After defeating the Chull and divvying up the spoils of your victory, you took a well earned rest. Boosted by your success, each of you slept well. No nightmare dreams visited you upon that night.
Rising the next day, you prepared to continue your trek through the Underdark, seeking some way to reach the surface again. Checking Volo's map, you aimed towards Sloobludop, the Kuo-Toa settlement on the shores of the Darklake.
Your travels that morning were uneventful, if uncomfortable. You found yourselves journeying through a series of interconnected natural tunnels that were partially flooded. Sometimes you were in ankle deep water. Other times, you were up to your waste.
Soon enough, you found yourself following the flow of a river through the caverns.
The Key Decision
In the afternoon, your party came to an abrupt stop. The river you had been following widened until it filled the breadth of the cavern. Furthermore, in the distance, the flow turned into a set of raging rapids. Nearby, one of the large mushrooms, called a Zurhkwood, had fallen over, its 20-foot wide cap sitting on the ground. Examining it, you realized it could be hollowed out and turned into a makeshift boat. Its internal fibers could be broken off and used as paddles. It seemed that you could ride down the river, if you so chose. After considering backtracking, which would have meant losing some of your progress towards Sloobludop, you chose to dare the river.
What followed was one of the most harrowing events you have ever experienced.
A Rocky Ride
Armed with improvised paddles, you made your final preparations. You pushed the cap into the river. Without Varis noting, Elanelis sneakily tied a rope to Varis' belt.
Piloting the upside-down mushroom cap down the river started easily enough. Your speed was moderate and relatively easily controlled. Soon enough, though, you spotted your first hazard. The river turned sharply against a rock wall. It seemed you were on a collision course. Some of you reacted in time to brace yourselves. When you rammed into the wall, however, Elanelis was not prepared. He flew over the side, losing his pitons. Varis, suddenly feeling a tug at his belt, realized he was tied to the person in the water. Not willing to risk a dive to recover them, Elanelis scrambled quickly back into the boat.
After that, the boat came over a small rise in the river before it cascaded over a series of smooth rocks, accelerating the boat dramatically. This is when you realized that at such speeds, your likelihood to react to oncoming hazards would be severely hampered.
At that point, you realized you could do a few different things. You could attempt to steer the boat, requiring the coordinated effort of agility amongst several of you. You could attempt to slow the boat down, which required a coordinated effort of strength. Abandoning any effort to change the progress of the boat, you could simple prepare for any kind of oncoming hazard. However, if you didn't react to the hazard, you couldn't take any action.
As you contemplated your situation, you flowed into a cavern whose ceiling was higher. Out of that darkness dropped a strange floating creature. Eyeless, it came to the center of your boat and attacked with arms that ended in a series of strange spikes. Battling it from all sides, the party defeated it, but not before it almost floated away with a grappled member of your group. It fell with a final death cry into the water. You watched in horror as it was quickly attacked by a school of carnivorous fish. You can barely imagine what could have happened if one of you had fallen into the water instead of this alien creature. You floated away, watching a growing pool of red in the water.
Two Paths, A Pocket of Gas
Next, you saw that the river ahead split into left and right flows. To the left, the path for which your boat was heading, seemed to have a dramatic drop, promising to accelerate your boat even more. The path the right seemed to offer a moderate speed increase, but nothing like the other path. Your group scrambled to steer the boat to the right, but ultimately failed. Your boat careened forward at a breakneck speed instead, spinning in small circles.
Failing to slow your boat down, you spied a dip in the river ahead. In that small pocked of rapids, you could see a small cloud of gas. Varis quickly recognized it as poisonous gas. It seemed to be heavier that the air around it, settling into this dip in the river. Speeding up would further hamper your party's ability to react to hazards. Slowing down would mean your group would spend more time in this pocket of poisonous gas. Your party decided to continue at its current speed. Most of you prepared for the hazard by concentrating on holding your breath. All of you succeeded except Erdan, who took a quick breath and burned his lungs slightly.
Next, a cavern opened up with a shore, representing an opportunity to get off the river. The party decided against it, however, seeing an opportunity to make significant progress in your journey.
Joining Rivers, A Jolting Stop
Once past the poisonous gas, your luck turned sour. A torrential side river joined yours, dramatically accelerating your boat. You were shot forward at a fearsome speed down the river. Exchanging glances, you knew you had little chance to react to the next hazard.
And the next hazard came soon enough. Ahead, you could see a large boulder right in the middle of the river. Your makeshift mushroom boat hurtled right for it. With almost no one reacting in time, your boat smacked the boulder with a jarring blow. The front of your boat was crushed in, revealing that it could be damaged, and potentially sunk.
Thinking about that reality, however, would have to wait. It seems your blow to the boulder awoke something.
The Giant Octopi
On all sides of the boat, tentacles exploded from the water. A furious battle ensued. Quickly encircling the boat, tentacles attempted to lashed you, wrap you up and drag you over the edge. Varis came within a breath of being incapacitated before besting one of the beasts, now bearing a red sucker mark on his check. Eldeth was hit with a tentacle. Incapacitated, she was drawn into the water. Elanelis killed the creature right before it was about to disappear into the depths with Eldeth. He then jumped into the water and brought her back to the boat. Ront was then similarly incapacitated, wrapped up and pulled into the water. Buppido grabbed Ront's ankle, but simply couldn't pull the huge Orc back onto the boat. A moment later, Erdan rushed over, risking harm himself, to help Buppido save Ront. Blanton, planning to stand back and utilize his bow, catastrophically failed not one, but twice in a row. The stunned elf clutched his privates while trying to assuage his damaged ego. Ultimately, all five of the creatures were killed. But this encounter was a near disaster. In all, three of you were nearly killed.
Getting Off the River
The most fortunate thing in ramming the boulder was that it slowed down the speed of the boat. Seeing an exit from the river, you leaned into your makeshift oars to slow it down further. Under control, you eased the boat to the shore. Shaken, the entire group scrambled away from the boat, quick to get rest.
The good news in traveling the river was the significant progress you made in your travels. In the morning, you traveled 3 miles on foot. But in the afternoon on the river, you traveled 9 miles. The total of 12 miles is roughly twice what you would normally travel at a normal pace through the Underdark. By your estimates, you are now only 18 miles from Sloobludop.
As a final precaution before your rest, Blanton made a quick stealthy circuit of the area, finding no threats. It seems you are safe. For now.