Ruins of Adventure

The Amazons: Session 2

“Princess, your corpse is bleeding all over My Boyfriend…” Worthy of Armor complained.

“Blame it on the Handsome Prince, Kewth.” Princess replied. “Just give Mfara a bath, and don’t think of it as blood, think of it as liquid silver!”

Worthy of Armor groaned and nudged the horse to trot a bit faster. “Fine!” she said exasperatedly, “Let’s just get the head delivered and get on with the next part of this job.”

“So while we’re on the subject of getting paid,” Battle Cry interjected, “how much are we going to cut the new girl in for?”

“One sixth, of course,” said Worthy. “And that is a question more properly taken up with Don’t Fail and Elanna when we get back.”

“Hey!” Princess blurted. “The new girl has already been paid for her services. Why are we even discussing giving her a cut of our bounty?”

“Because the Squire did not pay her what we promised he’d pay her. We were the ones that tricked her into charging an army of hobgoblins, which she somehow survived, didn’t flee from, and managed to help us bag Lord Noriss here. Despite all that, she seems inclined to stick around, so,” Worthy of Armor’s voice became suddenly very stern, “She will get a full share.”

The others sighed and rode on.

It was near dawn when they reached the gates of Civilzed Phlan, and the line of merchants and laborers waiting to get into the city gates was already quite long. Battle Cry stood up on the rump of Princess’s horse, ‘Better than Yours’, and shouted in her orator’s voice, “Make way for the slayers of the Bandit Lord Noriss the Grey!”

While it did nothing to part the crowd, which was always a bit cantankerous this early in the morning, it did attract a huge crowd of gawkers pushing in around the horses to get a look at the infamous corpse. Battle Cry just shrugged at the accusatory looks from her two companions. An hour later they were through the gates, with surprisingly little interference from the guards.

Word of their cargo spread ahead of them, and the three ladies continued to attract a large crowd as they rode through the crowded streets.

“It won’t take long for word of Noriss’s death to reach the vultures this way,” Princess lamented. “After we drop him off, we’re going to have to hurry if we don’t want someone to jump our claim to his loot…”

“It’s a good thing we sent Hot Flanks, Don’t Fail, and the new girl ahead to the well then, isn’t it.” Battle Cry quipped. “Don’t worry Princess, we’ve got it covered.”

They stopped in front of The Bitter Blade, the second-nicest inn in town and Battle Cry ran inside to announce them to the nobles living on the upper floors. “I have a special delivery for her ladyship, Bivant-Mondaviak,” she said to the innkeep. The man waved her up the stairs and she banged, not-too-gently, on the door of the young Councilwoman.

A servant opened the door, “Can I help you.”

“We’ve got a special gift for you lady outside.”

“What could possibly…”

“Just wake her up and ask her to look out the window, okay?!” Battle Cry turned and practically danced down the stairs.

A few minutes later, a shuttered second-story window opened and the young noblewoman and her husband looked down into the street, at the bloody corpse of the half-orc bandit draped over the back of the fine warhorse, and the crowd of excited citizens crowding around it. Councilman Mondaviak’s curse was audible even over the crowd, and the two of them were down on the street in moments, a pair of guardsmen behind them.

“You’ve done it then?” Elissa Bivant asked the three ladies.

“This is him, fresh from the field, dead as a doornail, bled, trussed, and ready to hang-up wherever you like,” Battle Cry grinned as she spoke.

The Councilman gritted his teeth and looked less than pleased. “You’ve done Phlan a great service in bringing this man to justice,” he said, his voice much calmer than his face.

Elissa mearly smiled and handed Worthy of Armor a silk purse. “Payment in full.” She motioned and the guards took the body down from the horse. “We shall see the bandit’s head mounted on the walls as a warning to others who might prey on our fair citizens.” There was a small cheer from the gathered and growing crowd.

“Thank you, your ladyship.” Worthy of Armor bowed from her saddle. “If that is sufficient, we have another matter of importance to attend to…”

“Yes of course. Do hurry with your chores.” The noblewoman waved them off, and the three Amazons did not stick around to listen to the obviously heated discussion that started between the lady and her husband in their wake.

The ladies rode out of the clean, walled city through the Parkside Gate and left the two horses with Ernst the Liverer, with orders to have them thoroughly washed and brushed, before proceeding on through the Slums and then to the ruined sections of the old city. Given the events of the previous night, the streets were unsurprisingly free of the usual ‘inhuman vermin’ (as some of the locals tended to refer to goblins, orcs, kobolds, and the like).

They picked their way carefully through muddy streets strewn with trash, past the no-mans land of poor human hovels, and on into the crumbling cobble-stone streets littered with rubble that marked the territory of those same ‘inhuman vermin’. Most of those creatures were not particularly inclined to come out during the day anyways, so they reached the plaza around the old well unhindered.

Worthy of Armor, Princess, and Battle Cry stopped in front of the well, where Don’t Fail, Hot Flanks, and the new girl waited, casually leaning against the old, stone well-head. Princess marched up to the new girl and extended a stiff hand. “We decided you can stay,” she said plainly. “Of course, we’ll have to figure out what to call you.”

“My name is Elanna Nimitz.” With her long, wavy, blonde hair, massive two-handed sword, and tight-fitting chain armor, the new girl looked every inch the traditional northern warrior-woman.

“Booooooring,” Battle Cry said. “How about we call you ‘Strikes with Brute Force’?”

“Sheathes a Big Sword,” Hot Flanks suggested.

“‘Charges in Heedless’ might be appropriate,” Don’t Fail quipped, showing a rare smile.

“Stands her Ground,” said Worthy of Armor.

“I vote for Hot Flanks’ idea,” said Princess.

“You can call me ‘Had About Enough of This,’” said Elanna.

SOLD!” shouted Battle Cry. “Now that that’s out of the way, who’s climbing down first? Would you like to do the honors Had Enough?”

“I’ll lead,” said Hot Flanks, lighting a torch and swinging her legs over the edge of the well. “I’ve already been down a few times. There are rungs built into the side of the well and a secret door just above the water line. No signs of any significant traps on this side.” She scurried down the latter followed by the others one-by-one.

Hot Flanks shoved on a section of wall, opening it and stepped into a large, and quite dry, catacomb. Numerous old burial niches and side passages honeycombed the walls, while the floor of the large chamber was littered with pitched tents, bedrolls, and burned-out cookfires—enough for a small army.

“Good thing we killed them first,” Princess said, looking at the side passages, “looting this place could take a while.”

They lit several more torches, and split up in twos—Princess and Battle Cry heading to the left, Hot Flanks and Worthy of Armor searching the passages on the right, and Don’t Fail and Had Enough searching through the encampment.

Worthy and Hot Flanks were the first to encounter something of interest. After a few twists and turns of a side passage, Worthy spotted a pair of lizardmen and four very large monitor lizards standing guard over a barred wooden door. Their torches gave them away and the lizardmen let the lizards off their chains. Hot Flanks pulled out her guisarme and spat on the blade to activate a magical rune carved there and set it to receive the lizards’ charge.

The first lizard, predictably, impaled itself on the fluke of Hot Flanks’ polearm. The second, third, and fourth found themselves bunched up in the corridor, unable to get around their impaled friend and the wild swinging of Worthy’s sword. Hot Flanks sent a telepathic cry for assistance to Don’t Fail, and continued to hold the lizard pinioned on her weapon between herself and its companions.

Worthy of Armor, meanwhile, let out a mighty battle cry and leapt at the lizards, hacking at them with surprising strength. Her first blow took the head clean off the second lizard, and her backswing nearly gutted the next. The fourth managed to bite her before it to fell under the onslaught of her wickedly-sharp blade.

By the time Don’t Fail and Had Enough reached them, the four lizards were dead on the floor and the two ladies were in a standoff against the two lizardmen, who seemed disinclined to engage. They made several attempts to parley with the lizardmen, who seemed to not know the Common tongue, before Hot Flanks finally tried the language of the snake-like Yuan-ti, which they understood. The four heavily armed girls let the lizardmen know, in no uncertain terms that if they did not leave the catacombs immediately they would end up like their dead and dismembered pets.

The lizardmen were quick to acquiesce, abandoning their posts and carefully retreating past the women when they offered an exit. Had Enough followed the lizardmen until she confirmed that they left through the well and took up watch over the entrance to make sure they did not return with friends.

Once they were gone, Don’t Fail, Worthy, and Hot Flanks lifted the bar on the door and looked inside. There they found a very old woman of uncertain heritage—a half-orc or some other such unfortunate crossbreed—seated in an old rocking chair. The room was comfortably, if somewhat shabbily furnished, and a cup of tea sat on a small table next to the chair. Hot Flanks speculated as to whether they had found Noriss the Grey’s mother.

At once the old woman spoke, “An evil spirit from an unholy pool guides your enemies. It hides behind a fair countenance. Be not deceived.” Then promptly slumped in her chair. A quick examination revealed that she was dead, possibly the results of the tea judging by the smell. Don’t Fail uttered a number of curses against suicidal old women and cryptic messages, then asked Hot Flanks to assist her in tossing the room.

Worthy of Armor laid the old woman’s body out on a rug and said a few words over her, insisting that even crazy, cryptic old orc women deserved some level of respect in death. The others turned up little of value in the room, until Worthy laid the body on the rug, which resulted in a hollow thump from underneath. After Worthy had said her words, Hot Flanks slid the rug, old woman and all, out of the way to reveal a wooden trap door in the floor, beneath which they found a pair of fine gold bracelets, a suit of well-made banded mail, and an ornately carved cherry-wood staff.

Meanwhile, on the far side of the catacomb complex, Princess and Battle Cry, having bypassed several pit traps, a fusillade of darts, a rain of caltops and metal shards, a couple of spring loaded spears, and a tripwire attached to gods-know-what, found themselves staring at a ghostly-pale, barely corporeal wyvern.

“Clearly we are going the right way,” Princess remarked.

“Yes, but where are the scything blades, log jams, or giant boulders?”

“That,” pointing to the wyvern, “is some kind of spell, right?”

“Yeah, looks like a Wyvern Watch. I’ve cast those before…”

“Cool. Can you dispel it?”

“Nope. Though they are usually only good for one shot. Feel like getting paralyzed for a bit?”

Princess looked at Battle Cry as if she were daft. “How long does the spell last?”

“Not more than a day usually…”

“Well I don’t want to stand around all day just waiting for it to go away.” Princess sighed, “Can you heal me?”

A moment later the ghostly wyvern was gone and Princess was standing, very, very still, in the middle of the corridor, one hand raised in Battle Cry’s direction, with the middle finger extended upwards. Once Princess could move again, the two of them continued on up the corridor, passing one more pit (with SPIKES!) but finding no more traps or hazards, until it opened into a large room piled with treasure—coins, gems, jewelry, china, silverware, brass and silver candelabras, gold urns, artworks, and even a large, mahogany table.

“Do we have to share?” Princess asked.

Battle Cry’s response was to roll her eyes and tap her temple as she telepathically broadcast their findings to Hot Flanks. The other four ladies arrived about twenty minutes later—having been somewhat slowed by the pits and other traps, despite Battle Cry’s mental guidance—and began sorting the loot and shoving into bags for transport. All of it—except for a couple of gems and choice pieces of jewelry that Princess managed to pocket before the other got there—was carefully cataloged by Don’t Fail and Worthy of Armor, ensuring that they took only their 20% of the coins and gems, leaving the rest and all the other non-magical goods to be returned to the people of Phlan.

The Third Party: Session 7 (GMs notes)
The (surprisingly short) Battle of Kryptgarten

With night fast approaching, Mel, Elaira, Councilman Urslingen, and his son began organizing the citizens of Kryptgarten. Lord Urslingen shoved spears, crossbows, and slings into the hands of those not previously trained and showed them the basics of which end to point at the enemy. Elaira pulled one of the pantheists aside and shoved the Staff of Kitsyrral, Necromancer’s Spine, and Amulet of Sokol into his hands, promoting him to “Field Cleric”.

Barricades were quickly erected in front of the secret entrance below, tar and oil-soaked straw were spread in the passageway, and Tamn and his two friends (sans many of the magic items) were posted in the crypt. The two main staircases up to the battlements were bricked off, replaced by four temporary wooden staircases which could be easily detached. Petroleum tar and oil-soaked straw were also spread over the courtyard, ready to be lit in case the keep was breached. The priests stood ready over the gatehouse with cauldrons of boiling honey.

Hearing the sound of creaking wheels and marching feet from outside, Mel ordered everyone up onto the walls. Looking out they saw a small army, of some three-hundred hobgoblins and kobolds, accompanied by a handful of orcs, lizardmen, and even a few humans. The kobolds and hobgoblins marched in well organized ranks, four lines with tower-shield bearing hobgoblins forming the outer rows. Behind them came four large wagons, two loaded with sufficient tents and provisions for a protracted siege, one piled high with bundled ammunition, and the last loaded with ladders, planks, tools, and other equipment for building siege engines, each pulled by a pair of giant boars. Flanking the wagons were twenty hobgoblin priestesses, each carrying the traditional paired hand-axes of her station. In the rear came a powerful-looking half-orc, dressed all in gray, riding a fulled armored warhorse, surrounded by a motley and disorganized band of other armed hominids.

The wagons stopped just out of bow range, while a contingent of hobgoblins and kobolds marched up to within spitting distance of the wall, forming up in ranks under the cover of a turtle-shell of tower shields and shouting their defiance.

Mel ordered the drawbridge lowered, hoping to lure the bulk of the enemy force into the courtyard to be burned alive. Then she, Elaira, and Ash left Urslingen and his son in charge of the walls and ran down to ‘intercept’ any enemies coming in the back door. They found all quiet below, but heard a sudden clap of thunder from above, followed by another and the sound of crumbling stone.

They rushed back topside just as another clap of thunder and flash of light announced a lightning bolt being fired at the battlements. They dodged crumbling stonework and made their way up to the top of the wall. From their, they saw that individual kobolds were poking their heads out of the hobgoblin shield wall just long enough to fire bolts of lightning from their hands at the keep’s defenders, then melting back behind the defensive formation. The kobolds and hobgoblins were well organized, keeping tight ranks, and showed no interest in taking the bait with the open gates.

The defenders on the wall took occasional potshots at the enemy, but Urslingen, realizing the uselessness of slings against the metal hobgoblin shields, kept most of them in check, ordering them to keep their heads down and not give the enemy casters a clear target. Mel and Elaira stuck up their heads, only to narrowly avoid taking a lightning bolt to the face, earning some scorch marks for themselves and three dead settlers.

Determined to break up the formation, Ash cast a sleep spell at the front of the hobgoblin lines, dropping a pair of shield-bearers, as well as a half-dozen of the kobolds lined up to be next to fire. Elaira threw a grease spell into the middle of the formation, sending three shield bearers toppling onto their asses. Then followed up with a witch bolt, electrocuting a few of the hobgoblins through their heavy metal shields. Mel shouted the command to fire, and everyone on the walls pelted the suddenly exposed kobolds, forcing the formation to break and withdraw.

Ash stepped out in front of the gates, presenting an easy ground-level target to the attacking force. At this enticement, the angered kobolds did launch a ground assault, untethering the giant boars from the wagons and driving the creatures charging towards the draw-bridge. Ash unleashed a lightning bolt of his own using a wand, severely injuring the ten huge beasts, then dove out of the way, scrambling up the steps to the wall as fast as he could. As the boars poured through the gates, the acolytes on the walls sent a rain of boiling honey down onto them, cooking them alive—yielding some five tons of honey-glazed, roast pork…

As the watchers on the walls drooled over the smell of honey-baked ham, the hobgoblins and kobolds reformed their ranks and formations and began advancing towards the still-open gates.

At which point…two more food-laden wagons with another motley group of ruffians rolled up behind Noriss the Gray’s army. Of course, when the barrage of spells and arrows from said ruffians struck the bandit army in the back, followed by the charge of some very angry oxen into the ranks, it became very clear that they were reinforcements of a different kind.

Noriss’s army was thrown into momentary chaos. Elaira ordered the troops on the walls to fire at will, as Mel, the newly promoted cleric, the Urslingen’s, and the twenty soldiers that Werner had been training charged out of the gates. Francis Urslingen cast strength of one on the group, sharing his father’s considerable strength with everyone.

The small force crashed into the hobgoblin lines. A handful of soldiers were lost in the first exchange. Mel and Lord Urslingen killed many by themselves. The cleric with them stabbed a dying hobgoblin with the necromancer’s spine causing the now deceased hobo to rise, quite terrifying its compatriots. Then the call went up from the back of the fray, Noriss the Gray had been dragged from his horse and killed.

In the rising chaos of this sudden vacuum of leadership, Squire Grimnir appeared above on the battlements, the full fury of hell shining in his eyes and echoing in his voice as he proclaimed that “Now was the time for the hobgoblins to rise” (or some other such bullshit). Sure enough, a second full contingent of fifty hobgoblins came out of the woods to reinforce the struggling army, led by Grishnak, their high-priestess. As if on queue, the hobgoblins rallied and turned, not on the Kryptgartians, but on the kobolds, slaughtering them utterly, before turning back to the keep.

Sometime, roughly, during this stage of the battle, Elaira organized some of the settlers to haul the ten honey-glazed and mostly-cooked giant boars up onto the battlements where the priests went to work spitting them and setting them over the fires which had been used to boil the honey. Because, you know, pork is delicious…no sense wasting it.

Mel called a general retreat of the small force which sallied forth, which turned into a route as the soldiers saw the reinforced and blood-crazed hobgoblins forming up behind them and giving chase. Less than half of the soldiers made it back inside the keep and took to the walls as quickly as possible. Grishnak laid a spell of mass energy protection over the hobgoblin force, changing it to protection against force at the last minute in response to a volley of magic missiles from Ash and Elaira.

The full might of the hobgoblin army, more than a hundred of the creatures, along with fifteen remaining priestesses charged into the open keep right on the heels of Mel’s squadron, only to have the stairs to the walls collapsed from above, the portcullis shut behind them, and a hundred lit torches and fire-pots thrown down into the tarred, strawed, and oil-soaked courtyard. The first huge flash1 as the coartyard went up was sufficient to kill or critically injure all of the hobgoblins save Grishnak herself.

The hobgoblin priestess began chanting another spell, despite the flames roaring around her…until, that is, Lord Urslingen grabbed a spear from a nearby peasant on the wall and hurled it down, impaling her through the gut. The fire did the rest. Off to one side Grinkle could be heard whispering “We respectfully dedicate this battle to…”

Once it was clear that the hobgoblins were no more. Mel ordered sand to be tossed onto the conflagration, and the portcullis raised. When the fires died, everyone was set to work looting the fallen, as Mel, Elaira, and Ash went out to inspect the battlefield.

Not a single humanoid was left standing.

Out of the woods, near the mausoleum, came the Eidolon, crawling along on its six legs and casually chewing on one of the carnivorous gorillas that the hobgoblins so often employed. It paused, looked at Melastasya, then froze. Its body solidified, turning into a statue of solid marble. Mel hang her head at the loss of the creature and went back to picking through the remnants left by Lord Noriss’s army. Some minutes later, the beast began to move again, somehow without losing the stony gray-white marble countenance. It grew as it moved, increasing in bulk. Its tail elongated and sprouted a wicked looking barbed stinger. It crawled to the center of the battlefield and began casually snacking on the remains of the kobolds.

They returned from the field and declared a total victory. Instruments were sent for. The acolytes set the bells tolling. Roast pork was served to all. It was delicious.

And there was much rejoicing.

1 Hot tar tends to release volatile organic gasses including pyrene, benzene, anthracene, and benzopyrene…it can be quite dangerous around open flames…

The Third Party: Session 6 (GMs notes)

19 Marpenoth

The day after receiving this note from the mysterious Tamn the Thrice-Betrayer, warning of an imminent attack on Kryptgarten Keep, Melastasya and Traith, went into Phlan with four large wagons to purchase weapons and supplies to last-out a siege. Their first stop was to try to convince Vasyl, the beekeeper, to move out to Kryptgarten. Sadly, the taciturn old Melittologist was even less inclined to talk than usual.

The next stop was Jerome of Melvaunt’s, the leading fence and pawnbroker in Phlan’s slums. Mel walked in to find Jerome being interrogated by a haughty-looking elf about hobgoblin religion, and where he might find a hobgoblin priest in Phlan. Mel stepped right up and interrupted the elf, laying a solid-gold candelabra, weighing more than three pounds, on Jerome’s counter. The black-bearded dwarf’s eyes went wide behind his thick horn-rimmed glasses. Mel explained that she needed “metal”, “preferably pointy things”, but that “pig iron would be fine too”.

Jerome opened the door behind his cage, asking his half-orc assistant, to bring out “the special wares”. Ce Pavuz came out with four large crates filled with bladed weapons of all kinds—axes, swords, daggers, spearheads—obviously hot and not all in the best of condition. Traith came in and examined the goods as Mel and Jerome haggled, eventually settling on two full crates, filled to Traith’s liking. Traith selected the best spear-heads, and blades which could be easily converted to such, and loaded them in the train of wagons that Mel had brought from Kryptgarten. Along with all the caltrops that Jerome had available as well.

Mel chatted with Ash a bit, learning about his vague, but pressing, interest in the hobgoblin clergy. Jerome suggested that Ash should seek out Grishnak, the hobgoblin high-priestess, but Mel dismissed her as a charlatan (or genius, as apparently the two words are interchangeable in the boat-people’s tongue). Mel explained that she was acquainted with the incarnation of the Hobgoblin’s “demon-dragon-god-thing”, and that there was a much more accessible hobgoblin priest at Kryptgarten whom Ash could possibly speak with.

Mel sent the wagon full of weapons back to Kryptgarten and she, Traith, and Ash took the other two wagons into the city-proper. They stopped at Councilman Urslingen’s home to find him drilling a number of very exhausted looking guardsmen. Mel introduced him to Ash and “Traith” and intimated that they had some pressing news for the old captain. Werner dismissed the soldiers and listened as Mel told him of the impending attack they’d been warned of, asking if he’d like the opportunity to “see the Kryptgarten troops he’d been training in action” and other such side-ways suggestions that they’d like him there. He agreed, since he was heading out to the keep that afternoon to oversee the training anyways, and said he’d invite his son Francis to come along as well.

The party excused themselves and stopped by Ian Cockburn’s Grocery, where they learned that Martha had been found dead in the slums after being missing for several weeks. They purchased a wagon-full of provisions, and another wagon-load of dried straw. They then made their way down to the docks, where they purchased two large tuns of tar from the ship-builders.

They then headed back to the keep with the three wagons. On their way out of town, they spotted another caravan assembling outside the Training Hall, only two wagons, but with more than twenty guards—all apparently pulled from the student-adventurers of the Training Hall, judging by their miss-matched accouterments. They were stopped at the gates by a pair of gnomes from the Temple of Gond, who presented them with a crate full of plush crocodile monstrosities.

The journey back to Kryptgarten was uneventful, until about a mile from the keep, when Melastasya noticed that they “had a tail”. Specifically, she noticed a very large arm peaking out from behind a tree. She sent the wagons on ahead, and the party back-tracked to intercept the follower. Traith disappeared into the trees while Ash and Melastasya took the more direct route.

The man, who looked very much like a fellow gypsy, aside from his right arm which was nearly as large as he was, stepped out to greet Melastasya, speaking as if he had known her all his life and had come to settle at Kryptgarten. The familiarity immediately set Mel on edge, and Ash’s questions regarding whether the man was a Yagnoloth pushed it over the edge.

Mel lashed out and kicked the man in the groin, so hard that his testicles ended up somewhere about the vicinity of his ears. The giant-armed man reeled backwards and passed out. At the same time, there was a deep bellowing cry of pain from the trees. Ash turned and saw a very-large, blue-scaled lizard man with one of Traith’s arrows sticking out of him. A trio of the giant-armed man’s companions—the lizardman, a kobold, and a halfling—had been sneaking around to flank the party at the same time that Traith was circling them.

Ash attempted to put the assailants to sleep, to no avail.

Three more kobolds, or three more of the kobold, appeared, and the four of them begin dancing around with hands joined, summoning a “dust devil”, a minor air elemental which they sent after Ash. The halfling drank a potion of some kind, then not-too-menacingly, moved towards Traith wielding nothing more than a broken oar-handle.

The lizardman rushed at Traith, dealing a wicked blow with its axe, only to be dropped in its tracks by two swift strokes of Traith’s scimitar.

Mel shot at a kobold with her crossbow, hitting it cleanly in the head and dropping it with one hit. Ash then fired a barrage of magic missiles at the other kobolds, dropping two and leaving one looking very surprised. The remaining kobold dropped a silence spell on Ash, who drew his longsword and charged in response, leaving the kobold even more surprised that the wizard would engage her in melee.

Traith snapped his fingers, summoning his very-large, enchanted, two-handed sword and moved to engage the halfling, but the blade passed right through the small fellow as if he didn’t exist. Traith threw aside the blade and lashed out with his shield, taking the halfling by surprise and knocking him on his ass.

A small rat leapt off the kobold’s shoulder, biting at Ash’s face, as the dust-devil came up from behind, kicking up a cloud of debris and rendering the combatants deaf, dumb, and blind. Mel leapt into the fray and helped Ash knock out the kobold, dispelling both the silence and the summoned elemental. On seeing this, the barely injured halfling threw down his stick and offered his surrender.

Mel moved to stabilize the three incapacitated attackers, despite Ash’s protestations that they should just kill them all, while Traith tied up the halfling and began depriving them of their weapons. After some questioning, they learned that the halfling was the same Tamn who had written the letter of warning to them, and that he and his companions represented the advanced scouts of the incoming army—with orders to sneak in the secret entrance and neutralize the keep’s leaders before the main force arrived, and that the main force of 250 kobolds and hobgoblins was coming that night.

Ash, again, argued for their death. Mel and Traith decided otherwise, offering the halfling a job defending the keep, and taking the others prisoner—except the lizardman, who the halfling suggested was likely to rip their faces off without talking. They let Ash kill that one.

They arrived back at the keep with the three prisoners in tow late in the afternoon to find that Urslingen and his son had already arrived. Melastasya ordered a feast for the visiting Councilman, and ordered all of the citizens of Kryptgarten to withdraw into the keep and close the drawbridge.

They sought out Grinkle and had he and the cultists haul all of the cauldrons they had up to the battlements over the gate, where they began boiling honey (because its sticky and has a high boiling point) to be poured onto attackers. They passed out spears and pikes to the less trained settlers, set the Urslingen-trained soldiers on the walls with bows and swords, spread tar and straw covering the courtyard and the secret passage (to be set on fire if either filled with enemies), and stationed another group of archers behind a barricade by the pit at the opening of the secret entrance.

Next time…the Battle of Kryptgarten!

The Amazons: Session 1
In which the G+ party arrives to rescue the IRL party by proxy...


The six ladies sat at a small table in the Laughing Goblin, the cheapest and rowdiest of the three inns in ‘Civilized’ Phlan. One was rich, local, and young, the other five were southern, slightly-less-young, well armed, and had been rich and lost it many times over. Which is to say, five were adventurers, and the sixth was the young noblewoman hiring them. The five called themselves the “Amazons” and had been operating in Phlan for some time, generally avoid council-jobs out of some strange dislike of taking jobs from men, but had a good reputation for success in their missions.

“Elissa, are you sure they will be gone?”, Princess asked, addressing the sixth. The Amazons all had names like that—Princess, Hot Flanks, Battle Cry, Don’t Fail, and Worthy of Armor—and never went by their actual names in public. A sensible option, given the number of mages, necromancers, and other spell-slingers in the town who might use one’s true name to nefarious purposes.

“Councilwoman Bivant,” Don’t Fail corrected.

“Please, I am still just Elissa,” the young noblewoman said. “I guarantee they will be out at the the indicated time. While I cannot speak for the kobolds or hobgoblins, the Council’s spies inform me that the Bandit has accepted command of the attack and is sure to commit the majority of his men to the task.”

“And we get to keep anything we find beneath the Well?” Princess asked again.

“No, not everything.” Elissa Bivant shook her head. “Noriss the Grey has been stealing from the people of New Phlan for over a year. The Council has known for a long time that he has had a hideout beneath Kuto’s Well, but have not posted any official warrant for his disposal. We can at least take back what has been stolen. Hopefully the bandit will be killed in his attempt on the keep…the Squire is most capable. If he should escape that encounter, I offer you an additional five thousand in gems for his, well-preserved and recognizable, head. As for the loot in his hideout, here are the terms. You may keep twenty per-cent of all coins and gems, the rest shall be returned to the city coffers and put in a fund to cover reparations to any surviving victims of the Bandit’s attacks. Any trade goods, jewelry, and objects d’art shall be handed over to the city for possible return to their proper owners. Any weapons, arms, or items of a magical nature that you recover are yours to keep.”

“So, five thousand up front, plus a share of the loot, plus another five thousand if the big man shows up and we take his head?” Battle Cry smiled broadly and gave Princess an affectionate noogie. “And you said we weren’t getting paid enough…”

“Your terms are accepted, Councilwoman Bivant.” Don’t Fail extended a hand to Elissa. “Tomorrow night we shall descend into Kuto’s Well and recover what we may for the people of New Phlan.”

“Thank you all.” Elissa accepted each of their hands, passed a purse full of gems to Don’t Fail, then rose to leave.

“Wait,” Worthy of Armor interjected, “what about the people at Kryptgarten? If you know about this attack and their plans, shouldn’t we be doing something to help those settlers before they have a metric-fuckton of kobolds and hobgoblins land on them?”

“The Council does not have sufficient troops or resources to commit to the defense of the keep. In fact, knowing what we do of the forces arrayed against New Phlan, I am sure they would be quite overjoyed if we were to send a portion of our defenders to the keep and thus leave the city open to some simultaneous attack.” Elissa shook her head. “I believe the Squire of Kryptgarten is aware of the impending attack. I trust the strength and ingenuity of the Squire and his friends. Even should they fail to defend the keep, the city has much to gain by allowing the attack to proceed…”

“Gain? Like what?” Hot Flanks quipped.

“From what I gather, the people of Kryptgarten have been the victims of at least two major outbreaks of plague in the month since they arrived here. Our monstrous foes will not take the keep without significant losses, and it is not unlikely that any survivors of their battle would carry the remnants of those plagues back to their lairs with them. Such substantial weakening of the kobold and hobgoblin forces might be just the thing to allow the Council to reclaim several more blocks of the old city…”

“At the cost of how many lives?” Worthy almost yelled.

Elissa stepped up and gave the paladin a sisterly hug, “I know the situation is not the best, but, even operating independently of the Council, I cannot send troops to Kryptgarten and risk an attack on the city itself. The attack is not to happen until tomorrow night. If you believe you can help the people of Kryptgarten somehow, while still carrying out the task for which you’ve been paid, you have my sincerest

Elissa bowed to the five ladies and turned, “I must return to my new husband before he wonders where I have been…”

“Pffffffff, husbands…” Hot Flanks scoffed. “Is a council seat really worth letting that boy own you?”

“It is a mutually agreeable arrangement.”

“Ohhhhh.” Hot Flanks smiled and made some lewd gestures. “Have fun then…”

Once Elissa left, Worthy of Armor addressed the others. “You know, if we make sure Noriss and his gang die at Kryptgarten, we could then loot the well at our leisure and without any interference.”

Princess nodded, “We could set up near Kryptgarten and ambush Noriss on the way. Taking out the leader should help significantly in terms of breaking up the attack. And taking his head would double our reward.”

“Ever the altruist…” Battle Cry said.

“Successfully ambushing a noted master of guerrilla tactics seems improbable.” Don’t Fail remarked. “Though, given that tendency of his gang, I doubt Noriss is the kind of lead an attack from the front. If we strike from behind once the battle has started, we may have a better chance of taking him by surprise, and sew much confusion in the ranks of the attackers.”

“How many other adventurers do you think we can recruit for five thousand gold?” Battle Cry asked.

“Hey! A thousand of that is mine. I’m not giving up my share for some peasants!” Princess said.

“Okay…four thousand.” Battle Cry twisted Princess into another headlock. “We’ll get another five for Noriss’s head, plus 20% of the loot from the well, which should be more than enough for most of us.” The others nodded their assent.

“Okay, Let’s head over to the Training Hall and see which of the available free-lances are willing to rush off and save Kryptgarten tomorrow,” suggested Don’t Fail.

“Alright…” pouted Princess. “But remember, we’re not supposed to make it public that we know about the attack…and, especially, how we know about the attack. And definitely not that we’re getting paid for Noriss’s head or about the well job.”

The five ladies walked towards the Public Training Hall. “We should be able to hire a ton of mercenaries for four G’s.” Hot Flanks remarked. “So what do we tell them they’re being hired for?”

“Maybe the Kryptgarten hired us himself?” Princess suggested. “Something simple…like the Squire’s outriders saw some kobolds on the march and he asked us to hire some additional security. We could even save a few coins and say that the Squire offered a bit up front, and payment for services rendered after. Kryptgarten would owe us that much right?”

“So we shell out standard guard rates per day, with the normal addendum for spellcasters and veterans, and let the Squire cover any hazard pay and additional payout from their inevitable participation in the battle?” Hot Flanks smiled. “I like that plan…” she looked meaningfully at Don’t Fail and Worthy.

Worthy of Armor nodded, “As long as we can help those people, I can live with a bit of duplicity, but we pay triple caravan for those we hire, since we know that they will see action…against stiff odds.”

“Triple caravan rate?!” Princesses eyes got wide. “Seriously?!”

“Yes. We do not know that this Squire has the funds to field an army, and I will not send men into significant and definite danger under false pretenses unless they are well compensated.”

“Sold!” said Hot Flanks. Then, more quietly, to princess, “It’s only for two days…and we’ll still come out ahead over laying out the full four thousand.”

“Can it, we’re here.” Chimed in Battle Cry,

It took several hours of the girls asking around as discreetly as possible, but they managed to round up twenty-three adventurers of varying levels of experience—including a few newly arrived on the last ship from Hillsfar who had not accepted the invitation to move to Kryptgarten—willing to join them as “supplemental guards” for Kyrptgarten Keep for three times the standard daily rate.

The GM called a 30 minute break in the game so he could go generate a giant pile of random adventurers in a hurry.

Agreed upon prices.
30gp per level per day for non-casters.
75gp per level per day for casters.
Total cost per day: 1620gp per day

After a long day of recruiting every non-busy blade waver and spell slinger they could find at the Training Hall, the ladies retired to their lodgings, leaving orders with the recruits to assemble outside the Training Hall at noon the next day. Hot Flanks stayed behind to “get to know” a few of the recruits…

The ladies and their ragtag band of mercenaries assembled outside the Training Hall the next day, lining up just as they would for classes, then disbursing towards the Traitor’s Gate. While certainly not inconspicuous, the group did not draw too-much unwanted attention—Battle Cry did shoot Elissa a sheepish grin and a shrug when the Councilwoman passed them with her husband on her arm on their way to the Council session.

Earlier that morning, Don’t Fail had arranged for a pair of ox-pulled large wagons from Ernst’s Livery, and arranged for a large load of foodstuffs to be collected at the Slums Market—giving the group the appearance of a well-guarded northbound trade caravan (rare, but not unheard of) to throw off any humanoid spies that might inform Noriss’s gang of reinforcements arriving at Kryptgarten. The hired adventurers were told, semi-truthfully, that the goods were to resupply Kryptgarten in case of kobold attacks.

Worthy of Armor insisted on paying all the hirelings their first day’s wages up-front, which they clearly appreciated. After everyone was assembled, paid, wagons appropriated, orders given, goods collected and loaded on the carts, and additional time intentionally wasted by Princess and Battle Cry, the large band of soldiers, thieves, and mages rolled out of town across the North-bridge about an hour before dusk.

As they left Phlan, Worthy of Armor argued quietly to her ‘sisters’ that they should be warning the gathered sellswords of the impending battle, rather than making a leisurely trek of the thing. The paladin was, of course, out-voted by the other members of the group, perhaps better for their plan and the interests of their client. The deliberate slowness of their preparations and journey served to put the hired help at ease and lead credence to the illusion of being hired as regular guards, despite the apparent agitation of some of the girls.

Once out of the city, they quickened their pace a bit, Don’t Fail claiming that they’d like to reach the keep in time for a good night’s rest. Along the way, they found more and more signs of a large force having marched in the same general direction as they were traveling. When a hired ranger pointed out what were unmistakably the tracks of a large number of kobolds heading towards the keep, the hirelings sped up on their own, everyone realistically worried that an attack might have come early.

When they rounded the edge of the forest, it became clear to the hirelings that not only was an attack in progress, but it was much larger than any of them expected—a full-on siege from a mixed army of kobolds, hobgoblins, and other things surrounding the keep. A single gray-clad rider was commanding the siege from the rear of the army, surrounded by an apparent honor-guard of orcs and lizardmen.

Just after they arrived, a band of kobolds rushed toward the gate, protected from arrow-fire from the walls by hobgoblins carrying tower shields, and breached the gate with a barrage of thunder and lightning.

One hired halfling turned and fled immediately. Don’t Fail stood up on the front of the lead wagon and bellowed a command for the other “new recruits” to open fire. A barrage of spells, arrows, and crossbow bolts fell on the rear of the besieging army, announcing their presence. The next command to “CHARGE!” came from Worthy of Armor.

Don’t Fail pulled the pin tying the yoke of oxen to the cart and stabbed one in the rump with her rapier, sending the beasts careening into the back of the army, followed by a score of sword, spear, axe, flail, and spell wielding maniacs.

The battle was bloody, fierce, and short. They could see something occurring at the front near the walls, but stopped caring once a force of fifty-odd orc, lizardman, kobold, and even human bandits were in their faces. The hired adventurers fought as adventurers, which is to say, they each fought individually with no real coordination or thought for the others, save for the occasional, typically unheeded, shouted suggestion or call for help.

Worthy of Armor led the charge for her sisters, dodging as many blows from allies as from their intended opponents, cleaving a path towards the bandit leader seated on his high horse, using her own horse, Mfara, as much as her blade to crush and beat aside assailants. Princess rode close on her heals on Kalýteri, unleashing a color spray to keep a pack of kobolds from encroaching on their left, as Battle Cry, seated behind her let loose with a cone of flame (aganazzar’s scorcher) to their right.

By the time the two horses reached Noriss the Gray, half of their force of hired mercenaries lay dead, and the rest were routing against fierce opposition from the bandit forces. Hot Flanks cleared a path into the fray with a fireball from her enchanted club, as she, Don’t Fail, and the last remaining mercenary, a girl name Elanna rushed to join the attack on Noriss.

The bandit leader, seeing the main force near the wall breaking, shouted a few more orders then turned to flee, only to find himself face to face with the six girls. Princess and Worthy traded a few sword blows with Noriss before Hot Flanks managed to hook and dismount the bandit with her polearm.

Noriss the Gray hit the ground, and quickly succumbed to a rain of blows from the girls.

Don’t Fail pointed to the woods, where another large contingent of hobgoblin reinforcements were just arriving. “Grab him and let’s get out of here…”

The other girls did not need any additional enticement. They threw the bandit leader’s body over the back of Worthy of Armor’s horse and high-tailed it back towards Phlan…

Chapter 3: An Old Lady in Melvaunt: Part 4
Interlude: The Squatters in Onyx: Part 1


Hearing Hrud’s response, Yamtwit pipes up, “Taek! Hrud, alon mudhun kanggo kita. Kita lagi teka.” He whistles for Rast and quickly informs the others, “Our barbarian friend has decided that if the kobolds are not coming to us, he is going to the kobolds…and he seems disinclined to discuss the matter.” The goblin mounts up and rides after their rash friend.

Frantiska smiles. “Aku di,” she yells after Hrud and Yamtwit. “I think Hrud has the right idea. If we want this over quickly and decisively, let’s just take the fight to them…”


Lyra ducks into the wagon and emerges with an extra quiver of arrows and a stack of boards under one arm. “Do you think we should bring these?”


Seeing Hrud suddenly become visible as he abandons the rest of his unit, Donovan groans and rests his head in his hands. «That…was not the response I was expecting…» he mutters in elvish. “Fine…” he waves to the mounted archers, unable to see the other riders, “We’ll have need of your horses!” Seeing Lyra come out with the boards, he smiles, “Yes! Definitely!” He quickly gathers up his spell-books and a couple extra cases of crossbow bolts…and two extra bows for good measure…and mounts up.

Winona lets out a strangely mirthful and mildly frightening laugh and leaps onto the back of one of the horses as the peasant-archer is just barely clear of the mount. “Come on Bunny!” She spurs the steed down the hill after Hrud, calling “For Justice!”

Go on, the kobolds deserve it, says a voice in Ryesha’s head which is not her own. She sighs and extends a hand up to Winona, swinging into the saddle as she rides past. At least one of us thinks this is a good idea…


Rant grabs the back of Amara’s collar as she starts running for a horse. “No, Donovan and Frantiska were right about one thing, have you be part of a preemptive attack on a kobold army definitely violates the nature of their agreement. You’re staying right here…” There is an audible “awww” from the little girl, but she does not resist.

Teldicia, who’s progressively worsening migraines have left her locked in a darkened house, quietly and irritably resting for most of your time in Gildenglade, rises from where she has been waiting the night out beside the village foot-soldiers. “احساس می کنم مثل سر من در حال رفتن به لعنتی منفجر شود، اما ضربه اقامت در اینجا من حدس می زنم!” she groans, and takes off at a trot after the party, her unnaturally long, bounding strides easily keeping pace with Hrud’s pony.

The trail of muddy dog-like footprints and disturbed grasses is clear and easy to follow. Judging from the spacing of the tracks, the meandering path, and the occasional discarded bone, the kobolds were in no hurry and not concerned with stealth, stopping many times to eat, chat, or relieve themselves.

The trail wanders over hills and through fields, then cuts directly into the swamp. Mounted, you easily cover in one hour what took the lolly-gagging, short-legged kobolds five or more. As the ground grows wetter, Teldicia leaps onto the back of Donovan’s horse, hugging him tightly around the waist to avoid falling off. The kobold trail remains easy to follow, following the tops of several muddy embankments beaten flat and almost hard by the repeated passage of large numbers of the creatures, avoiding the worst of the bogs and allowing you to keep your mounts.


Donovan accepts his new rider with relish, though he finds it hard to concentrate on guiding his mount, a thing he not exactly an expert at, with the distraction of the beautiful, not-quite-elvish woman’s ample breasts pressed against his back…

“Yamtwit,” Donovan says as they ride along the kobold’s trail, “would you please inform Hrud that I laud his initiative, but ask whether he has a plan for what we should do once we find the kobold’s home?” Donovan quietly prays that the answer is not charge in the front door…


Lyra shifts her pile of boards, not quite fidgeting. “Am I correct in assuming collapsing entrances won’t do much against kobolds?”


Yamtwit pipes up, “Hrud, putih-kepala heaps gedhe memuji marang Panjenengan sirah anjog serangan iki ing asu-pasuryan, nanging kamulyan yen sampeyan bisa marang kita rencana.” Then turns back to Lyra, “Rocks can kill kobolds as easily as anything else, but if you don’t hit them with the rocks, they are very good at digging…”


“Nyelinep nang. Mateni pimpinan.” Hrud grunts, as they follow the trail. This is how it should be, he thinks, Hunting, not waiting to die. Though he wouldn’t admit it, Hrud allows himself a moment of relief as the others come after him.


“Hrud suggests that we sneak inside and kill the leader…” Yamtwit says dubiously. “Hrud, apa yen padha ndeleng jaran teka? Pripun kita ngerti kang siji pimpinan? Apa yen asu-pasuryan tresnani pimpinan lan matèni kita kanggo nyababaken pimpinan?”

Frantiska stops Thistledown, “A half dozen horses coming in on what is clearly the equivalent of a road for these creatures seems like a very poor way to gain the element of surprise.”

“That’s what I just said,” Yamtwit quips. “Is it possible that our barbarian friend is not particularly smart?”


Winona looks at them all and rolls her eyes, “We’ve already lost the element of surprise, so let’s just do this thing. In through the front door. Move fast. Kill them all…”

Donovan facepalms and mutters, “Glad I loaded up on sleep spells.”


Hrud slows his pony to a trot, letting the others pull up along side him. “Bisa wae sampeyan nggunakake Piandel kanggo nggawe kita hard kanggo ndeleng?”


“Anyone got another mass invisibility in their back pocket?’ Yamtwit asks, “…didn’t think so.” Yamtwit shakes his head at Hrud, “Aku kita perlu sethitik cah wadon Amara yen kita arep kanggo njupuk kauntungan saka kuwi trik. Winona ngandika kita ngirim mung kick ing lawang ngarep lan matèni sakèhé asu-pasuryan kita waca. Putih-rambute ngandika bisa nggawe akèh turu asu-pasuryan.”

Frantiska tries to follow their conversation. “Saya pikir kita mungkin harus bermain dengan telinga. Tunggu dan lihat apa situasi dan pertahanan mereka ketika kami tiba.” She loosens her sword in its sheath, draws her bow, and rides with an arrow knocked from here out.


“Dog-pasuryan teka ing wayah wengi, ya? Yen kita lumaku saka kene, kita bisa nyekel wong-wong mau turu.”


Yamtwit nods decisively, “Apik tenan. Ayo kita mindhah metu.” He whispers something to Rast and the wolf quickens its pace. “Come on. Let’s get this over with…”


Another mile or so into the swamp, the trail goes cold from age, though the well-beaten path continues. Ahead of you, on a low rise, is a massive stone carving of a dragon, hundreds of feet long, lying on its belly, mouth agape, and wings spread out to either side at odd angles. After a second glance, Frantiska is able to inform you that it is not a carving, but the actual petrified remains of an ancient dragon—probably black she guesses from the horn structure. The path seems to lead strait up and into the creature’s mouth, which is open wide enough for a man to walk upright in. No creatures are visible in the area around the dragon, but Hrud’s keen eyes spot the head of a kobold peaking out through one of the beast’s empty eye-sockets.


Frantiska whispers, “We can’t take the horses in there. Let’s back up a bit and find a safe place to tether them…”


Moving back a bit, out of view of the ‘statue’, Hrud dismounts and says, “Ayo kita teka watara saka konco. Aku bisa menek munggah lan njaluk kobold ing mripat – utawa Frantiska bisa njupuk karo dheweke gandhewo.”


As the others dismount under the cover of the trees, Yamtwit motions towards the eye. “Elf-girlie, the barbarian says you should shoot the kobold in the brain-case in the brain-case, then we should circle around the back and see if there is another entrance. Maybe not in that order.”

Frantiska tried to ignore the goblin’s lack of manners. She knocks an arrow and begins siting it in for a long shot at a small enemy under cover. “If, as I suspect, this was at one point a living dragon, I have very little desire to go in through the ‘back door’…” She takes a breath to steady herself and lets fly at the kobold.

Yamtwit turns to Hrud, “Cahaya panggung nyonyah ngandika dheweke ora pengin ngetik lumantar naga kang bokong.” He draws a club and gets ready to rush the mouth.


The arrow strikes home, taking the kobold crouched in the dragon’s eye in its own eye. Two more kobold heads suddenly pop-up, looking alarmed, then duck back down.


“Yen kita njaluk kepunjulen, mundur menyang desa.” Hrud says, as he snatches his shortbow from where it hangs by his saddle. Nocking an arrow, he rushes toward the dragon, mentally urging the kobolds to stick their heads out again.


Fearing that the kobolds may raise an alarm, Donovan raises a hand, flinging a handful of rose petals towards the dead dragon, and speaks a quick word of power.


The kobolds look out the eye-hole, panicked by the sudden dispatch of their friend, then, just as suddenly, yawn widely and slump to the ground, as does the fourth who was inside preparing to blow his gemshorn. You all hold your breath for a long minute, but no warning or ruckus seems to be forthcoming…


Seeing the kobolds slump down, Hrud shoulders his bow and starts to climb up to the eye socket where they were positioned.


Winona and Ryesha jog in step behind Hrud, giant flail and knives out respectively, scanning the area around the dragon’s maw for signs of other kobolds before heading in. Donovan follows reluctantly behind, a loaded crossbow at the ready (and two more strapped to his pack)…


Hrud easily climbs up to the open eye-socket, an oblong hole almost three feet in diameter and slithers into the dragon’s braincase. Four kobolds lay on the floor (the creature’s hard palate), one with an arrow through its eye, the others sleeping, next to a large gemshorn and a pile of ammunition for the shortbows which rest, untouched against the side of the braincase. The spinal column appears to have been hollowed out, making a long corridor running the length of the petrified corpse. The passage is only a couple of feet high, such that any of your party, except perhaps Ryesha, would have to belly crawl through it.

Winona leads the way into the mouth, which stands open tall enough for her to easily stand up. Most of the teeth have been removed, making the thing look very sad on close inspection, like the mouth of an old man barely able to chew. The throat opens up to a similarly long corridor, this one easily large enough to walk through. A glaringly obvious pit has been carved out where the back of the thing’s jaw meets the ground, punching a hole through the neck and down into the rocky hill on which it rests. The pit runs the width of the throat and looks to be about twenty feet deep, but has a two foot wide ledge on either side to allow passage. The passage is warm and dark, and has a strong acrid smell.

There are signs of a large number of kobolds having tramped all around the area, but the clearing made by the draconic corpse is bathed in bright sunlight this late in the morning, and there are no signs of any of the light-averse creatures out and about.


Yamtwit and Rast hurry up to the others. He calls out to Hrud in a hoarse pesudo-whisper, “Punapa punika ing sirah?” The goblin hops off the wolf and looks at the pit, “Rast is going to have some trouble with the ledge…” he mutters. “Rastli sotekaou panseoufè?” The wolf walks up to the edge of the pit and stares down into it for a while.

Frantiska heads for the mouth a moment after the goblin, motioning for Lyra and Teldicia to follow.


The pit (and ledges) are twenty feet in length. The neck alone is more than a hundred feet long and follows the curve of the hill on which the head rests, causing it to arc upward slightly after the pit, then, judging by the outside, probably descend sharply towards the main body.


Hrud uses his sword to slit the sleeping kobold’s throats. After checking over their belongings, he tosses their bodies out the eye-socket window. The shortbows and bundles of arrows soon follow.

After scouring the nest for anything of note, Hurd lowers the horn out the opening, then follows after to rejoin the others at the mouth. As they stand around discussing the situation, the barbarian unstrings the kobold shortbows. He then takes the horn over to where his pony stands waiting behind some tall brush, ties it to his saddle, before returning.

“Aku ora duwe tali.” he grunts quietly, before starting to make his way down the spiral ledge.


“Ana tindakan liya ing tengkorak?” Yamtwit asks. “Punapa punika nganggo tali keur?”


“Cukup sungu.” Hrud whispers in reply.

“A tali bakal wis luwih gampang kanggo njaluk lan metu … Mungkin.”


Lyra finishes stripping leaves off of a pair of long sticks. “Whoever is in front will want one of these to test for … unpleasant surprises. And based on the acrid smell, we might be in for another unpleasant surprise when we make it to the lower esophagus and gizzard. But surely the elemental energy would dissipate after death? We may want to find and remove the fundamentum and heart to be certain. Mother would be quite interested in them for research purposes.”


Hrud watches the young woman strip the leaves. Unimpressed, he walks back to his pony, grabs the spear strapped to its side and returns. “Iki kelet wis titik luwih apik ing iku.”

Then, feeling that they are loosing daylight, he begins to descend into the maw of the dragon-cave.


“Hrud says his stick is better than yours…” Yamtwit shrugs and turns back to the cave. He presses his back against the left-hand wall of the throat and begins inching over the ledge across the pit, trying not to look down even though it is actually quite wide relative to his size. Rast trots confidently along behind the goblin.

Frantiska looks into the pitchblack throat-tunnel and runs over the ledge opposite Yamtwit to catch up with the Barbarian. “Hrud, dapat Anda lihat dalam gelap?”

Yamtwit, hearing Frantiska’s comment scurries up and waves a hand in front of the human’s face, “Dheweke takon yen sampeyan bisa ndeleng ing peteng.” Hrud notices that the eyes of the elves, goblin, halfling, and the two half-breeds all glow slightly red in the pitch-blackness of the tunnel. “Kowe kudu lampu?”


“Ya?” Hrud replies. Hrud shakes his head, “Ora ana lampu. Ora bisa ndeleng ing peteng.” He pauses, looking down into the pit. “Bisa padha?”


Donovan sucks in his gut and scurried past the pit. “Come on then, let’s get this over with…” He allows his eyes to shift into the infrared spectrum, noting the heat signatures of his friends and left by passing kobolds, then takes a small pebble and tosses it as far as he can down the throat, allowing his eyes to adjust further, mapping the tunnel by the small reverberations of sound from the pebble.

Winona notices her companion’s eyes begin to emit the tell-tale red glow of infravision and sighs. “I guess I’ll stand watch out here, no sense announcing our presence…” She groans suddenly, and clutches her head as the now familiar headache returns briefly, then looks around astonished to find that she can see fine… “On second thought…” It takes her a few moments to overcome the confusion of having sensory information coming from the wrong source, but her conversations with Donovan help a bit.


With your heightened, and unusual senses, you are able to make out much of the tunnel. First, from the faint reverberations, you are able to tell that the esophagus which makes up the tunnel is slightly longer than the exterior neck, opening into the dragon’s stomach/gizzard which seems to have many exits from it. Between your current position and the stomach, you can make out three more open pits, just as deep vertically, but about half the length of the one you just passed. You detect faint light filtering in from above the pits, presumably from holes into the spinal column above, and to there from the eyes and brain-case. This aural mapping is made easier by the faint sounds of high-pitched voices echoing through the corridor, from where you cannot tell.


Yamtwit nods gravely, “Luwih apik ing peteng, tinimbang urip ana ing cahya, ing kasunyatan.”


“Aren’t kobold traps supposed to be hard to find?” Donovan muses. He takes a deep breath and steps out in front of Hrud, crossbow at the ready.


Hrud frets for a moment, trying to figure what to do about the darkness. Apparently, everyone else has some kind of magical sense that … wait a second. Hrud pauses, remembering. He then reaches down and pulls the hammer out of his belt. A blue light begins to glow. The barbarian grins at no one in particular.


As the hammer comes out you hear a sudden shriek from the passage below and the sound of tiny feet scurrying up the spinal corridor above you.


“Terus iki.” Hrud says, shoving the hammer into Yamtwit’s hands, “Tetep cedhak.” Grabbing the spear with both hands, he thrusts at the first sign of movement above them.


As the lights come on, Donovan points to the three-foot deep, foot-wide shafts in the ceiling over each of the pits, making a point of staying well back from the rather obstructed line of fire they would provide. “It sounds like there are at least six kobolds up in the spine.” He thinks for a moment then adds, “It also looks like they’ve invested quite a bit of infrastructure into defending rather obvious looking pit-traps. Either these kobolds are morons, making pits that no one will stumble into and putting murder holes that can only attack the pits…or else the pits are not traps at all. Maybe the pits are actually passages to some lower caverns…”

Ryesha looks where Donovan is pointing. Her lips move for a moment, as if she is carrying out some silent conversation, then nods emphatically. “Lyra, can you make a door so that Yamtwit and I can get up there? We should fit okay, and can probably deal with a handful of kobos…” Her lips keep moving but make no sound for a bit, then. “We’re pretty sure we can take them actually…”

Winona smiles broadly at the sudden sign of bravery and initiative from her protégé. She swings the big flail off her back. “Little ones up and the rest of us down then?”


Lyra’s head is cocked, listening at the faint sounds above. “I think I can do a bit better than that. Open the door into the spinal passage, open fire with bows, and then send in Sister Ryesha and Mr. Yamtwit?”


Yamtwit takes the hammer from Hrud, looking quite out of place holding the huge thing. “Iku amba amba…” When Rye starts suggesting that just the two of them go up into a tight corridor to battle a large pack of kobolds, his eyes get very wide. “Ummm…”

“Don’t worry,” Frantiska says, hearing Lyra’s suggestion and putting arrow to string, “there should not be that many left…”


Even with the time it takes Lyra to establish the doorway, you still look through it to find six kobolds, each holding a burlap sack that squirms in a very disconcerting way, crowded around the shaft of the murder-hole above the pit, looking down expectantly. The blue light from the hammer filters up through the hole quite brightly, illuminating their dog-like faces. When that same light suddenly shines even more brightly on them through the dimensional doorway bisecting the passage, they look up in slack-jawed amazement.


Donovan aims a light crossbow over Hrud’s shoulder and fires through the dimension-door at one of the confused kobolds. After firing, he drops the crossbow by his feat and grabs a second loaded crossbow from his pack to be ready to fire again.

Ryesha draws her long-bladed skinning knife and charges through the psionic doorway, springing at the back of one of the unsuspecting kobolds.

Winona, unable to fit into the narrow spinal-corridor above, takes a few steps down the throat passage and watches, flail at the ready in case any additional enemies should come from that direction.


Frantiska lets fly a stream of arrows through the portal ahead of her two small companions.

Yamtwit stands by the opening to the dimension door, club in hand, waiting to see how his companions’ onslaught goes before committing himself to melee.


The kobolds’ look up in stunned silence as a hail of arrows come pouring through the opening, followed by a thrusting spear, and a gleeful halfling. The first three are taken down quickly by a crossbow bolt, a spear, and a knife in the back, respectively. The others, waiting on the opposite side of the murder-hole, are silenced by arrows protruding from their throats. In the passage below, you see a pair of bags fall from loose hands, down the hole and past you into the twenty-foot deep pit, spilling out a handful of large and agitated centipedes at the bottom. The other four bags, up in the spinal column with Ryesha, remain cinched thankfully closed by their former bearers.


Ryesha carefully shoves the other four bags of creepy-crawlies over the lip of the murder-hole and down into the pit, then steps back through the portal to rejoin her friends. “That was easy, where to now?”


Hrud reclaims his hammer from Yamtwit and reaches into the opening to drag out the kobold corpses. The ones further back he hooks and drags with the hammer.


Yamtwit watches in confusion as Hrud pulls the kobold corpses out through the portal. “Terbaik apa yang anda akan lakukan dengan badan? Mengapa tidak hungkul ninggalake wong?”


Hrud shrugs as he loots the bodies, “Mbok padha duwe apik item. Ana titik ing ngeculke iku pindhah menyang sampah.” Once he’s done (and anything of value taken), the barbarian tips the corpses into the pit.


Hrud rifles through the kobold’s remains, coming up with a couple pieces of crude jewelry (bone spurs shoved through the skin as piercings, cut and hollowed sections of bone as rings, and necklaces made of uncured leather thongs with a variety of random pieces of organic and inorganic detritus strung on them), a handful of dull grey mushrooms of questionable edibility, one pitted iron dagger, a set of knuckle bones with some markings carved into each side, and the tattered scraps of cloth and leather which barely served to hide the kobolds’ modesty.


Slightly disappointed, Hrud pockets the knuckle bones and kicks the rest into the pit with their former owners. Taking up his spear and navigating by the light of his hammer, he begins to make his way around the edge of the pit.


Yamtwit stares at the trash Hrud is taking off the kobolds with obvious derision, “Apa sira nyana, Hruď? Kobolds adalah hama. Mereka tidak bisa komo mengais bener.”


As the third kobold hits the bottom of the pit, the floor of the pit collapses, falling away in four sections and depositing the kobolds, the bags of centipedes, and an assortment of other trash another 20 feet deeper. By the light of the hammer you can see a pair of still-quite-fresh lizardman corpses lying at the bottom of the now fourty-foot deep pit. From the echo of the wet splattering sound of the falling corpses, Winona and Donovan inform the rest of you that it sounds/feels/looks like there is a side passage exiting from the bottom of the pit.


Frantiska looks into the pit, then back down the throat. “So we have a few options: Down there…” she points into the pit, “three more pits with similar exits down this passage,” she points deeper into the dragon, “or on up the throat and into the gizzard and stomach…”

Yamtwit quickly translates for Hrud then pipes up, “I don’t really feel like climbing down there with the pile of corpses.”


Donovan picks up the crossbow, reloads it, and stows it on his pack next to the others. I must get Frantiska to teach me to shoot a bow some day, he thinks, the ability to fire so many shots so fast is remarkable. He tosses bits of kobold trash down the pit and down the throat, to get a better “look” at the layout, then points to the passage. “I concur with Master Yamtwit. Climbing down there with riled centipedes and rotting lizards does not seem particularly pleasant. Likewise, Lyra’s suggestion that the acid glands in the fundamentum might still be functional makes exploring the rest of the beast’s digestive track less than appealing. Judging from the sounds, it seems like each of the four pits has a lower exit…perhaps they had to tunnel into the hill to expand the available living space. I say we find the easiest to traverse pit and start poking around the lower tunnels…and hope that those pits do not have similar surprises to this one.”

Winona nods along with Donovan’s suggestions then clanks up the passage. “If the barbarian is going to walk about with the light out, at least have him come up front with me so we can see them coming better…”


The throat passage slopes slightly upward for a couple yards, then drops rather precipitously, descending at a steep angle. After sixty feet, you come to the next pit. This one is open, twenty-five feet deep, and only six feet long, though the sharp downward slope of the passage would make it quite difficult to avoid if you were not forewarned by Winona and Donovan’s enhanced senses. A quick inspection of the pit reveals small handholds running down both the near and far sides, stopping about 8 feet from the bottom where a passage leading out of the left side. The bottom of the pit is littered with splintered wooden planks. Like the last pit, a one-foot diameter murder-hole opens into the spine above, though there are no signs of kobolds lurking above.


Winona looks down into the pit. “No rotting corpses, easy handholds, exit at the bottom. Looks like everything we asked for. All in favor of trying this one?”

Donovan furrows his brow, “Given what little we know about kobolds, and the false bottom on that last pit, I am suddenly rethinking my criteria for what constitutes a safe pit. It looks too easy, which means its probably a cunning death trap of some kind…”


Hrud spends several minutes in contemplation. Finally, deciding that the kobolds probably cannot jump across the pit, decides to use the handholds and climb down into it. The barbarian leaves the spear behind, easing down into the pit. Upon reaching the last handhold, remembering how the floor of the previous pit fell away, Hrud keeps his hands firmly in the handhold and reaches down with his foot to poke at the floor.

Hanging from the last rung by his fingertips, Hrud tests the floor of the pit, first with one foot, then both. It seems sturdy enough. Guided by the light of his hammer, and keeping to the edge of the pit, Hrud cautiously makes his way around to the opening in the wall.


Donovan stands at the edge of the pit for a minute, watching Hrud for test the floor, before making up his mind to follow. As Hrud nears the exit, he takes Hrud’s spear, whistles to get Hrud’s attention, and, carefully as he can, drops it down for the barbarian. He then stows the crossbow he is carrying on his pack, unwilling to part with the extra weapon, and climbs down quickly—dropping the last 8 feet, as he lacks the barbarian’s height.

Ryesha hesitates, mumbling under her breath and staying as far from the ledge of the pit as the sloped tunnel floor will allow, her demeanor very much like a frightened rabbit.

Winona, not relishing the thought of trying to climb down the wall in her heavy armor, picks up her apprentice, whispers a prayer to Tyr, and steps out into the open air. “Anyone else need a ride down?” she says, falling slightly, then slowing considerably as a sudden updraft catches her robes—lowering her to the floor not exactly gently, but better than if she had jumped the twenty-five feet unassisted.


Winona, despite being buoyed up by the winds, lands with a not insignificant amount of crashing, clanging, and jangling from her armor.


Frantiska and Yamtwit both climb down after the others. “We’ve given them plenty of notice that we’re here,” Frantiska says, eyeing Hrud and Winona with a hint of annoyance, “We should practice extra caution..”


Lyra carefully climbs down, trying to listen for sounds above that might indicate that thrown and/or falling objects from the murderholes above may need to be … displaced slightly.


As Lyra reaches the bottom and turns around, she sees a flash of fur and teeth, as something long and sleek darts its head out of the side passage. The thing moves almost faster than you can see as its sharp-teeth latch onto the back of Hrud’s thigh, sinking in deep and refusing to let go. Once locked on and mostly still, you can see that it is a weasel or similar mustelid, with sleek, dark fur, save that it is nearly seven feet in length!


Hrud very nearly roars out in pain and anger, but manages to stifle his reaction at being chomped on to a loud hiss through tightly gritted teeth. Whipping out his sword, Hrud attempts to teach the creature a lesson.


Seeing the blur of beautiful fur, Frantiska utters a quiet curse under her breath.

Yamtwit blurts out, “Try not to bloody it up too much! The hides on those things are worth thousands!”

Frantiska drops her bow and pulls out her shield and Sir Guy’s Spoon. “Alright then…the bow is no good this tight of a space anyways…”

Yamtwit watches the fighters go at it, rubbing his hands together in anticipation of skinning the marvelous creature.


Donovan, huffing and puffing after the climb down, looks suspiciously into the passage. “Too sneaky…” he says quietly. Then louder, “Don’t weasels hunt in packs?” He pulls out his largest crossbow and trains it on the opening, ready for any more that might show up.

Winona whips the flind-bar off her belt and sets it whirling, taking two rapid strikes at the thing, trying to dislodge its jaws from Hrud’s leg.

Ryesha’s eyes go as wide as saucers. Her nose twitches rapidly. She begins whimpering and jumping for the rungs on the wall, trying to get out. No amount of coaxing from her combat-loving, sentient cloak can convince her to go an inch nearer to the giant rabbit-snatcher…


Hrud’s sword stabs deep into the giant weasel’s mid-section. Judging by the amount of blood and the pained cries from the creature, several vital organs were likely involved. As its jaws open in pain, Frantiska’s thrust of her blunted blade catches it just below the eye, snapping its head back directly into line for Hrud’s hammer to finish it off, caving in the weasel’s skull. Winona’s somewhat slow follow-up with her flail is a light pat by comparison.

With many an angry hiss, three more of the things coming darting out of the side passage.


Hrud uses his momentum to plow into the nearest foe. Momentarily distracted by thoughts of what weasel meat tastes like, a poor first strike brings his mind back to the matter at hand.


Yamtwit cries out in despair as Hrud commences stabbing, then realizes that he forgot to tell Hrud. “Hruď! Palu ora pedang! Kita bisa ngedol bulu!”

He then realizes that he prepared for such eventualities. “Tunggu! Aku duwe keajaiban kanggo mungkasi serangan mereka!” He says a quick prayer to Chauntea in his native tongue, “Lajan pouyopotaka noukese konsa, kalme kòlèyo epiyo plen gen anba vant kiteyo. Nou manjeap sispann belèt fache kitesayo. Manman Benediksyon,” and casts calm animals. He them remembers that the others don’t speak Hrud’s langauge and yells, “Don’t hit them, I got this!”

Frantiska turns to strike at the next weasel coming through, then, hearing Yamtwit’s cry, pulls her swing up short and instead brings her shield to bear and steps forward into the breach, hoping to draw the next attack.


Donovan pulls the trigger more out of shock than strategy as the other weasels come barreling in. The shot goes wide, naturally, clattering against the wall. Seeing so many of the things, he drops the crossbow and fumbles in his belt pouches for the sand to cast a sleep spell if Yamtwit’s play should fail.

Winona, hearing Yamtwit’s yell, steps back to place herself in front of the still-panicking Rye, keeping her weapon spinning in case the weasels advance more.


Lyra draws her green-bladed broadsword and tries to keep between the panicking priestess and adorable giant fuzzy things.


Teldicia leaps down into the pit, kicking out with her feet and literally bouncing off the walls to slow her decent. As she lands, she casts a sharp look at the nearest weasel, blood seeping from her eyes. The weasel which is the target of her glare is hurled bodily backwards, careening off the walls of the side passage, accompanied by many sickening thuds and the sound of crunching bone.

The next weasel lunges at Hrud, only to get jagged slashed across its nose. Then…they just…stop. The two weasels, one injured, just sit down on their haunches by the opening to the passage and stare at Yamtwit expectantly.


Lyra sheathes her sword and also looks expectantly at Yamtwit. “Can … can I pet it?”


The goblin shrugs, “They should remain calm as long as we don’t threaten them further…presumably the kobolds had them at least somewhat domesticated, so they probably won’t take a touch as being hostile…” He looks at the two battered ones and does a little happy dance.


Hrud sheathes his sword, gripping his hammer with both hands. “Bisa aku kenek iku?”


Yamtwit shrugs again, “Yen sampeyan mencet mau, priksa manawa sampeyan matèni wong cepet lan resik. Digunakake bakal cokotan maneh.”

Yamtwit grins broadly, “Hey Bunny-girl, can I borrow your skinning knife?”


Hrud stands there, planning to raise his hammer and deliver (what he hopes is) a killing blow, but is himself struck by a thought. “Apa yen kita dilatih loro mau kanggo tindakake kita?”


“Lagi mbokmenawa terpatri ing anjing-rupa. Mungkin yen kita temokake enom cerpelai kita bisa melatih mau. Aku duwe kaelokan sing bisa bantuan, yen kita bisa ngenteni nganti sesuk kanggo nyoba ajar.”


Hrud’s brow furrows, “Supaya … mateni utawa ora matèni?”

As the group stands around contemplating what to do with/about the giant weasels, Hrud realizes his leg is burning uncomfortably. Looking down at the puncture wounds and the blood streaking his leg, he asks, “Bisa njaluk sandi wentis waras?”


“O taek! Ya, kene …” Yamtwit blurts out. He hurries over and lays a hand on Hrud’s thigh. “Leti manje apre pou tout tanlite kapab. Manjeap resevwa nan sòtl’l’ padonnen, epiap koule tankou dlo san arè kitea. Fwin yonpa Mòdeteki moun sòt janm nansaa geri tanpri. Manman Benediksyon.” he prays. The wound closes completely.


Lyra walks gently over to one of the weasels, tossing it a bit of jerky from her trail rations.


The weasel shows almost no reaction to either Lyra’s proffered food, nor the girl’s attempts to pet it, save for a slight twitch of its nose and following with its eyes.

Teldecia, leaning against the wall and looking either very upset or very sick, makes her way past the weasels and into the passage. “Yamtwit. Will your spell last long enough that we can leave them here to deal with later?”


Hrud spends a moment glancing about the remains of the bridge that fell into the pit, trying to figure out why it might have fallen. Then, seeing Teldicia wander off, follows her into the passage.

Chapter 3: An Old Lady in Melvaunt: Part 3
In which the party takes a few days to build defenses and Bo takes his leave.


Donovan goes to the back of the wagon and begins rummaging through the extra weapons they acquired from the kobolds. “We have bows and ammunition for roughly thirty archers, and can arm another thirty for melee—assuming we don’t break into our own stores of weapons.” He looks around, “And there are enough trees that we should be able to construct a good number of spears fairly quickly, or, you know, pointed sticks. They probably won’t fly perfectly strait, but if we make them nice and long they can help keep kobolds from charging up the hill at us…”

Winona nods, “That sounds doable. I know a few prayers that should fortify the courage of the villagers…keep them from breaking and running, and perhaps do the opposite to the kobolds.” Ryesha makes a frightened squeak and instinctively reverts to her rabbit form.

Rant shakes his head at Hrud’s question, “Ora I. Tyr bisa ngawèhaké kaelokan kuwi marang Suci Uskup, nanging kuwi Para Rasul saka iman sing ngluwihi kabisan samubarang kita grup.”


Lyra helps Donovan collect and sort the weapons, whispering to him in Elven as they work. «If I can actually get some sleep tonight I’ll be of significantly more use. Do you mind if I borrow Finnot’s spellbook? His knowledge of creating stable dimensional pathways may be flawed, but there were some principles of enhancing the incendiary properties of an existing fire source that might be more immediately applicable against a large force.»


Around sunset, Frantiska and Yamtwit, and their very tired mounts, ride into the small village, followed by five heavily armored soldier-priests of Helm from the garrison at Iniarv’s Tower. Frantiska scans the area, and, like the others, is considerably disappointed by the indefensibility of the village and the lack of able-bodied defenders. She guides the small group of reinforcements over to where the others are gathered by the pond. “Good evening Lyra, Mr. Leitch, Sisters,” she says as she dismounts. “What are you thoughts on…this?” she asks, sweeping a hand towards the village and nearby battlefield.

Yamtwit keeps close to Frantiska and the soldiers as they ride in, but stops suddenly when he sees the fields. “Cabbages!” he shouts excitedly. He dismounts Rast and runs towards the fields, “Marvelous!” The villager who was just closing up the gate to her gardens lets out a scream on seeing a short creature running in her direction. “Shit!” Yamtwit says, stopping in his tracks, “I have to learn to stop doing that around humans…” He glumly walks back to the others. “So…lots of kobolds on the way. Do we have a plan?”


“«The old man has been to these dog-faces’ camp. Ask him if there are trolls, like Dawn-of-Man says.»” Hrud says to the newly returned goblin.


Yamtwit turns to the old peddler, “Hey, you’ve delivered tribute to these kobs before, right? Were their trolls there? And, while we’re at it… How big is their home? Where is it at? Do they have mounts? Livestock? Piles of gold…”


Lyra looks up from the two books, balanced one on each knee, and finishes jotting down a note in her own book. “Following through with paying the tribute was rather quickly disregarded. As you can see, the village is nigh indefensible with the resources at hand, so we plan to evacuate the village and place ourselves on the high ground. Mr. Donovan and Mr. Yamtwit have already shown to be quite adept at dealing with large forces, and I think this bit here…” Lyra taps the margin next to a passage in the spellbook with her index finger. “…would let us further combust a flaming arrow sent into the enemy ranks. We’ve bows and ammunition enough for thirty archers, and no time for training volunteers.”

Lyra carefully closes the books and places them safely aside, before rising and coming over to look at the warrior-priests. “And your appraisal of the matter, sirs? You’ve far more experience in dealing with them, I presume.” Her tone and bearing give her more than a little resemblance to her mother, but her hands are shaking as she smooths her skirt.


The apparent leader of the soldiers, as indicated by the very tall blue plume on his helm, nudges his warhorse forward. “Since the fiend Greshlyrr took command of them, the kobolds have been quite the menace,” he says in a deep voice, with the calm demeanor of a soldier giving a report. “Several small villages like this one have been set upon of late. We have not managed an accurate census of their full strength, but, should all the tribes muster, Greshlyrr could easily field a force ten thousand strong. Luckily, they still operate mostly as individual tribes when it comes to matters of raiding the highways or pillaging villages.” He looks up at the battlefield, taking in the graves and the damaged houses. "I would estimate the force that caused the initial damage there as not more than a few hundred, and I doubt they did so without losses. If the band that attacked you on the road is the same tribe, which is not improbable given the proximity, then they would be at a significant disadvantage from having taken such damage earlier in the day, and I would not expect them to attack in force. Of course, the talk of “tribute” is probably the tribes collecting for their king. Were these orcs and not kobolds, I would expect the tribes to go to great lengths to procure the tribute on their own, in order to save face and not look week. With kobolds it is less sure…they have no such sense of pride, and thus are more likely to call to other tribes or even the king for reinforcements. They prefer to attack with overwhelming numbers, as that is their only way of overcoming larger foes, and thus we should expect them to come with assistance."

“They were sorely hurt in their raid on you, so I would not expect retribution for some days, but even in that time, we have little hope of further reinforcements arriving, unless we were to rally other nearby villages and farmsteads.” He points to the northern hill where the previous battle took place, “If we take that time to fortify that hilltop with wooden main-lines with trenches in front, and control the ridge, we could potentially hold a much larger force—particularly with a good-sized group of archers, backed by spears in case of a full-out charge from the attackers.”

As he discusses fortifications, you can’t help but notice that each of the five soldiers has, in addition to his own sword and crossbow, a collection of steel-tipped spears, shovel and pick, wooden stakes, and a bundle of wire mesh strapped to the back of his horse—exactly the tools for forming the kind of defensive lines he is describing.


Donovan nods along with the soldier’s assessment. “So, we can count on having a few days to prepare, and on the kobolds coming in large numbers. If we get the other settlements involved it might be better for everyone. I can’t imagine that the kobolds would content themselves to extorting only one small village…” He looks at the heavily armored soldiers on their mail-clad horses. “If the kobolds are as cowardly as all that, and we really want to leave the village in a better state than we arrived, we should probably try for a large, decisive victory over the kobolds that come. Maybe half-fortify the hilltop, position mostly spears and slings in defensive positions there, do whatever damage we can and give the illusion of only limited resistance. When they come up the hill, that force withdraws, leading them down to where the kobolds will have their back to the pond. We place our main force on this ridge behind us—archers, casters, and our small cavalry. We draw them into this valley, incapacitate or immobilize as many as we can with spells, rain down hell with the archers…” He looks at the horses again, then at the wagon, the oxen, and the chariot, “Then crush them with an unexpected heavy charge perhaps?”

Winona raises an eyebrow, “How many other villages are around here? How many more people can we get?”


Hrud sees Dawn-of-Man looking at the wagon. A few moments after the conversation has progressed, he asks, “«Can we armor the wagon? I can drive it.»”


Frantiska nods along with Donovan’s comments, “Seems like a reasonable plan. I suggest that we all get some rest…with guards posted. Tomorrow we can send out riders to recruit the other settlements, and the rest can work on fortifying the valley.” She turns to Hrud, apparently unaware of any awkwardness of the past few days, and addresses him in her approximation of his language. “Hrud, seperti apa baju besi yang ada dalam pikiran untuk gerobak? Juga, Anda memiliki kuda, Anda ingin bergabung dengan saya dalam mengumpulkan desa? Atau apakah Anda ingin tinggal di sini dan membuat persiapan sendiri?”


Hrud puzzles over the elven woman’s words for a minute, eventually determining that she has asked if he plans to help bring others to the village. “Ora akeh wong nganggo Eraka ing wilayah iki. Aku bakal tetep lan nyiapake.” he replies, eyeing the wagon and team of oxen.

To Rant, he asks, “Bisa wong ing desa iki wis pepe kewan kulit? Aku kudu kayu, banget.”


Yamtwit approaches the old man, trying to look at once menacing and business-like, “Okay gray-beard, I’ve got a few questions, seriously, and if we’re going to save your skins, we need some answers. First, you should tell us everything you know about the kobs and their demands for tribute. Second, my big friend,” he gestures towards Hrud, “wants to know if you have any tanned hides or leather that could be spared, preferably a lot of it. Lastly, if we’re going to be guarding you from ravening hordes of deadly kobolds,” he adds a bit of overly dramatic emphasis, “it would be nice if there was a bit of quid-pro-quo…at least a warm place to sleep and a bite to eat for now. We can settle on more appropriate compensation if we live…”


The old man sighs. “Aye goblin,” he says in a much kinder, but still strained, voice, clearly impressed by the lengths you have already gone to to help him. “I’ll talk to the women-folk and see if we can find a place to put you all up for the night, and we should have some skins your Eraka friend can use.” He leans wearily against the side of the wagon, still favoring his damaged leg. “I’m afraid I don’t really know much about the kobolds. They have us deliver the tribute to a big rock shaped like a dragon half-way into the swamp, a good two days walk. They don’t exactly invite us in…just have us leave the goods in the rock’s ‘mouth’. There’s always some of them guarding the rock, but I’ve never seen more than five or six of them there, and no beasties either…though there are plenty of those in the swamp if you don’t watch yourself. That rock’s quite the piece of work too—spooky realistic looking carving, right down to the wear on the teeth. Scares the bejeezes out of me when I have to put the stuff in its mouth.”


Lyra sits down on the edge of the wagon and opens the books back up. “It should be less of an imposition, since that you’ll get to keep your tribute this way.” She runs her thumb down the margin of one page, then beckons Amara over, whispering something about Susalia and pretty fireworks.

Lyra rubs the bridge of her nose, thinking. “Mr. Donovan? How much do you know about gen? Can they borrow spells from someone on this plane? I doubt Mother would appreciate having her magic borrowed, regardless. But she does know how to bring forth reasonably defensible buildings of magical construction, as well as warding spells.”


Donovan, looking very tired at this point, sits down beside Lyra. “From what I’ve heard of the magic used by genie-binders, I believe that their spells are always fetched from extra-planar entities. More specifically, I think they are drawn most commonly from the various genie lords and nobles of the elemental planes, and not without some negotiation I believe. There are some tales of gen even fetching spells from the gods themselves, though most of those reports do not end well…”

“We could, however, attempt contact with your mother and see if she would be amenable to providing some magical assistance,” Donovan yawns, stretches, and rises, “but that seems an things best left until morning.” He lends the old peddler a shoulder, “Come on old chap, why don’t you show us to a bed…” He pauses and raises an eyebrow, "Say what is your name, Sir?


Lyra exhales sharply, not quite a derisive snort. “Amenable to providing assistance? She’ll call it foolish nonsense and try to convince me to stay out of it. For my own good, of course.”


Frantiska takes her rest in the village stables alongside Thistledown. She rises early in the morning, and again re-saddles the filly for a journey, announcing that she intends to warn the surrounding villages about possible kobold reprisals and the desire to mount a concerted defense. She spends an hour rounding up others who may be interested in the ride—specifically looking for a shepherd boy or other local that might know the surrounding terrain and the location of other settlements. Once any others accompanying her are assembled, she mounts up and turns to leave. “Lyra, Mr. Donovan, I believe we’ll head west first—in order to warn any settlements that are between the swamp and here to evacuate. And also to look for signs of approaching kobolds. We’ll hopefully reach all the western farmsteads today, then either circle north, or return here for the night before heading to the east—where I hope to find villages less severely weakened than this one which might be able to provide additional troops. Do not hesitate to contact me by whatever means are at your disposal,” she looks meaningfully at Lyra, “should the kobolds appear before I have returned.”

With that said she rides off over the hills to the west.


Winona borrows Hrud’s steppe-pony, quite without asking, citing some complicated Erakic laws of communal ownership when Rye gives her ‘that look’, and rides off with Frantiska to gather the villagers, not trusting the elven woman’s tact from their previous encounters.

Donovan stays up late into the night, studying the party’s collective spellbooks in search of something that might give them an advantage in the coming battle, and sleeps in an equally long time the next morning. When he finally wakes, he walks up to the western ridge with his notebook and pens and spends several hours sketching the surrounding terrain—making notes on contours, ditches, clusters of vegetation, placement of the buildings in the village, and other features that might be exploited to some advantage. He then takes these back to the group to begin drawing up plans.

Ryesha, after seeing Winona off, seeks out the village weavers and their stores of cloth and wool [[they’re sheep farmers right?]], and begins manufacturing thick padded vests with which to armor those that will be put to use as archers, as well as weaving nets and reinforced cords which could be used to lay basic traps to slow the kobold’s advance.


Lyra stays up with Donovan discussing tactics until she starts nodding off (and waking abruptly shortly after) and asks Donovan if he thinks a sleep spell might allow her to remain asleep for the evening.

In the morning, she talks to Amara about getting some birds to scout for kobolds around the town, then Lyra goes over the notes she made the previous evening, annotating and rewriting portions about magical armors, and digs through the pile of treasure from the tower looking for any mithral while waiting for Whiskers to return.


It is only a couple of miles between the village and the eastern edge of the swamp. On horseback and guided by the crossbow-toting shepherd boy you saw the day before, you manage to cover a large swath of that strip, striking several miles north and south of the main road. During the days patrols you see no sign of the kobolds themselves, but the extent of their depredations in the area is obvious—empty farmsteads, burned villages, and fields stripped clean. The boy leads you to five other settlements, all smaller, and in worse repair, than the village. The settlers require very little convincing, and, by the end of the day, another hundred people trickle into the village, driving their livestock before them and hauling carts and wagons filled with everything they could carry.


Yamtwit gathers up his supplies, spends some time talking to the shepherds to convince them to round up all the nursing ewes, and begins mass-manufacturing and stockpiling sanctified ghee as a curative. He makes some complaints about sheeps milk being greatly inferior to donkey and wolf milk, but makes do.

Before resting each day, he will also unload the rest of his spell arsenal casting Ripen twice each day to increase the village’s food stores and Favor of the Goddess four times per day. He’ll direct the villagers to start transplanting ivy and creeping vines to cover their homes, which he will then use Favor of the Goddess to grow to supersize to cover all but the doors of the houses.


After the first good night’s sleep she’s had in days, Lyra sits down with her spellbook. Despite the lingering throbbing at her temples, the disparate theories and notes coalesce into something usably meaningful for the first time since she was old enough to sit on her mother’s lap and turn pages. She confers with Donovan and Amara, and asks Amara to call forth animals to scout for Kobolds around the village, and then begin casting protective spells on the villagers, starting with Sir Loin and Mr. Brisket, then the archers. Just before dinner, she asks Amara if she can try to call forth a powerful spell to hide all of the villagers.


As Lyra prepares to start casting magical armor, Rant approaches her, nodding back at Hrud who continues working on his modifications to the wagon. “Hrud asks if you could save an armor spell for him. He was also wondering if you’d be able to use your ‘magic door’ to pull him out of trouble should he get overwhelmed. I … think he means to go after their king, if he can.”


After leading in the line of refugees and resting, Frantiska, Winona, and their guide ride off towards the east the next morning, targeting as many settlements their guide knows of within half a day’s ride, camping in the field if necessary. They both remind Lyra to make contact with them should Amara’s little birds bring word of incoming kobolds.


Lyra smiles. “The line starts in front of Amara, if he wants to cut in front of the archers. If not, I think I can prepare and cast one myself in the morning…. And yes, I should be able to open up an escape route if he becomes surrounded, although I was hoping to once again make use of it to redirect their volleys. I doubt they will bring fewer archers than they ambushed us with.”


Bo doesn’t think a large battle is the best place for a simple locksmith. He has a feeling these well-meaning humans (and elves) may be doomed. Bo inconspicuously gathers his belongings and sneaks off while everyone is attentively working defenses.


With the plans drawn up and fairly clear, Donovan spends the next day talking to the villagers and the refugees—trying to find places for everyone to stay, giving pep talks and telling stories to keep morale up, and organizing them into teams to set up fences and dig trenches according to the Helmites’ instructions, and transplant plants according to Yamtwit’s instructions. With the aid of the Helmites’ expertise and the villagers’ strong backs, they begin laying out fences and dikes along the north-western ridge, where the main kobold force is expected to come from, 10-foot deep moats blocking ingress to the village along the road to the north and south (filling them with the decanter of endless water), and blinds along the south-eastern ridge for archers to hide behind. They transplant viney things to cover the houses as Yamtwit suggests, transplant gorse, thistles, and additional ivy plants into the north-western valley (to be enhanced with entangle during the battle), and begin collecting large, rounded stones on the ridge-lines, both throwing sized, and larger boulders that could be rolled down the hill to break lines. Donovan pitches in with setting up the fortifications as best he can, but is rather muscularly impaired relative even to the village woman and shepherd boys.

Early in the morning, he also pulls Rant and Hrud aside and asks Hrud to demonstrate basic archery skills for villagers, since Frantiska is out on patrol. If time allows later in the day, he will take an inventory of all the weapons that are available in the village (including farm implements that could be converted if necessary).

Throughout the day, Donovan will also intentionally attempt to establish psionic Contact with Hrud, Yamtwit, Winona, Ryesha, and Rant, while testing and practicing his abilities.


To prevent yet another sleepless night and crippling migraines from interfering with defensive preparations, as well as not wanting to waste sleep spells with an offense potentially forthcoming, Lyra will attempt to browbeat Donovan into using the rod on her before she goes to bed at the end of the first full day in the village.


“Oh! Right!” Donovan says, seeing the haggard look of someone suffering from insomnia and migraines on Lyra’s face. He quickly breaks out the rod and touches it to Lyra, feeling the familiar heat and vibration, but finding it much easier to control this time.


When Winona suddenly starts getting headaches on the second day, Frantiska breaks out her scroll of Improved Whispering Wind…

Back in the village, a warm breeze blows over Lyra, pushing back her hair and bringing Frantiska’s voice to her ears. “Winona seems to have the psionic sickness. Is everyone else okay? Would you like us to return?”


Lyra sighs and rubs her temples, looking around to make sure her portion of the conversation will be unobserved. “The most alarming development is that Donovan tried using the rod on me, and my abilities seem to be growing unabated, as are my headaches. At least I am sleeping again. My own ability to intuit the use of psionics nearby is somewhat imprecise; I can’t tell who it’s coming from.”


Frantiska nods, though no one can see, and her reply is carried by the wind. “I’m glad some of your woes have abated. There are a few more villages nearby that we would like to visit. If you believe things are relatively stable, we’ll do that and then return early tomorrow.”


During their three-day ride, Winona, only mildly bothered by the headaches, her new tendency to always land on her feet, and the fact that her skin begins instinctively changing colors to match her surroundings, questions their young guide. “So kiddo, you any good with that bow?”

“The name’s Serhiy.”

“Alright, Sergi, you any good with that bow?”

“I’m pretty good.”

“Thanks for leading us around. You know we’re going to be fighting a whole horde of kobolds, right?”


“You might want to practice while you can…”


The farms and villages east of Gildenglade are in progressively better shape and closer together, and, as such, take considerably more persuasion than those to the west. Between the three of you, though, you are able to get a sizable number to commit to aiding Gildenglade. By the time you ride back, another hundred people, mostly able-bodied men with all the weapons, armor, ammunition, and mounts they can scrounge trickle into the village behind you. All of them have seen their share of conflict, defending their homes from raiding orcs and goblins, and a few even have some experience as soldiers or caravan guards. On top of these troops you have managed to muster, two, while not agreeing to fight with you, did ride off to Melvaunt to plead for assistance on your behalf.


Frantiska and company come riding into the village early on the third day after their initial arrival in Gildenglade. Frantiska doesn’t even bother to bring Thistledown to a full stop before swinging down off the horse and running to find Lyra. «How are you feeling?» she asks in Elvish, then mutters, «nevermind», and, ignoring anyone else that might be around to see, kisses Lyra full on the lips, a brilliant blue glow rising around them.


As the kiss breaks off, Lyra’s headache, and the accompanying powers, fade as if they never were.


Lyra blushes and stammers, not really expecting that was how her first kiss would go.


“So,” Frantiska says, finally stopping to catch her breath, “where are we in terms of preparing for a war?”


Rounding the corner as he’s working on the wagon nearby, Hrud happens to catch the exchange. It takes a moment to realize that he’s staring, his jaw hanging open like a simpleton. Hoping that no one noticed, the barbarian awkwardly works back around the way he come.


Donovan watches, simultaneously jealous and extremely turned on, as Frantiska kisses Lyra, then realizes what the non-conversation and the blue glow probably mean. Shaking his head, he turns and waves at Winona, then walks over to the priestess and the line of volunteers trickling into town behind her. “We might actually survive this…” he says, quietly once he is near the priestess.

“Not to worry Donny,” Winona smirks at Lyra and Fran’s little encounter, “a bunch of these fellows actually know which end of a sword is which, and a few can even cast a spell or two.” She pats the shoulder of the shepherd boy who was serving as their guide, “Sergi here isn’t a bad shot either….Oh,” she adds, her skin suddenly changing to the same pale green as the grassy hillside behind her, “and I have apparently become some kind of chameleon, which, judging by the headaches, is probably your guys’ fault…”

“My fault to be precise,” Donovan admits sheepishly. “I was trying to test the range on my ability to contact other minds.”

“Not to worry Donny,” Winona pats him on the back.

Donovan gestures towards the bulwarks on the hilltop and the moats to the north and south of town. “I think we’re just about done with the fortifications—though we could always use a few more days. We’ll need to get your new friends organized. I was thinking Frantiska and Lyra should take command of the ridge, with as many archers and crossbows as we can put together. Hrud and that wagon he’s putting together seems like a good thing to have at the head of a vanguard of cavalry—though I suspect we should give command of that to the Helmites. I think you’re the right person to lead whatever infantry we have left…or, with your interesting skin condition, might be well placed to lead some sort of ambush group positioned to take the enemy from behind after they come into town….”

“Sounds good…”

Once Winona is set to work organizing the militia, Donovan runs off and is not seen again for some hours


Late in the evening of the third day, a little bird returns to Amara, informing her that a band of kobolds have been spotted about five miles west of town.


As the message arrives, Hrud is circling the wagon, pulling on the various planks, doors, and other bits of wood cobbled together around the driver’s bench and extending up the sides. Making sure the primitive leather blankets are securely fastened to the oxen, he climbs into the wagon and begins to move it into position, making sure to allow just enough space to build up a good head of steam before he crashes into the kobold force.

The barbarian tries to keep a stoic facade – it is likely that good men and women will fall to the filthy dog-faces this day – but he cannot deny the anticipation he feels. Truly, this will be a battle they will tell stories about for generations to come.


Donovan, having reappeared after slinking off to write in his journal, begins issuing orders to the villagers with the booming voice of a professional orator. He directs them to grab their weapons and form up into units—archers and crossbowmen with Frantiska and Lyra, the Helmites and cavalry with Hrud, infantry with Winona, and the casters with him.


As she helps herd archers into position, Lyra is going to Mindlink with her mother.

“I apologize for not getting word to you sooner, Mother. We were in the midst of fortifying the village of Gildenglade against a kobold incursion. I knew you would insist I remain uninvolved, so I have opted not to inform you until no option remained but to be involved. For that I apologize, but for what must be done to defend these people, I have no such regrets.”


On receiving the word, Yamtwit runs around, casting Firebreak on the houses. “Can’t they wait until morning?!” he laments, realizing that aside from the one, he has expended his arsenal of spells for the day. “Do we have any way to slow them down significantly enough for me to catch a few hours of sleep and beg the Great Mother for an extension?”

Yamtwit quickly passes out flasks of clarified butter, whistles for Rast, mounts up, and rides over to join Hrud and the Cavalry.


Your party and the villagers wait…and wait. The evening air is chilly, but the sky is clear, and you can see quite far. After several busy days of preparation, many of the villagers are showing signs of fatigue, or boredom, nodding off at their posts, leaning on bows or spears. Some four hours after the first word from the birds, as a bright gibbous moon climbs towards midnight, scouts on the north-west ridge spot the first kobolds cresting the opposite hill. A small band, only six or seven. They stop at the top of the far ridge, their incomprehensible chattering carried across the valley by the west wind. One lights a torch and another sounds a crude horn before they proceed down into the valley below.


Lyra scans the valley and surrounding hills nervously, on guard against whomever that signal horn was meant for.


Frantiska looks over at Lyra. “Torches?” she whispers. “I thought kobolds could see better in the dark…and preferred to attack with surprise. Perhaps they have something else in mind.”


You wait several more long minutes as the small band of kobolds traverse down into the valley, with still no sign of others. They stop, suddenly, near the bottom, staring up at the hill, as if just noticing the fences and bulwarks lining the ridge. The one drops the torch it is holding and they all turn and begin fleeing back up the hill from whence they came.


Lyra’s eyes go wide as the kobolds turn to go warn their brethren of the village’s defenses. She takes a step away from the others, the air next to her wavering slightly from the wafting smoke of the kobold’s torch. The wash of heat on Lyra’s side of the portal feels almost pleasant against the evening chill, as the flames expand suddenly to engulf the fleeing kobolds. The valley is filled with a brief light and surprised yelps, then left with the smell of charred meat and lingering silence.


Still more hours of waiting pass before one of the nervous villagers near the front line asks, “Where are the rest of them?”


Hrud seeks out Yamtwit to ask “«How many normally attack the village?»”


As the kobolds burst into flame, Yamtwit turns to Hrud, “Aku bakal luwih migunani sawise turu. Tangi kula yen gelut diwiwiti.” He then curls up on the ground next to Rast and is quickly stacking z’s.


Winona orders the villagers under her command to remain at their posts, tired as they are, and wanders over to where the archers and casters are waiting. “Lyra dearie,” she says as she approaches, “did Amara’s little birds say how many kobolds were coming? Birds can’t count can they?” She looks around for their cavalry, then realizes that is a useless proposition, which she imagines is a good thing. “Since the riders are invisible anyways would it make sense to send some of them out to scout and see whether there is a more substantial force lagging behind these ones?”


“Say? It’s a bird.” Lyra shakes her head, then considers the question further. “In theory even a single kobold would trigger the warning, though. We should ask the villagers how the attacks typically proceeded, with the torch and the horn. We might be able to send out scouts and let people rest in shifts if there is usually a significant delay between the scouts and the main force.”


The old man, Finchus, hauls himself to his feet, not without much complaining, and hobbles over. “There ain’t so much of ‘typical’. They attacked us once en masse, killed all our young men, then demanded that we give them tribute. The last five years things have been bad, but not too bad, so long as we pay-up. If we don’t pay on time, they usually come just like that, maybe ten, in the night. They blow a horn to wake us up, then torch a house at random, then leave with everything they can carry…usually our sheep. We only tried to fight back the one time after their first attack. Wasn’t too hard to kill a handful of kobos. But two days later the whole swarm of them showed up again, beat us senseless, and made off with half our girls and more than half our sheep. I figured, given what you did back on the road, and that it’s tribute time, that the army would be coming sooner rather than later. I guess they didn’t put two and two together on their failed raid on the road, so I’d guess we’ve got about two days before their boss gets angry with this lot and sends the horde for us…”


Frantiska shakes her head. “That, Sir, is the kind of thing it would have been useful to know some days ago…”


Donovan sits up all night, staring at the stars and wondering where the enemy might be. When he sees Lyra and Frantiska accosting the old peddler again, he wanders over. “So, either they are not coming, or we’ve got a couple more days.” He gestures at the reinforced, fireproofed houses, moats, defensive lines, magical traps, and thong of armed and organized villagers—some unseen but implied. “We still have pressing business of our and they are only kobolds. I think we’ve done what we need to do here, and the Helmites should be more than capable of commanding the town’s defense. All in favor of getting back on the road?”


Yamtwit, waking up with a yawn, hears the others talking and wanders over. “That was it?” He shrugs, “If it’s going to be a couple more days at least, I’m with Donovan, those statues aren’t going to sell themselves.” He turns and yells over his shoulder to the barbarian, “Hrud, Pak putih-rambute ngandika kita ngirim dhuit jaminan ing kobold perang bab, lan njaluk bali menyang kita asli misi. Sembarang pikirane?”

Frantiska looks around, her brows knit in consternation, “We’ve done a lot to prepare these people to defend themselves, but our efforts are no guarantee of their success should the entire kobold army descend on them. However, Lyra and Donovan did promise Amara’s uncle that they would convey her safely to her grandmother’s home in Melvaunt. However I may question the sincerity of the girl’s story, a promise was made, and keeping the child here is definitely at odds with the spirit of that agreement for safe conduct.” She turns to Lyra, “Lyrathwen, I would suggest that you, Mr. Donovan, and Brother Rant, at least, go on ahead to Melvaunt with the girl, in order to complete the objectives of this outing. I can remain behind with the Helmites to make sure the village remain safe…”


Lyra is clearly unhappy at the thought of abandoning the villagers to their fate. “I … might be able to manage both. Get Amara to Melvaunt and be back in time to help defend the village, I mean. Dream travel there in the evening, and back the next, if it’s just people going. The wagon, livestock and … artwork … complicate matters.”


“We also agreed to fetch components for Professor Aumry’s classes,” Donovan reminds them. “While he did not specify that any of the components were perishable, such is often the case, and the professor was kind enough to pay us up front and provide this wagon for our use. Reneging on our very first contract, with a pre-established financial obligation, seems like a good way to ensure that we never find work in Phlan again…”

The two Tyrran sisters are drawn by Donovan’s raised voice. “We’re not obligated, Donnie,” Winona interjects. “If Frannie wants to stay behind, we can watch over the village with her and catch up on your way back through.”

Ryesha raises an eyebrow, “You’re just don’t want to miss the fight…” she mutters quietly.

“What’s that Bunny? Oh, of course I wouldn’t want to miss the fight. But, Tyr willing,” she says half-heartedly, “it won’t come to that.”


Lyra nods. “We did agree to such. We also did specifically inquire if Professor Aumry’s reagents were perishable, and he said that they all should be properly preserved, but may be fragile. So it may be in his best interest to rout the kobolds before attempting to bring a shipment of fragile goods back through their territory.”


Hrud just stares at the goblin, not believing what he has just heard.

“We nyebabake alangan kanggo desa iki, saiki arep ninggalake iku?”

He looks around at the village, the meager fortifications, the rag-tag group of peasants and farmers huddled around each other uncertainly. Hrud then hears his companions talking. The words are unknown, but to his mind the intent conveyed in the tone of their voices is clear. The barbarian’s heart starts to burn in his chest. He walks over to the wagon and grabs his gear, then makes his way back to his pony.

“Yen asu-pasuryan ora teka kene, aku bakal pindhah menyang asu-pasuryan.”

Riding down from their position, he make his way over to where the kobolds crested the hill and begins to look for a trail that will lead him to their lair.

Noriss's Boys: Session 2

Dear Squire of Kryptgarten,

My name is Tamn, and, apparently I am now part of a massive conspiracy to raze and lay waste to the city of New Phlan, kill all its citizens, rape all its women (because, you know, orcs), and set up some mysterious, giant, flaming guy who scares the fuck out of Lord Noriss as the king of the northern Moonsea. So…yeah…need to find a new line of work soon…

Let me back up.

After collecting the loot from my friends—I use the term loosely here, they were just some guys I met after washing up on shore on Thorn Island, and I really only knew them for a few days, but they did cut me in on their reward for killing the undead on the island—Lord Noriss informed us that we had been hired to kidnap a local heiress. The next day though, as we were sneaking into New Phlan to do the job, we learned that said heiress had agreed to marry her would-be kidnapper and was no longer on the hit list. Fucking politics.

If I’m sounding a little cynical, its only because I find myself in completely ridiculous circumstances.

So, that job fell through, not that I really mind…kidnapping seldom turns out well, and capturing or imprisoning anyone doesn’t really sit well with me. We return to Lord Noriss and are informed that he got a new deal, from the local Thieves’ Guild, the very boringly named “Thieves of Phlan”. We don’t usually get along with the “Thieves’”, as they tend to operate pretty openly and also tend to be less racially inclusive. But, apparently they needed a huge distraction in a hurry, and knew Noriss was the only one who could provide.

So, late in the day, we lieutenants, and a handful of carefully picked orc grunts, snuck out with two goals…rouse some of the pro-Xvimlar orc gangs, make them think the hobgoblins from the old textile mill were out to kill them, then kill a hobgoblin and plant evidence to make it look like the orc gangs did it, to make the belief true.

Our first stop was a hobgoblin watch-post, near the old wizard’s tower, which they used for keeping tabs on the humans poking about the Slums—a bit of early warning in case the counctil tried to send troops to root them out of the old Textile factory where they lived. Hobos are pretty organized it seems, which was a good thing for making out plan work, no one would expect a small pack of hobos to act on their own without orders from the tribe.

We did that old-school, kicked in the door and killed the five of them. Lost a couple of orcs, but that’s how it goes. We left our dead (and a couple of spare Xvim symbols), then grabbed the hobos’ bodies, still armed and armored, and hauled them out with us. Had to make sure the bodies were in the right place, eh?

Our second stop was the small Xvimlar shrine in the Slums, where the orcs tended to do their sacrificing and what passes for planning on their part. One of our orc grunts went in and scouted, informing us that, as expected a pair of gang leaders were there finishing off some beggar-girl. Thing about orcs, they mean it when they threaten to fuck people to death, and don’t mind continuing well after the ‘to death’ part. There were quite a few guards in the atrium, he said—apparently the grunts don’t get to join in the “serious worship”.

We climbed up to the roof and dropped into the sanctuary through a hole right above the altar (for letting out the smoke when the burn sacrifices). We caught them by surprise, dropped on their heads and killed them, quietly, mid-necro-coitus. We snagged their swords, strange green-bladed things that marked them as Xvim-approved gang-leaders, then lowered in the hobgoblin corpses and Yuri artfully arranged them in a scene of carnage and temple desecration.

We then started making a racket, two of our orcs shouting in their language, and the rest of us yelling some choice epithets and insults in Hobgoblin that Isti taught us. Coffex and an orc upended the altar to block the door and slow the arrival of reinforcements, while we pantomimed the killing, clanking blades together and yelling. Isti then blew a hole in the back wall using some toy she had concocted and we booked it out of there, just ahead of the door and altar lurching aside to let the angered orc guards in.

We ran through the twisting alleys for close to a half-hour, set a few small hovels on fire for good measure, then snuck over to the old textile mill, the ruckus of anti-hobgoblin hysteria rising in the slums behind us. We dismissed all but two of our orc entourage, handed them the green Xvim-blades, and Isti used her magic to instill them with a recklessly-insane level of courage. We then bet them five-hundred crowns (he had seen the cash we got off my dead ‘friends’) that they could not kill the hobgoblin sentries by the gates and get away with it. Man are orcs stupid…

Coffex gave the orcs each one of his special ravager potions. The two orcs snuck, quite expertly for orcs, up to the gates, scaled the walls, and were quickly in a pitched and not at all quiet battle with the sentries. Yuri set off an alarm spell, made to sound like the hobgoblin warning gongs, and then we high-tailed it down the nearest well and back to the hideout.

The next morning agents from the Thieves’ Guild delivered a bag with one-hundred pounds of solid gold plates, cups, and similar objects to Lord Noriss. Huzzah!

We took a couple of weeks to relax and enjoy the spoils of that last job, Noriss even sent a couple of the boys up to the market to order two tuns of wine to celebrate. I was starting to get used to this bandit thing.

After a few days of R&R, Lord Noriss again called us into his private chambers. We learned that he had received a letter from the would-be kidnapper inviting him to a meeting organized by the would-be kidnappee. Yeah, that’s right, apparently the newly married couple were holding some kind of open-forum for criminals and violent gangs in the city who want more say in politics. In a week, Noriss said. Nice of him to invite us lieutenants.

We showed up in Podol Plaza, just north of the well where we had out hide-out (between the Textile Mill and the old noble’s district), to find a horde of nasties—ogres, gnolls, kobolds, bugbears, hobgoblins, even a few giants—plus representatives from the Kovel Mansion Thieves’ Guild (not the one that paid us to stage the orc-hobo fight—they were conspicuously missing), representatives from the temple of Xvim, and our benefactor and his didn’t-need-to-be-kidnapped wife.

There was much airing of grievances: Xvimlar accusing hobgoblins, hobgoblins accusing Xvimlar, hobgoblins complaining about some adventurers taking over one of their keeps, the kobold king complaining about tribute shipments from the east being cut-off…all that sort of thing. They all wanted to know why ‘The Boss’ hadn’t ordered an attack on the city in so long. I was curious about this ‘boss’, since it was clear that everyone was talking to and not about the two, surprisingly young, humans who were leading the meeting.

Yuri quietly asked Noriss if he knew anything about ‘the boss’, and the tough half-orc informed us that he had only seen the boss once, at a similar meeting just after the humans took over the docks a couple years ago and started their campaign to ‘civilize’ Phlan. He described ‘the boss’ as some kind of flame-shrouded giant or demon who was trying to build an army to once-and-for-all put the humans in their place.

The boy informed everyone that “Lord Maram”, who I can only assume is this boss, was disappointed by the infighting between the various tribes and gangs in Phlan, and was unlikely to order any significant action until the tribes could show a significant success in working together to put a stop to the encroachment of the human adventurers and settlers.

The girl then informed them that the council had raised some racist Hillsfarran jokers as “Squires of Kryptgarten”, naming them the first nobles of New Phlan and giving them the recently liberated hobgoblin keep north of town. The keep was, she said, poorly garrisoned and isolated, and, because of the nature of the trust the council had placed in these outsider, would make an excellent example.

The boy called out the kobold king, Greshlyrr, and the newly raised hobgoblin Chieftainess-cum-High-Priestess, Grishnak, and informed them that ‘The Boss’ wanted them, as the most organized tribes, to coordinate a full-scale assault on the keep. He then called our Lord Noriss, praising his success in evading the council’s agents, and gave him, and therefor us, command of the joint kobold-hobgoblin operation. He was even nice enough to point out a convenient secret entrance to the keep by means of a nearby crypt.

There was some arguing on the part of the kobold king and hobgoblin priestess, and some guy named Mace, who was apparently the high-priest of Xvim and angry that they were left out, but they eventually all agreed to follow Lord Noriss’s commands…just this once.


My name if Tamn. Until recently I was a slave. Then a hero. Then a bandit. Now lieutenant to an evil warlord, working for some even bigger-and-badder warlord, preparing to lead a legion of kobolds and hobogoblins to assault some gods-forsaken-keep in the wilderness as a precursor to the extermination of all humans north of the Moonsea.

I hope this letter finds you soon, so that you may prepare for our inevitable arrival.

~Tamn Footstooler, The Thrice-Betrayor

Donovan's Diary: Entry 9
14 Eleint, Year of the Maidens

Morning. Raining lightly. Very tired.

Yesterday, the kobolds were supposed to come. We waited up for them all night, but encountered only a small scouting party. While I wait for my companions to decide what to do next, I’ve been pondering the writings and teachings of Philopater Miles, who was court magician of Cormyr, c. 498 DR. Much of Philopater’s work focused on the theory of the “Celestial Science” as he called it, the study of the stars, which, I may say, I got quite a good view of while standing watch last night.

Many who practice the Art adhere to the ancient and somewhat outdated belief that the flow and flux of their potency derives from the so-called Slumbering Dragon or the Third Wyrm, or whatever appellation they wish to give it. This mistaken belief, of course, comes from the translations of old Wyrmish legend discovered in the Dragonfells, the Emberlands, and the former provinces of Synd. Whatever the Wyrms believed, their access to this mythical or fabulous “breath of the dragon” is something that we modern mages cannot hope to match. Ask any student of the Wyrmish Art—their rituals are missing key components, rely on nonsensical grammatical constructs, and are extremely taxing to the corporeal form. They are incomplete.

Whether the world is truly the shell of a slumbering dragon or not, we may dismiss the notion that human and elvish sorcerers have access to this “breath of the dragon.” It clearly is not so. If we did, our magic would necessarily more closely resemble the Art of those ancients. However, we have observed, and it is a growing consensus amongst mages and scholars of renown, that efficaciousness of magic may be tied instead to cycles observed in the Heavens. After all, is this not the very foundation of the venerable practice of Astrology, which is said to predict the alterations of the world?

Allow us to then to investigate the celestial science from its root and we will understand exactly how our own Art is affected and, in many ways, enslaved to the motion of the stars. The wellspring of mannish magic is not to be found below us, but rather above. We can trace the creation of the stars through the mystery cults of Galos the Seer, back to a time when Toril was lit only by the presence of the World-Tree Asca-Irminsul. Before the advent of the stars, perhaps, all magic was descended from the principle of the dragon’s breath (though there is an argument to be made, not in this book but perhaps in a future treatise, that even gigantine and pyskie magic does not make use of this essentially Wyrmish principle).

Indeed, the most ancient tablets recovered from the Jungles of Chult hint at a considerably different system of magical Art in which the presence of the stars was not accounted for. However, at some period removed from the time of the original Sorcerer-King, Chultine magic underwent a massive and important shift. This, I believe (and shall hence argue) represents the time when the fixed and wandering stars were introduced into the Heavens. The sea-change in magic represents a sudden freeing of available magical energy and codification of previously slapdash system into one governed by knowable laws.

The stars were created by Selune at the latter end of the Night Age. They are made of a material almost never found terrestrially. This fabled star-stone is a quintessence, a fifth element capable of influencing the other four due to its purity, its incorruptibility, and its endurance. Even during the War of the Chains when the Aelio themselves wished to remove Selune’s influence from the heavens, they could not muster the power to destroy the very stars. They are immortal and eternal.

From the stars descend the rays of magic that cause the beginnings of all events on Toril. Though they may not be co-eternal with the world, they have become inextricably bound with it. Their movement is the cause of all mannish and elvish sorcery, and stirs up the lesser more earth-bound elements of Toril into patterns that can be predicted (though never with complete accuracy). Thus, the motion of the stars is itself the source of magic. The celestial science governs the Art.

A Tract of Teratology: Preamble
Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You're a plague and we are the cure.

There are those, learned and respected scholars all, who will tell you that the first Great War was fought between the lizard folk and the serpent folk who were the gods of the Yuan-ti. They spend much of their time combating their minority colleagues who insist, no, the first Great War was fought between the aarakocra and the thri-kreen. Neither side does much more than emit scoffing laughs (laced with a disturbing sense of directionless embarrassment) when the wild-eyed and unkempt seers speak of even older things.

In the mind’s eye of poets and madmen dance a race of children. These children dwell in the happy spring of our world, cavorting and making as they dance and sing. Since this world is all they know, they name their mother the All-mother, and they name our world All Creation. And they shape the beginnings of our world with all the love, curiosity, enthusiasm, and vicious tyranny of children in the nursery.

And then something from Outside came. To say it invaded is to imply agency and choice. To say it tumbled implies it was pushed or tripped. So lets just say it came.

It was utterly inimical to the games and songs and dances of the Children. Their voices quavered in its presence, their gardens wilted, their games went all sideways. They couldn’t even speak with it, and its utterly alien ways went beyond uncouth, beyond creepy. It was utterly abominable.

And, by its very presence, it warped things. It didn’t so much spawn as twist things already in the nursery world and remake them in its image, to fit its idea of what nursery ought to be. It was, to the minds of the Children, the ultimate theft of their toys.

And this they could not stand. They made war against it. They tried to burn it with fire and freeze it with ice. They sang at it and they threw stones at it. But everything that touched it warped and became part if its corruption of the world.

Even worse, its corruption was infectious. The Children built an army, a massive collection of soldiers, all unified in purpose and of one single mind. At the first touch of it, a wave of instability passed through the entire army. The Children were forced to destroy their soldiers before they became a tool of their enemy.

Their next army was far more clever. Each was not just a unique individual, but misanthropic as well. Each individual specimen was a singular army in itself, armed with every clever weapon the Children could devise, it eschewed the company of all others, and most especially those like itself. Thus, should one fall to corruption, the others would be unmoved.

We call the by-blows of these warriors of the Children beholders. And, in the end, they murdered their creators, whom they considered just as repellent and horrible as the enemy they were created to destroy.

The beholders also won the war against it. They created an army of their own, an army of raw chemical hunger that sought only to dissolve everything, rendering it into fuel to grow itself. We know the remnants of this army as the various slimes, oozes, puddings, and gelatins that still lurk in the dark places.

So it was defeated, but the corruption it left behind was not undone. For, you see, the Children were right about their mother. She was also the mother of it. And it was a daydream, a fantasy of children-that-might-have-been, and its very presence implied into being the nursery-that-could-have-been-if-only…

And you can still find those echoes of its existence in the aboleth, and in the twistings of our own mortal shells that we call the illithid, and in similar horrors that do not belong and are not right. And we rightly recoil in horror and destroy to the utmost these terrible children of the Mother Of Us All. For their continued existence whispers in our heart-of-hearts that Mother loves them more than us.

Return to Phlan
Bring out your dead!

Traithe Nightfall

Having successfully escaped from the city of Hillsfar, after having received Rudolfo’s abdication paperwork, we made our way back across the sea, headed for Phlan. With the ship packed bow to stern with people, it is very difficult to find a moment alone. When the need arises I practice my few spells, particularly the spell I learned that alters my appearance. Nothing dramatic, just subtle differences to enhance my visiulization and control.

As we head towards Phlan, it becomes apparent that some of the folks are indeed diseased with whatever was going around in the city. It is also apparent that I have contracted this infection as well. Seeing as how we don’t want to bring this infection into Phlan, there is a suggestion that we head to the deserted isle in the bay. Nat has been there before and died there and came back. Heading for the island, we make landfall and offload the folks that we gathered. Scouting around the island, there are remains of orcs and other creatures, but the island and the fort here have been picked clean over the years.

With what scrub can be gathered, since folks need to be fed, one of our crew begins boiling the orc to at least provide sustenance. I mean it’s not really cannibalism, they’re not human, right. Later we discover some boats and head out to the windward side of the island away from the pollution flowing into the bay and start catching fish. [Whose name I don’t remember], begins casting some explosive magical forces into the water and bringing up dead fish, which I help gather up. Fish is definitely going to be better than boiled orc.

We spend the next several days on the island, and I continue my daily practice with the disguise spell, augmenting with additional subtle changes from my kit. I subject myself to the healer to rid myself of the disease that has tried to take hold of me. He does an admiral job, even if he has some strange ideas about how to rid ourselves of it including this strange idea about bathing in the sea and this harsh material he calls soap. It’s a little odd and so is he, but what can you do. I time my practice to coincide with these activities. Finally after 5 days, the healer decides we are ready and we gather up all the folks back to the boat and head across the bay to make port and collect our earnings for bringing back new recruits. Pulling up to the dock, the harbor master appears in awe of the volume of folks that have been brought back and healthy to boot. I forgot, I’m not collecting any reward. The price of ensuring that I am not carrying that nasty disease…Sigh.

Arriving back at the Bitter Blade, we discover a wake/funeral/reception in progress as Rudolfo and Marcos’ father has passed away. There is lots of wailing and wringing of hands. Women. Of course I have no room to talk. Mel is a bit young and her sense of comforting is still developing. A bit like a bull in a bedroom. Marcos notes that we have returned and smoothly makes his way over to us. He definitely moves with a cat like grace through the room. Reaching the door to his father’s quarters, he quickly slips out for a quick conversation with us. We agree to meet in an hour down in the common room. Making our way back downstairs we find a nice corner table and order a round of food and drink.

Later, Marcos joins us. “Sorry to hear about your father.” I find myself saying. “I hope it was a quick end for him?”. “It was.” he replies. Interesting to note what he left unsaid that there is a suspicion that perhaps he helped the process along. Things to consider. “We found your brother in Hillsfar. He has no interest in the council seat here in Phlan.” “And you have proof of that?” he inquires. “We do.” and I produce the duly completed and witnessed document. He looks pleased. He hands over the deed paperwork and after a meaningful look from the party, the agreed upon cash payment amount. I review the documentation he has provided. Interestingly on the map he has noted that there is a secret back entrance to the estate, one Cryptkeep by name. There are several acres involved and as such we have effectively moved into the roles of minor nobility here in Phlan. A definite move up from my farmer’s origins, but looking at the documentation, there is still farming and cultivating involved. Perhaps if things go our way, we can get someone else to do it. I’d really rather not go back to doing that kind of work.

Gathering supplies for our trek to Cryptkeep, we head out the Slum Gate and as it is approaching evening make our way through the streets and head for the Whispering Forest headed towards Cryptkeep. As we are careful, we don’t encounter any oppostiion to our movements. Several hours later we reach our destination. We pause to take in the sight of the keep, and it becomes clear that there are currently inhabitants in the keep. Probably some sort of monster group. We make the decision to avoid the keep and head around it to the graveyard and the marker for the secret entrance. Arriving at the graveyard and in the rough vicinity of the secret entrance we discover two like locations for the entrance. One is a large mausoleum, the other a marker to Mystra, god of magic. Mel begins attacking the door as it is banded with silver and apparently she has some acquisiitve instincts. The door is unlocked and with a good shove, it opens. In one corner of the crypt, there is a dead body. Our resident physician moves over to take a look at it and while kneeling down, out from the sarcaphogus contained within the maustoleum, jumps another creature that attempts to run him through. Quickly mobilizing, the folks with bows handy fire into the creature, while I step up and wade into one on one combat with the creature. We handily take it out and ensure that the physician is taken care of and back on his feet. In the interim our anonymous masked friend has discovered that the shrine to Mystra houses the secret entrace to the keep.

After a few moments of fooling with the mechanism, it is determined that it is possible to open the covering from both the inside and outside, and now it is time to see what lies ahead. We descend the ladder some 50ft down with light spells and torches lit. Proceeding some distance down the corridor, with supports set every 10 feet or so, we come to a stone wall. Extinquishing the lights on our side, we see a faint outline of a door in the wall. The physician sends his familiar through the door, under the door? I don’t know exactly since whatever it is seems to be to small for the eye to see. It reports a hairy humanoid creature and an ape with pits in between the door and their location. It is decided that a ranged attack option is preferrable. Setting out our weapons, we prep for door opening and firing at the creatures as soon as they are visible.

The attack goes pretty much as planned other than the gorilla creature is much more difficult to take down and it lets out a couple of loud bellows before succumbing to it’s injuries. Moving across the pit on the planks that are available we reset and look for the door up. Heading up a set of stairs we hear more creatures moving around. We begin a stealth campaign to take out the creatures, that we have identiifed has hobgoblins that have taken over the keep. We acquire a hanger-on in the form of a very undersized hobgoblin that has no desire to die, but rather would see the rest of his troop taken out, as apparently they treat him worse than pond scum. We begin taking the interior of the castle, starting in the dining room. Opening the troop leaders room door, we again employee speed tactics, taking out the leader with a round of arrows and a quick follow up sword stroke. Making a note of his face and body, for future reference, we search the room and discover he has a few better weapons and some notes about a reinforcement troop arrrving in a month’s time. Our new hanger-on, leads us through the interior of the keep and the forbidden doors, which after a nearly fatal bought with a couple of more hobgoblins, we find some lost treasures of the keep. A dandy new sword, a wand and a scroll of spells for me.

This place is going to need some cleanup before it’s truly habitable again. The sword provides some interesting abilties and looking deeply into the blade there is a dwarf’s reflection that appears in the metal of the blade. Our hobgoblin guide, leads us up and we come out near one of the walls where we spot the wall guards that we saw earlier from the outside. The sword, giving me some interesting abilities, allows me to speak hobgoblin. Disguising myself as the troop leader I call out to the guards on the wall that they are to come down and be replaced by two other guards. Apparently this isn’t an uncommon occurence. The ambush that we set, didn’t let them last long. So far so good. The only remaining group was the barracks crew. Alas, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry. Using our hobgoblin lackey, and maintaining my disguise, we call three of them out to take up wall guard duty. Then it all falls apart. The remaining eight that are sleeping are abruptly awoken when our ambush doesn’t take the three we called out immediately. Rushing in, I take the new sword I acquired and it’s capabilites and begin to go through the still waking hobgoblin crew like a hot knife through cream. In a whirlwind of attacks, I take out one and instead of a dead hobgoblin there is a dead dwarf on the floor. No time for comptemplaiting the result, have to keep moving. By the time I am done, most of the creatures are either dead or wounded and we mop up. We have retaken the keep!

After cleaning and residual wounds and dragging the bodies outside, we ensure the walls are secure and try to catch some sleep until the morrow, when we will begin our next steps.