Beaten and bloody, the heroes decide to explore the caves a bit more before returning to town. They explore a nearby creek and find a thick carpet of foul-smelling green mold and fungus, as well a trio of young slime molds. The slimes are quickly slain and the heroes discover the fate of the first expedition, the mounds themselves! However not all is lost as they find a single agate hidden within the central body’s vest.
Having had enough of the cave, the heroes grab Parda’s body and head back into town. Realizing that they’ll need more firepower to complete their mission, they explore the town and look for any magic or technological items that would help even the odds. Although they find several interesting devices, all are a well outside of their price range. However they did manage to equip Nim with some basic equipment and a new crossbow, and return to Val’s for some rest.
Bright and early the next day, the heroes plunge back into the polluted pond to head back to the tunnels. Exploring a new junction in the cave system, they find a body of someone covered in what appears to be rust. Ezrik approached the body and is overcome with bone-numbing cold, so cold that it nearly kills the mighty Ezrik.
Deciding to leave the body for another day, the heroes quickly save Ezrik from certain death. Giving Ezrik a few moments to recovery from his ordeal, they take yet another branch into a vast chamber. Within the chamber are four ramshackle huts made of what appear to be strips of meal, hides, and some sort of fibrous plant matter. But before they can explore the chamber the party is confronted by humanoid creatures that seem to appear out of the walls themselves.
Trelane recognizes them as skulks and decides to parley with the creatures. The skulks appear to want no trouble and ask the party to speak with their leader, a female named Sef. She meets with them and presents them with an interesting proposition. She’ll allow them free passage through her caves and a reward of a strange device she’s recovered so long as they agree to two things — they need to leave the skulks unharmed and clear out the annoying nest of jinkin gremlins to the north.
The heroes agree, and Sef reveals some interesting information about recent visitors to the caves; of particular interest were a purple-haired woman and a group of humans, orcs, and ratfolk were, in fact, the first visitors to the caves. The purple-haired woman negotiated with Sef’s predecessor and arranged a significant payment in return for an agreement — the skulks would attack and kill any and all others who passed through the caves. The purple-haired woman and her followers then went north through the gremlin caves and the skulks did what they could to prevent others from intruding. However after suffering significant losses, and with no further sign of the purple-haired woman, they have reconsidered the deal and just want peace and quiet for their much-diminished tribe.
The heroes know nothing about these gremlins but know that they are up to no good…