Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Interlude: Gruffydd's Tale

Gruffyd emerged from the kobold tunnel below into the ruined temple, exhausted from dragging the sack full of Dimzad.
After scratching his arse for a long while and contemplating what to do, he walked out to the street to head towards the bridge and the troll.
Gruffydd’s pony was where he left it, happily chomping away at grass. The sun said it was mid afternoon.
Dimzad’s clan originated south and west of Wall, in the Fartnoth Mountains, known to dwarves as Zarnun-Affuk or Zarn’s Anvil. But that was long way off. Dimzad was the last of his clan, the others wiped out in the numerous wars with the black-bloods. There would be no grieving relatives, no feast, even if Gruffydd did find his way there.
Always sensible, Gruffydd decided it was best just to take it one step at a time, and try and get to Wall as quickly as possible. They had run so fast from the old ferry and the hornet-things, that he really hadn’t paid that much attention to how they got here. Trying to find his way back that way was out of the question. With that in mind, Gruffydd strapped what was left of Dimzad to the dead dwarf’s pony. Gruffydd got on his own mount, Lucius and rode south, down the road toward the bridge.
An hour later, he looked down at the river from a rise in the road. Where the party had crossed before, further to the east, the water had flowed swift and dangerous. Here it was sluggish and boggy in some places. The bridge it was a quite a feat of engineering even by dwarven standards. It spanned the river in four great arches. It was obvious the work had been done during the height of the Empire. Gruffydd estimated its construction to be around the time of Gustavus III.
Only one thing marred its otherwise awe inspiring features, a great chunk was missing about midway across, on the northwest side. The bridge was wide enough for 4 horses abreast, but was narrowed down to two at the damaged area. Weeds grew from cracks in the stones.
Gruffydd looked for any movement, or an outbuilding where someone or thing might hide. He slowly approached the bridge. Everything was quiet except for slow movement of the water. A hawk, high above, drifted on a breeze. Lucius took time to nibble some grass.
Gruffydd dismounted and eased the pony forward to drink. From the water’s edge he saw nothing to raise an alarm. Lucius slurped away at the water, nosing his way into the cattails that populated the river’s boggy edge.
He pulled the pony free of water’s edge and slowly began crossing the bridge. Again, the quiet of the place was disturbing. Lucius’s hooves made a steadt “clop, clop” on the paving stones. Suddnly the quiet was broken.
“Well Klem, ain’t that the darndest thing you ever did see…?” A deep rumble of a voice echoed from somewhere under the bridge. “Some one brought Ol’ Nik some supper.”
Gruffydd calmly dismounted and taking hammer in hands, stood his ground. It was then a great, clawed hand emerged unto the railing of the bridge. I was large, grey and covered in warts. The talons were as long as daggers. Next, a face appeared from below. Cruel yellow eyes looked out from behind long, wet, greasy hair. The misshapen head had pointed ears, yellowed, razor sharp teeth twisted into something resembling a smile.
It was a troll. Of that there could be no doubt. Cave trolls had long fought along side the gobinoids that raided Gruffydd’s homeland. But this was a river troll. They were smarter, faster and somehow crueler than their kin.
“Hmmmm, dwarf two ways. Live or recently dead? Makes it hard for a body to decide.” The troll cackled. “Klem, watcha think?” he said over his shoulder.
Gruffydd puffed out his chest and said “ I understand there’s a toll to be paid, troll. What be the price and I’ll tell ya if I thinks its too high.”
The troll came over the side of the bridge and drew himself up to his full height, which was twice as tall as Gruffydd. He wore wet pair of trousers, held up by a crude suspender. He tapped at his teeth with single long talon.
The troll whispered to itself, then finally said, “That there sack full of guts would make a tasty toll.”
Gruffydd glanced at the other pony, and the bag that sat on it. “That be a pile of ole nasty goblin guts. An errand of mine for my
employer. And we all know how stringy and sour be tastin goblin, alive
or dead. But how abouts the pony that be carryin the load. Now that’s a
fine plump morsel for your impressive teeth and talons.”
The troll sniffed. And sniffed again. “Hmmm, don’t smell like gobbo. As much as I hate to admit it. me and the little squirts gots blood in common. We can smell our own.”
“That’s why my employer wanted to study this nasty little gobbo.
Alright, then I withdraw my offer.”
The dwarf mounted his pony but kept his hammer out.
”No toll shall be paid to you today. You shall have to fish for your
dinner, instead of this tasty little pony.”
Gruffydd turned the pony around facing the other way as if to leave where he came from.
“Now, now, friend,” the troll said. “We can be reasonable. Fresh meat’s always better than spoilt.” He licked his chops a bit before continuing. “The pony’s fine, but I’ll need both. Klem’s gotta eat, too.”
“And how am I supposed to deliver my package, if I aint got no pony to
carry it?”
”Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you this pony here, then the rest of
my companions, who are just up the road from here, will give you one of
their extra ponies when they get here. They should be here about the
time you are picking this plump little beauty out of you teeth with a
rib bone.”
“How’s Ol’ Nik supposed to know if there really is another group just down the road?”
The troll said. “Klem doesn’t doesn’t trust ya, and neither do I. Some of yer kin tried passing a coupla months back. Tried to trick me, then fight me. Had a few of them before they got away. I’ve developed quite a taste for stunties…”
“Well Nik. You can trust me or no. I think maybe I’ll let them know.”
When When Gruffydd said ‘know’ he slapped Dimzads pony on the behind and spurred Lucius on as fast as I could off the bridge and up the road.
“Come back here!” the troll raged. “Next time we meet, yer a dead ‘un fer sure!”

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mopping up

The whole mob of kobolds surged forward, their king at the lead. The glow of his mace reflected against the cold stone of the throne room. The party waited for them. Small spears clattered past them, hurled by the kobold pack. Gildrid was too weak to draw his bow, and he was out of arrows anyway. Nemon began throwing daggers at the front rank of kobolds. They weren't really throwing daggers, but kobold short swords he had plundered from the dead earlier. Several of the tiny, angry creatures fell to the daggers. But the rest came on.
Laramine swung at the king. It went wide and missed. The kobold king's mace cracked into Laramine's side, sending him flying across the floor. The veteran sea raider was soon swarmed by barking kobolds.
Nemon flailed at his attackers, sending a kobold flying with each swing. Miss Adventure, glad to be finally fighting someone her size, dived into the fray with reckless abandon.
Laramine pulled free of his assailants to face the kobold king. He took the mace with his great sword. The metal of his blade hissed and sparked. Though the little king was half his size, the kobold's strength seemed doubled. A kick put the king a few paces back, then a swing sent his head in a great bloody arc across the hall.
The few remaining kobolds broke off and ran for a dark corridor to the right of the throne. Bruised and bloody, four adventurers looted the dead, finding a few coppers. The mace had stopped glowing once the king died. Laramine picked it up, but it remained dark.
"Lemme see that", Nemon said taking the mace. He tapped it on the ground and the blue flames ignited once again.
Using the light of the mace, they found another door to the left of the throne. It seemed more ornate around the entrance. A short hall led to a door, this one sturdier than any they had seen so far. It was locked.
"Ungh!" Nemon smashed the mace into the door. It blew apart and in. The room beyond was decorated with items looted from the above world. Everyday things were given special places of honor. An old butter churn sat upon a corner alter. Tools and farm equipment sat on rotting satin pillows, while books were used to prop up corners of a tattered, man sized bed. As much as could be grabbed, was. Nemon and Laramine threw anything of value in their oversized bags, while Gildrid collapsed on the bed. Miss Adventure made another discovery. Behind a moth eaten curtain she found a closet. It was packed with boxes and shelves, and guarding it was a hissing Kobold youth. It was obviously frightened. It's little hands held a dagger at the halfling, but those same hands were trembling.
"Hey fellas," she said" what do I do with this guy?"
Nemon marched over and bashed it's head in with the mace. Miss Adventure stared at the gore that spattered on her, in disgust.
The closet yielded little gold, and a few trinkets. Gildrid lay on the bed groaning and close to unconsciousness. "All right," Laramine spoke, "we gotta try something."
He grabbed the jar full of white paste they found earlier. "Here goes nothing", and began spreading on Gildrid's spider bite. The elf howled in pain. Whatever kobolds left in the complex, were now probably doubly scared.
To everyone's amazement, the salve seemed to work. The black and blue scar ceased its crawl across Gildrid's neck and face. He perked up immediately but was still weak.
"Okay", Nemon said, lets get out of here."
There was no way out of the room other than the way they came. They decided to follow the kobold's lead and head out the hall to the right of the throne. It lead to a tunnel up. Apparently this was the escape hatch. Struggling up the almost vertical earthen tunnel they emerged into the world above.
The sun was going down, and the party was unsure how large the kobold tunnels below stretched or how many might come to the aid of their brethren.
"Beaten and bruised, with one dead," Laramine said, "and nothing to show but a few lousy coppers and a glowing mace. Great. Let's find the horses."

Monday, November 8, 2010

"I want one of Those!'

The beetle moved ever forward. The heat from the flames was on them. Nemon and Laramine brought their shields up to block the entrance to the small room. Gildrid was weak, but still able to loose a few arrows at the fire beetle by propping himself up against a shelf. The arrows clattered harmlessly against the beetle's tough armor.
Stil the beetle move ever towards them. The party could hear the yelps and taunts coming from the kobolds marching behind. The men's shields began to smoke and sizzle. Miss Adventure had enough. She began throwing anything she could find inside the pantry at the beetle. Jars of strange liquids and fermented staples shattered against the fiery insect. A jar full of yellow, foul smelling goo hit it square in the face. It stopped, shaking its head. The kobolds were prodding it from behind with spears.
Then, Miss Adventure hurled a mason jar of blue paste. BOOM! The shockwave knocked all four of the party down. The hall was full of stunned and dead kobolds, and a very charred, smoking beetle.
Laramine and Nemon charged forward stabbing the living kobolds that were too stunned to fight back.
Singed and a bit wobbly from the explosion, they headed down the hallway where the beetle had come from, ladened with whatever they could carry from the kobold "pantry".
The corridor ended in an open door. The doorway opened into a large hall. Furs and sleeping mats covered the floor around the edges, against the walls. There was a raised platform. On it sat a throne, and on it a large kobold. Well, large for a kobold. Standing, he probably didn't reach Laramine's belt.
Behind the kobold king, a dozen warriors stood, ready to attack. They hissed and barked, gripping their weapons, shooting glances at their sovereign, waiting for the order to charge the interlopers. The king stood raising a great mace. He tapped it on the floor and the mace's head exploded into blue flame.
All four party members uttered the same words at the same time.
"I want one of those."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bugs and Burns

The head cook died first, an arrow from Gildrid between her eyes. She dropped silently, falling forward into her great cauldron. The other kobolds didn't seem to notice right away. The party, now down to four crept into the immense kitchen. There was a crash. Frightened, a kobold carrying a tall stack of plates had spotted the party and dropped the stack in a panic. Alarm spread through the steaming kitchen. Barks and hisses of alarm mixed with dying screams as the party began hacking their way through a flood of tiny attackers. None were spared, even the kobold youths. Laramine booted one across the room when it came at him with a huge cleaver in it's tiny hands.
One kobold, however, managed to escape the carnage and ran through a doorway in the back of the kitchen. It's howling alarm echoed down the hallway. The party, covered in black Kobold blood, collected themselves, and followed.
A short hallway led to a large hall. The ceiling was high for the diminutive koblods, but normal height for a Man. From all the tables scattered around, it seemed to be a mess hall. They just caught a glimpse of the creature they were pursuing, as it disappeared down a hallway on the other side. Close to them, another hallway with low ceiling.
"That way!" Laramine said. Crouching, the Northman entered the corridor. It split into two rounded hallways, much like a tuning fork. He headed down the right. His torch illuminated a small room. It stank. The walls on three sides had low benches built into them, with holes in the seats. "Uh, a latrine."
Sure enough, at the far end, sitting alone and trying very hard not to be noticed, a male kobold sat, with his crude trousers around his ankles. It squealed as Laramine charged forward. He spitted it at the end of his great sword.
The others found a similar latrine down the other corridor, this one without an inhabitant.
The party then decided to head for the other hallway at the far end of the mess hall. It was paved with flagstones, as much of the other corridors were, with packed earthen walls. The hallway split into a "T". Yelling, and the sounds of many kobolds echoed down from the right hall. The adventurers moved the other way.
They found a small door. This one was reinforced and locked. Nemon and Laramine tried their best to bash it down, but the space was tight, and they couldn't get leverage.
"Outta my way," Miss Adventure said, shouldering her way past the men. She began fidgeting with the lock. A few moments later, a "click" came from the lock, and the door opened.
"Miss Adventure," said Nemon," why don't you put on those boots of yours and wait at the crossroads back there. If anything comes, let us know."
With that, the halfling was gone. The others took stock of the room. It was high roofed and cylindrical. Shelves packed the curved walls. The shelves were full of boxes, jars, containers and urns. "Must be some kind of kobold pantry," Laramine said to Gildrid. It was then he noticed the elf was pale. Paler than usual. The wound the spider had given Gildrid was purple again, and spreading.
"Hey Nemon, he doesn't look so good."
Some of the containers lining the shelves looked man made. Some were of kobold manufacture. There were dried herbs and food, and some things that were unidentifiable and smelled awful. Laramine and Nemon began rifling through all of them, looking for a hidden door, or a cure for their friend. Gildrid just crumbled up into a ball and drooled on himself. One of the jars crashed to the floor. It was the near comatose Gildrid that noticed the green liquid that had spilt was draining through the floor somewhere. Nemon started prying them up with his dagger. He found a small, square hole. In it was two jars. One contained a whitish paste. The other had dried mushrooms. They gave off the faint blueish light the party recognized as the fungus, that once refined, could be used as a healing potion. Nemon and Laramine contemplated given the raw mushrooms to Gildrid, but they could be poisonous in their non-refined state.
There was a rush of air.
"Here they come!" said a breathless Miss Adventure. Down the corridor they could see a bright light. Strange, for a race that lived in the dark. The light grew brighter, until they could distinguish a large shape filling most of the hallway. It was the source of the light. And the heat.
A giant beetle trudged through the tight corridor, fire squirting from it's open maw.