While glad to understand the source of the strange noise under the Moathouse and thus to remove this excuse from posting a standing garrison, Burne's ultimate interest was, again, the magic pools. The stomachs of Mapper and Roquelle were suffering the effects of raw potato consumption, but Thimbur, another long-term resident of the Inn was willing to take the job. Wolfgang and Gerrilynn agreed that, this time, they would work harder to remember the magic pools. Once again, Burne was represented by his apprentice Panyus. And Chickie and Riff rounded out the party.
This time, the group avoided the gnomes. (And perhaps vice-versa-- the moathouse cellars were empty.)
Thimbur had visited the moathouse on his own and consulting his maps, he helped Wolfgang and Gerrilynn find the secret staircase that led to the caverns far beneath. Wolfgang relocated the pool room and showed Panyus how by filling it with water, one with the proper background could read the words reflected therein and learn new spells.
Panyus showed his gratitude by testing one of the spells on Wolfgang, and confirmed that the young druid would willingly hand over his ashwood staff as a token of friendship. Panyus returned the staff, and asked Wolfgang where they would find other pools.
Wolfgang answered that he didn't know of any, and that they hadn't delved any deeper. Panyus was satisfied with this and ready to return to the surface. but Thimbur had a suggestion. Just because Wolfgang hadn't found other pools didn't mean they wouldn't. After slight hesitation, Panyus agreed and the group moved deeper into the caverns.
After some time they came to a strange cavern which seemed to have the site of a cave-in. Most of the room was filled with fine red earth and huge chunks of sandstone. The only obvious exits were three holes in the ceiling, reachable by a rope.
But as they were discussing their next moves, Thimbur began climbing up the pile of silt, soon sinking up to his hips. Gerrilynn called out for him to stop.
"Stop what?" he asked, before disappearing completely. Gerilynn and Wolfgang sprang to his rescue, trying to dig through the piles of dirt, and reaching into it trying to grab him. There was no one sign of him.
But then Thimbur stepped simply stepped back out on the other side of the room. "What are you saying? I'm fine."
Clearly there was magic at work. Thimbur took the torch and walked into the dirt pile and back-- the flame was completely unaffected. Thimbur indeed claimed that there was no dirt pile at all, that they were all in a large circular cavern, and that he had found some tracks in the "hidden" part of the room. Panyus also seemed to see through what he declared an "illusion" and suggested that it was some kind of test of one's mental prowess.
Then Riff walked after him, oblivious to not only the pile of dirt, but to the on-going debate about it.
While Wolfgang and Gerilynn struggled to climb over boulders, Thimbur found a secret passage in the hidden part of the cave. Wolfgang and Grilynn allowed themselves to be tied to the end of a rope and, after taking a deep breath were pulled into the "dirt" and through it into the passage that Thimbur had discovered.
The caverns beyond were much narrower, labyrinthine, and wet, seemingly still in the process of being carved by the constant slow trickle of water. Following the flow of water, the party reached another regularly constructed chamber with a pool at its center. Once again there was writing on the upper walls of the chamber, and as this pool was well-supplied with water, this writing was reflected at their feet. But it was unreadable. The letters were not deeply carved and the water wasn't still.
Wolfgang had recovered a glowing lens in one of his earlier adventures. He placed it in on a platform in the center of the pool. It's light reflected off the ceiling and made the writing in the pool readable. Panyus was thoroughly pleased. After conferring with Gerrilynn, he confessed the charm that he'd cast on Wolfgang and dispelled its effects.
The party set up watch so that Panyus could copy one of the spells from the pool into his spell book. Thmbur, exploring the immediate area, heard voices and rushed back to warn the others. Panyus used the magic of the pool to make Thimbur invisible. Thimbur remained in the pool room while the others found places to hide in a narrow side passage.
Moments later a group of six large, shaggy, and fanged creatures entered the room, bearing heavy swords and spiked clubs. One of them noticed that the pool was empty and pointed it out to the others with much enthusiasm. They clapped their hands, licked their lips and salivated and then began peering down the side passages, shouting for silence. When a moment of silence was achieved, Thimbur tossed a stone down one of the side passages that led away from where his friends were hiding. The monsters eagerly charged down it.
Thimbur followed. He trailed the monsters through the cave to their lair, a narrow noisome cavern strewn with charred bones. The monsters were searching their home with a mixture of rage and excitement, until they came above the half-eaten body of an earlier body.
Thimbur went back to tell the others. They agreed they would ambush the monsters in their lair.
By the time they returned, the monsters had a fire going and were busy eating. Thimbur, still invisible, circled around it, finding the one he'd identified as the leader. He rushed forward with his sword drawn and, tripped over a rock to land in the middle of the cooking fire. The monsters jumped to their feet only to be assaulted with arrows and stones from Thimbur's friends. Thimbur himself rolled on the floor to extinguish the flames. As two of the monsters grabbed for him, they were transfixed by Gerrilynn's magic.
The remaining monsters rushed at the group in the hallway and Panyus unleashed his most powerful magic, suddenly growing two double his size and sprouting foot-long horns from his face. The effect was instant, temporary, and probably an illusion, but the monsters turned and fled.
The party pursued all the way to a large cavern. There the monsters turned and attacked, but were destroyed by arrows and magic.
There was a large pool at the far end of the cavern. It did not seem to be a "magic" pool, but a natural body of water, large enough that they couldn't see the other side of it. As Wolfgang approached to investigate, a seemingly insignificant puddle expanded to engulf him. He was trapped inside a membrane of living water. Panyus pointed his wand and blasted the strange being with magical energy. It sizzled and evaporated.
Thimbur cautiously approached the larger pool. He could see the pool reached to end of the cavern and beyond. That is, it flowed into a deep underwater cavern that extended beyond where they could see. The water was clear and there was a rope bolted to the bottom, perhaps a guideline for a swimmer to reach what lay beyond. Deciding that there was something wrong with something so easy, the party explored other ways of exiting the room. Gerilynn discovered a crawl hole, about three feet off the ground and less than two feet in diameter. By use of Wolfgang's glowing lens they saw the tunnel went on for twenty feet before curving out of sight. Thimbur, Wolfgang, and Panyus agreed that they would see where it led.
Thimbur led the way, holding his dagger in his teeth, Wolfgang followed with the glowing lens, and Panyus came behind with his wand. This prevented them from raising the question of when they should turn around until it was too late. The passage was twisty and rough, and seemed to narrow further. But the further they went, the more they hated the idea of retracing their steps going backwards-- it was far too narrow to turn around.
When they did finally reach the end, they found another pool. This one, unlike the previous two, was not on the floor but on the top of a platform. Thimbur climbed up to take a quick look from the narrow lip of the pool. The ceiling was reflected on the water. But not the writing.