Ruins of Adventure

The Amazons: Session 8

It was a lovely wedding, up until the point where my sisters kicked in the door, beat up the guards, and “abducted” me, which was totally sweet. Oh? Right…introductions. I guess I’ll back up a bit.

My name is Imogen Jedea, daughter of Kassur Jedea, the Crown Duke of Threskul. A little over a year ago I ran away from home and joined a group of totally kick-ass adventurers known as the Amazons. A few months ago I got magically transported back home, where I immediately got forced-engaged to this sniveling weasel of a middle-aged count. Luckily I had my scroll of communication, so I could keep in touch with my girls. Needless to say, they came and saved me.

During the winter, the girls had found a magical forge in an enchanted forest protected by a dragon. Cool huh? Long story short, the dragon killed our friend Worthy and I wasn’t even there to help. Some new girls whom I had not met helped kill the dragon, then helped turn Worthy into a totally awesome talking sword.

Since my scheduled wedding was still several months out (for all that my dad is pushy he likes to do things “right” and do it with style, so he was planning a big one), Hot Flanks, who is totally hot by the way, convinced the girls to stick around for several weeks to customize some other gear. We’d been working for a while to track down an evil minor nobleman cum undead warlord cum demon worshiper (or some such) and had gotten our asses kicked a few times, so it made sense to prepare as much as possible. I told them as much in writing if you don’t believe me.

So, they hung out in the woods until late Mirtul, mixing and matching things we had on hand to make some totally sweet magic items, with the occasional trip back and forth to Phlan for supplies (but that’s boring). There were a couple of minor skirmishes with bandits, faeries, undead, and wolves on the road and around the forge while they worked, but nothing too serious. Just enough to be good practice and keep them on their toes without killing anyone.

Then they headed back to Phlan to talk to our patroness, the totally awesome and not-at-all-evil, Councilwoman Elissa Bivant-Mondaviak. It’s amazing how people who don’t work for Lady Elissa get the wrong idea about her sometimes. Probably because they are jealous of a girl being better at politics than them.

With Elissa’s help, the girls chartered a ship to take them down to Messemprar, where the wedding would be happening. Elissa told the girls that she was really concerned about the events of the last few months: the evil squire’s escape, the giant army of undead we saw in the mountains, some colossal giant god-thing waking up and causing earthquakes in the mountains, the government in Hillsfar (which had always been a close ally of Phlan) being overthrown by a coup…things were not going well for Phlan. Elissa understood that the girls had personal business—saving me—and agreed that we should all be present and ready for the coming battle. She even covered the entire cost of the round-trip passage, and included a wedding present of sorts, a big stack of books for us to study on the way back.

The wedding ceremony was scheduled to take place on Shieldmeet (because, hey, leap years are awesome). The ship was fully stocked and they sailed out on the first of Kythorn. The trip to Messemprar took more than two weeks, which the girls spent reading and hanging out, broken up with a small skirmish with some buccaneers from the Pirate Isles, just off the coast of Altumbel. Again, quick, easy, and none of the girls got seriously hurt—though the same could not be said of the pirates after Don’t Fail and Hot Flanks both fireballed their ship. Apparently the book-learning really helped.

The ship docked in Messemprar the day before the wedding. I invited the girls to stand in as my maids of honor (it was a political marriage, I figured I might as well go through with it, so long as I could escape before I had to consummate the damned thing). Unfortunately, my prick of a father refused to even let them into the palace, despite them having a hand-written invitation from yours truly. It’s like the old meany didn’t trust my sisters-in-arms or something…

Luckily the wedding was open to the peasantry (nice thing about big royal functions, you have to let the rabble watch or else you risk an uprising), so the girls were able to sneak in close as the thing started. Like I said, it was a lovely affair. Everything was festooned with flowers. All of my father’s knights showed in in full polished plate (though that made things harder later). I got to wear the most gorgeous gown of my life, white with a silver-mesh veil and my crown, and just enough of a bustle to hide the Handsome Prince (that’s my sword, not a literal prince) underneath. If only my husband-to-be wasn’t such an old, bearded, codger (though he did look pretty good in his armor).


We processed, and danced, and said our vows and our “I dos”. Then the old priest of Tchazzar said the whole, “you may kiss the bride” thing (which was the official precursor to the public bedding—yuck!) the girls kicked in the door. Literally.

Dragon Bait raged out and blew the big doors off their hinges.

Don’t Fail and Hot Flanks burst into the ball room, cowing the less militant spectators with a few well-placed (above their heads so as to not kill everyone) fireballs. , Doesn’t Shake, Finds Them, and Battle Cry charged forward, clearing a path to the dais with a mixture of spells, gunshots (Finds Them apparently packs a really loud toy she calls a “arquebus”), and deliberately extra-creepy illusory monsters.

I did my part, acting just-scared-enough to get my new husband to step in front to protect me, then kicked the armor-laden windbag down the stairs face first, before drawing Handsome Prince and shadow-stepping down to join the other girls. I thought it would be all shock-and-awe and an easy run for the boat from there, but, like I said, my dad had all of his knights standing in for the procession, and fully geared up. So, we fought.

It was tough, mostly because we were trying to NOT kill everyone. It’s amazing how hard that is really. Especially for Dragon Bait apparently. When she goes into fighting mode, she turns into some kind of spike-covered raging demon thing. If she hadn’t had Worthy (our paladin turned awesome sword) in her hands, shouting at her to calm down and pulling her blows a bit, she probably would have killed every last one of my dad’s knights. Instead we just maimed them a bit.

I aimed for a lot of hamstrings and tendons. Handsome Prince helped as usual, turning even tiny cuts into wickedly bleeding messes (it’s awesome how quickly you can convince someone to retreat from a fight when you knick an artery). Battle Cry did her usual grab their arms and break it routine. Don’t Fail froze them in their tracks with her spells. Doesn’t Shake kept them off balance and swinging wildly at her illusions. Hot Flanks blasted them into submission with her mind powers. And Finds Them deafened them with her boom stick.

All told, there were some thirty-odd fully armored, well trained knights. And we totally kicked all of their asses.

Just for giggles I tagged my new husband with a potion of ugliness on the way out, turning him into a toad (temporarily). Adding insult to injury like that was probably not the best move. I’m sure I left my dad with a national crisis and potential war on his hands, but, that was not really my problem. I have no intention of going back there (baring another blast from that wand of cruel banishment).

Once out of the palace, we ran like hell. The general hue and cry ran out before us, both yelling and trumpets calling the castle guards, city watch, and every other man at my father’s disposal to come out and catch us. We bull-rushed our way to the ship, beating guardsmen like baby seals. Our hired crew had been given the word that morning to be ready to sail at a moment’s notice, and so they were.

Then, with a pop, Mahāna, my dad’s court wizard, appeared in our path, along with a solid iron wall. It was a tall wall and he was a tough wizard, but I’m a shadow walker, and I laugh at walls. Literally, walls are funny, especially when you can step right through them. I never liked Mahāna anyways, and we were so close, so I stepped out of the wall right behind him and planted Handsome Prince between his shoulder blades (yeah, that one is really going to piss daddy off).

We hauled ass onto the ship and cast off.

As we pulled away, I pointed out my dad’s fastest naval vessels in the harbor and we nuked their sails with fireballs…not enough to ruin the ships for good, but enough to keep them from following us (again my dad is probably going to kill me, hard, if he ever catches me).

The winds were against us going north so it was a long ride back to Phlan. I caught up on my reading on the way back. It turned out the wedding gift that Elissa had sent along was a Manual of Stealthy Pilfering, sweetness.

The Amazons: Session 7

Hammer 19

Seeing the undead hordes, the girls turned and ran back down the far side of the mountain, past the giant’s cave, down the cliffs, and back to the village of Varawa as fast as they could through the snow, rubble, and gathering dark, the earth trembling all the while.

“Hoar’s bloody coin!” Hot Flanks exclaimed when the got back to the small village. “Did you see the size of that force?”

“It would appear that the Squire is out of our league,” Don’t Fail agreed. “Raising and commanding an undead army of that magnitude would require magic of godlike proportions.”

“So what, we just quit?!” Battle Cry sounded angry and incredulous.

“No,” Don’t Fail said. “We return to Phlan as quickly as possible and inform Councilwoman Bivant of what has occurred. An army like that can only mean that the Squire has declared war on all the good peoples of the north. This is no longer a personal matter, tens of thousands of lives are at stake.”

“Gods,” Had Enough groaned, “there were more undead there than the entire population of Hillsfar, Phlan, Melvaunt, and Thentia combined. There is no way the Council could raise an army large enough to oppose that…”

“All the more reason to warn them as quickly as possible,” Worthy of Armor said. “The Council may be able to send to Cormyr, Sembia, or Glister for reinforcements. If not they’ll need time to evacuate.”

“I’ll come with you,” Hira remarked. “They were heading north into the Ride. That army will have to swing out past Lake Longreach, and then probably follow Toranth’s March rather than the pass, so Varawa should be safe. If we hurry down the river, we should beat them to Phlan by a matter of weeks.”

Don’t Fail nodded, “It’s decided then. We leave immediately.”

They borrowed what food and mounts they could, sturdy ponies from the steppes north of the mountains, and rode out in a hurry.

Only an hour out they ran right into the teeth of a powerful snowstorm. Luckily Hira knew the area well and was able to use the guidance of her goddess to avoid getting lost. They rode through the night and well into the next day before making camp in a sheltered glen near the riverbank. They took only a short rest to feed and magically rejuvenate the horses before mounting and continuing on. The snow did not let up for three days and each day their progress became slower.

Hammer 23

On the fourth day, even with Hira’s magic protecting them, the cold and fatigue was starting to get to the girls again. They neared Lake Kuto and Hot Flanks reminded them of the forge they had found in the woods and suggested that they take advantage of the warmth and try to get some serious rest. There was some mumbling about the urgency of their journey, but the cold won and they all agreed to stop by the forge for the night.

They rode into the glade where the forge lay in the early afternoon. The snow had stopped, but the ground around the magically heated forge was a muddy mess. Battle Cry, in the lead, muttered a loud “Woh!” as everyone approached, calling for them to stop and pointing to large, sinuous furrows in the mud, as if a gigantic snake had repeatedly circled the site. Curses were muttered, weapons were drawn, and the girls fanned out to make sure the area around the forge was secure.

As they started looking around, there was a rush of air, a slight roaring noise, and a cloud of intensely cold ice particles suddenly filled the clearing around the forge. The cold of the ice cloud tore through their clothing, shattered the protections laid on them by Hira, and chilled them to the bone.

Hot Flanks spun into the face of the wind and spotted a massive beast, like a huge pearly-white snake nearly forty feet long, with a covering of downy fur, two scrawny fore-claws, and a large crocodilian head, crawling from the it’s mouth open wide to exhale its icy attack. She looked disdainfully at the creature, despite her shivering and shouted, “There it is girls. Kill it with fire!” She glanced to make sure none of the others or their horses were near the creature, leveled her club at it, and, true-to-form, unleashed a fireball at the wyrm.

The flames rolled over the beast and it laughed, a deep and pleasant, “Oh, kill it with fire? How original. How very droll…I believe I shall enjoy this.” The huge creature coiled itself, ready to spring at Hot Flanks.

“Oh, it’s on!” Battle Cry said thrusting a hand into the sky and summoning forth a shimmering hawk-shaped construct of magic force which whirled up into the air, ready to dive at the giant snake-thing. Hira began casting a spell to restore the party’s protection against cold. Had Enough shot the thing with her crossbow, then tossed the weapon aside and drew her sword.

Worthy of Armor sighed, pulled out her katana, and charged, shouting a powerful “Kiai!” She jumped at the last minute, reversing the blade and putting her full weight behind the strike, plunging the full two and a half feet of steel into the creature’s bulk. Then wrenched the sword free in a spray of blue-white ichor.

“Ummm…dragon…” Don’t Fail managed to say before the thing’s tail whipped around, sending her sailing through the air to slam into a tree, unconscious. The creature’s jaws then descended on Worthy of Armor, biting her clean in half, swallowing her head and torso without even bothering to chew.

The girls stared at the monster in stunned silence.

There was a sudden shout of “Gotcha!” and a strange wild-eyed, metallic-skinned, spike-covered woman burst from the trees, sprang on the dragon’s back, wrapping her arms and legs around its neck. At the same time, Battle Cry’s magical hawk dove, gouging at the dragon’s eyes with its nearly invisible talons. Then the metal girl drew a long, bloody smile across its neck, right beneath its jaws, with a short-handled spear. The dragon reared back, opening its jaws as if to roar or unleash its breath, but neither sound nor its frigid winds came forth. “Yeah, suck it! No breathing for you Nanabolele!”

The dragon slumped to the ground, dead. The girls stared at the monster, the new one that had just assassinated a dragon, in stunned silence…

The metal girl continued to cling to the dragon’s neck for a few moments, her form changing to that of a lovely dark-skinned girl with neat corn-rows and a flowing blue cloak. “Thanks girls! I’ve been hunting that bastard for weeks,” she said, finally letting go and casually stepping over Worthy of Armor’s still twitching legs to walk over to them. “The name’s Thákane,” she said extending a hand to Hot Flanks, “but you can call me Dragon Bait.”


The tension broken Had Enough finally stammered, “D-d-d-did anyone notice that that thing just BIT WORTHY IN HALF?!”

Thákane looked back at the dragon, “Ouch, yeah…sorry about your friend…”

Battle Cry walked up to the dragon and knelt beside what was left of Worthy of Armor. She said a prayer dedicating Thákane’s slaying of the beast that killed Worthy to Hoar’s vengeance, then turned back to the others. “Do we have the funds to raise her?”

“Not at all,” Don’t Fail said. “It took every last centime we had to bring Princess back after the Squire’s pet killed her.”

AND,” Had Enough interjected, “someone here insisted that we had to hunt down the Squire for free after that. So we’re not getting paid any time soon.”

The girls decided to give Worthy of Armor a funeral. Thákane helped them vivisect the dragon, extracting the remains of her torso, wrapped her arms around her daisho, and carefully carried her torso and legs and placed them both into the forge, stacking all of her possessions save her magical scimitar and bokken with the body. Battle Cry then said a few words sending her spirit on to her god as Hot Flanks stoked up the forge (with an extra fireball for effect), reducing it all to a pool of molten metal and a whiff of carbon.

Meanwhile, Had Enough found a small, haphazard pile of coins, gems, and weapons (though still not half enough to have repaired and raised their friend) half-buried in a snowbank near where the dragon had appeared from, and Thákane in cutting up the dragon, found a pair of magical rings on the beast’s scrawny arms.

They checked one more time to make sure the dragon did not have friends, then settled down to pitch their camp and get some rest. Thákane treated them to some surprisingly not-very-filling dragon steaks, over which they got to know the strange dragon-slayer. The Amazons then explained their situation. Thákane seemed inappropriately excited by the thought of fighting an army of a hundred thousand undead, as well as Phlan’s other troubles, and agreed to accompany them to the city.

The rest of the trip back to Phlan was uneventful, but slow. It snowed intermittently, but the blizzard of the previous week had piled up drifts as high as five to seven feet, forcing them to take long detours and walk most of the way, beating or digging paths for the ponies they had brought with them from Varawa.

Midwinter Day

They reached Phlan eight days later, shortly after dawn on Midwinter Day. Thákane, mounted on Worthy of Armor’s horse, Mfara, and Hira seemed simultaneously horrified by the squalor of the humans living in the slums to the west, and fascinated by the battle lines drawn along the riverbank between the New Phlan in the south and the monster-held older city on the north bank. Given the urgency of their mission, and the delays they had already suffered, the girls did not allow much time for sight-seeing. They headed strait to the Council Hall and demanded an audience with Councilwoman Bivant and any other council members that would listen.

The Council was not in session, but the guards sent for Lady Bivant, who joined them less than an hour later in the Council’s chambers. Elissa listened patiently as they described their encounter at Kryptgarten, their trip north, the earthquake, Princess’s banishment, the Squire’s legion of undead, and Worthy of Armor’s death at the hands of the dragon.

Elissa seemed deeply saddened by the loss of their sisters and concerned by their tale of the Squire. She said she would summon the Council immediately, and that they should rest, recuperate, and take as much time as needed to train and prepare themselves for the coming battle against the Squire’s armies. She dismissed the girls with letters for the administrators of the Training Hall and the Bitter Blade Inn, informing them to charge all of the Amazon’s expenses directly to Lady Bivant. “You have done us a great service in bringing this news, anything you need to prepare for the coming battle will be provided.”

As the girls walked out, Had Enough stopped them. “Hey…I’ve had enough of this…”

“Pun intended…” Hot Flanks quipped.

“I’m serious. Cold. Starvation. Weeks of walking through snowstorms. Undead armies. Dragons the bite people in half. Getting knocked halfway across the kingdom by every monster we meet. I was expecting to be on highly paid guard duty, not fighting giant monsters for pennies.” Had Enough shook her head, “I’m out. I’m done. I’m taking my share of the cash we found at the forge and I’ll be on the next boat south…”

“You’re sure about this?” Don’t Fail asked.

“But what about Ven…”

“Don’t even.” Had Enough said, cutting Battle Cry off. “Your weird religion is also not my problem.”

“Have a nice life then.” Hot Flanks said, giving Had Enough a tentative hug.

“Alright,” Don’t Fail sighed. “Let’s see if we can sell those gems so you’re at least getting your fair share…”

They walked down to the docks and found a money changer, then said their good-byes as Had Enough went to book passage out of town. After she left, they headed to the Bitter Blade, took out rooms, signed up for classes at the Training Hall, and settled in to start preparing for war.

10 Alturiak

The next tenday was quiet. There were flurries, but none of the great snowstorms of the previous month. No travelers came to Phlan, no refugees, and no other signs that the largest undead horde the world had ever seen was marching across the northlands—maybe the snows had stalled them as well. The girls dedicated themselves to their training, and steadily grew more comfortable with Dragon Bait’s company.

By the 10th of Alturiak, the snows had stopped and the sun once again shone upon the northern Moonsea. Hira informed the girls that she needed to get back to Varawa, and make certain that the undead had not attacked her people. She bid them fairwell, loaded up the five ponies with all the goods they could carry—having stocked up on provisions to bring back to her village—and headed out.

When the girls returned to the Bitter Blade after wishing another friend farewell, Don’t Fail remembered that she had the other half of Princess’s scroll of communication. They wrote to find out that Princess was, as expected, in her father’s palace in Threskul, apparently betrothed to a not-entirely-objectionable nobleman from Soorenar and kept under close guard by her father’s men. When they told her about the Squire’s army and what happened to Worthy of Armor, she promised to try to speak with her father and see if he could raise some forces to send to Phlan’s aid, and to try to escape to join them, though she said it would probably have to wait until after the wedding—she suspected that if she played the dutiful daughter and fiance until then, her new husband’s security would likely be more lax than her father’s.

1 Ches

As spring came on, rumors began to trickle down from the north of a massive army of the undead being spotted north and east of the Quivering Forest. Settlers fleeing to the safety of Phlan’s walls told of rank upon rank of marching skeletons tearing through the forest. Despite the girl’s repeated warnings, the Council seemed to be moving slowly in mustering it’s defenses.

The girls sought out all new visitors coming into the city for any news. Varawa, it seemed, was safe, and no undead had been seen in the vicinity of Dragonden Pass. The army also seemed to be giving farms and homesteads wide berth, and, other than a wide path cut through the fey forest towards the river, there was no reports of burning, pillaging, or conflict. The undead needed no supplies and seemed content to simply intimidate settlers with their numbers and let them flee before them.

Then, word of the horde simply stopped. Settlers reported that they had seen the undead to the west of the forest, near Sorcerer’s Island…then, nothing. Settlers merchants continued to come in. Eraka merchants rode down Toranth’s March and reported no sign of the army. It was as if the entire force, all of the hundreds of thousands, had simply…vanished.

The girls, for their part, continued training, not trusting that the army could have simply ceased to exist and sure that the Squire was planning some kind of surprise attack. Phlan also continued on its way: new homes were built, walls were raised, the north shore of the river was pacified, and repairs began on the recently reclaimed Cathedral of Tyr.

During the weeks of training, Dragon Bait spent some time working the forge at the Training Hall. When the girls saw that she was rather handy, Don’t Fail explained her theories regarding the magical forge they had found in the Quivering Forest. Dragon Bait, who was less in need of organized training than the others, said that she’d like to try the forge—and also hinted that a trip to the forge would give them a chance to scout on the undead army for themselves, since it was last seen not far from there. Don’t Fail, having finished most of her training with Professor Manabu, agreed to accompany Dragon Bait on the combination scouting and research mission.

The two of them rode out, Dragon Bait on Mfara, who had taken a shine to the new girl, and Don’t Fail on a horse purchased from Ernst’s Livery, who she named Hope for Success. They took the hammer taken from the giant they had fought in the Valley of Thorns, as well as many of the party’s extraneous magical swords, including an annoying talking one they had found with the dragon, hoping to construct something powerful enough to stand against the Squire’s apparently god-like power over the undead.

The ride to the glen in the woods was surprisingly peaceful. They found some signs of the undead army’s passage, a few downed trees, muddy tracks beaten into the formerly snow-covered ground, but no actual undead to oppose their passage. They stopped on the shores of Lake Kuto. Here they found real signs of the army, including hundreds of corpses—both ancient humans and strange lizard-like and fish-like creatures—and signs of others having recently been dragged into the water. They spent a day searching the shores and the nearby woods, but the army, it seemed, was gone, maybe even destroyed by whatever had been in the lake. Stranger still, the waters of Lake Kuto, that had only very recently been black and toxic, looked almost clean.

Rather than continue on, they turned and rode back to Phlan with what they had discovered.

7 Ches

On the seventh of Ches, Lady Bivant invited the Amazons to a party hosted by her husband on the newly opened patio space on the rooftop of the Bitter Blade. Many people were in attendance, including a strange halfling epicure who her husband had taken a shine to.

Elissa introduced the girls to a couple of recent arrivals in town, whom she said might make useful additions in their continued hunt for the Squire. The first introduced herself as “Finds Them and Kills Them”, was from the island nation of Lantan. The second, called Abyssinia, was from a neighboring island called Nimbral. Both had arrived on the same ship and seemed both capable and eager to help.

The girls agreed to take on Finds Them and Abyssinia as new members, and chatted amiably for several hours, learning about their new companions skills and interests. Finds Them and Battle Cry in particular hit it off. There was some considerable discussion about what to call Abyssinia, which finally settled, with some reluctance on her part, on the phrase with which she had first introduced herself: “I don’t shake hands” or “Doesn’t Shake” for short.

Once the party was in full swing, and all the introductions had been made, Elissa called the girls together again, along with Faelana, the assistant clerk of the council, and presented them with a new adventuring charter. The new documents, specially drawn up for them, identified the Amazons as official agents of the Council, reporting directly to Councilwoman Bivant, and gave them full and open access to the Council Chambers, free to come and go whenever they chose, so as to provide Councilwoman Bivant with intelligence in as timely a manner as possible.

Late in the afternoon, the strange halfling, one Monsieur La Bouche, called everyone over to the edge of the roof nearest the river, and directed their attention to a huge white-capped wave that was suddenly rushing downstream. Ahead of the wave the river was as black and polluted as ever, but behind it, the waters were clean and fresh. When the wave had passed, all of the pollution that had choked the river had been pushed out into the bay, where it quickly began to disperse into the sea.

There was a mixture of cheering and stunned silence from the people crowded on the roof watching the river. When the wave had passed and it was clear that the river was, in fact, clean, Elissa’s husband, Markos Mondaviak made his way over to La Bouche to congratulate him and offered to personally escort the halfling back to the Council Hall to see to his payment. Elissa and the assistant clerk excused themselves, having to attend to Council business, leaving the girls to look down and marvel at the river.

8 Ches

With still no reports of undead hordes marching on Phlan, Don’t Fail called the girls together the next morning and once again proposed making a trip out to the forge in the woods. This time describing a new theory. The forge, she said, clearly had the power to take the powers of multiple magical devices and fuse them into one. It also had the power to unmake magical intelligences, she said, effectively beating the brains out of sentient items.

Don’t Fail hypothesized that by combining all of their talents, the girls might be able to make the forge do the opposite, imbuing a sentient soul into a new item. More specifically, she suggested that since they had cremated Worthy of Armor on the magical forge, along with her ceremonial weapons and armor, some fragment of spirit might still be tied to the metal. By combining Hoar’s, and therefor Battle Cry’s, ability to create revenant spirits, Hot Flank’s ability to tap into other beings’ minds and emotions, and her own research with the power of the forge, she suggested that they might be able to bring Worthy of Armor (or some fragment of her personality) back in the form of a sentient weapon—thereby allowing her to continue her work in this world.

The girls, especially the two worshipers of the Vengeful God, were all for that, and so they gathered up what they thought they would need (as well as provisions for several weeks of work) and rode out to the forge. The newest Amazons, Finds Them and Doesn’t Shake, while not knowing Worthy of Armor, accompanied them out of curiosity—offering their own magical talents to the experiment.

With the weather finally in their favor and the way clear of undead menaces, they reached the forge late that evening and immediately began setting up for the ritual Don’t Fail proscribed. Dragon Bait collected the still molten mass of metal from Worthy of Armor’s swords and armor from where they still rested on the forge, along with the pair of sentient blades they had collected: Weasel and Corthalis and began the process of smelting them together (to the accompaniment of much complaining from the two swords), heating them in the magical forge, beating them with the frost giant’s hammer, and cooling them in the still icy blood of the months-dead linnorm.

7 Tarsakh

Late on the night of the 7th of Tarsakh, after weeks of work, under the bight, clear, first full moon of Spring, they finished. Finds Them and Kills Them sang prayers to Mielikki, goddess of Forests and Maidens, for guidance in a place of her power and work done by her daughters. Dragon Bait hammered out the final edge of the new sword she had forged. Hot Flanks scribed runes of rage and triumph, victory and vengeance into the blade. Don’t Fail and Doesn’t Shake worked spells of hardening and binding over the forge. And Battle Cry called out to Hoar-Assuran, decrying the evils of foes left unvanquished and work left uncompleted, and invoked Ishtar-Inanna, Worthy of Armor’s goddess of love and warfare, pleading for them to release her soul to continue to do their work in the world.

Suddenly, the girls voices were silenced and all other sounds ceased. A wind rushed down into the clearing and the fires of the forge flared brighter than ever before. Then it subsided and the new sword that sat resting on Dragon Bait’s anvil, forged in the likeness of Worthy’s own blade, glowed a brilliant red and spoke, introducing itself as Worthy of Vengeance.

Those Left Behind: Session 3

19 Hammer

After returning from their first trip to Poppof’s house, everyone was awake and ready to go by mid-afternoon the next day. There was some grumbling about the poor haul of the previous day and the lack of portable wealth in the necromancer’s house, but given that their primary concern was the furniture anyways, they decided to go back. There was some discussion of whether Yury’s teleportation abilities could be used to transport the desired goods, but he insisted that he was not really capable of bringing significant amounts of non-living matter with him.

Zander performed an augury to confirm, with relative certainty, that there was a path through the city’s underground from their hideout beneath Kuto’s well and the door they had found in Poppof’s house. So, loaded up with spells that would allow them to home in on the lock of Isti’s hair that she had left in Poppof’s cellar, they set out into Phlan’s ancient sewers.

While technically connected to the sewer system, the catacombs under Kuto’s Well had been sealed off from the rest of the network several years earlier by Noriss the Grey, in order to make his hide-out more secure and harder to find. Isti cast the first locating spell and led the group to the a south-westerly corner of the catacombs, near to the rooms previously kept by Noriss’s mother. She used stone shape to open the wall, leading out into a much damper and dirtier passage. Once everyone had passed through, she closed the wall again, shaping the surface on this side into a crude carving of a faceless mask, similar to the one worn by Grinkle.

The locating spell led them through many winding and criss-crossing passageways. At each intersection, Tamn pulled out his chalk and marked arrows, always on the wall opposite the way back to their base, and always pointing the way opposite the way the spell pointed them in.

After about an hour of twisting through the constructed sewers of ages past, with their elevated side walkways and channels down the center, they came to a place where an underground stream had carved a natural chasm across their path. The runoff of water and mud that flowed through the sewers poured over the edge and into the small river below. In spring, after the snow-melt, it would have been a torrent, but now it was just a trickle. The spell, of course, told them to turn right.

The drop was a little under twenty feet, and the sides of the chasm were pitted from uneven erosion, so it was easy getting down and they had little concern about getting back up (except maybe with a table, but that was a problem to consider later). Once everyone was down, ankle deep in the dirty stream, Tamn had Zander and Grinkle hoist him up on the other side so he could leave his backwards mark where the chalk was less likely to be worn away by the moisture (at least not for a while).

Roughly a hundred of Grinkle’s paces down the stream, they came to an area where the stream cut into a deeper channel in the center, leaving the banks slightly higher, drier, and walkable without get mud in their boots. Overhead they could see another washed-out passage from the sewer system, this one with a fairly new-looking rope bridge strung across. Just beneath the bridge was a small pile of litter—bones, broken boards, old weapons, and even a few coins—presumably dropped by those passing above.

Yury strode up to grab the coins, because, hey, free coins. Suddenly, a human skull on the ground near him sprang upward, as if a geyser or volcanic eruption were impelling it explosively in a ballistic arc at Yury’s startled face. The skull slammed into his nose, knocking his head backwards with an eruption of blood. Then he found that the skull was attached to a hook-clawed apparition of deadly muscle and sinew, its three hooked claws tearing into his flesh.

Isti chucked her axe at the thing, hitting the skull right between the eyes and knocking it backwards off of Yury. Grinkle caught Yury as he fell backwards and immediately said a prayer over him, willing his wounds closed. The skull-creature bounded forward, the jaws distending impossibly wide and snapping down to bite hard into Yury’s raised forarm.

Zander charged in, slamming the creature backwards with his shield, then crushing the skull with his flail. The creature slumped, the skull splitting open to reveal a tiny, leathery head, using the skull like a shell. He bashed it a few more times for good measure, just to make sure it was dead, then scooped up the coins, which only amounted to a small handful of copper.

They continued downstream, pausing briefly for Isti to cast a second locating spell. A short ways on the spell indicated another passage above them. The walls here were steeper and smoother, the passage above being one-way, instead of crossing the stream as before, and nearly 25 feet off of the floor.

Isti, the best climber, scrambled up, hammering a piton in the top and tying off a rope. Tamn marked the opposing wall before climbing up last, grumbling that there was no way they’d get that mahogany table home this way.

They walked a short ways, then rounded a corner to another drop, this one about six feet down to a large confluence where three crossing sewer passages met at a large cesspit. Faint light and globs of muddy snow dropped through grates from the street above. Next to the opening where they were standing was an old metal ladder bolted to the wall, going up to one of the street-level grates. Isti pointed to the third passage on their right

Zander climbed down first, the party’s strongest fighter having finally agreed to take point, followed by the others. He circled to the right, trying to stay away from the cesspit, and chanting a litany of repentance against the stench and the grime of the sewers. He had just crossed the second passage when something burst out of the passage, slamming into his side and knocking him impiously close to the edge of the cesspool. A dozen other hunched humanoids poured out of the surrounding passages, blades in their hands and tails whipping behind them.

wererat.jpgThree more of the creatures grabbed the already over-balanced Zander and all four of them pitched him headlong into the cesspit. His head broke the bubbling surface of the fouled water briefly, gasping, then sank out of sight again as his limbs thrashed wildly. Zander couldn’t swim, especially not in his full chainmail.

Three more came out of the passage closest to Grinkle, stabbing with their filthy swords. The first caught him off guard, digging into his side. He swung his sword wildly, deflecting the second thrust, then fell backwards away from the third. When he recovered his wits and footing, he noticed that his assailants has elongated noses with long whiskers and large ears, like mice or rats. He hazarded a glance down at his bleeding side, his mind wandering to what Professor Aiderns had told him about rats and the plague…

Yury spotted five more coming from the passage on the far side of the room, across the cesspit. A wave of his giant arm sent streams of webbing flying towards them, entangling four of the creatures and holding them fast. Two more stepped out of the passage near Grinkle and came at Yury from behind, leaping on him and bearing him to the ground.

Tamn’s hands went for his swords, until he saw Zander’s helpless thrashing. With a mighty leap, for a halfling, he dove headfirst into the disgusting water, his form perfect and his lungs filled to capacity before he disappeared beneath the churning sludge.

The last rat-creature from the other side of the cesspit, dove ahead of the webs and sprang into the air, passing right over Tamn’s head as he went into the water. It landed right next to Isti, grazing her arm with its blade. Isti’s shout of alarm was also the last word of the spell she’d been muttering though, and suddenly the rat found himself surrounded by a half-dozen identical copies of the kobold.

A moment later, Tamn came back to the surface, the surprisingly strong halfling easily dragging his larger friend. As their heads come up though, they find four ratmen waiting for them. Tamn yelled at Zander to kick, and the tall man’s legs shoved against the wall throwing the two of them further out into the middle of the cesspool, but not before they had each taken small cuts from the ratmen’s blades.

The ratman facing the squadron of Isti’s looked around frantically, then let out a scream of rage, swinging his sword in a broad sideways ark. Isti leaped backwards, but the blade passed through two of the images, causing them to wink out. The four remaining Isti’s drew identical hooked bronze swords and lunged at the ratman from every direction at once. He tried to dodge, but the one solid blade hit him squarely in the back, cutting a deep gouge and eliciting a second scream.

Grinkle backed away from the three facing him, circling until he was in the wan light from one of the street-grates above. The rats pressed in, looking for openings. Grinkle hazarded a brief glance up and saw a faint slash of sunlight falling on the grate, just enough. He raised his pumice-stone holy symbol up towards the light, causing a beam of the light to bend, amplify and flash directly into the face of one of the rats with flesh-scorching brightness. The rat reeled back, clawing at his burned face and pitched into the cesspool. Its companion, however, took the opening Grinkle presented and plunged its sword into his armpit.

Yury, pinned beneath a pair of ratmen, tried to roll, flailing with his gigantic arm and prehensile tail. While not particularly strong, neither were the rats, and the shear bulk of his huge limb was sufficient to brush them aside. As he rolled away and stood up, his form began to waver, shift, into an insubstantial blur.

Tamn took a deep breath, calling up reserves of strength from his days of hard labor as a slave, dove, hitched his hands under Zander’s rear, and practically threw the big man out of the water. Zander crashed into the feet of the waiting ratmen, forcing them to hop back several steps to avoid being knocked down.

The blurry Yury tossed a fistful of daggers at the ratmen nearest him. All three blades struck home, but the wounds closed as soon as they were made. They were at least enough to put the two ratmen off balance, making it all that much harder to strike Yury’s unfocused form. Grinkle, watching from one side, growled out some obscenities about lycanthropes, and continued to fence with the two assailing him, though none of the three landed a blow.

The were-rat assailing Isti swung like crazy, causing another of her images to vanish. The three remaining Isti’s though, danced around, keeping him guessing as to which was the real one. The real Isti, meanwhile, waited until his back was to her before swinging, one again plunging her hooked sword deep into the ratman’s back. The dodging, weaving kobold images had edged the ratman just close enough to where Zander had just come out of the foul-smelling water.

Zander rolled, hit the stone floor with his shield, and came to his feet with his flail gripped backwards. He brought the silver pommel-spike up under the jaw of the ratman that was attacking Isti, dropping it. He then whipped the head around, planting the spikes deep in the chest of a second were-rat, and leaving a trail of glowing motes hanging in the air behind it. Two of the remaining rats came in right behind, stabbing him repeatedly.

Unable to harm them with his weapons, Yury focused his concentration on one of the two were-rats still threatening him and telekinetically lifted it off the ground, hurling the startled ratman into his companion and pitching both of them into the pool. Tamn, seeing them fall in, dove, then came up right underneath of them, disembowling both with his silver shortsword. As Tamn’s head came up through the sheen of floating blood and viscera, Yury scooped the halfling out with his tail.

Halfway around the pool now, and almost to the webs, Grinkle continued to fend off his two assailants. He took a small cut above the eye from one of them, but they continued to fend off his own blows.

The three rats facing Zander lunged together, all three blades scoring hits, one just missing his kidney. Seeing him wounded, the trio of Isti’s rushed between him and the were-rats, swinging their swords and trying to distract the rats away from the injured man. Zander took the opening provided by their distraction and whipped his flail over the kobold’s heads, taking off the top of one were-rat’s head and smashing into the snout of a second with the follow-through. The wounded rat and his companion broke and run, disappearing into one of the many side passages (luckily not the one that Isti had told the party they needed.

Across the way, one of Grinkle’s assailants landed a solid blow. Grinkle stepped back and layed a hand over the wound. Frothing bubbles roiled up from his hands, cleaning and closing the gash. Unfortunately, his momentary distraction from casting the healing spell was just enough for the second rat to stab him in the shoulder.

Yury turned to see Grinkle be hit, twice, and telekinetically hurled Tamn across the breach. The halfling-missile took the head clean off of one of the rats with his silver sword, then barreled into Grinkle, knocking him backwards. Tamn rolled to his feet, planted firmly between the rat and his prey. Isti and Zander came running and quickly dispatched the last, frightened, surrounded were-rat.

As the rest of the party patched themselves up, Isti lit a torch and walked around to the other web-encased were-rats. Her pet rat, Sıçan, climbed up on her shoulder and began translating her speech into rat. She threatened the were-rats, giving them the choice to either burn to death, or join the party’s “gang”. All of the others expressed their displeasure at this offer, saying they were better off just killing the ratmen who had ambushed them. Zander, having had some understandably bad experiences with rats back in Hillsfar, was the most insistent. Isti agreed with them and tossed the torch into the webs. None of the wererats were killed by the fire, but they were sufficiently injured that they scurried away as fast as they could.

Tamn suggested that, given the multiple changes in elevation, running sewer water, and the fact that they’d been jumped twice already, that maybe hauling Poppof’s furniture back to their hideout through the sewer was not a great idea.

The others agreed, but Isti pointed out that one way or another, she needed to retrieve the lock of hair that she had left, since the necromancer would likely be able to use such a token to track them back to their home. So they pressed on.

To be continued…

Those Left Behind: Session 2

18 Hammer

The party emerged from the well just before dusk, loaded down with all the tools of their nefarious trade. Heavy snow was falling and the streets of the Slums were largely empty. They crept to the edge of the square around Kuto’s Well, then İstediğimi summoned a dust devil to blow the snow back over their tracks, obscuring signs of their having exited the well. With that done, they hurried towards the walls of New Phlan.

They reached Ivanovich Poppof’s house to find a half-dozen orcs standing about it, shivering in the snow, and talking rather loudly, presumably complaining about guard duty, but none of the party spoke ‘orc’ so it was hard to be sure.

Yury cast a sound bubble over the group and the silently slipped around to the rear of the house. Or rather, that was their plan, but one of the orcs looked in their direction just in time to see Grinkle and Tamn bringing up the rear and raised the alarm, which the party failed to hear due to their protective bubble of silence. Moments later six orcs were charging at their backs.

Grinkle did not fare well in the initial orc onslaught, taking a spiked club to the side, then getting hamstrung by an orc with a long, curved sword. Sending him sprawling to the ground, his screams of pain muffled by Yury’s magic. Tamn took a grazing hit from a spear, but managed to deflect the remaining attacks directed at him.

Yury reacted first, spinning and unleashing a mass of thick, sticky webbing from his hands. One orc managed to leap forward, away from the spell, managing a half-hearted swing at Tamn as he did so, the rest were trapped in the webbing. Zander stepped up and downed the free orc with two swift blows of his flail.

Grinkle scrambed backwards from the webs and said a prayer to repair his injured leg and staunch the bleeding. Tamn suggested that Yury “encourage them to be quiet” and began lighting a torch. Yury threw another sound bubble over the web-entrapped orcs and Tamn tossed in the torch, burning them alive…quietly. Grinkle laid a cloud of gloom over the area to keep the flames from being seen by observers outside of the alleyway.

Once the webs and the orcs had burned away, Isti and Tamn put on their climbing harnesses and scrambled up onto the snow-covered roof. They tied a rope around the northern-most chimney, then threw the end down. Tamn climbed down first, followed by Isti, coming out into the house’s kitchen. Tamn unlocked the deadbolt and removed the bar from the back door, as Isti examined the cabinets and drawers stuffed with dried foods, plates, bowls, and eating utensils. A trap door, presumably leading into a basement or cellar, was in the south-east corner, and a wooden door led south into the rest of the house.

As the others came in, there was some discussion as to whether they should get a wagon or wheelbarrow to haul all the food and furniture back to their hideout. Tabling the conversation, Yury suggested that they check the cellar first, then work their way upstairs. Everyone agreed and Zander cast a find traps spell and led the way.

The trap door opened to a set of rickety wooden steps, leading down into a plain, dark cellar. Five figures, crouched near a door on the far side of the cellar, immediately began barking as Zander started down into the hole, the sound oddly muffled by Yury’s spell. “I hate dogs,” Zander grumbled. The chorus from his infravision-equipped friends was unanimous, “Those are not dogs,” though as they lunged at Zander it was clear that the cold, skeletal creatures had been dogs at some point in the past.

Tamn reacted first, jumping down the stairs and clipping one of the skeletal hounds with his iron-studded club. The dog recovered quickly and clamped its jaws onto Tamn’s arm. Isti dropped down beside Tamn and knocked the undead canine away with the flat of her sword.

Two more of the hounds lunged at Isti, but she managed to dodge aside. Grinkle, still at the top of the stairs, castigated the undead hounds, raining down a string of blistering invective about how they were “vile, unclean, putrescent,” and the like. The skeletal hounds were literally blown away by the harshness of Grinkle’s words, hurling them back against the far wall where they shattered.

The cellar had nothing of interest other than the door, which Yury quickly unlocked. Beyond the door was a passage into the old sewers and catacombs that ran under most of the old city. Isti pointed out that the sewers were all connected one way or another, so there was sure to be a way to get from here to their hideout. They all agreed that they should finish casing the house and taking anything that could be carried, but that maybe they could use this passage to secretly return and transport furniture and other harder to stash items back to the well.

They made their way back up into the kitchen and through the south door into what was clearly the living room of the house. Two large, stuffed chairs stood in front of the second fireplace. Next to them was a small bookcase packed with leather-bound volumes. A well-built, mahogany table surrounded by six hardwood chairs stood next to the far wall, near the stairs going up. On a small table by the front door was a 12-inch tall gold statuette of an illithid.

The party immediately began discussing how they would get the table, chairs, and bookshelf back to their lair, when something small darted out from under one of the table and slashed at Grinkle, tearing into his leg with tiny, razor-sharp talons. A hairsbreadth later, three more came bursting from cover, one from each of the stuffed chairs and another from the bookshelf.

“Fucking undead cats now?!” said someone, as the things hissed and tore into the party. Zander took a minor scratch. Isti cut one in half laterally with her sword. Yury telekinetically hurled the one on Grinkle against the ceiling, shattering it. Then Zander swept away the last two with his flail.

“Of course the only joker willing to build a nice house out here in the slums would have to be a necromancer!” groaned Tamn.

They grabbed and bagged the gold statue and headed up the stairs with Tamn in the lead, into a small, unfurnished hall. Six humanoid skeletons waited, one on either side of the two windows, and another in front of each of the two doors leading off the hall. There was an audible, collective sigh as the party prepared to confront them.

One of the skeletons lunged at Tamn, but he met it with a club to the midsection, toppling it over the railing of the stairs to clatter on the floor below, then rolled towards the far door to clear the landing. Yury came up behind Tamn, deftly dodging the claws of the next two skeletons and then cast a spell to blur his form, making him even harder to hit. Grinkle was a step behind, beating back the nearest skeleton with a sword to the head, with Zander right beside him crushing another skeleton with his flail. The skeletons closed on them, one getting its bony claws into Zander. Then, Isti dispelled the magic animating the remaining four.

Expecting more skeletons, the party crowded around the next door, weapons at the ready, as Zander, still magically scanning for traps, nudged it open. Within was a small bed with fine linens beside a fireplace in the opposite wall, with a plain wooden desk and chair closer to the door. They cautiously stepped inside, looking under the bed, desk, and in the fireplace, then relaxed when they found no undead guardians. On the desk was a candlestick, several letters written in a language none of them understood, a half dozen quill pens, two large bottles of ink, and several blank sheets of parchment.

Isti claimed dibs on the bed if they could get it out of the place, but they otherwise passed over the room and headed for the next. As they stepped back into the hall, Grinkle pointed out a trap door in the ceiling, presumably leading to the attic, which they agreed to check after the next room.

bonebat.JPGThey were equally cautious opening the next door, which led into a room smelling of sulfur, rotting meat, and other unidentifiable stenches. A large table covered with glassware and other alchemical paraphernalia dominated the center of the room. A bookshelf leaned against the far wall, near the one round, unshuttered window that Tamn and Isti had noticed the night before, and a plush, high-backed chair stood next to the fireplace. In the corner opposite the chair was a small podium, completely covered by a book at least three feet wide.

Isti scanned the room with detect magic. When both Isti and Zander gave the all clear that there were neither mundane nor magical traps, other than the ones they both detected on the large book, Tamn pushed the door the rest of the way open and Yury led the way inside. As soon as Yury cleared the door, a creature looking very much like an oversized, skeletal bat leaped on his back.

The bat thing clawed and bit at Yury, tearing into his flesh. Then the large-armed tiefling went rigid, his muscles seizing and freezing him in place. Tamn stepped up and swatted the thing with his club, knocking it off of his paralyzed friend, and Isti hacked at it with her sword.

The bonebat hurled itself at Isti, biting her and stinging with its tail, digging a great, bleeding gash in her stomach, and paralyzing her as well. Grinkle dealt the thing a glancing blow with his sword, then Zander sent it flying halfway across the room with his flail.

The bat, apparently more intelligent than the other skeletons, picked itself off the ground and flew up and out of the nearby chimney. Zander wanted to give pursuit, but only Tamn would fit up the chimney, and he was on his knees trying to revive Isti.

Zander and Grinkle used their magic to patch up the worst of Isti and Yury’s injuries. Five minutes later the two of them started moving again.

Once everyone was mobile, they gathered up the laboratory gear, figuring it was probably the easiest thing to fence of anything they had found in the house so far, packing it as carefully as they could in the sacks they’d brought. These they left on the landing, and then climbed up into the attic.

The attic was a single, large room, with a low, sloped ceiling, and completely empty, save for one small, colorful wooden box, nailed shut and tucked into a corner. A faint scratching sound could be heard coming from within the box. They approached cautiously, scanning for magic, traps, and curses, before Tamn laid to with his crowbar and pried the thing open.

Within they found a cheerfully painted wooden puppet, a marionette, which immediately sat up and gestured to its mouth, which had apparently been glued shut. Zander took one look at the thing, groaned, and destroyed it with a warp wood spell.

They worked their way back through the house, using detect metals and minerals and treasure scent spells to look for any more loose valuables. They found nothing else, so they grabbed the bags of alchemical equipment, gathered up the books, and made ready to leave. Before stepping out, Isti went back down to the cellar, cut off a lock of her hair, and hid it in a corner with the intent of a spell to track the path through the sewers from their lair later.

After everyone else slipped out the back door. Tamn bolted and barred the door again, then climbed up and out the chimney to join them. There was no sign of the bonebat outside. Grinkle cast a mass pass without trace over the party and they made their way back to their hideout through the snow, unmolested.

Chapter 3: An Old Lady in Melvaunt: Part 7
Interlude: The Squatters in Onyx: Part 4


As everyone leaps out of the way, the walkway gives one final shudder and comes down, making a terrible racket. The mass of metal and wood crashes down on Donovan, but seems oddly ‘springy’. Boards bend and chunks of metal bounce off of him, but the weight is still enough to give Donovan some severe bruising.


There is a scream from Donovan, followed by a number of muffled grunts as the pieces of walkway fall on him, each quieter than the one before. Despite the supernatural softness of the pieces, Donovan’s flesh is softer. As the last pieces clatter to the ground, sliding down into the pool, all sounds from Donovan cease.


Frantiska rises shakily to her knees and looks at the passage she is now stuck in. She can just make out the sounds of yelling and combat down the corridor. She turns back out of the hole and looks at the carnage — she is unable to see Lyra at this angle, and there is no sign of Donovan, but she manages to catch Hrud’s eye and pantomimes climbing down and then back up. She turns to her one companion in the tunnel, “Teldicia, I’m going to go see what those cries were. Please stay here and help the others get up.” She draws her blunted shortsword, doubting that she has the room to pull a bow in these cramped tunnels, and begins crawling forward on her knees and her other hand, letting her eyes shift into the infrared to accommodate the darkness and looking for the telltale heat signatures of the kobolds’ passing.


Frustrated at being left behind, but aware that one of his companions is in dire need, the barbarian lowers himself from the lip of the opening in the stomach and slides down to the pile of rubble where Donovan lies.


Lyra looks around frantically, grabbing a twisted length of metal as she picks her way through the debris over to Donovan, and uses it as a lever to move some of the debris off of him.


Lyra shoves a few more chunks of debris off of Donovan and looks him over. None of his injuries look serious at first, but he does not appear to be breathing. When she turns him over, she finds that she has a good view of his brain through a deep crack in the left-rear of his skull and the orbit of his left eye has been flattened.


Lyra staggers back a step, then another, and abruptly turns and empties the contents of her stomach into the acrid water, retching and sobbing.


Hrud sighs heavily upon seeing the fatal wound. He bends down and gently – for him – hauls the older man’s limp form out of the debris and foul water, carrying it over to the stairs leading up out of the water. But the time for mourning is interrupted by distant battle. There are other companions still alive and quite possibly in danger.

Walking back down into the water, he grabs the largest piece of the walkway and props it against the wall where, until a moment ago, Frantiska had been, checking to see if it will allow the two of them to reach the ledge above.

Having finished stacking the remnants of the walkway to the best of his ability, Hrud returns to Donovan’s corpse and begins stripping it of items – though not of clothes. After setting everything aside, he selects the fine bracers and the extra Fang of Mace to carry. Glancing up, he notices Lyra staring at him, but the girl is already so pale, he can’t tell if she’s still feeling ill or angry at what must appear to her as his attempts at merely looting a corpse.

“Iku cara saka seng numpaki kanggo njupuk karo wong item saka kanca menyang perang, utamané nalika avenging pati. Kene, njupuk iki.” he says, pushing Donvan’s backpack and beltpouch into her hands.

“Padha kudu kita.” he says to Lyra. Then, nodding at the silent form on the steps beside them, adds, “Kita bakal bali kanggo Dawn-of-Man.”

Hrud move to his makeshift scaffold and pauses long enough to administer a couple doses of Yamtwit’s Sacred Ghi, taking it up the rope and climbing into the passage above. When he reaches the top, he lowers the end of the rope to Lyra, nodding at her to follow.


Lyra sobs and hugs the pack to her chest at Hrud’s habitual mispronunciation of Donovan’s name.

After taking a few moments to compose herself and rearranging things to free her hands, she carefully makes her way up to the ledge


Practically yanking Lyra into the tunnel, Hrud quickly takes in the rope and starts crawling after Frantiska – determined not to let the party get any more separated than it already is.


Lyra briefly considers which is more improper — crawling in front of someone while wearing a dress, or crawling behind a barbarian that favors loincloths as a fashion statement before following Hrud while trying to avoid looking at him, instead keeping an eye out for side passages and murder holes above them.

Meanwhile, in the upper passage


The kobold with the injured arm tries desperately to club Ryesha with his good arm, but keeps getting tangled with her spear and her, slightly, greater mass pressing down on him.

The old kobold, meanwhile, uses the distraction created by his remaining guard to wiggle out of the melee and begin crawling away, making it as far as the next intersection of the passage and disappearing around a corner to the left.


Winona, determined to get Yamtwit back on his feet, grabs the entire stock of clarified butter that he had given her and pours it over him, bathing all of his wounds and force-feeding several flasks down his throat.

Ryesha, still pinning the kobold, lets go of the spear, leaning in on the thing with her forearm across its neck. With her other hand, she pulls one more knife and stabs the thing in the gut.


Yamtwit gets unsteadily to his feet, using the shillelagh as a crutch. “Where’d the scary one go?” he asks Winona.


Frantiska crawls for some ways, with the passage curving away to the left and slightly downward before hooking back to the right. About thirty feet ahead of her is a four-way intersection from which she can hear sounds of scuffling and voices. She sees a kobold come racing from the left-hand of the intersection and turn to his left and disappear behind a curtain directly across from her without even a glance in her direction. About halfway between Frantiska and the intersection there is a wooden door on the left, from which she can hear the faint sounds of something moving around.


Seeing the blur of the small figure running across the passage, Frantiska reaches for her bow, then remembers that she really does not have room to fire in these tight passages. Grumbling she considers her options—through the curtain, ahead left, or the nearby door—and decides to deal with things systematically. She crawls as quietly up to the small door as she can, checking to see if it is locked, and looking for any obvious mechanisms that might indicate a trap of some kind.

Yamtwit, meanwhile, hefts his club and stalks up to the corner where he assumes the witchdoctor ran, gesturing for the Tyrran sisters to follow. He stops just before the intersection and peaks his head out slowly, looking in every direction for possible ambushes before proceeding.


Hrud, Lyra, and Teldicia crawl only a short ways before they round a bend and spot Frantiska a short ways ahead of them poking at a small wooden door. Just past Frantiska, the light from the hammer illuminates Yamtwit’s head peeking out of a side passage. Just past Yamtwit, the passage ahead is obscured by curtains made of weasel fur covered with large, irregular splashes of blood or red paint.

Frantiska fiddles with the door and finds that it is designed to swing inward and ‘locked’ from the outside with a simple hook and eye latch. The hinges are on the inside, just visible through the crack around the frame. She can see no other movable pieces or devices connected to it.


Frantiska gives a small start when the blue glow from Hrud’s hammer lights up the passage, then breathes a small sigh of relief when she looks up to see friends coming from either direction. She holds a finger up to her lips to indicate that they should be quiet. She shoves against the door, just to make sure the latch holds, figuring that whatever is on the other side can wait, then points towards the weasel-hide curtains.

Yamtwit grins broadly and turns, lifting one side of the curtains out of the way with his shillelagh to peer inside.


Seeing the door flex a little and hearing something outside, Skæggede reaches out with a foot to nudge her companion and strains feebly again at her restraints, hoping to break free before the kobolds come calling again. “Psst!” she whispers, “Wake up! They’re coming back…” Blessed Ao, she thinks, please don’t let them have brought the weasels again. I hate weasels…


Frantiska’s keen elven hearing pick up on the faint, whispering voices on the other side of the door. While she cannot make out the words at this distance, the voice is a good deal deeper than kobold voices and tinged with a faint hint of panic.


Frantiska gestures Yamtwit and Hrud over near the door. “Ada sesuatu di balik pintu. Tidak anjing wajah. Kedengarannya takut,” she explains in a harsh whisper.


As Yamtwit lifts the curtain, the light falls on a slight bump of upturned earth right behind the curtain which appears to be growing slowly. By the time Frantiska tries to call him back, the lump has grown to about the height of a kobold. With a cracking sound, two arm-like protuberances burst from its sides and it tears free of the floor.


Yamtwit curses, “Put bon mache paseke trik nouvèl plis gen Kobold san!”, and swings for what passes for a head on the little earth elemental with his shillelagh.


Sick of playing games with the kobolds, Hrud slides up beside Frantiska, swinging his legs forward. Rolling back and drawing his knees to his chest, the barbarian kicks the door inward as hard as he can.


The door bursts off its hinges and flies a good five feet before landing with a thud. Inside you see a fully-bearded, blue-eyed dwarven woman and a halfling man with long dark hair tied to opposite walls by heavy ropes. They are restrained in a very uncomfortable-looking position, with their arms bent under and behind their backs, and slightly above the line of their shoulder-blades, so that they hang leaning far forward. When the door bursts inward, the halfling is drowsing where he stands, while the dwarf woman is stretching to kick him awake.


Rye gathers up her knives, wiping them on the kobolds’ fur, then jogs up behind Yamtwit with Winona crawling along behind her. When the small rock-monster appears, she lets out a frightened squeak and tosses a knife at it, or rather, over its head to clatter against a wall.

Winona’s eyes light up with what can only be described as joy on seeing a creature of, presumably extraplanar origin. She casts extradimensional detection, just to be sure, then tries to strike up a conversation, her voice sounding like the rumbling of stones cascading down a hill. «Hey! Are you really an earth elemental?! I’ve always wanted to meet one of your kind! You’re shorter than I imagined. Anyways, what is life on your plane like? What do you eat? Have you ever run into one of the Baatezu on your plane?…Ooh! Sorry about the goblin and his stick!»


The halfing jerks awake at the sound of the door crashing. “Oi!” His head jerks up, nearly wrenching his shoulders out of their sockets. “Hey!” he calls through gritted teeth on seeing something other than a kobold on the other side of the door. “Help a fellow out, eh?!”


Keeping an eye out for kobolds approaching from the rear as Hrud kicks the door in, Lyra tests out if she has enough range of movement to make use of Donovan’s crossbow.


The dwarf-woman lets out an audible sigh of relief. “Ao være lovet! Yo, det er en dværg hammeren. Hvor har du det?” She looks at the barbarian, realizing that he probably didn’t understand her and switches to common. “Hey, big guy. Nice hammer, good dwarven work. Do you, mind cutting us free?”


“Oi! You’re not going to bore him talking about your Ao bullshit again?” The halfling allows himself to droop to a more comfortable position. “Besides, he’s clearly Eraka, dumb fuck probably doesn’t understand a word you’re saying Skaeg.” He looks at the barbarian, and puts on his best begging puppy face, making his eyes look big in the way that only a halfling can, “Jaran-pacangan. Pitulung kita njaluk tangan kita bebas, eh? Banjur ngutangi kula agul-agul supaya aku bisa nggawe karo snicker-cemilan ing sawetara kobo necks.”


It takes Hrud a moment to size up the two strangers.“Hvorfor har du gentager dig selv?” he says, walking over to the dwarf woman. With a slash of his broadsword, he severs her bonds. Looking at the halfling, he asks, “Kan denne ene have tillid?”


“Oi! Big horse-lover talks like a dwarf?” The halfling shakes his head, “Looks like I’m the one left out.” He flinches when the man starts swinging his sword in the tight confines of the cell. “Hey! Nonton ngendi sampeyan lagi ngayunke bab sing!” He twists his head around to look out the door, at the trio of elven women crouching behind the barbarian. “Can one of you ladies tell your big lug of a friend to mind his pig-sticker?”


“Without any hint of an accent in fact…” Skaegedde rolls her shoulders to get the kinks out and bows to the big man. “Thank you. Sorry for repeating myself, I was not aware that you spoke my language. I suggest we stick with the common tongue though, out of politeness to my cell-mate. As for whether he can be trusted? The kobolds took him prisoner, which is enough of a sign that he is on the right side for my tastes.” She pops her neck loudly, then begins smoothing her thick, luxurious beard. “How many kobolds are left? Did you already off them all?”


“Sing tengen, sampeyan krungu dheweke, aku minangka dipercoyo minangka Tyrran getih. Irung minangka resik minangka bayi kang. Cukup kula njaluk bantuan jancok sing metu saka tali iki!”


Lyra peers past Hrud at the kobolds’ prisoners, trying to ignore the disparaging remarks regarding Hrud’s intellect. “Are either of you injured? We don’t know how many kobolds there were to begin with, but we’ve killed … a rather large number on the road led by a caster with snake spine earrings, four kobolds inside the skull, six in the spine, three or four weasels, and I’m not sure how many in the group over the murderhole near the esophagus and on the walkway around the stomach….”


“Good times!” The halfling smiles despite his obvious pain, “Sounds like you’all’ve been busy. NOW CAN SOMEONE PLEASE CUT ME FREE SO I CAN FINISH THE JOB?!”


Frantiska looks carefully at the two prisoners, trying to let her mind relax, listening for The Moon Maiden’s insights. After a moment, despite the difficulty of concentrating with Yamtwit fighting an elemental in one corner and the halfling yelling in the other she speaks, “They’re fine, Lyra. Any mischief they may be plotting is clearly directed at the kobolds. Hrud, biarkan mereka bebas dan memberi mereka senjata. Kita membutuhkan semua bantuan yang bisa kita dapatkan.”

She pivots as best she can in the narrow confines, and crawls, sword in hand to go aid the goblin and the halfling.


The small elemental looks very confused as Winona starts talking to it. It just manages to begin a response, saying «Uuummmm . . . Yes?», when Yamtwit’s shillelagh comes down on the top of what passes for it’s head. The enchanted club pounds into the creature, sending shards of rock flying in all directions and reducing it to not but a pile of rubble.


Yamtwit does a little victory dance and trips over his own feet, landing on his bum. He hops to his feet and brushes the curtain aside again, looking in to see where the witchdoctor ran to.


A short passage extends past the curtain, then opens up into a much larger space, stretching a good distance ahead and bending out to the left. The light from Hrud’s hammer leaks out just enough to hamper Yamtwit’s infravision, leaving most of the room beyond in shadowy darkness. What light does penetrate the passage glints tantalizingly off of a pile of dark, rounded, glass objects stacked against the right-hand wall, and Yamtwit’s poorly focused infravision makes out the deep glow of a bed of smoldering coals in the center of the room. As Yamtwit looks on, the room is suddenly bathed in a solid, uniform blanket of heat, completely obscuring his infravision. A wall of that heat seems to be moving outwards, towards him, until, lit by the wan light of Hrud’s hammer coming from the other room, he sees it to be a thick wall of choking, black smoke.


Lyra carefully scoots to where she can lean past Hrud, retrieves Donovan’s stiletto and boot sheath, as well as her own from her left boot, and hands them to the dwarf. “Pick one, he can use the other after you cut him down. I also have a heavy crossbow, a hand crossbow, and a sling, or we can backtrack to scrounge something up from the kobolds back in the stomach after we deal with the immediate threat.”


The dwarf woman takes the knives gingerly, holding them as if they were some kind of strange-smelling fish, “Thanks,” she says, not too enthusiastically. She passes the shinier one to the halfling, who, judging by the murderous gleam in his eye, knows just what to do with the stiletto, then stalks out the door, pausing to look back at Hrud, “Fik en anden hammeren store-fyr?” Seeing the smoke seeping into the corridor, her eyes narrow. “Ved lort-gennemblødt mindre guder, kan det ikke være godt!” she mutters. Then she sees the goblin standing in the opening to the passage, “De dørstoppere er i ledtog med nisser! Skynd dig, dræbe det, før det angriber!” She draws the knife from its sheath and holds it out in front of her as one might a tiny spear or perhaps a toothpick.


Hrud follows the dwarf’s gaze to Yamtwit. “At man? Han er på vores side. Pas på, selv om han gerne malke ting.” Seeing how she is clearly uneasy about using a dagger, the barbarian extends the Yargrund to her, “Her kan du bruge denne til nu. Men bo tæt, jeg har brug for lyset. Giv den anden til den lille med den store mund.”


She takes the hammer and grins broadly, “Tak! Jeg vil gøre god brug af det!” She tosses the other stiletto to the halfling. “Let’s go smash some kobolds!”


The halfling rubs where the ropes have been chaffing his wrists, then takes the stilettos and smiles at Lyra. “Thanks miss, these’ll be perfect.” He tucks the sheathe into his belt and twirls the two blades through his fingers, one in either hand. “The name’s Miero,” he says as he heads for the door. Stepping into the hall he sees the smoke and casually pulls the neck of his tunic up over his mouth and nose. “I’m guessing the kobos are that way, eh?” Without waiting for an answer, he charges blindly into the thickening smoke with the two blades held low before him.


Winona finally crawls around the corner and looks immensely relieved to see Lyra, Frantiska, and the others. She coughs on the smoke and crawls towards the rest of the party, keeping as low as she can.

Rye, meanwhile, looks very surprised when the halfling man comes prancing out of the cell and charges into the smoke. She turns to follow Winona to go talk to the others, but something in the back of her mind pushes her in the other direction. With a sounds that is half frightened squeak and half war cry, and all adorable, she pulls a pair of her own knives and runs into the smoke with him.


The halflings go careening through the smoke and come out on the far end of the room. The bed of coals appears completely cold now, with all the smoke coming off of it propelled out into the corridor, as if by some unfelt breeze, leaving this half of the room free of obscurement. Lying on the ground next to the coals is the body of the old kobold, lying curled on on his side with his head “downwind” of the burned-out fire and obscured by the smoke.

The room is filled with curiosities: One wall is piled high with blue, glass jars of varying sizes, most of them are empty, but three appeared to be filled with eyeballs, and another, large one holds a thriving ant colony. One lidless, empty jar near the top of the stack has a label pasted onto it which reads in very clear common, “Do not open. World-destroying angel inside.” A crude desk made from a wooden plank laid across a couple of rotten crates sits opposite the wall with the jars. Laid out on the desk are a large collection of loose needles, both bone and metal, an amputation saw, 4 blue-glass jars filled with live leeches, several other jars filled with various bubbling liquids, sparkling dusts, or thick black tar, and several vaguely kobold-shaped dolls made of mud and hemp. A one foot tall wooden lawn gnome sits in the center of the desk, looking like it has been repeatedly burned, hit, cut, scratched, and otherwise defaced, with a pair of metal needles sticking out of each eye. Seven small turtles (or perhaps tortoises) wander about the room, passing in and out of the smoke slowly and shedding a wan light from black-candles stuck to their shells by melted wax, each candle flame a different color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white. In the corner is a haphazard pile of treasures: a small wooden chest, an ivory handled cane, 2 gold candlesticks, a silver stein, and a silver astrolabe. The far corner of the room, past the kobold’s body, is still heavily obscured by smoke.


Ryesha coughs and rubs the smoke out of her eyes as she looks around at the scary, old kobold’s unusual belongings. Seeing the body lying half in the smoke, she cautiously walks over to the kobold and nudges him with her foot, keeping her knives at the ready. When he does not respond, she sheaths one knife and grabs his ankle to slide him out of the smoke. When he still does not respond, she creeps up to the head end and checks his vitals, keeping her knife against his throat in case he moves.

The halfling man watches as the wary, knife-wielding, girl with considerable interest—more so than the room itself. When she starts examining the kobold, he steps up behind her, making not a sound, and startles her by speaking, “Sveiki glīts, kādi ir jūsu vārds?”

Ryesha jumps, then hazards a glance back at the man who had run past her earlier. “Es esmu Ryesha, māsa Ryesha no Tyr, ja jūs vēlaties, lai būtu precīzi, un tas puisis ir miris kā durvju naga.”

Miero mutters under his breath, “Tirāns eh? Ja ir izpētījuši.” Then, louder, “Atdzist, es esmu Miero.” He walks over to the pile of treasure and checks out the chest.

Rye stands up from the kobold’s body, “Nice to meet you Miero. I’m going to go get the others…” She sheathes her remaining knife, covers her mouth, and heads back through the smoke. Once clear, she waves the rest of the party over, “Looks like old kobo had an aneurysm or something…he’s stone dead. You all should come in here, there’s a lot of weird things, and a pile of shinies that might be part of that tribute we were looking for.”


Skæggede smiles and hefts the glowing hammer she’d been lent by the barbarian, “Aha! My stuff!” She heads into the smoke, holding the hammer high to try to penetrate the choking blackness with it’s glow.


Yamtwit coughs and backs away from the smoke. Squinting against the irritating vapors, he begins to chant, low and rhythmically. At about the same time that Ryesha comes running out to a small, swirling wind blows up out of nowhere, coalescing into a two-foot-tall tornado with a pair of glowing blue eyes in the center. Yamtwit points and the dust devil whirls into the room, sucking the particulates out of the air, suspended in its body. It then rushes past Frantiska and Teldicia, out into the stomach chamber where it deposits the remains of the smoke in the semi-acidic pool before returning to its home plane.


As the smoke dissipates, you can see that the corner of the room, back and left from the passage where you entered, is hung with well-made, frilly, white-lace curtains, cordoning off a small sleeping area piled with blankets, a patchwork quilted down comforter, and a pure white fleece. Two books, one large and crudely-bound with wooden planks, and the other small and bound in black leather, rest on the pile of bedding, along with a bundle of charcoal and several loose sheets of rolled parchment. A large bronze brazier sits on a low tripod next to the bedding. On a small shelf carved into the wall over the bed is a small wooden whistle with a childlike carving of a bird hewn into its foot and a wooden rattle carved into the shape of a gnomish skull and painted a bright, cherry red.

Miero, satisfied that the small chest is not trapped, opens it to find an iron ring hung with ten keys and a copper brooch resembling a stylized spider resting on a mound of silver coins.


Once the smoke has cleared, Rye strides back into the witchdoctor’s room, with Winona crawling at her heels. Winona casts a quick detect magic and looks around the room.


Hurd sees the books and papers lying around and briefly contemplates replenishing his supply of wipes. Noticing Frantiska nearby, he reconsiders.


Lyra tries to get a better angle of observation of the turtles meandering around the room. “Something seems to be keeping the turtles from leaving. See how they turn away from the doorway as if they bumped into something?” Lyra shakes her head. “I’m not sure what to make of the candles though.”

After another minute in thought, Lyra looks rather startled. “Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, white? Certain kinds of priests craft magical candles. If they are what I suspect, I would consider dousing the red, yellow, and purple.”


Despite having no clue what the young woman just said, Hrud could tell that she was thinking of messing with the dog-faces’ magic. Hefting the twin broadswords, he casually drifts next to the side of the room’s entrance, where he can put his back to a wall. No good will come of this, he thinks.


Winona turns to Lyra and the others and begins pointing things out, “The intruments, the brooch and keys in the chest, that goat hide, those three jars, the candles on the turtles, and all the written stuff are magical.” She crawls over to the books and begins rummaging through the papers with considerable interest.

Miero takes the brooch and pins it on his shirt, then turns and looks around at the other things Winona indicated. Seeing the books he fast-walks over to Winona and snatches the smaller, black-bound book out of her hands just as she’s starting to open it. “That one is mine,” he says simply, tucking it into his pants.

Winona looks crestfallen as Miero snatches the smaller spellbook from her, but she gathers up the rest and stashes them in her pack. She then turns back to Lyra, “Don’t magical candles trigger when you snuff them? If they are anything potentially harmful, I would suggest we grab everything we can drag and get out of here before they go out…”

“I’m definitely down with that,” the halfling interjects. “Anyone of you folks got a spare bag I can start shoving swag into?”

Ryesha wanders over to stare at the piled blue jars. “Sister?! Do you think this is real?” she asks, pointing to the one with the ‘Do not open, world-destroying angel inside’ label.


“The kind mystics create are more potent the longer they burn, if I recall correctly. Charm, mind reading, and truth telling are the ones I’m concerned about. I think the other colors are actually beneficial. Green for luck, white for purity, blue for … oh, I never had a good mnemonic for that one.” Lyra stops abruptly. “It actually takes a fairly powerful caster to even make magic candles. What did he die from?”


Winona walks over and looks at the body, “Good question. I don’t see any wounds,” she kneels down and checks him more thoroughly, “but he’s not breathing and his heart has stopped. Judging from the grimace on his face, he died painfully. A heart-attack? Maybe the stress of the fight and the chase were just too much for someone so old?”


Skæggede walks over and grabs the ring of keys from the chest. “Været på udkig efter dem,” she mutters. She then goes and grabs a blanket from the pile of bedding, lays it out on the floor and starts piling the ivory cane and the various gold and silver ornaments on it. “Who needs a bag?” she says to the halfling. She then turns to the makeshift desk. “Aha! Min også!” she says, grabbing to vials and stuffing them into her sash. “Ros Ao! Nu er alt jeg har brug for er mine våben og rustninger.”


Yamtwit saunters in and looks around, “Wow! What a lot of junk!” Overhearing Lyra and Winona talking, he walks over to where they are crawling beside the body. “You really think the old creeper just bought it from natural causes? Did you check for poison? Maybe he killed himself when he saw Fran coming from the other passage and realized he was trapped.”

He walks over to the desk and looks at it almost admiringly. “Lots of good stuff here,” he says to no one in particular, grabbing the jars of leeches and making sure the lids are on tight before putting them in his bag. “Not as good as butter, but sometimes they’re can help with maladies of the blood.” He uses his club to carefully slide the pile of needles in on top of them, then throws in the amputation saw, “Never know when you might need these either…”

Frantiska crawls in last. “I would have expected more from the way the villagers were talking about their tribute,” she says. She crawls over beside Lyra, “We should be right above the fundamentum here.” She looks around to get her bearings, then points at the wall of jars, “I would expect those ropes connected to the ceramic door in the stomach to run in here, or there to be another room on the other side of that wall…”


The dwarf casts a disapproving look at the goblin, “Leeches and saws and needles and butter? What do you expect to be doing with those? Not trying to heal I hope…Ao redde os, goblinen er som primitiv som dørstoppere!” She grabs the other bottles and flasks that have stoppers, looking in briefly to make sure she is not grabbing some foul-smelling kobold poultice or the like.


With a frustrated groan, Lyra nudges a lid out of the bed of coals with Donovan’s staff before scooting back to give the jar and candles as much distance as possible. “Does opening a bottle labeled DO NOT OPEN seem like a reasonable cause of death?”

Lyra gives the lid another nudge. “I think Yamtwit is probably right. Destroying angel is also a type of deadly white mushroom related to the death cap. I don’t suppose anyone knows what the poisoning symptoms are? Besides, if it were an actual angel … shouldn’t the container be a magical flask or something rather than a glass jar?”


Yamtwit nods vigorously along with Lyra’s assessment, “That’s right, when my tribe was trying to find things that we could eat back when we were Scabeaters instead of Cheeseaters, we tried lots of mushrooms. The destroying angel was a little white one that looked like a penis. I remember my second cousin on my father’s side, Carrotwit, ate one and he basically exploded. There was blood and shit everywhere!”

Frantiska’s face turns a little green and she asks, “How long did that take?”

“Oh, about an hour…”


Hearing this, Ryesha grabs the whistle, rattle, fleece, and the lace curtain (because she’s sure she can make something cute out of those) and tosses them onto the blanket that the dwarf lady has been filling. She helps the dwarf fold it closed and starts dragging it towards the passage, “In that case,” she says, “let’s get out of here before the old guy makes a mess all over the place…”

Winona nods and crawls after her. “There was another passage strait ahead, now our left, out there…”

Miero shuts the chest full of coins, easily hoists it up onto his shoulder, and follows them.


Yamtwit turns to look at Hrud, who has been quietly hanging out by the wall, realizing that he doesn’t understand a thing anyone is saying. “Jaran-kanca, aku pracaya lawas asu-pasuryan poisoned piyambak karo roh jamur, kang bakal nggawe wong njeblug. Kita kudu kanggo njaluk metu cepet. Pemanah-nyonyah ngandika sing ana sing arep kamar liyane kanggo njupuk asam menyang weteng. Milanipun dalem panjenengan badhe sing cara.” He hefts his shillelagh onto his shoulder and turns to the door, then turns back and looks at the desk one more time. “Apa kita njupuk iki boneka ora nyenengake karo kita?”

“Oh, lan njeblugake sarana sing wong bakal duwe diare tenan ala sawise sampun seda…”


Miero speeds up to fall into step beside Rhyesha. “Tātad, tas, kas noved gudrs plašs, piemēram, sevi, lai kļūtu Tirāns?” he says, grinning.

Ryesha doesn’t so much as look in his direction, but just keeps pulling the blanket full of loot as she says, “Tas Tyrran, nav Tirāns, un es pievienojos, jo bez likumiem mēs nebūtu labāk, nekā šie kobolds.”


As everyone makes ready to leave, Lyra looks back at the tortoises. “Do we have something we can leave the tortoises to eat and drink? I don’t know how long they’re going to be trapped in there, and it seems cruel to just leave them….”


Yamtwit stops and looks at Lyra curiously, then shrugs. He reaches into his backpack and pulls out a wheel of cheese, which he crumbles and scatters on the floor before leaving.


Beating feet from the curiously dead, old kobold, the party rounds the corner to the left. The passage continues to slope downward and bend to the left, ever so slightly, before opening up into a honeycombed warren of dens and sleeping chambers. You pass through numerous oddly shaped burrows, carved into the dragon’s ribs, spleen, and liver. Each has one or two piles of bedding (a mixture of sheep skins, weasel furs, and appropriated blankets), the remains of a cookfire (mostly dead coals but a few with embers still flickering, and the various trappings of kobold tribal life—pots of war paint, bows and spears in various states of repair, cooking implements, childrens toys (mostly small percussive instruments and hempen dolls), and the like. You crawl through dozens of such rooms, winding your way through the dragon’s major arteries, passing two more outlets into the upper portion of the stomach, then find a much less natural passage going strait back towards the neck and sloping upwards.


Skaegedde hauls the blanket-bag along behind them, wondering if it wouldn’t be a better idea to find a relatively safe place to leave their loot rather than dragging it all over the cave complex. As they go, Skaegedde pokes around the dens and warrens looking for something else she can use to beat kobolds with, so as to not monopolize the barbarian’s beautiful hammer. Eventually she comes up with a couple of stiff goat-hide tunics that can pass for armor and a sturdy, spiked morningstar. “Tak,” she says, handing the hammer back to Hrud.

When they reach the passages overlooking the stomach she stops and sets down the loot sack for a bit. “Wow? What happened here?” she asks, waving a hand at the wreckage of the collapsed walkway and all of the kobold corpses scattered about.


Lyra tries not to cry. “There … there was an ambush. After that was dealt with, too much weight on the walkway collapsed it.” Her voice cracks halfway through. “Mr. Donovan di … didn’t make it. We should come back for the body once we’re finished.”


Frantiska maneuvers around to pat Lyra’s shoulder, trying to ignore the ache in her back and knees from being on all fours for so long. “We’ll do just that, Lyrathwen,” she says, trying to keep her own dislike of the lecherous old charlatan out of her voice. “But for now…” she glances in the nearest den, “we’ve killed a lot of kobolds in here and on the road, and all of these rooms look recently abandoned. Either we’ve killed them all, or they fled, or they have another ambush point nearby.” She pauses, “There is also the fact that there are plenty of signs of children about—toys at least—and we have seen none of the like. So perhaps some of them fled with their young when it became clear that they were being invaded. If that is not the case, and they are hiding nearby, we may have to temper our actions to avoid harming the innocent. Either way, now is the time for vigilance…”


Skaegedde grunts and nods, “Nice work! I will pray to the Hidden One for you friend.” She walks back and grabs the other side of the bag that she and the halfling girl had been dragging, then points at the passage going back up, “That way then?”


Winona looks out into the stomach, “Either we go up, or we try to find a way to those holes up on the sides, or we head into the intestines…which seems like a good place for a never-ending winding maze of traps and ambushes, don’t you think?” She lays down flat on the floor, rolls onto her back, and stretches as best she can. “Bunny, why don’t you grab the goblin and our two new friends and scout ahead. Crawling in armor isn’t any fun…”

Miero steps up and sets the chest of coins down on Winona’s chest, eliciting an angry, grunting, gasp. “Alright then,” he says drawing the stilettos, “you watch the loot and we’ll go hunting.” He looks at Skaegedde, Yamtwit, and Ryesha and makes a ‘follow me’ gesture with his head before heading up the passage at a slow jog.

Ryesha sighs, drops the blanket and pulls out her own knives, “I guess I don’t really have a choice”. She spares a look down at Winona with the thought that maybe she is getting a little too much experience in the field, then heads after the other halfling.


The passage slopes gently up for about fifty paces of a halfling, then opens into a large chamber, a mirror of the lungs where you were previously ambushed. Left-hand wall has been carved away to reveal a knot of corded, petrified muscle tissue with a massive opal, larger than an adult kobold (and that is only the exposed portion), lodged in it. A crude altar has been built into the back wall, made from piled skulls—mostly a mix of human and lizardmen—and topped with a clean, black altar cloth, trimmed with cloth of gold. Dozens of skeletons are stacked against the right-hand wall, their bones scored and pitted, as if they had been cleaned by immersion in acid. Some of them have a faint metallic sheen—likely the result of residues from dissolved metals fusing with the bone. A capstan has been set into the middle of the room, set with four handles, with two ropes running down into holes in the floor.


Seeing the spectacle of the altar, Ryesha mutters, “Wait here,” and back down the corridor a few feet before turning and sprinting back to where Winona and the others are waiting. “Sister, Lyra, Frantiska. You guys are going to want to see this…” she says, panting.


Frantiska crawls after the halfling girl, really wishing she could smoke right now.

Yamtwit, meanwhile, looks around the small shrine, considerably less excited than Ryesha. “What a mess…” he says, walking around the pile of corpses. He then steps back over to the capstan and gives one of the bars a little jiggle. “Any guesses what this does?” he asks his new companions.


Following the others into the room, Hrud is entranced by the large gemstone. The barbarian walks up to it and run a hand along the smooth exposed portion.


Miero walks up beside Hrud to look at the massive gem, “Wis sampeyan entuk linggis, wong amba?”

Winona crawls after Ryesha and comes into the room. “What horrible blasphemy is this?” she says, sounding exactly the wrong kind of excited one would expect in such situations. “Are these some kind of sacrifices to the dead dragon?” She crawls over to the bodies and looks at them, then back at the capstan, “Do you think that is what they used to let the acid into the stomach? Clean off the corpses with the dragon’s acid, then pile them here near the heart as a kind of payment?”

Ryesha just shudders. “What do we do about it?” she squeaks.

“Ooh, Bunny, desecrating evil shrines is fun!” She crawls over to the altar and sits up, her helmed head just scraping the ceiling, even seated. She adjusts her glasses and pulls out her holy symbol, field brazier, several sticks of incense, and a couple flasks of holy water. “First we’ll want to burn this altar cloth…” she says, opening the brazier and blowing the hot coals back into life…


Frantiska and Yamtwit both move closer to Winona, equally fascinated by what she is doing.


Hrud shakes his head, then stops, his semi-permanent expression of confusion lifting for a moment, and says, “Dawn-of-Man.” The barbarian then turns and heads out of the room, back to the stomach where Donovan’s body still lay on the steps – along with the old adventurer’s remaining gear. Making sure he has the crowbar, Hrud grabs as much as he can carry and hauls it back to the room. Setting the pile of possessions down, he walks back over to the massive gemstone with a smile, hefting the crowbar. Carefully trying to avoid damaging the smooth surface of the stone, he slides the end of the crowbar into the section of fossilized tissue, trying to chip away at the opal’s stony prison.


Once the coals in the field brazier are glowing nicely, Winona takes a fork from her mess kit and uses it to carefully lift the black and gold altar cloth and place it in the brazier. As the cloth begins to smolder, she raises her hands into the smoke and intones, “Gone. Gone. Gone even farther is perfect justice.” As the cloth catches, she parts the smoke with her hands and deftly drops a pair of incense cubes into the flame, santalwood for the dispelling of evil vapors and junniper and rose hips for sight. “May the presider over courts be my vanguard. May all evils flee me and the essential procedure present no troubles.” She gestures broadly, gathering the smoke towards her and inhales deeply. The lifts her holy symbol, holding it in the column of smoke directly above the fire. She nods to Ryesha and they begin to chant a common mantra in tandem:

“Mighty Tyr. Cleanse this place. May all beings be free from enmity and danger. May all beings be free from mental suffering. May all beings be free from physical suffering. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings protect themselves joyfully. I have been blinded by the net of injustice. Tyr, judge and minister, come near and treat me with mercy. Your discernment, like the fire at the end of an age clears away the mere appearance of injustice in the mind; please bestow it upon me.”

She stands, lifting a flask of holy water and splashes it over the bone altar chanting again, “Gone. Gone. Gone even farther is perfect justice.” Ryesha takes the other flask, doing and saying likewise.

Winona places her holy symbol back around her neck and takes her massive, silver-headed flail in two hands. “Tyr. Even-handed One. May your single all-seeing eye look down on the evils of this place and judge them. As we judge the physical, may you judge the spiritual. As we cleanse the stone, may you cleanse hearts. As we crush the face of evil, may you crush the spirit of evil. Whatever foulness resides in this place, may this simple act see it destroyed and your justice done…”

Ryesha nearly yells the final mantra, “Come perfect justice!”, her voice coming out as a frightened squeak, then takes a quick step back and ducks as Winona swings the two-handed bludgeon sideways in a wide arc, putting as much of her weight behind the blow as she can from her seated position, and snapping her shoulders to add extra whip to the chain as the head smashes into the side of the bone altar.


The pile of skulls practically explodes from the force of the blow. Bone fragments fly in all directions, bouncing of walls and pelting the party with shrapnel. The ground gives a brief heave and a sudden wind knocks you all off of your feet and nearly sucks you out of the room as you hear the unmistakable sound of a dragon’s roar echoing all around you. As the sound and the tremor fade, you see that the massive gem lodged in the wall has crumbled into a fine powder that gives off a faint golden glow.


Miero picks himself up off the floor, eyes wide with surprise, and starts looking through the wreckage of the bone altar and the pile of bodies for anything valuable. “Beshaba’s blackened teets, Tyrant! What the fuck did you just do?”


Hrud is chipping away slowly and carefully (for him) around the large opal when the sudden tremor and ghostly roar engulfs him. Part of a flying skull hits him in the back of the head, causing him to lurch forward, accidentally bringing the crowbar into contact with the stone. When the stars have cleared from his eyes, he looks down to see the opal has crumbled into dust. The barbarian looks around awkwardly, hoping no one noticed him break it.


Lyra brushes the bone dust and shrapnel from her cloak and hair, coughing a bit from the rich incense. “Was the heart gem used to bind the dragon’s spirit here?”

Those Left Behind: Session 1

My name is Tamn, and, apparently I am once again an outlaw, on the lamb, and hunted by everyone. I started as a slave. Escaped slavery to become an adventurer. Had my party killed by creepy shadow things. Became a bandit. Ratted out the bandtis to get ‘captured’ and ‘reformed’ by a local baron. And now that baron has been outlawed himself and his former subjects are out to kill those of us that worked for him. So…yeah…need to find a new line of work soon…

Let me back up.

12 Hammer

We stood on the battlements of Kryptgarten keep, watching the angry villagers massing. The previous day had brought quite a shock. Squire Grimnir and his companions had left early in the morning, trekking north through the snows to find the source of the Barren River’s pollution before the the spring floods could ruin our fields. Shortly after they left, a group of lovely ladies had shown up asking strange questions about the squire. Shortly after the ladies left, a crier from Phlan arrived to deliver a writ of outlawry against the Squire and his pals for crimes against the state, and claimed all of Kryptgarten as forfeit. Then one of the farmers found the hacked, burned, and very dead body of Pooky, the Squire’s giant, six-legged, albino crocodile-demon pet (yeah, he’s a weird guy), near the edge of the keep’s lands. That, of course, was sufficient sign for those of us at least somewhat loyal to the Squire to hole up in the keep, shut the doors, and try to figure out what to do since he was gone.

Now, I use the term ‘loyal’ loosely here. With the exception of Grinkle, who worships the squire as a god, and a few tattooed kooks from Hillsfar who did likewise, most of us served him out of debt, fear, or both. Not that we feared him, which we did, but that doesn’t matter, but rather fear of the settlers in and around Kryptgarten, all of whom were from Hillsfar and had similar views on non-humans to that infamous city. The squire, scary as he was, had served as a buffer between the few of us who were not human and the potentially murderous xenophobia of the locals. Which leads us to the battlements.

As I said, by the end of the previous day, Grinkle had ordered all ‘cleanly and faithful servants of our lord Grimnir’ to withdraw into Kryptgarten Keep and shut the doors. This morning we had been awakened by the crashing, banging, gonging sounds of a giant black-iron bell falling from a great height. We rushed up to the battlements to see that the church which Grimnir had erected, dedicated to himself and run by Grinkle, was on fire. The sound must have been the bell falling from the tower, which had already collapsed. All of the settlers, some two hundred of them, were gathered around the gates. Everyone was armed with a torch, and most also had bows, spears, polearms, swords, shields, and armor (sometimes its not such a good idea to require 100% of your population to train with the militia).

With the peasantry up in arms, the church destroyed, our lord outlawed, and our monstrous defender killed, our position seemed untenable. There was only one thing to do: sneak out the back door.

Grinkle gave a little speech to the gathered ‘priests’, most of whom were heavily pierced and tattooed former chaos-bubo-cultists from Hillsfar and not particularly reliable. He told them we (Isti, Yury, Grinkle, and I) were leaving, and that as high-priest he was basically disbanding the church. Any of them who wanted to go with us could, the rest should divest themselves of their holy soap (yeah it was a weird church anyways), go dirty up their faces, and then let the villagers in once we were gone. Unsurprisingly we only had one taker on the going with us part, a real wacko (but a very talented wacko and a tough SOB) named Zander Payne.

We ran down from the walls and into the subterranean living quarters of the keep, grabbed all the gear and provisions we could carry, and were out the secret, back, entrance tunnel in under an hour. Isti dropped some kind of invisible wyvern trap spell in the passage in case we were followed. We watched from the woods as the ‘faithless wretches’ (as Zander called them) opened the gates and let the Kryptgardians charge into the keep. Then we booked it into the woods.

Now, the Quivering Forest is not a fun place to hang out, in any season, but in mid-winter its downright miserable. Grinkle, the tallest of us, was up to his knees in snow, which meant Isti and I were up to our chests. We were cold, wet, and homeless. Then, of course, there were the navigational issues in the forest, the fact that trees and landmarks tended to move around. We decided to head due-south and get out of the forest ASAP, as best we could determine on a cold, overcast winter day in a forest that wouldn’t stand still.

Then, of course, there are the creatures that live in the forest that were just as cold as we were, and considerably more hungry. It should come as no surprise that, just when we saw the edge of the woods, two big (and I mean BIG) cats with tentacles sprouting from their backs appeared, one blocking out path ahead, and one creeping up behind. Grinkle, who’s former tribe used to live in the forest, called them ‘bèt deplase’ or ‘displacer beasts’, and said they were almost impossible to hit. Of course, they also looked faster than any of us (especially me and my short legs) so it seemed like we had no choice but to try to hit them.

Just as I made the decision to charge the one in front of us, they pounced. It was at this point that I noticed that they had 6 legs, each with very sharp claws, but it was not the claws they attacked with, it was the flailing tentacles, each ending in a spiked pad. The one ahead leaped at me. I managed to dodge one tentacle, but took a rough hit from the second. The second took Zander, one tentacle hitting his left hand with enough force to splinter his shield and tear most of the flesh down to the bone.

Zander wailed in pain and lashed out with his flail, hammering the spiked weapon into the beast’s side. Grinkle, surprisingly quick for his size, stepped into the thing’s blind-spot as it attacked Zander and hacked at its backside, cutting it’s tail clean off and causing it to let out a roar of pain. Isti rushed up, keeping Zander between herself and the beast, and, taking a handful of snow, channeled the power of the elements into Zander to heal some of the damage inflicting by the beast’s strike.

Yury tossed a trio of knives in rapid succession into the one that had struck me, and I followed up by plunging my swords into either side of its neck, severing its main artery. It turns out they were not so hard to hit as Grinkle believed, especially if you can gang up on them and know some basic anatomy.

Of course, the other one was still standing and quite angry. It roared, spun, and tore into Grinkle with everything it had: two tentacles, four fore-claws, and a powerful set of jaws. The creature tore him apart, shredding his robes and sending blood flying everywhere. His body went limp. It’s a miracle he survived.

Zander swung at the thing’s exposed backside, but missed, striking air where he thought the thing’s rump should be, but Yury came through with his knives again, two shots sinking up to the hilt into the thing’s flank and dropping the beast like a stone. Zander knelt and rubbed a pumice stone over Grinkle’s wounds (I shudder just thinking about how much that must have hurt) and they miraculously closed. Grinkle got to his feet and we hurried the hell out of there.

We needed a place to live, luckily Isti new just the place.

We left the forest and headed south as fast as we could travel through the snow, reaching the outskirts of Phlan just before dusk. We slipped through the slums unnoticed (because really, hobgoblins, kobolds, mohawked madmen, and half-demons were perfectly commonplace in that shit-hole) and reached Kuto’s well by nightfall.

The place was cleaned out. It had clearly been looted and picked over, murder-hobo style, but no one new had moved in in the nearly two months since we left (not even the other thieves’ guilds). So we made ourselves as comfortable as we could, treated everyone’s remaining wounds, and got some sleep.

13 Hammer

There was some discussion the next morning. While all of us had criminal backgrounds, none of us were currently known or wanted in Phlan, no one outside of Kryptgarten knew that we were associated with the Squire, and we even had the old letters of marque from my previous adventuring group. Kuto’s Well was plenty suitable as a hideout, but we still needed to live. We discussed the possibility of taking up thievery or adventuring for the Council (despite Grinkle and Zander’s dislike of their treatment of Squire Grimnir), or both. Both won out.

We considered making contact with some of the other more established criminal gangs in town—Swipe’s gang in the sewers near Podol Plaza, which Tvoja used to be a member of, the pirates out on Stormy Bay, or even the gang operating out of Koval Mansion over on the orc-infested north side of town—but decided that if criminal enterprises were our goal, we’d be better off setting up a new gang with ourselves in charge, rather than letting someone else push us around.

We decided that we’d work, in the immediate future, on getting the well catacombs set up as a proper hideout again. We needed furniture and supplies if we were going to stay there for any length of time. We also decided that, if we could get into the city proper, we should get the Bitter Blades’ charter updated—since I was the last surviving member I could do that—in case we happened upon any bounties that we could take advantage of (because really, no matter how much some of us disliked the Council, there was no reason we shouldn’t deprive them of some gems).

So, with a plan, we snuck out of the well around noon, when most of the local monsters who used the well for water would be sleeping, and headed through the slums towards ‘Civilized Phlan’.

Only a couple blocks from the gates, we heard a high-pitched scream coming from a side alley. Now, I’m not exactly soft-hearted fellow, and my friends are not the nicest folk in the world, but I’m not one to leave a lady in distress, especially with so many orcs about. You know how orcs are. So I ran towards the sound and the others followed, after some brief hesitation.

We rounded a corner to see a young human girl, of an age with little Martha who I used to run with, or perhaps a little younger, dressed in a ragged brown dress with her back to a wall. She was screaming frantically and beating a stick at a pack of dog-sized rats swarming around her. Two mangy rat-sized dogs (you got that right, big rats, small dogs) stood by her feet, yapping and snapping at the rats trying to keep them off the girl. I gave out a sigh of relief on seeing that, at least it was not orcs raping someone again (you of course would not be surprised by how often that happens out here).

I drew my club and rushed the rats, sure that my friends would have my back (or not so sure, but not caring at least). The rats, apparently much braver even than is typical for giant rats, turned en masse and came at me head on. Even given the fights I’ve been in, seeing all of those teeth, I could understand why the girl was screaming. And those teeth were quick too. Ten of them were on me before I could get a swing in. I took several bites and one of them latched onto my right calf, biting so deep that I could feel its teeth grinding on the bone. I caved in the grinder’s head with my club, but by then even more were on me. Again there were lots of bites, and another one actually got its teeth into the same leg, which was bleeding very badly by this point, and knocked me to the ground.

Luckily Yury was there with his knives—three throws impaled three rats, knocking them off of me. I took one more bite before the other three laggards caught up. Isti drew her sword and swung at one of the big ones, but overbalanced and nearly impaled herself when she fell. Grinkle and Zander, clean-freaks that they are, actually had spells granted from their “god” expressly for the purpose of exterminating vermin. One spell from Grinkle snuffed out six of the big rodents, and Zander took out four more, leaving only the three biggest standing.

LOUISE-WITH-GIANT-RAT-406x480.jpgThings were looking pretty good, until I looked up and realized that the girl was gone, and saw another dozen or so rats crawling out of various nooks and crannies around the alley. My first thought was that maybe it was a setup, but rats aren’t that smart. Maybe the girl was a were-rat!

I didn’t have time to think much more as the rats swarmed over me and Isti where we lay on the ground. I felt a lot of bites, and then felt very cold, then passed out completely, having lost a lot of blood in a very short time.

Luckily I’m tough and a fast healer, so the others were able to fill me in later. For started, one rat nearly disemboweled Isti, and a second broke her leg with a bite. Grinkle and Zander were able to do their extermination spell thing again, and Yury’s knives took down one of the big ones. Of course, their sensibly keeping their distance just meant that the remaining rats had more time to gnaw on Isti and me.

Zander finally decided we’d been sufficiently and stepped in, crushing one of the big rats with his flail, and then impaling one of the smaller rats with the handle-spike on the backswing. Grinkle grabbed me and Yuri and dragged us back away from the gnashing teeth of the giant rats, casting a spell of regeneration on me to slow the bleeding. Yury then showed that he was apparently able to speak with animals, threatening the last two remaining rats with Grinkle’s extermination if they did not withdraw. Wise little blighters that they are, they complied.

It’s a miracle that Isti and I didn’t both bleed to death, as severe as our injuries were. None of our friends were trained healers, though they did have some magic to help. Once the rats were gone, Zander and Grinkle applied all the healing magic they had available just to stop the bleeding, and were quite unable to wake us back up.

Yury, who, like me, is not such a bad guy, ran down the alley to try to find the girl and see if she was alright (I having not had the chance to explain that I suspected she was a were-rat). He reported seeing the two little dogs running out into another street yapping, but no sign of the girl.

With nothing else for it, they dragged our asses back to the hideout to recover.

15 Hammer

I faded in and out of consciousness several times, then finally woke up two days later. My leg hurt like a bitch, but I otherwise felt functional. Our priest friends had expended A LOT of magical healing on me and Isti to get us back in functional shape. Between watching us and healing us, they had been out getting the basics. They had managed to buy, beg, borrow, or steal (mostly steal) bedrolls and blankets for the five of us, a good supply of wood for fires, stores of food, mess gear, and even a stuffed sofa for the ‘lair’.

It would be some time before Isti and I were fully recovered, but we could at least move around the hideout enough to help cook, clean up a bit, and care for ourselves, freeing the others to go about their business.

Actually, I was glad to have a couple of days to recover. Grinkle, Zander, and Yury were out a lot, trying to get a better lay of the land and plan for our new life here, which left me and Isti with a lot of alone time. It turns out we were healed enough to fuck like bunnies, and we did, a lot. Before I met Isti, I never would have thought that I’d be into kobolds, but we’re all mammels, and she’s pretty darn cute, and the fur feels kindof nice against my bare skin, especially since we went to Kryptgarten and had Grinkle making all of us bathe so…

17 Hammer

A couple days after we woke up, Zander came back late in the evening (after some heavy carousing in ‘Civilized Phlan’) to tell us about some rich muckity-muck who was had been dumb enough to build his house outside the walls of ‘New Phlan’. A guy named Poppof, some king of merchant-wizard from up north, who had built a big two-story town house on the wrong side of the wall. Now this alone was not particularly newsworthy (space in New Phlan was getting really cramped and the Council had not approved expansion of the wall yet), until Zander told us that Poppof and most of his guards had been seen locking up the house, hauling out some goods, and hopping on a boat the day before. If they were going on a trade mission, they wouldn’t be back for weeks, and a big house like that was sure to have plenty of nice furniture and things to dress out our hideout in style.

Isti and I, being small and inconspicuous, agreed to go stake the place out and case the joint for the rest of the day. If this Poppof fellow was a wizard, he was sure to have some magical traps and the like, but even that should not be too much of a problem for a pack of skilled thieves with plenty of magical training. Right?

The two of us found the house easy enough, a nice two-story townhouse, locked up tight. The second floor overhung the ground floor in the front by about five feet. Poppof had had the rubble, muck, and snow cleared away around the house and had installed a couple of cute planters with shrubberies along the front, under the overhang, and cleaned out most of the street so that people in the house would not be looking out at piles of shit like everywhere else in the slums. Hooray for gentrification.

All the windows were shuttered, save for a single round pane of glass over the front double doors. The front door was too obviously trapped, radiating all kinds of hostile magic and showing more mechanisms than was at all reasonable. Isti suggested that it was probably a leomund’s trap (an illusion to make the door look more trapped than it was). The place had two chimneys, both on the Wall side of the house. There was also a back door, locked and barred from within.

The street was pretty busy, and there were no good hiding places near the house, so we just casually scoped it out, circled once, and then went to the far side of the street and perched on top of a ruined old hovel to watch. No one came in or out all day, but it was clear the place was being watched. We spotted a couple of orcish toughs standing on the street not far away and giving the stink-eye to anyone who seemed too curious about the place, us included. It seemed Poppof must be up-to-date on his protection money.

When it got dark, we made one more circuit of the house. The alley by the back door was narrow and dark. Making it less likely we’d be seen going in that way. Curious about the chimneys, I kept watch while Isti scrambled up to the steepled roof. She came back down quickly, reporting that the chimneys were open, but narrow, probably easy enough for the two of us to go in that way, but not the others, and not hauling anything out.

We went back to the hideout and reported our findings. The others agreed that we should hit the place tomorrow night, before any of the other, more established gangs got the same idea.

To be continued…

Chapter 3: An Old Lady in Melvaunt: Part 6
Interlude: The Squatters in Onyx: Part 3


Hrud leads the way through the portal with weapons drawn, expecting an ambush, but keeping his eyes mostly on the ground. Despite the hardness of the stone floor, he can easily make out a few muddy footprints, mostly kobold, but a few larger reptilian clawmarks and some bootprints, all old and all heading, more or less, from the curtained passage ahead to the door behind him. He also spots a few dried bloodstains on the floor near the center of the room, beneath where the ropes are hanging.

Even through the dimension door, Donovan and Winona’s psionically heightened hearing picks up the sounds of numerous kobolds coming from above Hrud.


Donovan grabs his largest crossbow off his back and rushes through the portal, scanning the ceiling for possible murder-holes. «Frantiska,» he calls back in elvish, «please inform our barbarous friend that there are numerous kobolds above him and he should expect unpleasant things to start falling on his head soon.»

Winona, apparently noticing the same thing but not understanding what Donovan is saying, turns to Lyra and the others. “Kobolds in the ceiling,” she says plainly.

Ryesha lets out a plaintive squeak, then tugs on Winona’s sleeve and whispers, “Up those ropes maybe?”


Frantiska steps through the dimension door behind Donovan, “Hrud, anjing wajah di langit-langit.” She turns her bow upwards and gestures with her eyes towards the three holes from which the ropes are descending and a visible gap in a large boulder that appears to have been laid across a larger hole. «Lyra, Donovan,» she says switching to elvish, «I can see their heat signatures through the holes, can we get a light up there?»


As it becomes obvious, from the upward staring and crossbow-pointing, to the kobolds observing you from above that their concealment has been blown, they respond with a barrage of arrows from the half-dozen murder-holes concealed in the spongy lung-tissue of the ceiling. Dozens of small arrows rain down around Donovan, Frantiska, and Hrud. Three find gaps in Frantiska’s armor, but none manage to hit Hrud or Donovan.


Not having anything that could reach the kobolds above, Hrud takes a risk and ducks though the curtain looking for cover.


I can’t possibly hit them through those tiny holes, Donovan thinks, knowing that he’s far from a crack shot with the bulky crossbows. But! he thinks smiling. He releases his grip on the crossbow, allowing it to dangle from his shoulder, grabs the sheaf of scrolls from its case, and rifles through them until he finds the right one. This should do the trick! He points a finger at the large stone to which Frantiska is pointing, mutters a few incomprehensible syllables, then, says loudly, “UP!”

Winona, suspecting that Hrud must have seen some more accessible targets, pulls the larger flail off her back and rushes through the dimension door, across the room, and through the curtain after him.

Ryesha, tries to ignore the voice whispering in the back of her head about glory and the images of her gleefully slashing at kobolds with her knives. She shakes her head, but looks down and notices that she already has a pair of blades in her hands. She shuts her eyes tight, thinking no, kobolds are mean, we shouldn’t get that close. When she opens her eyes, however, she is standing right beside them…


Lyra concentrates on keeping the doorway open, wincing at the hail of arrows. “If we can prop up the tapestry or some of those furs, they won’t know who’s standing where for the next volly.”


Frantiska winces as the first arrow strikes her in the thigh, exposing her to the second which catches her in the side, just below the ribs. She stumbles to the ground and tries to crawl back to the cover of Lyra’s dimension door, but the third shot strikes her in the back, right through her heart. She lays still, blood pooling on the floor around her.


Yamtwit watches the hail of arrows and curses. He hitches his backpack up over his head, runs the few feet through the portal to where Frantiska is laying, and drags her bleeding body out of the kill zone on the off chance that she can be repaired.

Once safely through the dimension door, Yamtwit works furiously—breaking off and removing the small, barbed arrow heads, and wadding bundles of gauze and shoving them into the holes to staunch the bleeding. I can apply proper bandages later, he thinks. Once the wounds are at least cursorily plugged, he rolls her onto her back and checks her breathing and pulse, only to find that the shot through her back pierced her heart. [In proper Hollywood fashion] He beats furiously on her chest for a while, pumping in a futile attempt to restart the damaged organ.


Teldicia pushes herself away from the wall against which she has been leaning heavily, takes a deep breath, and sprints into the room, leaping strait up to grab the lip of the hole made by Donovan’s levitation spell, twelve feet above, then hauls herself up into the passage with the startled kobolds.

Beyond the curtain, Hrud and Winona find an empty den. Two dozen piles of sleeping furs are scattered on the ground and a burned-out cookfire sits in the center of the room. The walls and ceiling are the same pock-marked, petrified lung-tissue as the room before, with a similar guarantee of murder-holes linked to the passage above. A few bats clinging to the ceiling, seemingly oblivious to the commotion from the other room, are startled by the light of Hrud’s hammer and begin flying about, swarming out the exit at the far end of the room.


Hrud continues moving through the room, peaking into the next – ready to dash into it should any arrows come down from above.


Hrud runs to the far exit, swatting the occasional bat away from his face, and looks out into a long corridor running to the left and right. The passage is rounded, with smooth walls, apparently an extension of the esophagus through which you had been traveling earlier, and slopes downward to the left and sharply upward to the right.


Hoping that the passage to the right will lead him to the shifty dog-faces above, Hrud presses forward, eager to dish out some pain.


The kobolds are startled by the rise of the rock and the sudden appearance of Teldicia and Ryesha in their midst. There are a dozen in all, huddled two a piece around six murder-holes, four leading into the first room, and two more over the room into which Hrud and Winona have run. Each has a bow in hand and buckets, filled with their short, barbed arrows sit beside each hole. They let out a series of alarmed, high-pitched, barking noises and then resume firing—three groups firing into the rooms below at Donovan, Hrud, and Winona, and the others turning to the more immediate threats.

Arrows rain down around those in the room below, one striking a grazing hit against Donovan. Ryesha snags one arrow out of the air, but takes a second in the wrist. Teldicia, just cresting the hole, takes two arrows directly in the chest. She slips from her perch and slams back down to the floor right by Donovan’s feet with a sickening thud.


Yamtwit on seeing Teldicia fall bolts up cursing in his native tongue, “Youn lòt pèdiSe mwen menm woutpa gen okenn. Hay mèrdik!” He runs back through the portal, yelling to Lyra, “You just keep the door open missy!”, and quickly lays hands on Teldicia, praying fervently to his goddess.


Lyra pulls a board out of the stack and throws it though the doorway towards Donovan. “Get that up there and fall back!”


Donovan, now that he has a clear shot, reaches into his pouch and pulls out a handful of sand, throwing it in the direction of the hole in the ceiling and pronouncing the words to yet another sleep spell.

Winona pulls a brazier from her pack and holds it up as a makeshift shield, calling over her shoulder to the others, “Nothing in here but more snipers, but it sounds like the far passage is clear. Run for it!”

Ryesha’s face goes white when she realizes she is stuck up the hole, alone, and outnumbered twelve-to-one. She tosses the knives she is holding at the faces of the nearest kobolds, then runs towards the far room and dives headfirst through one of the holes, “Sister! Catch!” she yells as she falls.

Winona drops her flail and sticks out her arms to catch the falling Ryesha.


Ryesha’s knives both strike home, one plunges into a kobold’s neck, sending it reeling backwards, clutching at its throat and drowning in its own blood. The second takes a kobold in the eye, blinding the thing and causing it to drop its bow. She tumbles through the hole into Winona’s arms just as Donovan’s spell goes off, causing eight of the remaining kobolds to slump to the ground, suddenly too drowsy to stand up. The two remaining kobolds, farthest from the spell’s origin, continue firing down at Ryesha and Winona, striking both of them as Rye lands.

Hrud rushes up the passage to the right, running uphill for a dozen yards before he is stopped by a deep pit. The light from his hammer illuminates a number of giant weasels at the bottom of the pit, quiet and peaceful in death.

Teldicia groans, open her eyes, and grabs the wooden plank that Lyra threw from where it had fallen next to her and tosses it up into the hole above.


Winona puts down Rye, yanks the arrow out of her thigh, and grabs her flail from the floor. “Run!” she says, and does just that, heading for the far exit.

Donovan, slips an arm under Teldicia’s armpit, pulling her the rest of the way upright and runs after Winona and Rye. «Lyra, we’re going this way! Blow it when we’re clear…»


Yamtwit runs after Donovan and Teldicia, staying close on their heals, eager to ensure that at least one patient survives this skirmish. As he peels out into the hallway, Yamtwit yells, “Hruď, ngendi sira lunga?”


“Punika cara metu. Kudu pindhah mudhun.” Hrud says, as he comes stalking back down the corridor, frustration on his face. “Apa asu-pasuryan isih urip? Bisa aku tekan wong-wong mau?”


As you all run out of the room, you hear the high-pitched yapping voices of the two kobolds shouting something, along with some muffled, equally high-pitched grunts, as of someone being kicked awake.


As everyone’s attention is focused on the other room, Frantiska’s heart suddenly resumes beating. She coughs, flecks of blood spraying from her mouth, and raises an arm weakly. She manages to whisper «Lyrathwen…» and briefly clutches the hem of Lyra’s dress before her arm falls limp again.


Lyra sinks to her knees next to Frantiska, hands shaking as she pulls wax stoppered sheep’s bladders from her backpack.

She remembers Frantiska lying in the road, leg twisted unnaturally, blood everywhere. No, Donovan’s memory, she reminded herself. But more importantly, his memory of the goblin handing Rant a flask, the buttery smell as Donovan turned around, and the healed, whole flesh when he turned back.

When it sounds like the awake kobolds have run over to their friends, Lyra speaks the command word for that board, then returns to fussing over Frantiska, letting the gateway close.


There is a muffled BOOM from the small charge detonating. The kobold’s chattering speech trails off into screams, then silenced, leaving only the sound of small bits of stone and debris clattering onto the floor.


Donovan runs out of the room and, seeing Hrud coming from the opposite direction, down to the left. “This way!” he says, then stops in his tracks. “I don’t suppose anyone has a way of getting in touch with Lyra to tell her which way we went?”

Winona and Ryesha both shake their heads. “Sounds like the bomb blew,” Winona adds, “We should go back and clean up the mess.”

“Hmmm,” Donovan’s brow furrows. “It’s clear that they know we are here. With this many murder-holes, they probably have some living quarters or something in the upper half of the body, closer to the spine.” He points down the esophagus, “We know that way should lead to the stomach…”

“Okay,” he finally says, “let’s go clean up any kobos that may be left and then see if there are any passages off of that upper chamber.” Donovan unslings his crossbow again and turns back into the room. “Rye, can you get up in there again and lower one of those ropes for the rest of us?”

“Maybe…” Ryesha’s nose and forehead wrinkle adorably in concentration. She vanishes.


Yamtwit explains the plan to Hrud, “Terwelu cah wadon sethitik wis arep uncalan tali mudhun supaya kita bisa njaluk bantuan kanggo asu pasuryan.” He then turns to Teldicia, “You look sick lady. No more jumping in front of things with arrows, okay?” He draws a club and carefully skuttles into the room, taking pains to keep Teldicia behind him.


Ryesha appears back in the upper chamber of the dragon’s lung, surrounded by kobolds, or rather, surrounded by the limbs, body parts, and blood splatters of exploded kobolds. A wide, smooth-walled passage, just large enough for her to stand upright, exits at the far end of the chamber, then splits to run parallel with the esophagus below. A ladder in the intersection leads up into the spinal column.


Below, everyone hears a high-pitched shriek, followed by an “Ewwwwwwwwwww!” Ryesha walks over and looks down the hole, cautious of the still-levitating rock. “They’re dead…” she says with a mixture of disgust and relief. “There are two more passages up here, but they’re my size, so maybe a bit small for the rest of you.” She examines the three ropes, noticing that they are apparently meant for hauling the rock up, and have a good bit of slack. She runs the slack out through the already-provided holes, down to where a kobold could reach them from the ground, then ties off the ends to keep the rock from falling when Donovan’s spell inevitably wears off.

Donovan goes over to the door which was recently blocked by Lyra’s dimension door, opens it and yells down the stairs. “Lyra, we’re all clear up here.” He then turns back to the others, “So…Esophagus, Trachea, or Spine? I’d prefer not to be crawling, but it makes sense that they would put the important stuff in the passages where they would have a greater advantage. But, given that everything is carved from organs, the stomach is probably the biggest room, which might give us the advantage if we can lure them into a mass confrontation there…”

Winona just shrugs, “Whatever dearie…”


A minute after the butter has done its work, Frantiska groans and opens her eyes again. She sits up slowly and notices a trickle of blood still issuing from the arrow-wounds. She presses her hands over the injuries, a blue glow surrounding them, and looks up at Lyra. «Thank you Lyrathwen. Remind me not to walk into obvious traps in the future…» She stands up slowly, replacing her bow on her shoulder and pulling out her shield and shortsword.


Lyra stands and smooths her skirt. «I … had intended to take you back to the village to recover from your injuries under the care of the healer there once you were stable. But if you would prefer to continue, the area above should be safe now.»


Yamtwit looks up at the hole, sighs, then starts climbing. “Donovan, the trachea stops here, right? If we’re in the lungs?” He pulls himself up into the messy higher chamber then calls down through the hole. “We know the spine was linked to the murder-holes over those pits. If you’re heading for the stomach, it probably makes sense for a couple of us to go this way, run parallel, and make sure you don’t get shot at from above again…” A scowl crosses his face, “Of course, we’re not really the best ones for dealing with that. Can we get a couple of Lyra’s bomb-boards?”

Meanwhile down below, Frantiska stretches a bit and takes a test swing of her sword. «I’m fine, Lyra, and, much as I may dislike many of them, I could not live with myself if I abandoned our companions when they were in danger.» She looks around. «Do you have sufficient strength for us to rejoin the others, or will we have to backtrack and find another route up?»


Lyra nods, reopening the portal into the room in the same location it was previously.


Donovan looks up at the goblin, trying to suppress his instinctual thought to never split the party. “Alright Sir Cheeseater. Just don’t stick your necks out more than necessary. Remember that in those close confines we won’t be able to get to you in a hurry if you get into trouble.” Seeing the Dimension Door open, he turns and looks through it at Frantiska. “FRAN! I thought you were dead…again…”

Winona looks up at Ryesha, “Stay out of trouble Bunny. We’ll meet you in the guts. Don’t be afraid to scamper if you need to.”

Ryesha looks down and shrugs. “You always said I needed more field practice…” she whispers, barely audible to anyone save Yamtwit. “Come on Mr. Yamtwit, I guess we’re going this way.” She pulls her knives out of the pair of kobolds she killed, kicks a stray leg out of the way, and heads for the passage.

“Oh!” Donovan says, “Lyra, do you have some boards that our little friends could take with them?”


Lyra steps into the portal, and allows it to close after she and Frantiska are both through. “If we use more, we won’t be able to fully collapse the hill, but being able to deal with the kobolds should take precedence.” She holds up one of the boards. “Glowing arcane symbol on one side, triggering words written on the other. Please make sure to note it before throwing it, and as I mentioned earlier, several places are not structurally sound, so please take care where you are detonating it.”


“Just a sec Bunny-girl! Be right behind you.” Yamtwit reaches down and grabs the board. “Thanks!” He stops and thinks for a moment, “Can I get two?”


Lyra passes a second board up to Yamtwit.


Yamtwit grabs the board, says another enthusiastic “Thanks!” and runs after Ryesha. “So, Bunny-girl, are we doing this the team-sneaky way?” He tucks the two enchanted boards in his pack and grabs one of his clubs.


Hrud begins making his way down into the lower regions of the lair, straining his ears for any sign of a kobold response to the explosion that occurred.


Hrud turns into the left-hand passage, which continued to slope steadily downward. Hearing the skuttling of numerous feet and the high-pitched barking voices of kobolds up ahead.

After about ten yards, the smooth, rounded walls begin to widen steadily for another ten feet, before ballooning out in all directions, opening into the vast gallery of the dragon’s stomach. The ground slopes even more sharply here, but steps have been carved into the side of the stomach wall, leading down to the “floor” below, where a deep pool of acrid-smelling water has collected. At the far end of the pool, another set of stairs leads up towards a similar opening, presumably to the dragon’s bowels. About half-way up the stomach wall to Hrud’s left is another, smaller opening, covered by a tight-fitting, hinged door, apparently made from a large, ceramic pot lid. A pair of ropes attached to the lid-door string back through holes drilled in the wall just above it.

A wood and metal walkway with flimsy-looking, rope railing has been constructed around the circumference of the upper portion of the stomach, about twenty feet over Hrud’s head. Numerous side passages lead off from this walkway, carved into the walls. Hrud can easily hear kobolds moving about up above, but none are visible from this angle.

The stairs lead directly down into the pool, and back out of it on the far side. The walkway looks like it might support Hrud’s weight, if he was careful, but it also looks like if he grabbed on and shook it hard he could bring the majority of the thing down.


Frantiska hurries through the room and into the passage behind Hrud. She looks around the stomach, somewhat impressed by the kobolds’ ingenuity in renovating the dragon corpse. Seeing the walkway and hearing the kobolds, she carefully holds her shield over her head, before examining anything else more closely. She points at the ceramic-capped hole on the left-hand wall and taps Hrud’s shoulder. “Hrud, saya pikir itu adalah ‘Fundamentum’. Itu yang akan membuat napas asam naga,” she says, trying to explain dragon anatomy in her imperfect Erakic.


Ryesha turns on Yamtwit, her eyes blazing and her nose scrunched up in a way that is simultaneously frightening and adorable, “DO. NOT. CALL. ME. BUNNY-GIRL!” Her momentary outrage turns to a sullen whimper, “It’s bad enough that Sister Winona calls me that. She’s my superior, so I can’t stop her. But as for you and the rest of them, my name is Ryesha. Sister Ryesha if you want to be formal, or even Rye is fine, but don’t call me Bunny.” She spins on her heel and turns down the left-hand passage, her eyes giving off the faint, tell-tale glow of infravision, but somehow more pink than red. “Let’s just see where this goes before everyone gets too far ahead…”

Below, the others fall into step behind Hrud and Frantiska. Donovan walks slowly, crossbow in one hand the his other arm around Teldicia for support, under her armpits and tantalizingly close to her breasts. Come on Don, focus, a kobold shooting gallery is no place to be thinking about the ladies… he tries really hard to keep his unwholesome thoughts to himself, hoping that telepathy was not one of the gifts that Teldicia got from the virus.

Winona clanks up behind Hrud and Frantiska in her armor and looks down at the pool of water. “There is no way I’m going in something that smells that bad,” she says, adjusting her glasses. “Can we get up to that catwalk? It’ll probably intersect with where Bunny and Yammy will come out…”


Lyra follows, brow furrowed in consternation as she looks around. “Ah. Does anyone else find that ceramic aperture covering alarming?”


Frantiska turns to Lyra, “I think that leads to the dragon’s fundamentum…the source of it’s breath attack. I suspect that the odd choice of doors and the smell of that water means that the kobolds may have found some way of harvesting its secretions. Going up seems the best course of action…” Frantiska takes out her bow and a wood-biting arrow, stringing a strong, but lightweight thread through the eye of the arrow. “Does anyone have rope?” she asks. “Hrud, tali?”


Hrud shrugs off the loop of rope off his shoulder he’d been carrying prior to walking through Lyra’s magic door into the kobold ambush and hands it to the elf.


Frantiska ties one end of the rope to the string, loops the string back so that she has about 30 feet of slack on either side of the loop, and fires the arrow into the catwalk above. She then pulls on one end of the string, hauling the heavier rope up and through the eyelet of the arrow, ties the two ends of the rope together to form a dangling loop, then pulls the loop until the large knot is tight against the eyelet to keep the rope from shifting. “Apakah anda ingin pergi dulu?”


Hrud climbs the rope, trying to move as smoothly and evenly as he is able, afraid that his weight might bring the walkway down.

Once on the walkway, he moves to the edge of the room, wanting to be off the rickety structure sooner rather than later.


Hrud hauls himself up onto the walkway and finds himself face-to-face with a trio of spear-wielding kobolds standing in one of the many side-passages. The nearest kobold yells the time-honored signal, “Bree Yark!” and dozens of the tiny creatures come rushing out onto the walkway from the other holes bristling with bows and spears. The three spear-wielding kobolds rush Hrud as he stands on the edge…


Despite the odds, Hrud finds himself elated at the opportunity to smash more skulls – the dog-faces repeated ambushes serving only to annoy the barbarian. Drawing his broadsword, he rushes to meet them.


Seeing the swarm of kobolds coming pouring out of the many upper passages, Donovan rifles through his collection of scrolls, and, aiming for the largest pack of them he can see, casts ice knife.

Winona suddenly feels deep regret over her religion’s prohibition on the use of projectile weapons. She briefly considers grabbing the rope and trying to pull down the catwalk, then remembers her inability to discuss tactics with Hrud, Suddenly she has a mental image of Ryesha squaring off against five kobolds. “Bunny’s in trouble,” she says. “I can’t do much here…I’m going to check on the little ones…” She turns and runs back to the last chamber and begins climbing up the ropes. Fighting while crawling has got to be better than getting shot at by things I can’t reach, right? she thinks.

Meanwhile in the upper passage


Rye and Yamtwit turn the corner into the passage and immediately run up against a small pack of kobolds who have been standing there quietly. So quiet, in fact, that the two smallest party members realize they can hear no sounds at all, neither the talking of their companions below, nor even their own footsteps and breath. Five kobolds stand glaring at them in the silence. The first four carry spears and are arrayed for battle—two kneeling abreast in the narrow corridor, with two more behind them, creating a miniature version of a pike hedge. The fifth, behind them, is rather terrifying for a kobold—old and withered, with scores of bone piercings in his ears and eyebrow ridges, his arms are painted blood-red up to the elbows and a big red ‘X’ is painted on his bare chest.

The four guard-kobolds hold their ground while the fifth stands very still, locking eyes with Yamtwit and staring at him intently.


Yamtwit opens his mouth to yell for reinforcements, but no sounds comes. “Mèrdik grenpe kobo trankil,” he mutters soundlessly to himself, somehow unable to look away from the creepy old kobold with the red hands. He walks slowly backwards towards the corner, keeping up a steady string of curses, and maintaining eye contact with the creepy kobold. As soon as he can hear himself again, he quickly incants the words of a shillelagh spell.


Rye screams at the sight of the kobolds, then freaks out even more when she cannot hear herself scream. She whips the two knives she is holding at the nearest kobold guards. She really wants to run, but images flash through her mind of her standing triumphantly atop a pile of dead kobolds and Sister Winona praising her and calling her by her proper name and not some lame pejorative. She knows the thoughts are not her own, but decides she doesn’t really care. She takes a half step back to have more room to throw and draws another pair of knives.


Rye’s blades strike home on the kneeling kobolds, one burrying itself in the chest of the kobold on the right, who collapses to the ground bleeding profusely, the other hitting the left-hand one in the causing it to drop its spear. The two kobolds behind them leap over their wounded friends and charge at Ryesha, spears lowered. Rye easily sidesteps one spear, but, in the narrow passage, has no way of avoiding the second, the point of which ends up buried deep in her side.

Behind them, the old kobold crosses his arms over his chest, along the lines of the red ‘X’ tattoo and continues to stare intently at Yamtwit.


As the old kobold continues to stare at Yamtwit, the goblin suddenly feels very dizzy and unsteady on his feet. His hands begin to shake, his joints ache, and his body feels as if it is responding a good bit slower than his thoughts.

Yamtwit stumbles backwards from the intense gaze, tripping over his own feet, and tumbling the shillelagh out of his hands. Growling he clumsily hauls himself to his feet and charges the kobolds assaulting Rye, swinging for the benches with the magical club, but the blow goes whistling harmlessly over the kobolds’ heads.


Winona hauls herself, heavy armor and all, slowly up the rope and into the passage above. Her face wrinkles in distaste at the splattered kobold parts and she strains to hear where Bunny is—disconcerted that her psionically enhanced hearing cannot pinpoint them. I need to practice more, she thinks. Grunting she crawls on hands and knees towards the only obvious exit, her helmet scraping on the low ceiling. I’m not going to be able to swing a damned thing in these tunnels, she thinks, but at least I can be around to heal Bunny if she needs it. She rounds the corner and stares in amazement at the silent play of combat being enacted ahead.

Ryesha, flinches away from Yamtwit’s wild swing, a little unsteady on her feet herself from bloodloss. Seeing the kobolds ducking, her hands, seemingly of their own volition, driven by Kisakhavar’s bloodlust, interpose themselves directly in line with the kobold’s necks, causing the kobolds to impale themselves, the short blades burrying themselves up to the hilts in their dog-like chins. Winona’s eyes widen at the sight of timid ‘little sister’s’ brutal tactics.


The old kobold with the tattoos grins maniacally when he sees Winona and waves a hand. Winona, Ryesha, and Yamtwit’s ears are suddenly assaulted by the screams of the wounded and dying kobolds, as sound returns to the space. The old kobold chants a few words in his own harsh language and stretches both hands skyward, “Yangın ve ağrı ve bıçak ve ölüm, elimi gel! Kötü küçük yarı-kız üzerine tıp ve o cehennemde çürümeye olabilir!” A long blade-like tendril of flame appears in his left hand, and the right jabs a finger at Ryesha, causing a sudden feeling of disorientation to come over her.

The last kobold guard standing, or, more specifically, kneeling, yanks the knife out of his arm, then picks his spear up with his good hand and hurls it towards Yamtwit. The throw is wobbly and weak, but still sufficient to hit the staggering, unbalanced goblin. He pulls a club from his crude belt and backs slowly away, still keeping himself between you and the old kobold.


Ryesha’s shudders as the fell magic grips her along with the crushing knowledge that she cannot possibly harm the scary old kobold sorcerer. Hearing the scrape of metal on stone behind, she turns to see Winona crawling around the corner. “Sister! Help!” Her hand reaches involuntarily to her bandoleer for another brace of knives. No, that’s not going to work! she thinks, more to her cloak than herself, and instead yanks a flask of sleep gas out of her pouch and throws it at the kobolds.

Winona’s thoughts on watching the fight are more along the lines of, why can’t it be hell hounds or Tanar’ri or something else easy to deal with? She crawls forward and does what she can to at least keep her smaller companions alive while they fight the witch doctor, placing a mail-clad hand reassuringly on Rye’s back and casting cure light wounds.


Yamtwit glares angrily at the old kobold, sure that his sudden clumsiness must be his doing. He hefts the shillelagh in both hands over his head and charges, knowing that in his current state caution is basically pointless.



Frantiska almost grins at the sudden appearance of exposed targets at good range. She shoves her shield back towards Lyra with her foot as she drops to a kneeling position, “Lyra, do you mind being my shield-bearer?” Her elven-made bow comes up, four arrows on the string at once, and sends all four streaking towards the kobolds on the far end of the walkway.


Lyra checks for murder holes overhead that will need to be avoided as she scoops up the shield, as much hiding under it as wielding it. “The tunnel will give us some cover from the walkway overhead, and I don’t see any murder holes in the tunnel itself.”


Despite their “ambush”, the kobolds are surprisingly slow to react. Donovan’s ice knife slams into the chest of one kobold with exceptional force, leaving a large gaping wound, then explodes, freezing another three in their tracks. Nearby, four more go down with arrows protruding from their chests or between their eyes. Hrud easily brushes aside the flimsy spear-thrusts of the kobolds charging at him with his hammer, then takes off two of their heads with one swipe of his green-bladed sword. Teldicia, apparently having not needed Donovan’s support as she led him to believe gives him a wink as she leaps into the air, grabs the edge of the walkway, and swings her legs over, kicking the third kobold menacing Hrud solidly in the chest and sending it sprawling back into the passage from whence it came.

Three more spear-wielding kobolds, apparently undeterred by the death of their companions, charge along the catwalk towards the big barbarian. Two lunge for his middle, but Hrud easily backsteps, only to have the third shove the spear between his feet, sending Hrud toppling from the walkway. He hits the sloped floor of the stomach below then slides down the side into the acrid smelling, but harmless, pool of water at the bottom.

The other kobolds still on the walkway begin firing at Lyra, Donovan, and Fran below, but most of the small, barbed arrows clatter harmlessly off of the large shield that Lyra holds over them.


Angry (and a bit disoriented) at being removed from the fray, Hrud splashes to his feet and grabs one of the small spears dropped by the kobolds. In a huff, he flings it towards the walkway, very nearly hitting Teldicia due to his wrecklessness.


Donovan grins stupidly at the wink from Teldicia, stares slack-jawed at her panties disappearing over the lip of the walkway, then, not taking his eyes off her, casually tosses a handful of rose petals in the direction of the kobolds shooting gallery and mutters a few words.


Lyra continues to use the shield to protect Donovan, Frantiska, and herself from arrow fire.


Frantiska’s catches Donovan’s upturned face and lewd grin out of the corner of her eye. Someone has to do something about that lecher, she thinks. She dips the limb of her bow behind his knee and sweeps his legs out from under him, toppling him into the pool with Hrud. She quickly swings her bow up and knocks an arrow, but the tripping maneuver leaves her balance off and sends the shot flying wide.


Donovan manages to get his spell off before he is dumped in the drink. All of the remaining kobolds on the walkway, as well as Teldicia, suddenly slump and fall where they stand.


Donovan rises of out the pool, spitting and spluttering with soaked pantaloons and water dripping from his hair. He spares only a brief glance back at Frantiska, sure that the beautiful elf woman must have been saving him from some terrible attack, and tears his broadsword and stiletto from their sheaths.clumsily, ready to defend himself against whatever horrors must be lurking in the pool. He looks around the gallery, noting that none of the kobolds are moving, then lowers his weapons a little. “Did we get them all?” He walks up a few steps, shaking water off of his soft boots. “Judging by their reaction, I’m guessing the living quarters, and probably any treasure are up there…” he gestures towards the catwalk with his stiletto, then sheaths it.


Hrud moves back over to the rope and returns to the walkway, dispatching the remaining kobolds – and giving the dead ones an extra poke for good measure. He nudges the snoring green-haired elf with his toe as he passes her.



As Yamtwit charges by to get at the old kobold, the kobold guard smacks him in the back of the head with a side-handed swing of his club. Yamtwit stumbles forward, but still manages to land a solid blow on the old witchdoctor, knocking the ancient kobold backwards onto his rear. There is a sudden cracking and hissing noise as Ryesha’s flask of sleeping gas breaks on the ground near their feet, then sublimates into the air. The kobold cough and splutter a bit, but seem fine. Yamtwit, however, feels suddenly very lightheaded. He yawns widely and faints, unconscious to the ground.

The two kobolds let out exultant cries, loud enough to be heard echoing through the upper tunnels to the stomach gallery below. The injured kobold makes a small jump into the air, bringing his club down on Yamtwit with the force of his body weight behind it. The witchdoctor then stabs down into Yamtwit’s back with his flaming sword, searing a hole right through the poor goblin.


Yamtwit snores peacefully, oblivious to the beating he’s taking. He snorts a little when the flaming blade pierces him, but then just rolls over, still breathing contentedly, hugging and cuddling his shillelagh like a plush doll.



Lyra looks around wildly at the kobold cries echoing around the chamber. “That doesn’t sound good. Can anyone tell where it’s coming from?”


Teldicia emits a very unladylike grunt as Hrud kicks her, then slowly opens her eyes. She jerks instinctively when she notices how close to the edge of the walkway she is lying, causing the whole thing to sway slightly, then rolls closer to the wall before standing up. “I guess we won?” she says looking around.


Frantiska returns her bow, shield, and sword to their proper stowage and hauls herself arm over arm up the rope to the catwalk. She ‘tsks’ with distaste on seeing Hrud riffling through the kobolds belongings then looks around at the seven or so passages leading off the walkway. She points at three that run generally back towards the head-end of the dragon. “One of these…” she says, “but they are all too short to walk upright in…”


Having left his nic(er) shortbow outside with his pony, Hrud decides to take a shortbow and as many arrows and small spears as he can carry. The barbarian reasoning – albeit begrudgingly – that he’d better recover from his fall before charging into battle again. If he can’t kill the dog-faces up close, at least he’ll be ready to get at them from a distance.


Donovan sheathes his blades and stares at the passages Frantiska indicated, watching the reverberations of the kobold voices, like spikey balls of red sound bouncing off the walls. Finally he points at the left-most of the three passages. “The one on the left!” he says, running up the stairs to the rope and hauling his soaked paunch up to the catwalk.



Ryesha’s eyes go wide when she realizes her mistake. She reaches down and grabs one of the kobold spears then charges, holding it not point first, but crossways across her body at arms length so as to take up the whole width of the corridor.


The kobolds seem caught quite off guard by Ryesha’s unusual tactics. They look up from pummeling Yamtwit just in time to get closelined by the spear shaft. The old kobold raises his hands to try to fend off the attack, releasing his grip on the blade-like flame and causing it to sputter out and vanish. Rye’s momentum carries her and the kobolds a good two yards past Yamtwit’s body before the three of them go down in a tangle of limbs, spears, and clubs.


Winona crawls behind Rye as fast as she can, grabs Yamtwit’s ankles and drags him a few more feet away from the fracas before she starts trying to patch up the worst of his injuries.



With the weight of three people already moving around on it, along with the weight of the unconcious kobolds, Donovan’s shaking on the rope as he climbs up proves too much for the flimsy walkway. There is a shudder through the whole thing, followed by a harsh creaking noise as the bolts driven into the stone walls start to bend and pull free…


Hrud dashes & dives for the nearest side, not wanting to take yet another spill of the walkway.


Lyra ducks back into the tunnel, clear of the soon to be falling walkway.


Frantiska grabs Teldicia’s arm and leaps into the passage Donovan had indicated.


Donovan, being in the worse possible position, mutters a brief “Oh shit!” and lets go of the rope, tucking into a ball and throwing his arms over his head. Instinctively, his virus-addled brain begins using soften on the section of walkway directly over him.

To be continued…

Chapter 3: An Old Lady in Melvaunt: Part 5
Interlude: The Squatters in Onyx: Part 2


Yamtwit stares at the weasels for a bit, then notices his friends leaving. “It only lasts a few minutes…” he calls after them.

“You have no additional control over the beasts?” Frantiska asks.

Yamtwit just shakes his head in reply.

“They don’t look like they will allow themselves to be slaughtered either.” Frantiska sighs, “Donovan, can you incapacitate them in a more efficient manner? I would rather not leave predators behind us. Especially when they are likely to become hostile again in a matter of minutes…”


Donovan tosses a bit of sand in the weasel’s general direction and mutters some words. The two weasels, standing peacefully as they are, close their eyes and lay down to sleep.

“Come on…” Winona tucks her flind-bars back into her belt, picks up Ryesha in her arms, and stomps past the weasels and up the passage.


The passage at the bottom of the pit slopes gently downward for a few feet before leveling off. The walls appear to be made of thick, black peat, slick with moisture, with occasional patches of harder stone. The floor is hard-packed, but muddy, with an inch of standing, stagnant water. The ceiling low, but not uncomfortably so, perhaps 6 feet high.

The broken body of the second weasel that Teldicia threw down here lies in the center of a seven-way intersection. The ceiling here is higher here, almost twelve feet, and a small overlook can be seen in the wall opposite you as you come in, about nine feet off the floor. Directly across from where you came into the intersection and directly below the overlook is a small passage, only about four feet high, with a raised oaken portcullis set into iron tracks in the walls. The mechanism for raising and lowering the portcullis, clearly visible, appears to be controlled from the overlook above.

To your immediate right as you enter the intersection is a 3-foot-tall iron-bound door. Ahead and right is a narrow passage, sloping sharply upward. Centered between the two right-hand passages is a third, as tall as the one you came through, wide enough for Hrud to walk comfortably and running strait for a long ways.

Two passages lead off to the left. The closest being of similar height, width, and straitness to the central right-passage. The second left passage is wide enough for two men to walk abreast, but shorter, only about four feet high, and slopes upward at a steep angle.


Not sure where to go, Hrud tries to glean any information he can from the tracks by the passages.


There are some bloody weasel body-prints in the soft walls, but the muddy water covering the floor makes it almost impossible to see any tracks on that surface. Judging by the smell, Hrud decides that the portcullised passage ahead is clearly the weasels’ den. The metal-bound door on the right smells faintly of smoke.


Frantiska finishes off the two sleeping weasels cleanly, using Sir Guy’s Spoon to deliver sharp blows at the point where their spines meet their skulls. She retrieves her bow, slinging it over her shoulder, and proceeds up the hallways after Hrud and the others. Stopping at the intersection she asks, “Sister Winona, can you discern anything about these passages?”

Yamtwit whistles for Rast who comes to the edge of the pit and looks over, «Rast, keep watch up there, okay? We’ll be back in a bit…» He then turns, smiling unconsciously on seeing the fully intact giant weasels, or really their pelts, then scurries after the others.


Hrud crosses the chamber to where the overlook is and jumps, grabbing for the edge with one hand and using the hooked head of his hammer with the other, works himself up onto the ledge.


As Hrud pulls himself up onto the ledge, he finds himself looking eye-to-eye with a very frightend-looking kobold. The small god-like creature is lying flat on the platform, clearly trying its best to avoid notice. Seeing Hrud’s face crest the ledge, the kobold’s eyes go wide and it begins belly-crawling backwards away from the huge barbarian.


Smelling the smoke, Donovan turns and begins examining the iron-bound door. Looking at it closely with his heightend senses, pulling out a stiletto and carefully prodding it gently, and giving a light rap in the center and listening for any reverberations.


The bottom edge of the door, from the floor to about 6 inches up, is scorched, blackened, and brittle. It looks like a good hit could break off the bottom 3-4 inches of the door easily. Despite the damage at the bottom, the door is otherwise in good shape and the hinges look sound. The door is not locked. Judging from the echoes, it seems like the area beyond the door is mostly vertical, with some fairly dense metal structure in the center.


Hrud looms over the kobold, feeling almost sorry for him. “Iki banget ora adil. Nanging sampeyan nyoba kanggo matèni kita karo kéwan iku ora biso ditompo.” he says, drawing his sword. “Aku bakal cepet.” The barbarian attacks.

The first blow crushes the kobold’s spine, the second bisects it from stem to stern. It doesn’t even have time to scream.


Donovan stands up, “Looks like this door has been burned, a good kick could probably smash away most of the bottom half. Sounds like the other side is probably the bottom of another pit, vertical shaft, with something big and metal in the middle.” He points across the way, “Should we go check out the weasel-den, to make sure there are no more, then decide which way to go from there?”

Winona looks at the short passages and smaller door, “Exploring this place is going to require a lot of crawling…” Seeing Hrud let go of the ledge to swing at something, she make a ‘hmmm’ sound in her throat. “I vote we check all the areas that are big enough for us to swing our weapons and clear out as many kobolds as possible before sticking out heads into places where they can be easily speared.”

Rye, settling down a bit after the weasel incident, pulls out a pair of knives and heads boldly into the sloping passage near Hrud’s feet. Curling up and around to come out on the ledge. “Nothing else interesting this way,” she says, waving down at where Hrud dropped.

“Okay, one less passage to worry about.” Donovan says, “Rye, Yamtwit can you two do a quick scout of the other small ones?”


Lyra looks around, concerned. “They will have built their warrens so that they are at a tactical advantage.” Her mind went, briefly, to the decanter of endless water they’d found in the tower and their supply villagers with bows and arrows, then felt horrible for even considering the possibility.


Yamtwit grumbles, “Mwense yon komèsanpa yon Ekstèminatè.” He pulls out a club and points to the up-sloping passage on the left. “I’ll take this one I guess…”


A small trickle of water flows down the passage, which slopes up a short way then dead-ends at a large stone. Daylight can be seen around the edges of the stone and the flow of water is seeping beneath it. The stone has metal rings set into it, which are affixed to similar rings on the walls with iron spikes, preventing it from being rolled away from the outside.


Yamtwit slides back down the passage. “This one looks like an exit,” he says, then to Hrud, “Ana watu gedhe. Yen kita mindhah iku kita bisa metu.”


After looking around the overlook for anything interesting, Hrud climbs down to look at the rock Yamtwit spoke of. Hrud pulls the pins locking the stone in place and, hesitantly, opens it a little.


There is a slight rush of water as the stone moves and then, through the widened crack between the stone and the wall you see daylight. Vines overhang the opening in a rather unnatural way, as if some deliberate attempt was made to conceal the rock. The opening appears to lead out onto the same hill that the dragon’s head and neck were resting on, and you can see a bit of the thing’s tail curling around the hillside off to the right as you look out. Just outside the opening is a small depression in the hill, filled with stagnant, dark-brown water. Like the vines, the depression looks like it was artificially made—perhaps to conceal tracks that might identify this back door to casual observers, or to conceal some other security mechanism.


Donovan looks past Hrud at the opening to the outside. “Looks like a bolt-hole.” He smiles wickedly, “Hey Lyra, did you bring any of those exploding runes? The walls are soft enough that we could probably plant the boards in them, then just bomb this passage if they try to escape via the back door…”


Lyra nods, and looks around, doing some quick mental calculations involving blast radius and the apparent structural integrity of the warren. “I thought they might come in handy.”

Lyra shuffles through the stack of boards. “It might be prudent to check the hillside for other concealed entrances. I’m not sure collapsing a single tunnel will do much, but I think we actually have enough of these to bring down the entire hill, if we needed to. Aside from the dragon parts, the construction is rather poorly reinforced.”


While the others fuss about over what to do, Hrud takes another quick look around the area, on the off-chance that they might have missed something interesting before. Finally, sheathing his sword and reclaiming his spear from Donovan, he begins to proceed down the (relatively) open central passage [the one that runs straight for a while], keeping an eye out for unusual track patterns that might indicate another trap.


“Blowing up the hill sounds like a good start…” Winona grins. “Shall we just wait outside and kill anything that crawls out when the ground starts heaving?”

Donovan sighs and heads after Hrud. “They’ve been receiving tribute. It’d be a shame to destroy it. Let’s find their treasure room before we collapse the place…”


Lyra smiles and nods. “An excellent point. We should return what we can to the villagers.”


Hrud proceeds for about a hundred feet, bent over in half due to the low clearance. The smell of musk gets progressively worse as he proceeds. Then the passage opens up into a rounded chamber, littered with bones and fur. Three small giant-weasels, just slightly larger than their mundane brethren and covered with short, downy fur, lay sleeping, curled together in a ball. They start slightly and one opens an eye as the blue light from Hrud’s hammer illuminates the den.


Hrud glances around, doubting that he’d find much of interest, then leaves.

“Uwak cilik” he mentions to Yamtwit, as he returns, then heads down one of the other passages.


Hrud heads down the tallest of the right-hand passages. The tunnel is relatively strait, diverting only occasionally to avoid harder places in the ground, sloping up for a few feet, then subtly downward for a long stretch. The tunnel bottoms out at a dark, stagnant pool, deep enough to reach mid-calf on the barbarian. On the other side of the pool, you see the tunnel begin to slope upwards again.


Hrud pokes around in the water with his spear, waiting to see if any traps or creatures reveal themselves before continuing up the tunnel.

His spear comes out with a few leeches clinging to it. Hrud shakes the leeches from the spear, moves to one of the walls to cross the pool – stopping to check himself for (and remove) any leeches he may have picked up – and continuing up the passage.


The pool is no less deep around the edges, but is not too far across. After the pool, the passage slopes up more sharply and bends to the right, ending at the bottom of another pit, this one complete with a mess of metal spikes set into the floor with most of a skeletal lizard-man impaled on them, looking severely gnawed-on.


Donovan watches Hrud turn down the right-hand passage and then turns and looks at the left. “We should split up to cover more ground,” he says. “It looks like this lower level was meant for keeping the weasels more than anything else. I wager we’ll end up having to go through the burned door to reach anywhere interesting…” He checks his crossbow, then strikes out into the left-hand passage.

“Guess we’re with you then,” Winona says, falling into step behind Donovan, flail at the ready. “Come on Bunny.”


The left-hand passage runs flat for quite a ways, then bends sharply to the left, terminating at the bottom of yet another pit. In the light filtering down from above, Donovan spies a pile of recently dead kobolds and more heavily decayed lizard men crawling with large, hungry centipedes at the bottom of the long shaft.


Ryesha looks at the dead kobolds and the centipedes and begins backing up the corridor. “Well, we’re done here…” she squeaks.

Donovan nods, “Yeah, this is clearly the first pit we found.” He turns and heads back to the intersection. “Looks like the conspicuously burned, and therefore probably fire-trapped, door is the way to go…”

Winona looks grim. “Great…”, she says with a sarcastic eyeroll, “So who’s going first?”


Yamtwit shrugs, walks up to the small door, and pushes it open.

Frantiska kneels and levels an arrow at the door as it is opened, ready to fire at anything on the other side that moves.


Behind the small door is a spiral, iron staircase with wide shallow treads, going up about forty feet to another door. Empty, iron torch-brackets stick out of the wall, three feet off the ground, every eighth step. The staircase has a fair amount of carbon and rust built up on it, as if it has been regularly exposed to high temperatures.


Yamtwit raises an eyebrow, “Yeah….that’s not threatening at all…” he mutters. “Whatever happened to that dwarf who said he was good with traps and stuff?” He tightens his grip on his club and walks forward, placing a foot gingerly on the first step. “Here goes…”

Yamtwit waits with his foot on the step for a long, tense moment, then cautiously walks up a few more steps. His movements are slow and laborious and his muscles are tensed, sure that something horrible is about to happen any minute and ready to leap down the stairs into the hopefully waiting arms of his compantions.


Yamtwit reaches the seventh step up before he hears an unpleasant clicking noise. He throws himself backwards just as the front edge of the step collapses, followed by the rest of the steps, as they suddenly become a smooth ramp. As Yamtwit lands at the bottom of the staircase, on his ass but unharmed, two streams of thick black crude oil begin pouring down the slide from the top of the shaft. The door begins to slam shut, pulled by some kind of spring mechanism between the hinge and the frame…


Donovan stands watching, fascinated by the first real trap he’s ever seen, muttering, “I don’t like the look of that oil…”

Sister Winona, meanwhile, puts her shoulder into the door to hold it, then jams the metal shaft of her flind bars into the gap just below the hinge to wedge it open. Sister Rye, egged on by the whispers of her cloak, dashes in and grabs Yamtwit under the armpits. “Come on!” she says, trying to pull him up and back before something manages to ignite the stuff.


As Winona jams the door open, there is a spark as the iron shaft of her weapon hits against rough flint shards that have been set into the door’s frame. Luckily it does not hit the oil that has begun pooling at the bottom of the ramp-stairs.


“Thanks ladies,” Yamtwit says to the two Tyrran Sisters before stepping carefully back into the room and looking at the doorframe mechanism. “So, no fire…any guesses how it resets? Or how to get up an oil-slicked twisty-slide?”

Frantiska shoulders her bow and ducks through the door. “The torch brackets may help. For those of us tall enough to reach between them at least.” She sticks her head back through the door and calls out for Hrud, not too loudly, “Guru barbar, Hrud.. Anda seorang pendaki yang terampil. Bisakah Anda bangun jalan ini dan mengikat dari tali untuk teman-teman kecil kita?” She then turns to Lyra and Donovan, “Any other ideas?”


“Aku bisa pendaki. Ora ana wong duwe tali supaya mudhun nalika aku tekan ndhuwur?” Hrud replies, returning from his inspection of the reptilian corpse.


Yamtwit pipes up, “Big guy says he ca climb up but he needs some rope.”


Donovan passes a rope to Hrud. “If he can string it along the torch brackets, that would make a pretty effective railing for the rest of us to hang onto.”


Yamtwit translates, “Donovan ngandika kanggo dasi tali kanggo tandha kurung senter kanggo adamêl ril a.”


Hrud nods as he takes the rope and inspects the ramp, turning back to the group he asks, “Apa kowe bisa kanggo nglindhungi kawula saking latu, mung ing kasus?”


Lyra steps carefully up to the door, looking for exits and ignition mechanisms. “Climbing will be slow going, even with rope. It would be safer to either close the door and ignite it to burn off the oil before we go in, or bypass it entirely with a dimensional gateway.”


Winona looks at the doorframe again before replying to Lyra, “It looks like the thing was set up to make a person slide down the ramp, fall into the pooling oil here at the bottom, and then the slamming of the door would create sparks to set it off.” She points to the flint set into the plates of the metal hinges. “We could all just walk out of here and shut the door if we wanted to burn it off.”

“That could take hours,” Donovan said. “And fire and smoke in enclosed spaces tends to make it hard to breath afterwards. Using one of Lyra’s portals seems like a pretty good idea.”


Lyra’s dimension door opens into a small room, somewhere inside the petrified dragon’s lungs judging from the strange honeycombed, spongy appearance of the walls. A passage opens opposite the psionic doorway, obscured by an ornately-woven, wool rug, hanging over the opening—clearly not kobold work, and probably part of the “tribute” they’ve been receiving from the sheep farmers. A pile of weasel furs and woolen blankets makes a massive bed off to one side, and a trio of lizard-man skulls hang on the walls as crude trophies, giving this place the look of belonging to some kobold of importance, though it is currently vacant. Three knotted ropes hang from the curved 12-foot ceiling, somewhat incongruously, not low enough for a kobold to grab, even by jumping.

The Third Party: Session 16 (GMs notes)

30 Alturiak

The party stood indecisively staring at the teleporter that would take them down to the aboleth’s cave, dreading the coming confrontation with “Master”. Ash passed out a number of protective amulets that he had made with Grimnir’s help—simple devices that he said should guard against at least one use of the Aboleth’s enslavement powers. Traithe handed his gauntlets over to Melastasya, passed Krar-Nu-Get’s sword to an undead barbarian who had been given command of their detachment, and drew the sword of Halfrek. Tactics were discussed, if not quite agreed upon, and numerous spells were cast in preparation.

Finally deeming themselves to be ready, the large force joined hands and plunged into the portal.

They appeared back in the vast cave where they had first met the aboleth. The black lake stretched out before them, the great pipe in the center still siphoning off the black, viscous water to be deposited in the river above. Traithe and Kevorkian lit up their weapons with continual flame spells and Dame cast faerie fire into the water, outlining their massive, tentacled prey in cheerfully flickering pink lights.

Mel and the Barbarian dived into the water. Mel slipping the Amulet of Vulnerability onto one of the thing’s tentacles, and the barbarian hacking gleefully at it. As soon as his massive sword bit into the thing’s flesh, the colossal beast simply vanished.

While the party tensed and readied for the aboleth to return, Mel suddenly felt a sharp pain in her ankles, looking down to see a crazy-eyed, white-skinned, water-gulping halfling armed with a carving knife and fork gnawing on her achilles-tendon.

The aboleth reappeared, only to take a barrage of lightning bolts from Ash, Zorch, and their mephit allies, and promptly disappeared again.

Mel kicked the halfling away and dropped her own protective amulet over his head, freeing him from the Aboleth’s control. The halfling, dressed for a dinner party and sporting an outrageous accent, briefly introduced himself as “La Bouche of Tadoussac”, and made it clear that he was suddenly of a mind to eat some calamari (and that the party looked similarly “meat-like” to him), before the Aboleth appeared again.

This time the party was ready, and the entire undead brigade attacked as one, pounding into the flickering tentacled mass with everything at their disposal. Spears, swords, axes, and pikes bit into the Aboleth rending massive wounds. Traithe called down a burning moon beam and Dame once again lit it up with faerie fire. When it vanished once again, La Bouche pointed out that there was no displacement of water when it appeared and disappeared and Ash informed them that they were battling some kind if phantasm or projected image.

A quick locate creature from Ash pinpointed the actual aboleth as being deep below them, in the faintly phosphorescent, coral-like sahuagin city on the floor of the underground lake. Traithe, Kevorkian, Melastasya, La Bouche, and their undead hordes dove, sucking in the aboleth’s taint so as to be able to breathe the water and swimming down as fast as they could. Ash tried to stay dry, water-walking and directing them with message spells, but was yanked under by a pseudopod which manifested from the water itself. With a harrumph, the elf swam after them. Dame was the last to follow, transforming herself into a reef shark and darting after them at top speed.

As they neared the submerged city, a small army of six-armed sahuagin came pouring out. Their undead escort peeled off to intercept the sahuagin and the party kept swimming down, winding their way through the twisting, escher-like concavities of the city. After nearly a mile of swimming, their arms aching from pulling themselves through the thick, murky liquid, Ash directed them to a smaller cave near the floor of the lake, off to one side of the submerged city.

As they swam in, their minds were assaulted. La Bouche and their undead barbarian companion immediately turned on them, striking out at Melastasya, who was the closest target. Dame darted between the combatants and sunk her shark’s teeth into the glistening flesh of the aboleth who waited just inside the cave.

Traithe passed Verittanattukkut to Mel, the sword offering less resistance in the
water than her axes. Aided by a sudden burst of speed from the sword, Mel dove away from her more-humanoid assailants and swam directly into the aboleth’s gaping maw, stabbing at the insides of its mouth. The thing bit down on Mel with its many rows of jagged teeth, then grabbed Kevorkian with a tentacle and deposited him in the mouth with Mel.

Ash, ever the extremist when it comes to his toys, pulled out Yarash’s Spoon and transformed the poor aboleth into an ogre. The sudden writhing of the colossal tentacled monstrosity battered many of the party, and the collapsing size of the thing’s mouth bit into Mel and Kevorkian again. Mel slashed a hole in the not-quite-humanoid cheek for them to get out before it had completed shrank.

As if things couldn’t get worse for our poor-saving-throw rolling tentacled hero, Traithe then promptly paralyzed the aboleth-turned-ogre with Cyllibrym. Kevorkian freed Le Bouche from domination again using protection from good and evil, Mel ran interference against the dominated undead barbarian, and everyone else proceeded to beat the paralyzed ogre to a fine bloody mess.

Ash finally ended the thing’s suffering by freezing its brain with a ray of frost. The final brain-death of the aboleth had the beneficial effect of freeing the barbarian from his enslavement. Unfortunately, it also freed the party from their ability to breath underwater—all except for Kevorkian (thanks to his bracers), Dame (who was still a shark), and the zombie (who didn’t need to breathe in the first place) that is— Leaving them breathless and nearly crushed by the pressure of being 800 feet beneath the surface of the subteranean lake.

Everyone grabbed onto Dame’s dorsal fin and she swam out of the cave as fast as she could. Once in the larger lake, Ash, Mel, and Traithe activated their rings of water walking for some extra boyancy, and Ash bubbled out his last thunder wave spell which shot them all up to the surface like a cork from a bottle. Luckily their recent use of liquid ventilation saved them from decompression sickness. Kevorkian trailed after, hauling the body of the dead ogre.

When they reached the surface, they found Yarash (or his most recent clone) standing there, Zorch perched just above his shoulder, looking a little confused. He seemed to think the date was close to two hundred years prior, and had few recollections of his experiments with the aboleth or the sahuagin.

1 Ches

When Kevorkian surfaced, he offered Yarash the ogre body for his research, which was happily accepted. The party suddenly found themselves in Yarash’s surgery room, where the old vivisectionist quickly tore the aboleth-turned-ogre down into its component parts, carefully jarring and labelling the organs and limbs and placing them on their shelves next to the rest of his collection.

Kevorkian quickly asked for Yarash to help him get rid of his tattoo, by replacing his decorated arm with a new one. The old wizard happily strapped the cleric down to his workbench, sawed off the massive clawed arm that he had installed last time, and replaced it with a fairly normal-looking arm which he said came from a relatively small orc-ogre hybrid. Kevorkian then asked for some other upgrades, gaining an attractive new pair of black, dragon-like legs.

Melastasya asked to have her tattoo removed too and Yarash was happy to oblige, cutting off her red-scaled Slaad arm and then grafting some parts from a new specimen onto it as it was growing back. La Bouche asked about livers, had some rather convoluted discussions with Yarash who was very confused that he would want to smash and eat a perfectly good wyvern’s liver rather than having his own replaced with it, then requested a gastric update and was gifted with the stomach of a carrion crawler—which seemed quite appropriate given his indescriminate eating. The others, as usual, refused Yarash’s hospitality and kept their own organs.

La Bouche asked Yarash whether he had any eggs, which resulted in his opening a wall to reveal a cornucopia of eggs of all kinds, carefully preserved. La Bouche fixed a wide variety of hard-boiled eggs for Mel to eat, in order to fulfill her oath: eggs boiled in vinegar with mustard, boiled in kraken blood, spiced with cinnamon and cardamom, and so on. Melastasya’s small, girlish stomach was not really capable of holding that much food though, and she nearly wretched after the seventh, forcing Traithe to use a grease spell to coat the eggs and La Bouche to force-feed her to make sure she fulfilled the letter of her vow.

As the surgeries were taking place, the rest of the party relaxed and regrouped, taking a week to plan and plot what to do next. The excitable halfling gourmand fixed them a variety of interesting dishes, ranging from aboleth-ogre flank steaks to other things best left unmentioned.

They introduced the Blessed Afflictor to Yarash, who showed them that the skin he had taken from the Eraka woman was starting to decompose and show damage from their recent engagements. Yarash happily lead him to the vat room, where a pair of clones of Melastasya and Kevorkian had almost reached maturity. The Praetor took out one of the Kevorkian clones, skinned it, and worked his way into the new, pristine Kevorkian skin, turning him into a perfect lookalike of the cleric (had the real cleric not had half of his body parts replaced).

7 Ches

After being reminded of their oath made to the Blessed Afflictor, to see that he was safely escorted to “a place occupied by no less than eight thousand and eight living and mortal human souls”, the party decided to bypass Phlan and head strait to Hillsfar with their undead army. The army could march along the base of the Moonsea, but the rest of them would need a boat. Traithe and Ash (both magically disguised) and La Bouche, who was not yet known by the council, headed into Phlan to make see about hiring, buying, or stealing a ship.

Ash stopped by Kryptgarten, then moved around Phlan, taking in the news since their prolonged absence. It seemed that Kryptgarten was coping well, had even grown, but had regressed considerably socially, having burned down the church and tore down the bathhouses—the citizens, now numbering more than five hundred looked happy, filthy, and entirely human. Politics in Phlan seemed unchanged—the party was still the top public bounty (not counting the unspecified bounty for clearing the river), Lord and Lady Mondaviak were still quite popular (despite Squire Grimnir still being on the lamb and rumors that Markos was rather hen-pecked by his wife), and some positive construction and expansion of the walls was starting to be done into the Slums quarter.

Traithe wandered down to the docks and found that Valkur’s Wake was in port. He revealed himself to Nat Wyler and Captain Stormhammer, who were very happy to see “such a lucrative partner” despite having heard of the party’s persona non-grata status in Phlan. The dwarven sailors informed Traithe that all passage into and out of Hillsfar was still closed due to the plague, but agreed to get the party as close to city as possible if they could guarantee a load of settlers that could be returned to Phlan for a profit. After some more small-talk, the not-quite-law-abiding crew of Valkur’s Wake agreed to pick up the party on the far side of Thorn Island in two days, in order to avoid the party having to get through the town.

La Bouche entered town in fashion, passing out dozens of tarts and chocolates made with goodberries to the starving masses of the Slums, gathering quite the entourage and even some positive recognition from the guards watching the gates. Having been informed by Ash of the bounty for cleaning the river, he made his way to the Council Clerk’s office and boldly claimed that he could clean out the river forthwith.

The less-than-impressed head-clerk handed him the paper-work to fill out, which he promptly marked by stabbing his dagger through the entire stack (not like she hadn’t seen that kind of bravado before). Shrugging, the woman stamped an adventuring charter for “Mr. X” and handed it to him. La Bouche asked if there was a cafe from which they could see the river then invited the clerk to dinner. He headed to the Bitter Blade, ensconced himself on the rooftop patio that had recently been built at Lady Bivant’s request, and dropped a thousand electrum coins borrowed from the party on ordering a whole pig and its accompaniments.

La Bouche busied himself overseeing the preparation of his meal and invited anyone and everyone to join him. On the patio he could occasionally hear the soft thunk of an arrow from the orcs on the other side of the river. He tied a bundle of goodberries to a fat bird summoned using animal messenger and sent it over to the orcs with a message that “this bird is delicious, and so are its cargo”, which stopped the incessant shooting for a time.

The river, particularly upstream, had been getting steadily clearer over the last several days as the last of the aboleth’s toxin was pumped out of the underground lake and diluted by the spring thaw which was starting to swell the Stojanow. At a message from a La Bouche, the party sent their undead army, two-hundred thousand strong, marching along the floor of the river from Sorcerer’s Island south and then out into the bay. The steady push of so many bodies entering the river and displacing its water built an ever growing crest of water, which, by the time it passed the city, was a great, roiling white-capped wave pushing the last of the river’s contamination ahead of it and leaving the waters of the recent ice-melt clean, fresh, and pristine behind.

There was a mixture of cheering and stunned silence from the various people crowded on the roof watching the river. When the wave had passed and it was clear that the river was, in fact, clean, Markos Mondaviak made his way over to La Bouche to congratulate him and offered to personally escort the amazing halfling back to the Council Hall to see to his payment. La Bouche accepted and walked to the building along with Markos, the Clerk, and Markos’ wife. There they were met by the rest of the Council, word having quickly spread through the small civilized portion of town.

La Bouche was thoroughly, if discreetly, scanned for all manner of evils, magic, or deceptions. When none was found, guards brought out a chest, and Markos proudly announced that the not-too-public reward for the clearing of the river was 100,000 gold pieces in uncut gems from the Bivant mines. The councilmen took turns opening each of the seven locks on the chest so that La Bouche could see, then closed it and passed him the keys. Markos then offered to make La Bouche the new “Squire of Kryptgarten”, sighting that the property had fallen under mismanagement and needed a such skilled hands as his to guide it. La Bouche accepted, and, while he was distracting the crowd with proclamations and obeisances to the Council, Traithe quietly lifted the chest with his ogrish strength, and vanished back to the docks.

The Amazons: Session 6

19 Hammer

The ladies were awakened in the middle of the night by a sudden, violent tremor in the ground. The floor beneath them lurched and deep rumbling sounds could be heard in the distance. They all rushed out into the common room to see the few other guests sleeping in the inn (lots of locals, but not a lot of travelers using the place in the winter) gathering in a similar state of panic. They ran outside just in time to hear what sounded like a massive explosion echoing through the valley, clearly coming from the north, but could see nothing in the overcast night.

They waited, shivering, for several minutes but the ground did not stop quaking, and still there was no sign of the cause. The tremors continued, but grew weaker, and finally they returned indoors. Hira stoked the fires in the common room up and tried to calm the panicked patrons, as well as the villagers who were similarly awakened and had begun congregating in the caravansary to learn what had happened.

By dawn the tremors had still not stopped. Going back outside, they could see now that the entire peak of the second mountain, which Hira had called Duvan’ku, looked like it had been blown away. The mountain was clearly several hundred feet shorter than it had been, and still the grown quaked.

After several wide-eyed appellations of “Holy Shit!” and “What the fuck!?” and similar blasphemies from the Amazons, Hira spoke up.

“If you still desire to go up the mountain, I am coming with you…I have to learn what caused this.”

Had Enough looked at Battle Cry, her face white, “You don’t think the squire actually had anything to do with that do you?”

“My vision was interrupted by the Earthquake, but from what I could gather, he is still up there and was at least alive right before it happened…” Battle Cry responded.

There was more astonished and exasperated cursing from the girls.

“Vengeance is hard…” Princess sighed.

“Let’s go then,” said Worthy of Armor in her usual matter-of-fact manner.

Hot Flanks turned to Hira, “So which would be the faster way up there, going around to Verdegris or climbing strait up the side?”

“Climbing would probably be most efficient. Even in the summer it is four days ride to Verdigris.” Hira admitted, “The village of Rhund lies at the foot of the near peak. If the weather holds we should be able to reach it before dark. Finding a path up to the ridge will be a challenge though, and there is the giant to be concerned with…”

“Sounds like we’ll have to do some climbing and kill a giant then,” Battle Cry said, almost gleefully.

The other girls assented and quickly packed up their gear for the rushed journey. The villagers were more than happy to lend the girls ropes, pitons, climbing axes, snowshoes, furs, and other gear to aid in their travels. They left Mfara and the mule at the caravansary for safekeeping and headed out with laden packs.

They strapped on their snowshoes and practically ran up the pass, following a semi-worn trail between the two villages. About an hour on, they ran into a group of travelers heading south who informed them that the village of Rhund had been flattened by the earthquakes, the lake at the Stojanow’s headwaters further dammed by rockslides, and the giant out, about, and angry. They thanked the refugees and rushed on.

“Anyone every fought a giant before?” Princess asked. “They’re more or less human, right? So stabbing with the Handsome Prince should work?”

“If you can reach their vitals, sure,” said Hot Flanks. “But given that it’s a FROST giant, a few fireballs should deal with it pretty handily. I suggest we keep our distance and just blast the thing…”

“How about we ignore the thing and focus on our mission,” Don’t Fail said. “As dangerous as the giant may be, an exploding mountain and six hour long earthquakes with a known psychopath involved seems like a more existential threat to the region…”

They ran on.

A few hours later, their muscles aching but at least warm from the exertion, they came to the base of the mountain. The mountainside was strewn with rubble and the river was reduced to a trickle from the blockage. They scrambled up the side of a rock pile and looked down on the village of Rhund, almost entirely collapsed. Sitting on the edge of the lake that formed the headwaters of the river, was a massive blue-skinned man, easily thirty feet tall, with a sparse white beard, dangling his feet in the icy waters and wearing nothing save for a tartan kilt.

As Hot Flanks leveled her club at him, he turned and smiled. “Ah,” he said, “you look like the right girls.” Hot Flanks hesitated and he stood, rising to his full height. “I have a letter for you. I’m sorry it took so long to deliver, but I didn’t not have your names to forward it along.”

They all looked confused, but Don’t Fail was the first to speak, “You…have a letter for us?”

“Just a short missive really.” The giant knelt down and placed a folded and sealed piece of paper on a nearby rock, then stepped away. “From a mutual friend.”

“We don’t have many friends in this place,” Battle Cry spoke up. “and fewer still who would leave a message with your like. What kind of trick are you pulling?”

“No trick little ladies. A friend sent this to me with the request that it be delivered to a band of six female adventurers of a southern persuasion. She did not give names, so I must assume it is you, since I do not know your names.”

“Lady Bivant?” Don’t Fail asked quietly, gesturing with one hand to indicate that Princess should attempt to flank the giant. Princess disappeared into the shadows of a nearby boulder and Don’t Fail cautiously approached the giant and his letter.

“Would it make you more comfortable if I were farther afield?” The giant asked, taking a gigantic step back and kneeling down with his hands palm-down on the ground. “This way I will be in less of a position to cause you harm.”

“Thank you,” Don’t Fail said, and she picked up the letter and walked back to the others, stepping backwards and keeping her eyes on the giant.

“The seal is not Lady Bivant’s,” Worthy of Armor stated. “I do not know it.”

“Let’s just read it then,” said Hot Flanks impatiently, her club still pointed at the giant.

Don’t Fail scanned the letter with spells to detect and read magic, in case it may be a trap, and, finding nothing, broke the seal. It read:

Let us know if we can help,
— Former people in charge of Kryptgarten.

“The Squire?!” Don’t Fail exclamed. The girls eyes went wide and they turned, just in time to see Princess, perched on a rock just behind the kneeling giant leap, blade drawn, at the towering man’s exposed back. Princess slammed into something in mid-air, feet from the giant’s skin, and slid down to the ground.

“That was not very polite,” said the giant, rising to his feet, a gigantic maul suddenly in one hand and a tiny metal rod balanced on the tip of the opposite finger. “If you do not like the message, killing the messenger is not the answer.” He tilted his head, stretching his neck muscles with the sound of a collapsing glacier, and looked down at Princess. “How can we fight if we still haven’t even been properly introduced? My name, for instance, is Sorrassar.”

“What, can’t even spell Sorcerer right?” Princess quipped.

“Alright,” Hot Flanks said, stalking forward with her club, “I’m Hot Flanks. She’s Princess. Our sisters are Battle Cry, Don’t Fail, Worthy of Armor, and Had Enough…and you’re dead!” She pointed the club and shouted “May you burn in the fires of Flandal’s forge!” A fireball streaked from the end of the club, then burst against the unseen barrier, leaving the giant unharmed.

The giant sighed, a deep, mournful noise, like cold wind through a graveyard. “Those are NOT your names,” he said. “Very well, if that is how you’re going to be.” He pointed the finger with the tiny rod balanced on it at Princess. A beam of coruscating, rainbow colored light engulfed her and she vanished.

Princess reappeared sitting on her big, plush, four-poster bed, in her chambers in the palace of the Crown Duke of Threskel, a thousand miles to the south and east. “Noooooooooo!” Princess screamed, stabbing Handsome Prince into one of the pillows, just to make sure it was solid. The door opened and her father smiled, “I was wondering when you’d get home…”

Meanwhile, back in the north, after seeing Princess be “disintegrated”, the other six girls burst into action. Hot Flanks dropped the club and charged with her sword, Mantooth, the blade struck the magical barrier protecting the giant and shattered it with a flash of light and the sound of tinkling glass.

As the barrier collapsed, Worthy of Armor drew her scimitar and hurled it at the Sorrassar, the whirling blade cutting a deep gouge in the giant’s leg before returning to her hand. Hira raised a hand to the sky and a brilliant ray slanted down from the dim winter sun, right into the giant’s eyes, blinding him and burning his face.

Had Enough charged in through the gap, her claymore held high, but was caught by a mighty, underhanded blow from the giant’s hammer which sent her sailing into the air. Don’t Fail pointed a finger at her, and she froze, suspended, fifty feet off the ground.

Battle Cry was only a step behind Had Enough, singing an old Hlondathan battle hymn and running flat out. She jumped, kicking the giant in the knee, then scrambling up to lock on to his arm holding the hammer, wrapping her arms around his elbow, straitening her back, and bracing her feet into his arm pit to immobilize the limb.

From her position hanging in mid-air, Had Enough dropped her sword, leveled a crossbow, and planted a bolt in the giant’s side. Then Don’t Fail’s spell wore off and she tumbled back to the ground, only to have her movement arrested again, only a few feet off the ground by a second application of the spell.

The giant tried to shake Battle Cry free, but was unable to, despite his greater strength. Finally he was forced to drop his tiny wand and grab Battle Cry with his free hand. She kicked him, hard under the chin as he swung her away from his arm and began to crush the life out of her.

Hot Flanks, meanwhile grabbed the dropped wand and pointed it at Sorrassar, grinning maniacally. “Hey Battle Cry,” she yelled, “what do we want?!”

VENGEANCE!” came the gasping response, as Hot Flanks read the runes written on the side of the wand out loud. The blast of light shot at the startled giant who dropped both Battle Cry and the hammer as he raised his hands in a futile attempt to ward off the magic of his own wand.

The light engulfed Sorrassar and he vanished.

Once everyone had picked themselves up, Hira informed, thanks to a locate creature spell, them that Princess was still alive, just in a palace thousands of miles to the south.

“Holy shit!” Battle Cry said, “That wand sent her HOME!?”

“She’s going to be pissed…” Hot Flanks added, tucking the wand into her belt. “I wonder where the giant ended up?”

“Who cares,” Had Enough said. “At least he’s out of our way.”

“Yes,” said Don’t Fail point at the quarter-mile-high, sheer cliff-face of the mountain. “We still need to get up there…”

Worthy of Armor began unpacking the climbing gear they had borrowed from the villagers and tying ropes together. “Let’s get started then…”

As the others got ropes ready and switched out their snowshoes for climbing harness, Hot Flanks sat down and painted a trio of strange symbols on her cloak. Once everyone was ready, she splashed a handful of water from the lake on the first symbol and put on the cloak, which turned into a large pair of wings. “Okay,” she said, tying one end of the rope to her belt and picking up an armful of pitons and the giant’s hammer, which was much smaller than when he held it. “I’ll fly up and set the spikes, then you guys can just clip and scamper up the rope…”

They did just that. She flew up, hammering pitons and feeding the rope through them, trying to pick a path up the cliff with additional handholds. The others followed, climbing slowly. Occasionally Hot Flanks stopped and grabbed the rope as her wings started to revert to cloak, spitting on the next symbol to renew the effect. After three hours, the exhausted girls reached the top off the cliff and rested in a large cave with a large depression, like an empty pond, in the middle of it.

The tremors had, but this point stopped. Tired as they were, the girls only rested an hour, eating a light meal of week-old horse meat, before continuing.

Outside the cave, they found a narrow path leading around the side of the mountain and up, winding towards the peak. They walked single file, keeping a rope tied around their wastes, linking them together with about six feet of slack between each of them. The wind howled, threatening to send them tumbling to their deaths, but eventually they made the top intact. They walked over the ridge of the peak and stopped, dumb-founded by what they saw below.

On the mountain ridge between the peak they had climbed and the second peak, called Duvan’ku, was a large, ancient city, but this was not what amazed them. What amazed them was the huge army of walking corpses, hundreds of thousands of them, snaking their way down the north side of the mountain, and with them, resting on palanquins born by their undead slaves, was the Squire of Kryptgarten and his companions…

“We have to warn Phlan…” someone whispered.

To be continued…