"You've taken a real beating, my friend," Lily says, squatting next to Huthgar and placing her hand upon his shoulder. "Between that 'cape' creature and the lizard, you've had a heck of a day."
"Ah need a ale," the dwarf breathed.
"Can you continue?" the Wizard asked. "Or do you need rest?"
"Ack, no," the dwarf replied. "Ah can go on."
"I'll take the lead," offered Samuel. "Perhaps if we drop a torch down there, it will provide enough light for me."
"Unnecessary," Erlik informed the Fighter. "I have a spell I've been saving for this. When you're ready, I'll cast it."
"Huthgar, sure you're ready?" Samuel asked.
"Aye, lad," Huthgar replied. "Ah jus need'd ta catch ma breath."
Erlik nodded and moved to the ledge. "Illuminatus sphericus flotaetum." Four glowing balls of light appeared in the air in front of the Wizard. They began to move down the shaft. "The bottom's only about ten feet down. I'm only going to move them about ten feet forward; don't want to lose sight of them." He stood to the side, so that Samuel might access the ladder.
Samuel paused next to Erlik. "Why couldn't you do this when that 'flappy thing' put us in darkness?" The shaft and lower tunnel were bathed in light.
"This spell is not powerful enough to dispel magical darkness," Erlik replied. "It also isn't going to last for very long, so I suggest you get moving . . . before you find yourself in darkness again."
Samuel stepped onto the ladder and started down. "It's still holding," he called out. He sniffed. "Something smells down here!"
About two feet from the bottom, he let go of the ladder and dropped to the ground. He swung his shield to the front -- it was held across his back by means of a shoulder strap -- and slung it onto his left arm, immediately drawing his sword afterwards.
Lily stood net to Erlik. "Damn! Just how deep is this place?"
"I think we're there," Erlik replied. "You should get down there quickly, before my spell ends and Samuel finds himself confronting whatever this thing is in the dark. The creature's sure to have the advantage over him under such circumstances."
"Ah be right b'hind ye lass," Huthgar told her.
"No," the fighter replied. "Nothin'. I'm not moving forward 'til everyone's here."
"You're not going to hear me complain, big boy," Lily agreed. "Mister Mysterious says those lights of his will be going out soon." She gave a curt nod. "We'll wait for him to get here with his lantern." She held hers up higher, over the Fighter's shoulder.
"Riiight," breathed Samuel.
"Oof!" This burst of air announced the arrival of Huthgar. "Damn!"
"What's the matter?" Lily asked excitedly, turning her head to look at the dwarf.
"Id jus 'curred ta me," Huthgar replied, looking up. "We got's ta clumb up outta 'dis t'ing."
"Damn!" Samuel swore.
"What!?" Lily gasped, quickly turning her attention back to the Fighter.
"He's right," Samuel said. The Fighter and Cleric began chuckling.
"Damn you two!" Lily slapped Samuel on the back of the head. "Now is not the time for . . ." Lily grabbed her throat and began to gag.
"By the gods!" cried Samuel as he gasped for air. "What is that horrid stench?"
"Id be tha beastie!" cried Huthgar, raising his axe. "Git duwn har Wizard!"
"Anemoi gustus!" Erlik's voice rang out from behind the companions. A stiff breeze came blowing down the tunnel and into the cavern beyond, carrying the atrocious reek with it.
Lily leaned against the cavern wall, coughing and throwing up, clearly helpless for the moment.
"Damn, that was bad," acknowledged Samuel, shaking his head and snorting.
"Ain' n'ver smelt nothin' like it a'fore," agreed Huthgar. "Wha could smell tha bad?"
"Our friend," Erlik told them. "And judging by the intensity of the odor . . . there's more than one of them."
"Mor'n one o' wha?" asked the dwarf.
"That," Erlik replied, pointing down the passageway.
Charging up the tunnel -- slowed slightly by the ascent -- came what appeared to be a reptilian creature that looked somewhat humanoid. It was a little shorter than a human and spindly, but with muscular arms and walking -- or running in this case -- erect on its squat legs, trailing a long, slender tail. Its head was lizardlike and crowned with a frill that extended from the forehead to the base of the neck. Its eyes were black and beady, but seemed to glow in the darkness. Its maw was opened wide, displaying sharp and jagged teeth. The creature hissed loudly as it charged.
It raised its arm and then shot it forward. A javelin whizzed past Samuel's head and nearly impaled the Wizard, tearing the sleeve of his robe. Another javelin could be clearly seen in the creature's clawed hand.
"Keep an eye out for a second one!" called Erlik, raising his right hand and preparing another spell. He held his lantern high with his left hand.
Lily remained incapacitated against the wall of the tunnel, falling to a sitting position, although she managed to bring her lantern to bare on the unfolding scene.
Huthgar quickly moved to stand beside Samuel. "Tha's it, lil beastie! Hurra ta taste ma steel!" He raised his axe ready to meet the charge. "Together lad!"
Samuel braced his feet, leaning forward, ready to meet the charge with his sword extended before him. "I'm with you!"
At that moment, Erlik's Dancing Lights spell ended and the lanterns' flickering light showed only the horrid face as it rushed upon them.