through. We saw movement in this cavern and feared a run-in with unintelligent creatures, but are glad to see that is not the case."
She stopped here, not wanting to prevent Belvanaj from speaking. A part of her wondered if it would be smart to ask the insects about the artifact that they sought- but then, she realized, it would likely be prudent to at least verify that she hadn't made too poor an impression on them before asking for favors.
Belvanaj said, "We were exploring looking for something, and we did see signs along the way showing to us places down here had been used, long ago. But we did not expect to find any living here, but we were surprised coming this way seeing some movement of shadow where there is light. My partner just reacted to be ready for any hostility. But how are you living in here? There is just the rock of the tunnel and the bit of air that flows in here."
The agitated movement of the great insects gradually lessened, as both Elloria and Belvanaj spoke. Then that one which had spoken with words of their speech after trying some sounds said, "We do not always live here. We are now mates and came down through that way now above us, for making our hidden nest for our young. We would want to be left alone."
Belvanaj said, "That way up is too high for us. I don't see another way beyond here. We would leave you alone now, but the only way we can go is back the way we came. We did not find what we came to look for, something we would value which would be hidden down here."
That same flying winged insect with the abdomen serving just like a lantern said, "There is nothing hidden here. But there is a way into the earth, over that way, where I have seen what must be purposely hidden things." This lantern fly pointed with the two forelimbs while still flying, indicating nearly the direction back, but somewhat to the right, from there.
Last edited by GodlyD&D; 10-21-2022 at 01:25 AM.
As the insects appeared to relax, so too did Elloria more fully. She returned to a stance that would not easily allow her to attack- or react to an attack- as the insect creatures explained that they had taken the caves to be a home in order to raise their young. Perhaps they are those who left the symbols in the rock face, then, to warn their young of the dangers of humanity There was no doubt in the elf's mind that the humans in the near town would react to the creatures with hostility.
Belvanaj noted that he and herself could not climb the shaft that the insects had apparently entered from. Elloria was about to mention the other pathways off of the chamber they had just been in, when one of the creatures pointed out the same. A passage into further underground with purposefully hidden things sounded like exactly what they needed.
Finally, slipping her knife back into its sheath, Elloria bowed towards the creature before looking up at it and speaking. "The thing we wish to retrieve may be volatile, I think it is fair to warn you. You may wish to bring your young to some other cavern in the cave system while we explore that way, just in case we cause a disturbance." One good turn deserved another, the elf figured- and the information the creature had shared with them was quite a good turn. The elf looked back at Belvanaj. "Shall we?"
Belvanaj also bowed toward the two lantern flies still in flight. "We will leave you now." He turned, and went back with Elloria along this passage through which they had just come. It was now with them going up the slope, away from the brightened cavern to where the passage was dimmer, further away from where they were with their torches being the only light. At length they came to where the other passages divided from this place where the first passage they came along from the upper cavern ended.
Belvanaj looked at the passage on their right as they came, which had been the one on their left as they first came toward the brightened cavern, and he looked at Elloria, with the light from the torch highlighting her interesting appearance in a different way, catching his attention. "Do you think this way was meant by what that lantern fly indicated? It is more steep this way, and this is a narrow passage for us to go through."
They climbed back along the passage they had come from quietly. After the light of the insects, Elloria felt the tunnels seemed even darker than before- and her anxiety about what lay ahead had returned, as well. Would they really find the artifact today? It couldn't be that easy. Could it? What if it was something completely useless to them? Before she had realized it, they were in the cavern that they had been in before.
She eyed the passage to their right with some trepidation. It was the most narrow of all of the paths, and it was steeper than the one they had just climbed. "I think so," the elf responded, looking at her companion. "I worry that we will have difficulty climbing out, and I do not know whether to trust there shall be some other route for us to take out should we need to. But, as you have more experience with caves, I defer to you: do we yet need to make use of any of the equipment we brought?"
Belvanaj said, "If we need to use the rope and stakes, we will. I have doubts that this would be the way to it. How could the lantern flies know about this tunnel going down through this slender way? They came to that cavern from a passage coming down there from above, just for their hidden nest. But we must seriously look for what we are exploring for, so we should not overlook this way even if there is any doubt about it."
Elloria seemed to understand they needed to go that way to look, so he went in through where that narrow way went with her close behind him, each with a torch and holding the other things that were brought. It was narrow enough, with the slope going down, that they went slowly through it. After a ways through it they could tell it gradually opened up a little bit more, and the slope going down gradually became a little bit steeper. Further on they saw it opened up more, and yet further on it was sloping down yet steeper, and here they had to step carefully. And then the torches revealed it was another cavern they had been approaching, which this passage opened up leading down into it. This one was really different. There was a multitude of long stalactites hanging from above over this dark cavern. And then as they came about as far as they could before it was too steep to go further without use of what they had to aid them, they saw the bottom was full of long sharp stalagmites pointing up together, all close together like teeth, in tight rows together.
Elloria glanced up again at the passage above them, that the insect creatures must have come through. "I expect that they investigated all of these passageways, looking for a suitable one to hatch their young in," she suggested, and glanced again at the narrow passageways. "Furthermore, insects can flatten themselves to get through tight passages, so a friend told me." It wasn't impossible, at any rate, that the insects had seen something strange along that passage, even if it wasn't what the pair was looking for.
Belvanaj led the way through the narrow tunnel, and Elloria followed, the nervousness creeping up her throat again. They had to move slowly in order to mind their packs and not get stuck, but finally, the way eventually opened up, and did so again further on. The elf could feel the relief as she could once again walk without touching the walls, even if the path was more steep, and more treacherous. She nearly slipped more than once, but was able to catch herself without knocking into Belvanaj.
Finally, she could see past her companion, the tunnel became another cavern, this one with rock structures protruding from both the ground and ceiling. The pathway simply dropped into the cavern, and Elloria was hesitant about proceeding. Part of her wanted to turn back, but Belvanaj was right; they had to explore everywhere if they were ever going to find the artifact. "I suppose it is time to break in our equipment," she remarked, and looked to Belvanaj to set up... Whatever he needed to set up in order for them to be able to safely rappel down, and eventually climb back up.
Belvanaj had stopped, and then answered Elloria, "We can try if you think so, but see how all the long pointed teeth at the bottom are all tightly close together, all over the cavern bottom? It does not look promising for either of us to find anything at the bottom of this cavern. I do not even know how the lantern flies would have found anything hidden here if they flew into this cavern. But I will get the rope and stakes ready and set up, and then check around the long teeth close to where I come down, while I try to avoid landing on one of them. You remain here to be ready for any help I might need to come out from there. If I fall into there, it will be the last you would see of me."
Belvanaj took his time making sure the stakes were very secure along the sloped stony way curving further into the cavern. After some time, he said, "I am ready. I am going in." He had the rope securely tied around his waist and from there wound about the stakes past the coil of rope that he started unwinding as he worked at lowering himself into that cavern. He called up soon, "Ugh. There are webs down here! They must be really old webs." A couple of moments after that, he called up, "There is no spot to land with my feet. These long pointed structures sticking up are so close together! I don't see anything between them right here." A few moments later Belvanaj called up, "Hold on! There are things down here between these ones. Oh, they are bones! And, there are bones over here, too."
As Belvanaj spoke, Elloria tried to peer to the far side of the cavern. It was long enough that if there was an opening or a change in the chamber further on, though, her torch could not illuminate it to her clearly from where she stood. "I imagine being able to fly ought to have helped their explorations," she mused, and nodded along as her companion continued to speak. She wasn't entirely sure what help she would be able to offer if he ran into any trouble, aside from grabbing his rope and hoping she wasn't sent tumbling down with him, but the elf opted to keep that thought to herself as Belvanaj secured the stakes and the rope around himself.
She watched with anticipation as he lowered himself down the ledge, her stomach knotting when she could no longer see him. Webs? Spider's webs, and old at that? With the lack of other life that they had encountered so far, the concept did not sit easy with Elloria. And bones...? Her stomach dropped. "Belvanaj. I think you should come back up here. I doubt the artifact would have a creature be its guardian- I do not know how wise it is to continue down this path." Spider creatures would surely have scared the lantern flies away from using this den as their nest, despite the added security from the stalagmites and stalactites- not to mention that so many bones in one spot were certainly the signs of a feeding ground.
Belvanaj called up from past where the curve of the slope kept him just out of view, "I agree. There is most certainly not anything else I am going to find, here." The rope moved in tiny jerks Elloria saw as he was certainly climbing back up with it. His head and gradually upper portion came into view over the curve that distance away, and he said, now seeing her too, with the torches, "I think the bones I saw were quite old, there were just small bits of torn ragged cloth in places, that seemed too faded from having any color, but it was so dim there I was not sure. But in the one spot there were remains of a skull, limb bones, and scattered ribs, and it seemed those were from a human. In the other spot were other bones, and I am sure they were not from a human."
As Belvanaj came closer to where Elloria stood waiting, he was as glad to be where there was more light, where these torches were, as he was to be seeing her again.