Ruins of Adventure

The Amazons: Session 3

It was the dead of winter and the city Phlan had basically shut down. The streets of the slums were basically impassable masses of snow, the surrounding farmers had bought their supplies months ago and holed up, the harbor was too choked with ice for the fishermen to work, and the gates were shut more often than not. In one corner of the city, however, seven women were sitting down to breakfast.

Following their success against Noriss the Grey, the Amazons had moved up in public opinion from being oddly-attractive mercenaries to being local heroes. So, today, they found themselves sitting in the drawing rooms of Councilwoman Elissa Bivant-Mondaviak sipping tea, eating scones, and discussing local gossip. It was all very boring until the Councilwoman handed over a flier for the girls to look at.

WHAT?!” was the general outcry.

“That will be publicly posted tomorrow on the doors of the Council Hall, the Training Hall, the Temple of Tyr, and every gate.” Elissa responded.

“But…we just saved them…” Battle Cry said. “Now they are wanted criminals?”

“Yes,” Elissa’s voice betrayed her calm outer demeanor. “We have been hearing odd rumors from Kryptgarten for some time. Councilman von Urslingen has traveled there numerous times and reported that the Squire had been forcing the people to wash, ordering strange religious accouterments, and even feeding the people the flesh of dead orcs…”

“They eat orcs?! I think I’m going to be sick…” Princess interjected.

“Yes. When we first crossed over from Hillsfar, many people on the boat had the ague.” Had Enough, said. “The captain of the ship stopped on Thorn Island to enforce a quarantine, and Grminir and his companions did, in fact, boil the bodies of dead orcs to feed us all…”

“The city watch also caught one of the Squire’s wards setting up an illegal gambling operation in the middle of the market, in broad daylight, not once, but three times, including taking bets from the orcs and goblins as to how long it would take them to destroy the city. Then people started turning up with odd wooden coins, saying they were promised free drinks at Kryptgarten…”

“Wait…is that scrip? Are they printing their own money now?” Worthy of Armor looked confused.

“Nothing wrong with free drinks,” Hot Flanks said.

“No, there is nothing in the law against offering free drinks. However, it seems that they were offering free drinks to the Orcs…and…other things. Deliberately inviting the most degenerate of the city’s enemies to drink at their keep.” Elissa took a sip of tea, the cup rattling against the saucer from her hands shaking. “Then there were complains from the fisherman’s guild against one, Master Delbar, claiming that he had somehow massively undercut their prices and was creating a monopoly. This Delbar was arrested and admitted to working with the Squire and his companions to establish an agreement with xvarts, kobolds, and bugbears to provide him with fish at criminal rates so as to ruin the economy of our city. This testimony was corroborated by citizens of Kryptgarten, who reported large shipments of fish being delivered to the keep’s tavern regular by blue-skinned goblinoids…”

“So, we’ve got some weird cult activity, illegal gambling, and some economic shenanigans. That hardly seems worthy of a death sentence,” Battle Cry said.

“Yes, were that all, I am sure the Council would have called the Squire in to discuss his crimes and arrange reasonable restitution.” Elissa put down her cup and looked at the ladies, her face deadly serious. “Two weeks ago, a number of Kryptgarteners came before the council complaining of unfair and torturous treatment at the hands of the squire. What they brought as evidence was truly shocking…”

“What?” asked Hot Flanks, sitting on the edge of her chair and looking excited in precisely the wrong way.

“…the boiled head of a woman.” Elissa choked on these last words.

WHAT?!” Worthy of Armor shouted.

“Apparently the Squire threatened to ‘make soap’ out of any settler who questioned the Squires arrangements with the cities inhuman enemies. Those that continued to question him were either boiled alive, publicly, or else found dead in their beds with their throats slit…”

There was a long silence before Elissa continued. “The settlers brought many other pieces of evidence—plans for a strange columnar temple with a mass water-heating system that the Squire was forcing them to build, strange plush idols of a great crocodillian monstrosity, and a strand of some fifty human fingers which were part of a collection kept by the Squire’s hobgoblin groom. There can be no doubt that the Squire of Kryptgarten is not only a traitor in league with Phlan’s enemies, but a brutal and sadistic killer in league with the forces of Hell.”

At this point Princess did retch and Worthy of Armor pounded her fists on the table. “Allow me to seek out these murders, Lady Councilwoman.”

Battle Cry chimed in, “Yes, Assuran demands that we seek his vengeance against any who would commit such atrocities,” and Hot Flanks nodded.

Don’t Fail stood up and handed the flyer back to the noblewoman. “It seems that we are all in agreement that these criminals must be stopped. We will go to Kryptgarten at once. If they are there we will bring them to justice. If not, we shall see to the aid of the people they have mistreated and secure the keep until the Squire and his allies should return…”

Elissa nodded, “The Council would be most greatful for your assistance. We are prepared to offer…”

“No,” Worthy of Armor said. “Do not even offer. We must do this as penance for aiding and abetting these traitors. Had we known any of this we would have left them to their fate when Noriss the Grey’s army attacked them…”

Princess looked up horrified, though whether from the thought of facing the demon-worshipers, or the thought of not getting paid for it was anyone’s guess.

Their was a wrap on the door and the girls looked up to see the Councilwoman’s young husband walking in. “Forget the Council’s posted reward then, ladies.” Markos Mondaviak said. “Squire Grimnir’s lands are forfeit. The keep and its lands once belonged to my family, and the people of Kryptgarten deserve caring and law-abiding rulers. If you deal with the Squire, all of his lands and possessions are yours.” He smiled. “And I will not take no for an answer…”

“Yes,” Elissa said, rising and taking his arm. “My husband is quite right. Given the Squire’s breech of faith Kryptgarten does need defenders, and I can think of no one better than you girls.”

Princess stood up, smiling now, and extended her hand. “Very well. We’ll catch this guy for you.”

“Dead would be preferable.” Markos said, bowing and kissing her hand, “No need to put yourselves at additional risk trying to bring these ruffians in alive.”

“May we have a copy of the official, signed notice?” Don’t Fail asked. “It may be helpful for encouraging cooperation from the Kryptgarteners.”

“By all means,” Elissa handed the document back to Don’t Fail. “We can have the clerks draw up extras if you need them…”

The ladies asked around the town for more information about Kryptgarten, but heard much of the same—racial tensions, weird cults, angry fishermen, free booze. Had Enough, feeling some kinship for the ex-Hillsfaran settlers in Kryptgarten urged them to move immediately, but Don’t Fail managed to hold them in check.

“These are clearly dangerous folk,” she said. “The announcement will not be made until the morning, and it will likely take some time to reach them given the snow. There is no reason to rush into it.”

“What about those funny coins?” Princess asked. “Maybe we can find some of them floating around and avail ourselves of Kryptgarten’s hospitality to get closer and learn more.” The others agreed that this was not a bad idea, and so spent the afternoon asking around in the taverns and inns, looking for some of this “Krypt-Scrip”. By evening they were able to round up one wooden coin a piece and agreed to set out in the morning.

They slipped out of the city gates just as the first notice was being nailed up, leaving their horses behind in care of the liverer rather than force the creatures to wade through knee-deep snow. The path between Phlan and Kryptgarten was well-marked and well-traveled these days, but still covered in deep drifts in many places.

The walk took all of the morning and it was past noon when they heard the deep echo of Kryptgarten’s black-iron church bells, and almost an hour later before they reached the small settlement (for it was now much more than a keep). The tavern and church both appeared to be bustling, even at this early hour, though several guards were posted at the doors of both.

“What kind of a tavern needs chain-clad, sword-wielding soldiers?” Battle Cry asked.

“The kind that has orcs for regulars…” Hot Flanks suggested.

They walked up to the doors of the tavern, flashed their funny-munny to the guards, and strode in. The place was an odd mix. Farmers and settlers kept to the shadows around the edges, huddled in small, quiet groups. The center was taken up by orcs, goblins, and other things, all chatting happily in their strange tongues and drinking heavily, one orc even stood on a table reciting something that seemed like poetry (judging from the meter if not the words). The bar staff all wore armor, seeming to eye the farmers with more suspicion than the rowdy monsters. The bar itself was a tall wooden affair, behind which were three great tuns of mead (it seemed that the bar served nothing else) and a large black board on where were listed all manner of commodities commonly traded in Phlan and their prices.

Hot Flanks looked around then whispered to the others, “There is not a single woman in here…”

“Probably because orcs are serial rapists…” Had Enough whispered back.

Sure enough, the orc poet on the table spotted them and said something very loud, gripping its private parts (which were unfortunately not covered by the orc’s short tunic) and drawing the attention of the crowd towards them. A couple of orcs advanced menacingly on the girls.

“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea…” Princess said.

“Really?” Battle Cry grinned. “A bar fight sounds about perfect right now.”

Just then, the door behind them opened and a short, scrawny hobgoblin, dressed in robes and bedecked with strings of severed fingers walked in. The hobgoblin glared at the orcs and grunted something in their language and the excitable creatures returned to their drinking.

“My deepest apologies ladies,” the hobgoblin said. “If you are here for drinks I’d suggest you visit the keep, we are serving drinks inside for those who would prefer more polite company.”

“Are you in charge of this establishment?” Don’t Fail asked, trying not to look at the strings of fingers.

“No. I am but a humble priest.” The hobgoblin bowed, “My name is Grinkle, priest of the betrayer in battle, chef to Lord Grimnir, and steward of the Kryptgarten.”

“Betrayer in Battle?” Battle Cry said, trying to sound polite, “I am not familiar with goblin religion, who is the betrayer in battle?”

“Why our Lord Grimnir, of course.”

“Thank you sir,” said Don’t Fail, “I think that is enough, we will come back for our drinks at a more opportune time.”

The girls left quickly and adjourned to the edge of the nearby woods to talk.

“The Squire has priests?!” Worthy of Armor looked appalled.

“So he makes himself out to be a god?” Battle Cry said, “And thus claims power of life and death over his subjects. Cute…”

“Looks pretty cut and dry,” Hot Flanks sighed. “Farmers cringing in fear on the edges of a building they built themselves, orcs running amok with their cocks out, hobgoblin stewards sporting chains of severed human fingers, commodities price fixing, creepy churchbells…Fuck!”

Princess’s face was white, “They….they…had barbs…” She looked ready to throw up again. “Why do orcs have barbs on their cocks?!”

“Let’s not even think about it.” Battle Cry suggested. “Let’s just go kill them all.”

“We’ve certainly confirmed much of what the Councilwoman said. I presume that their investigation was thorough, and we do have a warrant for the Squire’s execution.” Don’t Fail pulled out the rolled up and sealed notice and tapped it against the back of her hand. “There are too many orcs in there, though. And civilians. And our goal is the Squire and his co-conspirators.”

“Yes,” said Worthy of Armor, “we need to find a way to get the settlers to safety before we unleash hell.”

“Once they are out though,” said Hot Flanks. “We torch that faux-church, torch the tavern, and hang that screwy squire by his own entrails in Hoar’s name!”

“Hang him by his entrails?!” Princess asked skeptically.

“It’s a figure of speech,” Battle Cry insisted. “Hoar’s will is that we kill him in the manner in which he killed his own victims. Which in this case means that we, literally, boil him in his own pudding…”

(GM) “Hiiiiiissssssssss.”

“Hey the joke wasn’t that bad,” Battle Cry said.

(GM) “No…that was the giant white crocodile-scorpion monster standing behind you.”

The girls turned to see a massive albino crocodile, easily 20-feet from its nose to the tip of the stinger on its segmented, scorpion-like tail. Long boney spines jutted from the creature’s back, decorated with impaled skulls and strung with entrails. The thing reared up on four hind-legs and swiped at Battle Cry with its two fore-claws. The first blow tore open her right shoulder, the second ripped out her throat. Battle Cry fell, bloody and broken, soundlessly into the snow.

Worthy of Armor gave a mighty shout and threw her scimitar at the thing’s head. The monster ducked just in time, but the whirling, magically sharpened blade cut off a dozen of the beast’s spines, which rained clattering down onto its back. Had Enough charged the thing with her greatsword, hitting hard, but the blade simply struck a ringing note off of the monster’s stone-hard hide without leaving a dent.

Don’t Fail pulled her elven cloak around herself and dropped down in the snow beside Battle Cry, practically vanishing. Under this cover, she searched through Battle Cry’s possession, finding her potion of regeneration it pouring it into the gaping hole that had been her friend’s throat.

Hot Flanks quaffed a potion, then glared at the creature, focusing her rage at the death of her friend at the thing and willing it to suffer incredible pain. “Now!” she shouted at Princess, calling on tactics they had used often. Princess, who had maneuvered around to the thing’s side, leaped on its back through the opening in the spines that Worthy had made and jabbed the Handsome Prince deep into the creature’s neck.

The creature roared in pain and lashed out with its tail, driving the spine clear through Princess’s back and out through her chest with her heart still impaled on the point.

Had Enough, more brave than wise as usual, swung again and again failed to penetrate the beast’s hide. “Stop that!” Don’t Fail yelled, “you clearly need magic to harm that thing.” Had Enough nodded grimly, tossed her sword aside, and jumped up on the creature’s back, grabbing for the Handsome Prince.

Worthy of Armor threw her scimitar again, this time gouging a bloody line all the way down the creature’s left side, nearly severing its foreleg. Don’t Fail rolled away from Battle Cry’s body and pulled a torch from her pack, lighting it with a simple spell. “Shall we see if fire works?”

Hot Flanks smiled, “YES!” She pulled out her iron club, leveling it in the monster’s direction.

“Wait!” Don’t Fail yelled, you’ll hit Had Enough.

Hot Flanks hesitated just long enough for the beast to strike Had Enough a powerful blow with its tail. While it failed to impale her, the blow was strong enough to send Had Enough flying. She slammed into a tree several feet away.

“Now!” Don’t Fail yelled.

“May you burn in the fires of Flandal’s forge!” Hot Flanks screamed in response, and a massive ball of flame blossomed over the monster’s shoulder, searing the skin of its back black. “Looks like that works.” She said smiling.

The creature, howling in pain, surged forward, lashing out at Hot Flanks with four of its claws, tearing through her leather cuirass and leaving large bloody gouges in the flesh beneath. Hot Flanks, enraged, drew her club and shoved her hand into the beast’s mouth. “May you burn in the fires of Flandal’s forge!” she screamed again. The monster happily closed its jaws on her arm, shielding her and the rest from the fiery detonation that followed. The crocodile-monster appeared to expand, slightly, then smoke poured from its nose, ears, and eyes. The thing collapsed into the snow, unmoving.

Hot Flanks collapsed right beside it, cradling her arm which had been severed just below the elbow. Don’t Fail rushed to her side, laying hands on the wound to stop the bleeding, while Worthy of Armor walked over and stabbed the thing several times with her magical scimitar for good measure.

“What in Hoar’s name was that?” Hot Flanks said once she had composed herself.

“Some sort of demonic mascot I presume,” said Worthy of Armor. “The same was depicted on their flag as we came in.”

Had Enough walked over and retrieved Princess’s body, and pulled the Handsome Prince not at all gently out of the beast’s back. “Hot Flanks handless, and Battle Cry and Princess dead, and we haven’t even reached the Squire himself yet…”

“Nor dealt with the orcs and goblins.” Don’t Fail added. “Though, Battle Cry will recover.” She pointed to where the wounds on her neck and shoulder were already closing. “Those potions work wonders. As soon as her trachea is repaired she should start breathing again, and be fully functional shortly thereafter. I only wish we had more than just the one…”

“Great, we’re still five where we were six, and most of us injured,” Worthy of Armor said, fighting back tears. “We should withdraw, see Princess laid to rest, then make a proper plan of assault. Dealing with these treasonous heathen will not be an easy task.”

“Yeah, that fireball may have drawn the attention of some in the keep,” Don’t Fail added, “we’d best move fast.”

They gathered up their weapons, made a makeshift stretchers for Princess and Battle Cry from branches and cloaks, and hightailed it back to Phlan.

The Third Party: Session 10 (GMs notes)
In which the party experiments with teleporters in a maze, and the wizard fights all the monsters solo...

9 Uktar

The party returned to Kryptgarten late in the evening to find the citizens of Kryptgarten arrayed for battle, armored and torch-wielding, surrounding Melastasya’s Tavern and engaged in a shouting match with a large contingent of orcs, xvarts, and other “monsters” who had come to avail themselves of their free drink tokens. They arrived just as things were about to come to blows and stepped in quickly.

Melastasya snuck into the Tavern, conveniently built right on top of the secret passage into the Keep, through the back door. She offered more free drinks and convinced all of the tavern’s patrons to follow her down into the secret passage and into the keep, where she opened another tun of mead.

Grimnir and Ash called all of the human settlers into the bathhouse, saying that they needed to have an important meeting regarding dire threats nearby that were able to age a man by half his life instantly. This, plus Grimnir’s obvious state of decrepitude, got their attention and they, somewhat reluctantly and still with a great about of “rabble rabble” made their way to the bathhouse/meeting hall (because where else would Grimnir hold a meeting).

Grimnir started pontificating, trying to calm the crowd and talking about “cleaning up Kryptgarten”. Ash (hooded) slipped through the crowd and pulled three of the loudest rabble-rousers up to the front of the crowd. He insisted that he needed to show them something, pulling out the basilisk eyes, and was sad to learn that the eyes no longer possessed the power to petrify. He was even more disappointed to learn that the hyper-xenophobic ex-Hillsfarrans recognized his long, slender elven fingers as being “NOT HUMAN”.

One of the three rabble-rousers grabbed the front of Ash’s tunic and poved to punch him, only to get repelling blasted into a pot of boiling water by Grimnir. “I dub thee, Irish Spring,” said the squire, who then proceeded to explain that anyone who committed violence in Kryptgarten without his express order would be boiled and rendered into soap and used to, quite literally, clean up Kryptgarten.

Meanwhile, Melastasya tried to communicate with the, now quite drunk, orcs and other things. The especially orcs, it seemed, were itching for a fight. She tried to pick out a leader among them to make an example of, only to learn the hard way about the oddly-egalitarian horde mentality that all orcs possess. The orcs jostled to show that they were all equally strong (accompanied by many grabbings of their manly bits and offers to rape the old woman to prove it).

Finally Melastasya managed to re-direct their attention away from her, first by saying that they should attack the humans gathered in the bathhouse. She rethought that and tried to convince them to go loot the unprotected hobgoblin holdings, but the aggressive, blood-thirsty orcs were already in motion, charging out the front doors of the keep. She ran alongside, trying to talk them into another target, only to be rebuffed by suggestions that “yes, but there are women right there”. Finally she gave up on diverting the orcs and messaged Grimnir, telling him that he should just let the Kryptgarteners kill the orcs.

Which is exactly what happened. The excited and drunk orcs charged into the bathhouse to find themselves outnumbered 4-to-1 by armed, armored, and battle-tested humans, who were ready and waiting with vats of rendered, boiling lard. Grimnir gave the order, and the melee was brief and vicious.

In the end, fifty orcs were turned into soap, with only three of the Kryptgarteners being killed (by a rapier in the back from the blind Kevorkian hoping to make more Zombies). Kevorkian also collected several orc zombies, who he dressed up with trophies and arms to make it look like they had been engaged in a fight with Hobgoblins (complete with cutting off their left pinkies) and dispatched to walk as far back towards their homes as they could before the animation wore off.

Melastasya returned to the keep and asked the other tavern patrons to leave, discreetly, out the back, while Grimnir gave a few more speeches about order obligation to his serfs.

10 Uktar…and later

The next morning, Traithe (as Elaira) grabbed the Manual of Gainful Exercise and headed for Phlan to seek out Werner von Urslingen for further training. On his/her way into town, she witnessed the corpse of Noriss the Gray being hung from the wall over the Traitor’s Gate, attended by the entire Council and with much fanfare. Councilwoman Elissa Bivant-Mondaviak made a speech claiming responsibility for bringing the infamous bandit to justice. Then her husband made an official proclamation declaring the establishment of a fund to reimburse the victims and that the Council was attempting to repatriate stolen possessions to their rightful owners.

Over the next two months, things got colder, and wetter. Traithe trekked into town daily for his/her training and exercises. Ash holed up in the keep, pouring over the books they had collected from Mendor’s Library, looking for clues as to what might heal the party of their various ailments—learning that Ra-Khati vellum was made from the hides of a particular breed of sheep raised by the Eraka, and that Lake Longreach was also in Eraka terrirory.

Grimnir continued to enforce strict discipline, boiling any settlers that raised any kind of ruckus outside the tavern…Melastasya ‘helped’ by murdering any that even congregated outside the tavern in their sleep. After twenty-three such deaths, the Kryptgarteners seemed to finally get the picture and, quietly and grudgingly, accepted the visitors to their little polity.

Kevorkian tried to make friends with Pooky (the giant six-legged, scorpion-tailed, spine-backed albino crocodile-like monstrosity which Grimnir and Melastasya had summoned). It seemed mostly willing to engage with the blind cleric, until Kevorkian tried to put a collar on it. That last him a hand.

They waited out much of the winter, remaining holed up in the keep throughout the entire month of Nightal, through the celebrations of the Feast of the Moon and the Winter Solstice. By mid-Hammer, though, when the snow lay thick on the ground, the adventurous rulers of Kryptgarten started becoming stir-crazy, until one day they struck out, heading north through the deep snows, following the Stojanow River.

11 Hammer

It was a bright, clear winter day in the cold north. Grimnir, Melastasya, Ash, Traithe, Kevorkian (still blind and one-handed), ‘Ginger’, and a strange dark-skinned elf who had taken refuge for the winter in Kryptgarten, answering to the name of Megri (or some such) found themselves standing on the shores of Lake Kuto, about 30 miles north of Kryptgarten.

In the center of the lake was a small island, maybe a half-mile north to south, covered with snow and vegetation. The north end of the lake was crystal clear, save for a few flows of ice drifting slowly downstream. Starting just south of the island, however, the waters were the familiar black, toxic sludge of the River Barren (as the Stojanow was more commonly known these days).

The party made their way across the river, from the north, using their rings of water walking and out to the island, sure that the island must somehow be the source of the river’s pollution. They searched the island thoroughly, finding no structures, until Melastasya found a smuggler’s hole (a wooden trapdoor concealing a 6 foot deep pit) beneath the snow. They carefully cleared the snow away and examined the door for booby-traps, then lifted the hatch. Inside was a bare, sandy pit with a single, old jug of rum.

Melastasya jumped right in and vanished.

The others, suspecting some sinister and destructive magic may have taken Mel’s life, took some time experimenting with the pit. Lowering a rope (of which only the portion in the pit disappeared), dropping stones, and finally dropping Traithe’s greatsword, which he was able to summon back, thus proving that it was not destroyed. At which point, Kevorkian cannon-balled into the pit, and vanished.

Traithe, still curious, fired one more arrow into the pit. He then convinced Grimnir, Ginger, and Megri to join hands with him and leap in together…

Maze-2.JPGAlone, Ash finally worked up the nerve to leap into the pit. Suddenly finding himself standing in the corner of a hallway, next to a pile of debris (including an arrow and six feet of rope). He waited for some time, calling for his companions. He received a brief message from Grimnir informing him that the rest of them were together and that they too were in a maze of some sort.

With this knowledge he struck out, as always to the right. He navigated a series of switchbacks, then came to a long corridor with an open archway to his right and a bend to the left at the end. Ash again received a message from Grimnir and cast a thunderwave spell in the hopes that his friends would hear it. Which they did not.

Something else clearly had, however, as he soon heard the sound of hurrying, heavy footsteps coming in his direction from the south and west. Ash set a single dancing light well ahead of himself and hid in the gloom near the archway. A moment later he saw a man, nearly eight feet in height, with the head of a bull and a large axe come around the far corner and stare confusedly at the small magical light.

He, of course, blasted it with a lightning bolt.

The minotaur charged, only to have Ash teleport behind it at the last minute and launch it headlong into a wall with yet another lightning bolt. Rather seriously scorched, but not learning, the thing charged a second time—with identical results.

Three lightning bolts weaker and back where it had started, the minotaur dashed around the corner to the left. Ash gave pursuit, only to take a greataxe to the arm as he came running around the corner to find the minotaur waiting in ambush. Wailing in pain, Ash tossed his Monkeys of Blinding and Deafening at the minotaur. The monkeys did their work, gouging out the beast’s eyes and handing them to Ash (where they were added to the basilisk eyes).

The minotaur, blind and very weak, fled. Ash followed, at a safe distance, through a series of winding passages. Finally he saw the minotaur charge at a blank wall and vanish. Ash took a deep breath and charged after it, only to appear back in the sandy smuggler’s hole, staring at the bottle of rum and the sun above.

Ash climbed out, jumped back in, and found himself elsewhere…

Maze_1.JPGMeanwhile, Melastasya found herself at the end of a short passage, which appeared to double-back on itself to the left just ahead. She waited as first a rock appeared beside her. She experimented a few times with the rock, throwing it at various walls and the ceiling to see if it would fly through and back to her friends—to no avail. She moved away just in time to avoid being hit by Traithe’s oversized sword, which promptly vanished again.

Then Kevorkian appeared. Then a minute later Grimnir, Traithe, and the others. All save Ash.

They waited for Ash, who didn’t come, then proceeded along the hall, which spiraled outwards for five turns before ending at a four-way intersection. Grimnir regularly called to Ash using his message spells, finally making contact around the last corner of the outer spiral. They experimented with shouting and making other noises, but it was clear that Ash could not hear them through mundane means, and vice versa.

They explored a bit more, making contact one more time, at which point they told Ash to stay where he was and wait for them to find him. They found another passage to the right which spiraled inwards to a wall through which anything they threw vanished. Traithe, practical person that (s)he was, marked the walls with chalk to identify where they had been.

Maze-3.JPGFrom the teleporter, they backtracked and took the next right, then another right, and found a second teleporter. Grimnir re-established contact with Ash, who informed them that he was engaged in battle with a minotaur. Hoping to reach Ash as quickly as possible, the others linked hands and leaped into the wall…

…only to reappear standing at the top of a set of stairs. They tested the walls, and found neither door nor teleporter, and so proceeded down the stairs. They tried a few more times to re-establish contact with Ash, to no avail.

Meanwhile, Ash suddenly found himself standing next to a few stones, at the center of a corridor which spiraled outwards. Noting several chalk marks in Traithe’s handwriting he followed the marks, coming first to one teleporter, then another. When he found no more marks, he presumed that the others had vanished through the last teleporter. Not knowing really how the things worked, however, and not expecting to actually end up with his companions if he followed them, Ash instead struck out in the direction they had not yet explored.

Maze-4.JPGHe took the next right, then followed the passage as it curved around to the left to find himself in a long corridor with a familiar-looking archway on the left and the smell of ozone in the air.

Hearing the sounds of someone whispering, he ignored the arch and proceeded to the end of the corridor. In the corner, where the corridor doubled back on itself, he found a very old looking man, dressed in tattered robes, sitting on the ground with a cup of water and a bowl of porridge next to him, muttering to himself.

Ash greeted the old man, who, between snatches of conversation with either himself or some unseen entity, responded in perfectly accented elvish, offering Ash some porridge of his own. With some coaxing, Ash was able to learn that the man knew of the minotaur, as well another threat (described as a large half-man, half-spider), and that the porridge “tasted only slightly better than feces”.

Ash accepted the man’s hospitality, but not the food, and sat down to rest for about an hour to recover his strength after his encounter with the minotaur.

From the bottom of the stairs, Traithe and the others circled around to the right until they came to a large iron door. Mel noticed some strange runes around the handle and decided to saw away that portion, in case it represented a trap of some kind. Grimnir simply shot a repelling blast over her head and blew the door off its hinges.

Beyond this, Megri found a secret door. The door opened inward easily, revealing a large, empty cell with a few bones and other food scraps and five very hungry looking lizardfolk cringing in a corner. They tried, unsuccessfully, to communicate with the creatures. Ginger finally charmed one. While unable to speak, she was able to convey the party’s general good will. Then, of course, Traithe noticed that the door was closing, by itself, with no apparent handle or latch on the inside. He caught it in time and wedged it open. Realizing that the lizards were prisoners, the party ushered them out and offered them some rations.

The lizards followed them into the next corridor, where they found another iron door and then a secret door at the end. They opened the secret door first, revealing a small fortune in ancient, corroded silver coins of unidentifiable mint, and three strange magic items: a glass bauble, a rusty-bladed dagger with a jeweled hilt, and a plain-looking wooden shield.

Maze-5.JPGMegri pointed out that the strange glass bauble radiated a powerful aura of Evil. Intrigued, or afraid (it is so hard to tell), Grimnir commanded the others to stand watch as he took the time to identify the thing. It appeared to be a small glass orb, about three inches across, with some sort of diorama inside. On closer inspection, Grimnir found the diorama to be a miniature replica of Kryptgarten Keep, complete with all their recent construction and renovations, but without any people in it. The thing showed no movement, and no amount of concentration of experimentation would cause it to show other scenes, only a static Kryptgarten in miniature. Likewise, his spells were unable to penetrate its secrets. After a tussle with Kevorkian over who could keep it, Grimnir stashed the evil orb in a pouch to deal with later.

Megri grabbed the dagger and shield, Mel and Traithe scooped up the coins, and they all headed for the door they had skipped. Inside was a workroom—part Grand Guignol torture chamber, part Frankenstein’s laboratory. Everything in it seemed to be designed to restrain or cause pain. The walls were lined with bottles and flasks filled with bizzare powders, oils, ointments, and draughts, and a collection of scalpels, forceps, and strange pointy things of all kinds.

Grimnir again took some time examining a large table, complete with manacles and fresh blood, which radiated magic, determining it to be a device to assist in humanoid transmutations. He then conjured a floating disk, which Mel loaded up with alchemical gear to start building a magical laboratory for Ash.

Stepping out into the hallway, they saw a heavily scorched, eyeless minotaur stumbling up the corridor. Grimnir put the poor creature out of its memory and they backtracked to another side passage where they found two more alchemical store-rooms. The loaded up more alchemical gear for Ash and also took a large sheaf of papers bearing alchemical formulae and experimental notes such as:

Subject 213: Progressing well, scars healing. Unable to talk yet.
Subject 214: Died when treated, failed again…

At the final dead end of the hall, they found another teleporter, with a similar large iron door next to it. Behind the doors, they found a large room filled with four massive (ten foot tall and four foot diameter) glass vats, filled with the same black sludge as the river. A large pipe ran up out of the floor, and branched, pumping the sludge into the vats.

Mel walked up and drummed on one vat, causing a strange, six-armed lizardman-like creature to appear in the sludge, throwing itself against the sides of the vat. They looked around and decided to leave through the teleported, determining that the pollutants must be coming from a lower level. But not before Mel suddenly started spouting random syllables a strange, hissing language.

They waited as Mel tried to carry out a conversation with the thing in the tank, which seemed to be speaking directly into her mind and somehow unable to distinguish between her thoughts and its own. The things message was very direct, "Let me out, " though it seemed unable to articulate anything much more useful than that.

Eventually Mel agreed to leave the thing in the vat to its own devices and stepped through the teleporter with the others…

Maze-4.JPGMeanwhile…Ash finished resting with the strange, ratty-clothed old man, and rose to leave. After a few pleasantries and some more warnings about the spider-monster, Ash grabbed his wand and marched off…in the direction of said spider-creature.

After winding through a series of switchbacks, he came to a ‘T’ intersection. To the left her heard the scrabbling of insectile feet, to the right he saw a pile of human excrement in a bend in the passage. He went…right…towards the excrement, and stopped to examine it (guessing correctly that the runny stuff was the end result of the old man’s porridge).

Ash continued on down the right-hand passage for a ways, navigating another switchback then heard the spider-thing’s feet clicking on the stones behind him. He ran on ahead, to a four-way intersection and hid around a corner. Only to have a trio of magic-missiles come streaking after him.

He blocked these with a shield spell, then stepped out to unleash a lightning bolt at the thing which had been following him—which looked like the upper torso of a dark-skinned elf joined at the waist, centaur-like, with a giant spider. The thing took the lightning bolt full in the chest, then retreated back around the corner at the far end of the hall.

Ash, again, gave pursuit, rounding the corner to see….nothing.

Then a blast of cold struck him in the chest, knocking the air from his lungs, and the spider-thing appeared out of thin air. Ash retaliated with yet another lightning bolt, only to be knocked down by another blast of cold.

Ash was frozen from the waist down, barely able to breathe, and could feel the hypothermia setting in as the spider thing closed in, drawing a blade for the kill. With frost-bitten fingers, Ash weakly raised the point of his wand and, through chattering teeth said what he thought would be his last words…“Lightningbolt!”

The drider was blown to bits by the third bolt, splattering charred spider-ichor all over the walls of the passage.

Only then did Ash allow himself to lapse into unconsciousness.

Traithe, Mel, and Grimnir appeared in yet another passage. Kevorkian, Megri, and Ginger were nowhere to be seen. Shrugging at being divided yet again, the three followed the passage to the right, until it dead-ended, then backtracked and took the left, then the next right-most passage.

Maze-8.JPGAfter many twists and turns, they smelled the tell-tale scent of ozone and scorched hair and came to an archway opening on their right. Past the archway, they saw signs of a struggle—chipped and dented walls at either end of the passage, streaks of blacked stone on the walls, and a pool of blood at one end. Traithe identified the larger blood-stain as belonging to Ash, and smaller drips as belonging to the minotaur that Grimnir had so recently dispatched.

Maze-3.JPGThey followed the trail, hoping to find Ash, and stepped through the teleporter that they found at the end. This time appearing in largish room that opened into a twisting corridor. They took a LEFT this time (violating all their well-established navigational plans) and, after many twists and turns of the corridor, saw a flash as they were walking, and found themselves back at the top of the stairs they had visited not so long ago.

They rushed down the stairs and proceeded to the far teleporter by which they had first left this level minutes ago. This time they reappeared at the end of a long corridor which, with no intersections or distractions, ended at a secret door with yet another set of stairs leading down.

Maze-6.JPGAt the bottom of the stairs, they found another large iron door, this one with a small eye-slit at a height of about eight feet. Melastasya approached the door and a deep voice said “What is the password?” She blurted out a few random things, all of which were not the password. Finally the door opened and the four well-armed ogres behind it informed the party that they were “supposed to hit anyone who didn’t speak the password.”

One blow of the first ogre’s sword sent Melastasya flying halfway back up the stairs. And one blast of Grimnir’s eldritch fury sent the sword-wielding ogre flying backwards to sprawl on top of his fellows. Traithe followed up with a witchbolt.

Seeing that Mel and company were not advancing, another ogre calmly closed and barred the door. This did nothing to help poor ‘Fred’, who lay jerking on the ground for a good minute after Traithe’s witchbolt had electrocuted him. Finally Mel walked up and knocked on the door, bringing a similar response of “What’s the password?” from the not-very-bright ogres. When the ogres opened the door again to crush the people giving the incorrect pass phrase, Grimnir called forth a crown of jagged metal on the head of the lead ogre, driving it mad and causing it to turn on its allies.

Maze-7.JPGAs two of the ogres fought amonst themselves, Mel dashed into the guardroom and through an open archway on the right. There she saw a massive chamber, with a huge (10 foot diameter or more) clear pipe filled with the black sludge rising from the center of the floor. Numerous smaller pipes snaked off of the main one in every direction, and all about the room were valves, gauges, petcocks, handwheels and other examples of arcane plumbing. Standing in front of the massive pipe, apparently oblivious to the melee behind him, was an old, decrepit looking man in tattered robes, holding a bowl of porridge and mumbling to himself about how “everything was going well.”

One ogre managed to disengage from the intra-ogre melee and leveled a massive, loaded crossbow (more a balista actually) at Grimnir and Traithe as they stepped into the guardroom. Only to be hurled out through the archway, tumbling over and become entangled with Mel, by another of Grimnir’s repelling blasts.

Meanwhile, Ash awakened to find the old man standing over him. The worst of Ash’s wounds had been healed and the rest of him had been thawed out. The old man offered Ash a bowl of porridge and informed him that they “were being invaded,” but that “everything was going well.” Ash tried, unsuccessfully to get the man to clarify. Finally the man offered to show Ash and offered him a hand. Ash accepted…

…and appeared standing beside the old man staring up at a giant pipe flowing with black sludge, as Melastasya wrestled with an ogre on the ground behind them.

Mel clung tightly to the ogre’s leg, punching several times up into its groin. Grimnir commanded the ogre wearing his crown of madness to tackle its opponent, allowing Grimnir and Traithe to run into the main room past the melee. Grimnir then blasted the ogre that was entangled with Mel with yet another repelling blast. The ogre’s head was blown clean from its body, the ogre’s crossbow went off shattering one of the pipes and spilling black sludge onto the ground, and Mel and the ogre’s body went sliding across the floor towards the old man, who casually leaped over it without looking back.

Ash suggested to the old man that they should put a stop to whatever was going on with the pipes, which apparently raised the man’s ire. The old man leveled a spoon at Ash, transforming him into a Half-orc.

Grimnir, Traithe, and Mel ganged up on the old man and beat him to a pulp.

Once recovered from his sudden transformation, Ash levitated Grimnir up to mend the busted pipe. Grimnir managed to seal the leak, but not before getting a face-full of the black sludge, causing his already aged joints to lock up and giving him a sudden, very serious, fear of lizards.

Traithe pointed to a number of doors on the far side of the room and suggested they check them out next…

To be continued…

The Third Party: Session 9 (GMs notes)
In which the party learns why there were not many people living near the old library...

23 Marpenoth

After returning from Bugbear-hunting, the party finds Kryptgarten in a state of disarray. A large crowd of orcs, xvarts, and other unsavory creatures are massed outside of the skeleton of what should one day be Melastasya’s tavern. The peasants, had, naturally holed themselves up in the keep. Mel took control, handing out drinks in exchange for the wooden tokens she had distributed, and recruiting ash and Grimnir to start making more mead.

Ash and Grimnir had more success than might have been imagined in making their booze. Mixing Grimnir’s blood and saliva with the honey to be fermented, Ash managed to produce a passable batch of Kvas, the Mead of Poetry. Soon all of the rowdy orcs crowding around the makeshift building began spouting poetry with the best of them. For the sake of our poor listeners ears, we will not make record of orcish poetry, other than to say it usually involves yelling “Eba!” often and loudly.

Over the next few weeks, the weather got quickly colder, dropping to the 30’s and staying there. As the people of Kryptgarten brought in the last, late harvest and made preparations for the winter, and the construction of the tavern/festhaus/casino finished, Melastasya and Grimnir began setting up a stock exchange, mostly to cover their illegal gambling activities with the veneer of legitimate business investment. For now, at least, all bets and prices are recorded in chalk on the back-wall of the tavern’s common room—and heavily guarded.

Mel and Ash then made some time to head to the Public Training Hall.

Queue training montage!

9 Uktar

After a couple of weeks of studying and shadow-boxing, Ash approached the party and requested that they aid him in an “academic expotition” (“Expedition, silly old Bear. It’s got an ‘x’ in it”), asking them to aid him in investigating the old Library in the ruined section of town. Mel, suspecting from the Council proclamations requesting any and all documents about Phlan’s history that any items taken out of the Library might be contraband (in addition to some conspiracy theories about Markos collecting all such documents in order to control the narrative about the city), said they should leave immediately and pre-arranged for three identical (well-guarded) carriages to pick them up early the next day outside the library (for reasons lost to most sensible people).

So, Melastasya, Ash, Grimnir, Traith, and Kevorkian (a Kryptgarten Cultist who had recently been elevated from the ranks) headed for the ruins post-haste. Between their recent victories over the bugbears, kobolds, and hobgoblins, as well as Mel’s odd form of diplomacy (handing out free booze and encouraging the monsters to make wagers about how long the city will stay standing), they encountered no resistance as they made their way through the slums and into the Old City.

The Library of Mendor was a huge, square, brick structure, a few blocks west of Kuto’s Well. Being aware of the catacombs linking the city’s wells that were so often used by the various criminal organizations in town, and that Kuto’s Well in particular was used by the bandits that had attacked the keep, Melastasya insisted that they should check the well out—on a hunch that there might be a secret, subterranean way into the library.

Grimnir tied a rope to Mel and tossed her down the well, not too gently, where she found a slightly-ajar, not-so-secret door. The other climbed down the ladder after her. They found that the catacombs had been recently and quite thoroughly ransacked. They poked at some dead giant lizards, a dead old, orc-lady, and a few previously-sprung traps, then gave up. But not before Melastasya managed to poison herself—whether from examining the contents of the lizard’s stomachs or from tasting a week-old pot of cold tea is not clear.

Climbing back out of the well, they headed for the Library. Mel managed to pick the ancient lock on the front doors, which looked like it had not been used in a century, and Traith hauled the big doors open. Inside they found an open-air atrium with an old, overgrown scholar’s garden, complete with an algae covered pond. Mel, of course, stuck her hand in the pond and ended up with her arm covered in green slime.

Traith reacted quickly, as the slime began eating away at her flesh and muscles, cutting off the offending limb with his greatsword. Grimnir summoned hellfire to heat up a spare blade he was carrying and carefully scraped the flesh-eating slime from the severed limb. Kevorkian took the limb, now just a mass of scarred tissue—free of all flesh and much of the muscle, and magically re-attached the arm. Luckily the nerve tissue in the arm was severely damaged and cauterized, and thus Mel did not feel much pain coming from her useless and necrotic limb.

That folly over with, they headed into the library proper, going first into the binders and illuminator’s carrels. Ash’s sword, Blackflame, flared up, warning them of undead present. They collected a few sheets of gold leaf, noted that the exterior wall had been breached at one point (and showed the muddy tracks of some large reptilian creature having entered the library recently), and then turned to the nearest door.

They opened the door into a old store-room, filled with dry inkpots, long-molded paper, crumbling tools, brittle quills, split-handled brushes, and five very emaciated-looking kobolds. The little creatures cowered in fear from the well-armed party, chattering in their own high-pitched language. Mel tossed them a pack of trail rations, which they tore into with gusto. Grimnir tried talking to them in draconic and several other tongues, to no avail, then shouted ‘Bree-Yark’, which sent them charging out of the room and out the open hole in the wall.

The party shrugged and headed towards the Scribe’s Hall. Here, they found a wild-eyed, gray-haired man hiding in a corner, curled in a fetal position and howling obscenities. Grimnir attempted to calm the man, only to have the man start screaming nonsense such as: “He is wrapped in fire and so cruel!" or “The big one, the evil one in the castle of flowers—he is coming, it is coming!,” or "Don’t go there! Don’t go on the hill!” and “He is not human, I tell you, not at all.”

Melastasya offered the man some meat, which caused him to leap at her, attempting to chew on the roasted and exposed muscles of her left arm. Mel punched him with her good hand, sending him sprawling to the ground where he returned to his former obscenity-screaming fetal state.

Traith left the man to his ravings and opened the door into the old Master Scribe’s apartments. Traith found an interesting looking Exercise Manual, which he pocketed. They proceeded on, past a trio of reading rooms, in one of which they found a still readable scroll containing a hundred-year-old recipe for Leek Soup.

Then they turned a corner into the stacks. A long, wide room, with 8 twenty-foot-long bookcases protruding from the walls out into the center, four to a side. The first two were labeled ‘Philosophy’, the next ‘Rhetoric’, the third ‘Mathematics’, and finally ‘History’. Kevorkian ran excitedly towards the ‘Rhetoric’ section, then froze as soon as he looked down the isle between the bookcases. He stood as still as a stone statue—as that was in fact what he had become.

Traith pointed to the muddy, reptilian footprints, which lead from the hole in the wall to hear and shouted the warning, “Basilisk!” Calling forth his magical greatsword.

Grimnir carefully reached around the corner and placed a mirror in Kevorkian’s outstretched and petrified hand, using it to sight the massive brown-scaled beast. He just barely avoided it’s reflected gaze, and blasted it with a witch bolt, a swarm of soul-eating crows flying around the corner between Grimnir and the beast.

Mel blindfolded herself and charged around the corner, following the sounds of its angry bellows and kicking blindly at the thing. The basilisk caught her calf in its jaws, swung the girl sideways into a bookcase, then to the ground, then pinned the one-armed pugilist beneath its bulk, continuing to gnaw on the trapped leg.

Grimnir continued his magical assault and Traith rushed in, eyes averted, and swung at the beast, but failed to connect. It was at this time that Ash and Traith noticed a strange red-haired woman also standing in the stacks, nonchalantly perusing the Mathematics section. The woman, hereafter referred to as ‘Ginger’, nodded to the adventurers, grabbed a very large, heavy oaken staff and smacked the basilisk over the head. Ash, pulled off his cloak and teleported over the creatures head, partly obscuring the things eyes with his cloak as he fell.

Taking the brief respite offered by the coordinated attack, Mel, still pinned beneath the creature, worked her good arm free and lashed out as best she could at the things midsection, punching it several times near what she imagined were the thing’s kidneys. Enraged, the basilisk rolled over, attempting to crush the annoying gypsy-girl, much as a crocodile would. The thing rolled and rolled, Mel clinging tightly to its underside and rolling with it, finally crashing into a bookcase, sending a rain of dust and moldering old books down on top of it, then ceased moving.

Grimnir and Traith took a few more swings at the basilisk for good measure. Ash then reached under the cloak and carefully cut the eyes out, shoving them in a pouch for future study.

A quick detect magic found a pair of scrolls bearing prayers of Greater Restoration buried in the stacks. Ginger was kind enough to use one of them to restore Kevorkian1. Kevorkian patched everyone up as best he could with his remaining magic, then they all set to work, spending 8 hours collecting all the intact books they could find.

Traith and Kevorkian, opened the last door at the end of the stacks, into the Master Librarian’s chambers. The room contained rotting furniture, including a desk and chair in which sat the skeletal remains of the librarian, hunched over a single, green leather tome. Kevorkian stabbed the skeleton, causing it to collapse into a pile of dust, and went to retrieve the book. On glancing at it though, he was immediately struck blind, his eyes sublimating in their sockets. Grimnir gingerly reached in and snapped the book closed before anyone else could look, handing it off to Ash, who stuffed it in his pack.

Cave_Books.jpgThey backtracked to main entrance, the one-armed Melastasya leading the blind Kevorkian. Just as they were opening the door to leave, a spirit, looking like a ghostly maiden made from scraps of parchment, appeared before them, blocking their egress. The mere sight of the thing turned Melastasya’s hair white, literally. Mel, Grimnir, and Ginger were instantly aged 40 years—jumping the teenager strait to menopause and turning the demonic lordling into a wizened old man.

Interpreting the thing’s appearance and aging of his friends as hostile, Traith blasted the thing with a thunderous orb of power. Ash followed up with a bolt of lightning, and Mel tossed the Wicked Sisters at it. All of which seemed to do nothing to the apparition—though the lightning bolt did succeeding in blasting open the doors.

Kevorkian asked what they had done to offend the ‘Ghost’, to which it replied that they had not checked out the books. Grimnir and Traith conjured illusory library cards, which only served to elicit a banshee-like wail from the undead librarian, and the sudden tearing of Ginger’s pack, out of which tumbled a book titled She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled, which fell open and produced a pair of real wolves from its pages.

Grimnir dove, nearly breaking a hip, and unleashed a repelling blast up towards the apparition, launching it up through the ceiling. The party then made a dash for it, running out the doors, pursued by wolves, to where the carriages were waiting. All six of them jumped into the second carriage (Mel reminding them several times that the other two were decoys) and road into New Phaln by a highly circuitous route.

They made their way to the Temple of Tyr, where they were informed that only the Bishop was likely to be able to perform the necessary miracles to restore Mel’s arm, Kevorkian’s eyes, or everyone to their proper ages. Grimnir began drafting a formal request to Bishop Braccio, while Ash took the Testament of Jade to one of the temple law scribes (hoping that someone of confirmed lawful goodness would be able to read it without danger) asking for the scribe to peruse and summarize the tome for him.

1 These scrolls were written into the original 2nd-edition adventure. Interestingly though, Restoration spells did not cure Petrification in that edition. The party’s ability to save the cleric in this instance was a convenient (and slightly surprising) side effect of the edition change.

The Amazons: Session 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The others sighed and rode on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What could possibly…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Sheathes a Big Sword,” Hot Flanks suggested.

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

“Stands her Ground,” said Worthy of Armor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cool. Can you dispel it?”

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

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

“Not more than a day usually…”

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

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

“Do we have to share?” Princess asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not a single humanoid was left standing.

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

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

And there was much rejoicing.

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

The Third Party: Session 6 (GMs notes)

19 Marpenoth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next time…the Battle of Kryptgarten!

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


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

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

“Councilwoman Bivant,” Don’t Fail corrected.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Gain? Like what?” Hot Flanks quipped.

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

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

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

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

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

“It is a mutually agreeable arrangement.”

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

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

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

“Ever the altruist…” Battle Cry said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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


“Cukup sungu.” Hrud whispers in reply.

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

“The name’s Serhiy.”

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

“I’m pretty good.”

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


“You might want to practice while you can…”


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

“Sounds good…”

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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Noriss's Boys: Session 2

Dear Squire of Kryptgarten,

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

Let me back up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

~Tamn Footstooler, The Thrice-Betrayor