The party returned to the lair of the Dread Wyrm Murphy, who again eagerly gobbled up the spider eggs. In return, he offered to swim them up an underground river one at a time, which would lead to the surface a ways north of Villageton. The party did not trust the dragon, and when they tried to politely incline, he suggested if they change their minds they should contact him from within his belly.
A brief, brutal fight ensued. Lucan promptly backed away from the others, so Murphy’s acidic breath only affected Jenda-Shan and Whooat. The breath, and the dragon’s raw terrifying force of presense, set a dire tone for the conflict. The heroes fought back, repeatedly setting Murphy on fire, but he simply waded into his pool of brackish water to extinguish himself. Fortunately the dragon was uncoordinated and failed to land many heavy blows up close. In one such close encounter, Jenda-Shan noticed the dragon was wearing a padlock on a chain around its neck.
Finally, Murphy had been torn into by arrows, divine justice, and mystical forces so extensively that he fled. He dove into his pool and swam away. Jenda-Shan confirmed the story of an underground river by sending in a shadowy serpent, who also spotted the dragon’s hoarde: a good bit of gold, and a powerful magic weapon capable of changing shapes.
Kobold minions approached, who turned out to be friendly, though the one Lucan shot in the face might have held a grudge throughout the split second before its death. This crew was glad to see Murphy scared off, and told the party there was a way out of the cave system, to a “sanctuary”, but only after passing through an area overrun by ants. The party debated the various paths open to them, and decided to travel with the kobolds for now. Before doing so, they had to dispath the kobold leadership, including an ant-riding priest. Fortunately these ants were docile; one ant carried Herring Preserves (a favorite food for kobolds, but inedible to most humanoids) and the other carried Whooat.
They proceeded as directed by the kobolds. Other than one uncomfortable morning due to misidentified “food” foraged by Lucan, the travel was uneventful. They reached the spiral stairs mentioned by Murphy previously. The construction was outsized for humans, reminiscent of ogres who reputedly lurked beneath Kingdom’s End long ago.
At this point, the party had been underground for roughly a week and a half. They were hopeful to avoid another confrontation with Murphy, but also intrigued by the lock around his neck. The kobolds mentioned Murphy violently discouraged curiousity about the lock. Could it be one of the locks to the Vault of Chlamidior?