Summary: The party enters a network of tunnels from an opening in the sir’hibas’s room after seeing several orange beetle-like suthra emerge from it. In a small pile of debris close to the surface, they find several of the sir’hibas’s missing bones as well as pieces of a smashed crystal tablet covered with ancient Sarpah characcters. They continue to search the tunnels, finding bones and tablet pieces as well as other oddities — blind amphibious suthra in an underground river; a room where dozens of female jánah and children were burnt alive when it became clear that the city would be overrun; a statue of a Sarpah Devah unknown to any of them; the lair of some kind of tunneling creature; a dead deer jánah and his anole pursuer in a room that leads out to the bluff overlooking the city; and the nest of the orange suthra. Having found as many bones and tablet shards as they can easily obtain, they finally leave the tunnels the following day.
Story Points: 1 for Arjuna, Kailua, Ganjan, M’rina, Krista
As the party watches, large round orange beetle-like suthra cautiously emerge from the crack in the floor of the sir’hibas’s room. They have no eyes, but seem to get along fine by using their feathery antennae. Arjuna sends them scurrying back into the crack with kicks and blows, and they disappear into the darkness. Arjuna follows, and finds that the crack is the entrance to a long sloping tunnel.
Kailua realizes that many of the sir’hibas’s bones are missing, and with some reluctance, everyone decides to take a look in the tunnel. The beetles are driven back even further, and they discover a small cache of bones and broken shards of crystal covered with ancient Sarpah writing. M’rina is fascinated, and insists on continuing the search. They descend uneasily into the darkness.
After some distance, the tunnel emerges in a large underground cavern that has a river running through it. Kailua immediately heads for this, but stops when the head of a large white suthra emerges from the water. These suthra have eyes, but skin has grown over them. They are several yards long and look hungry. Ganjan spears one, and the others are quickly slain as well, and stain the water with their blood. Kailua decides she might not want to go swimming just now. Krista, although familiar with many varieties of suthra, has never seen or heard of anything like these.
Meanwhile, M’rina has been searching the cavern, and finds both bones and shards of crystal, which appear to be part of a tablet. Another piece or two is found in the belly of one of the river suthra, as well as most of a beetle. Evidently the amphibious suthra swallow their prey whole.
Among the several exits from the room is one that slopes farther down, and smells faintly of smoke. They decide to take that one. As they descend the smoke smell grows stronger, and they eventually come out into a room that is evidently part of the palace. It is made of stone and quite large, with four stone platforms at the corners and one in the center. On these are the charred remnants of logs. The walls are stained black with smoke, and the bones of dozens of jánah litter the floor. Kailua remembers that some ancient civilizations had a tradition of jauhar — when it was clear that a battle was lost, the females and children would voluntarily immolate themselves rather than be captured and dishonored by the enemy. This room was evidently designed (and used) for that purpose. Besides the bones, they find broken earthenware jars that may have held oil or some other flammable liquid.
Although the opening they came through was the end of a tunnel that was made by a beast of some sort, on the other side of the room there is a door. It takes the combined strength of Ganjan and Arjuna, but eventually they are able to open it. Once through it is clear why it was so difficult — it had been barred from the outside. A jánah-made corridor leads up from here, presumably to the palace.
In a small room off the corridor is a statue of an unknown Devah, a blue-black snake with thin white stripes. She sits with closed eyes on what looks like a kind of nest of broken branches. Ash is smeared on her forehead, her left hand lies in her lap, and her upraised right hand holds red crystals. Her name is inscribed on the base of her statue, but no one is able to decipher it.
In a wide shallow trough in front of the statue are the imprints of dozens of hands, all sizes. This looks hurriedly done, as the plaster has not evenly settled and many of the handprints are smudged. On the walls are scrawled inscriptions made by many different jánah, written with charcoal or something similar. A small ornate wooden chest sits next to the goddess, and the party decides to open it. In it are a strange mix of items — a small shoe, withered flowers that crumble to dust when touched, beads, a jeweled comb, a child’s wooden toy, rotted clothing. M’rina takes the comb, and copies of some of the writings are made in the hopes of translating them at a future time.
They decide to retrace their steps back into the tunnels instead of following the corridor up to the palace. They follow another tunnel leading off from the river room, and come upon what is evidently the lair of whatever has been making the tunnels. Fortunately the creature is currently out. Bones and other debris are scattered about, including a few more pieces of the tablet. Kailua explores a pool in one corner that connects with the river, tying a rope to herself first in case of any difficulties. She swims underwater for quite a distance without finding a break in the rock ceiling, and turns back before she runs out of air.
They return once again to the river room and set out to explore the last of the exits from the cavern. This leads to yet more rooms and branches into several corridors. They briefly consider contacting the spirit of the Sir’hibas to ask her where they should search, but the memory of the jauhar room and the likelihood that there may be many restless spirits about convinces them otherwise.
One of the rooms contains an old and now ruined ornate divan, home to a nest of small spiders and a few more bones and shards of the tablet. Shortly afterwards they come upon a large room with a hole in the ceiling that leads to the surface. Here among the debris and rotting vegetation washed in from the surface they find the remains of one of the anole tribesman and a dead deer jánah. Scrawled on the wall near the deer are the words “Avoid the nest”. Kailua is able to conclusively determine that the deer died of exposure and starvation after suffering a broken leg, probably caused by falling through the opening above. Both jánah died relatively recently, perhaps in the last three or four years. M’rina is pleased to find that the deer’s bag holds several more pieces of the tablet.
As it is now some time after both suns have set, they decide to leave the tunnels and take their chances outside for the night. They emerge high up on the bluff overlooking the palace and the city, and find a relatively secure place to camp. Nothing disturbs them during the night, and the next morning they go back down into the tunnels.
While exploring one of the passages they had passed the day before, they come upon several rooms filled with fungus tended by the orange suthra. The air is thick and heavy with spores, and makes several of the party a little light-headed. The suthra become somewhat agitated when they attempt to enter, and try to herd the intruders back into the tunnels. The party decides not to provoke a confrontation.
The last tunnel they explore leads to a room filled with the beetle-like suthra. There are hundreds of them crowded into the room, crawling on the walls, floor, and ceiling. This, they conclude, must be the nest. The beetles, which up until now have been rather timid, are actively hostile, advancing upon the party in large groups, waving their antennae. The party, taking heed of the warning scrawled by the deer jánah, retreats in good order. Kailua examines the bones they have collected so far, and concludes that they have located at least 95% of the missing pieces, and that there is no need to dispute with the suthra in the nest or the fungus gardens to obtain the rest of the sir’hibas’s remains. M’rina reluctantly agrees that the same is true for the crystal tablet.