The group moved through the corridors, eventually arriving at an actual dead end. They moved back toward the last branch in the path and went the other only to come to another intersection and, eventually, another dead end.
For several days they repeated the same process. They got up in the morning, replaced the bandage over Lilly’s eyes, Twila cast a darkvision spell on herself, Lysara and Bonnie, and they wandered as far as they could in search of anything beyond the same stone walls and earthen floors. Growing increasingly agitated as they continued to encounter the same dead ends.
“Maybe it’s like the deep underground and there’s a hollow wall somewhere that we an phase through,” Lysara suggested.
“If we don’t find anything going down this path we may have to double back and check every dead end we’ve encountered,” Twila said. “Fortunately, I have been mapping the maze as we’ve gone.”
“That’ll take forever,” Axra groaned.
“I see the end of this tunnel ahead,” Velvet reported.
Everyone but Lilly stared ahead. She hesitantly reached up to touch her bandage, wanting to know what they saw but afraid to ask.
“A pool of water?” Axra asked.
“Well, it is different,” Twila said.
“But still a dead end,” Axra muttered.
“Maybe it’s a freshwater spring and we can all take a bath!” Lysara declared. “Except Velvet. He can keep guard.”
“Works for me,” Velvet stated.
They moved forward to examine it.
“I don’t see the bottom,” Axra said.
“Maybe this is what we’re looking for,” Twila observed. “There could be an opening down there that leads to what we’re looking for.”
“Or it could be a trap,” Bonnie stated. “Or even nothing. Anyway, how would we get down there? If it’s as deep as it looks then we can’t exactly hold our breaths.”
“I do know a waterfolk transformation spell,” Twila said. “But it’s risky.”
“How so?” Axra asked.
“I’ve only used it once during practice,” Twila said. “And it’s a really hard spell. I don’t think that I can use it on all of us at once.”
“Then just use it on me,” Bonnie said. “I’ll do recon and find out if there’s anything down there. If there isn’t then there’s no point in you using the spell on anyone else.”
“But what if you need backup?” Lysara inquired. “At least take me with you!” She hugged Bonnie’s arm.
“I’ll be all right on my own,” Bonnie said. “I promise I’ll be careful. Princess, please allow me.”
“It’s okay by me,” Axra said. “Twila?”
“Agreed,” Twila said. “It is a good suggestion.”
“But…” Lysara began.
“Don’t worry,” Twila reassured her. “Bonnie will come right back if she finds anything and we can go down there together. The water is calm over here so there’s not much risk of anything dangerous being close enough that she’ll encounter it before finding any entrance there might be.” She turned to Bonnie. “I should warn you, the spell will only last a couple hours. Don’t examine anything down there for too long.”
“Got it,” Bonnie said. She removed her armour and placed it gently near the wall and began removing her other clothes.
“Don’t look!” Lysara shouted, trying to block everyone’s view of the much taller woman. Velvet shrugged and turned to face the wall. Axra moved over to converse quietly with Lilly.
Bonnie finished stripping down to her smallclothes.
“You’ll want to be in the water when I cast this,” Twila said. Bonnie nodded. She strapped her axe to her waist with a makeshift belt and went in.
Twila finished her incantation and Bonnie felt a tingling sensation. Her hands and feet became webbed and gills appeared on her neck. Fins jutted out of various points of her body.
Twila nearly fell over. “It’s… done,” she gasped.
Bonnie dove into the water. Her vision was actually really good. She hadn’t noticed before, but the spell had done something to her eyes to make it easier for her to see underwater. She could vaguely make out a hole of some kind near the bottom. She swiftly swam for it, glancing around for any signs of potential trouble as she went.
The hole was absolutely massive up close. It was easily large enough for the crustacean they’d seen a couple days ago. How had they missed it earlier? She glanced up, and realised that she couldn’t see the surface at all from don here. The hole led into some kind of tunnel. Bonnie decided to follow it ahead, just to see where it led. After all, if it just went to another dead end she didn’t want to waste everyone’s time. She’d only been swimming for eight minutes anyway. There was still plenty of time before the spell wore off.
The tunnel sloped downwards and its sides were covered with coral, shells, and moss. Several little fish swam by her as she went. After ten minutes of following the tunnel she came to the exit.
It was incredible! There was nothing but a vast network of water as far as she could see with creatures of all kinds swimming around with a variety of colourful undersea plants. Had the tunnel led to the ocean? No, looking to the sides she could see the stone walls of a mountainous cavern extending. Still, it was a massive underwater cavern.
Most impressive of all was a great undersea temple, with statues of Poseidon lined up at the entrance, tridents held aloft. Was that where the Einklangümlich Staff lay in rest?
She was distracted from her reverie by the sound of something tearing through the water. She swam to the side, barely avoiding a massive pair of snapping jaws.
The creature was over twelve metres long, with a crocodile-like snout and propelled by four massive fins. Worst of all, it was blocking Bonnie’s exit.