The One True Game: According to Hoyle, and Others


When Darius arrived at Outpost Xavier with the last of the army’s relief forces he saw quite a few raised eyebrows. Igor actually fell out of his chair when Darius entered the infirmary. He was not worried about the current conditions as little looked to have changed, but he asked for and received reports from everyone. Kayla seemed to have the most interesting news. Elion had been helping her with her studies into magick and it was beginning to pay off. “Indeed, it saved our backsides during that last battle”, Darius concluded. She went on about how Elion used Elfen magic, which was very different from what she learned as an apprentice. She could even recognize spells the Elf had written now.

Before nightfall Darius aided Brother Ben with another Holyday mass for the soldiers and militia. Afterwards he spoke with Elian about learning certain diplomatic techniques, which might help him be a better paladin. The Elf gave pause, but seeing the human woman Kayla with several of Zelligar’s books in her hands seemed to change his mind. Apparently she was allowing him to read a few of the works she was unable to translate. Elion peered at one of the books and to Darius’s thinking outwardly lost his mind. The Elf started laughing openly. Elion then agreed to train Darius whenever he desired. Moreover he would teach Kayla some of his own spells, if she liked. After he straightened himself back up, the two felt comfortable enough to leave him for the night, though Elion still chuckled to himself merrily.

[DAY 40 – Sunday, Jinto 1st, CY 81]
– [DAY 41 – Moonday, Jinto 2nd, CY 81]

The next day Elfen advisor’s poise was back. Darius observed he could both instruct him in manners and council Kayla in spell lore at the same time with ease. Kayla asked him about a giant egg Igor had given her, but after close inspection he told her it held no magickal purpose. “I will return it to Igor then. He will be pleased to have it I am sure”, she said. Elion offered again to teach her some of the spells he knew in addition to those from Zelligar’s books. Pointing to certain pages in the tomes he said “One makes it so you can open locked doors. Even doors locked by magic. The other spell reverses the pull of the world on your body, so that you can float up into the air. “ He also suggested teaching her an Elfen spell that “causes the mantle of Elfen magic to come to the surface on a given area. It highlights the area with flashes of color and sound.” In the end, Kayla decided to learn a spell that instilled fear in her enemies and another, which created an invisible servant to serve her ends.

Darius kept a keen eye on the encampment of the new soldiers. He was worried rumors might have spread about the activities of those in the tower or even about Quesquaton, a word never openly spoken. The soldiers were mostly those who had left when the original hundred was split to protect the keep and fend off the bandit attacks. But he still had trouble remembering everyone’s name. Darius soon learned of Brother Ben’s good deed of trying to teach Mirel and Igor how to read. After the chef was given back his egg he fried it up in a large skillet and ate the whole omelette by himself. “At least he is not poisoning anyone else today” thought Darius.

OOG: The group enjoyed TWO humungous omelettes at the start of this session cooked up by Diaglo himself in celebration of defeating the owlbears. Here are the Recipes:


Avocado Sauce:

3/4 cup diary sour cream
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp dill weed
1 large tomato, diced and drained
1 small avocado, diced

Garlic-Tomato sauce:

1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 green onion, chopped
1 tsp olive oil
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp salt
dash of sugar
freshly ground pepper

Oven Omelet:

4 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped green peppers
4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 eggs
1 can tomato sauce

Broccoli Oven Omelet:

9 eggs
1 1/2 cup broccoli
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp basil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1 medium tomato, cut
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

The following day included more work and study. Elion at last felt confident enough in Darius and Kayla to reveal he was in communication with those outside of the outpost. Darius was not quite sure what he said was the truth given how flighty the Elf had been the last two days, but Kayla took him at his word. Elion claimed to be able to communicate by spell with others far away. He said that he had spoken with Lady Devereaux and also others even farther in Margrave County’s capital of Harling. This started Darius’s blood to boil after having so many failed attempts to communicate with the Lady on his own. Elion went on that he had spoken to his brother. He was with Lord Margrave at the battle’s front lines far off to the north and east. It was not his brother Marevak however, but another out of eight in all. This one had passed on frightening news about the war.

Margrave County was fighting against the Lords of Chaos. These creatures were masters of the Elements. And the fight was deadly indeed. Darius was not quite sure what that meant, but Kayla remained stoically focused. The dwarf stopped questioning in his mind and tried to absorb the information as it came remembering as much as he could. Elion urged them to resume their explorations into Quesquaton as soon as possible. He asked about the missing books of Igor’s and the location of any other books or items that had been removed. Darius mentioned the single boot, cloak, and slippers Dram had taken and the ceremonial dagger he believed Igor still carried. Others had split up most of the books amongst themselves. Elion went on: “There is still a treasure within of great importance. It is essential you find this. It may be hidden. Please do what you can.”

Kayla mentioned having read Zelligar’s own journals detailing his explorations of the caves beyond Quesquaton. The old wizard had called them the ‘Caves of Chaos’. Elion believed more secrets might lie within the caves as to Zelligar’s final resting place. He urged them again to explore these as well, "but do not engage the enemy. Pendra and Certa are still missing and may be trapped inside. Please save them, if you can." After their conference, Darius waited on the road for Dram and Dalin to arrive. They were due back from Keep Margrave after their week of training with Captain Radcliffe. When they returned he planned to hold another meeting for his exploration team. They were all going back to the caves tomorrow morning and Darius wanted everyone in the best possible shape before leaving.
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[DAY 42 –Feastday, Jinto 3rd, CY 81]

As the darkness dulled into murky grey skies above, Dalin, Darius, Kayla, Brother Ben, Igor, Mirel, and Dram stood at the entrance of Quesquaton just at the bottom of the well. Rogg and Ormand were charged with watching the top until called. Darius explained that Elion believed a large treasure was still within Quesquaton and he hoped to explore for hidden doors within in hopes to find where it might be. Before leading them in though he asked everyone to carefully watch over the items they had taken originally from Quesquaton. He also requested the ceremonial sword from Igor for safekeeping. When he touched it, Darius felt a strange surge. Handing around to the others only Brother Ben felt something odd about the item. To him it looked like a flamberge blade made to appear as shining silver flame. Dagger-sized it was proportioned as a sword, but its weak silver metal and dull edge made it useless for battle. “Perhaps it is a key”, Ben said. “We might want to look around for a keyhole. Where else would you keep a treasure?”

Dram called his men down into the well while Darius looked again at the door and stones of its frame. The portal looked like it would never open or close by itself again. The stone was greatly aged and covered in a soft dust. The group spread out down the entrance corridor and searched for secret compartments and doors. They retraced their steps through the poolroom and the upper, stonework chambers examining every wall for clues. Upon coming to the horn-headed, stone idol, which was smashed upon their first foray into the dungeon Igor pointed to the dried stains within its proffered bowl. A hole in the bottom of the bowl was meant to feed water or wine into the basin from somewhere within, or so it seemed. Igor said he believed the stain was blood. Taking out his sword he cut himself slightly and slowly poured a little of his own blood into the bowl. The blood was quickly sucked up into the hole.

Igor tried sticking his hand up the hole and the tube behind, but did not get very far. Mirel tried and managed to stick almost her whole arm inside. The stone pipe behind curved up and towards the ceiling above. It was still slick with Igor’s blood. Climbing up the statue, Darius began smashing into the ceiling stone with his hammer. He was having trouble reaching, when Dram stopped him. Examining the ceiling the large man began to pound out the stone tiles affixed to it. The others backed away. After several minutes of smashing Dram burst through. He ducked aside as a black liquid splattered to the floor’s flagstones. The ooze bubbled and hissed as it began slowly melting into the floor. The group started shouting different directions when Dalin ran up and stuck his lit torch into the blob. It hissed and shrank away from the flame. It took a few minutes, but the torchbearers managed to destroy ooze. No trace was left behind, but the misshapen floorstones.

Dram noticed the stone he had pierced above looked valuable. Climbing up onto Igor’s shoulders he saw a 1-foot cube of the same black stone encasing the compartment above. Darius examined the piece, which had fallen and identified it as “Onyx”. “It’s worth quite a bit if we can collect it all”. Dram pounded away for over two hours making small chips of the stone. In all they had about 50 pieces when he was done. Divvying them up, it was decided Dram would need to pay his hirelings out of his own share. Everyone was proud to uncover another secret of Quesquaton, but it was not the ‘BIG’ treasure they were looking for. Darius decided to break through one the poolroom’s walls. It cracked easily and the team could see into where the storage room used to be. Now only chasm separated them from the tunnel behind Zelligar’s throne. Darius noticed the floor around the poolroom’s cracked wall looked very weak. Not willing to take the same chance as he had in the supply room, he backed the others away and refused to let anyone near it. A quality plan was needed to find a way to safely reach the other side.

Darius could feel the tension building in his teammates. They wanted a good fight. He decided a foray against the caves was best. Dram explained about the ‘gnolls’ Captain Radcliffe had taught he, Dram, and Dalin about. He suspected the gnolls would be spoiling for another fight. The others thought they would do better to find and fight the orcs instead as the gnolls were so hard to kill. On the way out, Brother Ben noticed a smattering of bone-bats had again gathered in the batcave and channeled his Gods’ power into them. As Ben wiped out the last of the undead threat, the others asked about what secrets Darius and Kayla had discovered. It seemed they spent a lot time with Elion the Elf, but little was ever shared of what was discussed. “Yeah! What’s been going on around here? I want to know what I am about to get Igor here killed for.” Dram slapped the chef squarely in the back.
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Darius and Kayla agreed to tell, but Ormand the Redd and Rogg were sent out of the batcave, so they would not hear what they had no business knowing. The others were asked to take oaths not to tell anyone ever what they were about to learn. Brother Ben had to be torn away from his divine work, but then Darius stood up and began speaking about the war County Margrave was fighting. The Lord had taken men from all over the County and chased after his foes when he won the great battle. Now the front lines were in the mountains to the east and north of Margrave. This was fairly general knowledge. The war was a great distance away, but Darius said the battle continued in other ways at home or so Elion the Elf was claiming.

Kayla stood up too. She said that most of their learning had come from Elion, but some she was still discovering in Zelligar’s books. Their main foes at the front lines were called Chaos Lords. These were fearsome beings with powers they used to control the elements. Things like fire, water, air, earth and possibly more. “Worst of all”, said Kayla “Elion believes that an elder Elemental God is leading the forces of the enemy.” There was a hushed silence after she said this. Kayla went on to explain how Quesquaton’s own founder and wizard Zelligar was in a cult of devoted to chaos. She believed he was working on finding a way at extending his own life indefinitely when all records of him ceased. Also important was he had been living inside the caves they were headed to now; a place he had entitled “The Caves of Chaos”. She believed the orcs within might still be the remnants of a cult Zelligar had begun long ago.

Darius spoke up again. “We believe the Giant is leading the caves’ forces and using them to hurt the Greenwillow forest. We also know that he is only attacking our Outpost Xavier and none of the other twenty-five. I believe he is certain now this is the location of Quesquaton and wants to capture whatever great treasure lies within. What this might be we don’t know, but if Elion’s suspicions are correct it would help the enemy forces at the front lines, which is something no one wants. If we can stop the Giant, or manage to find something in the caves about Zelligar’s treasure we will be helping Lord Margrave to win the war.”

The others looked around at each other for a moment. It was a lot to take in. “Can we go kill some gnolls now?” asked Dram. The others stood and agreed with Darius and Kayla that they were doing the right thing. It seemed they were a smaller piece in a much larger puzzle. Brother Ben was bothered though. “I do not necessarily trust this Elf-man. What you say is fantastical, but he could be lying. What do any of us know of Elves? I’ve studied religion all my life and never once heard of these elemental gods!” The other didn’t speak up. Kayla mentioned that Mirel could be assigned to spy on Elion just to ensure their safety. Ben looked away sheepishly. “Well, I have something else to tell too”, he said. “I have already had little Mirel here spying on Elion for a long time now. Though we haven’t learned much we do know he does not sleep like normal people do. And he deals in diablerie; the wizarding way we thought had ended with Zelligar. I ask that we be cautious with these tales and think for ourselves on what they might mean.”

The hush settled over the group again. Kayla explained that Elion was not evil or untrustworthy. She mentioned that Elion has a power to “message” others far away, but it is part of his Elfen heritage, not something of chaos. The others agreed, but felt Ben was wise to take his precautions. Brother Ben decided to keep quiet about having Mirel spying on Kayla too. Igor spoke up next. He said he had heard a rumor from one of the new soldiers at Xavier about Lord and Lady Margrave actually being long dead and the current people on the throne were actually imposters made up to look like them. “And”, he went on “Lady Devereaux‘s actin’ very diff’rent. She‘s the leader of the milisha, but no livin’ soul‘s seen ‘er in months!” The rest of the members looked doubtfully at each other about the veracity this new information. Dalin slapped Igor on the back again and agreed they should be careful who they talked to and what secrets they shared.

The group finished their discussion by devising ways to explore the Caves of Chaos without being seen. “Elion believes Pendra and Certa may have been captured by the Giant and be trapped inside”, said Darius. “If we are seen, they might try and kill their prisoners.” Dalin brought up the fact that gnolls had a mercenary background and might be bought off, but the others still believed they were still too tough to deal with directly.


Rogg and Ormand the Redd were collected and everyone headed outside to the top of the black rock hill. The air was still moist. Conditions appeared not to have changed at all since their last outing. The spiraling cloud was still off to one side and an overcast haze blocked out most of the sky. The team walked in orderly fashion back down the hill, turned right at the river and prepared to meet the dryad. Sadly, they discovered she was gone as well as her bear guardian. They checked on her tree which was still alive and hoped she had moved on to a nicer place for the time being. Instead of heading directly to the top of the hill of caves they circumscribed it to their right. A small streamlet ran parallel to their path. The shape of the hill bothered Brother Ben. He asked Darius if it was somehow ‘built’, so the dwarf slowly inspected the ground and then nodded. “But it must have been a very long time ago.”

Continuing along the side of the streamlet they were nearing the end of the first prong of the horseshoe-shaped hill when Igor spotted something. Three small shapes were huddled down behind a bush right next to him. He took out his sword raising it high and said “’ello?” The little people jumped up and Igor swung his sword cutting one in half. The others saw the creatures now and recognized them as kobolds. The little things screamed in fear. Dram and Dalin ran over with their swords and Brother Ben and Darius ran behind them trying to cut off their escape route. Mirel launched a stone and hit one squarely in the head. The two kobolds turned and ran straight between Darius and Ben. Dram cracked one’s skull as it turned away from him.

The final one managed to dodge past the paladin and cleric and continued screaming as loud as it could. Igor took after it at a sprint and jumped on top of the kobold. The others watched as the strange man choked the creature to death in the underbrush. It was a gruesome scene. Afterwards they pulled the bodies back behind the original bush, which from the rear looked like a blind. Considering as no forces were responding to the noise the team decided to continue on their way, but more quietly this time. Curving around the end prong of the hill they hid behind some trees and bushes, while inspecting the inner ravine and the caverns along its sides. Smoke was coming from a cave to the right. No creatures were to be seen outside though.

Igor suggested he would scout ahead and explore. Darius pulled out his map and told Igor to go to the cave he had marked with an A, the first on the left. The chef crept away very stealthily. Working his way through the heavy underbrush that was marked on the map, he realized that it had moved since the map was originally drawn. Now it was much closer to the cave entrance he was headed towards and some even spilled out of the ravine altogether. When he reached the correct cave he both looked and listened inside but learned nothing. It was pitch black and silent. “It’s noonday”, he thought to himself. “They are probably all sleeping.” He scanned the ridge sides for movement. The next cave at the ravine’s bottom was about 50 yards away. It had a pile of bones outside its front. Without lighting a torch, Igor slowly stepped around the corner and into the darkness a few paces with his arms outstretched.

When this happened, those waiting in the woods saw a dozen bolts fly out of the entrance tunnel in all directions. They started running at full speed toward the cave’s mouth. Igor stifled a cry and pulled out a bolt in his forearm. He slid to his left trying to find any cover near a wall. Another barrage of crossbow bolts flew at him, but thankfully none struck true. He could hear giggles inside and heavy breathing approaching from outside, so he retreated back into the sunlight. He saw the fastest of his teammates were almost at his side. Dalin lit a torch and tossed it into the entryway. Three square-cut tunnels could be seen: one heading straight back and two more angling off to each side. The bolts must have come from all three directions.



Ben and Dram lit torches and everyone but Darius lit another off of theirs. Mirel, Kayla, and Ben threw their torches as far as they could, one into each passageway. More bolts shot out, but the group could see farther in. The center hallway went beyond the torchlight, but those angling left and right were shorter and had propped up tables at their ends as makeshift bunkers. Small forms popped up from behind firing crossbows at them. Darius could see they were not like kobolds at all. “It’s goblins. They look just like Captain Radcliffe said.” Darius explained the beasts were no more fearsome than kobolds. After the count of three, two teams rushed in: three men down the left tunnel and three more down the right tunnel. Mirel hung back and Kayla climbed a tree to keep lookout. Ormand the Redd stood by the entrance too and shot arrows into the darkness down the center aisle.

“CHARGE!” shouted Dram as he, Darius, and Igor ran up the right passage. They tried to swing over the table, which was inside a room and pressed against the archway in. The large room opened up wide to the left and right. Several goblins could be seen moving around in its shadows. Ducking low the three used the table for cover, but were having little luck hitting those on the others side. Meanwhile, Brother Ben and Rogg ran down the left tunnel. Ben could swear Dalin was right behind him, but the gambler sprinted up the center path and picked up the torch on the floor. Ormand saw the man shudder backwards as bolts thumped into his armor. Rogg outpaced Ben and dove over the guard table. The crossbow-wielding goblins on the far side were not prepared at all for this. The big man landed on three of the creatures. Ben used his flail to bend his attacks around onto those still holding the backside of the table.

Four of the goblins overpowered Rogg and began beating on him. Ben noticed only one was holding the door, so he pushed it hard collapsing it on top the goblin. Ben jumped up and down crushing the creature underneath. Dalin kept charging down the long center hall right up to its end where a small, low, stone wall was built. Three more goblins were hiding in the tiny space behind it. Only one had a melee weapon, so Dalin swung his sword into it and tossed the creature’s long spear behind him. The other two cowered in fear. Darius and Dram continued to beat away at the goblins in their tunnel. There was not enough space for Igor too, so he yelled out and dove over the door and through the swordplay. Tumbling to the floor on the others side he quickly counted six goblins and one more running away down a portion of the room that doglegged to his right. His interest piqued, Igor stood back up and chased after it. “GIANT!!!” Mirel’s voice rang out into the tunnels. Ormand the Redd had already started shooting at the hulking form emerging from the tunnel marked B. “Oh no”, thought Kayla as she tried to hide higher in her tree.

Brother Ben heard the call, but Rogg was busy pulling goblins off himself. After swinging at one, Ben ran back outside and spotted the monster. It looked more like an ugly half-giant than the tall, ferocious Giant that he saw attack Outpost Xavier. “Maybe it’s a child”, thought Ben. Mirel handed him an extra sling and the two slung stones at it. Dalin was too busy to lend aid as he kept attacking the two gobbling forms hiding behind their wall. They had proved very wily, as he was frustrated trying to swing over and around the small barricade. Dram and Darius heard Mirel’s call too, but they had just managed to knock over the table run into the far room. Darius saw Igor sprinting away into the next portion of the room. At its end, a secret door was open leading into an unworked cave.

Ben and Mirel climbed trees hoping to get above the Giant’s reach. Kayla stayed hidden. The creature ran slowly through the underbrush directly at Ormand the Redd. The hireling backed into the cave entrance but kept shooting his bow at the monster. “I need some help here!” he shouted. Rogg, Dalin, and Dram continued their attacks, but Darius decided to run after Igor instead. The dwarf had already killed two goblins to Dram’s one, which left only two more for the northerner to deal with. Igor, however, had already passed through the secret door and entered into the large natural cavern. He saw an opening far down to his right with sunlight shining in. “The second entrance”, he said. His eyes scanned the rest of the cave. He saw no other exits, but a massive straw mound was along one side to his left. As he approached it he recognized the smell immediately: Giant stink. The mound had a furrow in the middle for the monster to lie in. Resting alongside it by the wall were seven large sacks. “JACKPOT!”

Igor was hauling them into his backpack when Darius ran up behind him. “Good. Bring those for later. We need to get back. The Giant is outside the other entrance.” Working together they stuffed the sacks away and ran back to the secret door. Dram was standing there waiting and slammed the secret door to the ogre cave closed behind them. To their right, another door was open leading deeper into the hillside. “One o’ the gobbles got away”, Igor explained pointing down its tunnel. They decided to deal with the problem later as two more goblins charged at them. Apparently Dram had decided to ignore the two and outrun them to follow Darius. Dalin was finally finishing off the last goblin at the end of the center tunnel when he heard Rogg calling out for help. He dropped the goblins’ belongings and ran as fast as he could towards the sound. Outside Mirel and Kayla scrambled again to get higher into the branches as the Giant began shaking their trees from below. It bellowed out, “Who You?! Who You?!” Kayla began whispering something archaic under her breath and hoped for the others safety. Ormand the Redd hid in the shadows of the first cave entrance.

Dalin met Ormand at the junction and pulled on him from behind. He needed help with Rogg. Dalin could see the big man had fallen and three enemies were wrestling on top of him. The two allies rushed and tried to pull the little goblins off. Meanwhile, Ben and Mirel slung stones point blank into the Giant’s face, while they trembled with fear. Dram and Igor ran ahead to see them from the cave’s exit and Darius was left trailing behind in his full-plate. “It’s an Ogre”, whispered Dram when he saw the Giant. Hiding himself behind the cave’s exit, Igor pulled out his bastard sword and held it high above his head. He studied the creature outside intently. Kayla saw another faction of goblins enter the ravine following the Giant’s footsteps. She gestured with her hands like Elion had shown her and shrieked. The ogre started trembling in fear. Its will broke and it ran back towards the other cave entrance. “But… but… I was going to kill it”, said Igor.


Unnerved by the ogre’s retreat, the goblins following it fell back too. Ben, Mirel, and Kayla shimmied down their trees and ran inside the first cave entrance. Once inside they saw the fight was not quite over. Dram and Darius were still attacking two goblins down the right tunnel and Dalin was having trouble pulling three more off of Rogg. Ben ran back down towards the fight he had abandoned. Rogg was cut fairly badly as was Dalin. Ormand the Redd had backed up preparing to shoot in case any goblins ran. “Darius! We need your help”, called out the cleric. Filling with divine power, Ben reached out and healed Rogg. Unfortunately, only some of the wounds healed. Darius ran in a few seconds later and channeled healing power into Dalin. All the combatants looked very tired. Another minute passed and Igor and Mirel arrived to help too. Finishing off the last three goblins did not take much longer. Dram had also managed to kill the two goblins, which had been dogging him down the right tunnel. Ormand the Redd was set on guard duty just inside the front entrance in case anything approached from inside or out. The others began looking for any more secret doors down the left and center passages.

Igor found one at the rear of the left guardroom. After disarming a trap and listening for noise within, he opened it. Stairs led upwards. Darius pulled out his map and asked Igor to close the secret door. He began sketching the tunnels they knew about. The others were ordered to start gathering what gear they could find. Igor pulled out the sacks he found in the ogre’s bed and began checking their contents and weight. “’bout three ‘undred silver coin. ‘bout three ‘undred copper. Same in lead. ‘nother in…ooh, gold!” The others looked over at the chef counting his sacks. “We will split it later,” said Darius. “For now we need to know what we have.” Another sack had a mix of copper coins and what Darius called ‘electrum’. One had a keg of brandy and the last a large wheel of hard cheese.

Searching the dead goblins revealed very little: eleven torches in the sconces and just over fifty coppers. Ben pocketed the dice he found. They were loaded and he did not like the idea of Dalin getting a hold of them. The group started talking about what to do next. As they saw it, there were two options: head after the escaped goblin near the ogre’s lair, or travel up the stairs. Some did not want to head deeper into the caves as they feared being penned in once the ogre returned. The other option was hoping the door at the top of the stairs eventually connected to another cave exit higher up. They decided to head up. “Higher ground is easier to defend anyways”, said Darius.

All of the heavy supplies were placed back into Igor’s pack for easy carrying. Opening back up the secret door, he went up the steps and examined the door at the top. It was locked. He could hear voices behind it too, but could not make out the words. Doing his best to mimic in the goblin-tongue Igor barked out, “We have been attacked! Please let me in. We must run!” The response he got was short and sounded like an order. He could understand the words separately, but they were strung together in a way, which made no sense to him. “Very odd”, he thought as Darius bounded up the stairs behind him. And then, to his amazement, Igor realized the keyhole actually had the key stuck into it from the other side. An idea went off in his head like an explosion.

Slipping a piece of parchment under the doorframe he pushed the key out from his side before anyone could be stop him. The key clanged to the stone floor on the other side. The voices within stopped. Darius groaned. Pulling the parchment back Igor smiled as he picked up the key, which had fallen on top of it. Running footsteps could be heard from the other side of the door. Darius gave an order to prepare for a fight as the rest of the party advanced up the stairs. Carefully, Igor turned the key and unlocked the door. Opening it, he immediately backed away. With only torchlight, Darius could see farthest into the long dark room. No creature stirred within, but he saw a closed door in an alcove on the far side. “Be ready for anything,” he said.


The room had a writing desk and a couple of bunk beds stripped of their sheets. Mirel and some of the others quickly swept away any trace of the party’s tracks below in case the ogre or goblins came searching. Then they shut tight the secret door and moved to the upper room. Ormand the Redd had been pulled back from the cave mouth and told to listen at the secret door instead. Igor and Darius examined the far door on the other side of the room. It was locked. Mirel searched through the beat up writing desk and found a mound of pelts. Checking its drawers she discovered two scrolls under a secret panel in the bottom of one. “That one is a muskrat. That’s a squirrel and a moun…” Dram’s thoughts were cut short when the door in front of Igor swung open hitting the chef in the face. A strange armored creature stuck a sword into the opening and tried pushing itself in. Several more were behind it. Darius pushed back, “They were just sitting and waiting for us!”

Darius, Dram and Dalin helped push while Igor crawled away holding his face. Mirel handed the scrolls to Kayla. Glancing at the parchments, she passed them on to Brother Ben instead. “Prayers of powerful healing” he flipped to the next. “And another for eliminating traps. Very nice.” Ormand the Redd appeared at the top of the stairs. “The ogre’s back. I can smell him. And plenty of the little guys too. …What the heck is going on in here?” Darius looked back at Igor, while pushing on the door. “Can you jam the lock on this, if we manage to get it shut?”

STOMP…STOMP…STOMP…STOMP…STOMP. Everyone heard the massive ogre coming into the caverns. The furry creatures stopped pushing and the alcove door slammed shut. From the other side, footsteps could be heard running away. Darius pulled the group to the middle of the room and saw the fear in his allies’ faces. He needed to come up with a plan and quick. Brother Ben questioned whether the ogre could even fit into the narrow stairwell, but Dalin pointed out it was not quite as large as a normal Giant. Igor shuffled in closer and began telling the others of a plan he had thought of. “…And when it comes up the stairs, we let ‘im have it!” he finished. The others nodded in agreement. It was actually a pretty good idea. Preparations were made and Darius took watch at the upstairs door. Dalin held a torch, while the others moved into their positions around the room. Silently they waited for the ogre below.

Darius edged open the door slightly and saw the ogre’s form in the darkness below. It was squeezing and twisting its way into the stairwell and dragging its club behind. The dwarven paladin waited, carefully judging the right moment to strike. “Now!” he whispered back to Dalin. His torch dropped down and lit the alcohol-soaked pelt. Dram and Igor rolled the keg of brandy with its now lit fuse forward, while Darius opened the door. Down the stairwell the wooden cask bounced and the door above was slammed shut. BOOM!! “AAAUUuurrgghh!!” the ogre screamed. They could hear its skin tearing on the tunnel walls as it contorted itself trying to escape from the flames.

Darius quickly used the key to lock the stair door and Igor blocked it with the desk. “Behind the door there” Dram pointed. “Those were hobgoblins. What kind of place is this to have so many kinds of monsters?” The tall man walked over to the other door and swung it open. Seeing only an empty corridor he ran down it with his torch in one hand and sword in the other. Resigning themselves to their fate the others pulled out their own weapons and chased after him. Darius hung back and closed the second door behind them in case the ogre decided to attack again. As luck would have it, the key was in the backside of the second door’s lock too. “Thanks be to Thor,” Darius said as he turned the bolt into place. Feeling a little safer he ran to catch up with his fellows.



After curving to the right, the square-stoned passage corned back to the left and then continued almost straight on for one hundred feet. At its end Darius saw a mass of what he now knew to be hobgoblins fighting his patrol. The tunnel split left and right in a T-juncture. Foes fought on either side and his men were caught directly in the middle of the intersection. Dram and Dalin held the left flank, Igor and Rogg the right, and the rest fired over the front lines from the center. Darius pulled out his hammer and shouldered his way forward into battle. Examining the hobgoblins he noticed they were exceptionally tall, taller than most humans even. With about the same build as the gnolls they looked like enlarged goblins. Each wore chain armor, a helm, and carried some sort of weapon and shield. The shields had an open mouth emblazoned on them and the creatures looked as if they were in uniform.

Brother Ben stood back from the battling front lines and used the sling Mirel had given him. He counted an even dozen hobgoblins and although he was not an expert he discovered they were hardened warriors just like the gnolls. The party was fortunate the creatures were not using ranged attacks as they were. Minutes passed by and both sides took damage, but neither lost position. It was a difficult fight being pinched in as they were, but the team did not pull back from having two fronts. Then sounds of marching feet could be heard from behind. It did not sound like the ogre this time, so Darius ran back from the front and into the darkness of the corridor behind. He was shocked by what he saw. Another half dozen hobgoblins were marching towards him in formation, weapons at the ready. “We’re being cut off!” he cried out.

Dram made a daring maneuver and darted past the line of hobgoblins on the left side. That side had the fewest number of foes and he turned to flank his enemies with Dalin from behind. They managed to kill two in short time. Brother Ben ran up with his flail to fill the hole in the line Dram had just created. “Aim to the left” called out Kayla and the ranged firepower focused on to the weak spot. Rogg and Igor tried to defend the right flank, but found themselves vastly outnumbered. Each was injured and their foes kept switching places when fatigued. “I need some help here!” came Darius’s call again from down the back passage. He was surrounded and hobgoblins were rushing past him towards the party’s undefended third flank. Needless to say, things looked pretty grim.

Fortunately for Darius, many of the blows on him were being absorbed by his full plate armor. The dwarf seemed to be able to take a lot of punishment himself too. But in his current position he was cut from the others and being attacked by four swordsmen. In an act of courage, Rogg withdrew from the right flank and rushed back into the mass of creatures around Darius. With a headlong charge he pushed one hobgoblin back into another. Fearfully Mirel moved in next to Igor to fill the broken front line. Swinging her torch at the enemy, she realized she would not last long without a real melee weapon. However, the concentrated effort on the left flank was paying off. Dalin, Dram and Ben had cut down two more enemies and Kayla slung a stone into the last one’s eye. It ran back down the tunnel behind it. One side was clear.

Dalin and Dram decided to chase after the fleeing hobgoblin. Both carried lit torches in their off-hands. As the passage curved to left, they saw the hobgoblin run into a wooden door at its end and slam it shut. Dalin charged forward lowering his shoulder guard and smashed the door off its hinges. Dram ran inside and spun around looking for the goblin while Dalin clambered to his feet. The room was a dead end; a barracks with several bunk beds and footlockers at the end of each. The hidden hobgoblin swung its sword out from under a nearby bed. Dalin cried out a warning and Dram jumped aside just in the nick of time. The two partners stabbed under the bed simultaneously and the creature was gutted.

In the hall outside Brother Ben tried moving in to relieve Igor, but even fatigued the chef would not back off. Grateful, Mirel switched with him instead and she ran back to Kayla and Ormand the Redd. The three started firing into the rear tunnel around Darius and Rogg who both needed the help. The dwarven paladin had just managed to extricate himself from his encircled position. But upon joining Rogg’s side, a blow punctured the other man’s chain shirt. Rogg’s limp form slid from an axehead onto the floor stones. “Ben! Come here, Ben!” Dalin’s voice echoed from the barracks hall. “Dalin! Dram? Come back to us, if you can!” yelled back Ben.


Dalin and Dram walked back out of the barracks catching their breaths. “We killed the one trying to get away. And we found three strange corked tubes too. You should see the…” Dram’s voice died in his throat. Upon seeing Rogg’s fallen body he sped over top it and slashed at the nearest hobgoblin. Dalin moved forward too and pulled back Brother Ben from the right line flank taking his place. The cleric checked Rogg’s body, but he knew it was too late to save him. Time marched slowly along measured by the sounds of sword blows.

Over the entire fight Igor had kill at least four hobgoblins, but now the very last of his energy was leaving him. A refreshed Dalin pressed forward at the chef’s side. Only two foes were left along their combat line. But Igor teetered from the pain and exhaustion and one of the hobgoblin’s axes struck him to the ground. Dalin sliced into the creature as it overreached for the blow, but the damage was done. The last hobgoblin on Dalin’s flank turned and ran back down the right corridor. Brother Ben moved to Igor’s side and began bandaging his wounds. Dalin chased after the runaway. In the rear corridor, Darius and Dram continued fighing what seemed a never-ending battle. Two of the original six hobgoblin reinforcements were dead, but the others continued to press the fight seeing the exhaustion in the faces of their foes.

Dalin followed the right passage as it zigzagged back and forth for thirty feet. To his right, he saw another cave exit with daylight shining in. Across from it to his left a ramp headed upwards, but it was caved in after 10 feet. The hobgoblin kept running forward instead of heading outside, as the passage continued onward. Dalin caught his foe from behind and thrust his dwarven-forged longsword into its leg. From somewhere in back of the main battle, down the rear hallway, a barking call sounded out. The last four hobgoblins stopped attacking and made a tactical retreat away from the party. Darius cautiously followed after and locked the door at the end of the long corridor again.

Everyone was breathing hard. As far as Brother Ben could tell, Igor was alive but barely. He had bandaged the man in several spots. Dalin returned from his fresh kill and reported the location of the cave exit he had found. Darius pulled out the map and tried to locate it. He thought it might be entrance C, but when he went to stick his head outside to look around three arrows flew straight at him. Dram reached into his fur pockets and pulled out three stoppered vials. Pulling off the corks, he tested each. One tasted of cinnamon, another of salt water, and the last like normal water. Brother Ben said he could examine them further, but he would need to rest beforehand.

The bodies of the hobgoblins were searched and stripped of their gear. Over 70 silver coins were found. “Fourteen dead” said Darius. “And four escaped. We did pretty well. But now we need to think of a way out of here before we all die too.” The group started thinking while they continued to search the area. Guards were stationed at both ends of the hallway. Dalin cut the ears off the dead, but put the pile he collected into Igor’s pack rather than his own. The barracks were searched thoroughly. Strange grime-covered clothes were found in each of the footlockers. So were plenty of iron rations. Igor’s marvelous pack was stuffed with nearly everything they found: silver, armor, weapons, potions, and rations. Even Rogg’s body went inside too. It was still not nearly close to being full. The group then moved back to the exit Dalin had found and Darius spied out into the daylight, while carefully staying in the shadows.

The cave system and ravine had come alive since they had squared off with the goblins originally. Red-skinned creatures they recognized as orcs moved about on the hillside across from theirs. A concealed door covered with grass was moved aside revealing yet another cave entrance. Ten more orcs with swords and two with bows marched out of it. Each wore armor with the sigil of a skull on it. Down below Darius spotted the ogre. The smaller goblin creatures were running about in its wake carrying their long spears. The monster was covered with burn marks, but did not appear slowed in the least. In fact, the ogre looked very, very angry. It was stacking large logs in front of the original entrance to the goblin caves where they had entered. Darius wondered what its intentions were. It was then someone had a very bright idea.



Brother Ben would not remember later who came up with the plan, but he did remember thinking to himself, “Genius. It’s sheer genius!” The team hurriedly stripped off their gear and shoved it into either their own packs or Igor’s. Dressing each other up in the hobgoblin’s armor they did their best to bandage over the areas where skin shown through. Igor’s body was stuffed in his own bag and carried by Darius. Once ready the team aligned in an orderly formation at the exit. Bravely, they marched out into the open. Stepping in unison, they turned right and started up towards the crest of their prong of the hill. Each kept their helmeted head low, so the sunshine could not get inside revealing their true identities. Darius eyed the combined forces around them and realized no one was paying them much attention. The plan was working!

Trying not to run, the group marched straight up over the crest of the hill and into the woods on the other side. Staying in formation even out of sight of their foes they headed back down to the streamlet it felt they had crossed so long ago. As soon as they reached the other side rank was broken and each took off at a full run towards the Greenwillow River. Dram was in front and veered to his left when he spotted the blackstone-topped hill. Once they were all at the peak and in the tunnel they kept on running all the way down to the batcave. Huffing and puffing, they stripped off their disguises and switched back into their normal dress. They started laughing at their own success. Ben noticed the caverns in the bottom level had started pooling water. Calls were made once they had reached the well again and a rope was lowered.

The well guards helped everyone to the top. Above, the sunlight was still blacked out and the rain continued to pour down, but the team was in high spirits. Darius walked straight over to the smiths in the armory and started talking to them about building a removable cap for the well. Mirel retrieved Igor’s pack from Darius and helped Brother Ben pull the chef onto a bed in the infirmary. Two doses of healing juice were poured down his throat. The rest of the team relaxed and licked their collective wounds. The sun had been setting when they marched out of the Caves of Chaos and each was exhausted from the long day’s work. Dram’s business was not finished though. Ordering two militiamen to help him, he solemnly dug a large pit behind Xavier tower near the spot Darius’s seedlings had washed away. Once he judged it deep enough he brought Brother Ben outside and Igor’s pack too.

The whole crew gathered around as Rogg’s body was pulled out into the bottom of the grave. Brother Ben tried his best at giving his first eulogy. The rain poured down on them while he spoke. Ben had barely known the man. Then the hole was filled in and Dram rolled a large rock from the forest on to the top the mound. Afterwards, he took his bow and Ormand the Redd into the forest to go hunting. They did not return until very late in the evening. Brother Ben booted out all of the patients in the infirmary again he felt had no business being there. Taking stock of the healing potion barrel he noted it was down to only four full waterskins worth. He divvied up the remaining supply among his companions. After prayers, sleep came quickly for the others. But for Ben, his own sleep was filled with nightmares.

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