The adventurers regrouped and took stock of their surroundings. They had enough curative magics to revive Madrigal to a basic level of functioning, but he was largely being held together with bandages, twine and spite at this point.
The more they looked at the cavern, the more disturbed they felt. Shadows didn’t fall correctly, and cavern walls contained strange angles that didn’t make sense. Worse, there was a bone-chilling cold that was beginning to seep through their clothes and into their bones. They quickly resolved that they needed to destroy this evil place.
Their investigations revealed that the column, like the statue found earlier, had too many (or possibly not enough) sides, but also contained ceremonial items in concealed drawers. There were enough clues and marking for the druids and bard to begin making educated guesses about who or what was being worshipped here, and the answers were even more disturbing than feared. Everything had been pointing to a cult of elemental evil, but these signs pointed to a primeval deity who had been banished by the gods of Eberron. The dread force of nihilistic destruction known as Tharizdun was the focus of these shrines. Worse, the markings seemed to suggest that Tharizdun’s nightmares had spawned the Thoon Mindflayers that had been dogging their footsteps.
Bumperklart led the destruction of the altar, which had begun to fade and become translucent. He was paralysed by its dark magic, but not before cracking it down the middle. The rest of the group completed its destruction, and then the ground began to shake. Fearing a collapse of the cavern, they began to retreat, and then a hideous insectoid creature burst out from beneath the ruins of the altar. As it surfaced, it spat a gout of acid across the chamber, which hit Madrigal straight in the chest.
The caverns continued to shake, and began to collapse as the group ran for it. Ruin identified the creature as a truly huge Ankheg, larger than any he had ever heard of, and the sound of its burrowing spurred them on. The twisting tunnels were beginning to clog with falling debris, making breathing hard, and the adventurers spent as much time aiding each other as running away. The ankheg meanwhile was chewing in a straight line towards the exit. Every now and then they caught sight of it in nearby tunnels as they looped and doubled back through the curving maze, and it spurred them on to greater efforts.
Escaping the warren wasn’t the end of it. The ravenous creature pursued them, shrugging off fireballs and creeping cold spells with equal disdain. It was only when they reached the surface that their pursuer broke off and retreated back into the collapsing complex. That was when they realised that Madrigal was dead – this time damaged beyond repair – having carried his inert form through the collapse and mayhem. They resolved to honour his passing by using what remained as a figurehead for their ship. An artificer would be sought as soon as possible to make this possible.
They retreated to their ship and made sail for Hulm, Spugnoir’s home port. The winds and tides favoured them, and they soon found safe harbour at the sleepy sea town. A long-running discussion about their crew led them to decide to try and recruit more crew while they were here, and so they made their way to the Inn of the Welcome Wench in search of potential hires. After a short-lived but spectacular bard stand-off, the group was made welcome, and a number of new crew members signed on, led by a rogue who signed on as a henchman to Daria as a potential First Mate.
Rest had never felt so well deserved.