[a small tavern in a small town, many miles away – a mysterious stranger walks in, hands the barkeep a sizable chunk of silver pieces, and buys a round for everyone. A local regular raises his glass and asks “To whom do I owe my thanks?”. The stranger responds – Markis]
In-game date: 11th of Ascending War, +0
Rasso, the were-rat, lies dead. It is then, conveniently, that Liliana catches up. “Thanks for clearing out that first bit. The rest of the path should be easy from here.”. At the moment, though, the party is tired from the long battle, and sets up a makeshift camp by a lit brazier. After a quick deliberation, they set up a watch rotation, and nod off to sleep. Sikram, after a short meditative trance, breaks camp, and starts exploring the area.
Not long into his sleep, Frambard snaps back to conciousness – is someone rumaging around in his pocket!? He turns over to find Liliana, quite red-handed. After a moment, she just withdraws her hand, smiles and shrugs, and says “Can’t blame a girl for trying, can you?”. Frambard is stunned speechless, and edits the watch schedule to replace Liliana’s shift with his own. Gathering his belongings close, he drifts off to an uneasy sleep….
And finds himself in a nightmare. “Frambard…Frambard…” a voice calls. In the inky darkness, Frambard spots a figure. “Father?”. “Frambard…I..”. Suddenly, the ghostly figure of his father is grabbed from behind, by a large arm ending in a nasty hook. The hook tears through the figure’s throat. His father stretches out his arm, as if to give Frambard something. He urgently gestures, but in the nightmare, Frambard has no hands with which to take the proffered object. Finally, the figure just drops whatever it is, and it falls away into the foggy nothingness of the dream. Frambard awakes with a start.
In the morning, it becomes apparent that Frambard wasn’t the only one with a weird night – Almorn has been mumbling to himself, staring trance-like at the walls, ceiling, fire, and generally weirding -a few people-everyone out. Reyacrogan asks – “Hey, you all right?”, to which Almorn responds – “Sure, why wouldn’t I be?”. Reyacrogan is concerned about the behaviour, but Almorn shrugs it off – maybe it was just the effects of fatigue?
Frambard also has questions for Almorn – Almorn doesn’t seem the religious type, and deities don’t have a track record of meddling in the day-to-day affairs of mortals. What happened in the battle with the giant bats? “Can’t a gnome have his superstitions?”. Further questioning is cut off, by an overheard conversation between Reyacrogan and his battle-partner, Salob.
“In the lands I called home, I twice saw a rare event – harsh and scarce hunting conditions, and the deaths of a key members, forced two separate wolf packs to join as one.
The first time this occured, the packs joined seamlessly, as if they were already the closest kin. Working together, they were able to track and kill their prey, and they survived the winter.
The second time I witnessed, however, had a different outcome – the wolves bickered and fought among themselves – scaring away game, and attracting unwanted attention from hunters. In the end, they all perished.
I know what being a true warrior means to you, Salob, but if our pack is to survive – we can’t be bickering internally. Our newfound cubs may not be the hardiest in battle, but we do depend on them, and they on us"
Salob considers this for a minute. “I won’t give anyone credit, that can’t care for themselves. For your sake though, my friend, I’ll keep my tongue to myself. And your ear, of course”.
The party breaks camp, and, with Liliana’s guidance, traverses the remaining tunnels without incident. Under the warm midday sun, our heroes take a moment to reflect on everything that’s happened so far, and they feel a little stronger for it.
“I’ve held up my end of the bargain, there should be no guards patrols out here. The kobolds are up to you – I’ll be waiting on the outskirts of the forest for your return.”. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any specific information on the location of the kobold lair. After a brief discussion on tracing tracks, Almorn discusses the situation with a local squirrel, who agrees to guide the party.
About an hour’s travel into the forest, Almorn holds up a hand, and the party stops. Small, dog-like creatures are watching from the trees – kobolds! They attack! Sikram distracts the apparent leader with an illusory bird-sound, and uses the moment’s distraction to shapeshift into a wolf. He leaps upon the kobold, but his jaws meet only air. Sensing a kobold in the tree behind him, Frambard panics, and pulls of a hasty shot, that goes wide. Almorn carefully lines up the same shot, and puts a crossbow bolt right through a kobold skull. The kobold wavers for a moment, then drops to the forest floor with a thud. Almorn then pivots in place, as another kobold is preparing its sling, and drops it as well.
Another kobold in another tree lets loose a sling-stone, but its aim is wildly off, and it hits the leader. Salob bound to this tree, and fires a globule of acid spit – but the kobold dodges deftly to another branch. This branch is slightly lower, affording salob the opportunity to make a heroic leap and, just barely, catch the kobold with his sword, felling it.
The remainder of the kobolds advance on the party, slinging stones at the wolf. A javelin takes out one, a rapier another, and a vicious wolf bite to the jugular, the third. Frambard starts to sing an inspiring song. One last kobold sneaks through the brush, and its stone strikes Almorn in the shoulder. Almorns reactions are heightened by Frambard’s song, and he quickly returns fire. The kobolds are defeated, but the squirrel guide has run off, in a fit of self-preservation.
The party searches the bodies of the kobolds, finding merely 128 copper pieces to split amongst themselves. Sikram pauses for a moment, thinking. “I was much more effective that fight, in the body of a wolf. But I think I can find a form even more powerful – a bear. I’m sure one lurks in this forest.”. Reyacrogan is skeptical – “Are you sure there’s bears in this forest? Doesn’t look like the type” Sikram is sure. However, despite his surety, he can’t find even a hint of a bear trail. Perhaps the barbarian was right?
They continue on, following an obvious trail. When the trail dies out, a set of tracks nearby lead the party the rest of the way, to a dark and damp cave. Carefully, the party enters the cave, and finds themselves in a staring contest with two kobolds, obscured by shadows. “Bring us the amulet, or we will feast on your bones!” yells Salob, in the kobolds’ native Draconic. One slinks back into the shadows, while the other stands still. Impatient, Salob, Reyacrogan, and Sikram advance on the other kobold. As they get close, though, they fail to notice a tripwire strung taught between two pillars, and they’re trapped beneath a heavy net. Suddenly, the air is filled with the whiz of stones.
This battle proves much more difficult than the affair in the forest. The kobolds show themselves only two or three at a time, striking with slings from the shadows, and fading. The warriors charge on in pursuit, and are twice more trapped beneath cleverly placed traps. It’s a battle of attrition, however, and the cave eventually once more falls quiet.
At the back of the cave is a simple but sturdy-looking chest – perhaps this is where the kobolds store their ill-gotten gains. Reyacrogan moves to smash it open, but Almorn shouts “Wait! Given the rest of the cave, surely the chest is booby-trapped? Besides, we don’t want to break the amulet – surely one of these bodies has the key?”. A short search reveals that one of the bodies does, indeed, have the key. The rest of the party stands back a safe distance, as Reyacrogan unlocks the chest. He lifts it slowly, but then stops, noticing a mysterious mechanism.
Frambard inspects the mechanism, and begins careful tinkering. He pulls this, adjusts that, and then snips a wire – he goes tense for a moment, but the moment passes, and the chest opens freely. Next to the lock, there’s a needle and a nasty looking pool of green liquid, surely a deadly poison. Besides the trap, though, the chest is filled to the brim with the kinds of items the adventures do like to see – 2,000 Copper Pieces, 1,500 Silver Pieces, 40 Gold Pieces, 3 small gold bracelets, a carved bone statuette, and, yes, Liliana’s amulet.