Session 46: Take Two

Agreeing that it was too cloudy to venture to the caves during the night, the group returned to their beds and prepared to leave at dawn.

When they arrived at The One-Eyed Cat, Jess was there, preparing for the day's expected patrons. She went to the kitchen to bring them some breakfast, and Philip joined her.

"So I hear you lost someone..." she inquired, referring to Aseneth.

"Yeah," Philip replied. "It was rather tragic. And we found this note. I'm not really sure what it means, but it said something about an apprentice and being a servant. Some people think it might mean that Aseneth was working with someone at the caves."

"What?!?" Jess blurted, astonished.

"I know," Philip agreed. "I can't believe it! She was definitely a hardcore adventurer, but I just couldn't believe that she would do that. I don't know if that's something the party would want us telling everyone in the keep about, because we're not sure. I don't know. It's definitely a little weird."

"But you trust me with this information?" Jess hinted.

"Well, yeah," Philip explained. "You're not going to...I trust your judgement."

"Well, let me ask you a question, Philip," Jess began. "Apparently you trust me with this information, but I mentioned to you that I have some skills that could be useful. You took those other four strangers with you. How come you don't want me? Don't you need someone with some skills? I did mention that."

"Oh, um, sorry," Philip apologized. "Yeah, I guess I just didn't figure that out. I'm kind of dumb about that sometimes. You're totally welcome anytime. If you want to come with us now, that would be amazing."

"Are you sure?" Jess confirmed. "Do you think that would be okay with everyone?"

"We can definitely ask them, and I'm sure..." Philip hesitated. "Yeah. Yes!"

"Why don't you go ask them," Jess proposed, "and I'll finish getting this food together."

Philip returned to the group. "Jess told me a while ago, and I guess I forgot — sorry about that — I think she wants to adventure with us."

"Well, does she have the skills?" Valeria asked.

"I think she does," Philip replied. "I think she practiced lock picking with Mouse, and maybe some combat too, I would assume. What do you guys think? She's always been really nice to me when we've been cooking together and stuff."

"She's definitely nice," Valeria agreed.

"Are you sure she's available to leave her duties here?" Vernim asked.

"I think she's interested," Philip replied.

"I definitely think we need to replace our lost member," Dubricus began. "And having an extra hand is always useful."

"As long as she can do stuff," Valeria explained. "I just don't want her to be a liability."

"I have an idea!" Dubricus announced. "Now hear me out on this one, okay? I suggest we wait for the tavern to open up. We'll delay our leaving a little bit. We'll take her and the first five people that come in, give them swords, and take them with us on our adventure. I think that it's always good to have extra hands."

"Five random people?" Yanliz asked. "People we don't know?"

"Five random people," Dubricus confirmed. "I think it's a brilliant idea!"

"To be fair," Vernim noted, "we didn't know Dubricus when we recruited him."

"I'm all for making new friends," Philip clarified, "but I do just want to say that I do know Jess a bit, and I'm happy to bring her along if it's okay with you guys. I think that she would..."

"Third's not here right now," Valeria added, "but if we want more people, there's this fighter that acts as a bouncer, and Jess said she was very overqualified for the job of a bouncer. The only thing is that she doesn't understand any languages, so that could be a problem. The only thing we know is her name."

"I had a conversation with her," Vernim attested, "and it did not go well"

"I hadn't thought about that," Philip admitted. "I can ask Jess."

Jess entered from the back with two big trays of food and drink.

"Regardless of her ability," Vernim worried, "our biggest concern is if she can reasonably get away with not doing her duties for a while. I just feel like we would be responsible if she leaves her job and we don't have enough for her."

"I have an idea!" Dubricus announced. "Before we ask her what she's going to do, I think we should test her." Then leaning over to Philip, he added, "I'm going to light everything in this bar on fire, and see how quickly she can put it out. And if she can put it out before the bar burns down, then she's strong enough to go with us."

"Dubricus, what are you doing?" Valeria intervened, seeing that Dubricus was preparing to cast burning hands. "Don't light anything on fire. This is a wooden bar."

"Dubricus, we didn't test you like this," Vernim made clear. "Why would we need to test her like this?"

"That is a good question," Dubricus conceded.

"Regardless of whether we're going to let her in at some point," Prynhawn put forward, "I don't think we're going to let her in today, because today we're going to fight bandits. It's going to be a deadly battle."

"Isn't every battle we're going to fight deadly?" Brother Martin challenged. "If someone wants to adventure, I don't think facing the bandits is necessarily more deadly than the next thing we might face at the caves. These caves are legendary."

"Yeah, but the next time someone throws a fireball, she's incinerated, and we just wasted somebody's life." Lawrence chided.

"I think we can let her join us," Valeria concluded, "as long as she's okay with the possibility of dying."

"I have an idea!" Dubricus announced. "How did our last companion die? Arrows that she couldn't see. We have to make sure that if we let Jess into our party that she's ready and willing to deal with attacks that she didn't see coming. I'm going to go hide behind a chair—"

"This is for you," Jess said, startling Dubricus as she leaned over his shoulder placing a plate down in front of him. "Is there anything else I can get for you?" she smiled.

"We thought about what you said," Valeria told her, "and we're okay with you joining us, as long as you completely understand the risk that you will be taking on. Two have died already, and we will be facing even greater dangers."

"I understand," Jess explained. "But I think what you're doing is important. Many have tried to do what you're doing in the caves for a long time, but you're the first group that's come back so many times, successfully."

"We respect that. Thank you," Vernim expressed. "In that case, welcome aboard."

"In that case," Jess said, heading back to the kitchen, "I guess I have one more thing to get."

She soon returned with all her gear and was ready to go.

Despite the language barrier, they agreed to bring the warrior Third with them as well.

They departed from the keep, and after a few hours on the road, they entered the woods to the north, and traversed their way parallel to the road, with Jess and Philip scouting sixty feet ahead.

After awhile Philip heard the sounds of running water coming from up ahead in the woods. They stopped and gestured for the rest of the group to hang back.

Sneaking forward, they saw a man step out from behind a tree, about thirty feet ahead, adjusting his pants.

"Who are you?" Philip asked.

The man reached for his bow and quiver as he let out a loud bird call.

Philip dashed forward and chopped the man in the leg with a kick, and followed up with another that put the man down on one knee. Jess maneuvered behind a tree for cover, and dropped the man with an arrow in the side. Yanliz, Vernim, Lawrence, Third, and Prynhawn dashed forward. Dubricus walked forward cautiously. Another archer appeared further ahead shot an arrow at Philip, who deflected it and threw it back at the bandit, sticking the archer in the gut with his own arrow. An arrow shot from a third archer, farther away, landed at Philip's feet. "Hurry up!" Prynhawn shouted to Dubricus, as the wizard hit the second archer with a fire bolt. A fourth bandit appeared from farther ahead and stuck Philip with an arrow. Valeria moved forward and blasted the second archer with an eldritch blast. Another arrow, shot from much farther away, came crashing through the trees and landed at Philip's feet. Brother Martin moved forward with Valeria and Dubricus.

Philip moved up, diagonally, and hid behind a tree. Jess retrieved her arrow, and checked the first archer's body. Yanliz slowed down and landed an arrow into the third archer. Vernim followed suit with his crossbow, and dropped the archer. Lawrence and Dubricus also both slowed down and threw a fire bolts wide, into the trees. Third and Prynhawn continued to dash towards a standing opponent. Prynhawn was hit in the chest with an arrow from the third archer. Valeria retaliated against that archer with an eldritch blast. Prynhawn was hit again, in the leg, from a fifth archer, and Third was hit by a sixth. Brother Martin began to dash forward, reprimanding Jess, with, "There's time for that later!"

With three archers down behind him, Philip moved forward with a flurry of blows, but failed to hit the fourth archer. Jess dashed forward, yelling "Third!" but the warrior continued to dash, along with Prynhawn. Yanliz used hunter's mark, and dropped the fourth archer with an arrow in the forehead. Vernim aimed his crossbow, but the string snapped. Lawrence hit the fifth archer with a fire bolt. A second fire bolt from Dubricus finished the archer. Valeria scorched the sixth archer with an eldritch blast in the chest. Philip and Third avoided an arrow each. Philip knocked aside an arrow from a seventh archer, cutting his hand, while an arrow from an eighth archer hit him in the leg.

Passing barricades similar to the ones they encountered the day before, Philip moved up to where four archers had gathered, and missed the sixth archer with his staff, but tripped him, before dashing passed them, behind a tree. Lawrence missed the sixth archer with two scorching rays, but dropped him with the third. Jess continued to dash from tree to tree, with Vernim right behind her. Yanliz missed the seventh archer. Third, who finally caught up to the archers with her pike, stabbed at the same archer, but it ducked behind a tree, only to be hit by a fire bolt from Dubricus. The archer still managed to land an arrow on Third. Prynhawn drew his spear from his belt, but stumbled over it, staying on his feet, but breaking his spear. Valeria cast healing word on Prynhawn, but the paladin was hit by an arrow from the eighth archer. Brother Martin continued to dash forward.

Philip heard the ninth archer curse, and saw him throw his bow to the ground and draw a pair of short swords. Philip kicked him in the gut and smashed him hard with his staff. Jess hit the seventh archer with an arrow. Yanliz used hunter's mark, and landed an arrow into the eighth archer's throat. Blood gushed from its mouth as it fell. Vernim moved forward and cast healing word on Third. Lawrence moved forward and hurled three scorching rays. The first flew harmlessly into the woods. The second hit Valeria in the back. The third fatally blasted the seventh archer in the face. Dubricus tried to hit Philip's combatant with a fire bolt, but missed. Valeria then dropped him with an eldritch blast. Brother Martin reached Valeria and healed her with cure wounds. With all the archers down, Third noticed someone hiding behind a tree thirty feet farther into the woods and away from the road. She cried "Madarua!" as she moved forward and threw her spear, but the spear stuck into the tree with a thud. Prynhawn moved to Third's side, and healed her with cure wounds. Third's target drew a scimitar and a dagger, swinging the scimitar wide, but spun around and caught the warrior with a second swing, and stabbed Third with his dagger.

Philip dashed at the brigand engaged with Third. He grabbed Third's tree-stuck spear to somersault, but the spear shaft snapped. He quickly used his stag to pole-vault onto the brigand, but the brigand was too evasive. Philip still managed to connect with a swipe from his staff. Jess and Yanliz both caught the brigand with arrows, who in turn growled angrily as he missed Third with a flurry of blades. Lawrence caught the brigand with a fire bolt. Vernim cast healing word on Third. Refreshed, Third stabbed viciously at the brigand, piercing it through the gut. Gathering her will, Third withdrew the spike and impaled the brigand fatally through the heart.

As the group caught their breath, Jess checked the bodies, giving Dubricus the twenty silver and eight gold coins she found. She asked if she could wear the fancy silver bracelet she found on the brigand, and they agreed she could, at least for now. The group decided to take a brief rest, and Yanliz cast alarm around the area. Philip prepared a quick meal.

When they finished snacking and resting, they continued on for a short while in the woods, and then returned to the road for the rest of the way until they reached the trail through the woods, to the caves.
On the trail they had traversed many times, Philip spotted a rope hanging from a tree. He showed it to Jess, who gestured for the group to hang back. Philip looked up and saw that the rope was hanging from a branch forty feet up and had knots in it every foot or so. About thirty feet up the tree, the rope led to a small wooden landing.

Jess gathered the rest of the group together. Vernim suggested that the rope probably led to the bandit's hideout, and was not a trap. Valeria disagreed, but Vernim argued emphatically.

Yanliz moved toward Philip and the tree, admitting that he was going to climb the rope.

"Why don't you wait for Jess to see if there's people up there?" Valeria asked.

"If we've been on this path so many times," Yanliz explained, "and we've never seen the rope down before, then they're probably just out and about."

"Why wouldn't they have been out about any other days?" Valeria questioned.

"Well, because they'd probably be up there waiting," Yanliz surmised. "If the ropes down, it means that they came down on the rope. If they're up there, then they'd probably bring the rope up there so nobody sees. I'm assuming that since the rope is down, it means that they climbed down and left, leaving it down and left, leaving it down so that when they get back, they can climb back up."

"But there could be other people," Valeria pushed back. "Only half of them could have climbed back up."

"Valeria, I don't actually see the point in arguing," Vernim contested. "Let's just go. Yanliz, if you want to do this, let's just do this now."

"Why don't we wait until Jess sees if there's someone here," Valeria insisted, "because that makes more sense."

As Jess began to climb a nearby tree, Philip came over and intercepted her, saying, "I just thought of this. Do you think that maybe they left the rope down, because nobody's up there? Because normally, if I were doing the hideout, I would probably just have some kind of code word to send the rope down, or something like that. But if the rope is down, that seems a little weird to me. I don't really understand bandits, at all."

"I think what might be," Vernim interjected, "is that their numbers are so low after we killed many of them that they couldn't afford to leave someone behind. And so the rope is down, because everyone is out."

"I think it's strange that the bandits would make their camp here," Valeria repeated, "almost two hours from where they ambushed us, and four hours away from where they ambushed us the first time."

"Does anybody have an objection to Jess climbing the tree?" Brother Martin asked.

No one objected, and she began to climb the tree, but after ten feet she lost her grip, and began sliding down.

Seeing that the trunk was too broad for Jess, Third climbed the tree, and made it to thirty feet, where she could see the top of the platform.

She climbed down and gave the thumbs up to climb the rope.

Philip climbed the rope. Despite the knots, he struggled, but made it to the landing, which was only large enough for one person.

Third stood under the landing, prepared to catch Philip if he fell. He looked around, but didn't see anything except trees.

"It doesn't look like there's anything up here," Philip shouted. "It looks like a watch post or something."

With Jess at her side, Third pointed up to what appeared to be a second, higher landing.

Looking up, Philip saw the second landing, another thirty feet up. Hanging from the landing, was another rope, but it hung eight feet higher than the landing Philip was standing on, had no knots in it, and was on the other side of the landing than the rope Philip had used to get to the lower landing.

With some trepidation, Philip leaped for the rope. He grasped at the rope in the air, but could not grip it, and fell sixty feet, crashing into Third, injuring the two of them.

Vernim healed Philip and Third with cure wounds. Prynhawn used lay on hands on Philip.

"I have an idea!" Dubricus proclaimed. "Why don't we cut the tree down?"

"How are we going to accomplish that?" Vernim asked. "Does anyone have an ax?"

"Sword?" Lawrence suggested.

"That's not going to cut it." Yanliz smirked.

"Third seemed pretty athletic climbing that tree." Jess suggested. "Maybe she should climb the rope."

Philip stood below as Third climbed the rope. The warrior reached the landing leaped up, grabbing the second rope. Instead of passing the landing, like the first rope did, this rope was connected to the bottom of the second landing. Third reached for the side of landing to hoist herself up. As soon as she grabbed the landing, the landing, along with the rope, came crashing down. She tried to grab the lower landing, but crashed right passed it.

Prynhawn and Vernim moved to support Philip in catching Third. Looking up, and bracing for the impact, Philip saw that the second landing was not empty. Falling on top of Third was a ball of metal and sharp objects. Philip immediately moved back a few paces and prepared to intercept Third as she landed, hoping to knock her out of the way of the falling armory.

As Third crashed into Prynhawn and Vernim, Philip dashed horizontally into Third, but was unable to move the warrior. All four of them were injured in the fall as the ball of chainmail and swords came crashing down on the four of them, leaving them all unconscious.

They cleared what appeared to be many suits of chainmail, tied together, with dozens of short swords sticking through and out of them.

Brother Martin quickly revived Vernim and then Prynhawn with cure wounds. Vernim cast spare the dying on Third, and then revived her with cure wounds. Prynhawn revived Philip with lay on hands.

Exhausted and defeated, the group agreed to turn around and go back to the keep. Third claimed two of the shortswords and they divided up the rest of the swords and armor for the trip back.

After an uneventful six hour return trip, they arrived at the keep shortly after sundown.

Vernim was eager to visit Opal in the chapel, but Valeria suggested it might not be worth inconveniencing Abercrombie and his acolytes at this hour.

"Whatever, Valeria," Vernim retorted. "You're the leader of the party. Do what you want. Do what's best."

"You can go if you need to see her," Valeria permitted.

They dropped the swords and armor off in their room, and gathered at The One-Eyed cat to eat. Jess was just cleaning up for the day, and she fetched them all some food.

Philip remained at the table, uncharacteristically, consumed with how he would replace Third's broken spear.

They discussed whether they should delay the next day's return to the caves so that they could run some errands, such as replenishing their supplies.

Dubricus was concerned that delaying their departure would delay their return.

"I understand that you might not agree with this Valeria," Vernim figured, "but we can go a day, if you want to go without me, and I'll just find you guys later, or something."

"So you want to hang back one day?" Brother Martin asked.

"Well," Vernim explained, "It looks like what I want to do is going to impede on other things. I need to atone for my sins."

"Our activities cannot be going unnoticed," Brother Martin advised. "Early on it seemed that there was a concern about us taking too long, as preparations are probably being made."

"Maybe we should make preparations so that we can be at our best," Jess suggested. "We could delay our departure half a day, and just leave late."

"Oh, and then just get there, and then we're in the caves at night," Vernim agreed. "I actually like that idea, because then we'll still be traveling during the day, and we'll get there at night. I think we'd probably rest at the caves, so that we leave from the caves at dawn. Does that make sense?"

"I know that Prynhawn is concerned about traveling at night," Brother Martin added. "One concern that I have is sleeping at the caves. That's a good eight hours when we would normally be coming back, because we don't want to fight anything else, because we're drained. The same way that we just decided that we can't continue on. We need to get back. We need to retreat. That's the position we would be in when we start resting, and we would be hoping that nothing encounters us within eight hours."

"We can rest in a room with one door," Valeria considered.

"And we can rest in shifts," Lawrence added.

"Absolutely!" Brother Martin agreed. "I'm not suggesting that we would be surprised. I'm sure we could account for that. But even if we're not surprised, if anyone found out that we were still there, we could just be overpowered. I'm not saying that would happen. But I think that's a concern that needs to be considered."

"That's true," Lawrence acknowledged.

"I have an idea!" Dubricus announced. "Why don't we leave tomorrow, early in the morning, since we already lost another day, and I'm sure we can get somebody to pick up the supplies that we need, so that they'll be there when we get back."

"That's a very good idea!" Valeria praised, and Dubricus looked pleased with himself.

"You know what?" Vernim added. "I actually have an idea that is off of Dubricus' idea. My idea is we go to bed now, and get up and, if it isn't cloudy, we will go immediately, so that we can hopefully get back before the shops close, which is possible if we only stay for an hour."

"I don't think we're going to be able to leave early enough to get back in time," Lawrence concluded.

"I really like Dubricus' idea," Valeria reiterated. "We can pay someone, like maybe Tella."

"Oh, I have somebody that we can pay," Brother Martin suggested. "And actually we don't need to pay her more than what she needs to spend. Do you remember I mentioned Jenn, the local orphan I took in, that I've been teaching how to bake? She wasn't at my house when we were there, but she'll do it for us."

"Valeria, I'd still like to see Opal," Vernim besought. "Is that possible?"

"Do you have to go today?" Lawrence asked.

"I didn't go today," Vernim answered.

"Why do you have to see Opal?" Yanliz asked.

"I feel it's a part of my, um..." Vernim started. "First of all, I would like to do it as a representative of the party, and second of all, I'm the one who's responsible for her death and I feel visiting her would help atone for my sins and help remind me what I need to atone for..."

"That's very nice of you," Philip complimented, "I just do want to say, we're all trying our best here, and I don't think it's fair to yourself with all my heart to say that you're responsible for her death. We all are doing our part to get through this, and I wouldn't let that drag you down."

"I think Opal would understand that we have to take more time to adventure." Valeria rationalized. "And we would have to waste a whole day if we wanted to see her. I think she would get it, and I think she wouldn't want you to see her."

"...What happened is," Vernim continued, "we were in the Caves of Chaos, and we had just defeated this large horde of skeletons and I used my radiance of the dawn. Then the next room we went into was this dining parlor where we had these skeletons that were conversing and were talking to each other and invited us, 'oh, why don't you come sit down,' and I became very flustered for a second. I forgot that they were skeletons, and skeletons are, in my opinion, abominations. So I said maybe we should tell them that we should fight them, and I started telling the skeletons, oh the skeletons, 'we're going to fight you now,' and all this, and right after that, immediately after that, one of the skeletons threw a fireball at us, killing all but three of us, and killing Opal for good. And I feel that my actions here — we have discussed this as a party, we have admitted that I should not have done that. I should have acknowledged that skeletons are not to be reasoned with, and we discussed about what's good and what's evil, and how it's okay just to fight sometimes — and I just feel that seeing Opal reminds me of what mistakes I have made, of how I can improve. It's very important to me. I miss Opal. I know we all miss Opal, but I, in particular, miss Opal, because of everything she means to me."

"So you want to visit Opal so you'll feel better," Dubricus suggested.

"And it reminds me of what I'm supposed to do," Vernim clarified.

"It seems to me that you already know what you're supposed to do," Yanliz offered.

"Maybe what Opal would want is to continue the adventure," Jess suggested. "To finish the cause. We can go kill every skeleton out there and avenge her death. And I don't think that wasting time going to see her and allowing more skeletons to come, and whatever the necromancer does, well that just seems like self-defeating cause."

"Jess, I have to say, that's a very good point," Vernim commended, "and that's a perspective that I admittedly hadn't thought about. I have to say."

"So then all we need is a crossbow and a spear," Jess followed up. " Do you think we can fight off another round of archers without them, Valeria?"

"Probably," Valeria surmised. "It depends. If we're surprised, then probably not. If we're not surprised then we can get up to them."

"I can survive without my crossbow," Vernim decided. I just have to go into melee, but I have good enough armor that I think I'd be okay. Because, let me put it to you this way, Jess, the way I would put it, in terms of my crossbow — I can't speak for Valeria — but in terms of my crossbow, I only need it some of the time. I have three different options. I can heal people. I can attack with melee. Or I can attack with range. I have my sling. So there's still many other things that I personally can do. So I'll be okay."

"Third's the one who lost her spear," Valeria pointed out.

Vernim gave Brother Martin his crossbow, and they returned to their rooms and slept until the morning.

When they departed the clouds had dispersed, and they traveled along the road.

After a few hours they saw what looked like someone crawling toward them from the trees. They stopped and saw the the figure looked like it wasn't moving.

"Valeria," Philip urged, "I feel we have to go over there to see if they're okay."

Concerned that it might be a trap, Valeria suggested they circle around in the woods, like they did when they ambushed the bandits.

Yanliz marked the figure with his bow.

"I have an idea!" Dubricus announced. "Why don't I just throw fire bolts at them?"

"Because it depends who they are!" Valeria pointed out.

"Who could it be?" Dubricus wondered aloud. "Crawling out of the trees, where we fought the bandits?"

"It could be Cob," Philip suggested.

"It could be Cob," Vernim repeated. "It could be Cob!" and Vernim began running towards the woods as Valeria called to him to stop.

Valeria began to give chase, with Prynhawn by her side, but she quickly stopped and told Philip to catch up with him instead.

Philip dashed off, and kept pace slightly ahead of Vernim.

As they got closer they realized the body was that of a dead bandit that must have crawled from the woods before dying.

They stopped. Vernim was disappointed as they returned to the group.

Yanliz inspected the body and saw that it had multiple scorching wounds, possibly from fire bolts.

Dubricus commented on how Aseneth used to make sure their enemies were dead.

"Vernim, you can't just run off without telling us," Valeria scolded, as they continued on the road. "I understand you're upset that Cob is missing, but you have to tell us before you run off. What if it was another trap? As soon as someone mentioned it might be Cob, you ran off. And if it was another trap, you would be dead."

"Okay, Valeria" Vernim bemoaned. "I would like to explain myself. So, I think the reason why I'm doing this is, I just, I'm having a bit of a tough time emotionally, dealing with all this and I just felt like I needed to be sure when someone mentioned it was Cob. I understand that what I did was maybe not necessarily the best thing to do, but I just got concerned that it could be Cob. I don't know what to say."

"I get it, that you were concerned," Valeria expounded, "but I think you need to build a habit of asking us before you do anything rash."

"You're right," Vernim conceded. "Okay."

"I'm glad we all reached an agreement," Philip added, "and I just want to add that sometimes it's important to prepare for the worst — like Valeria was saying — and I don't want to take away from that at all. But you know sometimes things work our way and it all kind of works itself out. And you know it's good that we had some luck with us, and that because—"

"Yeah, Tymora was on our side this day," Vernim interjected.

"Let him finish!" Brother Martin snapped.

"—we are all together, and we try our best, when we do slip up, rarely, we get some recovery for it. We're all in it together."

"All I wish to say is, Valeria, in my possible defense," Vernim asserted, "while I understand that I was wrong, I just saw someone that was almost dying and I thought maybe Cob was fighting bandits himself and was almost dead on the road. Although, I understand that we just shouldn't do that."

"We were going to go up to him, and even if you wanted to run up to him instead of going with the plan that we had just mentioned, you have to tell us, because if you don't tell us, and I hadn't have told Philip to go get you, and it hadn't have been Cob, you could be dead. And even if I had told Philip to go get you, you could both be dead. And we can't do anything, because we have to sprint to get to you."

"You're right," Vernim conceded again. "Okay."

 "Consider what happened when you ran up to fight those bandits," Brother Martin furthered. "Ultimately you had to run back, because you were overwhelmed."

They reached the trail that lead to the caves, and soon passed where they had found the rope.

Still walking through the trees, Jess and Third smelled the strong scent of roses up ahead.

Jess cautioned everyone to stop and pointed out the smell.

Third followed the scent, and the rest followed, spreading out slightly.

The warrior motioned to a section of the ground with her pike, outlining a slightly larger than ten by ten foot section of the ground that appeared to conceal something underneath, possibly a pit.

Yanliz shot an arrow into the ground, and it broke through the leaves, meeting no resistance.

Third began poking at the ground with the but of her pike.

Philip heard something scratching underneath.

"This must be a trap," Valeria declared. "We should probably go around it, and get to the caves."

"I'm just worried someone might be down there," Philip said.

"I highly doubt there's someone down there," Valeria surmised. "If someone was down there, I think they would know that we were digging around, and would say something."

"Hello!" Yanliz called out. "It doesn't look like anyone's down there."

Dubricus threw a fire bolt into the pit, burning a hole through the foliage into the empty space below. The far side of the ground began to tremble and then rise up until three skunks darted out and fled into the woods.

Philip cleared away the foliage with his staff and they saw that it had concealed a three foot deep pit. The bottom was filled with rose petals, with spikes sticking up from them. On closer inspection, the spikes were actually spears sticking out of the ground.

Third reached down and pulled a spear out of the ground, to find that the shaft was broken leaving only a foot of it stuck under the soil. Clearly agitated, she threw the spear aside.

"It's a good thing we didn't fall into that pit," Valeria noted, "because then we would have all smelled like skunks, and if we would have gone into the caves, anyone could have smelled us a mile away, except undead."

They continued on, and as they entered the valley they saw an unfamiliar pale bald man in a black cloak sitting by the fire pit outside the goblin cave.

Suddenly a spear came out of the goblin cave mouth and stabbed the man in the back. The spear appeared to be attached to a rope, which immediately went taught and began pulling the spear and the man backward, into the cave mouth.

"Should I run up?" Philip asked Valeria, and she nodded.

Philip dashed toward the cave and everyone followed behind, as the man quickly disappeared into the cave mouth.

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