With the small corpse of the dead Krutik lying on the table before them, the party debated whether to investigate the ruins to see if there is a connection between these Kruthik and the swarms that attacked the tower?
Finally they decided that it was worth investigating, and the next morning headed into the ruins to the area where the explorers had indicated they fought the swarm.
It did not take the group long to find the area, which was strewn with the corpses of the dead bugs.
The small cave mouth from which they had exited was easily visible, but hoping to find a larger entrance, the group searched around the collapsed building.
Unfortunately, not finding any other entrances, the group sent the rogue, being the stealthiest and most perceptive in to take a look.
Zanne did not make it far into the small tunnel before she could hear the chittering and scurrying of the bugs just around the bend.. Backing out, she informed the rest of the group of what she heard.
Hoping not to have to fight the bugs in the cramped tunnel, the group went to work trying to create a shortcut around the long switchback that let into the the lair.
Unfortunately, they managed to get only a few moments of work done before the bugs came swarming out of the cave mouth: hundreds of the small bugs in a carpet that covered the ground.
The battle was hard-fought. While the group managed to keep the bugs contained to the area around the cave mouth, those in melee were constantly bitten and clawed by the tiny bugs, and worse, they felt their life being sucked out by each bite and scrape and by a thick black mist that accompanied the bugs.
Eventually the group was able to dissipate the swarms by killing enough of the bugs, and after a short rest, finished their work on the tunnel bypass, and proceeded further into the lair.
The first two room were empty; they had likely been occupied by the swarms that had attacked at the cave mouth.
In the second room the group came across some mostly-devoured bodies; little was left besides bones and leather; the metal weapons having been devoured by the bugs.
With a quick search, the group did find a pair of red leather gloves that had not been devoured by the bugs. Examining them, the warlock indicated that they were magical.
Red Leather gloves: lv6 Burning gauntlets (AV p132)
The third chamber, accessed through another of the tight tunnels, contained more of the Kruthik, though this time it was 5 of the larger beasts, which, similar to the previous battles, continuously sprayed the group with toxic barbs. However, these beasts had also been twisted by whatever had affected the smaller ones, and their attacks and proximity drained the life from the party.
In addition to the larger Kruthik, the room contained what appeared to be a tear in the wall; a dark gash that seemed to drink in the light around it.
The Kruthik, like those before, attacked immediately. However, the group was expecting the attack, and managed to defeat them much more handily than the swarms that had attacked earlier.
With the beasts dead, Leif moved to investigate the tear in the wall. He believed it to be some form of portal, but it was not like any he had seen before (lacking the rainbow-hued edges) and it did not radiate any magic at all.
Steeling themselves, the party plunged through the portal.
It was not what they expected. Unlike the previous portals they had been through, this did not lead to anywhere; the party emerged into a dark void, free of any light or sound or smell or any other sensation apart from an un-natural cold that seemed to spread from the inside out.
Forced to rely on their intuition, the party stumbled around in the darkness for several minutes, their life-force slowly being leeched from their bodies by the void, before they managed to find a way out.
Stumbling from the rift, the party emerged into a well-make stone hallway with well-reinforced doorways at either end, one of which was set with a glowing blue rune.
They were not alone in the hallway; several of the large Kruthik, as well as a truly giant specimen we also in the hallway, and pounced on the group as they emerged from the hallway, spraying them with their poisonous spines, and the larger one spewing forth blasts of acid and the life-draining mist.
The group, savaged by the onslaught of the Kruthik, fought back desperately…