The party is quickly able to rescue the frightened children to the relief of their frantic parents above who shower the adventurers with praise. The companions find themselves faced with a decision: Follow the muddy, ascending passage or investigate the mysterious dwarven door.
Noticing that the aforementioned passage seems to incline, and the numerous tracks, the group surmises that this must be a route to the surface which they decide to investigate later. Approaching the door, the party notices a pair of discarded travelling cloaks and a water skin nearby. Creed examined the cloaks, but finding nothing unusual he left them where they lay.
Feeling that subtlety was not necessary, Onika Zordal gave the door a mighty kick and was surprised to find that it opened easily, revealing a worked stone passage beyond. The group advanced down the silent passage until they came upon a pair of statues; dwarven sentinels who stood a silent watch. The statues actually turned out to be doorways leading to the north and south respectively.
After a few moments reflection, the group decided to take the northern doorway, which revealed another corridor. Following this new passage, the party soon began to notice a rancid odor coming from somewhere ahead. As they advanced, the stench became more pronounced until the passage abruptly widened into a small room. The recent earthquake had riddled the walls of the chamber with cracks and crevasses.
The source of the smell was immediately apparent. Three bloody humanoid corpses lay sprawled in the center of the room, nearly stripped clean of flesh and organs. A pair of mastiff-sized rats, their bellies distended and bloated, feasted on what little flesh remained on the bones. Beady eyes reflected from A’Nance’s light spell regarded the intruding party with a kind of disinterested malevolence.
Onika felt an old childhood fear creep to the surface… she loathed rats; bringers of plague and other horrible diseases. Unlike lesser folk however, Onika dealt with her fear by channeling it as white-hot rage. Without pausing to see how the rest of the group would react to the slaughterhouse scene, the barbarian let out a fearsome warcry and charged at the rodents.
The filthy creatures were so intent on their easy meal and sated from gorging themselves that they didn’t react until it was too late. The half-orc’s great axe came slashing down, nearly bifurcating the closest of the unfortunate beasts. In spite of their food-induced sluggishness however, the vermin were quick to react to the sudden violence against one of their own. Onika was rewarded for her hasty charge with a savage bite from the closest remaining rat.
Pack instincts kicked in and three more giant rats burst from the cracks in the wall to attack the interlopers, who responded with spells, crossbow quarrels, and defiant and rousing song! Although the party sustained a few more wounds from the frenzied rodents, they quickly dispatched the beasts and began inspecting the room and its grizzly contents.
Francisco Ilozaren knelt to get a closer look at one of the humanoid corpses and recoiled in shocked recognition. Carved into the forehead of the unfortunate so that it penetrated the skull was a symbol that they had all seen before…