Monthly Archives: December 2009

Clearing the Caves

Hasan pushed forward anxiously, leading the group to the mine. He planned to head directly to the spider’s chamber. He aimed to push into the corridor from where the spider-orcs first emerged.

Expecting more orc trouble, Feldard strode alongside the elf at the forefront of the party as they approached the corridor that the orcs first emerged.

He glanced back towards the humans. Likely the mage would rather they go back to the chamber with the statuettes. “Let’s clear out as much of the cavern as possible before we attempt the chamber past the midden pit again.” He planned to take an orc captive this time. It could help gain them access past the jackal-headed statues.

Stephan followed the elf and dwarf into the mine. He kept and eye on the towed goblin as the group made progress through rock and choking dust.

“Aye,” Stephan said, sotto voce. “This gob may not last long being drug like this.” He surveyed the goblin. “Aye, but these have more fight in ‘em then you’d guess. He’ll last, I reckon.” He continued into the mine.

“Very good, then,” encouraged Hasan. “Let us go. No orc shall stand in our way. Let us find whatever it is they hide.” And the elf pressed on, almost giddy with his excitement at searching the dungeon that lay ahead.

Hernane was happy to take the rear guard, the days events had taken quite a toll on her. She wondered what they would do with their prisoner, as much as she hated their kind, she knew she could not kill them in cold blood, still she thought Feldard would have an idea, his leadership with this group was plain to see, the group obviously looked to him for guidance and direction.

The priest offered to lead the goblin. He rechecked the bindings were secure and followed Stephan.

His mind wandered as he threated his way after the warrior. The mage was following equally lost in thought. “So what were they supposed to do when they found them? The statues would have torn them to shreds had they tried to move them. Begs a few questions eh?”

Miklos picked himself up refusing the hand and eye’d the warrior with a long cool look. What in the Duchy did he think he was going to do with the damn trinket? He spoke not a word, spun on his heel and stalked away.

It took five paces to work out that he’d already been reaching for the idol as he asked the question. It could have been taken for rudeness, and he did offer to pick him up. He stopped, turned and offered an apology. “Forgive my borish behaviour Stephan it was inexcusable. My mind was racing toward theories and conclusions and was far from thoughts of etiquette.” Not wishing to labour the point he continued to prepare for the return to the dark.

The goblins words were intriguing. The yellow robed man, a noble? a merchant? a mage? He hoisted his pack up and followed the priest who trailled the trussed goblin. The tower token they’d found earlier suggested a mage…

* * * * *

Night came, and then the day. The group emerged from the caves. Many of them had sustained wounds in their battles with the orcs, the most serious of which had been healed by the priest as they spent the night recuperating. As the others spent the night resting, Miklos had been studying. The mage had made a breakthrogh, allowing him to master spells that had been vexing him for years.

Two dwarves accompanied the group on their way out of the mine. They had been hiding from the orcs in a small hidden cavern. Now, the orcs were no more. Between steel and sorcery, they had been eradicated. Their numbers and morale were already quite depleted by the previous encounters with the party, and thus could not mount a sufficient defense.

Tekaryon was most grateful to the party. Not only had they cleared the caves of orcs, they had rescued two of his workers. Now, he would be able to return with them to High Forge and recruit some new workers for his mining operation. Once again, he rewarded them in gold for their efforts. Between that and the coinage and gemstones they took from the orcs, this side journey to investigate the mysterious smoke at the foot of the mountains had paid off quite handsomely.

Unfortunately, their return to the statuette chamber had yielded nothing. The cave-in had sealed whatever laid beyond. And the rest of the cave system was made up entirely of the orc’s lair. So, it appeared their only way forward was to find the Wolfskull lair and Vlaak.

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Goblin Interrogation

Seeing the more cerebral members of the group move in to discuss various complicated things with the gnome and his parchment, Stephan kept his distance and began assessing the defenses of the surroundings. Seeing a large tree with a large hollow at the base, Stephan felt compelled to poke around in it a bit with his sword. After all, there could be lurking greenskins in there.

“Hey!”, Tekaryon barked from the other side of the encampment. “Mind my things there, fighter!”

“Oh, sorry, my good gnome!” Stephan saw that he had troubled with appeared to be a sleeping mat or some such. Tekaryon must have made use of this hollow in the past day. Of course, it’s too obvious for a gnome. There must be some deeper cavity or this is a ruse, thought Stephan. Regardless, he left well enough alone and continued establishing a perimeter or sorts to keep the party as safe as possible.

Hernane hugged Tekaryon when she greeted him. “Are you all right? We again encountered some orcs, but soon dispatched them; however they live in the same cave system as your operation. I think it would be best for your own safety to close down the mine for awhile until these orcs and goblins have been eradicated. Your life is in danger with so many greenskins close to the mine. In any case, we will find out where they are coming from and follow them to their lair. But it would help if you kept a low profile until you are sure they are no longer in the area.”

“I’m concerned about you. Tekaryon. We did not want to leave you with the goblin too much longer. Where is it? Feldard and I have some questions that we need to ask it. We will remove it from your camp so that you no longer have to be concerned with it.”

“The goblin? Ah yes, the goblin!” said the gnome, looking up from his sketches. He had been so intent upon his plans for rebuilding the mine that he had completely forgotten about the prisoner. “Last I saw of him, he was tied up by the trees over yonder.”

The group rushed over to the captured Wolfskuller to ensure that the goblin was still secure. They found it struggling mightily against its bindings. Had they gotten their much later, it would surely have escaped and been well on its way back to the Wolfskull lair, wherever that may be.

Feldard made his way to the goblin captive and gave it a kick just for spite. In common first he asked. “Why did your raiding party go to these mines?”

The goblin was much too tired and scared to put up any resistance to the dwarf’s intimidation.

“Heard rumor of secret caves,” replied the goblin in the gutteral tones of his native tongue. “Vlaak say look for old treasure of jackal heads. Yellow Robe Man pay big reward.”

Feldard gives the goblin another kick and asked another question, “Tell me of the orcs, and who is this man of which you speak?”

“We don’t know about orcs. Don’t know spider. Vlaak say only about rumor of secret cave with miners. Never seen Yellow Robe Man, just hear of him. Say we raid humans. Look for jackal-head treasure. Old relics. Vlaak and goblin tribes get big reward.”

Stephan, thumbing the statuette, sauntered over to Tekaryon. Showing him the markings on the base, he asked, “Can you read these markings?”

“Looks like gibberish to me,” replied the gnome. “A cousin of mine made a translation device years back. It worked quite well before it exploded.”

The mage stopped Stefan for a moment. “May I borrow the idol again please?”

Stephan kept a firm grip on his token despite the mage’s haughty assumption that he had the right to possess it at will. It was unclear whether or not the shoulder bump the fighter delivered was on purpose, but Stephan did immediately offer his hand in helping the scrawny Miklos get back to his feet. “Sorry about that mate, didn’t mean to knock you down.”

Hernane was taken back at hearing two of the group having words with each other. “Feldard, show him your axe, if he will not answer any questions”.

Stephan proffered the idol in front of the goblin to see its reaction and Feldard continued questioning the goblin in its native tongue, prompting the decrepit little creature with a kick whenever it seemed to hesitate.

The goblin had little more information to offer. The orcs seemed to be unconnected to the goblin raids and Vlaak. Stephan’s trinket matched the description of that which the goblins had been ordered to seek. As for the mysterious man in yellow robes, the goblin did not know why he sought these old relics or how the alliance between him and Vlaak had developed. The goblin was just a foot soldier, a mere pawn in the schemes of more powerful forces.

Maruc took the time outside to bandage the wounds on his friends. “I will need to rest to recuperate and beseech Halav for his aid.” Although we can continue if no one is feeling too sore.” As usual, some were more compliant to his ministrations than others.

Hasan walked crossly away from the bobbing yellow hat of Tekaryon. Ten minutes of questioning about the mine, the goblin, and the forest convinced him that another hour, another day, would yield nothing of value from the well-intentioned but utterly selfish gnome, who had no consciousness of events beyond his immediate purpose and the mining equipment he and he cousins and brothers had invented. Up the rocky walk and into the drear forest the elf wandered, idly kicking up tiny dust storms of spite with every step.

The elf noticed the angularity of the trees that stood, limpid in the late spring, leafing reluctantly into fullness, each bough bearing a heavy cover of a thick local vine that showed no sign of blossoming soon. Still, a jay cackled with delight, unafraid and rampant, a furlough or more away.

Hasan smiled at the bird’s scorn for its bleak surroundings. He reversed his footsteps. “Come now, friends. Into the mines, though it pains me to turn my back on a forest and say so. The goblins are back in their home, a home we will find soon enough. But now we must find from where these orcs come and why. For to have such as these in such close proximity to the goblins strikes me as very strange. And that chamber holds the key to Stephan’s charm. Let us now descend.”

Placing a rope around the goblin’s neck, they took the goblin back with them to the caverns.

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Back Outside

Pleased at the prospect of daylight, Maruc followed Hernane. “Come on Miklos. Our sense of adventure must be tempered with wisdom and reflection. Perhaps the goblin can provide clues to both!” Maruc grinned.

The mage shrugged. “Out voted again.” he sighed. The caves could wait. The questions they raised could wait, maybe some thought and reflection was what we needed. But to be honest that was the point of re-entering the caves in the first place. To find clues, and they had found one. He glanced at Stephan as the bulked warrior strode ahead.

Feldard followed sourly as the party headed back towards the entrance to question further their goblin prisoner. “Bah! The goblin will know nothing more. It was caught by the spider just as surely as Hernane and the miners were. Now if we want to know more about the caves, we need to capture and interrogate one of the orcs.” Feldard reasoned more to himself than the others as he kept rearguard. “Maybe we shouldn’t have been so swift to kill them all.” To the dwarf that was a difficult thing to admit given their races enmity. “Next time I’ll be sure to leave one alive.”

Hasan found himself step for step with the grumbling dwarf. It suited the elf’s own mood. At least the headed outside, although even the forest that awaited was as drear as Hasan could imagine. The caves, with their odd mix of magical and flesh and blood inhabitants, were hardly a diversion from their investigation of the goblins of Vlaak. Indeed, the elf reflected as he squeezed back through the rockfall that separated the gnomes’ chambers from the wilds within, the antiquity of the icons they had just seen perhaps rivaled even that of his own clan. To hunt goblins in forestland was sport, but the elf could not avoid the conclusion that his fate lay underground.

“Nay, Miklos. You are not out voted. We are back in here now,” Stephan said as he watched Hasan squeeze through the opening, “because of you. And I don’t intend to stay away.”

The fighter wiped something from his nose. “We go back to ask the gnome what he knows about the statues and where other orc may be and then head back in.” He scrambled over more slag. “At least,” he said as he faced Hasan and wiped the dust from his cloak, “that’s what I say. Tek may well be able to make something of the markings on my trinket.”

Hernane was happy that she was heading out of the caves, even though she suspected that she would be seeing them again. This would not take long, and then if Stephen wanted to go back to the cursed statues then he could. He had helped save her from becoming a spider’s meal, so she owed him her help. Hernane reasoned that it could not be a coincidence that goblins had been caught in the caverns and if the group were pursing Goblins then this one would tell them what they wanted them to know. Inwardly Hernane worried Tekaryon could be in greater danger than he realized—his good nature would be his downfall. They would return to the goblin and take it somewhere secluded and then get some answers.

The group emerged from the cave opening, and tracked down their gnomish colleague. The group found him much where they had left him. A parchment spread out before him, he was busy sketching out plans for the mine’s reconstruction.

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In or Out?

After finishing off the last orc, Hernane slumped against the wall of the cave, tired beyond years, she took her water canteen and took a long draft, trying to ignore the shaking of her hand. She closed her eyes in exhaustion and immediately saw the terror stricken eyes of the orc she had killed in her mind, she sobbed—once—this killing was not for her she thought. She slowly raised herself up, it was not seemly for the others to see her in this state. She knew Feldard would be strong and she did not want him to see her so forlorn. Hernane avoiding the webbing, slowly walk a few paces into the cavern listening for anything untoward, in truth she needed this solitude to gather herself.

Feldard wiped down his axe blade on the coarse hair of a orc’s head, then seeing that Hernane was already on lookout, he set about hauling the orc bodies down into the midden pit. Before throwing them over, the dwarf did a cursory check of them – what he might be looking for the dwarf had no idea. Their hunt of the goblins that had attack Sukiskyn had brought them to this cave – but why? Was their a connection between the goblin attacks, these orcs and the Sons of Night? Feldards head hurt with such thoughts. Best to leave such to the mage and cleric—that’s what they were good at.

Sensing an end to immediate danger, Stephan sheathed his blade and turned to assist Feldard with dragging the bodies to the midden. He did so wordlessly. As he did, he took note of the strange tattoos covering their faces and skin. These orcs had sure liked their spider. Once the work was done, Stephan did what he could to wipe his hands clean using some of the loose dirt in the mine. He shown his lightstone about the room, checking for anything they may have missed.

Hasan watched as Feldard and Stephan began their labor. “Bah,” he cursed to himself. “Filthy business.” He quickly passed by the fighters, and moved through the troglodyte’s teeth. “I’m off to see from whence these have come. Follow me. None will find those we’ve left behind.” He strode confidently up the corridor in which the party first encountered the orcs, knowing well that his comrades would be close behind.

Stephan stood nonplussed for a moment. Muttering to himself, “Why are we tidying this Halav-forsaken place.” He turned and followed Hasan.

Hernane having recovered from her moment of weakness and not wanting to see again the slain orcs followed Stephen and Hasan. The sooner they were away from these cursed caves the better she thought to herself. “Feldard, come on,” she called, “We are wasting time”.

Feldard grumbled as he kicked the last of the orc bodies over into the pit. He gathered up what little he had found in their possessions worth keeping and followed after the group, taking rear guard position for now.

Maruc cast his eyes over the result of the battle. The tattoo’d spider-worshiping orcs were slain, their black blood made the floor slippery. As the others drew the corpses over to the pit, Maruc studied each one for any clue as to what their purpose was and any connection with the information that had lead them here…it was usless. The bodies revealed nothing, no tokens or hints as to the path ahead. The party was chasing shadows. Miklos was wrong to divert them here a second time. Halav had guided them here to save Hernane, nothing else. The plans of Vlaak would only be served by further delay.

“I see no benefit in delaying here any longer. We must press on after the goblins if we are to stop them.” He hefted his heavy shield onto his shoulder and turned to Miklos. “Are you satisfied with your searches?”

“Stephan himself has discovered something of his trinket. I’d be interested with the challenge of deciphering the runes on his statuette. You cannot deny the uncanny resemblance between it and the animations below? Would that we had ten Feldards below, eh? Perhaps we might have learnt the truth?”

“Come now! We are all hearty warriors with ne’r a scratch on us! I say we seek further, perhaps we might discover the access to the statue chamber from the other side? Where’s your sense of adventure?” he offered.

“Aye. I must say,” Stephan was a little shocked he was speaking. “If we but not touch the statues as we enter, perhaps we can learn more of what may connect my token to them.” Stephan kicked at some slag. “I mean, we came back in this dank place. Are we to leave with only having battled strange jackals and more webbed orc fiends? We’ve but scratched the surface. We came back in this place. Seems a pity to leave without knowing more. I say we high back to those devil statues and see what’s really about!”

“Aye, the statues deserve a second look,” called back the elf, already backing away impatiently from the group. “But let us not ignore roving orcs, who present the clearer danger for now. I would learn what we can of them, before they mass against us. We can investigate the room further when the caves are safe.”

“The statues protect something of value to someone. But I agree with Hasan, clearing the caves needs to be done. Perhaps in doing that we will learn the key to moving past the statues without triggering an attack,” Feldard called from the back of the party.

“Aye,” Stephan nodded at Hasan’s and Feldard’s words. “Let’s go back outside find our gnome friend. He may be able to point out where the orckind may hide.”

Hernane was quite keen to get out of these caves, they were cursed! She turned to Feldard and said “Tekaryon still has a goblin trussed up, maybe we should go and interrogate it to find out where these greenskins are coming from and why they are here”. Plus we cannot expect that Tekaryon will be able to keep his prisoner forever. Sooner or later, it will escape and bring his tribe to exact vengeance on him”. With that statement she hefted her axe and made her way along the tunnels to where Tekaryon was last seen, regardless if the Goblin could tell them anything useful, she would not leave it alone with Tekaryon any longer.

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Finishing Off The Job

“Miklos,” hissed the elf, as he crouched and drew his bow off his back, hoping to squeeze off a shot at the retreating orcs. “Do not let them escape. Use the teeth to make a webwall.” The elf fired, and despite the light and his hurry, his aim was true. The arrow knifed into the lead orc, causing him to stagger to the side. The dwarfmaid Hernane quickly closed the gap and brought the orc down with a fell, reckless swing from her handaxe.

Miklos didn’t need asking twice. Who knows what denizens these orcs could call in for re-enforcements? The Mage barked a command word for his sleep spell which he knew was faster to cast and more effective in this situation.

As soon as the Orcs started to flee, Hernane pursued them she knew that they dare not allow any of the orcs to escape; else they bring even more reinforcements. If that happened, eventually the group would get overwhelmed.

Feldard moved after the fleeing orcs alongside Hernane. As the orcs succumbed to the sleep spell, the dwarves moved in to dispatch them as quickly as possible. This time none would escape.

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