Even cautious of others attempting to locate this cistern, Castri set out on patrol while his companions decided on a course of action. Morg moved through the thick plant life towards the mouth of the cave. There he could hear the whistling shriek of wind echoing through the cavern. Sunlight lanced down from a hole in the ceiling, painting a bright circle of yellow light over a similar hollow shaft in the cavern floor. The walls glistened with moisture and softly glowing runes around the ceiling opening pulsed in time to the intake of air. Clumps of luminescent fungi could be seen growing from the moist ground, adding an eerie green glow to the shadows beyond the bright circle of light. Morg could make out tall, emaciated humanoids, gith, lounging about the cavern, drinking water from large gourds. Their weapons were close at hand, but they were hardly prepared for battle.
Motioning for the others to join him, the rest of the group moved quietly up to the mouth of the cave as well. Unfortunately, Kelvor was not accustomed to the dangers of plant life and tripped over some fallen branches, making enough of a disturbance that the gith detected it, even over the sound of the wind. Within moments they were armed and ready for battle.
The gith leader and his savages charged into melee with the heroes, inflicting serious wounds on Morg and Kelvor. The drones attempted to use the Way to push the heroes into the pit. Although Morg initially resisted their pull, he eventually succumbed and nearly fell in, barely saving himself at the last moment. The gith hobblers lobbed one javelin after another at the melee, striking their targets many times, but never completely pinning them down.
Locked in melee with the creatures, Morg and Kelvor attempted to keep their allies from harm, and were mostly successful. However each suffered numerous injuries and if not for the healing powers of Vinara, they surely would have perished. She and her companions held their own in melee and were quick to finish off the wounded gith. Gwyn used her magic to take down their enemies as quickly as she could, while also keeping herself shielded from attacks. Although the battle was fierce and the situation desperate at times, she resisted the urge to defile in the lush vegetation.
In the end, two of the gith ended up being pushed into the hole in the floor, while the rest will killed. When the combat was finished, the group too a quick rest to tend to their wounds and search the cave. Although none of the food the gith had was edible, there was plenty of fresh water. The gith leader carried a small quartz lens that Gwyn identified as magical, although its properties were still a mystery, as were the precise workings of the magic runes in the cavern.
After recovering from the fight with the gith, Morg descended down the hollow shaft into the cistern below. The bright light and howling winds above gave way to the cool darkness of the cistern. The only light below was a wan, green glow produced by clumps of fungi that did little to dispel the gloom of the cramped space.
Although the cistern was obviously not full, Morg had never imagined that so much water could exist in one place. As Morg finished his descent, he landed in a wide, irregularly shaped pool that divided the cistern in half. The waters were still, clear and came up to his knees. The ceiling of the cistern was only about 6 feet above the ground causing him to stoop over awkwardly.
Seeing no immediate danger and no sign of the two gith that were tossed into the cistern, the rest of the group lit their torches and followed Morg down. They spread out and began to search the cave. Vinara and the rest of the group uncovered signs of a struggle and a the remains of the gith, which appeared to have been badly mauled and partially eaten. Morg, off on his own, found nothing, unfortunately, something found him.
A horrific beast, roughly the size of an erdlu, appeared out of the darkness. It was a quadruped and covered in a rock-like hide with jutting spikes of stone and crystal. Its cat-like head had large ears, reddish eyes and a wide jaw filled with dagger-like fangs. The malign intelligence behind its glowing eyes was the most horrific aspect. This creature could only be a tembo.
The tembo tore into Morg with its claws and fangs and draining him of the will to fight. It only switched to attack Kelvor when he used the Way to get the beasts attention. The beasts mere presence was draining the life from the heroes as the fought it. Its great speed and ferocity left none safe. The heroes were unable to consistently inflict damage, as the beasts hide was tough and its magical nature made is resistant to Gwyn’s spells.
The group had to use every trick they could think of to keep the creature for killing them all outright. Morg’s training in the arena and Kelvor’s use of the Way allowed them some degree of control over the creature, but it was far stronger than the realized. Vinara kept them both alive while she and her companions attempted to help take down the monster. Gwyn, although her spells were often resisted, was able to severely wound the tembo. Morg eventually fell to it and was knocked unconscious, only kept alive by his hardy mul heritage. Eventually Vinara was able to revive Morg and the beast finally fell to her staff and Gwyn’s fire.
More exhausted than ever before the group collapsed in the cistern and rested until their strength returned. During their rest, they searched the cistern but found nothing of value, other than the water itself. Morg hauled the carcass of the tembo up into the main cave in order to bring it back to Tyr as a trophy. During their rest Vinara sense that they were further from the Tree of Life then they were in Tyr.
Return to Tyr
Outside of the cave they reunited with Castri and made an uneventful journey back to Tyr. Outside of the city they stopped by the House Asticles estates to confer with Agis. They informed him of the location of the Cistern and the senator immediately dispatched his remaining personal guards to secure the precious water supply. The heroes were invited to spend a few days resting at the estates.
While at the estates Agis offered to train them, so that they would have stronger defenses against users of the Way. Those who fought the tembo found themselves strangely strengthened by the experience. Agis was able to arrange for the hide of the tembo to be turned into a suit of armor for Morg.
They also learned from Agis that the looming war with Urik was beginning to take its toll on the city. The former gladiators were anxious to see combat and unwilling to wait until all of the army was ready to march. He feared that if they weren’t controlled they would march out to certain doom and the safety of Tyr would be in more jeopardy. However, the gladiators were not the only problem – there was growing tension between the craftsmen and the merchant houses with accusations of price-gouging on war supplies and worries of a trade embargo threatened to undermine the war preparations. Morg and Kelvor agreed to investigate the situations.