In response to your inquiry regarding the most recent raid upon our glorious city by surface dwellers, I am forced to concur with the learned Priestess Instra's conclusions. The raiders most certainly approached the city from below, no doubt to avoid the most heavily guarded and trapped passages.
They escaped by the same route once they had stolen your scepter. They succeeded, in part, because we lost several of the guards sent after them. The guards encountered something other than the raiders -- the few survivors claim the cave itself came alive and consumed their allies. I can only assume some creature unfamiliar to us has taken residence in the area.
I recommend the temple immediately authorize funds to hire mercenaries to cover these passages until we can construct a proper defensive fortification. The large caverns common in the lower levels could house as many as 400 warriors, and a small chapel nearby would allow your magnificence's priests to properly support them. In preparation for that effort, I have sent several explorers into the region to map the cave system and ascertain the nature of these new creatures. Attached, please find my estimated cost for extended operations, spread out as monthly expenses over the next four years.
Your humble servant,
Lady of Highest and Darkest Glory,
I have received your missive outlining the reasons my proposal for the construction of a fortification and chapel were ill-advised, and most humbly apologize for wasting your time with such poorly conceived plans. Clearly the expense is prohibitive, and I would never suggest you spend the temple's funds to solve problems caused by my own or Priestess Instra's lack of planning.
Regarding your directive to find an alternative method for securing the lower levels of caves beneath our glorious city: The few members of the surveying party who survived managed to gain a rough idea of the caverns' extent, information that leads me to believe we can secure them by transplanting a modest number of spiders into the area. I have scouted out numerous wild spiders, ranging from 5 to 15 feet in body length, that I believe perfectly suit our needs. Once transplanted into the cave system, their natural predatory instincts and penchant for web spinning should provide a high degree of security.
Of course, since other living creatures rarely visit the area, this solution involves a small ongoing expense to provide food for the spiders to ensure their long-term survival. Additionally, an expedition needs to be undertaken to clear out the mysterious creatures living in the caves. Given the explorers' account and the number of casualties, I now conclude that at least four of these creatures -- rather than the one previously reported -- threaten us. However, since the creatures' coloring makes them difficult to spot in the pale rock of the deepest caverns, I suspect we will have more luck driving them out of the darker-toned near caverns.
By my own lowly hand,
Dearest and Most Generous Matriarch,
Following the execution of Priestess Instra for vast cost overruns in the attempt to clear out the nearest caverns, I have put great effort into finding an alternative less taxing to the temple budget. One of the greatest impediments is the regular loss of any agent I send to examine the area in detail. Apparently the creatures, which I now believe number at least ten, are difficult to spot in any rock type. They are intelligent enough to avoid attacking large, well-armed parties, instead targeting individual agents separated from their units. This regular loss of mercenaries led to the vast unexpected expenses.
My new suggestion for securing the lower passages is to stop sending mercenaries into the lower caverns. Since the entire area is now inhabited by the mysterious ceiling-hugging camouflaged creatures, we can allow them to take care of any future raiders.
Should the creature population prove insufficient for the level of desired security, I recommend sending lower-cost agents to explore further. Recruits seem to be food enough to encourage the population to grow, and cost less than regular foodstuffs.
In Greatest Modesty,
The lurker above is an unusual creature found only in large subterranean areas. It is a flat creature generally 20 feet wide and 10 feet long, with two large eyes located near the center of its front edge. No more than a foot thick, it resembles a manta ray. Its skin is smooth, black and rubbery on the top, but its underside has the coloration and texture of stone. Over the course of a few days, the underside of a lurker above can shift in texture and color to appear to be almost any kind of rock.
Hundreds of tiny claws that emerge from its smooth top enable the lurker above to crawl along surfaces, but only very slowly. It generally prefers to fly, using its natural buoyancy and undulating its whole body as a wing to move with speed and grace in a motion very similar to swimming. A lurker above resorts to its tiny claws only when constricting prey; it can float while using them but cannot move horizontally.
A lurker above can enter a state similar to hibernation, enabling it to feed only once every few months. When food is plentiful, however, it is capable of eating many times its body volume in a single sitting. Its rough-textured underside conceals hundreds of tiny suckers used to consume food. The suckers, too small to bite prey, suck up victims that have been crushed into paste by the creature's entire body.
Most caverns are large enough to support only a single lurker above, but particularly enormous or well traveled caverns can support as many as five. A lurker above does not attack, eat or act against others of its kind; if food becomes too scarce, it moves on to new hunting grounds. A lurker above that has fed well and often enough to grow to Gargantuan size eventually enters a long stage of inactivity during which time it divides into 2-4 Medium-size young. The young reach maturity in 20-30 feedings, which can take as little as a few weeks or as long as a few years.
A lurker above does not itself have any use for coins or magic items, and finds most metals inedible. As a result many caves inhabited by the creatures develop a small pile of treasure left from victims. In some cases, the treasure pile acts as a lure for unwary subterranean humanoids, who themselves become victims of the lurker above.
A lurker above attacks only to feed, but is almost always hungry. When at rest, it attaches itself to the ceiling of a large cave or cavern. Upon sensing prey (generally with its tremorsense), the lurker above becomes awake and alert. It positions itself over a target, then drops down to attack. A lurker above always attempts to grapple and constrict the largest target in a group, then levitate out of counterattack reach. If targets can attack the lurker above at range, it attempts to move its grappled target to one side of its body and make slam attacks against other targets.
Constrict (Ex): A lurker above deals 1d8+12 points of damage with a successful grapple check.
Improved Grab (Ex): If a lurker above hits an opponent that is at least one size category smaller than itself with a slam attack, it deals normal damage and attempts to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity (grapple bonus +23). If it gets a hold, it constricts on the same round. Thereafter, the lurker above has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use its body to hold the opponent (-20 penalty on grapple check, but the lurker above is not considered grappled). In either case, each successful grapple check it makes during successive rounds automatically deals slam and constriction damage. A lurker above may not have more than one target grappled at a time.
Smother (Ex): In addition to constricting its victim, a lurker above that has made a successful grapple check against a target cuts off all the prey's air. Targets being smothered use the same rule as for drowning: They can hold their breath for a number of rounds equal to twice their constitution. After this time, the target must make a Constitution check (DC 10) in order to continue holding its breath. Each round, the DC increases by 1.
When the target fails its Constitution check, it begins to suffocate. In the first round, it falls unconscious (0 hp). On the following round, it drops to -1 and is dying. In the third round, it succumbs and dies.
Immunities (Ex): Because of its rubbery hide and ability to stretch easily, a lurker above takes only half damage from bludgeoning attacks.
Levitate (Ex): The body of a lurker above is naturally buoyant, allowing it to gain and lose altitude. Thus a lurker above may produce an effect like that of the levitate spell, as a free action, moving at a base speed of 20 feet.
Scent (Ex): The creature can detect approaching enemies, sniff out hidden foes, and track by sense of smell.
Tremorsense (Ex): When attached to a rocky surface, a lurker above can automatically sense the location of anything within 180 feet that is in contact with the same rock. This capability enables a lurker above on the ceiling of a cavern to sense the approach of creatures walking across the bottom of the cavern.
Skills: A lurker above gains a +4 racial bonus on Listen and Move Silently checks. *When attached to the ceiling in rocky areas with little vegetation, a lurker above gains a +12 racial bonus on Hide checks.
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