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Last Stand of the Dorinthians

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
My campaign here is going well, so I figured I would make it into a Story Hour:

History
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The Dorinthian nation was founded by the warrior, Berl Dorin, later to be called King Berl I by court historians. The year of his coronation in the city he founded, Dorinam, is referred to as YR 0. The nation steadily increased in size, battling with the various goblin and hobgoblin tribes until finally pushing those people over the Dunkel Mountain range to the west. Dorinth settled into a period of peace that was interrupted with the arrival of the Tallione Empire to Dorinth's southern border at the year 421 on the Dorinth calender (YR 421). The Tallione Empire had overthrown the peaceful halfling townships and claimed the region as their own. Many of the halfling warriors that fled began a guerilla war with support from both an oppressed halfling population and from a sympathetic Dorinth, who allowed many of the halflings to use their country as a place for refugee camps. These camps became staging areas for raids and harrassment against the occupying Tallione legions.
The Tallione general requested that Dorinth's king, Torl Dorin VI, take action against the halfling populations working against Tallione within his territory. Torl did not send a reply, nor did he allow audiences with further Tallione messengers to his court. In retaliation, the Tallionian military began to make attacks inside Dorinthian territory in order to attack the halfling refugee camps that were supporting the combatants. Dorinthian troops were raised to stop the incursions. By YR 422, Tallione and Dorinth were in a state of war.
In YR 433, the Tallione Empire was able to ease tensions on its other borders and finally concentrate on the Dorinthian War, which had stalemated for the last 11 years. Four legions (about 22,000 men) invaded Dorinth and easily overwhelmed the border defenses, laying waste to much of the fertile southern lands. The famous Dorinthian general, Jarel the Proud, reorganized the broken forces of the country into new infantry and cavalry companies. Leaving the infantry in place for static defense, Jarel and King Torl lead the cavalry into hit and run tactics that wore down the long Tallione logistical lines. These lines of support were totally cut by the next year at the battle called the Field of Arrows, causing starvation and panic among the Tallione forces. Unable to live off the land they had ravaged, and unable to receive further supplies from Tallione territory, the four legions began to distintegrate into a mob. Many were chased down and killed by patrols of the Dorinthian horse archers. It would take a generation for Tallione to recover.
Dorinth was worse off, despite its hard-won victory. The eastern refugee camps were destroyed, forcing a migration of halflings into the various central and western towns of Dorinth where they became skilled laborers. This effectively ended the halfling resistance movement. King Torl was killed during one of the last minor skirmishes when he decided to lead a patrol into an attack on a retreating Tallione company near the border. In his place his only son came to rule in his stead, crowned King Rasnen Dorin II. Rasnen was fourteen when he ascended to the throne, which did nothing to temper his already spoiled personality. He ignored the much needed reconstruction of the fertile south, nor did he use the remnants of Dorinth's coffers to buy a peace with Tallione. Instead, Rasnen used the remaining wealth to redecorate his castle and various homes and threw wild, scandalous parties for his various mistresses and friends. When his coffers began to run out, he raised taxes upon the various nobles of Dorinth with his Proclamation of YR 438.
As far as the elites of his kingdom were concerned, this was the last straw. A number of nobles plotted an assassination of the king and chose Jarel the Proud to become ruler after the murder. A jealous rival of Jarel's betrayed the conspiracy, leading to the Night of Red Blades, in which much of the noble class was assassinated, their families given as gifts to Tallione as slaves (an unaccepted practice in Dorinth), and their property 'nationalized' and claimed by King Rasnen.
The remaining nobility and the commoners of Dorinth were in an uproar, which was soon quelled by Rasnen both violently and with large ceremonies funded by the captured wealth of the murdered nobles. By YR 441, the last of the unrest subsided and Rasnen had installed his personal friends and family members to lead his armies and settlements. Tallione also seemed to become more peaceful, as their captured halfling territories became used to foreign rule.
Dorinth may have recovered if it was not for King Rasnen's greed. The coffers that were filled with the stolen property of the nobility began to run out in YR 445, causing Rasnen to first double, then triple his taxes on the commoners. He also began cutting the expenditure of the military. The decadence of Rasnen's festivals in Dorinam annually increased as the state of Dorinth's economy plummeted. By YR 448, starvation was being faced by the people that bordered the Dunkel Mountains, since that region lacked the fertility of the other lands. Those towns began to riot, overthrowing Rasnen's appointed officials. Rasnen was forced to move soldiers from the southern border as well as his eastern coastal towns to quell the uprising. Large segments of his foot soldiers and almost the entire cavalry disobeyed his orders, plunging the country into civil war. By the end of the year, the rebel nobles and commoners were besieging the city of Dorinam in an attempt to bring Rasnen off his throne. The situation was closely watched by Tallione, who then decided to invade their weakened opponents.
The Tallione invasion came in YR 449, two legions coming from the south, while another two legions made an amphibious assault from the east, taking Dorinam within a week and throwing the rebel army into chaos. King Rasnen was captured and beheaded as a Tallione gift to the people of Dorinth. The Dorinthians showed a lack of appreciation by resisting the steady advance of their 'liberators'. The advance slowed down as the four legions met in the center of Dorinth, with the rebels and the remnants of King Rasnen's forces uniting to hold them back. The frustrated legion commanders began to resort to terror in order to subdue the population, completely destroying any settlement that resisted and selling the survivors into slavery. Most of Dorinth became a smoking ruin, the fate of the nation settled after the Lost Battle of Kalden. The Tallione losses at Kalden were so severe, that the angry invaders rounded up all surviving town people and refugees and massacred them.
The only force that survived the battle relatively intact was a company of horse archers from the small town of Fair Creek. Rushing home, they informed their people of the slaughter, the violence of the legions confirmed by the incoming trickle of various refugees. After a day of deliberation, the town's ruler, Baron Dren Dorin, decided that the population of Fair Creek was to flee northwards. They would go into the Silver Forest and seek the protection of the Saleentran elves, which had historical trade relations with Fair Creek. It is hoped that the elves might assist the refugees in finding a new home, safely away from the Tallione forces and other dangers.
Thus begins the adventure...
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Classes
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Although classes will be described shortly, Tallione and Dorinth have been at a state of war for the last few decades, and it is important to discuss their various archetypes since some of the party members are likely to be ex-military.
Tallione forces are almost always lead by a commander on horseback, although most of their men are foot soldiers. The commander is normally selected for his intelligence, wisdom, combat expertise, or social standing. Therefore, almost any character class may be used for a Tallione company commander, including wizard or sorcerer. Normal foot soldiers typically wear a shining bronze suit of scale mail and a bright crimson cloak. They normally also used a tower shield with the symbol of an eagle emblazed on the front, a shortspear for charging an enemy in formation, and a short sword for melee combat. The short sword also normally had the Tallione eagle incorporated into the guard.
Tallione cavalry normally wore the same armor, but did not use a tower shield, spear, or short sword. Instead, the cavalry used a buckler and a longsword and were used to flank opposing companies or to strike in the rear. Speed and discipline were the cavalry's strength. Commanders of the foot soldiers and cavalry normally wore a plumed helmet so they could be recognized by their men on the field. It is possible that an ex-Tallione soldier might have escaped to Dorinth in order to escape punishment or execution for a crime committed while under arms. Player characters that are ex-Tallione military likely fled from the ranks after committing a capital offense, such as striking a member of the Tallione nobility or killing a superior.
The foot soldiers of the Dorinthian military were used primarily to delay their opponents while the horse archers wrecked their havoc in the rear. Most of the foot soldiers wore a chain shirt and used a heavy wooden shield with a longsword. These troops were usually looked down upon by the nobler classes, and were not used effectively in combat, although the war would have been lost much sooner if it were not for these men who could take and hold the ground. The foot soldiers normally have their own bizarre comraderie, especially Radnal's Ruffians of Fair Creek.
The pride of the Dorinthian forces were the horse archers, which were normally comprised of the nobler families of Dorinth. These men were able to ride at a gallop while shooting arrows from horseback. They normally wore studded leather or chain shirts depending on their family wealth, and carried a composite longbow. Melee weapons were left to the preference of the rider, although it was common for them to decorate their equipment with depictions of a galloping horse. Commanders of foot soldiers and horse archers normally wore a royal blue cloak, while normal soldiers wore green.
Players should be encouraged to create an interesting background, even allowing for them to be members of the noble classes. Even if they claim a high-ranking noble background, it will matter little since Dorinth has been destroyed.

Barbarians
Barbarians have become more commonplace in Dorinth the last decade as more of the countryside has been laid to waste from war and Rasnen's decadence. Many of the human barbarians come from the western portions of Dorinth, on the border of the Dunkel Mountains. Others may come wandering and looking for a purpose from lands far to the south that have been taken over by the Tallione Empire. Half-orc barbarians have been raised by humans of the northern lands after a large scale raid that occured in YR 431.

Bards
Bards can be from anywhere, although it is not likely that they are from Fair Creek. Instead, they probably came into the town along with a group of refugees or had been passing through when the danger from Tallione struck. Allow the bard to create a backstory dealing with a hometown somewhere in Dorinth. It is likely wiped out now, anyway.

Clerics
Clerics of Dorinth will likely be worshippers of The Rider, a chaotic good deity that is the most revered by the people of Dorinth. The Speaker is the head of the clerics of Fair Creek, and is currently Heron Silvertongue (Cl 6, CG). A character who follows the belief of The Rider will likely be on good terms with Heron.

Druids
Druids are common in the great woods of Dorinth, especially near the Silver Forest. Their numbers have increased since the devestation of the civilized areas over the last few years. It is likely that a druid character arrived in Fair Creek to warn the town of danger, and to help lead them to safety. Perhaps the Tallione forces destroyed the druid's grove, and the character seeks revenge.

Fighters
A fighter will likely be a member of Fair Creek's militia and foot soldiers, Radnal's Ruffians, which were not mobilized during the recent crisis due to rumors of roving kobold bands near the settlement in recent weeks. Because of this, the foot soldiers were spared the destruction of the remnants of Dorinth's forces recently. Radnal (Fallen Paladin 2/Ftr 4, NG) has named his band of men in a mockery of the titles used by horse archer units, to the anger of the paladin order of Fair Creek. Radnal's men were a band of uncontrollable ruffians before he showed up five years ago and whipped the unit into shape. It was rumored that he was an old friend of Fabian Corl, the recently deceased leader of the paladins of Fair Creek.
There are about fifty active members of Radnal's Ruffians, forty-two being warriors with basic weapons training, while the rest have more specialized skills, such as fighters.

Monks
Monks are rare in Dorinth, but two monastaries are known to exist: one on a large hill on the border to the Dunkel Mountains and another by a lake near the Silver Forest. The one by the Dunkel Mountains is inhabitated by members of an order that call themselves the Path of the Eagles and is followed by lawful neutral members who have originally come from Tallione, although they owe no allegiance to that country. The order by the Silver Forest calls itself the Way of the Faithful and follows a lawful good philosophy. Members of either order may be passing through Fair Creek on a pilgrimage when news of the disaster reaches them, causing them to decide to help the citizens find safety. The DM may allow characters to create another monastic order, perhaps one whose monastary was destroyed, forcing the character to seek vengeance.

Paladins
The paladin order of Dorinth normally leads the horse archers in battle, preferring the bow to the sword. It is also possible that a paladin from Tallione, disgusted with the legion commanders' disregard for human life, breaks with the army to warn the people of Fair Creek to flee and helps them escape. A Tallione paladin will prefer a sword and shield, as will an elven and gnome paladin. A dwarf paladin will likely come from the Dunkel Mountains and prefer an axe. The paladins of Fair Creek call themselves the Order of the Shield and are lead by Cal Dorin (Pl 3, LG), son of Baron Dren Dorin. Cal recently became leader of the order in the last year, after the death of Fabian Corl. Since Cal's command of the Order of the Shield relations between the paladins and Radnal's Ruffians have grown colder.
The Order of the Shield boasts only thirty remaining members on horseback, most being warriors of some skill, while five are fully ranked paladins.

Rangers
Rangers will be comfortable both with the townspeople and in the isolation of the forest, likely moving between the two depending upon the whim of the moment. During the war rangers often joined the horse archers under paladin leadership, acted as scouts, or were snipers against Tallione leadership. Rangers who were snipers are avoided by other Dorinthian military members, since many have human as their favored enemy, a fact humans find uncomfortable. Characters that are rangers likely came to Fair Creek to warn the town of the incoming Tallione forces.

Rogues
There wasn't a real crime problem in Fair Creek that Radnal's Ruffians couldn't handle, the worst being the occasional fist fights by town drunks or minor theft. Rogue characters will likely come from another town and will be escaping with refugees. Or the rogue will be a trouble maker of Fair Creek, too small time a criminal to be a real problem, but enough of one to have a bad reputation.

Sorcerers
A sorcerer can have any origin since his skills are natural. Sorcerers were not common with the Dorinth horse archers, although foot soldiers employed them in their units. The Tallione military incorporated sorcerers in all levels of their military. A young sorcerer may be a new member of Radnal's Ruffians, or an assistant to Hector, the town wizard (Wiz 3, NG). An older sorcerer may be a seasoned veteran of a unit recently destroyed by Tallione forces or maybe escaping with family members from another town.

Wizards
Wizards were sometimes incorporated with the Dorinth horse archers, although others were either merchants or members of court. A young wizard will likely be an apprentice to Hector the Incredible (Wiz 3, NG), or will come from another settlement with refugees or perhaps with the elven or gnome delegation described in the races section.
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Races
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When the Dorinthian refugees arrived in the Silver Forest, they were met by a group of elves that had been expecting them. The people were brought to a series of tents by a river and allowed to make a temporary camp there. Baron Dren Dorin was then met by representatives of gnomes from Loughphray Hills, dwarves from the Dunkel Mountains, and elves of the Silver Forest. They were discussing the crisis on their borders when the refugees arrived. Characters playing elves, dwarves, or gnomes are likely from this delegation.
Keep in mind that at the start of the game the Dorinthians race relations will be at 0 for each of the elves, gnomes, and dwarves. The actions of the party will dictate how relations have changed at the end of each section, but this score should be kept a secret by the DM. They will impact relations throughout critical points in the game.

Humans
Human characters are likely from the town of Fair Creek. The refugee camp has a population of 2,542 members at the start of the game. The following are important human non-player characters:

Baron Dren Dorin (Ari 2, CG): A chubby, nervous man, the baron was put in charge of Fair Creek by King Rasnen in YR 439. Dren is not a cruel man, but instead has a fondness of drink. Dren's party-going nature was an asset when he was younger, making him close friends with Rasnen when they were both still teenagers. As an older man he has calmed down quite a bit. Overall a mediocre leader, he is still respected by his people since he was able to use his connections to avoid some of the crushing taxes that ruined many other settlements. He is now balding, and the little bit of black hair he has left is quickly turning gray. He has difficulty making decisions and can be easily influenced by others with strong will. Dren enjoys the finer things in life and exotic items, and his openness to trade improved Fair Creek's relations with the dwarves, gnomes, and elves.

Cal Dorin (Pl 3, LG): Unlike his father, Cal is handsome and strong. He is willful and apt to make decisions without consulting others for help. He has dark hair and light skin, with dark, angry eyes. Cal has always been difficult to deal with, and became even more so after his mentor, Fabian Corl, died in his arms. Cal distrusts non-Dorinthians, especially elves. He feels that the elves have been treating his people badly since they arrived in Silver Forest. He is especially angry that they seem not to give him the respect owed a member of the Order of the Shield and of a noble. Although arrogant, Cal is fair and will deal favorably with those he sees as honestly concerned with the plight of his people. Especially since he hopes to be the new leader of his people one day. He is especially fond of those who have fought with him recently. Female player characters may see Cal as a subject to a possible romance, especially if they want to sit by his side in the future as a ruler.

Syra Dorin (Ari 1, NG): Beautiful, but young and naive, the 17-year old Syra is the younger sister of Cal. Syra has long, dark hair and brown eyes and pale skin. She quickly finds maturity as the campaign progresses, although she does not know what yet to think of the most recent crisis. She recently received word that the man she was supposed to marry was killed in the recent invasion. Since she never met him and since he was 30 years her senior, she is not sure what to feel about the situation. She could use a friend, although a romance would have to be approved of by Lady Huffring, the baron, and a jealous Cal.

Lady Huffring (Ari 3, NG): The older attendant to Syra, and an old friend of her mother, Lady Huffring is domineering and protective of her charge and the various ladies-in-waiting of Fair Creek. The recent situation has only made Lady Huffring stricter, and definitely not softer, insisting that the nobility keep their habits. Rightfully, she sees an in-charge attitude by the noble members important to keep the people from despair.

Heron Silvertongue (Cl 6, CG): An old priest and former adventurer, Heron has a full head of white hair, but now walks at a slight stoop. He has a fatherly manner and has been extremely active in the refugee camp, healing when needed and giving solace to those near despair. Heron keeps everyone's spirits up by talk of building a newer and better temple to his god, The Rider.

Kyle Radnal (Fallen Paladin 2/Ftr 4, NG): This older man is not quite middle-aged, but he is not far off. Kyle Radnal was asked to come to Fair Creek by Fabian Corl a few years ago, and to manage the ill-disciplined rabble that was the town's militia. This red-headed man quickly whipped the militia into a respectable police force, kicking out several of the worst offenders out of the organization and running them out of town. His past is unknown, but some say he is more familiar with the Order of the Shield's ways than most commoners. The jealous Cal never liked Kyle Radnal due to the obvious respect Fabian Corl had for the man. Relations between Cal and Kyle grew even more strained when Cal attempted to overstep his jurisdiction during a criminal case last year, and was chastised by Kyle who accused him of un-paladin like behavior, describing in-depth several philosophical tenants of the Order that Cal had broken.

Hector the Incredible (Wiz 3, N): Hector is a scrawny charlatan of a wizard who knows more about tricking potential customers than he does actually conducting magic of value. He came to Fair Creek eight years ago, settled down, and has been selling fake love potions and good luck charms ever since. His assistants know that he was an adventurer in his youth, although he was the only survivor of an adventure-gone-bad and decided to quit the life. The dark-haired man knows enough magic to start a young assistant of talent.

Halflings
Most halflings will probably be laborers and citizens of the people of Fair Creek. Each Tallione legion that invaded incorporated a company of halflings from the territory they took possession of several decades ago. It is possible that a halfling broke from the ranks of the legion once in country to look for lost kin and arrived in Fair Creek before the townsfolk fled. Most halflings will look kindly upon the Dorinthians for giving them a place to go.

Half-orcs
Half-orcs will be rare, but raised alongside humans inside Fair Creek. Most will have had a hard life, distrusted by the people they have grown up among. Whether or not this leads them to struggle with being good or falling into evil ways is up to the player.

Elves
The elves are not pleased to see the Dorinthians in their own Silver Forest. They have been wary over their neighbors for many years, mostly because of the frequent raids from the orc tribes to the north, but also because of the occasional skirmish with the humans of Dorinth. Now they see that their foolish human neighbors have destroyed their own country and allowed it to be taken by the aggressive Tallione Empire. They are considering whether or not to sell out the remaining humans, but sympathizers in the elven council support helping the people of Fair Creek, who have always respected elven lands in the past. Elven player characters are either joining the party to keep a closer eye on human affairs, or because they are genuinely concerned with their plight. Those sympathetic to the humans will still find their hygeine and mannerisms lacking.
The elves are currently considering setting the Dorinthians up in an abondoned half-elf town called Meristra inside the Silver Forest and on the western border of their territory, which was destroyed in an orc attack in YR 431. They have a delegation of thirty elven warriors and politicians.

Silas Generwine (Ftr 3, NG): Silas is a young elf delegate sent to deal with the human refugees by the elven council. He has a strong dislike for humans, and sees the assignment as an insult to his noble name. Unknown to outsiders, but a much discussed topic in elven society, is the fact that Silas' grandmother was a human and his mother was half-elven. Silas overcompensates for this blemish on his otherwise noble lineage with an irrational opposition to the Dorinthians. Unfortunately for the refugees, he is their only solid line of communication to the elven council.
Silas is a meter to elven society's opinion on the refugees. As the party proves their heroism, they will slowly change Silas' view. On the other hand, if the party makes the wrong decisions Silas will become hostile, as will the elven nation.

Gnomes
The Loughphray Hills are named after the Loughphray gnome clan that inhabits them. The gnomes are sympathetic to the human plight, but currently can offer little aid and they lack a place for the Dorinthians to settle. They clan is under harrassment from nearby kobold and goblin tribes that have poured into the region, causing the gnomes to struggle for their own survival. They have only come with a delegation of eight, although some of these may be player characters that offer to join the party so that the gnomes can provide at least some aid.

Phly Loughphray (Ill 3/ Ari 2, NG): Phly is a gnomish illusionist that heads the delegation to discuss the latest border problems in the hopes of gaining an advantage against the invading kobold and goblin tribes. Instead the delegation found itself discussing the problems that the Dorinthians are facing. Phly is unable to gain help for his clan, but he will try to be polite to the refugees in the dim hope that their soldiers may be able to help later.

Dwarves
The dwarves are the most sympathetic to the plight of the Dorinthians, as they have enjoyed a peaceful border with the less civilized western settlements for the last two hundred years. Also, they have been fighting goblin and hobgoblin since their clan, Clan Bermax, was established in the Dunkel Mountains five-hundred years ago. There is a delegation of twenty dwarven warriors present, some of whom may offer to take up their axes and hammers for the humans and be player characters. They also offer a place to reside in the Dunkel Mountains, but agree that the elven site of Meristra would be better for the Dorinthians. The land in the mountains is poor for farming and cattle, and the goblin and hobgoblin raids have increased lately.

Lender Bermax (Ftr 5/Ari 2): Lender is the nephew of the dwarven king, and considers himself a friend of Dorinth. He came to the delegation to meet with the elves about the heightened danger on their respective borders, and was shocked to find that refugees had entered the Silver Forest. A small population of Dorinthians (100 people) is currently seeking shelter with the dwarves, and Lender feels that a new home should be established for all the survivors of the once great civilization. He has a long distance to travel in order to return home, but he promises to trade important supplies for constructing homes to the refugees. This will come at a cost, as the dwarves won't give anything for free, but Lender plans to lower the price as much as is possible.

Other Races: Other races, such as goblins and kobolds, may be played at the discretion of the DM.

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The Four Main Factions in the Silver Forest Council

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The Sol Party (Sol'vi Elustru)
This is an elven political faction led by many of the priests and devout followers of Sol. They are the moral voice of the elves and were the ones that pushed the decision to aid the Dorinthian refugees of Fair Creek. Unlike many towns and cities of Dorinth, the town of Fair Creek always maintained a good working relationship with the elves of the neighboring forest. The Sol Party, or Sol'vi Elustru as the elves call it, did not feel a close affinity to the humans, but instead argued that they should give aid since it was the way Sol would expect his elven children to act.

The Neutrals (House Rela)
Although the largest political party in the council, and led by the ancient elven Rela line, the House Rela faction temporarily lost control of the discussion dealing with the human refugees. The neutrals have long dominated elven politics with the argument that elves should keep to elven business and let the rest of the world do as it will. Although the Sol party won the refugee argument due to its plea for a moral stance, House Rela was able to send two lead delegates from their own faction to bring the Dorinthians aid. These two were Silas Generwine (no relation to the human PC Silas) and Kel, priest of the Huntress. As the political tensions have heated up, these two delegates have lost their neutral stance. Kel has adventured with the humans and made friends with the kobold Rix and half-orc Alexander. His worldview has been shattered and he now leans closer to the beliefs of the Sol'vi Elustru. Silas Generwine now leans towards the pro-Imperial party.

Pro-Imperials (House Dran)
The smallest of the main factions, yet the most vocal is that led by House Dran. These elves argue that the Dorinthians had started an illegal war and that the Imperials are too strong to resist. The Pro-Imperial party is growing stronger as the Imperial armies still operating in Dorinthian land have heard that many refugees have run to the elves and maneuver towards the Silver Forest. House Dran argues that the only way to save the elves is to give up the Dorinthians, who were historically questionable neighbors anyway.

The Warhawks (Magi)
The Magi are the second smallest of the main factions, but have been steadily growing over the last decades. They are led mostly by elves with a talent for magic. Their argument is that the elven race is dying, something that many feel is true in their hearts. Each elven couple may have 3 to 4 children within their hundreds of years of life. On the other hand, the humans have the same amount of offspring every 20 years or so, while the orcs breed at a far greater and more alarming speed. The humans believe that the elves fight a small skirmish or quick war every generation, but the long living elves of the Magi faction see their civilization as constantly under assault. It is said that every elven couple will live to see at least one of their children die directly or indirectly from warfare. The Magi claim that it is time to save the elven race by any means necessary.
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Story So Far
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The adventure first started as the party left to investigate an abandoned elven town destroyed long ago in the orc wars. They found it inhabitated by kobolds, who had dug a complicated series of tunnels underneath the old settlement. The adventurers negotiated with the kobolds, and agreed to wipe out a rival clan of goblins who had originally pushed the kobolds from their hill dwellings. The party killed the goblin leader, which led to the dispersal of the goblin tribe, had the kobolds move back in, and then cleared the town for the refugees from Fair Creek. The kobolds became minor trading partners, much to the ire of the local gnomes.

The adventurers made it up to the gnomes in the next chapter, as the short folk were being overrun by an alliance of goblins and kobolds (who had originally kicked out their kin from the first chapter). These kobolds and goblins were led by an insane gnome illusionist and his gnoll mercenaries, who wanted to cleanse the land of humanoid races in order to wipe them out before a time of suffering prolonged the agony he foresaw for them. In his twisted mind, this was a kindness, but the party ended his nightmare and his life.

In the third chapter, the party has recently found out that the dwarven kingdom is being attacked by an Imperial legion. Inside the dwarven kingdom lies a number of their kin who had escaped the Tallione Empire's invasion. The dwarves have warned the Dorinthians to stay away, stating that the cause is lost. However, our intrepid party has decided to mount a rescue instead.

And during all of this, a troll had been stalking the party for some time now, killing their allies and sometimes their enemies while giggling grotesquely, before fleeing back into the forests. The party had decided that enough is enough, and moved to hunt the psychotic creature through uncharted woods before it could do more harm... and in the cavernous lair of a race of creatures called the formians, they finally found their hunter and killed him.

The party finally reached the dwarven kingdom, where they found themselves quickly embroiled in the plots of Advisor Nefius. They saved the life of Commander Sassarius, the Imperial commander besieging the dwarven kingdom and the target of Nefius' latest scheme. In return, Sassarius lifted the siege and headed back towards Tallione in an attempt to protect his reputation and family from the intrigues of court that Nefius left behind. Unfortunately, Rix and Alexander were critically wounded during this incident and are incapacitated.

Now the party goes to rescue a lost group of Dorinthian cavalry from a dark glade ruled by a twisted dryad. They are guided by the Tallione defector, Ventus, who swears to them that he has left his old allegiances...
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Rough Map of the World
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Rough Map of the Continent (Not to Scale and North is up)

To the west is the Stand River and to the east is the Crystal Sea

. = Plains
* = Forest
^ = Mountains
/ = Hills
~ = Water
<> = Destroyed half-elf town of Meristra, now home to the Dorinthian refugees and party
1 = Saleentra, the Elven capital
2 = Where the Party Fought the Kobolds that threatened the Loughphray gnomes
3 = Kingdom of the Loughphray Clan of gnomes
4 = Small Kobold tribe that humans have allied with
5 = Goblin fortress that party snuck into and killed the goblin chieftain
6 = Ancient ruins of the lost tribe of winged elves, where party killed the mad gnome
7 = Destroyed Town of Fair Creek, where most of the original Dorinthian refugees came from
8 = Mountain Kingdom of the Bermax Clan of dwarves
9 = Dorinam, former capital of Dorinth, now ruined
A = The Singing Glade
B = Formian caves, where party finally killed the sadistic troll that stalked them
C= Site of the Lost Battle of Kalden, named after the local town which was destroyed
D = Field of Arrows
E = City of Tallione, and once a minor city-state, now capital of an empire


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Religions
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The Layhrmons were a tribe of people that came before the people of Dorinth, and some believe are their ancestors. They are known for their cavern burials (one such cave was found, but unexplored by Danica) and were supposed to be strangely advanced in architecture and sculpting, though they were a nomadic people. Much of their religion has been adopted by the Dorinthians.

The Layhrmon Pantheon by Alignment

Saul, Lawful Good (Sun, Good, Law, Protection) [Sword, elves; Axe, humans]
- Called 'Sol' by the elves and venerated highly by them, he is both the enemy and great love of Lumear, the Moon Goddess. He and is lover are the creators of life in the world. Few Dorinthians worship him today, though the works of his prophets are still held by monks in the rare human monastaries of the region.

Matrial the Motherly, Neutral Good (Good, Healing, Magic, Earth) [Net, Mace]
- She is sometimes called 'Auntie' in her motherly aspect, but 'Oathbinder' in her more commanding one. She is much revered by the women of Dorinth, though she rarely has a church of her own. Mothers make their children (and sometimes husbands) swear upon her name when they want their offspring to behave in a certain manner. To break an oath sworn under Matrial is considered highly insulting in Dorinthian custom. Some halflings and gnomes worship a goddess that is considered another aspect of Matrial.

The Rider, Chaotic Good (War, Good, Travel, Chaos) [Bow]
- The Rider is the most popular deity of Dorinth, and seems native to the Dorinthians though adopted by the elves in a stronger nature loving aspect (drop war for plant with the elves). No one knows what the cloaked Rider looks like under its hood, but the elves call the deity the Huntress, while the Dorinthians call the Rider, the Hunter. The Rider is an old god, and has supposedly appeared in Dorinth's darkest hours. The orc tribes have a natural fear of the priests, rangers, and paladins that worship the Rider, though the reason is lost but is embedded in racial memory. Human loving half-orcs have a strange tendency to worship the Rider, however. The last time the Rider was seen, was during the battle at the Field of Arrows. No one knows why the Rider hasn't been seen since. Some say it is because the Dorinthians have lost their way. Others say its because the darkest hour of this generation of Dorinthians have lost their way.

Agryol, Lawful Neutral (Plant, Law, Luck, Water) [Sickle]
- A nature god, Agryol is strangely also the god of law. Believers call this 'natural law', and although they have a love for nature, they have an equal love of philosophy. Agryol is not a popular god among the Dorinthians, although he is among the halflings who see him as a farming god. The Layhrmons never worshipped Agryol, instead believing in a once-mighty fertility goddess whose name and existence is largely forgotten.

Sanmar, Neutral (Magic, Travel, Trickery, Knowledge) [Dagger]
- Although worshipped mostly by rogues, Sanmar is a popular deity in Dorinthian culture, though his church is usually small. The antics of Sanmar make for popular children's tales, but some say the god's idea of mischief was once much darker. It is said that he was once known as the god of dreams, and some darker versions of his faith still call him the Nightmare Lord and are said to have power over men's dreams.

Eroll, Chaotic Neutral (Chaos, Air, War, Animal) [Flail]
- Eroll is the god of passion and of the beasts, and the Dorinthians believe that he sometimes drives creatures wild, causing them to enter civilized areas and attack men who do not leave the proper offerings. Although few Dorinthians are mad enough to enter the wild and perform the dark rituals that Eroll requires, all leave little sacrifices to ward him away, such as leaving a dish of milk outside for his cats to hanging meat from a tree outside of a town.

Lumear, Lawful Evil (Law, Evil, Moon, Strength) [Sword]
- One of the two greatest gods in the pantheon, Lumear is the lover of Saul, god of the sun and co-creator of life. Lumear considers her children to be such creatures as the orcs and goblinoids, and they worship her in turn. Both Lumear and Saul claim man, however. It is said that a new race is born by the union of her and Saul during an eclipse.

Ulavree, Neutral Evil (Evil, Magic, Death, Protection) [Kukri]
- Ulavree is the goddess of death and magic, and is feared the most by the Dorinthians. It is said that her worshippers will not achieve her blessings until they slay an intelligent being. Unexplained murders are normally attributed to her, and assassins are among her faithful. She is called the Night Mother, and is said to collect man's sins, which are like jewels to her, upon the time of his death. She sometimes counts Eroll as her lover.

Banbosel, Chaotic Evil (Chaos, Evil, Fire, Destruction) [Club, (Morningstar among the gnolls)]
- Banbosel the Fire Dancer is not truly part of the Layhrmon or Dorinthian pantheon as the other gods despise him, but is said that he is an ancient god worshipped before even the nomadic civilizations. He is sometimes called the destroyer, as he hates civilization and seeks to remove all traces of it.

The Craeco-Tallione Pantheon

A few centuries ago, the second emperor of Tallione decided to reform his empire's too diverse church by unifying aspects of the various gods under the guise of the popular Craeco religion, as Tallione had recently taken over the nations of Craece and adopted their culture.

Phonicleus, Lawful Good (Law, Good, Plant, Healing) [Mace]
- This is the patron god of Tallione, although his church has fallen out of favor in recent years. He is the god of civilization and the healing arts. His priests teach the proper use of herbs to ward or heal disease.

Plativus, Neutral Good (Good, Protection, War, Knowledge) [Sword]
- Plativus, also called the Defender, was once a popular god among the soldiers of Tallione, though he has lost worshippers to Stersius in recent times. He is the protector of civilization and the god of moral philosophy. Many warriors that revere him also take pride in their education.

Casles, Chaotic Good (Chaos, Good, Strength, Fire) [Warhammer, (was a Club until recently]
- Casles the Rageful was never a popular deity in Tallione, though he is admired for the ferocity that he displayed in his mortal life. Casles was once a great hero who wandered the world in years past and fought against evil, and was thought to have been partly divine and able to control fire. In his wake came the gods of civilization. Not surprisingly, even some Dorinthians worship Casles, and the dwarves also find him popular.

Heristeus, Lawful Neutral (Law, Knowledge, Sun, Protection) [Spear]
- Also known as the Lawbringer, Heristeus is closely associated with Phonicleus and Plativus, forming the triad of civilized gods. He has survived the empire's religious conversion almost fully intact from his Tallione aspect, though his former name of Heristivus has changed.

Mercandus, Neutral (Luck, Travel, Magic, Air) [Bow]
- Once a nomadic god, Mercandus has changed aspects numerous times in the ancient Craeco histories until he has now become the god of merchants and trade. He has become more popular as the Tallione empire has grown and established order.

Stersius, Chaotic Neutral (Chaos, Water, War, Destruction) [Trident]
- Sailors pay their respects to Stersius, lest the god vent his anger upon their ships. Many times, such offerings matter little, and storms come and threaten both boats and coastal towns anyway. Stersius is also called the Sea Lord, and is unpredictable in his feelings on the question of mankind. It is said that he gave the first mariner the knowledge of navigation.

Oberius, Lawful Evil (Law, Evil, Strength, Trickery) [Dagger]
- Oberius is a god from eastern lands and known there as Lzaar, god of Obedience, but his cult has grown remarkably fast in the Tallione empire. The emperor himself is said to have considered squashing the religion as well as that of Festios and Cryon, but some members of his court have changed his mind. Oberius, or Lzaar, is a also sometimes considered a god of court intrigues, though he cares more for obedience than civilization.

Festios, Neutral Evil (Evil, Plant, Animal, Earth) [Quarterstaff]
- Festios, the Lord of Decay, is an ancient nature god closely aligned with his brother Cryon and his spheres of death and destruction. The worshippers of this god seek to balance the civilized world, which they see as growing too powerful. The answer to this, in their minds, lies in restoring nature to the world and civilization pushed back. Festios is revered by darker druids, and many ancient pillars are said to be places of sacrifice to the Feeble Lord.

Cryon, Chaotic Evil (Chaos, Evil, Death, Destruction) [Scythe]
- No one admits to worshipping Cryon, the Reaver, though the more popular worshippers of Oberius and Festios treat him with respect. Cryon is the god of death, and Festios causes his creations to become old and feeble before dying as a gift to Cryon. In return, Cryon seeks the destruction of civilization so that Festios' version of nature may spread.

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Cast of Player Characters:

Danica Swann, Female Human Sorceress
Player: Kobold Stew

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Player's Note
At the start of chapter 1, Danica is a 16-year-old girl who has worked for the past 18 months cleaning up for Randal's Ruffians. It's a job, and she does it tolerably well--her smile means they like her, and generally treat her well, even if she is not particularly good at it. The men joke with her, and have taught her some fighting tricks--self defence, how to use weapons, etc. -- because it amuses them, and she seems to have a good eye for such things. But she is not indentured, and has lately been thinking that she should try something new. Like most of the girls in Fair Creek, her body has been going through changes recently. In Danica's case, though, they have been more extreme: she is a spellcaster, it seems, though this is something she has not told anyone. It's not a secret, and she suspects that Hector has figured it out though he hasn't said anything to her. But she doesn't want to make a deal of it. She has discovered that she has ways of fending off the unwanted advances of the occasional drunken Ruffian, and that has made her job a little bit easier.

When she hears about the Baron's call for assistance, she decides to offer her services. Danica brushes her hair, puts on her cleanest dress, and presents herself.

Between chapters 1 and 3, Danica had been working as a courier, carrying messages between the various factions of this temporary alliance. Much of her time had been spent alone, waiting for a message or for a reply that she is to bring. This work has expanded her horizons immensely--even in seeing the camps of other races, she has been introduced to new aspects of life. On her own, though, she has felt her magic developing. It will not be easy to keep it secret much longer, she thinks. She feels the powers of life, but with them comes the powers of unlife. This has her scared, but she is emboldened to see what she is now capable of.

Before chapter 3, Danica was dressed as a young boy, serving as a crossbowman. Her disguise was far from perfect, but she thought it helped avoid attention. She is small and pretty, but this is hidden by the fact that her clothes are plain and not especially clean and she keeps a pet rat. Her hair has been cut, roughly, to shoulder length, but she continues to take care of it. Still, most people would not take a second look at her, which is apparently what she wants.

But occasionally, she changes. It is sometimes clear, only in passing, that her natural posture is excellent, even though she often slouches. When she smiles, at you, well, it sticks with you for days, as you try to understand what it was she meant by that. And occasionally, when she's mumbling to herself about something or other, she momentarily can seem like the only person in the room.


After Chapter 3, Danica finally revealed (confessed) that she has magical abilities, and with this, there is a noticable change in her demeanor. She is standing taller, her shoulders are a bit more relaxed, her chin is steady, and she is no longer hiding herself from the world. She is wearing a dark blue silk bouse that shows off her figure, tucked into traveller's pants, with leather boots rising to her upper calf. Her dark hair, still cropped short, has at least been evened out.

She carries a crossbow at her side, and a backpack over her shoulder.

Her smile is still there, and there is a spark in her eyes, that for some, will suggest ambition.

DM's Note: Kyle Radnal has treated Danica as the daughter he never had, and had known about her secrets though gave her respect by not confronting her about it. She has been quite the addition to the team, usually acting in a support role, while being deadly on occasion with her trusty crossbow. She is also one of the more innocent and pure of the characters.
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Vaerixsjach “Rix”, Male Kobold Rogue
Player: Ferrix

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Player's Note

Description
Rix is a runt, but a brilliant and talented runt. He stands a meager two feet in height, although if he stretched his double-jointed legs out, he might make two and a half. His limbs are long and spindly, his finger tips reaching almost to his knees. His scales are like polished steel which has been rusted and pitted, a subtle glisten remains. He carries a small backpack, a longspear and a light crossbow. Covering his eyes are a pair of smoky goggles. A yellow bandana runs around his reptilian forehead.

Personality
Brilliant, shy and coordinated, Rix is thoroughly sure of his ability to deal with whatever comes his way. Whether if that’s by knowing when to run away, or when to take advantage of the situation, he’s capable of it. The loss of his clan has left Rix without the social hierarchy and structure that he’s used to, something which he yearns for. Preferring to keep out of the midst of any conflict, he prefers to set traps and then ambush his opponents from afar with his crossbow. He has a misplaced dislike for the typically brutish orcs, blaming them for the fall of his clan.

Combat Preferences
Rix prefers to avoid melee combat at almost all costs. If anything he'll resort to using his longspear from behind a meatshield (ally). If he gets closed on, he'll Withdraw (35 ft. speed) or Tumble away. He will try to work anything to a tactical advantage (cover, concealment, high ground, rough ground, etc.). If he can he'll attempt to maximize sneak attack potential (hit-and-run hide tactics with his crossbow preferrably, although flanking with his longspear works too). He always focuses his attacks on important figures letting his companions deal with lackeys (spellcasters are often his primary target). He uses his small size to his advantage, he is only 2 ft. tall basically so will hide under tables, chairs or get up on the top of dressers, beams, etc. He likes putting something between him and his enemy that keeps his enemy from getting to him, whether that's companions, rough ground, a wall, climbing whatever.

DM's Note
Rix made no effort to hide his evil intentions, though the kobold was influenced by the better-minded Dorinthians. The local church leaders took a special interest in trying to steer him to an honorable path, and he made strange friendships with the good-hearted Kel, Alexander, and (especially) Danica. Somewhat loyal to his friends, but greedy and conniving, Rix is a strong-willed character.
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Alexander, Male Half-orc Ranger
Player: Land Outcast

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Player's Note

Basic Story: Born at a small hamlet in middle of the forest where his mother moved to give birth to a half orc, in search of a medium where said kid could fare better. When she left he was still young, and was left under the care of the local priest of the Huntress, a man who went by the name of Ravil. Alexander trained as hunter for the hamlet, and everyso often did scouting assignments requested from Fair Creek. One day, after a week's scouting he returned only to find the hamlet in ruins, the shrine desecrated, everything he had known burned and brought to floor level.... and the corpses gnawed upon...
Aberrations under the command of the enemy stormed the hamlet, undead, those who corrupt the undending cycle, as the Huntress taught it. He picked up two things, a broken blade, which he affixed to his left wrist with a leather cord and some leather to protect his flesh, and a holy symbol of Artemis, which was still held by the amputated hand of whomever.
*He has a brownish mark on his throat, reminiscent of a near encounter with death at the jaws of a wolf.

DM's Note

Alexander was the defacto leader of the group, until he was captured and Dartis took a larger role in the party. The half-orc fell in love with the baron's daughter, Syra, and also has a twin sister named Alexandra that is a paladin. Unfortunately, the player of Alexandra did not continue the campaign after our first chapter was interrupted and wiped out by the ENWorld crash earlier in 2006.
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Silas Eyrstan the Caernite, Male Human Abjurer
Player: GlassEye

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Player's Note
Silas Eyrstan, known as the Caernite, was born amidst blood and tears in the town of Fair Creek to a mother who did not long survive his birth. Weeks later his father, a skilled stonemason, returned to Fair Creek from the Dorinthian capital where he had been employed in making repairs to the High Temple to find his wife buried. When the midwife placed the robust baby boy in his arms he found he could hold no resentment in his heart but only love for his child.

The next years were tough. A succession of cruel or indifferent housekeepers left Silas disinclined to leave his father’s side and the elder Eyrstan disinclined to forbid his son anything if it were within his power to provide. Luckily, Silas’ only desire was to be at his father’s side. Throughout his childhood Silas learned a fair amount of the stonemason’s trade by doggedly following his father as he travelled the lands repairing the great structures of Dorinth or building new architectural wonders.

It was the intent of both father and son for Silas to apprentice in the stonemason’s craft. That is, until the elder Eyrstan was hired to work among the crew expanding the keep of Baron Karadore. The stonemasons were instructed to salvage stone from a nearby ruin. Silas found the ruin a site of endless fascination and spent countless hours roaming through it. Fascination became near obsession when young Silas discovered runes carved into the walls deep within the ruin. Though the runes were totally foreign to him he spent hours studying them, tracing their shapes in the dirt, and finally begging, borrowing, or just plain stealing what paper he could to make rubbings of the runes before the stonemasons could come to take the stone.

Totally absorbed in the making of one of his rubbings, Silas was discovered (and, quite frankly, nearly startled out of his wits) by a short fellow, stocky as stone. The fellow’s irritation and gruffness melted away when he discovered Silas’ passion for the runes and it was only a short time after that Silas was able to convince his father to apprentice him to the odd scholar.

Silas’ apprenticeship was one of excited discovery. Language, history, architecture; the scholar encouraged Silas’ passions for it all, provided method for the young man’s researches, and awakened and trained his latent talent for manipulating the forces of magic.

Years passed, his apprenticeship ended, and Silas became known (in a very small circle, however) as a promising young Caernite scholar. He married, had a child of his own. And then disaster: the Nestrav Empire invaded Dorinth. Unable to let other men bear the brunt of defending his family and country, Silas charged his aging father with taking his wife and son to safety in Fair Creek and set off to war where his education allowed him to take the position of adjunct to a low-ranked officer.

After Dorinth’s Last Stand Silas wearily made his way to Fair Creek only to find the town deserted. In exhaustion and despair for his family, Silas collapsed. Found by one of Radnal’s Ruffians, Silas was led to the refugee camp in the Silver Forest where he was reunited with his family. With the looming threat of the Nestravians and their dark allies, Silas will do what it takes to find a safe haven for his family…

DM's Note

The running gag with Silas is that he enjoys fighting on the front lines, and often engages the enemy with his quarterstaff in hand and armored with protection spells. He's actually been quite an effective fighter, too, and has become the unofficial advisor to Dartis, who is looking to becoming the new king of the Dorinthians.

His name is not to be confused with Silas Generwine, the elven diplomat and adventurer.
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Kel, the Male Elven Cleric
Player: D20Dazza

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Player's Note

Appearance: Wild, foreign, feral, draped in furs and shells, fangs, feathers and claws.
Personality: Tactirum, cautious, observant, calculating

DM's Note

To fill in some information on Kel, he started out in agreement with Silas Generwine, in that the humans needed to be watched. He quickly began changing his mind after forming a strong bond with Alexander, Danica, and Rix. Currently he has retired from adventuring in order to become a leader in the more pro-Dorinthian factions of the Elven Council despite his young age.
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Baron Dartis Kalnian, Male Human Fighter
Player: Fenris
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Player's Note

Appearance: Dartis is a young man whose bearing has all the hallmarks
of his aristocratic upbringing. His blond hair is short in the manner of the archers.
He keeps a sword by his side as he tends to be too close to the enemy when he runs out of arrows.

Background: Dartis was the youngest son of the Baron of Kalnian,
a small Barony located in the south. Like his brothers Dartis was raised
to join the cavalry. He was taught to ride and shoot at a young age. When
he reached majority, Dartis joined the army just as all the Kalnian's had
before him. But unlike his ancestors, times were troubled and the Tallone
were always a threat. Dartis was stationed on the southern border and
watched for Tallione incursions becoming involved in minor skimishes along
the border. The real trouble began when the order came to move north to
quell the riots. Dartis was glad when his commander told them they weren't
moving as he didn't believe that they should leave the border updefended to
support the corrupt rule of Rasnen. Once the Tallione invaded soon after
things changed, Dartis was first and foremost a Dorinthian and he would
defend his country from the Tallione. His unit was pushed back, and further back.
The losses were very hard and his unit was disbanded and he was reassaigned
to a unit from the small town of Fair Creek. This was a small bit of good fortune
for him on a foul day as he found out that after a long seige his father's keep
had finally fallen in the south and his family slain.

Dartis was there at the Lost Battle of Kalden and followed his commander back
to the town to report the massacre. Dartis rode his horse so hard getting back
the the poor beast that hea had had since he was a boy, died from the run, But
the warning was sent. Dartis followed the town watching over the
migration and awating orders from the only current leige he had, Baron Dorin,
on how to proceed. Meanwhile he lost most everything he had in the flight from
Kalden, but his weapons he had with him.

DM's Note

Dartis has become the leader of the party, and because of his royal heritage he also seeks to become king of a New Dorinthia. Recently, he has proposed to Syra and made friends with Cal in order to cement his position. Still, he is finding that politics can be as dangerous as adventuring, even among those that are his comrades.
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Chalik Bermax, Male Dwarven Fighter/Rogue
Player: Ilium

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DM's Note

Chalik was only with the party for a short time as they ventured into some caverns past a seal in the dwarven kingdoms. He was the party replacement for Rix until Barok became a member.
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Tessan Ventus, Male Human Fighter
Player: Hafrogman

[sblock]
Player's Note:

I am a soldier, as was my father before me, and his father before him. Legionaire's all, we did battle as men, on foot, face to face with our enemies. Our lives for the Empire.

I was born while my father was away, fighting for the glory of Tallione. He was there during the during the final push of the last Dorinthian War. He was one of the few who made it back at all, even if he was no longer the man he used to be. Often in my youth he would sit by the fire at night, looking at the space where his leg should have been and he would tell me tales of his service. The battles and the glory, and the terrible losses that the Dorinthians wreaked upon his comrades. It was always my destiny to follow in his path.

When I came of age, I entered the service of my Empire. The night before I left my home to begin my new duties, my father took me aside and handed me his sword. A legionaire's sword, decorated with the Tallione eagle. It was the sword of my grandfather, blessed by the gods, an heirloom of the Ventus line. Not a noble's weapon, not gilt or jewels adorn it. It is the sword of a soldier. Sharp. Made to be used. I wore it with pride as I joined the legion. Two years later I marched for Dorinth with the sword at my side.

The war seemed to be in our favor at first. We marched on Dorinam as conquerers, and quickly defeated their weak king. But the people themselves proved more of a challenge. As the war continued, our losses increased. True to my father's tales, the Dorinthians were fierce in battle. I reveled in the conflict, eager to prove myself on the field of battle. But as the fighting grew more fierce, I began to notice changes in the character of the legion. Discipline broke down, and often the troops were allowed. . . or encouraged to commit horrible deeds in the name of the Empire. This was not two armies meeting on the field of battle with honor, this was not the way of my father.

I stood victorious at the Battle of Kalden. The fighting had been fierce, and our victory won at a terrible cost. But we had held the day. After the battle though, the mood turned dark. My fellow soldiers, and the officers meant to be their guidance, all turned upon the civilians and refugees. The innocent and the helpless were slaughtered. . . in the name of the Empire. Sickened, I turned away from the massacre and tried to flee. My commander noticed my motion, and moved to confront me. We argued over the bloodshed, and I decried the legions' atrocities. He drew his blade on me and I was forced to defend myself. I left his body on the field of battle as I stumbled away in a daze. I gazed down at the blade of my sword, red with blood, Tallione blood. I had betrayed the memories of my father and grandfather. . . or perhaps the Empire had betrayed their memories . . . or perhaps both.

I found myself alone, outside of the town, covered in the blood of my own comander. I threw aside the trappings of my service. The shield and the cape and the spear of a legionaire were all cast aside, but the blade stayed with me. I could not bring myself to abandon it. I replaced my shield with that of a fallen Dorinthian soldier and fled into the night. I had no direction, and no concept of what awaited me, but I could no longer return.

DM's Note:
As a former Imperial soldier, Ventus had a hard road becoming accepted among the Dorinthians, but he has bled alongside their warriors in protection of their new home and gained their respect. He normally engages the enemy in melee, alongside Barok and Silas.

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Barok Hume, Male Human Rogue
Player: Nephtys

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Player's Note

Personality
Self-reliant, independent-minded, doesn't like to dwell on the past (or much of anything really). He's been trough hell, and he's repressing it for all he's worth.

Background
The pay was good, so he joined the army. The pay got less good, so he found other ways to make money. The war came and changed everything.
Thrust into a role he never would have wanted he found himself forced to flee the foes who murdered his family, leading a column of refugees into the mountains.

DM's Note
Barok is the bad boy of the party. He's taken over as the party's rogue after Rix and Chalik departed the group, but has also taken over much of Rix's outlook. Barok is hoping that Dartis declares himself king, since he wants to have a position in a new order if it is formed along with the wealth and power that it would bring.
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Nikolos Viridikos, Witness of Adeiros the Seeker, Male Human Cleric
Player: Blarkon Dragonslayer

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Player's Note

Description: Nikolos is a slightly pudgy man, standing 5'10", weighing about 190lbs. He has dark hair, which he keeps cut close to his scalp, and lively dark eyes, which seem to always be examining everything about him. He's usually cheerful, and busy. Most often, especially in the field, he is wearing heavy exploring clothing, and his armor. Otherwise he wears the burgundy vestments of his calling as a Witness.

Background: Nikolos is the third son of a prominent Craecean family. An ancestor of his had the great good sense to quickly leap to serve Craece's Tallione conquerors. This act of foresight (at the time, the Talliones hadn't 'quite' actually conquered Craece) has assured the Viridikos family of high position in the long conquered but ancient and honorable land. As the third son, Nikolos was not in position to inherit the family lands and offices, nor was he expected to rush off and join the Tallione legions. Instead, his father purchased for him a position in the Church of the Seeker. It was expected that he would seek, and eventually gain, a high position amongst the Archivist Order, thus adding more illustriousness to the house of Virikidos.

Instead, Nikolos joined the Delver's Order, and set out to see the wide world. He hasn't been back to Craece since, and has little intention of returning anytime soon. As a Witness, he travelled with the two legions making the amphibious landing during the conquest of Dorinthia, so that he could witness and record the glorious march of Tallione arms. What he saw wasn't exactly what he expected. Now that the war is largely won, he's traveled on north, intent upon viewing the lands and peoples still resisting the vast might of the empire.

DM's Note:
Nikolos has been following the party, somewhat because of professional curiosity, but also because he has found himself growing attached in a very personal way.
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Caramip Ashhearth, Female Gnome Bard
Player: Bloodweaver 1

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Player's Note

It has been Caramip clan’s long duty, honor, and privilege to weave the tall tales of all great heroes, villains and commoners that have been thrust into all of the large wars that have scarred this vast realm. This war is no different. With two of her fellow clan members scattered throughout the battle field each taking a different side, Caramip instead hitches a ride with a local noble. Hoping to witness at first hand the greatest tale of the whole war.

DM's Note

Caramip is a follower and assistant of Nikolos, but has much more of a lighter side. Out of the two, Caramip is more compassionate over the plight of the Dorinthians and has been influential when it comes to convincing Nikolos to forego professional distance in order to render aid to those in need.
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Connavar Banouin, Male Human Barbarian
Player: Leinart
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Player's Note

Appearance: Conn is a tall and powerfully built individual. Standing at almost 7 ft tall with huge corded muscles he is an imposing figure to say the least. His blonde hair is shoulder length and is kept out of his face by a black leather cord. He has sharp blue eyes. And has an almost permanent stubble.

Personality: Loud, brash and bold and reckless. He lacks subelty prefering the direct approach. He is also incredibly stubborn

Background: Conn was born to a small village out west nestled in the shadows of the dukel mountains. His home was one of choas and violence as the area had never been restored after the last war. He never knew his mother and his father abandoned him at the age of 13 to go to war thus leaving conn to fend for himself. He spent the couple of years fighting for survival and joined up with the rebels when he was 16. His fighting based on his stubborn will to live and savage rage at the life he was forced to endure. He earned the reputation as a fierce warrior and pulled his squad through several tough situtions with his never say die attitude. He was present at the battle of kalden and was one of the few survivors that withdrew to fair creek. Since he has been around he has pulled his weight and then some to ensure that they save as many people as possible. He has also recently tried to gain the attentions of Syra Dorin, much to the chagrin of her older brother.

DM's Note

Conn ran into the party when they were deep in enemy territory, his character going on a solo and bloody vendetta of his own and running into them by chance.
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Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
The town of Fair Creek is no more, and the Dorinthian refugees from that town have fled into the southern edge of the elven Silver Forest. There they have been offered a new hope. An old half-elf town called Meristra was partially destroyed and abandoned after an orc invasion a generation ago. The town can be theirs, if it can be successfully explored and made safe. At the same time Baron Dren Dorin's son, Cal Dorin, is taking a group of riders east to the dwarven lands to seek a possible home there, and to see if more survivors of Dorinthia can be found and recovered.

A number of talented Dorinthian step forward willing to investigate the ruins of this lost town and report back whether or not it is safe to occupy the territory. These are Alexander the half-orc, Rix the kobold, and Kel, a visiting elven ambassador.

The town looked empty except for some vermin and scattered skeltons from long ago. They made their way inside a building that was likely used as a administrative building for the town's guard. The structure was the scene of past fighting, with the skeletal remains of half-elves and orcs still littering the floor. Several of the group were investigating the downstairs area, when one of the party members opened the door to a staircase leading to the basement.

This door had a primitive warning device tied to the doorknob, a rope with bells attached to it. When the door was opened the bells rung, their sounds echoing down a dug corridor leading from a wall in the basement. From the looks of the corridor, it was newer than the building, perhaps completed within the last year or two.

Following down the stairs Kel watches the group huddled by the door cautiously "Well they know we're here now, who is going down? Or should we wait here for them to investiagte?" the elf hisses in a whisper.

The great half orc shrugged at the moment of silence and asked, "We came to take them out, I say we go in. Ready to go on? I am."

Alexander started descending, scimitar on hand and dagger at the ready, wary for any noise or movement.

The ceiling was low, causing the half-orc to have to stoop down as he entered the tunnel. There was only room for one medium-sized creature to walk in at a time, although two small creatures could probably walk side by side.

Alexander had taken the lead and reached the bottom of the staircase, the rest of the group following and seeing that they could stand comfortably there. They noticed a tunnel in a nearby wall that looked like a natural collapse from a distance. As they walked closer they realized that it was actually an artificial creation. Someone had dug a tunnel directly into this basement. The tunnel snaked off to the right after 10 feet and is small in size, which causes everyone except Rix to have to stoop uncomfortably as they entered.

The kobold, Rix, searched the tunnel before the chamber opening, when a small bolt flew into the tunnel and left a gash across the thief's right arm. They saw a small shape scurry behind a couple of barrels that lie in the chamber, and a small voice yell something unintelligible.

Something unintelligible that is, except for the kobold who hears his own native language of draconic. He yells out in draconic, "I have meant no intrusion kin, these others poke and prod in the manner of brutes." He grimaces at his wound, "I saw evidence of my kin here, may I have counsel with the All-Watcher?"

A creature answers in a similar language, and after a moment a kobold comes into view, disables what looks to have been a hidden trip wire at the end of the tunnel, and lets the party into the antechamber. Two other kobolds stand in the room, each holding a small crossbow at the ready.

A voice answered in draconic, "Come forward and explain who you are and what you are doing here while the All-Watcher decides whether to see you," the kobold says demandingly, while holding a long dagger at his side.

Rix grins the tooth-filled grin of a dragonkin, he speaks again in his own language to the kobold. "I am Vaerixsjach, dragonwrought of a tribe now extinct. I have been pressed into service with these pointy-eared and tusk-toothed brutes to explore this decrepit town, to see if it is habitable once again. I saw evidence that my kin were here, but these brutes blunder heavily without any finesse like they own everything." His ochre eyes narrow awaiting a response.

Meanwhile, Kel hung back in the corridor, carefully watching the scene play out in front of him. He had half an ear cocked for sounds coming from behind the group. Alexander, realizing that his intervention wouldn't be welcome, waits for Rix to make introductions... though he didn't loosen his grip on the scimitar. Let the wolf deal with the pack of wolves.

As Rix and the other kobold converse in their language several more kobolds beginning to appeared from a corridor opposite the party. They stood ready with small crossbows and daggers until another kobold, larger than the rest appeared. He seemed to be their leader. The kobold looked older and more intelligent. A shortspear was carried in one hand, while he fingered a claw necklace with the other.

After a moment he spoke: "Talk common we shall, since that is tongue of your taller comrades. What purpose you come to our home?"

Shrugging Rix continued in the common tongue, "My name is Vaerixsjach." He jerked a scaled thumb back at the others, "They are here to see if this town, once abandoned is habitable. The orc there decided it was his business to blunder into your domain," he pointed out Alexander.

The kobold leader chuckled nastily. "It is habitable! We are proof of that, but we don't want your big men coming here. This is our home! We lived in hills nearby, but goblins force us out." He pondered a moment, and scratched his chin.

"Perhaps you help with goblins. Your big men go with you and kick them out and we move back in. We give you maps of place and escort you to entrance, too. Then maybe more of your big men come and trade with us. Orc and human weapons good."

Alexander made an effort to block the situation, he isn't asking "goblins, where?!" just because he knew that if he did so, that'd be the first step towards loosing control and impaling the kobold with his punching dagger...

He managed to muster a "trade? trade and not raid big men?"

...Remember the words of the Huntress, when the pack of wolves sorrounds you, if you have meat they want, give it to them and you can get to feed them regularly, while your enemies won't always have spare meat...

"Then we have a deal, anything against it Rix?"

...Even though, keep an eye open; and the knife at the ready, as always.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
The terms were agreed upon, and the party headed back to camp to get some rest before heading into the goblin lair the next morning.

They were led just outside the village, to the crest of a steep, dark hill. The party's kobold allies explained that the entrance to the tunnels are at the peak of the hill, with a portcullis that is normally guarded by a couple of goblins.

They drew a rough sketch in loose ground of the complex, which featured 10 main rooms. The first room was just beyond the doors and used to admit guests. It had three connecting tunnels, one to the north, one east, and one that goes west.

The western room were the living quarters of the goblins and consisted of one very large communal area, although the goblins slept in shifts. The eastern tunnel had two rooms in sequence, and was often used to store prisoners or pens to keep animals.

The northern tunnel led to a room that split again, with three rooms to the east that normally held the food and water storage of the goblin tribe, plus the occasional plunder. These rooms were not in sequence. The first room had two tunnels to each of the other rooms, one which lay north, the other which lay east.

The two northern-most rooms housed the goblin leader and his defenders. If they could kill him, the other goblins would lose heart.

The rooms looked like this, with '4' being the entrance:

_____________________________10
_____________________________|
_____________________________9__ 6
_____________________________|___|
_____________________________8---7--5
_____________________________|
__________________________1--4--3--2

Alexander got besides the group just in time to hear the kobold's explanation of the complex and knelt down to examine the situation.

"We must sneak upon them, the first step is to eliminate the guards..." Or, knowing this was inhabited by smart scaly buggers... "Or go through a backdoor directly into the Scum's Chief room; is there a backdoor somewhere?" Alexander asked to the kobold drawing the map.

After that we can just wreak havock within the complex...[/COLOR]

Rix grinned, there could be a profitable future here. "A rear entrance would be most effective for a stealthy infiltration, what other sorts of defences were there before. Goblins are poor trapmakers, but they may be able to jury-rig some of the master traps into working again."

The dragonkin scratched a nail across the back of his hand.

Kel pondered whether he should still be involved in this venture, he has after all done what was asked of him, he has escorted the rabble to the ruins and has found them a home. The thought of ridding the world of some goblins though does hold a certain amount of appeal.

"Hmm, a back door would make things simpler" he concurred.

The kobold guide, Linds, considered the party for a moment before answering. "Maybe there is a secret exit that leads from the leader's living chamber (room 10) to somewhere behind hill. Is rumor I heard from All-Watcher's woman, once, but only All-Watcher would know and maybe goblin leader knows, maybe not. Another tunnel goes from animal pens (room 2) to leader's throne room for possible escape. Is on east wall. A real kobold finds no problem. And you no need to sneak. You have big ones with. They chop slice!" The kobold, Linds, made some quick jabbing and cutting motions with his knife. "Oh, and traps too difficult for dumb goblins. Except for pit trap in front of throne room (room 9), by south door. That drops with switch at throne."

"Yeha, we "chop slice"..." Alexander smiled to himself, even though vicious, these kobolds can lighten the mood when they are not trying to bite a piece off you

"To me it seems settled, we take out the guards at the entrance silently, then sneak inside to the eastern room. That way we get to the Scum Chief's room in no time, then it becomes her turn" -as he touched his sheathed scimitar with his punching dagger; a broken blade tied to his forearm with leather underneath.

"Are we ready to go?"

Rix nodded, for once he and the half-orc are in agreement about something. "Let us go then." He thanks the kobold helping them with the map in draconic, also sending his regards to the All-Watcher for their cooperation.

Kel stood back and watched the exchange, feeling even more an outcast than previously "Seems the orc and kobold are starting to form a friendship" he thought to himself as he waited.

"I am ready, let's cleanse the kobold home of goblins so we can move the refuges in here" the elf druid said tersely.

The party moved onward, with Rix in the lead. They approached the crest of the green hill and saw what looked like a cave opening topped by a ceiling of red stone. From their vantage point at the end of some bushes, they could make out the shapes of two hunched goblins who were tossing around a game of dice. One was armed with a spear, while the other had a short sword attached to his hip. The goblin with the spear was sitting on a rock, his back towards a line of brush.

Rix unslung his light crossbow, holding it at the ready, and examined their surroundings.
Speaking in a hushed tone, "if we pincer them in a crossfire from either side, they'll have little chance to respond adequately."

Under likewise hushed tones, Alexander added "I'll circle the hill and get on top of them ready to drop" he looked at Rix "you get in the bushes, behind that goblin" and shifted to look at Kel "we attack when the first arrow falls upon the goblin to the right side of the hill"... "We must be brutal and swift"

The half-orc nodded emphatically to encourage the others onward. I'm used to do things my way... do they disagree? Let them complain.

"Should anything go awry and the yellow midgets give the alarm... we move to the top of the hill."

There we can, as well as run away, hold our ground, depending on my mood... and how much these two can stand.

"I'll take the hill, I can cover the area more easily from up there. You'll just make a racket climbing it anyways. Better to have you on the ground where you can do some good." Rix smirked at the half-orc, better to put him in the way of danger than myself.

Kel nodded his agreement to the half-orc and then carefully watched his reaction as the kobold changed the plan.

Happy to have the decision made by the chosen of the refugees, the wild elf sinks down into the foliage and starts to quietly edge his way into position, pulling a short spear from the long quiver that hangs from his back as he moved.

Alexander had his own thoughts. Scaled little cowardly scoundrel... Let him go uphill... Break a leg Rix.

"Sounds like a sensible suggestion, from up there you'll be at a a good vantage point for whomever comes from inside. Anything to add Elf?"

Kel stops and looked over his shoulder at the orcs hissed question "Yes. Let us kill these goblins, rid the area of one more evil, and then we can move the kobolds out of the ruins and you and your people can leave me and mine alone. Unless you're concerned about killing your cousins?" the elf replies nonchalantly to the ranger.

"Choose your terms carefully. "Cousins" implies family or pack. "My people" are those who defend this land." By the Huntress!, why did he offer himself for the job?

Having spoken thus, Alexander unsheathed his scimitar and started moving cautiously towards the bushes at the right of the cave's entrance.

The killing was brutally quick.

Rix managed to quietly work himself around the hill and atop of the cave entrance as Alexander circled through the bushes, crawling then through the brush until he was nearly touching the right-most humanoid. At a signal from Rix, all pounced at the goblin guards.

Alexander leapt from the ground like a flying spear, driving his scimitar through the back of his opponent, instantly killing him. The second goblin fumbled for his weapon while screaming in horror, only to be interrupted by a crossbow bolt from Rix that struck his throat and silenced him forever. The battle lasts only a few seconds, too quick for Kel to engage.

Kel scouted around as Alexander examines the cave and finds it sealed by a metal gate. The kobold put the gurgling goblin out of his misery and then searched the bodies and found a few loose coins, a rusted spear and short sword, and the key that opened the metal gate.

With a gentle click and a loud squeak the gate comes open, allowing access to the halls below.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
Chapter 1- Homeless

"Quality work Rix," Alexander commented while cleaning his scimitar on the fallen goblin's clothing.

Rix nodded wordlessly, I knew it would work, no question there. "Sorry you two missed out on the fun, better be quicker next time." A draconic chuckle rolled from his throat, a humorous malevolence present in the sound.

He checked to see if he could recover the bolt he had just used, but found that the head splintered after passing through his enemy's jugular, rendering it worthless.

Better lodged in a dead goblin than in my quiver, Rix thought as he tossed the broken bolt away.

Taking the lead, the kobold detected no traps or goblins as the party entered the first main room, far from the cave entrance. The room was 50' wide, by 70 feet long. The room was an artificial creation, with several stone columns carved out of natural stone and depicting scenes of what looked to be kobolds worshipping a dragon. A tunnel led into the unknown into each of the north, east, and west directions. The tunnel the party just came from pointed towards the south. There were no signs of goblins in the room.

Pausing a moment to admire the excellent craftsmanship of the room and its scenes, the kobold gestured towards the east and moved off again cautiously towards the prisoner and animal pens.

Alexander halfway smiled at the kobold's comment, then nodded and proceeded silently in direction to the pens. He felt there was no need to warn the elf to keep silent.

Kel ignored the kobold's snide remarks, feeling even lonelier as he followed the kobold and the orc into the darkness.

The elf moved as silently as he could, using the light seeping in from above to aid his eyesight. A short spear was gripped loosely in his hand, his arm cocked and ready to throw it should become necessary.

The party began to walk down the eastern tunnel, warily stopping just outside the entrance to the next room, where they could hear the sounds of a goblin speaking commands loudly in his rough language. Rix peered inside and reported seeing the back of a goblin in leather, holding a whip and snapping at a creature the kobold could not make out.

Meanwhile, Kel discerned the sound of two, very hungry wolves in addition to the goblin animal handler. It would be a tough battle.

Alexander whispered to Rix, "Can you put a bolt in the base of his skull?"

In reply, Rix cocked his crossbow and loaded another bolt into it, nodding to the half-orc. "Stand ready. I only saw one but if there are more I'm coming back and I want you two ready."

He crept forward again, to get a clear line of sight on the goblin, sighting for a gap in the armor behind the heart. With confidence, he loosed the bolt, the crossbow bolt lodging in the back of the goblin's skull, instantly killing him. Alexander moved to cover the rogue, but was jumped by two wolves. The first of the canines bit down on Alexander's arm, causing him to yell in pain. The second wolf barely missed the half-orc.

In anger, Alexander sliced the wolf that had bitten him, killing it with a blade into its ribs. Kel then moved forward, while Rix fired another bolt into his target, and dispatched the second wolf before it could reattack.

The battle was over. Kel cleaned his weapon and then checked on Alexander's arm while Rix examined the room. It was 30' wide by 40' in length and lit from the torch still clutched in the dead goblin's hand, showing a cobblestoned floor. Eight pens lined the walls, all closed and empty except one that was open and housed the wolves. A passageway continued to the east to what appears to be more pens.

A quick search of the trainer revealed a whip, loose coins of little value, and a tarnished dagger. A ring of keys was also found in his belt.

Alexander carefully touched the wounded area, repeatedly, until he seemed not to realize the wound was there. "Thanks elf," he added in a low voice.

Snapping back to reality, he carefully took the whip with his left hand and commented "Tsk... These vermin, they have need of this," -The half-orc split the whip in two with his scimitar- "to make wolves do their bidding... but better them be wolves than worgs, I suppose."

"Let's see, before going on let's examine these cells... the tunnel's entrance might be there." He proceeded to unlock the nearest cell with the keys on the keyring.

Initially, the party did not find signs of a secret entrance in the room, despite looking in each of the six cells. The adventurers moved on and checked the cells in the adjoining room, successfully finding a secret door against the eastern wall that was activated by turning a stone in the wall. The only other thing of note in this second room of pens were the decaying corpses of two kobolds that had been locked up in one cell. They looked to have suffered from wounds inflicted by torture before they expired.

Rix pocketed the dagger and examined the ring of keys after Alexander was finished with them, saying, "We'll need this."

Before departing the second room, Rix moved over to the dead kobolds, speaking a short litany in draconic so that they might be reincarnated into the next hatching of kobolds.

At the sight of the corpses, Alexander looked silently at Rix... and his thoughts drifted away...

-
I wonder if they have felt my absence at the shrine during this month... Heh, this deer will be motive of a good celebration, noone fell one this size before... Strange, I should be hearing the noises of people by this time, I'm near enough...
Ash, cold ash and carbonized buildings, footsteps, scores of footsteps, splinters of bone...
What!?... The shrine! Destroyed! What's that thing shining down there?...
The holy symbol of the Huntress, still grasped tightly by the decaying hand of the acolyte who took care of the shrine, and besides it, a piece of a broken blade...
-

Suddenly he returned to his senses, and said nothing, but shook his head in grief.

Scoundrels or not, these two were his people...

"...Eh? Sure, yes" [/QUOTE]

Meanwhile, Kel paced nervously back and forth in the room while the orc and kobold paid their respects to fallen evil.

Examining the hidden passageway carefully as they proceeded, he remarked to his over-sized companions, "Watch your head."

The group continued down the tunnel, eventually reaching the end without a problem, although Alexander had trouble fitting his body through. At the end, Rix turned a stone against the wall, which caused a secret door to slide open and revealed a large goblin playing catch with two large, feral-looking wolves.

The goblin stood at the center of the room while tossing a femur to one of the wolves. The remnants of a ragged bed with a form lying on it stood at the far corner of the room. A chest rested at the foot of the dirty mattress. The walls were decorated in primitive goblin war banners.

As the party took this all in, the second wolf began to sniff the air and growl.

"Surprise has already been lost," muttered Alexander.
"Strike!"

And with this, Alexander charged at the goblin, hoping to take by surprise the wolves so that they couldn't react, his scimitar rose, ready to make an ascendant arc and bite into goblin flesh.

Rix stayed back in the shadows of the hidden tunnel and drew out his crossbow, takes aim and firing at one of the wolves, figuring it as more dangerous than the goblin.

As Alexander yelled and rushed into the room, Rix shot from his crossbow caught one of the wolves flat-footed, and making it give a satisfying yelp. The large goblin and other wolf jumped in surprise from this, turning to face the half-orc, Alexander.

The goblin leader blocked the initial blows of the ranger, although a second attack got past his guard and sliced his side, causing a trickle of blood to flow. Kel fired his sling at the wolf Rix hit, striking the wolf with a critical blow between the eyes, although the creature still stood on wobbly legs.

Both wolves recovered from the shock of being attacked, while the goblin leader was able to draw his short sword.

Rix loaded another bolt into his crossbow, took aim and loosed steel at the wobbly-legged wolf, hitting the wolf once more and dropping it.

"They are forced to do these foul deeds," the elf said as he concentrated his fire on the goblin. "The next time we encounter animals let me first try and deal with them."

"Sure, let's just get done with this," answered Alexander. Without stoppping his movement, he changed the direction of the scimitar to produce a oblique arc to the goblin's shoulder, while at the same time throwing in a stab with his dagger.He got passed the goblin's guard and sliced him badly, but not enough to stop the goblin leader for yelling for help with a shout that echoed against the walls. He was silenced forever, though, by a sling bullet from Kel that pierced his eye, blinding him with a mortal wound and causing his return strike at Alexander to miss.

Alexander struck the goblin as he fell, but was brought down in turn by the remaining wolf, which tore at his jugular and brought the half-orc down.

At that same moment, a feminine form rose from the bed and cast a spell, a magic missile striking Kel.

"Take care of the wolf." Rix loaded another bolt into his crossbow and fired at the female figure. His shot slightly wounds the goblin sorceress in the corner, disrupting her spell.

"Forgive me, but you threw your lot in with the goblins," Kel said as his stone flew through the air towards the wolf.

The wolf moved to leap at Rix, only to be felled mid-strike by a well-shot sling bullet from Kel.

Recognizing the difficulties faced by the group if the half-orc remained down Kel spit, "Hold on dumb orc, I'll heal you in a moment."

Alexander bled some more, but Rix was able to fire his crossbow again, killing the shamaness before she could cast another spell.

Freed up from combat, Kel moved up to heal Alexander, barely saving the half-orc, although a scar across his throat would remain in later days, while at the moment he was shaken and not in a strong position to engage in a long fight.

From the hallway to the south the party could hear the shouts of several goblins preparing to rescue their leader, probably not realizing that he was now dead.

"There are more on their way" Kel said as he scanned the room for something he could use to block the corridor and give the party some cover. Kel grabbed the only thing he saw that might block the door for a short while, the torn mattress and bed frame and held it up against the door. "I have no more healing, you'll have to fend for yourself," he whispered to the orc as Alexander slowly rose from the floor. Turning to the kobold he said, perhaps mockingly, "What're your acting skills like Rix?" the name rolling strangely off his tongue. "Feel like dressing as the sorceress?"

"Damn it elf, thanks for not letting me die," said Alexander, coughing, as he gathered himself up. "I'm in debt... but what to do now?"

Rix quickly examined the body of the goblin leader for anything of value, stripping it with thoroughness.

"Time to demoralize them." Once done stripping the body, he gestured Alexander over. "Toss it out the door, that should give them a few things to think about."

Alexander first retrieved his scimitar from the floor... and spit at the goblin corpse, cursing when he saw that his saliva was made mostly of his own blood. Damn it, I'm really bad off...

Rix found a small bag filled with coins hooked to the goblin leader's belt. Unfortunately he had no time to count them, although he did note that the belt buckle looked valuable and slipped that into the bag before allowing Alexander to pick up the body.

Suddenly, a goblin spear went through the mattress that Kel was holding, barely missing the elf. Alexander had Kel move the mattress back slightly from the door as he tossed the goblin leader's bloody body into the surprised mass of angry goblins, then moved to help Kel block the doorway.

The goblins could be heard arguing on the other side of the makeshift barricade for a few minutes before their footsteps were heard walking away from the party's location.

Hearing the goblins on the other side of the door depart, Alexander stated"They'll come through the tunnel."

He weakly supported himself on the wall, grimacing as he moved his neck and touched the place where the wolf's jaws sunk still marked on the skin. "We can try to make a rush through the tunnel... or we can try the door. They'll certainly not expect us to come through there."

"I doubt they even knew the tunnel was here. Killing their leader probably gave them a reason to reconsider attacking us." Rix smirked at the half-orc.

Alexander answered with short laughter (which was interrupted by pain, again) to Rix's comment, and then said: "What now then? Any idea? Elf? Rix?"

"Well, it would do us little good to leave empty handed. I propose we search this and the guard chamber first, then move on to the storage area and then finally go to check the common area." Rix smiled menacingly.

"I'm not sure that we should press them right now. Let's retreat, get ourselves patched up and then come back and deal with the rabble. They'll likely kill each other, trying to establish a new leadership while we're away." Kel responded sagely.

When Rix spoke of ransacking the place, Alexander said "I agree about not leaving empty handed, but there should still some of the vermin around."

At Kel's words he stood up straight and looked at the elf, notably surprised. "They are weakened now and we shouldn't have further trouble... after I'm somehow recovered," he nodded, agreeing for the first time with the elf.

This one is curious, first he spits on me and then he not only saves my life, but also has answers which coincide with the Huntress' teachings...

Rix noticed the chest in the room and went up to it while the half-orc and elf considered one another. Finding a simple blade trap, Rix disarmed it without much effort. The key found on the goblin's body openened the chest so that Rix didn't have to spend any more time trying to pop it open. Inside was a masterwork medium-sized chain shirt that the goblin leader never had a chance to put on before the party barged into his home, and a garnet of some value. The small sack Rix took from the body contained a mixture of a few dozen silver and gold coins. Two small vials of an unknown liquid were also found near the body of the female goblin spellcaster. There was nothing left in this room that seemed valuable.

The kobold pointed out the masterwork chain shirt to the others, finding it useless himself and almost too heavy to be worth carrying back- well, almost too heavy. "Someone carry that back."

At Rix's request, Alexander silently takes the chain shirt and puts it in his backpack.

After a quick scouting mission, Rix discovered that the remaining goblins had all left the tunnels, although it would seem that they had taken their treasure with them. Still, the tunnels were now once again clear for the kobolds to move back into, if the party was willing to have them as neighbors once the refugees moved into the town.

Now that we've cleared this out, I'm sure the kobolds would enjoy their home back, and I'm sure a profitable arrangement can be made with the humans as to a mining treaty. And I'm sure the kobolds could use a hand setting up a new wave of defensive precautions that I could help with.

Alexander shook his head as the group exited the complex... and suddenly takes a moment to reflect on what just happened I fell... couldn't fullfill what Ravil asked me to do...

He remained silent for quite a bit of time.

Another member of the party was quite a bit happier. Rix smiled at the garnet... he always appreciated gems. He gathered the coins together, as well as the two vials, for safekeeping of course.

Kel stalked out of the kobold home trailing behind his companions, withdrawn and silent, seemingly lost in thought. What's going on? I'm starting to see value in these two. They stood strong while many others would have fled. They've proven useful. Is it ime for me to leave the woods Huntress? Is it time for me to experience more of the world? Will this lead me closer to You? Will this make me a better Hunter?

The party left the now empty tunnels and did a quick sweep of the remnants of the town, but found no other signs of immediate danger. The heroes did find several fields of forgotten farm fields, which lacked any sustenance that could be used for such a large population of the refugees. The town looked like it could comfortably house about 700 people when the homes weren't in such a state of disrepair. The current vacant fields could be used to feed about a thousand. It would take a lot of work this spring before the 2,000+ refugees were able to make this a decent home and become self-sufficient.

Rix headed the negotiations with the kobolds, who agreed to move out of the town and into their old tunnels. They were grateful for the assistance and looked to trade with the Dorinthians when they became established. The kobolds began to move their various digging tools and other items into the hills. The party estimated that there were perhaps slightly more than 50 kobolds, and therefore not a large tribe.

The party headed back to the elven camp of delegates, where Kel entered into a discussion with Silas Generwine, the camp leader. After a few minutes they agreed to lead the party back to the Dorinthian refugee camp in order to bring the human civilians to the abandoned town, although Silas couldn't help but to add, "I'm not sure why the group of you would think it a good idea that the humans should live next to a pack of thieving kobolds, but I'm happy to move the lot of your them further from elven territory at any rate."

After a couple of days of travel the group entered the Dorinthian camp, Alexander then discussing with Baron Dren Dorin and his daughter, Syra, what was found in the abandoned town. Cal and his riders were still gone, since the trip to the dwarven lands was much longer in duration. That put Kyle Radnal and his men in charge. Alexander briefed them on what to expect in the settlement. The older fighter wasn't happy about the nearby kobolds, but seemed to be satisfied that there were only a few dozen of them.

The party was taken care of next by Heron Silvertongue's priests, who looked over and healed their remaining wounds.

The next day, the elven camp stayed behind with the refugees while Radnal's Ruffians and the party entered the abandoned town and did a thorough sweep, killing the remnants of the vermin left over without much of a struggle. The refugees followed a day later. At first it was chaos as different people argued over the better homes. A few disappointing incidents of fist fights broke out, which were quickly settled by Radnal's Ruffians in a not always gentle fashion. Although Baron Dorin was unable to effectively organize the process, Kyle Radnal did a remarkable job of taking over and assigning people to the buildings and restoring order.

The party members suddenly had a newfound respect for the Dorinthians, as they quickly took to Kyle's leadership. After his assignments they started clearing trash, patching up damage with their limited tools or bare hands, and helped their brethren. Many of them worked even through the night. By the second day the town started to make a remarkable transformation, looking almost livable. The baron and his daughter, along with their retainers, established themselves in the government building in the town square, with the Ruffians moving next door into the old guard barracks. A family of halfling merchants (the Risenthrops) moved into the trade building, which was also in the centralized town square, and began to make plans on opening business to the population along with the visiting delegations of gnomes, elves, dwarves, and nearby kobolds.

As the sun approached noon on the second day of the refugees' entry into the town, the party finally allowed their exhausted bodies to relax...
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
End of Chapter 1, Rix's Reflections

Rix's Reflections

The sorceress and childhood friend of Rix, Danica Swann comes to him, and hugs the kobold. "Rix! What a great job you've done with those kobolds! Of course, Mr. Radnal worries about them, but I think it's great that you can be close to your people. I hear that the baron wants to make you the delegate to speak with them, but Mr. Radnal thinks you are too busy and someone else should do it."

Rix, unaccustomed to the close physical contact shied away from Danica before giving up and returning the hug. He did like her. She was the only one who really treated him well from the start. "I may have time. My kin are an industrious people and their mines may bring business and stability to this small village. Although it has been a while since I have been with my own, it may take some getting used to again." He smiled draconically, teeth showing through, although for once it showed warmth.

After his conversation, he was able to mingle a bit and overhear discussions from members of the various foreign delegations. It seemed that the dwarves were very pleased about Dorinthian actions against the goblins, and admired their decency when it came to attempting peaceful relations with the difficult kobolds. The elves also grudgingly admitted surprise at the party's well thought approach, although they mostly credited Kel's influencee. The gnomes were not pleased, however, and there was a worry of improved relations between the Dorinthians and the hated kobolds.

Rix made the customary snide and derisory remarks towards the indolent and self-righteous elves; too full of their own personal glory that they couldn't see anything beyond their pointy-noses.

The rogue then tried to keep his profile low, although he did visit a few times with the nearby kobolds. Mostly, he helped them set-up their defensive precautions again and negotiated business with the Risenthropes, along with the dwarves as well. He attempted to exclude the gnomes from any benefit from the business negotations as well as he could.

In his spare time he also perused a journal he found in one of the administrative buildings before they investigated the tunnels underneath the town, and examined poison in a mug he had found...

Although most of the journal was full of logistical information that was barely of any interest, parts of the two entries at the end caught his eye...

The orcs tribes have been united by a single leader, something that hasn't happened in many of their generations. They have overrun much of the elven lands, and now the Elven council has decided that it is more important to defend their own people than to protect my town of half-breeds. Should I blame them? We half-elves may be their children, but we were never accepted as truly one of the elves. Now we are almost defenseless against the coming onslaught...

Second Entry
I wonder... how much of this is my fault? I helped establish this town. I refused to call the retreat when I had a chance. It is now too late, and the orcs have circled our town and cut off all hopes for finding sanctuary. If we are unable to hold the line, I will drink the poison I requested from our alchemist. I created this town. I'd rather die of poison than be alive to watch it die. I offered the same escape for the men, but they have sworn to go down fighting... if only we had a little more time. I have heard that the orcs have caught a disease that is killing off their population. Time and sickness may bring us victory, Sol willing...

The poison smelled strong, despite there being only a few grams left in the empty mug. No one could have mistaken such a pungent smell as anything healthy.

One of Randal's guards walked up to Rix and he quickly hid the container in his pocket as the guard said, "Sir, I'm sorry to have bothered you. The baron would like you to come by in the morning, about an hour after breakfast is served in the town square. Something about a mission to the south, sir."
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
End of Chapter 1, Kel's Reflections

Kel's Reflections

One of the humans, the cleric named Heron Silvertongue, smiled at the elf when he caught Kel coming out of a meeting with Silas Generwine, and came over to speak with him. "I have heard from Alexander about your healing technique. It's very similar to how we do it in case of need. If I may ask, what are your skills at healing with herbs versus magic? Some of our most experienced herbal healers have not made it back, (may The Rider carry their souls swiftly), and we could use the expertise."

Kel reluctantly spoke with the priest, but as he talked he started to warm to the man. He may be human, but he is likeable, quick witted and wise. Pretty soon Kel was telling Heron about the local herbs and what they were best used for.

Heron nodded as he talked, all the while leading the elf into the burned ruins of a former temple that was destroyed when the village was taken. It was difficult to discern which god was worshipped there. Heron's followers of the Rider had started treating the sick patients on the old site. Heron kept talking as the human and elf passed by the ill, "I hope these herbs will help, Brother Kel, and I thank you. I'll have some assistants try to gather some later. As you see, not everyone made the trip here in good health. I have about 50 very ill people and a few hundred moderately sick that I had to send back to the new, decrepit homes since I lack room to house so many. A few dozen have died along the way, like the parents of this young boy," he stopped in front of one glassy-eyed child and his voice became lower, "Some are not really sick. They've just given up."

Heron was lost in thought for a moment, but then said, "Brother Kel, I do not know what god you may follow, but give a prayer for us from time to time."

The elf left the temple deep in thought, but was met by one of his fellow fay. Kel was told there would be a meeting with the human baron at the main building an hour after breakfast the next day. His presence was specifically requested.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
End of Chapter 1, Alexander's Reflections

Alexander's Reflections

Syra Dorin walked towards the half-orc, followed by the haughty Lady Huffring, her lady-in-waiting. She stopped in front of the ranger and asked, "Are you enjoying your accomplishments, Alexander? I'm so amazed about what you and Kyle Radnal have succeeded in doing. My father would have had ... difficulties if it weren't for you."

Alexander couldn't help but feel awkward before the young lady, he didn't blush... or maybe he did but the darkness of his skin protected him from showing it.
When he realized that he had been silent for a few seconds he promptly answered -in a surprisingly uneasy voice-:
"Indeed, I'm enjoying this... Although I was of little help when we came upon the goblin chief..." Some more seconds go by...
-He passed his hand over the mark left over his throat, suddenly vigorizing his voice with the memory- "But I could still serve through the Huntress' way! My cunning helped us better than my strength..."

"Sorry lady, it's good to hear your father considers our actions helpful; surely you came to deliver some missive, not to hear a scout's ramblings"

I ejoyed it because this is the first step towards doing justice to the hamlet where I was born... Serving the Dorinthians will lead me to those who desecrated The Lady of the Lake's shrine. The previous owner of this broken blade...

At noticing his wound, Syra unconsciously moved her hand to touch at the injury, but was interrupted with a loud cough from a distressed-looking Lady Huffring. Syra smiled at the interruption and asked, "Alexander, will you meet with my father tomorrow at his office an hour after breakfast is served in the square? Your presence is requested." With a courteous nod to the half-orc, Syra left followed by a pouting Lady Huffring, who gave the ranger a sharp, angry look.

"Sure..." Ignorant of Lady Huffring's glare, Alexander absently continued, "I hope we meet again..."

It was the first time a women had extended a hand towards him... since his mother. More than once he had noticed people in the city looked at him, including women, but that's why he prefered to be outside, in the forest; those critical eyes weren't welcome.

More than once he had expended a glance towards those beautiful creatures, women... but they weren't as easy to catch as the other creatures of the Huntress. He didn't know how to weave those nets of speech of flowers and moonlight.
And the little words exchanged showed that they wanted to have nothing to do with talk of stalking the woods and living away from the city.

But my scars didn't drive her away from me...

Suddenly having changed his previous ideas of leaving the town as soon as possible, Alexander walked around, hoping to find the old priest Ravil, and to speak with him both as son and as fellow servant of the Lady of the Lake.

Ravil, priest of the Lady, also known by some as the Rider, was assisting Heron attend to the sick at the remnants of a long-ago burned out temple. For a moment Alexander thought he saw Kel leaving and walking down a nearby trail. As he approached Ravil walked away from the sleeping body of a sick-looking woman. The older priest wiped his hands in a cleaning rag, then clasped the half-orc's hand and pumped vigorously, "Alexander! I'm sorry I've had little time to seek you out with all of our exhausted peoples becoming ill. How have you been?"

Alexander joined his other hand to the clasp, and smiled warmly for the first time in days.
"Ravil, I have doubts... doubts concerning happiness and doubts concerning fears..."
Alexander spent the rest of the day helping to tend the sick, and when most of them were stable and not in need of immediate attention, he spoke once more with Ravil.

Speaking by the fireside, time ran like water, night fell, and the two followers of the Huntress conversed for a long time...

Alexander spoke about his doubts, about how he should deal with Rix, about what sickness had attacked the refugees.
Then he went to the important doubts... about him falling in battle without being of help when they had the prey surrounded, and about Syra; how she wasn't scared by him or his scars...

Ravil listened for a long without interruption, except with a nodding of his head and an occasional smirk. Finally he spoke when the half-orc had finished. "Rix is a rascal, and will always be a rascal. He is greedy, untrusting, and likely to be a detriment to your group if he can gain from causing you harm. Yet, there is a small, compassionate side to the kobold. You are afraid of falling from the light, and into the darker beliefs that he has. Be strong, and remember it cuts both ways. Your faith can also make him see that there is a better way of dealing with life. Be his friend when you are in agreement, but do not fear argument when he wants to do something that is against the Lady's way."

"As for Syla," He sighed, then paused. "I have seen her gazing also at Sgt Radnal. Syla has been protected by Cal, the strong man in her life. Now that he is gone and her father is... not the strongest man... she seeks other strong men to help support her during her own crisis of faith. You are the talk of the town right now, our wild protector who was felled by the wolf, but refused to die. So are the others. She needs a hero right now, as do the rest of us. Be her friend, but be careful with her. It will take some time for her to find her own strength."

"Men fall in battle, Alexander. Sometimes, however, they fall from lighter things such as stress. Look at these people. They've lost their homes, moved a hundred miles or more in a few weeks, and are having to start anew in a strange land. The illnesses are natural, and it is remarkable there aren't more sick. It's their willpower that has kept our people healthy, but you must also keep the body intact. Men die in battle, that is the way of the world. Yet, you survived that wolf attack. Perhaps you lowered your guard a moment before it leapt. Have you thought about how this constant movement and these understandable doubts may have exhausted you? Go rest now, Alexander. You have even greater trials ahead, and exhaustion will not suit you in battle. And remember... The Lady is with you."
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
A New Hero- Silas Eyrstan the Caernite

A New Hero Steps Forward- Silas Eyrstan's Tale

The human abjurer with the elven name, Silas Eyrstan the Caernite (not to be confused with the elf, Silas Generwine), was a camp follower that helped keep the party's campsite outside the abandoned town cleaned while the others handled the kobolds and goblins. He had fought in the war and hoped to see an end to combat. Such was not to be his future, however. During the return to the refugee camp Silas said little. His concern for the refugees was temporarily overshadowed by the tension and bickering amongst his companions. He frowned as he looks at each of them in turn. At least they were able to set aside their differences long enough to secure the village. "But how long will it be safe?" he asks himself quietly.

Silas was overjoyed to return to his wife, son, and father at the refugee camp. He realized that the buildings in the village would require much work to make them habitable and that there were not enough to house the entirety of the refugees. Though he wanted to keep his family close, at the moment his skills in building were much needed and he threw himself into the task of restoring the structures and helping those who had become his new neighbors. Soon he planned to turn his mind to finding a small plot of land very close to the village where he could begin building a home for his family.

The abjurer was able to find a home on the northern outskirts of the village. Although it provided less protection from an attack from the north, it rested on a decent plot of land. Because space was tight, Radnal assigned a family of seven to stay with the Eyrstans.

The family of seven were the Rostans, a mother and her six children. Mrs. Rostan's husband, Eric, had died on the trip. In fact, it seemed the the wizard that about forty of the people of Fair Creek had died or gone missing since the initial flight from the town. He hoped that the rate of casualties would start to go down and that there would be a roof over everyone's heads. Some of the larger Rostan boys were planning to start looking to build a home off the Eyrstan land once they could find a proper location and materials.

After two days, and finally a full night of sleep, Karl, a member of the town guard, came and knocked upon the door to Silas' house. After greeting one of the smaller Rostan children who had answered the knocking, he was introduced to Silas and said, "I'm sorry to bother you, sir, but I've been asked by Sgt. Radnal to ask if you can join an expedition to the south. A group of adventurers are being sent to help some of our neighbors, and we are hoping to augment them with your popular...errr...skills. Sir, if you say yes, I should give warning that you will be gone for awhile."

Silas nodded obediently, though with some hesitation. "Certainly, Karl. I just need a moment to load my pack and say my goodbyes." Silas quickly packed, kissed his wife goodbye, again charged his father with the safety of his family, and said goodbye to his son and the Rostan children of whom he is already growing fond.

Making his way into town, Silas looked for Sgt. Radnal.

Sgt. Kyle Radnal greeted the abjurer at the new barracks that he had made. It was his decision to save room by taking over the military administrative building and leaving room for the towns people by making the underground tunnels that the kobolds had created into an underground barracks for his troops. Although not the best location since it required a lot of torches and lanterns to move about (oil was coming in at a slow trickle from the elven lands), it did serve well defensively.

"Silas! Good to see you! I've heard you've accepted my request without even hearing the details. Good man," he said in all seriousness. "Let me tell you what I know. The gnomes in the hills farther south to us are having trouble with increased kobold and goblin raids. Their delegation has been the most helpful in agreeing to send to us needed supplies, but they actually had come to ask the elves for help, and did not initially know of our own plight. We really can't send our own forces to help right now, as they are needed here and are of limited numbers. We asked if a small group of specialists, like the one that helped clear this town would be welcome instead. The gnomes gratefully agreed. Now Silas, we plan to send the group that helped before, but they lack a mage and I would hope one would join to aid their party. You will be gone until the issue is resolved. Of course failure may mean that the gnomish lands become overrun, causing our south to be filled with aggressive groups of kobolds and goblins. If you are still up for it, meet the baron in his building an hour after breakfast is served in the square tomorrow morning. You may go back home for now, or stay in our barracks to meditate and train."

Silas nodded in reply. "Thank you, sir." He hesitated a brief moment. "I've said my goodbyes..." His voice trailed off before he straightened and continued. "...so I will billet here until the briefing in the morning. Sir."

When Sgt. Radnal gave him leave, Silas exited the barracks and sought out a quiet and secluded spot to meditate and study his spellbook, taking advantage of the daylight to save precious lamp oil...
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
End of Chapter 1- Homeless

What I posted to end Chapter 1:

The sun begins to go down, and you realize that it is time to get some sleep, especially if you will be starting an important journey tomorrow. Rest comes easier than expected, despite the troubling last few weeks. As you enter the land of dreams, terrible images begin to fill your mind. You see gnomish underground dwellings in ruins, goblins overrunning the last of the defenders. The image fades, then a new one takes its place. A strange, hairless humanoid creature holds a struggling kobold in its arms, then straps the the smaller creature to a chair with a strange helmet-like contraption. The device is lowered onto the kobold's head, and you feel your blood run cold as the creature's struggling grows weaker, then stops, the intelligence in its eyes disappearing as its pupils turn white and mindless. Again the image fades, only to be replaced with the image of a large, pulsating purple sphere levetating off the floor. A gnome with a pointed hat stands before it, his face shining with a joyous rapture akin to worship. His unkempt face is that of a madman. An image that you cannot make out appears on the surface of the crystal. Somehow you manage to get closer to the vision, and you see your own sleeping form imprinted upon the sphere's surface. Fear tosses you from the land of dreams, but not before you hear the madman throw his head backwards and howl in glee. In a cold sweat you wake, glad to see the safety of your cot and signs of the approaching dawn. You know in your heart that a new chapter of your life is about to open for you.

Next chapter, Chapter 2- Illusions
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
Intro to Chapter 2- Illusions

An hour after breakfast was served in the Dorinthian's new home, the party met in the baron's administrial office. Baron Dren Dorin, Sgt Kyle Radnal, Heron Silvertongue, Silas Generwine of the elven delegation, and Phly Loughphray of the gnomish delegation were also there. After short greetings, the party was motioned to chairs while the foreign delegates remained standing. Baraon Dorin started the discussion, "Thank you for coming to hear us out, gentlemen. Mr. Loughphray here has a bit of a problem with his own home and is here to seek aid. I'm willing to send you gentlemen and a handful of other men to accompany him back to his homeland. If you can help him, it would help secure our south and establish for us a strong partner for trade, which we desperately need to get back on our feet. I can't spare more men, so I hope you are willing to help."

He nodded to Phly Loughphray, who started explaining the situation, "We honestly came here to seek help from the elven lands, when we heard about your own plight. We've been willing to help with the limited supplies that we brought, but now we must return to our clan. The elves are unwill... err... unable to help us," he said this part carefully, while glancing at Silas Generwine, and Kel. "And the dwarves have sent a small contingent of aid, however can't spare anymore because of their own border problems. We've always had trouble with the various kobold clans," he glanced then at Rix, "but recently a large influx of goblins in our hills has devestated our defenses. Also, the kobolds have become more aggressive, almost suicidal. There have been other problems... " his voice trailed off for a moment. "Regardless, we need capable men to help us protect our lands. It is our hope that you may be of assistance. Especially, Mr. Rix, who has shown an ability to make the kobold people a little more willing to negotiate... at least long enough for us to kick the goblins out. I hear they have been preying on the kobold clans as well, which may be the reason why the kobolds you met earlier have shown up this far north."

After Phly finished talking the baron finished the meeting. "You are to leave in a few hours, if you accept this task, gentlemen. That should be enough time to restock or to get a drink or say good-byes or whatever it is you do," the baron said awkwardly. "Thank you. This is a big help to us."

At the mention of goblins attacking and about them being thent to gnomish lands, Alexander was staggered for a few seconds, remembering the dream he had the night before...

Immediatly the half-orc accepted the proposition, but planned to say his good-byes..."I accept. But what's that handful of other men? We need to know whom we'll be working with"

Tunnels... Underground... New terrains... I'll stand firm this time!

Silas nodded his agreement with Alexander and shouldered his pack. He seemed as if he wanted to make mention of something but he remained silent, remembering the dream of the previous night and wondering if it was in any way prophetic.

Sgt Radnal answered the half-orc's question, "Just a few volunteers from our people. They won't be going with you while you explore the surrounding area or track down the goblin bases. Instead, they'll be extra swords for guarding the homes of the gnomes while you adventure outwards."

"Good to know then" Alexander nodded and without further ado retired to say good-bye to Ravil... and see if in the way he could run into Syra, and maybe even exchange a few words with her...

That dream was sent by the Huntress to warn me of what lays ahead... Those kobolds aren't acting by their own will... I shoulld warn Rix later.

Gnomes... bah, incompetant, groveling, worthless creatures. Think they'll trick us into helping them for nothing. Vaerixsjach was silent during the meeting, but perhaps if his eyes could have been seen behind those smoky goggles he always wore then others might have had an idea as to what he was thinking. He clicked two claws together like a clock, in perfect rhythm.

The stupid beasts have gotten themselves into something they probably started, foolish stupid gnomes delving into what they shouldn't. My assistance... there's a perfectly reasonable solution to all of this, wipe yourselves out, problem solved. The stacatto clicking of the two claws continued, uninterrupted and still in perfect intervals.

When the baron closed the meeting, Rix finally shifted to speak, "we've been pressed into service before Baron, without any recompense. We're not indebted to this village, you're indebted to us. It would only seem reasonable that you would pay your debt before we are to leave, hard times or not. This is not even to speak of proferring my services to gnomes." His voice was sharp with contempt as he finished.

Kyle Radnal and Loughphray stiffened at Rix's words, though Silas Generwine smiled and nodded to himself, as if solving a previous puzzle that had eluded him.

After an awkward pause, Baron Dorin spoke with a confused look, "Uh... Rix is it? Well, I would not consider you 'pressed' into service. This is simply a request and I had thought your last journey was made profitable for you, but if you feel abused I certainly will not force you to go. Do you feel I owe you money? I wish I had wealth to give you, you who have done so much. What of the rest of you gentlemen?"

Rix smirked at the gnome and human as they reacted to his statement. "Profitable? Some rusty blades and armor which would sell for barely the worth of the metal they are made with and a few coins to divide amongst four who risked their lives. Surely you can at least pressure the Risenthropes to waive their exuberantly inflated prices and offer equal trade for the goods we acquired. They would have even less business were it not for us securing this village."

Loughphray pondered for a moment before answering, "The goblins and people of...your kind... have taken many valuables from gnome lands. Whatever you recover you may keep, it's previous gnome owners will be told they may not reclaim any items stolen by the invaders, despite their worth. Does that satisfy, kobold?"

"That was expected. Stay out of this." Vaerixsjach said with a cold and utterly malevolent air. "Baron? We have given you a new town, isn't that worth having your merchants refrain from fleecing our nearly bare pockets for their equipment?"

Loughphray bristled angrily, fingering his hand-axe. The baron looked almost ready to agree when Kyle Radnal stepped in. "Sir, the Rosenthorpe's have their prices so high since they are trying to trade what little we have for essential tools and equipment. If it's the price of equipment that is giving Rix, here, a problem, our guard's armory can help outfit them with several items at no cost. Ammunition, food, water, and so on."

"Perhaps that may be an equitable solution, although I doubt your armory will have much sized for myself nor the equipment I was seeking, although my companions may find it useful." Rix said with a hint of annoyance in his voice.

DM's Note: Silas Generwine, the elven delegate, was watching this uncomfortable moment with a smile the entire time. If Rix had gotten greedy and requested more goods, the elf was going to step in and offer the kobold a very valuable brooch for his troubles. I have little doubt that Rix would have taken it as payment, but what he wouldn't have known was that the brooch was a family heirloom of Silas Generwine's family. Silas Generwine would have went back to the rest of the delegation, 'distraught' that the greedy Dorinthians could only be bribed by such treasure in order to act to save their gnomish cousins who had done so much for them. The resulting scandal would have hurt elven and human relations.

After all was decided, Sgt Radnal took the party into the armory where they had the chance to pick out one weapon and one piece of armor from what was available, and two other items. They were also allowed to take all of the ammunition and food they could carry.

"I do indeed find it useful, Sergeant," said Silas as he addded 20 bolts and several days worth of trail rations to his pack. Hefting its weight he nodded to himself as he decided that he has not packed more than he could comfortably carry. Looking first at his companions then to Sgt. Radnal he said, "I am ready to go."

The cleric Ravil had seen the party leave the administrative building and followed the half-orc into the armory, slipping him a small potion, "Use this in case you or someone else is badly hurt. No need to fear wolves this time." He gave Alexander a wink, and in return the ranger patted Ravil's shoulder thankfully, and slipped the vial into a new backpack. Alexander also took a grappling hook, a 100ft coil of rope, and a longbow along with 40 arrows.

"Ready. When will we depart?" I would have been lifted by her sight, pity I won't see her until we return.

Kel, believing that the Huntress had a purpose to how he was feeling at the moment, agreed to the contract. Exchanging his armour for something sturdier in a chain shirt, and swapping his short bow for a longbow, he waited patiently on the road for his comapnions.

The group left by midday. As they began to leave, Alexander took one last look at the baron's new building. On the balcony he saw Syra watching him. She smiled charmingly at the ranger as he left, and gave one quick wave as he disappeared with his group down the main street and off into their next adventure.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
The trip was uneventful, but difficult, as the party and their gnome companions had to trail blaze across uneven land. The ground began to become hilly after the third day, and a rain came down causing some of the already wet land to become marshy. The group trudged along, completely frustrated by their slow progress, when a piercing scream shattered the stillness.

One of the gnomes on the flanks had a snake-like, gray tendril wrapped around his neck. He gave one more shout, but the tendril yanked him into a pool of dirty water. The liquid writhed unnaturally, and before anyone could react, the gnome's screams and thrashings stopped and his skin began to dissolve to the bone. The liquid pool then moved towards the party.

Tendrils, Pool, Flesh dissolving...

"For the all consuming fires! What's that?!"


Alexander looked around for a fallen branch or a stone, anything which could serve as a weapon; the way in which the gnome's flesh was dissolved didn't suggest that his "fangs" would remain usable after hitting it. He did see some large branches from dead trees that could be ripped off and used as either batons or spears.

Meanwhile, Silas choked down rising nausea as he saw the gnome's flesh stripped from his body. " 'Ware, my friends!" he called out, pointing towards the small pool. Seeing Alexander casting about for a weapon he yelled, "Alexander!" Silas tossed his quarterstaff to the warrior and, keeping well away from the pool, drew a torch from his pack and began to light it. I hope fire is effective against this abomination.

Alexander turned to face the... creature... caustic pond... whatever it was... and when it came near enough, the half orc struck at it.

"Prepare to retreat! I'm not sure if we can harm this!"

(Player's Question to DM: Does the "thing" leave a trail of dissolved stone? grass?...DM's answer: Why yes it does!) :)

Everyone stoof back as Alexander attacked the creature. He struck true, but his staff dissolved as soon as he made contact, although the force of the blow seemed to have angered it. The creature struck at Alexander with a tendril, but the half-orc nimbly danced aside.

"Let us not bother with this distraction," the nimble elf priest suggested. "Surely we can out pace it?"

Damn it!... Lucky it didn't get my flesh.

Holding the churned piece of wood Alexander started a cautious retreat, trying to evade the creature.

"I don't like leaving it able to make its way into some unsuspecting village but I fear that we have little that we can do against it. Does anyone know what that thing is?" Silas also retreat alongside Alexander, grasping the lit torch as if it were a weapon.

"Run!" Shouted Phly Loughphray. The group of adventurers and gnomes decided this was an excellent idea.

After exhausting themselves, they left the creature behind and out of sight. Thankfully no one got stuck in the mud. It took two more miserable, rainy days for everyone to reach Loughphray Burrows, the underground settlement of the gnomes. The people there seemed happy to see help arrive, although they sometimes threw a wary glance in Rix's direction.

Rix scowled, although he appraised the fortifications with a deprecating eye. Gnomes always lacked something when it came to their defenses. When given wary and unapproving looks, the kobold gave an air of utter disdain and reproach for the gnomes, as if they were below him, passing them by as if they were nonexistant.

The gnomes had dug a series of living areas inside the hills, although barracks and towers were manned outside the settlements. Some of the towers seemed quickly patched up, as if damaged before. Alexander had some trouble fitting into the tunnels, but otherwise managed himself well. After a day of rest, Silas was given a new quarterstaff that a gnome craftsman helped create from the abjurer's specifications.

Indifferent about where his quest has taken him this time, Alexander looked at the patched up towers with a critical eye... Death traps for the defenders. When he was informed that the barracks and living quarters are inside the hills, he struggled to contain a caustic critique: The kobolds could break in wherever they please within the complex through tunneling.

The party received a briefing from Harindan Loughphray, the clan leader of the hills. "Thank you for coming, adventurers. I've been told about your talents from Phly. Recently we've suffered badly from several attacks from goblins and kobolds. The kobold attacks have been the toughest, and we've suffered some horrible damage to our defenses. I doubt we can take another one or two assaults. I am hoping that we can go on the offensive using you as our shock troops. The two threats are coming from the Hound Totem clan of goblins southeast of here, and the kobold tribes to the southwest. The goblins have a population of a few hundred people, but we recently discovered the headquarters of their shaman who is uniting them. He has done so by finding a valuable totem staff, which is an important symbol of clan leadership and an item from the Hound Totem clan's mythology. Kill the shaman, or steal his totem staff, and the goblins will fall into chaos. Or we hope, anyway. We will pay 100gp to each of you if you present us with either the shaman's head or his totem staff. Also, the goblins have been getting new equipment lately. Find out who their supplier is and bring back proof, and we'll throw in an extra 50gp each."

"The kobolds are a greater mystery to us. We have always fought with the Lizard Scale, Hill Delver, and Two Horned tribes. Now a fourth tribe has appeared and quickly dominated the other three. This group is called the Dragon Eye tribe, and has somehow dominated its neighbors to the point that they are willing to conduct suicidal attacks against us. We know we have wiped out a huge number of Lizard Scale, Hill Delver, and Two Horned kobolds, but they keep coming and we are nearly exhausted. Kobolds are not insane, so we do not understand why they would be willing to kill themselves in futile mass assaults in order to destroy us. Find out what is going and try to break the control of the Dragon Eye tribe. We do not know their base of operations, but we know they are somewhere to the southwest. The kobolds still number close to a thousand, while we are down to a population of six hundred. Stop these kobold attacks and be rewarded with 200gp each."

"So gentlemen. Where will you go first?"


Rix thought of what he knew about the various kobold tribes. He knew that the kobolds met in the abandoned town were refugees from the Lizard Scale tribe, although they fled the area due to an attack of goblins. They did not mention other kobolds, and the rogue did not ask for more information before he left them. The Lizard Scale tribe was the stronger of the tribes in this area, followed by the Hill Delver tribe and the Two Horned tribe. Rix had never heard of the Dragon Eye tribe before, so they were probably from somewhere further west and beyond the hills.

After the day of rest, during the briefing by Harindan Loughphray, Rix listened at the tales of the goblin tribes creating problems for the gnomes. Better than for the kobolds. Although the information that the various kobold tribes were being forced under the heel of this Dragon Eye tribe caused him to listen more closely. It was rare for his kin to hurl themselves without avail at gnomes. They preferred ambush and hit-and-run tactics to destroy the morale of their enemies. Although, now that he thought about it, this endless assault method had a sort of demoralizing effect nonetheless.

"Have you been expanding your paltry little hill into the lands of the goblins or my kin? That would certainly invite enmity from both, particularly goblins, they are brutish territorial creatures without a sense of proper community."

The gnome leader ignored his tone and answered, "There are always skirmishes between the kobolds, goblins, and us. Occasionally it breaks out into a larger conflict, but this is different somehow. The kobolds and goblins became united at about the same time and avoided attacks against each other, concentrating solely on us. It is very unusual for kobolds and goblins to avoid combat against one another, but perhaps they've reached an agreement of sorts."

Shaman's head... Totem staff... Dragon Eye chieftan's head...

"So... should we cut the goblin's head before they rise? Or should we stop the flow of kobold attacks before they wipe out the community?"
Alexander asksed the clan leader. Kobolds and goblins won't remain united for long, if the kobolds are weakened, the goblins migh jump at their throat... Once the strongest wolf is wounded, the others will prey on him, growing reckless in their attack. "Kobolds should be our priority."

"By the way... just in case: we are not cannon fodder"


Silas gathered the party in the corner of the meeting room and conferred with his companions. "It seems to me that with more solid information concerning the goblins we should begin there, even though the kobolds seem the greater threat. I hesitate to go stumbling about the woods and hills where the kobolds are known to roam with little information to direct our steps to the lair of the Dragon Eye tribe. Though if the gnomes cannot survive another wave of attacks from the kobolds..." With a shrug Silas trailed off as he realized he was beginning to argue for both sides. "What say you, Rix?"

"Silas has it correct, the goblins are what we know about. If we can cut off the head of the goblin tribes, they will collapse upon themselves. Then, I can meet with the kobolds and we'll see where that goes." Rix glared at the gnome, the disdain for him and his kin easily apparent.

"I guess we shouldn't let a minor threat grow..." Alexander didn't look happy at the turn of events, fighting two fronts isn't something he was used to.

He turned to the gnome, "Can the community stand another kobold attack while we are working on the goblin tribes?"

"We can try and probably have a better chance," was the answer. "The kobolds have been attempting assaults on our outer defenses ever since we've flooded some of their tunnels they had been digging in order to get to us. Ironically, they've had more success this way after we drowned out many of their diggers. On the other hand, we lost so many of our own men after the kobolds collapsed a tunnel on us trying to do the same that defense is just about all we can handle right now."

I'm not sure to like it but... The one last resource would be collapsing all the tunnels to the surface until the threat is gone, making breath-grates at hidden locations at the surface.

Alexander thought quietly, pondering upon who knew what... waiting for someone to propose a better (and not that risky) alternative...

Once the prey refuges in its hole, the only exit are the wolf's jaws...

"It seems we are mostly in agreement then." Silas glanced over at the two elves to see if they had anything to add. "And rested. Are we ready to set out?"

The party was in agreement and headed off, successfully following the map given to them by the gnomes. It took two uneventful days of following a small creek in the hills before a valley opened up below, showing a large wooden stockade, which was the headquarters of the goblin shaman. The stockade had nine different buildings, and a two-level wooden structure standing in the center. It was still a quarter of a mile away from the party's position, and the party members could see humanoid activity on the 15-foot walls watching for signs of approaching danger. There also did not appear to be any vegetation around the walls that they might use for cover. It would be difficult to find a way inside without the adventurers being caught.

The stockade looked well built, and the keener eyes had doubts that it was goblin in origin, but this was still the place indicated by the gnome map.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
Chapter 2- Illusions

"Approaching during the day would be foolish at best, although at night we'd would still have to be cautious once we get closer. Goblins can see in the dark up to a certain point." Rix hunched down, making him no higher than most of the taller folks' shins.

"We have little resources at our disposal for this venture," Rix clicked his nails once, what could be taken as a scowl on his face. "A fire might draw their attention to one side, then we could scale the opposite wall. Fifteen feet is not so high with the knotted-rope and a grappling hook." The dragonkin nodded towards Alexander's pack which had both of those mentioned tools.

"I imagine the central building is where the shaman houses himself as well. We might as well set up camp on this ridge for a short time, watch their activities and remain out of sight. The more we know, the better, we're already at quite the disadvantage."

"Your strategem is sound Rix," Kel said amicably as he settled unto to the ground to watch the camp.

"Rix and I should move first in case any guard stays in spite of the fire. We'd bring him down, and then the rest of you can get up there so that we may continue into the building," Alexander shifted his weight from one foot to another and reluctantly added: "A neat plan indeed Rix"

"We must find somewhere to remain until darkness falls..." Alexander started scanning the terrain, searching for any covered place before the barren land besides the goblin fortress. And he added a thought that had been floationg on his mind, "...depending on the numbers of guards we observe in the meantime, our plans might change. We might have better luck waiting for someone to enter the stronghold, or, however improbable, the shaman to come out of it."

Silas nodded. "A fair plan, indeed. Though my vision at night is highly impaired I think I can manage. Now about this fire. Are we setting it away from the stockade with the hopes they will send someone out to investigate? Or are we attempting to set the stockade itself afire?"

"It will be difficult to set the wall on fire. Perhaps if we can observe a while longer we may notice a weakness we have not yet. Alexander, perhaps we should scout around to view it from different angles, since it may reveal something we've missed."

The party spent the rest of the day observing, and into an uneventful night. The adventurers weren't impressed by the goblins' sense of watch duty. They switched guards on the ramparts every four hours, but the guards on the wall tended to relieve themselves whenever they felt like, not always waiting for their replacements. During the late afternoon a contingent of six goblins went out on a feeble patrol and came back an hour later. There didn't seem to be a password to enter, and the double doors were opened when they were sighted returning. Overall, it seemed they had less of a sense of the military than what their well-designed fort would indicate.

"Well that tells a story eh? But can we use any of the story to our advantage?" Kel mused as the evening darkened. "Discounting their ability to see in the dark, is there any reason why we shouldn't move out tonight? If we're going to use fire as our cover could Rix perhaps sneak around to the other side of the fort, light something on fire and distract them while the rest of us get over the wall?"

The party estimated the size of the structure and realized that the stockade was roughly circular, and nearly 250 feet in diameter. The goblins used a minimum amount of torch light inside the fort and along the top of the outer wall.

Alexander nodded at Kel's words after this observation. "We could move in tonight, but where should we create the distraction?" Alexander let his words hang in the air a couple of seconds and added: "Rix is right, scouting the walls is necessary before we do anything. Aside from finding possible weaknessess on the walls we coud eliminate some guards without rising the alarm with a fire, and therefore not have all the fortress awake."

"Do any of you have oil? That would be the easiest way to secure a fire, otherwise we would need torches and something easily flammable, dry brush for instance." Rix nodded towards the half-orc, "Why don't the three of you scrounge up some dry brush that we can move easily, tie it together if you have to. So we can set the fire up swiftly. A few lit torches into dry brush placed near that section," the kobold gestured towards the eastern side of the stockade, "should stir up enough of a fire to give us a chance to climb the western side. For now, that's the idea, although Alexander and I will scout out the surroundings and see if there's a better location."

During scouting, Rix and Alexander discovered that there were several spots, from all directions of the fort, where they could light a fire that would be somewhat contained. Anywhere outside these spots would likely start a fire that would burn through the rest of the surrounding forest. The closest area of concealment was on the western side of the stockade, where shrubs and trees were only 30 feet away. The doors to the stockade were on the northern side.

When Alexander returned from scouting he informed the others of what had been discovered. "The western side will provide cover from where we can make a rush to the wall, then Rix should set afire some bushes by the western side... combined with green leaves, we want plenty of smoke so that they notice the fire"

Then he commented to Rix: "After litting the fire the safest would be for you to make it to the western wall by the fortress' south."

But...

"Once we are done with the shaman we shouldn't have trouble escaping... right?"
The party looked hopeful, but none answered his question.

When night fell Rix lit a fire more than 100 feet from the eastern side of the stockade. The kobold ran back as fast as he could, heading towards where the party had gathered. It took about five or six minutes for the fire to really take hold, causing a shout from the goblins on watch.

The goblins on the western side moved to check out the distraction, allowing Alexander to rush forward with his grapple and rope, catch hold of the top of the wall, and climb up. He peered over the top and noticed that the immediate area was clear of goblins, then signaled the rest to come up. Rix got back just as Silas made it over the top, and climbed the rope behind the abjurer.

The party was now on the top of the defensive wall. A ladder and a half-dozen buildings could be seen below, the largest lying in the center. They counted around 20 visible goblins, which were either opposite of the group or heading to the eastern wall to view the glowing flames.

Silas quickly scanned the interior of the stockade looking for a good hiding place and a location to retreat to and make a stand if that should become necessary. He moved to the ladder, but saw movement.

Rix smiled, stupid goblins, easy enough so far. In a sibilant whisper, "That way," pointing out the ladder, "the quicker we get this over with, the better."

Silas held Rix back with a hand gesture, as two goblins walked by the bottom of the ladder and towards where their comrades were gathering to watch the fire. After they disappeared around a building, Alexander and Rix climbed down the ladder followed by the rest of the party. They headed towards the central buidling, and hid in the shadows created by its side and near the side of another structure. The building had double doors on the first floor, but no windows. It was rectangular in shape, although a balcony hovered on the second floor, hanging over the front doors. This was likely used by the shaman to make announcements to the troops when assembled.

Silas stayed close to the wall and did his best to blend within its shadow. He pointed up at the balcony. "Think we can get up there?"

At Silas' words Alexander grinned and pulled out the grappling hook again, looking out for any goblin movement. As none was noticed, Alexander swung his rope and grapple, successfully connecting with the balcony. He went up first, followed by the rest of the group. It got pretty crowded by the time that Silas pulled up the rear. A pair of doors were accessible from the balcony, leading into the second floor.

Silas returned Alexander's grin and crouched out of the way of the door to give Rix free access to it. He glanced out over the stockade, keeping an eye on the goblins gazing out at the fire.

Rix fished out a slender set of lockpicks from his pack and examined the door, checking for traps. Finding none, he opened the doors to reveal a meeting room. A simple, but large chair rested in front of the party, dominating a rectangular table and seven, smaller chairs. The room was 30 feet long, by 20 feet wide. Doors led to the south, east, and west.

Kel carefully moved into the room and, now that he was inside and the moonlight couldn't give him away, drew his long sword, "Huntress guide my steps tonight, let the hunt be swift and deadly." he intoned quietly in a rich sing-song voice.

Rix moved to investigate one of the doors, while Kel strode boldly beside him, standing ready to gaurd him from any attack.

"Which door?" Alexander unsheathed his scimitar quietly as he entered the room, and froze still for a moment to listen...Trying to hear where the goblins might be.

Silas gripped his staff and stepped into the room. He began to review words of divine power, just in case they stumbled into combat.

Rix combed the room over with his trained eye... suredly the largest chair was where the shaman would sit during council. The three doors were of interest however.

Although Rix and Alexander heard nothing from the other two doors, they detected the sound of quick shuffling and muffled talk from the door to the east (left side from those entering from the balcony). It sounded like a few people moving around, although they couldn't discern what was being said.

There was nothing else found in the room. Although, it was observed that the door to the west was closer to the balcony than the door to the east.

Alexander moved his head towards towards Rix to be certain that he caught the sound proceding from the eastern door, and added in hushed tones: "See if that one is his room" -he motioned with his scimitar to the western door- "I'll keep guarding the other door."

He motioned for the others to be ready to defend either of the doors.

Rix nodded to Alexander, checked the other door over with trained ease, then opened the lock with ease and found the room empty. He motioned for the rest of the party to follow him inside. The room was similar in dimensions to the last one, 20 feet wide east to west, while 30 feet wide north to south. A small, plain bed lied in the southwest corner. A tall, thin closet lied open against the east wall, although it was currently open and empty. The blankets on the bed were thrown to the side, and a dirty nightshirt lied on the floor. A cabinet had several drawers open, as if someone went through their clothes quickly. It looked like someone left in a hurry.

Kel moved back into the chamber with the three doors, his long sword held loosely in his hand. Going to the door that Alexander had been about to crack open, he waited alongside Alexander while the kobold did his thing.


In a hush, raspy voice Alexander asked, "Ready to take our chances?" He motioned towards the door the shuffling came from, "Or should we lure them here?".

As Kel opened his mouth to debate whether or not to enter the other room, the eastern door opened, and a humanoid with the head of a hyena poked its head into the room. Upon seeing the party he growled something, threw open the door, and moved to attack, followed by two other dog-headed creatures. The first one wielded a battle-axe, while its two comrades moved to attack with clubs.

Rix dodged under the table, hoping to put good cover between himself and the hyena-like creatures and hoping that they would focus on the tall folk.

Silas took a step back from the creatures and casted shield.

Alexander nimbly dodged two of the creatures, the one with the battle-axe missing the half-orc and lodging itself into and through the room's table, causing Rix's eyes to widen in surprise. The hyena-headed being ripped the axe out of the surface and turned to meet Alexander's counter-attack, but too late...

Alexander drove his scimitar deep into his enemy's chest with deadly strength and precision, causing the humanoid to cough a stream of blood and fall dead. Alexander took the brunt of a savage club attack, but was immediately healed by a quick-thinking Kel.

Swiftly removing the scimitar from under the hyena-man's ribs, while he ignored the one in front of him, Alexander turned to the gnoll who just hit him, both stabbing under its ribs and slashing at its shoulder.

"Capture the other one!" He yelled.

Alexander killed the second creature before it moved to strike at him. The third and final hyena-faced creature backed off from the party and moved out of the room and into the balcony. Silas fired a crossbow bolt, but missed it as the bolt soared over the creature's head and past the balcony. Kel also missed with the flat of his longsword, as the creature ran past his position by the doors to the outside. Rix fired his own weapon, striking it on the shoulder. It snarled, dropped its club, and leapt off the balcony to land below.

Alexander dropped his scimitar and made haste to the balcony while taking his longbow into his hands. Alexander notched an arrow and let fly, hitting the enemy in between its shoulder blades. The creature fell to its knees and died from its wounds.

The party's adrenaline began to dissipate. But they had a problem. There were two dead hyena-headed creatures in the room, and one below the balcony. Also, a large gash was visible in the wooden table of the room they were standing in. And they didn't know how much longer the fire would distract the goblins...
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
Chapter 2- Illusions (and introducing Dartis!)

Silas followed after Alexander and quickly secured his weapon. "Alexander, your rope..." He motioned towards the edge of the balcony and the dog-headed creature below. "We need to get that body up here to hide it. And quickly!" He looked back to the room to see if the sounds of their combat attracted other attention.

"Search for something that could be the Shaman's Staff," added Alexander as he lodged the grapple into the balcony to descend for the corpse.

Alexander climbed down into the courtyard and tied the body quickly to the end of the rope. Before climbing back up, he tossed the creature's club to the balcony, which was caught by Silas. He climbed up, and with the help of Silas, began to haul up the corpse with the creaking cord. The corpse was almost to the top when a small group of goblins in leather armor and carrying swords walked underneath the balcony. Silas and Alexander silently held the rope, sweat beading on their foreheads from the exertion of holding the body steady and quiet. Finally, the group continued on and around the building, causing the duo to breathe easier and pull the body the rest of the way up. The half-orc wiped a drop of sweat from his forehead. "That was a close one..."


Silas and Alexander checked the new room to the east while Rix checked the west room once more. The eastern room was 30 feet north to south, and 20 feet east to west. Three floor mats lied close to the southern wall. A small desk was in the southwest corner, but held nothing of interest except for some parchment and writing utensils. Silas took a moment to relax and sigh with relief at avoiding detection by the goblins. While continuing his search, Silas did notice a letter written in a foreign language and pocketed it for later study. If only I had a moment to examine it with my magics it may reveal some important information. He sighs wistfully then glances over at Alexander. "Find anything?"

"Found nothing, What about you? If the dogs were searching for the staff we should have waited for them to face the goblins and cover us... too late for that."

Silas tugged the letter from where he had tucked it. "A letter. I should be able to decipher it when I have a few minutes in a safe place. Unless you can read it...? Silas held the letter out for Alexander's inspection. At Alexander's comments Silas shrugged. "Maybe they were working with the goblins. The shaman may have used them to hold onto his position and power." He shrugged again.


Meanwhile, on searching the western room again, Rix discovered a large sack underneath the bed, which wasn't explored before. A quick search of the cabinet revealed mostly old clothes, but Rix also found a plain amber stone (worth about 10 gp). Rix moved to check on Alexander and Silas, a smile on his face as he happily noticed that he could hear coins clinking inside the sack. But then his ears detected someone talking and approaching from outside the southern door.


Rix froze, "Silence!" His whisper was more a command. He drew his crossbow, pointing it towards the southern door. "Someone is coming. Alexander, flank the door," he whispered again. He fell back to a concealed location, his crossbow ready to fire.

Silas quickly stuffed the letter into his tunic and grasped his quarterstaff with both hands preparing for battle. Silas then moved to the side of the door opposite of Alexander.

Kel hid in the room with the bed, while Silas and Alexander flanked either side of the door. Rix watched from his hidden spot as the door opened and five goblins entered ahead of a sixth wearing shamanic clothing and carrying a primitively decorated staff.

As the first two goblins entered Alexander yelled "Now!" Unfortunately, the half-orc lost his grip on his scimitar, which took off like a thrown projectile and nearly slashed a gash into Silas. The abjurer was unaffected by the close call, and promptly smashed in the head of the closest goblin.

Rix fired at a startled goblin and caught him just under the jaw, felling him. From his prone position he coolly loaded another bolt.

The shamanic goblin took a step back and ordered his three remaining guards to push forward as he raised his staff and points it towards the party.

Loading another bolt, Rix aimed at the shaman, hoping that his companions could deal with the lead goblins easily enough.

Silas gritted his teeth as he realized Alexander's misfortune and his close call, and swung again.

Alexander, unable to help the humor of the ridiculous situation, half-smiled and shooted out to Silas a "Sorry!" Thanks, you dog headed bastard, he thought as he retrieved the battleaxe he had taken from the dead gnoll.

Rix fired his crossbow bolt, but missed the goblin shaman. The humanoid makes a grotesque smirk, pointed his staff at Rix and said "Diraak". Suddenly the room was pitched in a darkness so thick that it partially blinded even those that could normally see without light.

Silas swung his staff blindly, connecting with something hard that caused him to loose his grip and drop his weapon. Alexander thrusts in the direction of where the nearest goblin was last and was answered by a shrill shriek and a cry in an unknown language. He dropped the corpse off his punch dagger, but suddenly gasped in pain as a blade glanced off his ribs.

Kel whispered a pray to The Huntress, also known as the Rider, a glow of light then forming around his body, dispelling the darkness.

Rix had helf his action, but with the room lit fired once more and dropped another goblin.

One goblin stood left, looking as if he was about to run. However, the goblin shaman was no longer visible in the doorway, although you the hard steps of boots fleeing downstairs were heard.

Rix darted out onto the balcony, reloading his crossbow and keeping his head down, "I'll see if I can cut off an escape this way, maybe run him down."

"Vermin!" Alexander spitted out as he, ignoring both the remaining goblin and the wound on his flesh, took up the chase down the stairs, ready to fall onto the shaman.

Silas shot Kel a grin in thanks for the light, then turned towards the sole remaining goblin. His eyes flicked to Kel and back to the goblin as he said, "You're in for it now, my little friend." Though he was still grinning, his eyes were cold. Knowing Kel could deal with the goblin quickly Silas reached down to scoop up his staff.

The lone goblin seemed to understand Silas' words and turns to run, but not before the blade of Kel pierced it through the back.

The abjurer then ran down the stairs, following Alexander. He was shocked to see Alexander a good distance away and so separated from the party. The half-orc was already down the stairs and running towards the goblin shaman and a several panicked goblins, while the shaman was desperately trying to open the front doors to the building.

Seeing the danger. the shaman yelled a command to the group of five confused goblins. They didn't have time to draw weapons when the half-orc began to attempt to run by them. In desperation, they leapt at Alexander, frantically clawing at his limbs and back in an effort to stop his charge, but with a roar the half-orc ignores them, slamming into the elder goblin's back.

The doors to the outside courtyard exploded open, six goblins and an enraged half-orc sprawling across the earth outside. A scimitar landed blade-down into the earth within arms reach of Alexander as he drug himself up. Alexander looked up to see Kel waving to him from the balcony, just as Rix fired a crossbow, catching the goblin shaman with a deep wound into his back, and interrupting another darkness spell from his staff.

Alexander was now among a group of enemies, alone it would seem, except for an abjurer bearing down on the backs of the recovering goblins.

Silas: If we don't end this quickly the whole camp will be roused and we'll be done for... (DM's note: Yep!)

In a fury, Silas rushed down the stairs and charged towards the goblins hoping to take advantage of their disarray. He brandished his quarterstaff and swung at the first goblin he came to. Meanwhile, Kel took a chance and leapt down, taking damage but not breaking any bones.

Huntress... Grant me the strength and the swiftness needed for what lies ahead... Alexander stood up, grasping the scimitar to help himself, ready to face off whatever came his way... be it goblins or be it death. This is the only chance we have, as soon as we get it, we get out.

Rix calmly reloaded his crossbow, took aim at the shaman and loosened another bolt which missed.

The shaman saw Rix loading another bolt and pointed his staff upwards at the same time. "Diraak." Everthing around Rix became as dark as night, limiting his ability to see. Rix fired once more at the last known location of the goblin before navigating blindly through the room and towards the stairs.

As the shaman cast his spell, and Rix disappeared in a globe of magical darkness. Alexander watched the shaman's triumphant sneer disappear as a bolt flew downwards and struck the goblin in the shoulder. Two goblins missed the half-orc as he charged forward, although a third's blow glanced off a shoulder.

Silas was also struck with a weak slice, and Kel took a slash across an arm.

Silas swung desperately at his attacker, felling him. Kel did the same, his swing killing his opponent.

The goblin shaman noticed that Alexander was almost upon him, but only had time to shriek in fear as the half-orc sliced off his right hand with his punch dagger, then nearly cleaved his torso in two with his scimitar with two critically amazing hits. As the goblin shaman fell, so did his staff. The remaining goblins stared at it greedily as they moved to claim the symbolic item for theirselves.

Kel recited a prayer (the spell bless) to the Huntress as he moved.

Though Silas was focused on the combat around him, a small portion of his mind seized upon the words of the fallen goblin shaman. Diraak. Diraak. I wonder what language that is? Silas moved in Alexander's wake, ready to strike any nearby goblin a hefty clout from his quarterstaff. "The staff. The staff... muttered Silas under his breath.


Alexander freed his left hand to reach out for the staff. Jaws clenched, biting hard to drive off the pain, Alexander started a cautious retreat towards the fortress' wall.
Not wanting to waste his diminished strength, he shifted to a defensive position, knocking blades off their path to his flesh and growling low. As he moved, he yelled out "Retreat!"

Kel attacked the nearest goblin, injuring it. With a grunt, the elf avoided the goblin's counter-swing and joined Alexander in flight.

Silas swung at the goblin that was attacking Alexander, felling it with a sickening strike to the neck from his quarterstaff.

Suddenly the party felt energized and hopeful as Rix also appeared, and shooting another crossbow bolt, connecting with and dropping another goblin.

Alexander led the party to the closest portion of the wall, which happened to be next to the main doors. The large doors of the stockade looked heavy, but could be opened with a strong push. Unfortunately, a large wooden beam hung across the back of the doors, making it impossible to open without lifting it off its metal hangers. As the party struggled to lift the beam off, a horn was blown from where they had just retreated, most likely from the injured gobling they had left.

A large group of enraged goblins appeared and poured towards the party, funneled between two long, wooden buildings. With a strong heave from Kel and Alexander, the wooden beam was finally removed. The party struggled to push open the main doors, which inched slowly open as the mob approached...

Seeing the goblin horde bearing down on them Silas, with renewed vigor, threw his weight and strength into opening the stockade gates. As soon as it was wide enough to slip through he said, "Go! Go!" then slipped through himself. He made a dash for the cover of the treeline.

Looking over his shoulder, Alexander sighed. He would have wanted nothing more than showing to those cowardly vermin the power of a servant of the Huntress... but it is to no avail... Sometimes my desires go against her words... Wounded as he was, and holding what he was holding, he couldn't afford a savage death in a retributive blaze.

Good night then.

Alexander hastily ran for the shield of the green wilderness.

The party flew into the woods, small parties of goblins in pursuit. After an hour of running combat, they were able to successfully lose their pursuers along with a trail of bleeding goblins. Another hour went by, and the group began to feel safe, taking a moment to rest at the banks of a swiftly flowing creek that was 20 feet wide and near some tall trees. They believed there may be a safer place to cross further north, but there the current looked dangerously strong. As they drank from the waters they heard the sound of hounds barking in the distance. Worgs, Alexander realized.

At the first bark, Alexander rises with a sudden move and stood still for a pair of seconds... reminiscent of an animal who feels some alteration in the environment. "Lupines possessed by evil spirits... and goblins that ride them."

"They might sound as if they are far in the distance, but they have demons of wind on their legs..." Alexander starts retrieving the two coils of rope he had, removing the grapple from the one tied to it, along with his bow...

"Evil spirits?" Silas shook his head wearily, his energy drained from the last few hours. "What do you suggest we do?"

"They are corrupted hunters..." Alexander affixed firmly the end of one of the coils of rope to an arrow with some leather cords. "So maybe they dare cross the creek," he set the arrow on his bow, pulled with great strenght, and shot at the trunk of one of the trees on the next shore. "But only once they know were we crossed it... and what kind of madman would swim with this current?".

Holding the rope with one hand, he tied the other end onto a harness around his chest. "No one will swim. I'll cross once all others have crossed, helped by your pull." He returned the grapple and the other rope to the backpack, as well as put the bow to its place.

"Can't best their flesh, so best their cunning... or you are dead," All the while, Kel and Rix cleaned the sorrounding area, erasing as much of trail the party had left here.

As he remembered the beastial creatures from when the orcs and their goblins destroyed his tribe, a raven grin spread across Rix's face. Should he see one, he would have been more than happy to plant a few bolts into one.

"Once you have the rope affixed, I may be the swiftest to go across. I may not even need to swim, but just scale across the rope." He secured his gear tightly, lashing his weapons closely to his pack.

The kobold went across first, then ensured the rope was secured properly on the other side. It began to come loose after Silas came across, but with Rix's help the rope is tied
strongly against the middle of a large tree. The rest of the group came across afterwards, Alexander guarding the rear. The party fled further up a nearby hill, stopping in time to look down and see a couple of worgs with goblin riders sniffing at the bank they had just left. With another howl the worgs are led by their riders in a fruitless search for a way to cross. Happily, the party was able to continue, and arrived at the gnome hills without further incident and collect their reward.

A few other Dorinthians had made a home out of one of the chambers inside the gnome tunnels. Baron Dartis Kalnian, an experienced warrior and member of Dorinth's royal family, stepped from the cavern the Dorinthian volunteers made into their home and asked to be able add his combat expertise to the group.

The goblin totem staff was supposed to be a goblin artifact capable of causing the sun to disappear, earthquakes to be felt, and death magic to destroy its enemies. As Horacios
Tanastigan, the gnomish expert on enchantments, discovered, the staff's magic was actually a fake. A wand of darkness was hidden in the shaft of a normal staff and was
activated with a command word. It was suggested that the staff was a faked copy of a possibly existent artifact and that the wand simulated one of the legendary items' effects. This allowed the shaman to claim leadership of the tribes. Horacios' chuckle disappeared as he explains these facts and seems to be disturbed by what they mean. He expressed a doubt that a goblin shaman could have created such a thing. Horacios handed the wand back to Alexander, then threw the now-worthless staff away.

Next stop: Kobolds!
 

Nephtys

First Post
Hi

I've read a few posts and it looks like a good story. I hope you don't mind if I pick up a few spoilers along the way, I'll try not to use any ooc knowlege in character.
It's funny, and it explains a lot about the current party's affection for the elves, but I didn't know that Kel had actually been a member of the party. I guess that makes Barok's attitude all the more jarring :p. I also wasn't aware that the party had started out as entirely non-human and that the campaign which turned out to be about a war of liberation for a human nation from human enemies had started out so differently (Though I guess it still runs circles around the main problem, probably since the main enemies are too tough to deal with for now). That changes my perspective on the game a little and makes it all the more interesting.
Anyway... Good work. Keep it up. I'll be reading (If you let me ;))
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
You are free to read all you want and make posts, as are others. The past clues are important to the overall story, and I don't think Barok would have been completely oblivious to those events since he has been travelling with the group for some time now. And yes, we went from an entirely non-human party trying to save the humans to an almost entirely human party now. Quite some changes. Not all those humans, interestingly enough, are Dorinthians, however.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
The first move that Alexander made when he arrived was to find out if some kobold movements against the gnomes were perceived, but he heard no further news from Dartis, who was among the initial welcomers.

The young man who approached the group upon their return had all the look of the aristocracy of Dorinthia. The tall bearing and look of confidence was often manifested as arrogance. But the man moved with a subtle grace and fluidity, perhaps indicitive of many ball-room dances.

However, as he talked the party could see that he was no foppish court dandy. His armor was sweat-stained and riven in several places. The ease of his movements were due to years in the saddle. A well worn bow lied across his back and a decorated, but well used sword hung at his belt. No, this was not some sycophant of the king, but a member of the nobility that had maintained the tradition of mounted might that had kept Dorinthia strong for many years.

As he continued his discussion, a genuine smile was on his lips and he extended his hand several times in greeting to each party member, only to lower it when greeted by simple nods. The smile never left though.

"Greetings. Baron Dorin has asked me to join you in doing what we can to continue the fight. I am Baron Dartis Kalnian. The title still comes new to my tongue. I am the last of my house it seems." He said this as the smile faded from his face. "So, until my lands are no longer under the shadow of Tallione, please call me Dartis. Now I have a bow and a sword and wish to use them in defense of my home land in whatever mannner I may. To what end are we to put them?"

Kel greeted Dartis Kalnian with indifference Why am I doing this? He thought to himself as introductions were made. Huntress guide my steps. I hope that I am interpreting your wishes correcty. Without a word, the elf moved towards the back of the group, then disappeared to go meditate.

Alexander nodded at the aristocratic human, and drily said. "Welcome." He didn't really know what to think about the young man for the time being. Two weeks ago he'd have been outright hostile to him... but after meeting his current companions, and Syra. Well, times had changed him.

"Well met, Dartis Kalnian. I am Silas Eyrstan." Silas continued to talk with Dartis, and specifically asked him about his military service and revealed to him that he served in a unit at the Last Stand. However, the difference in social class kept Silas from becoming too chatty or familiar until he got to know him better.

"Well met, countryman. I served mostly on the southern border with Tallione for much of the past few years. I too was at the Last Stand, and my commander sent me back to Faircreek with the warning. It was thus that I lost my horse. But come, tell me more of your service."

Silas seemed pleased at Baron Dartis Kalnian's interest in his past duties. "Lord Kalnian, I served as adjunct to Sir Martin, connected to the Dorinthian Foot." His face took a grim cast. "Sir Martin, gods rest his soul, sent me with missives back towards Baron Dorin's command tent just before the lines broke." He met Dartis' eye and added, "We were among the lucky ones that day, it seems, though it was some time after your message was delivered before I was able to make my way back to Fair Creek."

Rix glanced up at the aristocrat, Sniveling money-grubbers, he thought. He'd been in a bad mood (although who could tell the difference) ever since they returned. The incursion on the goblin camp had been primarily successful, his plan had gone off soundly and he had put down more than his fair share of the runt-faced creatures. However, he missed Danica. Although he was warming up to the half-orc, particularly now that the other stuffy one (Alexander's paladin sister) was no longer around. Imagine that. I'm warming up to being party to a half-orc companion. He hated orcs, although this one was different.

However, returning to the gnomish enclave had left Rix rife with internal strife. He was helping gnomes! They might as well burn in the pits of the Dragon's gut for what he wished, although the current crises possibly had created some internal strife that he might be able to play up and use to help plunge the race into chaos. The thought tickled him.

He faced back to the aristocrat. "I am Vaerixsjach, do your best to leave me be human." He turned away from this noble born warrior, the thought of noble blood all too painful for the orphaned dragonkin at the moment. He had been noble blooded among his people and now was treated no better than a dog by most.

Moving away at a quick pace, the kobold disappeared into the gnomish community, his hand constantly upon his blade. He hated this place, he hated gnomes, and now he was supposed to seek out the source of their kobold trouble and stop it. How he wanted these kobolds to overrun this hovel.

When he thought he was alone, Rix found in the sack he had taken from the goblins 35 platinum pieces, 12 gold pieces, a dull iron ring that might have been worth a gold piece, and a scroll that looked to have magical writing on it.

Silas sighed and frowned as he watched Rix quickly disappear. I do not know how to relate to that kobold. His frowns deepened as he considered his own thoughts. Perhaps if I started thinking of him as Rix first rather than 'that kobold'... His musings interupted by the arrival of a group of gnomes with an offer of free adventuring geer, and Silas looked over the items and contented himself with refilling the supplies of bolts and travel rations he carried.

Dartis turned to Silas as Rix walked away. "Pleasant little fellow isn't he," he asked Silas with a droll smile. "Of course, he maybe upset and rightfully so at his current situation, but tell me how does a kobold come to be working with Dorinthians, for the cause of the gnomes? That is a riddle that I suppose would explain his sour mood. Though I must confess that I have dealt with few enough kobold to not assume that they are all that grumpy."

Dartis gladly picked through the gnome's extra equipment. "I lost all I had at Kelnar, save what I wore." He picked out a human-sized buckler, a chain shirt, a dagger, and a water skin and some rations, and after a long search of looking for arrows asked Silas, "Is there somewhere to buy equipment that is not in this pile? There is no pack in my size and I would like more arrows."

Silas looked thoughtful for a moment. "I can't rightly say why Rix is working on behalf of the Dorinthians. When the Baron sent out the call for aid he arrived. He has not got on well with the gnomes, though. Truth be told I worry about us heading into kobold territory with Rix."

"The nearest place I know of to purchase equipment is in the new community founded by the Fair Creek refugees, several days travel away. Perhaps the gnomes would be able to find you some equipment that isn't included amongst that offered to us."


"These could be useful..." said Alexander as he picked up a pair of daggers, slashing the air, and testing the grip of their handle before storing them; one in his boot and the other at the belt at his back.

"Rix?" Alexander turned around. "Just keep your eyes on him." The half-orc stopped a second, likely considering his words before adding, "He's proven of high value for Fair Creek... And that's what interests him, how much they are disposed to pay for him."

Father Ravil suggested I should let him be when I presented him my doubts... I'm doubting less, am I getting my sense of smell dulled? Or did I catch a wrong scent about Rix the first time?

"Who knows what's breeding in his skull... know that he is a crafty lizardkin, he is."


Then he departed, coincidentially the same way Rix did. He followed the kobold's trail, but didn't try to make his presence hidden. He planned to join the kobold and ask if he wouldn't want to profit from the gnomes' offered free equipment.

Rix realized Alexander was trailing him and spun around, looking the half-orc in the eye from his four-foot stature. "Don't follow me, I've got business to attend to and I don't need your eyes crawling on me the entire time. Go play with the elf or the Baron, or maybe send up a few prayers to the Huntress. Maybe she'll save these obnoxious big-nosed rats." He gestured around at the gnomish community and stormed away, obviously upset and wanting to be alone.

He's still Rix... this night... I'll let him be.

Meanwhile, Dartis managed to find a pack that would actually fit him and a few more arrows at a local gnome merchant. Aside from that he spent the next two days conversing with Kel, Alexander and Silas about their last excursion. Besides that, he did as any soldier does between the fighting and tried to catch up on sleeping on eating.

During the same days, Alexander contemplated his previous actions. This time I was more in tune with the Huntress' way... as were my companions... we are learning to work as a pack... When he got a chance, he told Horacius, "Hum... there were some gnolls along with th goblins in the camp..."

He also sought out Harindan Loughphray, going up to him along with the rest of the party and among other things, chiming in with a warning. "I fear alliances between gnolls and goblins... possibly started by the dog-headed ones uniting the tribes... but I know that is difficult to belive. Do you know of any gnoll tribes near this area?"

Both elder gnomes looked concerned when Alexander reported the news. Haracios avoided the topic and shrugged it off, however. Harindan said, "Yes, we have been worried that our recent troubles might have been caused by a third party. We didn't want to believe it, however. It may be that some mercenaries have been hired by this new threat, since normally gnolls can be found more to the east. Please let us know if you find anything else."

(DM's note: At about this time I asked the party why they didn't use the wand of darkness to aid their earlier escape. The response was basically, whoops...)

Immediately upon getting his own moment of privacy, Silas ducked into an out of the way corner and cast his Comprehend Languages spell and read the letter that he took from the table in the goblin stockade.
----
Shaman Gaaz,

I demand that you step up your attacks on our enemies. Your hesitation only allows the gnomes to regroup and to enlist outside aid, which has now happened just as I had divined. My envoys will stay with you and observe your preparations for battle. If any harm comes to them I will hold you responsible. Remember, I put you into power with my gifts. I can remove you.

Astraughlay Kondeeistreigh
----
Silas quickly moved to rejoin his companions as they discussed the success of their mission and related information regarding the goblins and their non-goblin allies.

Alexander and Silas located one another, and the half-orc reminded the human abjurer about the letter. "Will you work now in deciphering the paper you found in the fortress?"

Grinning at the timing, the abjurer answered, "Ah, I have already done so! And to prove it, I shall immediately explain what I have discovered." Silas then related the contents of the letter to Alexander. Silas frowned and gave Alexander a sidelong glance. "Perhaps you should have those cuts looked at. Goblins are filthy creatures and you wouldn't want the wounds to become infected."

He's right. For the first time Alexander spoke out loud what he'd otherwise kept to himself. He nodded affirmatively at Silas' words and added "Forgetting pain, any pain, should never happen... we must get used to pain, but never forget. So commands us the Huntress..."

"I'll ask Kel for some help in that matter,"
the towering half-orc moved to leave, answering to Silas' concern. "After seeing to my scratches I'll join you and Rix for a meal." Half smiling once again, "and we can invite the new one, whoever he is."

Alexander went in search of Kel, who had tended him previously in battle... and saved his life. Finding him, the two believers in the Huntress gave greetings.

After a brief inspection, Kel healed Alexander. "I hear you speaking in reverant terms about a Huntress," the elf mentioned pointedly. "Tell me of her. Who is this person?" He asked as his healing magic infused the half orc. It can't be The Huntress, he thought to himself. Surely she is not worshipped by those with orc blood, as they are anathema to her."

Alexander looked at the elf and smiled... warmly for the first time... This smiling is getting to be a habit "Thanks for the mending. The Huntress, The Lady of the Lake who gives guidance through the eternal cycle; she who took me under her wing and taught me to survive," Alexander stood up from his seat before the fire. "She who presents everyone with the world and allows them to thread their own path." "She who sees as enemies the corruptors of the eternal cycle and desecrators of the shrine of Seven Trees, and who will be hunted and brought down by her wrath!" Noting that he was getting enthusiastic... but not caring "Artemis' wolves' breath on their neck while they are face down on the ground will be the last thing they feel..."

"...I'm one of her wolves... that's why I joined the Dorinthians."

And he stood there, waiting for Kel's reaction. The elf recognized that the half-orc belonged to a rare sect of the Huntress' faith that worshipped a goddess called Artemis, but still considered the Huntress, the Rider, the Lady of the Lake, and Artemis to be facets of the same being. The large majority of believers worshipped the Rider as the same as the Hunter or Huntress, depending upon preference of gender of the mysterious hooded god. Alexander's sect, however, was considered blasphemous by some. The two men conversed more for quite some time.

Later at a dinner he prepared, Silas shared his suspicions and related the contents of the letter with his companions, showing it to whomever wished to see it. He glanced at Rix, somewhat worried about how the kobold would handle the information. Well, his opinion of gnomes could hardly get much lower, thought Silas.

"At this moment, however, the threat seems to be from kobolds." Silas scowls. "And unless the gnomes have received better information in our absence we have only a general direction of their lairs to go on. And a gnomish name connected to the goblins we just raided, 'Astraughlay Kondeeistreigh', I think it's pronounced." The party members were quite uncomfortable with the implications of the letter, but decided to keep the information to themselves rather than share it with the gnomes, and to look out for further clues. (DM: Saw what?! Boggled...)

After two days of uneventful relaxation, the party felt once again healthy enough to take to the road. Harindan Loughphray greeted Alexander at first, "Alexander, good to see you looking well again. We still have received no word about the current state of your people, but I did send Phly as a messenger to describe your adventures, and your amazing infiltration in order to recover the totem staff. If your team is ready, I will begin."

"Thankfully you brought back the totem staff and we've noticed a lack of coordinated effort by the goblins to our southeast. Unfortunately, we still have not discovered who has been supplying them. But, we have found something that has truly disturbed us. Our scouts have located the tunnels that are being used as the headquarters of the kobold forces. What's truly odd, is the behavior of the kobolds that were observed from a distance. First, there seems to be a number of kobold tribes working together in that area. Kobolds from opposing tribes normally have trouble cooperating if not feeling outright hostility for one another. Second, the kobolds seemed well disciplined, standing like rocks while at guard posts. Whatever charismatic leader was able to unite these tribes and train these kobolds must be a power that is a great threat to us. The Dragon Eye tribe is definitely keeping the others in line. For 100gp each, find out how they are influencing the other kobolds and shut down their operation for another 100gp each."


Rix meanwhile, sought to acquire a set of masterwork thieves tools and resell his older ones. He also sought to see if he could find some time to get the iron ring and scroll magically examined. Spending a good amount of time each day exploring the tunnels and community, Rix kept the gnomish name on the parchment Silas translated in mind while he explored, but he found no trace of a Astraughlay Kondeeistreigh in the settlement.

Besides that, he was mostly absent in the two days of rest at the Loughphray tunnels, and what others did see of him was a mixture of anger and sulking. The normally fast quips and jabs were missing and a sullen quiet hung over him. The whole business was getting to the dragonkin, and being around the eon old nemesis of his race did not make it much better. "We'll see," he would sometimes mutter The world would be a better place if we just let them overrun your sniveling hovel.

Rix was frustrated in his initial attempts to find a smith willing to work for a kobold, and he began to truly hate having to reside with the gnomes who treated him with contempt. Giving up, Rix moved to have his items identified, but ran into the same problem with Horacios' apprentices, and the kobold did his best to avoid Horacios himself. Rix was busy cursing under his breath when he noticed a gnome behind him.

"Ungrateful wretches," Horacios said under his breath. "Well come on, let's get those items of yours checked." The gnome's manner was curious. He did not try to avoid Rix or attempt a weak smile for the kobold's benefit like most of his kinsmen did. As the gnome placed the ring and scroll on his work table, he almost seemed to forget Rix's presence until he began speaking to him absent-mindedly, explaining the magic he was employing. His manner showed an acceptance of Rix so complete and natural that it took the kobold by surprise. "Hmmm... I'm afraid the ring is non-magical, although the scroll seems to radiate a faint aura. The writing of the scroll itself is an animal trance spell, and may come in handy, although you might want to consider selling it instead. I didn't have to use a spell to identify the items, so this time its no charge. In the future, however, such magic can cast over 100gp." He warned, handing the kobold back the items.

For some reason Rix felt compelled to tell him of his troubles with the smith. After a thoughtful moment Horacios nodded and had the kobold follow him to the closest smith with talent, then chastised him. "Now Burelianieos, don't make me tell your aunt how you treat guests. This young man here has come to give our people some aid, and I don't want you cheating him or wasting his time. And remember your son is one of my apprentices, and I may just forget that next time he forgets to collect his components like he should." After his conversation he looked back at Rix and said, "There. Burelianieos will have your tools ready in no time and will pay the 75gp and your old tools. Let me know if he acts less than honorably in the future. I wouldn't make excuses for the rest of my kin, but they are a bit shaken of late. Less knowledgable people think they can look at evil and know it. They'd be surprised what faces evil men really wear. It may even wear the face of a man you once thought your friend." With that, Horacios walked away to go back to his work.

Stunned by the openness and honesty of Horacios, Rix let the whole situation unfold as if in a daze. He could barely mumble a thanks before the gnome walked off to his work. It had been surreal for the dragonkin. His coin purse lighter, but his mind heavy with an odd feeling, one which he couldn't fully identify, he returned to his companions. The iron ring around one finger, an odd reminder of this occurence.

(DM's Note: This was a hint that Horacios might be a good source to find out what happened in regards to the gnome, Astraughlay Kondeeistreigh. The 'evil may even wear the face of a man you once thought your friend' was as direct a hint as I wanted to go. Horacios had not thought that his former ally and illusionist had fallen so far into insanity to be involved with the goblin and kobold attacks. The letter Silas had would have made him realize some of what was going on and given the party some important hints. But alas, those hints never came out in time.)

Silas spent his last amount of free time around for meal times in the evening and gladly chatting with his companions. Otherwise, he spent his time sequestered in the gnome's library making scrolls and wishing that the gnomes had bigger geese...

The half-orc ranger, Alexander, passed the days in quiet meditation, spending as much time as possible outside the cramped gnomish tunnels. He went on "scouting trips" to familiarize himself with the sorroundings and have a breath or two - the problem was not so much the size of the tunnels as the constant large numbers of people that gave him the feeling of confinement.

From sunrise to sunset he walked outdoors, even spending a restless night hunting under the moon, trying to feel rather than to know the place. And reinforcing his link with the wild, which had been weakened in the last day.

The gnomes have directions given to the party and a rough sketch of the hills the kobolds are living inside. Dartis and Alexander come to the realization that the kobold base is nearly two days travel from the gnomish tunnels by foot.

Next: The party moves out.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
The troll...

The party moved out. The first day was uneventful, although the party encountered the beginnings of a dark marsh. As they continued on in the morning of the second day, the party does its best to follow a swamp trail through the marsh. Silas happened to walk slightly off the path for a moment, when suddenly he was sucked up to his crotch in mud. His alarm increased as he noticed that his body continued to be slowly sucked under. Frantically, he noted that there were no shrubs or trees around in which to hold onto. Instinctively, Dartis moved forward to grab Silas' arms, but was stopped by Alexander, who knew that Dartis might get himself sucked under, especially in his armor, if he was not careful.

Kel was thinking about his talk with Alexander, and their discussing of the Huntress and the wilderness. His mind was also on Rix. He was concerned at how the mission might affect the young kobold. After all, their lives may depend on how he carried himself during the pending encounters.

(DM's Note: This was actually a post by the player of Kel a minute before mine, and he totally missed Silas falling into the marsh... so I had a little fun with him a number of hours later and with my next post...)

As Kel daydreamed about his recent experiences, he failed to notice Silas' plight and also fell into the muck, being pulled down to his waist because of his heavier load.

"Damn it!" exclaimed Alexander as he went for the rope he had in the backpack. He handed one extreme to Dartis while holding to the other -given that the rope is so long, they used both extremes. "You pull out Silas!" he said as he threw part of the coil to the elf-in-the-muck.

Dartis took the other end of the rope from Alexander. He gathered a few coils up to give it some weight and tossed them to Silas. "Grab the rope, and stop struggling!" He called out to Silas.

Both Silas and Kel tied the parts of the rope under their arms as Dartis and Alexander pull hard. Kel came out immediately, although Dartis had to give the rope a couple of tugs before Silas was freed. The two adventurers had barely enough time to give thanks, when a repugnant smell reached their noses.

Rix warned the party, as he could see two reptilian figures more than a 100 feet away, off the path and in the deeper part of the swamp. From the smell, all of the party knew that they must be troglodytes. They didn't approach, but instead kept their distance. It was obvious this marsh was going to be dangerous to traverse without a plan.

"Alexander, do you have a bow? I know I could hit them from here. The question is would we bring down more of them onto us by doing so. But then I doubt they are just there to watch us. Perhaps we should continue on while keeping an eye on those two and expecting an attack," offered Dartis.

Unable to really help drag the two larger companions to safety, Rix sat back on his haunches with his crossbow drawn in case the new dangers took advantage of the situation. He warned his companions to be wary, "We don't want to start a fight if we don't have to. As you've just seen, this swamp is dangerous enough without us fighting a running battle against an enemy that knows it and will use it to their advantage. I'd also recommend walking single file for now, the person in front checking the ground with a pole so this doesn't happen again."

Taking Rix's suggestion, the party continued to move through the marsh, single-file. Alexander led, driving a stick in the ground as he used his survival skill to bring the group safely out.

The pair of troglodytes stayed their distance until the party came out of the dangerous terrain. Then they approached, hands up in a manner of peace. The stench was horrible, but the group stood their ground until they were near enough to speak in a hissing, gutteral language that all but one of the party was unable to understand.

Rix answered them in their own language, causing the lizard-like men to nod in approval. They then bent down and undid a wrapped, dirty blanket one of them had hung on his back. Unfurling the blanket, the creatures showed a small piece of pottery with something foul inside, some well-picked mandrake root, and 3 strange, green crystals that looked somehow artificial.

Rix and them began to barter. At one point the party swore one of the troglodytes said the words 'rations' and 'alcohol' in common before continuing.

Silas watched as Rix spoke with the troglodytes. He peered at the crystals from a distance, not wanting to antagonize the troglodytes by appearing too interested in their possessions. Whispering to Alexander and Dartis, Silas said, "Thank you for pulling me out of the muck."

In draconic, the smaller troglodyte said to Rix, "We see your group are not so foolish at to fall prey to the swamps. If so, we would have killed you. Instead, you have earned our respect and may barter with us." He removed the blanket from his back and showed his wares.

"This jar contains poison that will weaken your enemy if your weapon cuts him while coated with this. The mandrake root is good if you have an alchemist or herbalist. We do not know what the crystals are for. We removed them from the back of the head of others of your kind." By 'your kind', Rix knew he meant kobolds. "Sometimes we attack their guard posts and take them as trophies. Sometimes they bleed us instead," he says. "We respect them. They do not know fear."

"We will trade now. We want pink skin food, or what they call 'rations', or anything that they know as 'alcohol' which helps make us brave. We trade for anything else of value to warriors."


Rix nodded at the troglodytes, things were going well on their journey so far. Speaking to them in the same sibilant tongue, although his accent was quite different from their hissing, he seemed to be asking some questions of the green crystals.

In draconic: "We are most pleased for your respect, these lands are yours and it would be unkind of us to trespass without your permission." He inclined his head in a gesture of respect to the troglodytes and swept an arm to emphasize the dangerous swamps around them. Continuing, "You said those were found in the back of the heads of those of my own kind? Did you see my kind do anything with them? Do you know much of the place of my kind? Or if there were others not of my kind with them?"

Beckoning Alexander over to kneel by the items so that he can talk quietly to him in common, Rix said "They are willing to barter for rations and alcohol, do we have much to spare. They have encountered my kin and have retrieved those," he gestured towards the crystals, "from the back of their heads, a disturbing thought. The jar is a sort of weakening poison, and the mandrake root would prove valuable to an herbalist. Plus, the information they have may be of most use to us. It would be wise to trade with them."

Alexander shook his head. "We're tight on rations... but we could dare spare some and try to sustain ourselves on what the sorroundings have to offer." The stench, overpowering, made Alexander take a step back. "Besides, I'm not sure if we want any of these... although the poison could prove of use for your bolts," again the stench waded in and Alexander stood and stepped back again, looking at Rix, waiting for an answer.

The troglodyte shrugged and answered Rix's question in draconic. "Perhaps your kin who had these were not in their right mind. They would stand and fight, though it was obvious they would lose. Sometimes during an ambush we will slay five or six of them at a time. Normally there is a kobold without one of these in his head. He will always run," he said as he spit in disgust. "The others will fight to protect him until death. It is very strange, and not normal from kobolds. They act more like troglodytes protecting a chief, and we honor them for their courage."

After he finished with Rix he looked at the others and chuckled at their discomfort. In broken common he said, "Ration... one... for theeses," he said pointing to the crystals. "Ration... one for theeses" he said again, pointing at the clutch of herbs. "Ration... twos for these," he said, pointing at the jar.

Kel stood on impassively, watching the exchange and wiping mud from his clothing and equipment. "If we get stuck for food, the Huntress will provide," he said deferently.

"I have rations to spare, if that's the problem," said Silas. "And I'm willing to trade them if you think we can use those items." Silas smiled. "And if you think it is a fair exchange, Rix. I've no alcohol to trade, though."

"I too have a few days rations to spare as well to toss in for the trade" added Dartis.

"Very well, let's see, I figure three rations would cover one of the crystals and the jar, unless someone wants to play doctor with the herb." Rix took the rations from his companions and spoke to the troglodytes in draconic again.

Rix in draconic:"We would take one of the crystals and the jar in exchange for three rations. We thank you for your words and your respect. And I thank you for their discomfort, it amuses me. One last question honorable ones, how much longer does this swamp last in the direction we are going?"

The party made their exchange, receiving a jar with some foul smelling poison (enough for 10 applications), and the three crystals. The troglodytes indicated that they were now just out of the swamp and only about three or four hours to the hills the kobolds were using as their home. Before they left, the troglodytes said something to Rix in their language, than said in broken common, "Kill coward kobold... others stop fight..."

Curious creatures these troglodytes... not the smartest, but seem halfway between worthy opponents and stubborn suicides.

In draconinc: The troglodyte said to Rix, "The kobolds always work in teams of five or six. Kill the more active one... the one that will try to run away. If you do so, the rest will stop fighting. Sometimes the cowardly kobold of the group will be in hiding."
---

The party continued walking to the southwest, following the directions given. After three hours the land became flatter, punctuated by a large hill in the distance that Kel noticed first and brought to everyone's attention. There were trees near the base of the hill, but not enough to easily sneak up to the door the party could see buried into the side of the hill, halfway up its surface. Five kobolds stood unmoving by the entrance, their spears at the ready.

While trying to distinguish anything more of the entrance from their current position, Alexander asked, "What do you say Rix? Will they attack you on sight?"

"I don't know, but I suspect they are not wholly under their own control. Silas, can you examine one of these crystals and see if it is magical? Now, if I were to hide somewhere around that hill, where would it be..." His question seemed rhetorical, but he scanned the hill closely.

"Certainly, Rix," said Silas as he took one of the crystals from the kobold. He examined it without magical enhancement first. "You have reason to believe they might be magical in nature?" Silas then casted his detect magic spell and examined the crystal.

The magic he discovered was strange. There was a faint tint of necromancy and divination, but combined with a faint, but stronger enchantment aura. The three types of magic were rarely found together. Not only that, but the enchantment magic seemed to be active while the necromancy and divination magic seemed to be stored, as if for future use.

Also, studying the pattern of magic, Silas felt that the crystal seemed to have been enchanted by two different casters, or perhaps it would be better to say different styles. The necromancy and divination magic seemed to have been placed by someone with greater talent than the enchantment magic. The enchantment magic seemed to have been cast in a chaotic, almost illogical manner.

Silas' gaze unfocused as he examined the crystal. After several long seconds he frowned but continued to peer at the crystal. After half a minute or so he blinked several times as if refocusing his eyes and quietly said, "They are magical. It is a faint radiance, as if it is not very strong. But it seems rather unusual and is something outside of my experience." Silas tucked the crystal into his pack. "I'll keep this one and examine it more fully when I have better resources at my disposal."

At the same time, Kel noticed something special about the items. As Silas worked his magic on the crystals, the elf admired their workmanship. He thought only elves could cut crystal like this. The priest wondered for now about their origin.

Rix nodded at Silas, "Good to know, I figured as much. The troglodytes said that the ones that fought fanatically had these implanted in the back of their heads, while the one that was more active did not. The ones that were more active seemed to be protected by the fanatic ones, letting them make their escape if possible. I believe some sort of magical control was in order, these crystals could be the focus or conduit by which the active ones would control the others." He thought for a moment, clicking two claws together slowly.

"Remember that there is this new Dragon Eye tribe which has somehow exerted incredible dominance over the other tribes, perhaps this is part of their method."

"The troglodytes said that they move in groups of five or six with one sort of leader. The leader will often be in hiding or attempt to flee while the others fight to the death, kill the leader and the others will stop fighting."

As Rix asked the questions to himself, the adventurers noticed only two places near the entrance to the inside of the hill that would give a good vantage point and could hide a kobold. One, a ring of rocks that were about waste-high to a human above the entrance, 10 feet further up the hill. And two, some tall brush just east of the entrance.

He checked his crossbow, "Now on to more pressing matters. There are two spots which I believe our controller could be hiding, I do not relish killing my own kin, but I despise the thought that they are being manipulated against their will even more. There and there," he said pointing out the ring of stones and the tall-brush. "I say we approach from the east, seeing if we can flush out the enemy from the brush if he is there, then proceed quickly to the stone ring. If the controller is there, we have not only taken the fight out of the others, but also secured the defensive high ground."

Silas looked thoughtful and nodded as Rix spoke. "Ah, that fits with what I did manage to discover about the magic of the crystals. Enchantment magic, which is used in persuasion magics such as charms was predominant..." He looked like he would continue but Rix spoke about the immediate threat. Silas shrugged. "I'm no tactician but your plan sounds good to me."

Alexander absorbed the information delivered by Rix and summarized, "Find the leader of this guard group, kill him."

"Òr we could wait until we see movement... a guard shift will occur eventually, then we won't have to search for the leader... controller..."

Kel watched the kobolds carefully, when an opportunity arose for his input he added, "Those gems are exquisite workmanship, almost as good as what an elf could produce. They're definitely not something produced by kobolds, no offence intended friend Rix but the workmanship is almost perfect."

Falling profitless on his ears, Kel's words rose the question, "What are you suggesting?" Elves dominating kobolds?

"Vaerixsjach, how close together do your people usually place exits from their dwellings and mines? If we could come from the side of the hill, say on each side, without fear that another exit was too close by, we could assail both potential hiding places at once. And should the controller be secreted behind the door, we will have a better opportunity of attacking the controlled kobolds from each side."

As the adventurers discussed a possible plan of attack, a guard shift did occur. The party noticed two groups of kobolds walk out of the door in the hill. Each group had six kobolds, but only one of these six walked around normally while the others behaved as if mechanical constructs. The first group took over for the team the party was observing, the normal-looking kobold taking over for another that was resting inside the tall ring of stones.

The other squad went up and barely over the hill crest. They must have relieved another team, since another group promptly became visible and came back down, entering the hill from the entrance the adventurers were monitoring.

"So there are two groups..."

"Indeed, two groups. One just over the hill. And with no cover there seems little chance of gaining surprise. Although if we came around the east side and tried to take out the kobold in the ring of stones, that would at least leave us just the one group to deal with. Another option is to get him to show his head and try to pick him off from here, that would allow us the chance to charge up the hill and gain the door or the other group without challenge," suggests Dartis.

"We don't want to get caught between the ones inside and the ones over the hill..."

"The less ruckus we make the less chance we have of alerting the second group to our arrival. If we move as silently and swiftly as possible to take the ring of stones we will be in a defensible position to scout over the hill to locate the other group. If half of us approaches from the east and the other from the west, we can pinch the controller between us and quickly put him down before a strong defense can be mustered." Rix clicked his claws together once again, "Then we can deal with the ones over the hill."

Alexander and Rix took the hill from the eastern side, while Silas, Kel, and Dartis came in from the west.

Almost instantly, the plan began to fall apart. Silas was spotted coming from the west, and three of the kobolds immediately charged the party. Rix accidently stepped into a small hole that was hidden by the grass and cried out in alarm, as he nearly twisted his ankle. The cry is heard by the kobold in the rocks as Rix regained his balance and pulled his leg out. The two remaining sentinels headed to attack Rix and Alexander while the sixth kobold jumped from the circle of rocks and made a run for the door. Rix fired his crossbow, killing the kobold before he made it. As soon as his dying cry was finished, the other kobolds ceased attacking, and stood listlessly, gazing ahead at empty space with lifeless eyes.

"Really a pathetic proverb you big people have, but cut the head off the snake and the body follows." Reloading his crossbow the kobold shook off the slight pain in his ankle and waved the others forward. "Alexander, scout over the hill and see what the other group is up to."

As Alexander looked up the hill, he gave a shout of warning. Five more kobolds were running down the hill, spears at the ready.

"Well, nevermind then." Rix ducked low and attempted to circle around to the other side of the hill to see if he could locate the controller, although remaining hidden for the moment so that the five crazed kobolds focused on the others rather than himself. That would work just fine for the rogue, too.

Silas had just enough time to unsling his crossbow, load, and fire, missing the lead kobold with his shot. Dartis fired two shots, the second arrow flying true and taking down the nearest kobold. Kel and Alexander charged, their blades each taking down another kobold. The two remaining creatures struck at the men, the first missing Alexander, but the second slashing Kel along his back.

Dartis fired another two arrows, killing the kobold attacking Alexander, but missing the remaining one, which was instead dispatched by Alexander.

Just when the last kobold fell, Rix ran around the base of the hill, barely noticing a kobold desperately running into a door on the other side of the mound. Before the creature could open the door, Rix struck the kobold with a crossbow bolt, catching him by surprise and finishing him off.

He ran up to the dying creature, who stared up at his fellow kobold and expired. Rix noticed a glowing, clay bracelet on his enemy's wrist. As the kobold gave a death rattle, the aura around the bracelet pulsed and faded.

On the front of the hill, Silas examined the kobolds that were still standing. He noticed that they looked normal. They were breathing fine, they seemed to be warm to the touch. For all intents and purposes they were normal kobolds, except that it seemed as if there was no intelligence in the eyes. On the back of their skulls could be seen the base of a green, crystal rod.

"Well what do we do with them. I don't want to have to re-awaken just as we're trying to leave. What say you Silas, are these things even alive anymore? What if we try and prey those crystals out?" Suggested Dartis as he walked up the hill. He put his bow away and drew his sword and made sure his buckler was secure in preparation for going in the door.

"Aye let's pull out one of the stones and see what happens," Kel said. "Anyone got a knife I can use?"

Dartis pulled out one of his daggers and handed it to Kel.

With a nod of thanks, Kel accepted the proferred dagger. Carefully using the tip of the dagger Kel attempted to pry loose one of the stones. "Someone had better hold the little bugger, just in case this upsets him."

As Kel worked with the blade it quickly became apparent that the crystal had become part of the kobold's skull. To remove it would cause much of the head and brain to come with the crystal. Interestingly enough, when Kel dug with the dagger, the kobold did not even flinch, although a good amount of blood flowed from the small cut that was made.

"This settles it, with external "help" the Dragon Eye has been transforming their kin into sucide troops..." Alexander wiped clean his blades before moving besides the front door and trying to catch some sounds from the inside.

"Should we finish them? Or try to find a way to restore them?" Of which the chance of possibility I doubt seriously.

"I doubt they could ever be normal again or even survive on their own. It might be a mercy to just kill them."

The party took time to examine the doors. The first door, which the patrols of kobolds used to come in and out, looked well-maintained. The ground in front of it was barren from frequent passage.

The second door, which the last kobold tried to escape into, looked dirty on the surface, as if it hadn't been opened in awhile. Grass grew underneath the door. The party also wondered why the kobolds didn't use it to switch patrols.

Rix growled menacingly at the travesty inflicted upon his kin. He picked up the bracelet that was on the controller's wrist, searching the body of that one and the prior one as well for anything else that might be important.

"Silas, examine this." He thrusted the bracelet towards the human. "Leave them, I doubt they'll be much trouble now." He stalked towards the unused door and checked it for traps and if it was locked, although he didn't open it yet.

A quick search of the zombie-like kobolds revealed nothing except for a shortspear with each. The two controller kobolds had the features of the Dragon Eye tribe of kobolds while the others were from various other groups. Both of the Dragon Eye kobolds had a small short sword on their bodies, as well as 3sp each. They also had a clay bracelet, and the party collected one like Rix found on the other Dragon Eye kobold.

Rix found no traps on the door. Meanwhile, Silas recognized that the bracelets were magical, but it was something he had never seen before, and the abjurer was unsure how they were able to make the clay magical, or if the clay had special properties in itself. Basically, he was thoroughly confused. (DM's Note: Silas rolled a '1' for his check, though he was able to take another look later)

Silas looked in bafflement at the bracelets. "These are odd. I'll need more leisure to study these than we have at the moment." He tucked the bracelet into his pack next to the crystal, making sure that it was well padded so that it wouldn't get broken. "Do you think every kobold in this lair not of the Dragon Eye clan has been forced into this..." Silas shrugged unable to find a word to describe what had been done to the kobolds.

"Perhaps we should capture one of the controller kobolds, or a kobold that isn't being magically compelled, and question him as to where we can find the Dragon Eye lair. I find it more likely that we'll get answers to the gnomes' problems there rather than in one of these subjugated lairs."

Rix nodded. "Let's try this door first, if it is unused we may be able to move in without their awareness." He checked the lock, picked it, and then opened it, revealing a room 30 feet west to east and 40 feet north to south (the party came in from the south). The room was empty and the floor covered with grime, although the floor had a trail of a dried, sticky substance leading from a door to the north and ending at the door the group just entered. A metal bar barracaded the door across from the adventurers. There were no other visible exits.

Kel quickly drew his bow and nocked an arorw, and stepped silently into the room, stopping just inside the door and moving aside so the others could enter. He trained his arrow on the door on the far side of the room and awaited Rix's pleasure.

Seeing Kel draw his bow, Dartis looked at his sword, and sheathed it. Drawing his more familiar bow as well, he left the buckler in place. He too nocked and arrow and drew the bowstring to his cheek.

Silas gripped his staff and moved inside with the others. His brow knitted in thought as he saw the dried stuff on the floor. With a glance to the door that led deeper into the lair, Silas knelt to investigate the substance thinking it might be blood. It was.

Rix crept slowly forward, probing each step lightly, trained eyes darting left and right, ceiling and floor. He advanced upon the barracaded door, ever wary of traps, particularly so here, as he knew his kin well. The barracade is on this side, keeping something in, not us out.

Rix discovered a trap close to the front of the door. It was set under a fragile floor tile, which was meant to break if a heavy weight was pressed on top of it, like from a humanoid. A tanglefoot bag would then activate and wrap the victim in order to disable him. There were also indications that an alarm would have sounded. Rix was able to remove the tanglefoot bag, but was unable to deactivate what he believed to be an alarm. Instead, he has the party avoid the spot as they walk by.

(DM's Note: Darn Ferrix (player of Rix) and his sense of knowing where to look for kobold traps! "They'll never think of checking the ground before the door...")

Finding no traps on the door, Rix had Dartis and Alexander remove the heavy bar from the door, picked the lock, and opened it for the party.

The smell of death wafted upwards, almost causing the party to gag. A large number of small, gnawed bones were strewn throughout the tunnel now visible before the group. It descended in a gentle slope downward with a 10 foot wide passage. As the party noticed claw marks marring the other side of the door that Rix had just opened, the adventurers hear a growl in the distance. It would seem that whatever had been barred in before was now aware of your presence.

Alexander also drew his bow and knocked an arrow... moved foward and peered intently into the darkness, ready to loose the arrow onto whatever came up the slope.

A lanky, tall creature ran at the group from the hallway, but arrows from Dartis, Alexander, and Kel all impacted the creature. With a howl, it ran backwards and then out of sight, but not before the adventurers watched as it tore an arrow from its shoulder and the wounds visibly heal. It was a troll.

Rix darted back towards the exit. He'd rather not tangle with such a nasty creature. "Quick, the door."

"No, forward. Unless we wish to find another entrance. We saw the other group exit here, it must lead further in," advised a frustrated Dartis.

"Unless there is a secret entrance in here somewhere," Kel said, his eyes sweeping the walls of the room. "Let's barricade the door, have a look around and then, if we don't find another entrance, try this way again?" They promptly shut the door and barred it again.

"I think it may be more prudent to leave the door open with you, Alexander and I guarding it with drawn bows as our cleaver little friend Rix, looks for any other doors. I would want to se any danger coming and drive it away rather than have it sneak up and waiting for us unawares." said Dartis drawing another arrow.

"Let us be ready to face the beast, but if possible, lets not face it."

"I'm not going back in there, get yourself eaten human." Rix's voice snarled, "No kobolds came in or out this way. They seemed to only be guarding it. Back the other way." Stupid human.

Rix made sure that his companions were between him and the troll, even though the door was barred closed again.

"I take it then there are no other doors in this room, Rix?" Alexander asked, without turning his head to look back at the kobold. "I bet the controller was planning to unleash his pet on us."

While Dartis and Alexander covered the door with their bows, the rest of the party looked for a hidden door. Nothing was found for a few tense minutes, until Rix found a secret door on the western wall that Silas had previously missed. Despite his skill and expertise in such things, even the kobold had nearly missed it. The hidden door was only found after Rix removed a loose stone and found a rusted handle in a compartment. Twisting it, a 5 foot section of the wall opened like a large door, revealing a ladder that led down a musty-smelling chute far into the darkness below. On the wall was an old, crude painting of a large hill underneath the moon, a symbol of the Hill Delver clan of kobolds.

(DM's Note: The party played this round very intelligently. In my notes, the kobolds were using this entrance until a troll showed up and started snacking on them. They were able to lure it into the tunnel, then sealed it inside, hoping to starve it. The characters at this point were only level 2 and didn't want to tangle with the creature. As you will see, the troll would play a larger role in the game.)

Next: The kobold tunnels.
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
Alexander let out a small bit of a laugh and barred the door back.

"Are you planning to go first Rix? Mabye with the controller's clothing?" An old trick always works, that's why it's old

Kel moved over to the hole in the floor and looked down, hoping that the little bit of light that spilled in from outside would help him see better.

"I'll follow you down Rix," the elf said while looking the kobold in the eye and raising a finger to his lips. "We'll go quiet like eh? You first, me following a handful of heartbeats later, and then the more cumbersome of our number following a half a minute behind?"

Meanwhile, a loud banging and shrieking could be heard on the other side of the door, as the troll attempted to unsuccessfully force the barred door open. With a shrug in, Rix went in first, followed by Kel and the others. The rungs of the ladder were rusty and creaked with the weight of their bodies as they descended.

Rix, Kel, and Alexander were able to see slightly better in the near darkness. It took a couple of minutes for them to fully descend, but they could not measure the distance accurately since their vision was of limited range. Meanwhile, their human companions grumbled as they attempted to climb down safely, but the demi-humans aided them when they reached the bottom.

The room was 30 feet wide by 60 feet long, and revealed several pillars decorated with the kobold motifs of the Hill Delver clan. A low basin filled with a dark, runny liquid sat in the center, and was decorated with the image of a long, skinny dragon eating its tail. A passage extended to the north.

Kel slid his bow from his back and quickly nocked an arrow. "It's too dark down here for most of us," he whispered. "We're going to need some light."

Silas shrugged off his pack and by feel removed the torch that he had strapped to the outside of it. Again by feel, he reached into his belt pouch for his flint and steel. Alexander helped him to light the torch.

Dartis and Silas now saw what they had before missed. Also, with the torch everyone could see that the liquid was water that had stagnated.

Alexander poked deeper into the basin with his scimitar, making sure there was nothing there. Then he added, "Let us get moving." He started a stealth approach towards the northern passage.

Rix led the way in the shadowy edge of the torchlight, his darkvision giving him a bit of an edge compared to most of his companions. His thoughts lingered on the image of the dragon eating its own tail, trying to place its significance.

As the kobold examined the dragon before moving on, Silas came up next to him and realized that the symbol of a dragon eating its own tail was an ancient symbol of rebirth after death, though kept his thoughts to himself.

Rix took down one more floor trap as the party travelled down the 70 foot long corridor. The next room was 50 feet by 50 feet squared with four large pillars. Twenty-one stone slabs were arrayed in a north to south direction, 10 on the east side of the room, with 10 more on the west side. Half of these stone slabs had the mummified remains of various kobolds, each dressed in the once-fine rainments of kobold dignitaries. The larger slab in the center was bare, but had an etching of a kobold scratched on its surface. Rix saw that below the carving, in draconic letters, was written: The First.

Just north of the central slab was a tall, marble staircase that disappeared into the darkness above. Another tunnel led northwards.

Suddenly, a pair of red, giant lips appeared above the characters. First in common, than in elven, dwarven, orc and various other languages it spit and hissed, "Invaders! Robbers! The children of the dragon will slay you all!" It continued in other, various languages and dialects, most unknown to the party, and likely repeating the same message. When it was done screaming, it disappeared.

Rix, however, heard something different. In draconic he heard the lips say, "Welcome child of the dragon. Pay homage to Krystoryniaxast, the First of the Hill Delvers, but do not tarry. The dead deserve their rest."

At the words of the faceless lips, Alexander stepped -almost jumped- forth, his eyes darting from one shadow to another, and his blades ready to strike. Even his nose tried to catch clue of any presence apart from their own.

Silas also jumped when the arcane voice began its ranting then smiled grimly. "If we hadn't been discovered before we certainly are now."

The party went to a ready state, looking around for signs of danger. It was Kel who found the many carcasses of large rats stacked in the far corner of the room. They were covered in webs, and looked drained and left to dry out.

As Kel examined the carcasses, he heard the faint chittering of a creature or creatures high above him beyond the torchlight.

DM's Note: Kel's player failed to respond in time, unfortunately for the other players.

"Well, not many children of the dragon 'round here..." Alexander said while he examined the kobold remains. "At least not likely to slay us..."

The kobold hissed harshly at his companions, "Touch nothing." Rix approached the central dais, with its empty slab, and knelt before it in reverence. Mouthing words in his own tongue.

[Rix spoke in draconic]"Pray dear Krystoryniaxast, First of the Hill Dwellers, the dragon blesses your memory in hopes that you have passed on to great Kurtulmak's mines. Your kin, my kin, are enslaved beneath the yoke of foul magics, made mindless and driven to thoughtless slaughter. These others aid me to free them so that the mines of the Hill Dwellers will hum again in your name."

Rising from in front of the slab Rix gestured to his companions, "Leave these dead kin to rest, and let us move on." He moved towards the stairs, expecting the others to follow.

DM's Note: The magic mouth warned of death, but there was only a trap on the tomb of the kobold chief and some great treasure inside that was missed.

Dartis elbowed Alexander, and with a big grin said, "Ah I see, kobolds are decended from rats. Explains quite a bit."

At Dartis' words the half-orc showed a big smile... and contained his laughther, waiting for Rix to slaughter the unsuspecting human with poison-dripping insults...
Alexander, instead of paying heed to Rix's movement, moves up to the north passage to investigate.

Vaerixsjach smirked at Dartis' attempt at humor, "The human apparently has half-a-wit about him. Better than the rest of you."

As the party enjoyed a much deserved laugh, Kel saw something moving towards them from the darkness above. He yelled a warning as two large webs descended upon the party, wrapping them all in the sticky substance, except for Kel who was able to press against the wall in time to avoid the attack.

Rix was able to slip free of the strands, slipping past gaps in the webbing. Alexander, Dartis, and Silas were stuck, however, despite their attempts to break the material.

From the darkness the adventurers saw two large spiders descending from the darkness on web lines, while at the same time the sound of a swarm of smaller spiders reached their ears. A sick feeling hit them as they saw a swarm on either side of the party begin to crawl down the eastern and western walls. Kel was almost close enough to touch the western-most swarm, as he was against that wall near the dried rat husks.

Alexander at first thought of waiting for the vermin where he was and set himself in defensive stance. But when the swarm came out he had a change of mind and hastily started pulling and hacking away at the sticky substance.

Rix backed up the stairs a bit more to give himself cover and put himself in hiding. Aiming his crossbow, he fired at one of the bigger spiders.

Dartis cursed the spiders and tried to draw a dagger and cut through the sticky webs surrounding him. "Burn this damn stuff off us if needed Silas."

Silas struggled ineffectually against the webs. As the spiders got closer his struggling became more frantic, and those looking at him saw panic edging in on the wizard. Dartis' words penetrated his fear, however.

Rix took a shot from underneath the stairs, surprising one of the spiders, which squealed angrily as a bolt buried deep inside of it. Dartis took out a dagger and made some small progress cutting the strands, but it was not enough to free him. Kel scrambled away from the the spider swarm and got closer to Alexander, walking slowly to avoid the webbing on the ground. He swung his blade at the spider Rix harmed, hurting it again.

In retaliation the spider fired another stream of webbing, sticking Kel to the stone slab behind him just as the first spider swarm flowed over him, biting him with dozens of tiny fangs and unsuccessfully attempting to inflict the priest with poison. The situation nauseated Kel, who could do nothing else the next few seconds but retch in disgust.

The next spider attacked the stuck Alexander, biting deeply into his shoulder, and coursing poison into his veins. Instead of weakening the half-orc, it seemed to strengthen him. With a warcry, Alexander ripped out of the webbing around him, although his wild swing missed his opponent. DM's Note: Rolled a natural 20 for Alexander's save.

Rix was attacked by the second spider swarm, which swarmed over the legs and waist of the kobold. The creatures bit into him, causing the rogue to yell in pain and surprise.

Silas saw the predicament of his companions and lit the webbing around himself, Dartis, and Kel. It freed the trio, and burned away a portion of the swarm on Kel, but caused damage to the adventurers themselves.

"My thanks Silas!" Shouted Dartis, shaking off the sting of the burns. He was freed of the webbing and a little pain was worth that. "Silas, see if you can drive back the smaller spiders with the flames," he shouted as he drew his sword and attacked the spider attacking Kel.

Grimacing at the bite, Alexander slowly moved towards the stairs to gain higher ground, defensively trying to keep at bay the spiders at all times with wide slashes than to hurt them. Seeing the spiders crowding around Rix, Alexander kicked away from him one of the larger spider's legs and asked out "Do we have any other torches?"

Silas nodded grimly at Dartis' shouted thanks. His staff clattered to the floor of the room as he freed his right hand for spell-casting in case the situation became any more dire and he jabbed at the swarm around Kel with the flaming torch held in his left. "Kel! Break free of the spiders if you can!"

Rix rolled out of the swarm, kicking and pulling at the remaining spiders clinging to his body and stomping in an attempt to crush them on the ground.

Despite fighting defensively, Alexander made contact against the injured large spider, severing its closest leg. It screamed in pain and attacked again, but missed the half-orc.

There were too many spiders around Kel to burn away with his torch, so Silas had to cast a burning hands spell, destroying the remnants of the swarm and causing the rest on Kel to scatter and flee, although the elf was also hurt.

While his back was turned, the other large spider attacked Silas, biting deeply into his shoulder and poisoning the abjurer. Silas turned a shade white as poison entered his system and sapped his strength.

Dartis then attacked the spider that bit Silas, slicing a gash across its body with his sword.

The swarm that Rix escaped flooded over Alexander and bit on his legs. A wave of naseau washed over Alexander, causing him to be unable to move or fight for the next few seconds.

Putting a good bit of distance between himself and the swarm of spiders swarming the half-orc, Rix reloaded his crossbow and fired it at one of the larger spiders while cursing his companions for sticking around. "I told you we should have moved on faster." DM's note: Rix thought that this was part of the tomb's traps. It wasn't. The spiders had moved in there on their own throughout the ages and fed on vermin.

"Damn!" yelled a sick Alexander while he himself feebly swatted with the flat of his blade at his legs, stripping away some of his own skin, but also some of the arachnids at the same time.

Rix fired his bow at the creature near Silas, hitting it squarely and causing blood to splurt upwards. The spider has no time to react before the injured mage did. In anger, Silas stumbled past the spider that had attacked him while on the way towards the stairs and swung upwards with his torch at the creature, both clubbing the spider and setting it on fire. It screamed and attempted to flee, but made it only several feet more before dying.

Dartis moved forward to protect Alexander, slashing the spider in front of him and wounding it. It returned the attack, but missed the nimble human. Kel casted a spell of healing on Alexander, but took damage as the creatures swarmed over his arm. Although Alexander was restored, Kel became nauseous again.

Rix fired another bolt the next round, but missed the remaining large creature. Alexander recovered, and with a roar stomped his feet and swung his sword at the spider swarm around him. In his rage, he scattered enough of them to render the swarm useless.

The last spider attacked Dartis, but missed, only to have the fighter's own swing connect and bury deeply into it. Silas flanked the beast and connected, also wounding it. In panic, the creature attempted to flee, but Dartis wounded it critically, splitting a part of its body in half while Kel buried his own blade deep into the shrieking mass.

The battle was mercifully over.

Rix stomped a stray spider with the butt of his crossbow, "Next time listen when I say we shouldn't stick around." He berated the others. "Now, can someone see to these bites, as they've nearly torn half my scales off. The nasty little things."

Ignoring Rix, Silas spit to clear an acrid taste from his mouth then reached around with fingers under the armor on his shoulder. Withdrawing them, all can see his fingers are covered in blood and a foul smelling liquid. "It might be wise for us to retreat to a place of safety." He wiped his hand on the corner of his cloak.

The party backed into the previous room, hid and closed up the exit once more, and camped near the stone basin, spending the next twelve hours resting and allowing Kel to perform his healing magics. They took turns guarding each other, and the time passed peacefully, giving them time to talk and rest. The party members also found some unburned torches in sconces in the pillars and lit each as they needed them. These torches were unfortunately bolted to their hangers, although they could have been removed with effort.

Rix spent his time thinking about the message he had heard before, remembering that the First correlated to the first kobold founder of the Hill Delver clan. He was a famous trickster, much respected by other enemy kobold tribes. They were unique among kobolds as having stronger tendencies of dragon worship, and believed such creatures held the key to long, if not eternal, life. Some kobold priests even believed that kobolds that had proven themselves could become dragons in later lives. In this manner, some stranger sects regarded the kobold as the second highest stage of reincarnation and the dragon as the ultimate stage. In this weaker shell and life they would learn cunning before becoming dragon eggs.

Alexander broke the kobold's recollections. "Now they know we attacked... but they don't know we are here." Or at least I hope so. A pair of seconds of silence went by. "We might still have the surprise factor..."

Alexander's words sunk in. The floor did look dusty and unused, as if no one had come here in months, if not years. The party began to doubt that the kobolds now in charge of the hill knew of the existence of these crypts.

Alexander thanked Kel for the mending of the flesh, and added something with a genuine inquiring tone "But... how did you come in communion with Artemis? Aren't elves politicians and soldiers?"

During their convalesence, Kel spoke to Alexander about the Huntress he worshipped. "The God I worship is not the same as yours, although perhaps she just wears many masks?" He speculated on this a moment. "Not all elves emerse themselves in words and platitudes, since some of us still revere the old ways and the Huntress is an ancient God, though truth be told, not many of our kind still worship her."

DM's Note: The elves refused to believe it, but long ago, humans brought the worship of the Rider to them after the god revealed himself in a battle of humans and elves versus a combined orc horde. The humans saw the Rider in his male aspect of a hooded, but masculine hunter. The elves and orcs perceived the Rider as female, although the large hunting clothes and hood render the gender of the god as unknowable.

"Well, should we continue?" Kel queried the rest of the group once everyone was well enough to proceed. "It seems as though we are safe from kobold attack down here but other fell things reside in the darkness."
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
After a good rest, the party carried on into the room with the large, stone staircase and the mummified kobold corpses. The burnt and hacked spider corpses still littered the floor. Right when Rix, who was taking the lead, stepped into the room, a familiar pair of lips appeared.

"Invaders! Robbers! The children of the dragon will slay you all!" It again repeated its hesterical message in the same order as before. It seemed not to recognize the party.

"Might I recommend that we don't wait for spiders to come crawling down on us again this time?" Rix jibed at his companions. With his wounds healed he was back to his wise-cracking, sardonic self.

Kel scampered through the room, his eyes scanning the ceiling and walls and watchful for any sign of movement.

Alexander answered as he was disposed to carry on: "Then better take the lead, I'm not enthusiastic about being peppered with kobold bolts." Alexander examined closely the blood-filled carvings on the blade strapped to his wrist. "I want to get done with the mission and move against the previous owner of this." He was silent for a pair of seconds. "I can but hope that these strange magics have their origin in the invaders... as well as controlling bodies who should be resting, they might be the source of this magical control."Will we need to make any more of this errands before earning enough trust?... as soon as this finishes, I'll propose scouting of enemy-taken territory. DM's Note: Alexander's dialogue might be confusing, but the character had been intending on visiting the Tallione Imperials who were responsible for wiping out a wooded sanctuary he had frequented. He did recover a portion of a Tallione blade that he had tied to his wrist and used as a punch dagger as a reminder of the slaughter he had seen.

Rix took the lead as the party moved up the stairs from the room with the dead spiders. The party travelled for a short time, finally reaching the web covered ceiling. Silas used a new torch to burn them away before the party reached the last steps, which were just below the ceiling. A close inspection revealed a hidden passageway above them.

The kobold checked for traps, then opened the passage. The ceiling slid to the side, but several boxes that were stacked on top of them fall through the opening, almost crushing the nimble Rix. The rest of the party also avoided being hit by the tumbling boxes. The party members watched in surprise as these crates fell into the darkness below, and announced their stop at the bottom with the loud splinterings of wood. (DM's Note: Rix made his reflex save, the other adventurers made easier reflex saves, then the kobolds in the other parts of the fortress failed their listen checks to hear the crates crash nearby. Just damn.)

The sounds echoed through the halls, but no one came to investigate. After a few tense moments, the party moved through the opening, finding themselves in a small storage room. It was a 15 foot by 15 foot area. A wooden door was to the east, which Rix searched for traps. He found none. After Rix did his work, Alexander neared the door and stuck his ear to its surface and listened.

Meanwhile, Rix poked around the storage room, examining the various boxes and their contents.

Rix rummaged quietly through the crates. They held equipment, and Rix was lucky enough to find the following:

3x Torches
1x Mirror
100x crossbow bolts
4x light crossbows
25x small traveler outfits
2x Rope (50 ft)
1x Grapple
And a small bag of silver coins (estimating 500 silver)

Alexander heard another door open in the distance and the shuffling of at least five creatures, in his trained estimation. They did not come closer to the door, however, nor did they speak. After a moment, Alexander could hear someone humming a strange tune, as if the person were lost in thought.


"Probably we have another squad behind this door, the place this door takes us to is another room so there should be no problem if we be swift." He then stepped back from the door, asked Rix if he found anything useful, and added, "If you went there first... without us..."

Kel shouldered his bow and swiftly drew his longsword "Well, I for one am sick and tired of scuttling through the shadows and filth down here, the elf said, his voice steady. "Let us sally forth and get to the bottom of this mystery"

Silas opened the door for his sharp shooters, Dartis and Rix. Inside they saw a kobold in light robes humming a tune and holding a crystal over a small plate of burning coals, which provided enough light for Dartis to fire, as Silas and his torch were behind the door. Five other kobolds stood and looked aimlessly into the space ahead of them. Rix's crossbow bolt slammed into the creature, along with one of Dartis' two fired arrows. With a grunt, the robed kobold fell, twitched and died, the crystal in his hand falling to the table with a clink. Alexander and Kel charged inside, but no further action was needed. The other five kobolds stood unmoving.

Inside the room was a large central workbench that the robed kobold was using. Several tools laid about, and Silas' recognized enough of them to realize that they would be valuable to a mage seeking to develop his own magical items. At a casual glance, Silas saw equipment that could be used to make potions, scrolls, and wondrous items. He valued them at 500gp. The crystal that fell was unlike the ones that the party had gotten from the troglodytes and otherwise found. It was clear in appearance.

A logbook was also found on the workbench. Quickly flipping through it, Alexander saw that the first half was written in gnomish and the rest in kobold. A strange-looking chair and several crystals were drawn roughly in the book.

The chair shown in the logbook was also visible in the far corner of the 30 foot by 50 foot room. It was a smooth chair made of petrified wood. Kel recognized the chair as made from special silvan wood that has been petrified over time. A bar extended from the back of the chair, and on the top of the bar was a hollowed dome that rested over the chair and had a crystal-shaped hole on the top. Several straps and clamps had been added to the chair's arms and where a person's legs would lie. A chill ran through the adventurers as they recognized the chair from their dreams...

The image fades, then a new one takes its place. A strange, hairless humanoid creature holds a struggling kobold in its arms, then straps the the smaller creature to a chair with a strange helmet-like contraption. The device is lowered onto the kobold's head, and you feel your blood run cold as the creature's struggling grows weaker, then stops, the intelligence in its eyes disappearing as its pupils turn white and mindless.

After looking at the book, which Alexander promptly handed to Rix, the half-orc said "Part of it is written in kobold..." He ignored the fallen body and the still-standing kobolds. He retrieved the battleaxe he had taken from the gnoll at the goblin fort, held it two-handed, and approached the chair. No one stopped him. Once he was in front of it he calmly declared, "This is not meant to be." Shaking his head for a moment, he then brought down the axe heavily -almost savagely- upon the helmet-like contraption... his face an expression of dead-seriousness.

Rix had just enough time to flip through the journal and realize that the second part was written by a kobold shaman, when he was jolted from his examination by the jarring sound of an axe meeting stone.

Alexander attacked the chair with his weapon, his muscles straining with anger and rage as the axe laid deep gashes into the petrified wood. The ringing of the sound was nearly unbearable as it bounced off the walls of the room. The helmet-dome portion of the chair took the brunt of the half-orc's strength, bending slightly and cracking along the extended bar.

A greenish glow appeared around the chair and helmet, and ancient runes became visible. They were a form of sylvan, so old that even Kel did not recognize the majority of the words. Two words were recognizable by him, however: 'revered' and 'knowledge'. He shuddered when he realized how old this civilization that created this item must have been.
The hairs on the elf's magically sensitive body began to stand on end as the air crackled.

With one last grunt, Alexander struck a final blow, rending the bar from the chair. Another strike caused the fallen dome to crack. Instead of stopping the build-up of energy, the chair glowed brighter and the energy in the room stronger so that the others noticed the building charge.

As the party stared in amazement they heard a gasp of terror by the far door and noticed a kobold observing them. Before they could react, the creature began to shout a warning and shut the door as he fled.

Deliver us from evil.[/blue]

Rix gaped at Alexander, "Fool.. you think we'll be able to find out what powers lie within that when it lies in splinters! Creating a racket, you've called the entirety of them down upon us." He stuffed the book aside into his pack along with a few of the other items he had picked up in the store room. Rix grabbed the coins, the mirror, restocked his bolts from the store room, and grabbed the crystal that the kobold dropped as well as the book.

Dartis raced to the door to fling it open, bow in hand.

"Would it have told us anything else than what we already knew?" Alexander regretted the noise, but I had to do it. The half-orc slowly unsheathed his scimitar as the increasing unholy glow bathed the room.

"We don't know the complex, we can ambush groups exiting the complex if needed... but if we want to stand a chance we must retreat now!"

Dartis opened the door, concentrated, and fired his bow at a group of kobolds outside. A smile of triumph spread across his face, which was soon replaced with a look of worry. In a hurry, he closed the door. At first he was unsure which of the fleeing six kobolds was the controller, but he took his best guess by aiming at the one that looked more animated. He fired his arrow and his aim was true, slamming into the back of the kobold and bringing him down. Dartis' smiled as he realized he took down the right one, since the other five either collapsed or stood unmoving. The smile disappeared, however, when he saw a crowd of a dozen or more kobolds streaming from down the long corridor towards the party, their masters hiding behind the bodies of their slaves.

"Bar the door," Rix snapped. "We go out the way we came." Crouching quickly next to the dead robed kobold, he ruffled through his robes for any items, hidden or otherwise.

Dartis and Rix held the door closed with their shoulders as Alexander and Kel grabbed some crates and attempted to block the door. From the sounds of things, a large group of kobolds were scratching and pushing against the barriers. Things weren't looking so good inside the room, either. A bolt of energy arced like green electricity, nearly striking Silas who was busily stuffing away the crafting tools for his own use.

Silas grabbed for the most valuable of the items first. As the bolt sizzled past, he turned and made for the door back through the storeroom and out the trapdoor, not wishing to tempt the fates with a longer stay.

Rix had taken time to rifle through the corpse of the kobold shaman on the floor. With a quick search of the robed kobold, Rix had just enough time to find a well-crafted dagger, a smooth amber stone, and another clear crystal. He also found a bracelet similar to the one found on some of the other kobold controllers.

The other party members squeezed into the storage room as a number of mindless kobolds were able to open the door slowly, inch by inch.

Seeing Rix scavenging the bodies, Alexander moved next to the kobold and exclaimed -somehow exasperated- "Haste!" Then he grabbed him by the shoulders and pulled him along.

As the party began to go down the hatch, the kobolds outside came through the door. Alexander took the rear, but had no chance to act as arcs of energy moved from the damaged chair and struck the creatures, killing those in the lead. With a grimace, Alexander closed the secret hatch as he descended.

The party travelled down the stairs, through the crypts, and to the metal rungs leading to the room with the door that was barring the troll. Silas dropped his second torch onto the ground by the bottom rung as he climbed. Dartis led the party upwards. After a long while he reached the top rung, and the fighter opened the secret hatch. He was shocked to find five kobolds struggling to remove the bar to the tunnel with the troll, guided by the nervous commands of a sixth kobold. He scrambled to stop them, followed by the rest of the party.

"Capture the controller!" barked Silas as he stepped forward, fingers of his right hand splayed before him. Intoning words of arcane power he gestured and pointed towards the kobolds struggling with the bar.

Dartis successfully tackled the kobold controller, followed by Rix, who unsuccessfully tried to remove the bracelet from the controller's arm. Silas came out next and lit two of the mindless kobolds on fire, but they were able to remove the bar as Kel and Alexander came out of the tunnels last.

There was an inhuman shriek of laughter as the door was pushed open. The troll burst forth and ran amock, slaying the kobold nearest to the door. Uncontrolled, the other kobolds stood unmoving in front of the monster, acting as a defensive, unwitting line of meat in between the party and the creature.

The rest of the kobolds will arrive in just seconds! Alexander rushed off to open the door leading to the outside, and stood beside it while waiting for his companions to exit the chamber, keeping his gaze fixed on the troll rending kobold corpses. He kept his scimitar unsheathed.

Dartis dragged the controller kobold with him toward the door. "Everyone out," he shouted to his comrades. Then to the kobold struggling in his arms.
"If you have any wish to stay alive you will order those others to attack the troll."

"By the twisted rune of Ithul!" cursed Silas. Holding the torch ahead of him like a shield, Silas backed quickly away from the troll. He followed after Alexander and Dartis to the exit of the kobold lair.

Rix hustled away from the troll. "Take him. We'll need some answers." He got in the lead and then called back towards Dartis, who was struggling with the controller. He thought for a moment, remembering the controlling bracelet in his pack, retrieved it, then slipped it on. This is going horribly, its all the half-brained orc's fault. Destroying that chair, ridiculous. Righteousness my scaly... His thoughts trailed off in a series of blood curdling curses directed at his idiot companion, the troll, the brainless kobolds, and the whole situation.

The first step is complete, now chaos should ensue in the herd... When they all came through, the half-orc closed the door and prayed for the kobolds to arrive soon enough to the room so as to get the precious time needed to escape into a hiding place. "The Huntress will provide somewhere we can take cover... and plan the next move."

Meanwhile, the kobold Dartis had wrapped in his arms nodded in agreement as he pulled him away, and said in bad common "I want live!" The remaining kobolds made futile attempts to kill the troll, but at least they were slowing him down. The troll didn't seem to mind, and bit deeply into the shoulder of another mindless creature, raining blood over itself. DM's Note: Rix thought that he might be able to control the kobold drones, but each bracelet was attuned to one controller. It was the controller in Dartis' arms that caused them to fight the troll.

Rix attempted to control the kobolds with the bracelet, but there didn't seem to be magic in it, as if the power had died with its owner.

Alexander led the charge to the surface. As the party burst forth from the door, they surprised three small groups of kobold drones and their controllers.

The first group was 30 feet in front of the door. The second group was slightly to the right and 10 feet away. The third group was more to the left and 25 feet away. All three controllers looked astonished to see the adventurers coming out at the speed they were.

Alexander continued leading the charge! "Fall back behind me!" Exclaimed Alexander as he launched himself over the nearest startled kobold. Let the troll meet the kobolds running after us...

Silas cursed again, though with a bit more volume this time. He flung the torch down behind him. Gripping his staff in both hands, he followed in Alexander's wake.

Rix darted after the others, crossbow in hand. "I'd rather rely on my own wits than some vague goddess," he snapped at Alexander as they made their way onto the surface.

Rix fired his bolt first, killing the farthest controller. Silas broke ranks and attacked the nearest kobold with his staff, injuring him severely. Kel assisted, also breaking rank and striking the injured controller down with his blade. Finally, Alexander charged forward and swung his weapons with such force that the kobold controller he targeted was split in half.

The party seemed to be home free. They had a prisoner, and the only threats around them were the fifteen mindless kobolds milling about aimlessly, and the victorious roar of a slaughtering troll deep in the tunnel behind the group. It would seem that the trap meant for the party was about to be sprung on the pursuing kobold tribe.

Next: The gnomes are under attack!
 

Deuce Traveler

Adventurer
"It would not be wise to loiter around here." Silas motioned back towards the kobold lair. "Especially now that that thing has been set loose." He looked briefly at Rix then shifted his gaze to Alexander. "Can you find us a place of safety where we might question the captured kobold?"

"Before we leave, let us end these abominations, both so that they may not be used against us or our allies, but also as an act of mercy. Rix and I will proceed down the hill, while you fulfill your duty. The troll will be quite happy with his other prey, but do not tarry," said Dratis as he carried off the small reptilian in his arms.

Alexander nodded gravely at Dratis' words. "You speak truth," but looked at Rix for agreement for whether to proceed or not onto the gruesome duty. In the half-orc's eyes they were Rix's kin, and thus, Rix should be the one to free them.

"The troll will end their empty lives. Move." Rix snapped. death was a part of life for a kobold, their stifled souls would be reincarnated into the next hatching.

After Rix said what he had to say, the party heard the growling of an approaching troll behind them. They decided that it was best to quickly move, and left the hill by heading straight out and circling its base. They found concealment in some nearby trees.

As the party was led into the surrounding trees with their struggling kobold in tow, the group heard another monstrous giggle, and turned to see the troll gleefully slaying the mindless kobolds around it. It got inventive, taking the time to slash or dismember the creatures without killing them. Suddenly, a large squad of kobolds came from the other side of the hill and surrounded the troll. The ensuing battle became fierce, but the troll still seemed to have the advantage. Instead of watching the result of the conflict, the party decided to leave. Rix gritted his teeth against the thought of the troll and the mindless kobolds, be reborn into the great mines, the treachery of your own kind against you will show them the greatest of wraths.

They got as far as the swamp, and were discussing how best to cross it, when Dartis detected a familiar, pungent odor. Two recognizeable troglodytes approached, their hands open and away from their weapons in a gesture of peace. The smaller one spoke in broken common, "You return...and with kobold. This one respects has for you. We help you cross our home for price. Perhaps we buy kobold from you. Makes good slave."

Alexander imitated the Troglodytes' gesture: "Well met, hunters."

"We have a need to speak with it first," Kel said in answer to the troglodyte's proposal. "But I think we may be able to strike some kind of deal," the elf said, looking at his friends for agreement. DM's Note: I was surprised to see the elf hint that he might sell the kobold...

The troglodytes smiled to Kel agreeably. "If trouble, we can help make talk. If not kobold slave, we will take five sparkly stones from kobold heads, or 10 gp."

Rix spoke to the lizardmen in draconic, "Give us a moment." Rix then turned back towards the kobold and Dartis, who was tugging him along. "Hold him tight."

[In draconic]"What is your name and your tribe?" he asked calmly.

Alexander turned to the others while Rix questioned the kobold: "We have enough evidence and we can return." His words were dry and matter-o-factly. So that I can finally meet the defilers! "There are greater missions ahead." We can't keep being pest control for gnomes...

The prisoner responded to Rix. "My name is Sylesreastris of the DragonEye clan. What do you want, cousin who is slave to these big ones?"

"Who do you think leads the big ones around by their noses?" Vaerixsjach smirked, "I think Kurtulmak will have a nice place for you in the weasel den once I've finished with you. Who leads your pathetic excuse for a scaled clan?"

Alexander was waiting quietly as the two scaled ones exchanged words. In between, he asked the troglodytes if anything strange had happened of late in the sorroundings, something like the dead rising or other weird occurences.

The troglodyte nodded at Alexander. "Many kobolds pass around swamp to north. Carried many spears. Were too many to hunt. That strange."

Suddenly, the kobold in custody spit on Rix's feet and began to talk angrily in another language.

To Rix in draconic: "You consort with these things and you consider me a betrayer," Sylesreastris asked. "Our leader, Kazsinastrayas, has told us about you. The cousin who walks with the tall ones. Tell me, is it true cousin, how you side with the gnomes against my own DragonEye tribe? And you say you lead this band? Such a betrayal cuts even more deeply. You consider the DragonEyes to be traitors of the faith, but we simply found a way to unite our warring groups. Seperate we were weak. And then when we had captured our enemies we united them in our cause and were stronger for it until you showed. Have you forgotten all your ways, cousin? Have you forgotten that the world goes to the quick and to the cunning? You smell like a human and you talk like one. I condemn you to our lord's justice, betrayer. I will become an dragon egg. Perhaps in the next life some human god may take pity on you and make you a halfling."

[Rix in Draconic]"So, weasel, I think I'll call you weasel. Fitting isn't it? As for me, I side with no one, I have endured where one such as you would die groveling like the dog you are. About the gnomes, I would be happy to see the gnomes wiped out. I'm surprised they have withstood this long. Their defenses are paltry, yet your so-called unity cannot do what I will do myself. You believe you have a unity, what you have is an empty shell ready to crack. Perhaps your pathetic leader failed to study the basics of a proper mine, perhaps he is just a fool. It matters not."

Vaerixsjach drew his dagger, testing the point with the tip of a finger. "Sharp isn't it. I guess you know very little of our own faith, as you failed to recognize one of the chosen. A weasel like yourself would not recognize a dragonwrought." He smirked.

"It would please you that I sent you to your next life? That you had the chance to be reborn, but I don't think that would be fitting punishment just yet. I think you'll live a long and pathetic life. As a slave, like the mindlessness you have inflicted upon my kin, for they are no longer yours, that will be your calling till the end of your days. However, I would not see it fit to let you live with the pleasure of thinking yourself worthy of the heritage of a dragon."

Rix in Common: "We will sell this one to you, make sure that he lives a long and pathetic life. However, first he will be marked. Dartis, hold him tight. Someone, get me a lit torch."

Silas listened to Rix with a scowl upon his face. He didn't understand what was initially being said, but he understood the tone and he didn't like it though he hoped it would get them the information that they needed. When Rix switched to common he frowned. "I will not condone selling this creature into slavery. Despite its crimes, we do not have the right to enslave it, nor to torture it." Silas glanced to Dartis, Alexander, and Kel hoping to receive some support from them. DM's Note: Up until this point I was wondering if the good-aligned characters were going to take a hit to their alignment.

"What did it say about those who've organized the kobolds and used this vile method of control?"

Alexander took out his scimitar and rested it on his other arm, looking intently at the kobold. Without averting his gaze from him he asked, "Yes, what did he say about the crystals?"

Dartis tightened his grip on the kobold but took a step back from Rix. "Silas is quite correct here. Dorinthians do not condone slavery and are not slavers as are the our enemies. And torture will never be tolerated in my presence, ever. I would sooner set this thing free than allow you to mercilessly carve him up. Nor will we relinquish him to the dwellers of this swamp to slave away for a few weeks to only be eaten later. This will not occur. Dorinthia may be lost or nearly so, but its ideals are not." said Dartis fiercely.

"While I would not see him tortured I have no qualms with him serving a sentence with these," Kel said, flicking a finger at the pair of troglodytes. "The Huntress knows it is more than he deserves."

"Well spoken, Lord Kalnian," murmured Silas. And that is why we have nobles, he thought. "Depending on the information you've gained, Rix, we may not need to cross the swamp yet. We've destroyed the artifact that they were using but I fear that was but one of the subjugated kobold clans, not the Dragon Eye kobolds. Those are the ones we need to find. If this one," said Silas motioning at the captive kobold, "can tell us where to find them it would aid our mission immensely. If he cannot, or will not, aid us then our choices are two: either blindly press forward, which I like not, or return to the gnomes to report what we have discovered thus far."

"These are my kin who have been subjected to this, I am no Dorinthian and I care not for the paltry noble ideals of your people. Not that your noble ideals hold much sway either, I doubt any of you have seen how your noble brethren treat those held in jails or they believe to be inhuman or less than them." Rix scowled.

"This one will be given treatment deserving of a traitor to his race. It is not torture, it is an eye for an eye. He will live as if he were one of those whose cunning he has stolen, serving without choice. You advise putting my kin to the death in the name of mercy, yet you somehow believe this ones life is worth saving. He will not be tortured, but marked in much the same way you mark your own criminals, with a brand to name him a traitor."

The dragonkin bared his teeth at the witless humans, "What would you do with him? Bring him back to the accursed gnomes? Kill him in the name of mercy? Leave him to return and report to his traitorous kin?" The dragonkin's tone was sharp and berating.

"He will serve his time with the troglodytes, for to pass him on to the next life would be to great a generosity for the travesty he has inflicted. If you wish to know anything of the Dragon Eye tribe, you will do as I say, or you will stumble along as blind as you are now."

"You won't have him serve with his life Rix." Alexander was unmoving, his scimitar still resting on his left arm. "You may mark him. You may leave him to die. You may slit his throat." Alexander shook his head gravely. "You may not enslave him. Not as he enslaved his kin. Not as Tallionines enslaved free men."

Silas' eyes narrowed and his lips tightened into a thin line. He would justify his actions, explain his beliefs, but he knew the kobold held everything in ill regard except himself and wouldn't listen anyway. "It is the Dorinthian way, Rix, no other. If that means that we must stumble about blindly then so be it."

One of the troglodytes shrugged in boredom at Silas' reaction. "We take you for gold if not the kobold. Makes no difference us. Although kobolds good to eat. Even DragonEye kobold like this one."

The kobold underneath Dartis' arms said something sharp to Rix, which causes the troglodytes to chuckle in amusement. To Rix in Draconic: "I thought you said you were in charge of these tall ones, cousin. Who is in charge of who, here?" The kobold prisoner asked with a smirk.

Kel took a slow step backwards, away from the argument, careful to hold his hands away from his weapons, "Time wastes, decide his fate and be done with it." His eyes swept the area for a stone or a log that he could sit upon while he waited.

"Fools. He will be marked and left as a traitor in these swamps. But only after we get what we need out of him."

[Rix in draconic]"Where is this despicable Kazsinastrayas and the lair of your traitorous tribe? As it seems they consort with gnomes, oh... you didn't realize that bit... doesn't matter, you'll be dead soon enough so long as you tell me what I need to know."

To the troglodytes in draconic "We will see about an arrangement for this one. Perhaps he'll disappear in the night into your domain, I doubt you'll have much trouble picking him up."

Alexander was satisfied by Rix's supposed change in attitude (he didn't know draconic), but the tone in which he concluded "Good, I won't have to behead him then" could have been well in search of comedy or dead serious, it was hard to tell which. He finally sheathed his scimitar and retreated to wait while Rix interrogated the rat.

The kobold prisoner snickered and switches to common. "This one wants to know where my tribe is quartered. You just came from there. This our new home, and was taken from Hill Delvers. They now serve us. As for our commander, he now gone to deal with enemies of our ally. Our ally is a gnome, yes, but he sees error of his ways. He helps DragonEye tribe grow strong. Our enemies soon not a problem. Gnome mage brings kobolds and goblins together for last fight against his old home."

"Serves the gnomes right." Rix spit on the ground, "Now, will someone get me a torch so when I mark this one as a traitor so he doesn't bleed to death."

Alexander came back at the mention of goblins and mighty alliances, and asked in a casual tome to Rix: "Did we conserve the head of the goblin shaman?"
"Let us get done with this." And warn the gnomes of the lizard in gnome body so that they deal with it, all this stinks... treason abounds.

Silas cursed quietly at the information imparted by the kobold. "Then we'll need to warn the gnomes quickly." Looking Rix in the eye he said, "Seems I left my torch back at the kobold lair." He then turned to the troglodytes. "What price for passage across your swamp?"

The troglodyte pondered for a moment and then said, "We takes 20 golds for passage or something of equal value." The creature looked one more time at the prisoner.

Silas fished in his pouch for 20 gold and paid the troglodytes. "Shall we go, my friends?"

"I'm ready to go as soon as you lot resolve your issues," Kel quipped as he walked casually towards Silas.

"Solved, or not, we must go."

The troglodytes took the 20gp from Silas and led the party of adventurers through the swamp. A steady rain came from the west and dampened both the adventurers' clothes and their spirits as the mud got deeper and the going harder. It took some hours to make it through. When they did make it out of the marsh as the rain slows to a trinkle, night had gathered. The guides were true to their word, and they gave a nod in salute as they disappeared back into the swamp.

Exhausted, the party considered resting before pushing on to the lands of the gnomes, despite the danger that the prisoner insisted was heading the gnomes' way.

With exhaustion sapping his strength Silas said, "I think we should rest. Pushing on in this state..." He shook his head. "It's too dangerous; especially with night coming on."

The group settled down to rest. Each group member took a different shift and Dartis tied the kobold prisoner up near a tree while he took the first watch. The night went uneventfully and the group slept until Rix took the last shift. Shortly before dawn the party woke up to painful screams deep in the swamp. As the party grabbed their weapons and prepared for an attack they noticed that Rix wasn't to be found in the camp. Soon they heard a whistling tune as Rix emerged from the muddy ground, his hands by his side, and a pleased look on his face. It appeared that the kobold prisoner was gone...

Alexander spit, all this really disgusted him. He would have preferred to cleanly slice the head from the body of the kobold, but it was Rix's realm. Leaving a wounded wolf behind on purpose... The half-orc shook his head. "Moving." Ravil was right, this scoundrel is testing me.

"Who's making breakfast?" Rix grinned, markedly amused at his companions.

Silas pulled a hard, dry biscuit from his store of rations and tossed it to Rix. "Consider it made." Rapidly packing up his gear and strapping his bedroll to the bottom of his pack he said, "Let's move on. We can eat on the trail." Keeping his face carefully blank he asked Rix, "Did you kill him?"

When Silas asked him his question, Rix cocked his head to the side, "who?"

"I could stand to sit and eat breakfast, the trail is still going to be there. Maybe not the gnomes, but no real loss." He tossed the dry biscuit back, sitting down he opened up some of his own rations.

"We are moving, Rix" Alexander said... his patience with the kobold was growing thin. "We have no time to waste, even more, we will have to march at higher speed, we don't want to arrive at the gnome's place in midbattle." He packed and prepared to go.

Silas sighed, realizing he would not get any information out of the wily kobold rogue. He shrugged his pack up onto his back and grabbed for the biscuit when Rix tossed it back. Looking at Alexander he said, "I'm ready." Breaking off a piece of the biscuit, he popped it into his mouth and moved to follow Alexander.

The party moved on, though some of its members glanced at Rix in suspicion or disgust. They travelled for a few more hours when Kel noticed a wisp of smoke in the direction of the gnome lands. Hurrying, the party travelled another hour before the inescapable smell of smoke reached their noses.

Walking over the final hill, the party saw the Laughphray Hills on fire, its defensive towers aflame or destroyed. Several siege engines laid still on the field, surrounded by the bodies of goblins, gnolls, and kobolds. The doors to the gnome home had been broken down and a recently dug tunnel opening covered with canvas could be seen between two large tents. This was likely dug by kobold sappers.

Three entrances into the hills could be seen from the vantage point, although there were likely others. The left entrance was closer to the residential areas of the gnome caves, while the right entrance was nearer the administrative. Both entrances had been burst open. The kobold tunnel was a third, new entrance, but where it led to was unknown. The adventurers could hear the sounds of battle raging somewhere deep in the earth.

Next: Saving the gnomes...
 

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