"It's too quiet, I say," Maal growled, squinting at the far off fort that crouched dark and brooding on the far hill.
Half obscured by the driving rain the fort looked dark and deserted even from where the group of hard men stood.
"I don't care - Ragil's dead... and Salvaris will be joining him," one of his companions said, indicating at the pile of caravan guards who sat or lay sprawled around the them.
Two days earlier the caravan had been attacked by marauding Phutt plainsmen - arrows and spears striking from among the trees. Most of the traders and their retainers had been cut down in the first clash of combat and many of the others had died of their wounds shortly afterwards.
Maal, had taken over when Ulli had died with an arrow through his throat and led the group free.
With most of his men too hurt to walk Maal had left them nearby and pushed onto the the old Arnian fort with the others - promising to come back with help.
But something was wrong...
Almost and hour later the six of them entered the fort's main gate only to be confronted with a scene from hell itself.
"By the 19 gods - they've been... chewed on!" someone hissed.
Maal could hear one of battle hardened warriors whimpering like a child behind him - his spirit broken by the carnage.
Everywhere around them lay the bloody bodies of the garrison - most hacked at and chopped but all of them had one unifying feature.
"They've taken the heads - it's the deep dwellers - come for us all!" panic quickly set in as the men turned to flee, many of them dropping their weapons until only Maal was left, his short sword clutched tightly in his grip.
After the mens' shouts had faded he heard the first rasp of leather on stone.
Clinging to the shadows they came - first two, then four, six, 10, 15.
He only caught brief glimpses of them - hunched humanoids, none taller than his waist, with gnarled, twisted features and feral eyes.
Bringing his blade up Maal readied himself - only to be suddenly clubbed down from behind.
A horrid little creature leap onto his chest a rock clutched in both of its stubby hands.
All of a sudden dozens of them were upon him, pulling and tearing at his clothes, their claws ripping his flesh and their fangs biting.
And then nothing...
These horrid little things live deep beneath the earth in caves and caverns and are occasionally encountered in underground tombs and sunken temples.
Stories often tell of isolated outposts that are overrun by the dwellers who tunnel their way up into the pantries and cellars and kill the inhabitants.
Making things worse are the awful tales of the barbaric rites inflicted on those attacked - the Deep Dwellers tend to eat the bodies but take the heads which they use in dark and twisted services dedicated to their gods.
It's not unknown to come across the bodies of a party of travellers who stopped near a cave - their bodies bitten and chewed but their heads missing.
Only about waist height with, pinched features and stubby, flabby limbs the Dwellers are believed to be creations of the Sorcerer Kings - used as miners and subterranean guards and workers - and look like horribly feral and twisted human dwarfs.
Little is known about the Deep Dweller society - only that they're clan-like and live a nomadic lifestyle deep under the earth.
They do however hate the sunlight and will spend as little time above ground as they can.
The few people who have survived encounters with the creatures claim they use only stone headed tools and weapons and generally go about wearing rags or naked.
Immensely strong, they're slow moving and tend to lope around, monkey-like.
Deep Dwellers emit a high pitched chittering sound that could be some sort of language - no one know for sure. What is know however is that if you encounter one, very soon many, many more will come, summoned by that damned chittering.
Bite: 1d4 (watch those sharp teeth!)
Stone headed club or axe (1d6 -1)
Life blood: 13
Deep Dwellers are always found in large groups - some tomb robbers have told of encountering two or four - but it's more likely you'll come across dozens.