Tracks, some made by sandal or boot, some made by non-human creatures, led north from the wrecked caravan. After following these for a while a tower came in sight. Once arrived at its base, they could see that it was in ruin but there still seemed to be a set of stairs leading down to a sturdy door. Fen wasted no time in hauling it open and stepping inside. He saw a larger room, containing a cistern and some broken sarcophagi, and among these what he guessed to be the survivors of the caravan, bound hand and foot, guarded by five silt runners and a larger lizard-man – a ssurran.
The scene took him slightly aback and two of the little lizard-folk raced up and stabbed him with their vicious spears. How did that happen, he thought, then his legs failed him and he fell.
Naivara was close behind and focused her mental energies on the silt runners and was satisfied to see trickles of blood from their nasal orifices. Timak, by her side, ravaged them with an eldritch blast. Ku-ki’cha staggered briefly under the onslaught of a mental attack by a silt runner inciter. Recovering, he weaved deftly between his companions and placed himself in reach of both silt runners and the ssurran, before commencing the dre-dul. There were several versions of this, the thri-kreen dance of death, that allowed the warrior using it to strike foes both close and at short distances. His gythka whirled and sliced and all three enemies felt its bite.
More silt runners were joining the fight; alarmed by this, Timak’s concentration wavered and his next sorcerous attack fizzled impotently. Before he could refocus a poisoned blade struck him in his side. The last thing he saw was Ku-ki’cha spearing his attacker, then his eyes closed for good. The thri-kreen was now facing several enemies and fighting hard, but in his heart he knew this might be his last battle. Naivara hesitated, then turned and ran upstairs. No sense in us all getting killed, she thought, heading towards the broken wagons. Glancing over her shoulder she saw at least two silt runners sprinting after her. Damn, they’re fast, she thought, then the caravan came in sight. Without stopping, she entered the fey realm and exited under one wagon, tumbling in a heap. She glanced back fearfully – had she been spotted? One little lizard man pointed and chattered to his comrade, then advanced on the eladrin’s hiding place.
Back in the basement room, one of the human prisoners, a caravan driver, took advantage of the distraction to wriggle free of his bonds and stand up, grabbing a sword from a stack of captured weapons. The ssurran and a silt runner turned to face him. They vaguely remembered that one of the caravan party had wielded a sword from which lightning had flashed – was it this one? The caravan driver raised his weapon, then a blinding light and searing pain answered that question. The bolt felled the ssurran, and a savage grin appeared on the swordsman’s face.
Well, that didn’t work so well, though Naivara, as the silt runners circled the wagon’s wrecked shell, time to get creative. She focused on one silt runner, delving deep into its mind and erasing any perception of her, making her effectively invisible. Then she slipped from under the wagon past the dazed creature and hid again in the wreckage strewn round the site. The two silt runners peered into the space where she had just lain, shrugged, then began to pace back toward the tower.
Ku-ki’cha opened his eyes. His last recollection was of being surrounded by silt runners and of being battered to the ground. Now a dwarf was bending over him, passing his stubby hands over the thri-kreen’s wounds, concentrating, somehow stopping the flow of blood. Noticing the ongoing fight, he made an effort to rise. “Best lie still,” hissed the dwarf, “You’re in no shape for a fight.” So saying, he straightened up. Ku-ki’cha noticed an ethereal form, about the size of a dog, hovering near to the newcomer. Who was this dwarf – a shaman, perhaps? His rescuer was looking over at the remaining silt runners. Thick, thorny plant tendrils sprouted from the sandy floor around their ankles, holding them fast.
One of the two silt runners outside was dragging Timak’s body down the stairs. His companion loitered behind, perhaps because of the injuries the eladrin’s mental attacks had caused, and then cried out briefly and slumped dead. Naivara released her concentration and nodded, satisfied. She got up and followed the other one down the steps.
A few minutes later all the silt runners lay dead. It had not been possible to save Fen or Timak, but Ku-ki’cha’s wounds were bandaged and he declared himself able to walk and fight if needed. Introductions were made; the caravan driver’s name was Wil Thomson and he mentioned he had fought in the legions, but would volunteer no further information. The dwarf’s name was Graven.