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.