Accompanied by jaunty kobold lyrics, the party headed down the stairs, revealing a series of passages dimmly lit by wall fungus.. It was quickly apparent that water would be a problem down here; they only had one waterskin each and the kobold minions’ water-gathering technique (trailing their tongues along the wall as they walk) was not helpful. Moreover, the glowing fungus was a prime food source for giant ants, and the party had to clear out an ant work crew to proceed the path the kobolds claimed lead to the surface. Whooat, riding an even gianter and ant, plugged the passage and bashed bugs with her mace while Lucan and Jenda-Shan attack from behind her. The ants were not very tough, though Whooat still took a moderate beating.
The smell of fresh water wafted in from one side passage. The kobold legend said safety was in the other direction, but the party was entirely out of water (having rested well after the ant fight) and decided to head towards the smell of water.
They found it easily enough: a perfectly clear pool. Unfortunately their brilliantly perceptive scout Lucan uncharacteristically hung back as Jenda-Shan and Whooat walked to the edge of the pool. A massive dark shape stirred under the water, and the Dread Wyrm Murphy burst forth! The terrible wounds on his face and flanks were festering, his eyes were mad, and instead of acting like a clever conniving master of his domain, he was simply driven by rage and the desire for payback.
But the party had learned more from the previous fight than Murphy had. They were not badly shaken by his fearsome presence, and they did not bunch up tightly enough to all be caught in his acidic breath. Jenda-Shan and Lucan peppered him repeatedly early in the fight, while Whooat brought on Pelor’s protection and set Murphy ablaze. Murphy flew around the cavern, often staying low enough to rake at Lucan or Whooat, but high enough to avoid Whooat’s close-range attacks. He charged and raged, even breathing acid again in response to a nasty shot from Lucan. He made no effort to deal with being on fire, preferring to let the pain drive him on.
Dread Wyrm Murphy, drooling acid and lashing claws: I am your death! Whooat, having subsisted on fungus and rocks: You are my dinner!
Murphy focussed mainly on Lucan, as Jenda-Shan was tucked into a passage and Whooat’s shell looked too crunchy to make good comfort food. This left Lucan direly wounded, but Whooat was able get close enough to heal him by goading her ant mount directly underneath the flapping dragon.
Lucan, of course, focused on Murphy in return. He prepared his most precise and deadly shot, one designed to end long fights, and charged it with exploding fiery magic from his new bow. The universe tipped its hat as he loosed the arrow straight and true. The arrow went into Murphy’s left eye. A bright light flashed from behind his right eye. Steam billowed, and goo spilled, from his ears. Murphy was not killed by this epic shot, but it was clear he had seen his last day, and only the right side of it. His angry rants became babbling nonsense. His claws and teeth lashed out at nothing. He was quickly, almost mercifully, dispatched by the party. He fell to the cavern floor in a smouldering jumble of barely-connected parts.
The liberated kobolds returned, and gathered around the corpse of their former master. Uncharacteristically somber, they silently acknowledged the great debt and respect owed to the party.
The party, meanwhile, was filthy and exhausted. They cleaned up, even rinsing the goo off Whooat’s ant’s chitin. They processed the once-fearsome Murphy like any other animal carcass, harvesting useful parts (teeth and claws as trophies, various victuals as ritual components, and the whole head as a hood ornament for the kobolds’ pack-ant), and preparing dragon jerky to supplement their otherwise distasteful food supply.
They also recovered the lock from around Murphy’s neck. It was magical, and openly bore a mark combining that of the Vault of Chlamidior with that of a key. The surmised it was a lock to the Vault, mated to the key found stuck in a door above. They tucked it away without opening it.
After a somber but safe night’s rest, the party moved on. Kobolds leading the way reported another batch of ants. Somehow, the prospect of giant man-eating insects is not so intimidating as it was.