Wherein the heroes gain assistance from more heroes.
Red and Meander step carefully through the tight, twisting tunnels toward the intersection, moving away from the long open hallway where the Slurk and possibly others wait in ambush. They plan to sneak back to the group to tell of the ambush and to make counter plans. As they near the intersection, faint sounds of speech hang in the air of the southern corridor. Not the chittering squeaks of the Kobolds, but deep sounds of men speaking the Imperial tongue.
Shocked, Meander and Red freeze in the hallway. There isn’t much room to maneuver in these tight Kobold tunnels, especially for these two big men. Meander positions himself to see down the tunnel, but doesn’t see any change in the shadows and Red is tightlipped as usual. After only a moments hesitation looking questioning at Red, Meander proceeds south to investigate the noises.
They twist through the narrow passage, opening into the large room at the bottom of the well. Coming into the room, they can plainly hear the voices drifting from the hole in the center of the ceiling. Meander creeps up underneath the shaft of the well, peering upwards. The shaft is fairly dim and he has trouble discerning if anyone is above.
Red clearly sees the light pouring down from the shaft, shining down on Meander. He also hears many things moving from above.
“They definitely came this way.”
“This is a crack in the other room, and dead bodies in both rooms.”
“How deep do you suppose this is.”
The darkness around Meander grows deeper. A man leans over the hole carrying a stick that is completely obscured in darkness. Meander signs to Red that he wants a lift to the edge of the well. Red lifts Meander easily enough, and Meander finds a handhold between the stones lining the well. He struggles for a bit, but finds a few more narrow cracks that serve well enough. Soon he is high enough to reach the longest rope dangling in the well from above.
The man peering from above jerks back. “There is someone coming up!”
Meander pauses for a moment. He doesn’t want to end up as arrow fodder. Climbing in these Dwarven built passageways is harder than it looks, plus it is much darker than expected. He yells up once he gets a foot hold, “Don’t attack me, I’m coming up! I just want to talk.” That should soothe them.
The man peers back down. “Who goes there?”
If these are townsfolk, then they might have heard of them. If not, well, what kind of people would be coming down here otherwise. “This is Meander.”
The man turns his head and shouts, “We found them! It’s one of the deputies.” After a few moments pause he turns back to look at Meander. “Where are the others?”
Straining hand after hand to climb up, the climb was much easier after reaching the ropes and getting his feet against the sides, but it was still harder than expected. “We are down here, looking for the um.” He looks down at Red. “We are looking for the last kid. We have found the others.”
Several men peer over the edge and help pull Meander up into the room. Shadows dance everywhere and the room is filled with spots of pitch blackness. It slowly dawns on Meander that he’s been in the dark for too long.
As he stands up, it is obvious that Meander is a big man, not just stout and broadly muscled, but also standing nearly seven feet tall. His armor is in tatters, pitted and torn in multiple places with a strange texture that makes it look eaten away. He carries an assortment of weapons; a dagger, whip, chain, and club hang within easy reach. He has a square face with very short sandy brown hair that looks singed. His eyes were dark and surrounded with sickly black circles as he begun standing, but seem clear as he looks about the room, surveying the men.
The room at the top of the well is filled with men with torches. A red robed priest emerges from the lingering smoke and shadows in the hewn tunnel to the east. Meander eyes the robes and the symbols that line the edges and immediately blanches and looks nervously back toward the well. Could he get back down without drawing attention to himself?
The robed man walks up to Meander and introduces himself as Ember. He had enlisted the help of the townsfolk, lumberjacks mainly, to come help find the children. Looking at the men again, they all have axes, hatchets and spears.
Ember looks down at the well and back to Meander. “Shall we go take that crack?”
Meander frowned. “I don’t think it would be a good idea to go that route. There were some really ominous noises from the area below the crack. Besides, we came down the well shaft and have already cleared the area down below. We have people waiting down below.”
Ember strides off towards the forge. The other men look around and start talking about having ropes. They begin to look how best to fashion a way down the well.
Shortly afterwards, Ember strides back out of the smoky tunnel. He speaks with a voice of command. “Yes, there is something nasty that way. Men, we will go down this way.”
The men take their ropes out and tie them off to the remnants of the structure around the well. They start climbing down a few at a time.
Red is waiting for them at the bottom of the well. While not particularly tall, he is stout and wide. His thick muscles are easily visible under his supple black leather armor. He carries a smith’s hammer and a stone rod at his side, and from his scars, he has been through some rough scrapes.
Once everyone is down, Meander gets his spear back from Red and gestures to the group, “Here, follow me.” He starts moving towards the mining room, taking them around to the Slurk chamber. The leave the room at the bottom of the well, along with the huge dead frog like creatures with dead Kobolds on their backs. After a short tunnel, the room opens into a chamber with several more dead Kobolds surrounded with small crude pickaxes. At the far side of the room, two twisting tunnels lead in opposite directions. Meander takes the left path and leads them around to a lit chamber filled with a slick goo.
Entering the Slurk chamber, the four kids are resting in a corner, but as the group enters, Kitten jumps up and brandishes her chair leg. The kids are resting near a three foot tall mushroom shaped humanoid with large vacant saucer shaped eyes. A slight of build nobleman by dress looks impatiently at the group. A larger man, most likely a hunter or lumberjack, stands alert at the far side of the room and carries his bow at the ready. Beyond the group, blocking a passage at the far side of the room is a roughly hewn giant stone statue of a man, carrying a massive stone great sword carved in a pose of readiness. As the group comes in the room, the statue’s head slowly turns towards them to stare at the group, and then slowly turns back to the passage beyond.
One of the militia men is nervous about the mushroom man and points his spear at the small figure. The kids leap up as a group and stand in between the spear and the mushroom man, protecting him and waving the spear away. The militia man eases up and puts his spear back down. None of the people who were in the room seemed concerned about the statue or the mushroom man.
The nobleman, Broken, casually speaks up, “Howya doing?”
Ember looks at the nobleman and then turns to the children. The four kids are dirty and singed. All of their wounds appear to be a week or so old, even though they have only been missing for a few days. One of the boys seems mentally unstable. The other boys seem to be keeping a stiff upper lip. The girl, Kitten, is outright defiant.
Ember asks the children, “How did you get hurt?”
Broken interjects, “By kicking some major ass.”
The kids all start talking at the same time. Ember turns to stare at Broken again, then turns back to the kids. He looks directly at Kitten, “How did you get hurt?”
“Oh which time? There were Kobold spears. The Kobold poison. The fire. Are you talking about the Chain Demon?”
Ember replies, “Actually, I was trying to find out why your wounds look a week old?”
Broken steps in again, “DO they? Well, Song is really good about healing us.”
Ember seems confused, “Do what?”
“Oh! Song is the little mushroom man. When he sings and touches you, he heals you.”
Ember turns to Song. “Oh, so you are a healer?”
Song stares at Ember with his patented vacant stare.
Kitten replies, “I don’t think he understands much of what we are saying.”
Broken, “If you scream at him long enough however, he figures out what you are saying.”
Meander speaks up, “So anyway, the kids broke free from the Kobold prison with the help of the mushroom men. The ended up getting split up at different places. We reclaimed all the kids but Jabs and have been trying to retrace their steps to find him.”
Ember, “So, where do we go from here then?”
Meander continues, “We were moving through those tunnels trying to trace the kids path,” he points to a narrow passage to left of where they entered the room. “The problem with that is that they were running for their life from all kinds of danger and don’t remember the path, but they also don’t remember going up stairs,” he points to the stairs beyond the Stone Man. “However, there are Kobolds waiting to ambush us. We were planing to surprise them.”
Ember, “You were going to ambush the ambush with all this noise and light?”
“Well, when you found us by the well, we had no light.”
Ember nods. “You are going to go into combat and you are wounded? I can help with that if you would like.”
Meander seems hesitant. Red steps forth and says, “I’m feeling weak due to some poison. Can you heal that?”
Ember replies, “I believe I can.” He reaches out his hands and appears to do a laying of hands next to Red. His hands begin to glow and smoke. Soon, Red also begins to glow. The glow is splotchy and uneven, almost patterned. The patterns begin to shift and rearrange themselves around Red as the glow grows in brightness. As they shift the glow becomes more solid until it becomes completely uniform. No natural light source is so uniform. Soon the glow fades from both Red and Ember.
Meander tentatively asks Red, “Do you feel better?”
“I feel SO much better!”
Ember, “I believe your name is Meander?”
“Do you need to be healed?”
“Yes, I took a Kobold spear to the chest.”
Ember proceeds to do the same to Meander. He is surrounded by light, but unlike Red, there were not many patterns to the light to begin with. It quickly builds to a uniform glow and then fades away, but Meander doesn’t feel any better. He does stares at the trim on the priest’s robes and seems to relax a bit.
Ember, “You’ve already been healed.”
Meander, “Yeah, Song healed me.”
Ember, “My healing won’t work.”
Meander, “Oh. Well, I was going on anyway. I appreciate the .. um .. effort.”
The group gathers up their things and begins the march back through the tunnels to the bottom of the well. Looking at the tunnels to the north of the room, they will have to progress single file and briefly discuss marching order. The Stone Man leads them through the tunnels, followed by Meander, Red and then the militia. In the back of the group are Broken, Ember and the kids, with Song and ToughBark watching at the back.
The procession squeezes through the narrow tunnels to reach the entrance to the long open hall where the potential ambush was spotted. Undoubtably the group was detected moving noisily through the tunnels, so Meander rushes in by sliding by Stone Man and skirts to the side into a passage north for cover, no Kobolds or Slurks to be seen.
The room, although a poor excuse for one, branches out in many directions. Narrow tunnels open out from openings in all four roughly hewn walls. From the shadows in the passage on the far wall, a lone Kobold mounted on a Slurk slides through the room yelling something in his Kobold language.
Meander turns and lashes out with his whip, wrapping around the Kobold’s mid section. The Kobold turns surprised. Meander jerks back on the whip and it constricts tightly. The leader grimaces in pain, but directs the slurk to turn around and slide past Meander. The leader stabs Meander in the arm with his spear as he moves past. Meander grits his teeth, but holds on to the whip.
From within the twisted tunnel, Ember hears the Kobold’s yelp, but the tunnel is too clogged. He waits while the Militia men pour into the room, and then follows them in beside Broken.
Red begins to cast a spell, shaping the east at his feet.
The Stone Man begins to move, drawing the great sword high and striking down through the shoulders of the Kobold, killing it instantly.
With the leader dead, Meander dismisses the Slurk and looks around. Faint noises come from the far corridor, where the Kobold was hiding. He coils his whip quickly and jumps over the slime toward the middle of the room. “Do any of you hear that?” He says pointing towards the sounds.
Spell finished, Red pushes past the Stone Man and the militia men.
The others look around, uncertain what to do, and wait.
Suddenly, the Slurk jumped through one of the militia men. It tackled the man and began to climb up the wall to perch near the ceiling. The man is shocked and covered in slime, which starts crystalizing before their eyes.
Ember said, “Meander, what happened about them not being aggressive?”
Broken answered, “Well, none of the other few we’ve seen have been aggressive afterwards.”
“Well, Ox Driver needs things explained to him in a child-like manner.”
One of the militia men moved over the slime path and stabbed the Slurk in the leg as it climbed the wall. The others struggle to cross the slick slime.
Meander, ignoring Broken’s taunts, lashes at the Slurk, wrapping the whip around its feet. He yanks hard on the whip, but the creature appears to be stuck to the wall.
Red scoops up a boulder and throws it at the Slurk, bouncing of its leg, causing the Slurk to attempt the move further away. Meander pulls against the whip, holding him tight to his position.
The townsmen attempt to skewer the Slurk, but they can’t seem to find solid footing. Some slip and fall, while the others are spreading out through the room.
Stone Man takes a step forward and to the side, making room for others to slip by. Ember and Broken step up, and Broken attempts to pull one of the fallen militia men out of the slime.
Ember stops as Broken slides the man over to his feet. “Hold on a second and I’ll do something that will help you past the slime.” Ember steps past Broken and the militia man and up to the slime streak across the floor.
Broken tells the man, “Wait right here,” and begins to chant. The townsman looks very uncomfortable as Broken obviously begins the casting of a spell. Ember turns and peers at Broken questioningly, but Broken stays focused on his spell. Ember turns back and listens, hearing something in the distance that sounds like kittens.
Red launches another hunk of rock which collides with the Slurk, as Meander still struggles with the whip. Pulling as hard as he can doesn’t seem to cause the Slurk to budge. It is as if the Slurk were glued to the wall. It peers angrily at the whip, and begins to gnash its teeth. Meander turns to the militia man next to him, “Do you want to hold him?”
“Um, no. I’ll poke him with the spear.”
“Ok, well, I need you to help me pull him down.”
Broken finishes casting his spell and begins to touch people. He touches the golem, himself, the townsman and turns to touch Ember. Ember backs off as Broken reaches out for him. His spell coming to a close, Broken turns to Song and they slap hands.
Ember pulls a strange symbol from his robes. It appears to be an inverted triangle, with arrows pointing out from the corners. He holds it in one hand and starts to meditate on the symbol.
The townsman by Broken steps forward now, hastily trying to move away from Broken. As he nears the wall, a rock lifts his foot up, and stones push out from the wall, making steps which lift him stumbling into the air. He stops ten feet up on the wall, eyes wide and breathing fast, terrified.
The Slurk turns to gnaw on the whip. It chews on the whip for a moment, which breaks with a snap, and crawls up higher to the ceiling, out of reach of the spears.
The Stone Man scales the wall and charges along its length past the frog, trying to clear the goo and the militia men.
Broken stops and announces, “Something is hiding near Stone Man. Beware guy.”
Meander looks at the southern hallway, wondering if there are creatures that direction. He jumps over the slime trail into the hallway only to discover that the hallway drops 5 feet right at the entrance. He yelps as he tries to duck and roll and ends up planting himself on the floor on his bum.
Broken turns to the scared townsman and orders him to calm down, wondering why it doesn’t seem to be having any effect.
Ember looks up from his prayers as flames spring forth from his eyes. He speaks out in the clear voice, “There is one creature in each of these ledges and many smaller creatures further down the hallway.”
Stone Man keeps going to the far side of the chamber.
The militia men had scattered around the cavern. The one up on the wall is looking at the Slurk, now trying to hide in a cubby hole at the very top of the cavern, snarling and growling. “Should we chase it?” He moves a bit further along the wall, become more comfortable since he doesn’t seem to be falling, and yells, “There is something back here!”
The man in the slime is slowly crawling out of the slime.
“There are stairs this way,” comes a voice of one of the men from down the right hallway.
Another one screams.
As Meander hears Ember’s warning, he turns to look at the darkness. The darkness lunges at Meander, but he spots the creature at the last moment and dives out of the way. It was sprinting with a chain dagger and would’ve slit Meander’s throat.
Ember moves around, watching with his flaming eyes. He watches for any of the lurking creatures, moving around to get a better view. He calls out, “Fritter, watch out! One in front of you!”
Sensing creatures, Red begins to hum a deep resonant chant, casting one of his spells.
From where they entered in the tunnels, Ember and Broken hear Kit say, “Wait, these are the prison cells.”
Meander yells, “Kobold incoming.” He grabs the Kobold and throws him over his shoulder into the chamber, and against the wall.
Ember begins to chant, and smoke begins to curl up from his hands.
Broken continues to talk to the townsman, trying to persuade him that he will be ok. The townsman seems to get things under control. He steps up a bit higher to clear a side passage, and then drops down on top of a Kobold.
Stone Man backs up into the slime, but this time he doesn’t fall. He tries to make room for the militia men to get past.
Two Kobolds come crawling out of the tunnels. They take a quick look around and make a horrified shriek at the army in the room. They whip out their flying talons and try to trip some of the militia men. The first one falls, but the second one manages to keep his feet.
Song begins to sing a song looking at Meander. Meander picks him up and puts him on his back as he begins to climb out of the cell. He steps into the slime to get close enough to the Kobolds, and keeps his feet. Taking out his flying talon, he whips one of the Kobolds and slings them around against the wall between Meander and Red. It falls to the ground.
Broken yells, “Militia man, Get on the ground!”
Ember’s hand begin to smoke. The smoke forms tendrils that race across the battlefield. As the smoke connects to the Kobold’s chest, it erupts in fire, knocking him back. Yellow smoke comes back to Ember and he draws it into him.
Red finishes a spell and his hands are encased in rock. He smashes the fallen Kobold in the chest, knocking it out.
Tough Bark looses an arrow, glancing off the stomach of the Kobold. One of the militia men strike out with the spear and puncture its skull, killing it instantly.
Two other of the men attack the burning Kobold. They work together and manage to strike the Kobold in the leg, knocking him down. The Kobold stands just as Broken finished animating a blade. The blade swoops down and slashes the Kobold’s left arm. The Kobold looks around for an way out, but Stone Man’s great sword gave him an exit first.
Song finishes his heal spell, healing Meander. It appears that clinging onto Meander’s back in combat is not conducive to spell casting.
The fires dissipate from Ember’s eyes.
They group decides to wait for a moment before going onward into the next room.
One of the townsmen speaks up, “More Kobolds ahead… little bitty ones.”
Ember turns to the children, “Where did they keep you.”
Kit answers, “Down in those holes. Song made sounds that made them think something was coming. Then we climbed out while Silver helped hold them off. We ran and ran. Every time we saw kobolds we turned.”
Meander turns to ToughBark, “Can you hold the battle axe for me? Red and I are going to creep in their quietly. I don’t want the light to give us away.” Meander speaks some strange words and his eyes are filled with radiant blackness.
Red and Meander begin to sneak through the hallway. Plaintive muling cries can be heard from the chamber beyond. The chamber opens into a fairly broad room. A low wall of stone has been built containing eggs buried in the sand. A group of small kobolds play in the darkness. A rotund female stands between us and the eggs. She moves to keep us from them. She begins to chitter something.
Red whispers, “She just said that she doesn’t want us to hurt the eggs.”
Meander asked, “How did you understand her?”
“She is speaking some form of Dwarvish. I’m not saying I speak Kobold, but I can understand it enough, because it is like some form of Dwarvish that I do understand.”
“Well, the kid is not here, so let’s go back.”
“Do you think she knows where the kid is?”
“Do you think you can talk to her?”
“I don’t know…”
Red chittered slowly at the Matron. The Matron chittered back to Red. They begin to chitter back and forth. Meander stepped back down the hall to the men. “Can you guys check the cubby holes to make sure there is nothing else there?” He then went back to check on Red.
The men spread out and check each hallway. There is some sign that something had lived there for a time, but there is nothing but straw now.
Broken begins the process of refilling his magical battery.
Ember rearranges the fire on the outside of himself, then walks over to one of the men. “Can I borrow your torch?”
Broken asks, “So, what does that do, Robed Man?”
Ember rolls up his sleeve and thrusts his arm into the torch. He still has his arm in the torch when Red and Meander come back from the other room.
Red says to the group, “So, this is what I understand so far.
King Murlokrep had the red one.
He gave the kid to Jekkajek. Jekkajek not know magic. Stupid Jekkajek.
I think if we find the King, we will find the kid.”
Red continues pointing to the hallway going north, “Up there past the LoudLouds.
Lots of BigBigs.
LoudLouds like Song.”
Song makes some weird screeching south.
Song starts to sing. It sounds like all five children talking at once. “Loud mushroom, loud mushroom like me.”
Broken gasped, “Its Silver.”
Song continued his song, “Not Silver. Will alert Kobolds. Can sing past LoudLouds.”
After another minute of grimacing, Ember pulls his arm out. Turning to Broken, he replies, “All power requires sacrifice. You would not understand that.”
Broken replies, “I do sacrifice. Try talking to a fire. They are stubborn!”
“I do every day.” Ember pauses for a moment, “You have power yes, but you have not earned the use of that power.”