Friday, October 20, 2006

Dorben, entry 22 ---16th Flamerule--- Further exploration gives us good reason to hate kobolds and lizardkin

Adventure journal of Dorben Wainfoster
16th Flamerule, The Year of the Haunting

---I am finding myself continually presented this day with reason upon reason to loathe kobolds and lizardkin. They are proving to be an annoyance beyond all expectations. If I NEVER see another elaborate, deadly and/or destructive trap again in my lifetime, it will be too bloody soon! And for goodness sake, where did they get all that blasted cord and rope? It seems as if there is enough cordage strung about this floor to rig a three-masted schooner and still have enough to tie it off at the Waterdeep docks. Damnable annoying traps just everywhere. Unsporting is what it is. And if by some odd chance I ever find the place that decided to train the kobold and lizardkin monk we fought yesterday, I believe I may have to see to it personally that the place is burned to the ground and no two stones are left stacked one upon another. As if lizardkin aren’t nasty enough as they are already? Who decided the bloody monstrosities needed to be taught the disciplined fighting arts of monks? Insanity, I say!

But I get ahead of myself once again. Begin at the beginning and proceed apace from there, as they say. Firstly, Sa’d returned to our company late last evening; perhaps an hour before midnight. He took a few moments to recover his bearings considering we were camping in an all but totally dark storage room. We quickly brought him abreast of the situation as best we knew it at the time and then returned to sleep or night watch as was our wont at the time. Also during the night, while Illandria kept watch she heard some sort of snuffling at the base of the store room door perhaps two hours or so past midnight. We had made some efforts to cover our tracks and so she chose to not alert the others. Whatever creature may have been out there evidently passed along without alerting to our presence at that time.

We ventured forth cautiously from the storage room, checking for any new traps as we went. Our thought was to make our way surreptitiously up the servants’ stair at the back of G’laern’s kitchen. We hoped to make our way to Master Kelso and to bring this rescue to a more expeditious end. Stopping to listen at the kitchen door, we heard the clatter of something dropping to the floor. We rushed in and in so doing scared poor little Skippy, the kobold youngling we had set free outside the tower just yesterday. There was no mistaking that it was the same pup. Despite what the wags say, they do not all look alike. He was of course frightened nearly to death at our sudden intrusion. Either that or he thought he was going to be severely punished for having dropped the spoon with which he was stirring a pot of porridge. Perhaps the poor little fellow thought we were going to put him out the front door as we had before? We would not do that to him again. He came back to this place of his own volition, which would seem to indicate that there is something here which attracted him enough to bring him back. Perhaps even kitchen servant is preferable to his former life?

Meg spoke to the young kobold as I handed him a clean spoon and placed the dropped utensil into the scrub sink; never too early to teach the rudiments of kitchen cleanliness after all. Meg’s questioning revealed that little Skippy was making porridge for “somebody” upstairs. Thinking opportunity had presented itself, we prepared for a bit of a spy mission to the upper floors. At Nia’s urging, Bug hid itself amongst the stack of breakfast bowls and utensils lain out on a nearby tray. I stepped outside the kitchen long enough for the somatic components of a Chain of Eyes spell and then stepped back in to pat little Skippy in a reassuring manner upon his head. My intention was not only to transfer the spell focus but an actual attempt to let the little fellow know we meant him no harm. I don’t know why, but I do wish that he was not so afraid of us. He’s done nothing against us so I do not see him as an enemy at this time.

In my thoughts, as is obvious from my writings here, I have taken to referring to the young kobold as Skippy. He has yet to give us his real name and he reminds me of a halfling character from a play I saw when I was young. I need to have some way to refer to him other than “that young kobold” and to me, it just seems that the name “Skippy” fits him for some reason. Perhaps some day he will trust us enough to tell us his real name.

Nobody came from the upper floors to retrieve the porridge for the better part of a full hour. We were beginning to despair how we might keep Nia and Sa’d from doing something perhaps unwise in their boredom. Luckily enough for me, the kobold that retrieved the breakfast dishes and porridge did touch Skippy in some way and the Chain of Eyes transferred successfully. We gathered ourselves and began to follow the porridge porter up the stairs after giving him a bit of a lead. I noticed something as our quarry rounded the first landing and brought the group to a halt. The landing was divided by a hip high wall that looked a bit off. It took me a moment to figure out that it looked like smoothed clay rather than carved stone; the mark of a Stone Shape spell I believe. But that was not what prompted me to call hold. It was the tips of kobold ears and horns peeking just above the lip of that wall and the quintet of siege crossbows mounted to the top.

Crouching on the stairs, we took a few moments to consider a plan of attack. Sa’d and I were about to cloak the landing in a Silence spell when we heard Nia mutter something impatiently under her breath and charge up the stairs. As I mentioned before, there is danger to be found in the boredom of swashbucklers, halflings and little children. Nia paid for her impatience with several ounces of blood and skin when one of those damnably lethal siege bolts deeply creased her right side. I believe she had been planning on leaping the wall to flank the kobolds. We soon found out that it was perhaps a lucky thing that she was brought up short. Those damnably clever kobolds had set spikes into the floor just behind their position and the blasted things were also smeared with a viscous substance. I never did find time for any kind of a proper test. I can only assume from experience with other traps put together by this lot that the substance was some sort of poison.

Even though it hampered spellcasting and communication, Sa’d and I agreed that it would be best if he cast a Silence spell to keep the noise of combat from being detected on the upper floors. During our camping last evening I had prepared several sachets of an acid counteragent from torn linens and other supplies from the supply closets and had Sa’d cast upon that. It seemed wise to cast upon a focus object that would remain where dropped; which was at the base of the kobolds’ wall in this case, as soon as I made my way up to the landing. I had little chance to participate in the fight in actuality. Between Aedron, Nia and Illandria, the kobolds stood little chance. Aedron split the last loaded siege crossbow in half with his axe and the few remaining kobolds seemed little willing to face us in melee. The last two kobolds made good their escape by way of the door leading to the grand stair landing.

The last kobold leaving the guard post landing forcefully pulled open a nearby closet door, making a muffled but audible snap. Thought of chasing those kobolds were short lived as there was still no discernable way for us to traverse that spider web of trip wires. We had been brought to a halt once again. Each of our troop went about their tasks, investigating the fallen kobolds and the landing itself; Sa’d and Aedron paying special attention to the landing tripwires and the aforementioned closet. My own tasks brought me to handling the fallen kobolds. I found the most astonishing thing. The first kobold that Illandria had taken down with a single shot to the head had quite an interesting wound. The wound entered almost directly between the eyes and completely traversed the head, fore to aft, punching a wound track the width of three fingers straight through the very strongest points of the skull bones. As if that were not enough, Illandria pointed out that she was certain that the arrow she had used for that shot had not depleted the supply in her quiver in the least. She seemed perhaps unsure but it seemed to her almost as if her arrow had turned to a form similar to force magic just as it left the bow string. Interesting.

The investigation of the tripwires revealed that there was indeed a path but it would not accommodate any but kobold size travelers. Having figured out the pattern of the tripwire path, Sa’d set out to attempt to follow the kobolds. He found that the halls going off to either side from the grand landing had been modified, again to accommodate only kobold sized passage easily. At some point near the hallways’ entrance Sa’d’s attempt to bypass the tripwires apparently failed terribly. We had closed the door to the landing as Sa’d left and we heard something of a muffled explosion from the other side at that point. Sa’d did not seem hurt much from the initial conflagration and did not seem perturbed at the poisonous gas that lingered nor the acidic goo that covered the landing. He continued his investigations for a short time and then returned to us.

The closet from whence the snapping sound had emanated proved to be crisscrossed every which way with ropes. Sa’d pointed out where a hole went up through the closet ceiling and explained that he was certain that a rope had only recently extended through that hole. He was sure that somewhere a rather largish trap had just been set. We moved cautiously up the servant’s stair and soon found ourselves stopped gain. A door had been installed perhaps halfway up the next rise; workmanship obviously not original to the tower. Sa’d poked about a bit and found two things of interest: there was no doorknob on our side and he believed he had found the location of the trap set from the closet. He was fairly certain from the design of the trigger on this door that the trap would drop a very large block of stone against the other side of the door, effectively sealing it all but permanently.

Finding ourselves at an impasse, we retreated to the guarded landing to attempt a different path. The door opposite the stairs on the guarded landing was our next option. We quickly descended to the kitchen and storage rooms below for several pots and planks so that we might traverse the spiked floor. Traversing the halls, we could see that the poisonous gas cloud from above was very slowly descending through the halls. On our way back through G’laern’s kitchen I took a few moments to secure it against the gas through the simple expedience of stuffing wetted towels at the base of the door. I also laid hold of little Skippy and set him back up in his high cupboard. I do hope he will be alright after this all is over.

This entire time, less than half an hour actually, the enemy upstairs had taken no apparent notice of our current activities. I took a peek through my Chain spell and spied a small dining room of kobolds choking down porridge with looks that obviously said that they did NOT like this breakfast. It was only at that point that it occurred to me how easy it would have been to add our own little something to that breakfast dish. A sleeping drug of some type perhaps? I believe I might have been able to knock something together from my alchemical supplies if I hadn’t been a thick skulled idiot. I kicked myself mentally, quite hard. Such a perfect opportunity and we let it slip from our fingers. We will hopefully learn from this.

While several of us had been busily gathering pots and planks, Sa’d had been taking another look at the remains of the grand stair landing. He did not seem terribly concerned about the cloying gas for some reason. I believe insanity is my preliminary diagnosis. Seeing no gas fumes coming from beneath the landing door, I thought to check on Sa’d. I accidentally breathed in a bit of the gas and I am still somewhat weak from its effects. I quickly closed that blasted door of course. By all that is holy, may Our Silver Lady save me from the curiosity of halflings, rogues and Tymorans! And, of course, Sa’d is all of those things and then some. But he is a good companion and usually quite useful in his skills.

Sa’d had found several large jars still suspended from the ceiling over the grand landing. He was apparently able to lower them to the landing and moved them near the arrow loop pierced outer wall. His investigation evidently included shoving one of the jars over to spill its contents. He later told us that he thought the jars might have contained a counteragent for the acidic goo. This was not the case. The fluid in the jar interacted with the goo to make a VERY powerful acid. The amount Sa’d tipped from the one jar ate a sizeable hole through the stone floor of the landing. When Sa’d rejoined us a bit later, he related that he had climbed out one of the arrow loops to escape the fumes released. We all shuddered to think what the result might have been if those jars had released in their original configuration. They would have smashed above the floor in such a way that the secondary agent would have spread over most of the landing. One shudders to think the effect if any of us were present for such an occurrence.

Our impromptu bridge of pots and planks allowed us to successfully traverse the poison spikes. The door at the back of the landing was locked but we quickly found the correct key on the key ring we had liberated yesterday. I shall have to remember to thank G’laern for allowing us to retain possession of the key ring seeing as how he would have been within his rights to demand their return. The door led to a room of empty storage shelves with another door on the far side which again yielded to our keys. The next room was clearly a bathing chamber and we figured the room we had just left most likely a now empty storage for towels and other sundries. The bathing room had a fairly standard layout with a cool pool on one side and on the other a pool outfitted with receptacles for hot coals to warm the water. Our initial approach to the pools was cautious, taking into consideration the fact that lizardkin are just this side of amphibious. We found no sign of either lizardkin or kobold in the pools however.

We took a few moments to consider our options after Sa’d rejoined us from the far door of the bathing chamber. His desire for exploration brought him to us through the hallway rather than our path and he related that the hallway was modified to kobold size for its entire circumference as far as he could tell. We thought there most likely to be a common stair to the upper floors that we had yet to find since the stair we had been ascending was obviously, as mentioned before, a servants’ way. Since we had not found this second stairway, we thought that perhaps we might be able to goad the kobolds into coming down to us. If they had to disable the drop-stone trap for their own passage then perhaps we could win our way through. Or perhaps they might drop the stone on themselves by mistake and therefore improve our odds?

With thoughts of drawing the kobolds’ attention, Nia communicated with Bug, informing him that we were carving a small slot at the base of the stair door big enough for it to slip through. Personal note once again: remember to return the most excellent wood chisel to the storage room after we have finished our business here. Following our preparations, Bug made his presence known to the kobold dining hall. I watched the incident through my Chain of Eyes connection. It was quite the chase as far as I could see. Unfortunately, they were able to catch little Bug and force it into a small wooden box. I was able to transfer the Chain of Eyes focus to one of the kobolds in possession of the box so we might find where they took Bug.

I believe there were only two that took the box a bit further upstairs to what appeared to be an office. They presented the box to a largish lizardkin there who seemed to be their immediate supervisor if not their actual commander. There was a good deal of gesturing and I could see the mouth of the other kobold working away, presumably describing the invasion of their breakfast by an animated lump of quartz rock. At this point Bug was “playing dead” quite convincingly. I am no great judge of reptilian facial expressions but I do believe the look that crossed this lizardman’s face could be liberally translated as “Why are you yanking my tail with this idiotic joke of yours?” or something similar. They were apparently unable to convince the lizardman and he simply waved them on their way.

The kobolds returned to the lower room, opened the box again and began poking and prodding Bug. Nia was terribly concerned for her little companion and I kept her informed of the situation so that she could tell Bug to run when he had the chance. The kobolds holding the box turned to look as a lizardman entered their room. This was an opportune time for Bug to run and at Nia’s signal he did. This new lizardman seemed to me to have a look about it similar to that of the Psion we had fought yesterday. The Psion apparently used some mind power to blast at Bug but he got away to us nonetheless; the little chiseled passage at the base of the door was just the right size.

The spell on the kobold showed me that the whole group did begin to pursue Bug down the stairs. We readied to either press the attack up the stairs or retreat through the bath chamber. The lizard Psion stopped them just as they came to the door on the stairs. It seemed they had noticed the set trap. The lizardkin soon had the kobolds running about and bringing equipment to the stairs. Block and tackle and loads of rope soon appeared and it was apparent that they were about to reset the stone block trap so they might pass freely. We thought our plan was going quite well until the kobolds showed up with their balls. Large spheres of ceramic I would guess, each the height of a tallish kobold. From their apparent mass, the plug at one end and the almost panicked expression on the lizardman’s face when the spheres were rolled up it seemed that these spheres were filled with something nasty. And as the spheres were rolled into position at the top of the stairs it seemed equally obvious that they intended to roll said spheres down upon our heads. Not this time you scaly bastards.

Not wishing to find out what could be within those ceramic balls that could cause fear in that lot of homicidal batrachians; we have pulled back to the bathing chamber. Sa’d and Aedron rigged several of the siege crossbows as a little surprise for when the kobolds open that door. As I understand it, if the siege bows are sited correctly, the bolts should pass right over the kobolds’ heads when the door is opened and impact those spheres before they can be rolled down the stairs. Hopefully we will be able to give this invading force a bit of a taste of their own nasty medicine. I have faith in Sa’d and Aedron’s trap building skills. They tell me that this is really little more than a modified hunting snare really.

To lighten the mood, we have been joking about “shooting the kobolds’ in their balls” and other vulgar ergot of the like. Jokes worthy of the very best dockside I am sure, but it does help somewhat. The truth is that our situation is dire. We are facing a force of superior numbers on ground with which they are familiar and we are not and that they have had time to prepare to suit them. A bit of “gallows humor” here and there helps us get through this with our hides and good nature intact.

Sa’d has become bored once again and gone exploring the halls. This would not be nearly as risky if the rest of our troop could accompany him, which we can’t do at all effectively because of the kobolds’ modifications. It is quite hard to fight effectively while crawling about on one’s knees. Perhaps we will get lucky and Sa’d will discover the common stairs to the upper floors. Meanwhile, we sit and wait a bit longer. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

*****

Addendum, 16th Flamerule, The Year of the Haunting

---Well, my further writing has occurred perhaps sooner than I had anticipated. There have been developments severe enough that I feel I must transcribe it into my journal.

Sa’d did indeed locate the common stair to the upper floor. The entrance had been camouflaged by the kobolds and of course, trapped as well. It was the trap that caused him some concern. From his examination he surmised that the trap would discharge small glass darts loaded with an unknown substance. Most likely poison although we have again had no chance for further tests. Sa’d returned to inform us of his discovery and assured us that he believe he could attenuate the triggering device enough that the rest of us could pass by as long as we were very careful. Considering that a large number of the kobold forces seemed to be busy with resetting the giant stone drop trap on the other side of the tower, it seemed an opportune time. We made our way through the shortened halls, most of us on our knees and Aedron virtually slithering on his belly, and Sa’d successfully got us past the trap.

We entered a double stair that quickly split into two more narrow stairways going in directly opposing directions. Unfortunately our entrance to the common stair had not gone unnoticed. Actually it seemed that it had been anticipated. It took only a moment’s consideration to remember the two kobolds that had escaped our attack upon the stair landing guard post. Since the four lizardkin who braced us upon our entry to the double stair seemed to have been awaiting our arrival, it seemed obvious that those kobolds had raised the alarm in this quadrant.

The ensuing fight was quite bloody and intense but also quite revealing. We were faced on the right by a lizardman almost as large as Aedron, armored in full plate and large shield, with claws sheathed in glittering metal. Again I say, who decided to make these bloody damned reptilian juggernauts even more lethal? Behind Mr. Full Plate was a lizardkin wearing little in the way of armor. He soon revealed himself as a Psion and was quickly struck down for his efforts. Upon our other flank was another pair of lizardkin. The closest lightly armored and the one behind him apparently wearing no armor beyond its own thick skin. We soon surmised that the lightly armored one was a Cleric of some stripe. His unarmored companion was quickly revealed to be a Monk when he threw several shuriken at Aedron. Really, who else uses those little throwing stars but monks and Mystrans? And this scaly bastard showed no sign of the Magic Mistress’ favor about him.

Aedron made short work of the Mr. Plate and the archers pin cushioned Mr. Psion quite quickly as well. It was the first shot to strike Mr. Psion which was so insightful into our knowledge of the abilities of the gifts given to us upon our return to life. The Psion was afforded some amount of cover from his armored companion and Aedron blocking our archers’ view. However, Illandria’s shot passed right through all possible cover and struck the Psion a telling blow. We were soon to find that all of us enjoyed this same magical ability. The most telling demonstration of this was a sweeping blow from Aedron’s axe that passed right through the corner of a wall that might have otherwise checked his swing.

The fight verged on tedium and possible lethality for one or more of our number when Mr. Unholy and Mr. Shuriken were able to trade positions upon the stairs. That thrice damned scaly monk fought like a dervish and was irritatingly difficult to strike in return. And his blasted cleric companion kept healing whatever wounds Aedron was lucky enough to deal him. I had cast a Bull’s Strength upon Aedron at the beginning of the fight and he had gone into a battle rage soon after, making him quite effective in the ensuing brawl. However, that blood rage of his makes him careless with his own safety and Mr. Shuriken was tearing into him quite easily. All of us who could engage the monk in melee made all efforts to draw his attention whenever he tried to hit Aedron. Illandria and Meg put every shot they could into the scaly cleric. I am sure he was quite surprised when their shots passed THROUGH the corner of the wall he was using for cover. The monk was finally brought low and we breathed a short sigh of relief.

At the apex of both stairs we found doors of iron. Again, these did not appear to be part of the original construction of the tower. And again, we found no doorknob on our side of the doors. Thinking the simplest expedient might work, Nia simply knocked. Her knock was answered from the other side and Meg translated. It seemed the hissing voice had asked for the color of some god’s eyes. I racked my brain but could not for the life of my recall the color of the eyes of any of the lizardkin gods. Aren’t all reptilian eyes some shade of green? I shall have to look into this further.

Sa’d and Aedron are attempting to see if they might be able to open the door on the other stair. We have already examined the bodies of the fallen lizardkin for any useful information or objects. There was another development during this short pause in the action. We detected a slight tremor and heard the sound of an explosion in the distance. I thought to check through my Chain of Eyes focus and found nothing. The kobold that had been carrying the other end of my spell was simply not there any longer. We quickly concluded that the kobolds must have had something even more volatile than we had first thought in those ceramic spheres. I wonder if they damaged the tower itself. We must press on soon. By my Lady’s grace, I shall write again soon.

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