"Aye, thar be t'ree hoss shoes he'r," Huthgar called.
"Paco says he's still pulling salt out of that mine," Erlik called back. "We need to make sure it hasn't become inhabited."
With so short a distance, Lily soon reached Huthgar's side. "This tunnel seems to slope upward," she called, looking up at the Wizard.
"We're on our way," Erlik replied.
Soon, he and Samuel were standing with their companions. "Well, let's get this tunnel cleared and move on. It'll be getting dark soon," the Fighter suggested.
"Hmph," Lily snorted. "You two are the ones who wanted to search through a ton of, of . . . monster poop, looking for non-existent emeralds."
"Hey, if we're going to be slaying monsters and putting ourselves at risk, then I'd like a little more reward than just two bags of salt," Samuel insisted.
"Aye!" Huthgar agreed. "Tha lil' gem be wor'h couple hunerd silver pieces!"
"Exactly!" Samuel nearly shouted. "Can't pass up a haul like that!"
"Ha! There was no evidence that there was more than one gem!" Lily retorted. "We wasted . . . hey! What happened to the lanterns?"
"Ah cannae see!" cried Huthgar.
The tunnel was suddenly thrown into darkness.
"It's not the lanterns," Erlik answered. "I can just see mine, if I hold it up to my face. This is a magical darkness. Beware!"
"Wha be causin' it?" asked Huthgar.
"Really?" Erlik countered. "From a Dwarf? Can you not think of several creatures of the underground that could do such a thing?"
"Drow!" cried Huthgar.
Though no one could see the action, the Wizard buried his face in his palm. "Doh! If it were Drow, we'd already have been set upon!" he decreed. "Heaven's mercy. If it were Drow they wouldn't have scratched at Paco's door . . . they'd have burned the house down."
"Aye, tha be da truth of it," Huthgar admitted. "Mus' be some utter beastie."
"So . . . what do we do?" asked Samuel.
"We continue on," said Lily. "Whatever this thing is, it moved in during Paco's absence, or else he'd know about it."
"Aye laddie, tha ah do," the Dwarf replied.
"Alright then, everyone take hold of the person in front of them; belt, shirt, whatever," Erlik directed the group. "Huthgar, push forward. Paco said there was a cavern area at the end of this tunnel; take us there."
With everyone taking a grip on the person in front of them, the companions pushed forward. It wasn't long before the floor leveled out.
"Ah ken sense a op'n space befoe . . . Argh!" the Dwarf screamed.
"Eiyee!" Lily's scream followed Huthgar's. "Some kind of . . . blanket . . . thing, just fell over Huthgar!"
"Blanket?" repeated Erlik, puzzled.
"Erlik! Do something about this darkness!" demanded Samuel.
"I can't!" the Wizard informed the Fighter. "I don't have a spell powerful enough for that."
Huthgar's muffled cries could be heard through the constricting material.
"This thing is smothering him!" cried Lily. "Help me!"
Samuel and Erlik made their way forward, running their hands along the walls. First finding Lily, they then proceed to locate Huthgar and the thing grappling him.
"This thing feels . . . leathery," said Samuel.
"That's because it's a beast, an animal," Erlik informed them. "Judging by the tendrils hanging off the bottom of it and the fact that it created this darkness, I'd judge it to be a Darkmantle."
"Is that the thing that pretends to be a stalactite?" asked Lily.
"Only one of several," Erlik replied. "This thing is going to try and smother Huthgar; squeeze him to death. We've got to get it off of him."
"I'll stab it!" cried Samuel, the sound of a blade being drawn reaching Erlik's ears.
"No!" the Wizard cried. "The beast isn't that thick, you dolt! You'll stab Huthgar too!"
At Erlik's words, Huthgar's cries grew louder.
"Put your blade away and wrestle it!" demanded Lily.
"I was just trying to help!" Samuel peevishly replied. The sound of his blade slamming back into its sheath could be heard.
"Grab a hold of it and don't let go," said Erlik. "Otherwise it'll flitter off into the darkness and attack us at another time."
Together -- with Huthgar pushing from inside -- the three pulled the creature off of their friend.
"Drag it down onto the floor!" Erlik instructed.
The creature struggled against their grip -- almost escaping -- but down it came, finally pinned beneath several bodies.
"Eww!" Lily cried. "I just stuck my finger into something . . . icky."
"Probably one of it's eyes," said Erlik. "Take your dagger and start stabbing it there, while the rest of us hold it down . . . and try not to hit anyone's hand."
Unseen, Samuel jerked his hand away at Erlik's words. The creature surged upwards, nearly breaking free.
"Don't let go of it!" the Wizard cried.