Children of Netherhearth
The riddle’s author
The arrows next led Leo and Grindle to a shaft-like cavern extending up into the darkness, with red-stained water cascading down the rock face from up high. The exit tunnel was 30’ up the far wall, so Leo began to carefully make the climb. Half way up he was attacked by a pair of bloodwings, knocking him from the wall. Soon the whole colony flew down to join the melee, and Leo and Grindle only prevailed through their ability to saturate their forms with electrical and necrotic energy preventing the bloodwings from feeding without killing themselves in the process. During the fight, they were also assisted by a mysterious ally who launched a series of peculiar ranged attacks from the tunnel above.
With the bloodwings dead, they completed the climb, travelled down some more tunnels and finally reached their destination: a vast terraced cavern of glowing green crystals. After a brief but tense standoff with the giant beetle “Constance”, the author of the poem emerged from a hidden cave and was revealed to them: Grizelda, priestess of Malafice, and the woman accused of murdering Leo’s family. She seemed to know a lot about your situation, referring to Etoh’s death and the fact you had both contracted filth fever (unknown to you) – presumably the result of some of her divination powers. She also knew of your goal to obtain Dreamwort, informing you where the nearest patch could be found, and insisting that your best chance of defeating the giant beetles that laired there was to leave immediately while your powers were still buoyed up from your previous fights.
She then revealed your earlier mysterious ally, Varian, who was to accompany you. Varian’s captivity by the xilix had changed him dramatically, as the right side of his body was now more xilix than human. Although you had many questions, Grizelda said that all would be revealed once you had returned with the Dreamwort. Grindle challenged Grizelda, asking why they should trust her, but eventually agreed to fetch the Dreamwort as suggested.
Most of the time en route to the Dreamwort cavern was spent by Varian establishing a psychic bond with Leo and Grindle that, amongst other things, would have utility in combat. Once the cavern was reached, the beetles were dispatched, although not before Grindle received a nasty blow from the larger beetle’s massive mandibles that almost disembowelled her. The Dreamwort was then gathered carefully into a sack along with some soil, and the trio began to make their way back to Grizelda’s lair.