The eleven survivors made their way down the wide passage, their footsteps echoing loudly in the cavernous space. Several discussions were in progress...

Belphanior: We've got to put the pieces together here...figure out exactly what we're dealing with.
Alindyar: And how many.
Belphanior: (nods)
Ged: You still think there're more of those monsters?
Belphanior: Yep. I don't know every exact detail, though. Not yet.
Ged: Hmph.
Lyra: Well, what do we know?
Ged: We actually know very little.
Alindyar: True, but we could make some educated guesses.
Belphanior: I already have, but no one's going to like them.
Ged: I'll be the judge of that. Let's hear it.
Belphanior: We've seen a big monster - the one that killed Tanya and Rillen - and we've seen a smaller one - the one that came out of Clavius' belly.
Alindyar: (snaps his fingers) Aha!
Belphanior: (nodding) We've been treating these things like random creatures we might find in a dungeon, but I think they're the same species.
Lyra: The little one...grows into the big one?
Ged: Yea, it does make sense.
Belphanior: Especially since they both have acid for blood. That's too much of a coincidence for them to not be related.
Ged: So we've seen the ones on people's faces...and the full-sized one.
Lyra: And the one that exploded from Clavius' chest. Don't forget that one.
Alindyar: Recall also the eggs that Bosco and poor Clavius spoke of.
Belphanior: Egg...hatches into the face-thing. Face-thing-
Ged: -plants baby monster in victim's body. Then baby hatches and bursts through victim's chest-
Lyra: -and runs off, to grow into big monster.
Alindyar: Aie.
Belphanior: You know what this means, don't you?
Ged: Eh?
Belphanior: (nods his head at Bosco, who is in the rear of the party with Peldor)

While the four magi discussed the nature of their foe(s), others kept a steady watch on the passage ahead, and behind.

Songa: The way those fools are chattering, we're likely to get ambushed from above again.
Otto: (scans the gleaming, oddly-curved ceiling of the mammoth tunnel) I'm not making the same mistake twice.
Arnold: Aaa. I heard that.
Mongo: (now wielding an old magical longsword that he has been carrying around for about four years) If one of those damned things comes anywhere near me, I'm gonna...
Gorin: Run.
Mongo: Huh?
Gorin: I'd run. Let the wizards ply their spells. It's safer, and probably more effective.
Mongo: You're saying I can't out-fight one of those things?
Gorin: Rillen couldn't, and - no disrespect meant - he was a lot faster than you.
Songa: Also remember Ged's golden lions - two of them together, and the thing took them out without even giving them a chance to roar. And those lions looked almost as ferocious as the great beast we hunt back home.
Gorin: Like I said, spells would be best.
Otto: Big destructive ones, like fireballs and lightning bolts.

At the rear of the party, two others shared their own sorrow...

Peldor: (moping along)
Bosco: Cheer up!
Peldor: (whirls on Bosco, furious)
Bosco: Eep! (he leaps back)
Peldor: (slumps again, just as suddenly, and is silent)
Bosco: (wisely, he remains silent himself)
Peldor: Just...don't talk about cheering up. Nothing matters right now.
Bosco: Yeah...well... (he winces)
Peldor: I just want to get out of here, and see about-
Bosco: (doubles over) Urgh!
Peldor: Bosco! (to the others) Hold on! Bosco's sick!

The others stopped their march, surrounding the halfling, who was lying on his back, quivering, his hands clawing at the ground.