The Dragon's Demand

Into the Wizard's Manor
Sofie's Journal

Starday, 25 Pharast, 4723

I have never been happier to take a bath than I was today. Aldern's magics were handy in the kobold tunnels, even if they tickled, but nothing gives you than deep clean feeling like a nice cold bath. When I closed my eyes, it almost felt like I was floating in the sea off Dragon Claw Point. Then I opened them and I was still in Belhaim.

With Chief Roaghaz dead and the surviving kobolds following Nighttail deeper into the forest, we trekked back to town. On the way, we agreed not to meet with the baroness until tomorrow, after we've cleaned up and recovered. We also agreed not to investigate the wizard's manor until after speaking to her. For some reason everyone thought this was my idea, but it's just common sense.

Talia, the proprietress of the Wise Piper Inn, had drinks and baths quickly drawn for us. She has been a most attentive and gracious host. Once I was convinced that the slurk slime, kobold viscera, and other assorted pollutants had been thoroughly cleansed from me, I ran some errands around town.

The town's only leather worker is abusing his monopoly power to inflict his sense of "humor" on the town. I must be cautious when I see him next. Pranks aside, he does good work and I have commissioned him to make a scabbard for my new longsword. Ordinarily I would not go to such lengths, but I have the spare coin and a matching scabbard would be most elegant. If I am to be dealing with the baroness and Aldern and others of refined taste, I must dress appropriately.

The town blacksmith is a half-orc with a gruff manner and a stubborn persistence in trying to press more wares upon me than necessary. We had a brief cultural exchange about ax handling and nautical terminology, and I unfortunately had to put my foot down to walk away with just two throwing axes and a chain shirt. I honestly wish these weren't necessary, but it is clear that even more dangerous creatures than kobolds are lurking in the vicinity of the village. If I am to continue my research here, I must be well-armed and protected. I haven't worn ring mail since my shield maiden training four years ago. 

My final errand was to the local temple. There are actually two in town, an Abadarian temple and one to the goddess Shelyn. Having had my fill of paperwork at the university, I visited the Shelynites to inquire about putting to rest the bones of the haunted souls we encountered beneath the Witch Tower. The priest was most helpful and we jointly commended their remains to the earth. Afterwords, the red-headed cleric offered to discuss theological traditions with me—but it seemed like he was asking for a more "intimate" conversation than I was comfortable with. I had to quickly make my farewells. Though I do wonder if I should have stayed a little longer…

Unless he was purchasing supplies off other guests, Tagnus must have left the inn at some point. But when I returned he was seated at the same place when I'd left, just with more empty mugs and plates in front of him, and a bundle of new gear beside him.

Knives and Aldern had already found a table and were saving seats for the rest of us. I summarized my visit at the temple and we enjoyed more of Talia's delicious food. I didn't realize how hungry I was until then and ate like a starving wolf.

Sleep beckons to me now, so I must conclude here for the night. It is so good to be resting in a soft bed once more.

Sunday, 26 Pharast, 4723

I killed a magic bear by driving a sword up it's ass. And I suspect that will be far from the strangest thing to happen today as we explore the wizard's manor. But I get ahead of myself.

I had a troubled sleep last night, the same nightmares that followed me from Absalom, now with new details from my latest episodes. I went for a run to clear my head, followed by a dip in the river. The cold water did me good.

When I returned for breakfast, I found Aldern concerned about his owl Yuki. She had not returned in the night and he intended to search for her at the Malak Dairy. I was ready to go with him when Knives announced she intended to meet with the baroness about our payment. Knives may be a gifted merchant, but she is common born and a half-orc at that. I've seen how these southern nobles behave and I wanted to make sure our party was treated with respect. So I reluctantly tagged along to the Devy estate.

The baroness was cordial, and paid us our promised reward. She was very pleased that the kobolds had been ejected from the quarry, but learning about the dragon scales and the kobolds' worship of Aeteperax clearly shook her. I asked if there was more information available on the dead dragon, and was directed back to the temple of Shelyn. Oh, joy.

The baroness also told us that with Balthus Hunclay confirmed dead, his manor and worldly possessions pass to a distant cousin, who plans to auction them off. First, though, the manor's numerous traps and hazards need to be disabled and Hunclay's possessions cataloged. The baroness asked us to undertake the task of deactivating the traps and identifying Hunclay's magic items. For this, she would pay us 5,000gp. However, we would all be bound by contract not to take any items from the manor. The baroness would not back down on this point and despite Knives' misgivings we accepted.

On the walk back to the inn, I spoke with Knives about contracts, fringe benefits, and the importance of not being greedy. I felt that we grew closer as friends after that exchange.

At the inn, we reunited with Aldern, Tagnus, and Lennox. They had been down to the dairy, where Yuki had safely guided the freed slaves. Bophre's family had provided a reward, but the two traveling merchants had little to offer but their thanks. I trekked out to the dairy myself and gave the couple half my share of the baroness' rewards,to help them rebuild their lives. I also paid my best wishes to Bophre and learned that Aldern had seen her, privately, just a while earlier. She is still wearied from her experience, but seems to be recovering well.

Back in town, I commiserated with Lennox and Knives about the half-orc blacksmith's gruff attitude.

With little else to do, the five of us headed for Hunclay's manor, just a few spear-throws away from the ruined Witch Tower. The two idiot guards outside had failed to dispose of the dead kobold on the doorstep. The kobold, thankfully, had set off the door trap and we were able to access the manor with the wizard's key. The door opened into a lushly furnished living room with many fine rugs and a cage of exotic birds.

From the doorway, Knives and Lennox scanned the room to look for any "surprises" the paranoid Hunclay might have left behind. Once they determined it was safe, they entered—and promptly fell into a pit trap. Fortunately, the fall only gave them some scrapes and bruises. We moved more cautiously from then on, with Aldern using his wizard skills to help search for magical traps.

I couldn't help but check on the poor birds. It looked like they hadn't been fed in days. There was no bird seed nearby, so I just plucked some crumbs from Tagnus' beard and gave them that. 

After searching some well-furnished but otherwise empty rooms, we arrived at the kitchen. There was an alcove with sleeping space for two servants, which lay abandoned. I found some bird seed in the pantry and returned to feed the birds. Aldern detected a magical aura emanating from a gem around the the ankle of one of them, so Tagnus and I gently retrieved it.

The last door in the kitchen appeared to have been barricaded shut from the other side. Tagnus had purchased a portable ram the other day, and with that we were able to force the door open. Inside we found a terrified man named Mathezic, one of the wizard's servants. He confirmed that Hunclay met with kobolds before disappearing. Apparently the staff have been trapped in the manor ever since, too terrified of the wizard's traps to stray far. The two other servants left, perhaps going elsewhere in the building. Mathezic's knowledge of the tower was limited, but he was able to warn us of some of the traps. After escorting the jittery man to the door, we scaled the stair case to the second floor.

It turns out that the wizard has an impressive library of astronomical lore, all of it shelved on display. He also has an interest in taxidermy as evidenced by the large female Verduran grizzly bear (Ursus Arctos Verduricus) posed upright in the chamber. Knives unlocked the door to Hunclay's bedroom, but I had to stop her before she could enter so that Aldern could scan the room with his magic. Sure enough, there was a magic trap on the room which would conjure up another grizzly if anyone entered.

When it was clear we had no means of disabling the trap, I volunteered to set it off but Tagnus beat me to the door. The dwarf has picked up a huge wooden tower shield, and though he is quite clumsy with it, the shield proved sufficient to protect him. The bear skin rug in the bedroom animated into some sort of corrupted Verduran grizzly, which clawed at Tagnus' barricade to not effect. I used the dwarf's broad shoulders as a springboard to leap over the beast, but caught my foot on a bedpost and ended up face down behind it. Lennox harpooned it with an arrow, Knives stuck it with her daggers, and Aldern blasted it with his magic. Then I lunged up from the floor to jab it with my sword, destroying the conjured creature.

Scouring the bedroom, we found the wizard's treasure. Most of it will still be there for the baroness' auditors to count. We also found a strange scrap of paper on his desk, with an incredibly bawdy and vulgar set of limericks. I immediately found this suspicious—wizards can be as lecherous as anyone else, but as academics their tastes run towards classier forms of erotica. Or so I've been told. Knives disagreed, but Aldern was able to confirm that the limericks were some sort of illusion, which could be deactivated with a code word.

The answer lay in the next room. The lock was warded with magic, so I just cut the door down. Inside was a wizard's laboratory, where we found alchemical devices, potions, and Hunclay's set of spellbooks. Aldern found a spell called Secret Note, which had code words scrawled in the margins. "Aucturn," "Eox," and "Carcosa" were all crossed out, so we spoke "Dominion" aloud to dispel the illusion. (Aucturn and Eox are both planets in the heavens, appropriate given Hunclay's interests, but this Carcosa I only recall as a city of ill-repute on another plane.)

We spoke the last code word, "Dominion," aloud to dispel the illusion. The note is a to do list, including Hunclay's meeting with "A's kobolds" and something about a "Dominion." "A" most likely means Aeteperax, which is concerning. What this "Dominion" is, I don't know.

Aldern practically dived into the spellbooks, and he's still poring over them, scribbling notes into his own book. His elegant eyebrows are furrowed in concentration more fervent than any any he displayed in the kobold clanhold.. I think he may be some time at this, so I'm going to take a look at this library. Perhaps I can find out more about Aeteperax and the "Dominion."

We still have the third floor and the cellar (which Mathizec warns is trapped) before we can be done with this place.

View
Reckoning with Roaghaz
Sofie's Journal

Starday, 25 Pharast, 4723

I beat the kobold chieftain with my staff until it shattered over his ruined skull. I've had that staff for a month, since I landed in Taldor. It was to accompany me on my scholarly expedition into the Verduran Forest. Now it's just another victim of my beserker episodes. But I get ahead of myself.

We awoke in the kobold caverns where we'd pursued the Witch Tower saboteurs yesterday. We left Nighttail to watch over the prisoners, then cautiously descended to the floor below. Knives led the way thanks to her darkvision. Aldern cast his light spell on my signal whistle, so it could be tucked into my tunic to dim the light. A large stone pillar shielded us from sight in the chamber beyond. Knives crept around the corner and spied two kobolds and a pair of animated human skeletons by a profane altar. They seemed to be expecting us, but we had the drop on them.

At least until Aldern poked his head around the corner and complained how "tacky" their demon altar was. What is wrong with that wizard!

Tagnus and Lennox made short work of the skeletons and soon it was just the lone kobold priestess left. Her fell magic was strong, but not strong enough. Strange, though. When she was slain, her body vanished from her robes as if it had been summoned to join its master in the Abyss.

Knives and Lennox then scouted the corridor and disabled an ingenious oil trap, recovering several bottles of alchemist's fire. I have trouble imagining these foolish kobolds successfully concocting alchemical potions, but they have shown a certain raw cunning.

Our friends' scouting attracted the attention of a guard slurk (Odobenus Bufo) and some kobolds protecting the egg chamber. Knives and I had a firsthand experience with their slime spray, which was more odoriferous than the texts had described. The sensation of being coated in sticky, viscous slime and then feeling it harden into resin is one I'd rather not encounter again. I was later able to go back and examine the creature's body afterward and discovered some fascinating signs of how kobold domestication has impacted this breed compared to the wild versions that Voadys encountered.

Anyway, after we killed the creature and the guards, we realized that we had captured the tribe's eggs. I proposed we use them as leverage to force the remaining kobolds to surrender—with one exception. We all agreed that Chief Roaghaz, the architect of Belhaim's woe, deserved only death. Aldern picked up one of the eggs to emphasize our point.

The clan's great hall was empty, save for two guards at the far end protecting access to the chief's area, which was separated from the rest of the hall by two boulders. Knives crept inside and dispatched one of the guards, while Lennox short down the other. Roaghaz was alerted however, and as the red beserker mists closed around my vision, I held up my nithing staff and called out a challenge. Roaghaz responded in kind and his followers, though rattled, refused to surrender.

My memory of the battle is spotty. I know that the kobold chief summoned up an enormous spider web that filled the great hall and made reaching him challenging. Especially for Tagnus, whose beard kept getting tangled. Knives and I cornered Roaghaz, but he used a cheap sorcerous trick to conjure up mirror duplicates that made it hard to strike true against him. There were other kobolds, too. I think Lennox killed one. Aldern was trapped on the other side of the web and had to slowly burn his way through.

The kobold chief had this nasty wand that battered Knives and myself again and again with missiles of magic energy—similar to Aldern's magick I believe, but in a less attractive color. Only my berserk adrenaline kept me upright, but I delivered the final blow, breaking my nithing staff over Roaghaz's head. 

While I recovered from the ordeal, the last kobold surrendered. We handed him over to Nighttail and gave her control of the eggs. She scrawled "Aldern" on the one that he had carried. We plundered the chief's gear and discovered a treasure chest which contained several dragon scales: an ancient, enormous black one and several smaller, fresher green ones. Aeteperax, the tribe's "god," was said to be a black dragon, so the green scales are unexpected. A new mystery?

It will have to wait. We have a long trek ahead of us back to Belhaim, where I am in definite need of a bath.

View
Making a Splash
Sofie's Journal

Fireday, 24 Pharast, 4723

Magic can dry out my clothes, but it can't banish the stink of smoke from them. That was my final lesson of this long and strange day.

Following my last entry, we had descended to the second level of the kobold lair and arrive at their frog breeding chamber. Among the tadpole pools, Lennox found an old key ring with keys in the shape of a lion, a crane, and a bear. Another mystery to investigate, I suppose.

Beyond, Knives found a sloping tunnel strewn with rubble to make it hard to traverse without slipping and falling into the murky pool in the cavern below. Somehow, her half-orc eyes were able to pick out dark shapes moving in the water. We used one of the kobold spears to rig up an anchor for a rope.

During this time, I also asked our new ally Nighttail what the kobold chieftain's name is. It seems that Chief Roaghaz is the architect of the troubles the kobolds have visited upon Belhaim. With his name revealed, I began carving the skaldic runes into my staff to turn it into a makeshift nithing pole.

Once the rope was secured, Knives descended down the tunnel into the cold, damp pool chamber. She was immediately set upon by two kobolds, who dodged her blades and used miniature guisarmes to hook her into the water. It seems the pool was host to three giant snapping turtles (Chelydra Serpentina Gigantus), which are of course very aggressive and territorial. With Knives in danger, Tagnus tumbled down the slope and landed in the pool like shot from a catapult. Matters escalated from there, and I ended up slipping and soaking myself for the second time today.

By the time I killed the last turtle, one of the kobolds had been Knivesed and the other was fleeing down the rightmost passage. Our only light source, Aldern, was still pulling his poor cloak free from the dead turtle's jaws, but Lennox set off running after the kobold. So of course I had to join her, with Aldern stumbling after me. I repeatedly demanded that the kobold surrender, but instead it led us on a merry chase, always on the edge of our vision. After it vanished entirely from sight, I heard it open a creaking door.

Lennox was the first to discover what had been released: mutated dire rats, larger and more vicious than the ones we faced above. Some of them went after our other companions, who were approaching from the opposite tunnel, while the rest came at us. Aldern transferred his light spell to me to draw their attention, though he could have found a more appropriate way to do so. I drew the creatures out, while Lennox hung back to snipe at them. Fortunately, we were able to lay them low without getting bitten. With the rats splatted, we were able to regroup with Knives and Tagnus, who had managed fine on their own thanks to their darkvision.

We eventually discerned the direction the fleeing kobold had gone. Unfortunately, Tagnus discovered it was a fortified chokepoint where the kobolds had lain an ambush. Rather than try to breach the defenses, the wily dwarf suggested using the hunter's strategy of smoking them out using straw from the dire rat nest. We built up quite a pile of hay and set it alight. Aldern was gracious enough to lend us the use of his tattered cloak to fan the flames and waft the smoke down towards the kobolds. It took a few minutes, but eventually they were provoked into attacking Lennox traded arrows with them briefly. Then Aldern doused the fire with a spell and we charged in as the smoke cleared.

The kobold runner managed to vanish down a hole deeper into the caverns, and several other kobolds were slain. We moved to cut off their escape route and the remainder decided to accept my demands that they surrender. One of them, Snorkel, has proven quite affectionate. Before placing our captives in Nighttail's custody, we questioned them about what lay beyond in the third level of the complex. Apparently a third of the tribe is still down there, along with a new shaman and Chief Roaghaz, who is apparently a mage of some sort.

This prompted Knives to explain that while we were separated, she came across a dying kobold shaman who claimed to have prophesied the tribe's doom. The creature warned of Roaghaz's impetuousness, and also warned of the tribe's new god, Aeteperax.

Aldern recalls that the "god" bears the name of a legendary dragon that once dwelt in this region, but was believed slain long ago. We speculate whether the tribe is worshiping a ghost or something else. The captives say that none have seen the new god — who is really "new-ish" as worship began years ago — but that it demands that the tribe make offerings of crude crafts lest it devour them (a threat that appears to be common for their gods).

After our tiring slog through the Witch Tower dungeons and two levels of a kobold hold, we decide it's time to rest before we go any further. We set up some barricades around the hole to the third level and post a guard, with the aim of turning the chokepoint against the tribe. Tagnus began carving and cooking the giant turtles. He ate most of them, but I'm still already sick of turtle meat. The fire did breathe some warmth into this damp chamber, and Aldern's prestidigitation dried out our clothes.

Oh, before we settled in, we also found and plundered the kobold armory. There were few weapons sized for our hands, but they did have an old cold iron longsword, castle-forged and still sharp. As the most qualified swordswoman, I laid claim to it for now, though it rides uneasily at my hip. And not just because it lacks a scabbard.

I haven't worn a shieldmaiden's weapon in three years, and with good reason. I am a scholar, not a warrior. Even all the blood spilled today by my hand does not change that. So much blood.

I must sleep. A night's rest, even in this deep dark place, will do me good. As long as my dreams don't drive me berserk.

View
Extreme Diplomacy
Sofie's Journal

Fireday, 24 Pharast, 4723

Two berserker episodes in the same day. It's been months since I was this unstable. This whole expedition is stirring up the worst in me. But with innocents in danger, what choice do I have but to press on? I cannot let my companions down. But I must not also put them at greater risk.

When I last left off, we had barged into the kobold clan hold and had just heard a strange rustling noise. The sound turned out to be five Greater Southern Verduran Dire Rats (Rattus Meridionali Dira Verduricus Maiora) whose nest we had blundered into. We dispatched the vermin, but Tagnus and I were potentially exposed to the filth fever they are known to carry. I will have to consult a healer back in town for this and other injuries. Tagnus summoned a few more of those good berries to cure our immediate wounds.

The creatures were fewer in number for a nest of that size, and seemed half-starved. Since dire rats are raised by kobolds as a combination guard animal and food source, I speculated that trouble with their food supply might have explained their incursion into the Witch Tower. How wrong I was.

After Aldern used his prestidigitation to cleanse the rat guts from us—and also kindly dry out my soggy clothes—we proceeded to the next chamber. It held a deep hole that tapped into the flooded quarry and served the tribe as a well. The room also held two tunnels, one from which we we heard shuffling sounds. Kobold tracks and stranger, larger footprints led to that room. But the more recently and intensely used tunnel led south. Lennox and Knives scouted that one, finding a large vaulted chamber with a fire and two kobolds standing guard. 

I suggested we negotiate, and Tagnus "volunteered" me. Thankfully, Knives agreed to accompany me, with the plan that I whisper the message to her, and she use her mercantile speaking skills to parlay with the kobolds. Lennox stuck to the shadows and took up a sniper position to cover us.

Knives was less diplomatic than I would have preferred, but she successfully read the kobolds' true treacherous intentions to lure us into a trap. Thanks to her ultimatum, the kobolds were provoked into striking early. There were not two guards, but ten waiting for us, many of them perched atop tall boulders with their slings at the ready. Had I done the negotiating alone, I would have led use right into the kill zone.

I was so furious at their phony negotiations that I had another episode. I can only remember fragments through the red haze. I recall shouting something ludicrous and charging the nearest pair of kobolds. Lennox kept loosing arrows at the creatures, killing many, while Knives got up close with her, well, knives. I think we worked together against some of the kobolds. Tagnus cast some sort of druid spell that summoned grasping roots into one side of the room, entangling several kobolds. He tried attacking them with his fists, but had trouble reaching the ones on the boulders. Aldern used magic to kill one of the creatures, then hung back out of the fight. I recall him laughing at Knives at one point.

There was a moment at the end of the battle when I confused my allies for more kobolds, but thankfully the red haze cleared from my vision before I could act. I spent a minute sitting amid the gore of a kobold bashed in by my staff, just trying to recover from the battle madness. Aldern's prestidigitation was again put to good use on myself, Tagnus, and Knives. I was very distraught that there could be no peaceful resolution to this business. 

Knives and Lennox continued scouting down the more heavily trafficked tunnel and found a side passage. Lennox spotted the hidden pit trap, which we carefully triggered and then moved on. We eventually found a room with a mound of excrement heaped in its center. Atop the shit pile was a leather pack which Lennox insisted on recovering over Knives' objections. 

In an adjacent alcove, we found an imprisoned kobold, who calls herself Nighttail. She is surprisingly well-spoken and friendly for a kobold. Her original tribe was wiped out by "evil" gnomes, which led her to join this tribe. She advised the chieftain to move away from Belhaim and urged him not to conspire with a human wizard (presumably Hunclay) who sought to destroy the Witch Tower. For that she was imprisoned. She also warned the chieftain that his practice of abducting human slaves would draw the ire of the town! 

We freed Nighttail and returned her gear. We also helped her reunite with her companion animal, a young Allosaurus Fragilis (!) named Hak. It is a magnificent creature which Nighttail rescued from some horrible traveling menagerie. She does not know Hak's provenance, but my guess is the creature (or its parents) hail from the Realm of the Mammoth Lords.

The Codex of Sinesius reports that these primeval beasts still dwell in a hidden valley in that region heated by geothermal vents, and Khairnarv corroborates this in Creatures of the North. Though Fastolph expresses skepticism of their accounts, which both rely on second-hand sources. Whatever the majestic creature's origins, it took a strong liking to Tagnus. The magic of the druids, I suppose.

Once kobold and allosaur were reunited, we rushed to the slave chamber, located in that room with the strange tracks that we bypassed earlier. I was mentally kicking myself the entire time—the strange tracks had to have been human footprints! Probably dragging their feet under the slaver's lash.

We found several kobolds guarding three miserable humans in the foul-smelling chamber. I demanded they surrender immediately or be destroyed, but they didn't believe me when I told them how we massacred their compatriots. One of the kobolds charged us, but slipped in the filth and dashed its brains out on a rock. We took down the others, with the last one slipping past Aldern and I. The creature did not get far before I caught up and cracked its skull open.

The slaves were a young woman and a middle-aged couple, all in execrable condition. The youth, Bophre, is part of a local family of dairy farmers who was abducted months ago. She said her parents might reward us for her return. The couple, Carlo and Sella Belathi, were traveling merchants who lost everything from the kobolds. When we get our reward from the baroness, I'm giving half of my share to them to help start over. 

Bophre wasn't sure if she could find her way back to Belhaim, so Aldern kindly instructed Yuki to guide them. With the captives freed, we regrouped with Nighttail and continued our delve into the kobold cavern. We passed another dire rat nest, this one empty, and Nighttail explained that the chieftain was experimenting on the dire rats to breed even more powerful versions. These mutants apparently eat their lesser cousins. Lennox managed to spot a tripwire glinting in the glow from Aldern's light spell, and both she and Knives successfully disabled it. Beyond the trap, we found a hole leading to another chamber directly below, with a single rope strung down as a point of access.

Knives stealthily descended into the room and executed the lone kobold guard. The rest of us have shimmied down the rope, save for Hak which merely jumped down. The chamber is cool and damp, with two large pools full of tadpoles. It appears the kobolds breed frogs as well as dire rats. 

We've yet to find the beastmaster, though, this kobold chieftain. Once he is eliminated, Nighttail will lead the surviving kobolds far away from human settlements. She has also expressed disinterest in taking slaves. Her motives are pragmatic, but they are the only path to peace. 

I do not relish the thought of spilling yet more blood when we confront the chief, but I'm convinced it is the only course left to us. What I fear most, though, is what I might become in such a battle. The cruelty I have witnessed today has stirred a great anger in me, the worst it has been since I left the University. I don't know if even slaying this monstrous kobold leader can quench the flame of rage that burns ever brighter in my heart. What will happen if the flame grows to an inferno, but I have run out of legitimate targets for my wrath?

The others so far have cheered on my berserk episodes. If they knew what I was capable of, they would not be so eager to wake the dragon.

View
Kobold Komplications
Sofie's Journal

Fireday, 24 Pharast, 4723

Thank Desna for my waterproof book bag. It truly is a necessity for the field researcher.

Picking up from my last entry, we continued into the low tunnel the kobolds had burrowed into the Witch Tower dungeons. The little creatures had set up a crude barricade in the tunnel, rigged with an ingenious trap of swinging stalactites. Despite Knives and Lennox's best efforts, we only discovered the trap when Tagnus bashed the barricade down. Now we are out of the druid's good berries.

The tunnel led to a cavern that had been subject to a deliberate cave in. Among the rubble, we found the late wizard Balthus Hunclay and two dead kobolds with sappers' gear. The wizard also had two keys on him, one to his tower and another mysterious bronze key. Aldern and Knives disagreed over who should have the keys, so we gave them to Tagnus for safekeeping. 

We followed a tunnel leading out of the cavern. When it reached a fork, we followed the passage that had the most recent tracks. We came upon three kobolds asleep in a small cull de sac. Tagnus killed one before I was able to convince the others to surrender.

Questioning the stupid, frightened creatures was like pulling teeth, but eventually we gleaned following details: the wizard Hunclay had aligned with the kobolds to undermine the Witch Tower so it would collapse. But the kobolds' chieftain had instructed them to arrange an "accident" for Hunclay while leaving the tower intact. The kobolds were hiding out here because they bungled the job and sent the tower toppling anyway. We got directions on how to reach the kobolds' clanhold, located in a separate cave complex in the old quarry. I told the two surviving kobolds to stay away from the village and the clanhold, and then we let them go.

Rather than notify the baroness of what we had found so far, we elected to press on to the kobold clanhold. I hoped to parlay with their chieftain to convince them to stay away from Belhaim and learn why they worked with and then betrayed the wizard Hunclay. However, as soon as we entered the quarry Knives and Lennox began stalking down towards the kobold guards outside the entrance to the clanhold. Tagnus and I tried to creep after them, without much success. 

But it was Aldern who really got things started, firing a bolt of force energy (I think) over the guards' head. At that signal, Lennox put an arrow through one of the kobolds, while Knives slashed another. I tried to charge down to join them, but slipped on the crumbling quarry pathway and took a dip in the lake. It was chilly enough to have been refreshing in different circumstances. By the time I'd hauled myself out, the kobolds had panicked and fled into their caves.

Lennox went in after the bleeding straggler, and I followed while Knives insisted on waiting outside. I tried to convince the wounded kobold to surrender and negotiate, but perhaps I was still too sodden to be a compelling orator. The creature scampered off into the darkness. Tagnus ultimately chased the kobold down and bashed its head in. Aldern finally sauntered into the cavern with his glowing staff, giving Lennox and I a chance to see our surroundings.

There is another path leading off to the left that we are readying to explore as I write. It is my hope that we can negotiate with the next kobolds we meet. I'd meant to parlay with the guards outside, but got too swept up in the action. Still, we only killed two of them. I am sure their chieftain will accept a weregild for the loss if we can come to friendly terms.

I must conclude. There is a strange rustling.

View
The Day the Tower Fell
Sofie's Journal

Fireday, 24 Pharast, 4723

I am writing this while seated atop a treasure chest, in an ancient dungeon deep below the earth. This has been a most unusual day.

It began in the inn, where I was reviewing my notes when a half-orc woman introduced herself. She is a merchant from out of town who goes by the name Knives, an appropriate moniker from what I have seen of her. She has long dark hair, gray eyes, and a single tusk. Knives is a very blunt individual and after a conversation about my project in the Verduran Forest, she summoned over the Absalomite wizard so I could get a look at his owl.

As I had suspected, the bird is a Great Snowy Owl like the ones that roosted in our longhouse. The wizard, Aldern, says he bought "Yuki" as a chick from a Tian merchant in Absalom, and it has become his familiar. He is richly dressed, with hair as pale as the owl's feathers, and the arrogance of a southern noble.

Our conversation was interrupted by this local girl, who I swear was trying to pick Aldern's pocket. Knives vouches for her though, and she has proven an able companion. The girl, Lennox, was hungry, so I invited her to share my meal. Our encounter drew the attention of that drunken dwarf, Tagnus, who it turns out is one of the Verduran druids! We shared one of the terrible Taldan ales, but I had little chance to ask him about his life in the forest before the walls rattled furiously.

The local monument known as the Witch Tower had collapsed, and was said to be swarming with kobolds. My companions and I raced to investigate, but found only two dead kobolds and a pair of incompetent guards named Hob and Mule. The tower itself had collapsed as if into a sink hole, save the first two layers, but this was no natural occurrence. 

The wizard living in the manor nearby proved to be the likeliest suspect, and the charred remains of a dead kobold was found on his doorstep. But the wizard, Balthus Hunclay, would not answer summons and we could not breach his manor.

The local baroness, Origena Devy, tasked us with investigating the collapsed Witch Tower to discover why it fell and why there are kobolds in the town. We are to be paid a lump sum of 500 gold pieces, to be divided equally among the five of us, for completing this task. The Baroness warned it was a dangerous place that took the life of her husband. I tried to assure her that we would avoid his fate, but tripped over my own tongue again.

The Witch Tower itself was not challenging to climb into, but all we found on the first few floors were empty rooms and more dead kobolds. Below the first floor, however, we discovered a hidden dungeon.

It was horrible! Aldern and I found the remains of the jailer inside an actual iron maiden. His key proved useful in venturing further into the complex. Even so, I was grateful to have Lennox with us as her lockpicking skills proved invaluable. Knives also caught a lucky break when we found two oddly shaped mithral daggers among the ruins.

We encountered what I believed to be some kind of ghost in the dungeon cells, of a poor poacher left to die in the dark with his cousins. He begged for release, but vanished when we opened the door. I insisted on taking the men's bones to be given a proper burial once we return to the surface.

There was a strange mechanical contraption in the center of the prison, guarded by a lightning elemental. None of us were able to communicate with the creature, and I had no desire to fight over the mystery device. So we moved on.

We found another fucking torture room, and a mysterious voice compelled me to sit on a torture chair, wounding myself. The voice belonged to a perfidious imp blasphemously disguised as a raven. The creature offered to share a password and the location of the tower's "treasure" if all of us likewise shed blood on the torture implements.

To my great shock, Aldern agreed to treat with the creature, speaking to it in its native tongue! I have tried to keep an open mind about wizards, but for the first time in a long while I wonder if the elders were right to scorn them. Tagnus was with me in distrusting the imp, but eventually the others pressured us into joining them.

Once blood was shed (or appeared to be shed—I think some of my companions were faking), the imp showed us a secret door, told us a pass phrase ("Good Baron Sarvo wills it"), and presented us with the treasure: a heavy bronze plaque with the Canteclure family crest and motto. The imp claimed that the secret door was locked and suggested we look for the lock amid debris on a table. Then the cowardly fiend tried to sting Aldern!

I had another episode and swung at the fiend with my staff. I believe the blow landed, but everything is hazy as usual. Once my vision cleared, I saw that Tagnus had caught the creature in his meaty hands and throttled it until its head popped off. Knives and Aldern kindly helped me recover my composure, and the wizard promised to heed my warnings in the future. I hope he is truer to his word than the imp he bargained with.

We continued through the secret door. It led to a chamber with a pit containing congealed acid. Knives deftly traversed the pit and tied a rope to help the rest of us make our way around the rim of the hazard. Deeper into the dungeon, we came to an iron door with a lever and a side passage.

We took the side passage and met a strange clockwork creature than asked us to present the crest before reciting the password. I hauled out the bulky bronze plaque and recited the pass phrase ("Good Baron Sarvo wills it") and the automaton stepped aside.

We followed the corridor until it ended in a chamber with a large cage housing seven chests. At one end of the chamber, kobolds had tunneled a hole through the wall. Tagnus went to investigate and was ambushed by a ghoul! The foul creature bit into him savagely, but the dwarf was hardy enough to endure.

Lennox put an arrow through the monster and I knocked its head clean off with a swing of my staff. The thing was wearing a treasury guard's outfit with the crest of House Canteclure. Gods know how long it had been sealed up in here.

We found no key for the cage, but noticed two odd holes in the floor. Borrowing Knives' mithral daggers, Aldern and I inserted them into the slots and twisted. The cage bars retracted and we dragged the chests out before retrieving the daggers.

As I write, we are tallying up the treasure haul, which has already far exceeded the baroness' bounty. Tagnus conjured up some tasty goodberries, which have healed my wounds from the imp's mischief. Once the treasure is stowed away, I've no doubt that we will press on into the tunnel to get to the bottom of this kobold incursion.

I will not miss this wretched tower. Aldern's luminescent cane is the only source of light amid the opressive darkness. The air is foul, and the scenery is fouler. These Canteclures engaged in truly monstrous practices! I've no desire to extend this tour through their despicable history any longer.

It is my hope that the issue with the kobolds can be resolved peacefully. I examined the teeth of one of the corpses and saw that it shares characteristics of dragon's teeth, so I am hopeful that they are versed in the Draconic tongue as well. Perhaps we could broker a peace, or at the very least scare them off. After all, their incursion into the tower appears to be a failure.

We've no sign of the absent wizard Hunclay, however, and this troubles me. Could he have been responsible for the tower's destruction? Or been in league with the imp? It seems anything could be possible when it comes to wizards.

I must conclude for now. We are readying to move on.

View

I'm sorry, but we no longer support this web browser. Please upgrade your browser or install Chrome or Firefox to enjoy the full functionality of this site.