Session 40: Kobold Stress

After confirming there were no lizard monkeys in the trees, the group agreed to enter the nearby cave.

The cave mouth was five and a half feet high and three feet wide. Prynhawn led the way, and everyone except Philip ducked as they entered.

The passage quickly nearly doubled in height and breadth, and they spread out to walk two abreast. Only some twenty feet from the entrance, the passage ahead was blocked, but new passages headed off to the right and left. Diagonally to their right they saw what looked like a small alcove that seemed to serve as a guard station. A small humanoid creature with scaly skin and a pronounced muzzle was seated there in a crude chair, a spear gripped tightly in one hand, staring balefully in your direction. Ahead, to the right and left, they saw only darkness.

As Prynhawn advanced towards the creature, he fell through the paper mâché floor that made up the entire ten foot square of the intersection. Behind him, Philip caught himself on the ledge of the pit, but reached out in vain for Prynhawn, who crashed to the ground ten feet below.

Prynhawn rose, crunching the bones that covered the entirety of the pit's bottom. Leaping up, he caught the ledge at the top of the pit and began to pull himself up.

Yanliz gasped as two of the small creatures charged in from outside of the cave, sticking him with their spears. Lawrence, Valeria, and Dubricus were also surprised by the sudden attack from their rear. A third creature stuck Brother Martin with a spear. Aseneth cast sleep and four of the creatures fell to the ground. Opal and Vernim simultaneously cast light. Philip nimbly scrambled passed his companions and hit one of the creatures charging in with a leaping kick that sent it flying out of the cave, motionless. Brother Martin cast cure wounds on Yanliz.

The last creature threw its spear at Philip, but the halfling weaved to the side. Before Philip could counter, Lawrence dropped him with a fire bolt.

Aseneth asked if she could 'take care of the sleeping ones.' Despite reservations from Lawrence and Brother Martin, Valeria approved. Aseneth dispatched them efficiently while the others checked on Prynhawn and Brother Martin.

Prynhawn suffered only minor scratches. Brother Martin bandaged his own minor wounds.

Meanwhile, the creature in the alcove still hadn't moved, and they suspected it might be a decoy.

With the group's agreement, Dubricus cast fire bolt on the creature and it toppled over, smoldering, with its spear still held tight. It was clearly not alive.

Philip leaped over the corner of the pit to the eastern corridor with the alcove, and used his rope to help the others across.

While crossing, Aseneth fell, and Brother Martin, Dubricus, and Vernim, grasping the rope, fell with her.

Vernim cast cure wounds on Brother Martin. Valeria cast healing word on Aseneth.

Brother Martin examined the bones and saw that they consisted of animal, human, and humanoid, all of which had been picked dry and were very brittle, crunching loudly underfoot.

Continuing east, the passage sloped gradually uphill. After sixty feet, it branched off to the left for twenty feet and ended in a T intersection. They turned left and then left again. After ten feet, the corridor ended in a wooden door.

Prynhawn tried to open the door and found it locked.

Philip tried to use his cooking utensils to pick the lock, but was unable. Philip listened at the door, but did not hear anything, and he could not see any light coming from underneath it.

Prynhawn and Lawrence both tried to kick the door in, but the door didn't budge.

At Valeria's suggestion, Dubricus and Lawrence began casting fire bolt on the door's lock. It was almost a minute of casting before the smoking door began to smolder and they were able to kick it in.

The door opened to reveal that the room beyond was filled with treasure! An enormous pile of what must be thousands and thousands of gold coins were heaped in the center of the room. Gemstones, some of them as big as walnuts, lay scattered on the floor like marbles. In the midst of all this wealth, a large egg rested in a hollow scooped out of the coins like a giant nest. There was no sign of any movement in the room.

Lawrence examined the foot-long egg. It was a reddish copper or gold egg with a tough leathery shell, and was warm to the touch.

They could not decide whether they should leave now with the treasure, or continue exploring, or what they should do with the dragon egg. They couldn't tell whether it was a red or metallic dragon egg. They did not want to let a red dragon loose, but they did not want to harm a metallic dragon. They did not know if they could trust anyone at the keep to store the treasure or keep the egg a secret.

Eventually they decided to continue exploring and went down the east passage of the T intersection.

Seventy feet passed the intersection the passageway opened up to a small room that contrasted with the bare stone walls they had seen so far in this cave. From floor to ceiling, the walls were covered with cave paintings in vivid colors, mainly bright reds, oranges, and blacks. The drawings depicted a number of small creatures clearly meant to represent the little monsters they already encountered. They seemed to be bowing and paying homage to a creature that looked just like them but was ten times their height. The large creature's name, Kurtulmak, was chiseled beneath its picture in crude runes. The drawing showed him seated on a great throne, holding a tiny figure clearly meant to be a human aloft in one great paw preparing to swallow the unfortunate in one single bite while trampling another beneath his great feet. The drawings seemed to indicate that this room was a kind of antechamber to the room where the large creature lives. A short corridor at the back of the room lead to a stone lintel holding huge double doors that filled the entire space between floor and ceiling, ten feet high and just as wide.

Vernim was particularly terrified of what might await them in the next room, and the others agreed to explore elsewhere.

They went back to the sloped passage and headed east.

After thirty feet, they saw a large boulder, almost as tall and wide as the corridor, thirty feet ahead of them. It immediately began rolling towards them.

They all ran back towards the cave exit, while the boulder gained speed and closed in on them.

"The Alcove!" Valeria shouted.

Lawrence, Yanliz, Prynhawn, Philip, Valeria, and Dubricus all made it to the alcove.

Just before the alcove, Aseneth tripped and fell, causing Brother Martin, Vernim, and Opal to also stumble.

The huge boulder crashed into them, knocking them down, but continued to roll right over them all, hardly doing any harm.

From there, the boulder continued on, all the way to the pit, crashing into the far side of the pit's ledge, revealing the boulder to be a large paper mâché creation. Out of the paper mâché boulder came a swarm of hornets.

Lawrence stepped forward and cast burning hands on the swarm, burning many of them. The hornets swarmed him, and began stinging the sorcerer. Philip went to check on Aseneth, Brother Martin, Vernim, and Opal, confirming they suffered more from the fall than anything else. Prynhawn and Yanliz began lighting their torches. Valeria also began rummaging through her bag. Dubricus cast prestidigitation, causing a shower of sparks to appear five feet beyond the hornets, attracting about half the swarm.

With their torches lit, Yanliz shrieked and kicked what looked like a giant maggot off his boot, and pointed at Prynhawn. "One just climbed into your sleeve!" he warned. Waving the torches around, they saw many more of the worms crawling towards them from the toppled decoy. Prynhawn felt a stabbing pain in his arm.

Lawrence cast burning hands on the hornets again, burning some more of them, but they still continued to sting him. Philip ran back to the alcove and smashed all of the worms with his staff and his hairy bare feet. Valeria pulled out her wand and cast eldritch blast, destroying many of the hornets. Dubricus moved his shower of sparks towards the cave entrance, and many of the hornets followed. Vernim swatted at the hornets with his war hammer, to little effect. Brother Martin was even less effective with his mace. Aseneth shouted "Stand back!" and pointed her finger at the hornets, killing the swarm with poison spray.

Brother Martin began helping Yanliz remove Prynhawn's chain shirt. With the pain up to his shoulder, Prynhawn used lay on hands to cure the affliction, destroying the rot grub and healing the pain in his arm.

Vernim and Lawrence looked at the runes carved into the paper mâché boulder, but they didn't understand what they meant, except that these creatures were probably kobolds.

They decided to explore where the boulder came from.

The corridor opened up into a large chamber that seemed to serve as a combined living and sleeping area for the creatures who live there. They saw a number of mangy pelts that apparently served as sleeping pallets. Scattered bones littered the floor, and in one corner were a pile of chewed sticks and what looked like a heap of grayish wood pulp.

Against the back wall they saw over a dozen or so kobolds cringing and sucking their thumbs and shielding their eyes from the glare of the torchlight, whining piteously all the while. They looked just like the kobolds near the entrance, except that these were apparently very frightened.

Vernim was wary, but Valeria, Lawrence, and Brother Martin all thought they should approach the frightened kobolds peacefully.

"I have an idea!" announced Dubricus. "How about Brother Martin and Prynhawn approach and see if they want to give up their evil ways, and if they don't then Vernim can cast burning hands on them?"

Valeria was concerned about how they would communicate with them. Lawrence said he could try speaking to them in Draconic.

"And if burning hands doesn't work," Dubricus added, "then Aseneth can put the rest of them to sleep."

Lawrence asked "Can you understand me?" in Draconic, and they didn't answer, but he thought he briefly saw signs of recognition.

Lawrence told everyone to put their weapons away and continued speaking to them, advancing closer with Prynhawn and Brother Martin at his side.

Only a third of the way into the room, they heard a cry of fright from one of the kobolds and yellow slime dropped onto the three of them from above, covering all three of them, and dousing Prynhawn's torch.

The whimpering kobolds immediately jumped up, grabbing the spears they had been laying on, and charged the group.

One of the kobolds threw a spear, hitting Prynhawn.

Vernim immediately channeled his divinity, calling on radiance of the dawn. The kobolds' flesh began to sear, and they fell to the ground in agony. Three kobolds fell from above.

The sticky golden slime still covered Lawrence, Brother Martin, and Prynhawn.

Only one kobold remained standing. It shrieked and dived into the northern wall, as if it were diving into a pool.

The lone kobold disappeared through the wall itself.

Vernim immediately ran after and leaped headlong into the wall himself.

The priest's hand went through the wall, into a paper mâché covered hole, but his shoulders slammed into the sides of the tunnel that was too narrow for him.

He saw the kobold scramble out of a hole about ten feet further into the tunnel.

The others pulled Vernim out of the tunnel by his legs.

Back in his feet inside the room, Vernim pointed out that there was a ledge over the entrance to the room.

Prynhawn tried to scale the wall, but his hands were too sticky.

Valeria found a place to scramble up to the overhang.

On the ledge she saw a narrow chimney over a shallow stone fire pit. Several baskets beside the fire pit held fine golden sand and powdered dyes. Several hollow reeds were propped against the back wall, and a dozen spears were propped against the ledge. A few bits of melted glass of various colors were scattered around the fire pit.

Valeria dropped the spears down into the room, came down, and told the others what she found.

Aseneth made sure all the kobolds were dead. "These kobolds have some copper on them," she announced, and collected their treasure.

Philip used his water to wash off Lawrence, Prynhawn, and Brother Martin's hands and face.

They decided to retrieve the treasure and head back to the keep. Every step was arduous for Lawrence, Prynhawn, and Brother Martin, as the golden syrup stuck to their legs and feet.

They decided to wash off in the valley's stream, but they did not want to leave the treasure unguarded, especially Vernim, who insisted they were very lucky to find so much treasure.

"I have an idea!" Dubricus announced. "How about Vernim watches the treasure, while the rest of us help them wash off?"

"I can stay with Vernim," Opal offered.

Valeria was reluctant to split up the group, and Brother Martin agreed.

They all went to the stream and spent a while washing off their gear. While Philip was helping to clean them, he noticed that the sticky substance had a familiar sweet smell. Recognizing it, he tasted a little and determined that it was, in fact, honey. He took out his gear and filled one of his clay pots with it.

After at least ten minutes they had cleaned off as much as they could. The three still felt sticky, but were no longer materially hampered by the stuff.

When they went back into the cave, Aseneth suggested that they explore to the left. "We don't want to get ambushed on our way out," she suggested.

Valeria reluctantly agreed.

They all managed to circumvent the pit safely. After thirty feet, the passage opened into a room, but they couldn't tell how large this room was, as it was covered from wall to wall and floor to ceiling with spider webs. Some of the great dark strands were as thick as a forearm. The webbing was so thick that they couldn't see anything that might be lurking in the area.

Valeria wanted to go back.

"I have an idea!" Dubricus announced. "Why don't we burn the webs down?"

Valeria and most of the others agreed that they did not want to engage any monsters in this state if they could avoid them, so they went back across the pit towards the treasure room.

Crossing the pit, Yanliz leaned against the broken paper mâché boulder and fell into the pit. Opal tried to grab him, but fell in herself. Yanliz was only scratched, but Opal was hurt.

After they were both pulled back up, Opal said, "I'm reluctant to heal myself in case someone else needs it more."

Everyone assured her she should heal herself, so she did, casting cure wounds.

The treasure was still there. They started rearranging the contents of their packs so that they could fit all the treasure and the dragon egg.

Vernim started counting the gold when he first noticed that the coins were lighter than he would expect gold to be, and then that his fingers were turning gold. He discovered that the coins were copper pieces, painted gold. Looking at the gems, he realized they were really just colored glass.

Valeria concluded that this must be what the paints and dyes on the ledge had been used for.

Nevertheless, they filled their packs with the copper coins, with Lawrence also carrying the dragon egg.

They made their way safely passed the pit, out of the cave, and back to the road.

After walking for a couple of hours, Vernim noticed someone watching them from the trees. After a while it seemed to him that they were being followed.

He eventually alerted his companions, but when they looked, they did not see anyone.

They kept an eye out and continued to the keep, still undecided about what they would do with the treasure and the dragon egg.

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