Session 63: Uninvited Guests

The group woke up early, hoping to make it to the caves in time to keep their appointment with the priests of Nergal.

Brother Martin was waiting for them in The One-Eyed Cat, but Jess was nowhere to be found.

They asked Wilf about her, who went off to look for her. He soon came back and said she would be right down, which she was.

When she arrived, she said she was not able to find a new bow or bow string for Yanliz.

With an idea, Valeria led them to the gate, which they found open, as usual for this time of the morning.

"Greetings, Sabine," Valeria hailed the gatekeeper. "I was wondering, do you or the guards happen to have an extra bow you could spare?"

"Greetings, Valeria," Sabine returned. "Of course. Charl!" the gatekeeper shouted to her man on the tower. "Give Valeria your bow."

"Of course," the lookout shouted down, and ran down from the tower and promptly handed Valeria his bow, which she handed to Yanliz.

"It's the least we can do," Sabine added, "considering everything you've done for us."

"Thank you," Philip said, "that's very kind." And Valeria agreed.

Yanliz quickly removed the bowstring and fixed it to his own bow, and handed the bow back to Charl. "Thank you."

"You're very welcome, sir." Charl replied.

It was still early when they headed out to the caves. They were on track to make their appointment.

They made it to the caves without incident, but when they arrived at the valley, no one was there.

After waiting for half an hour, they considered entering the westernmost cave.

"What if they're waiting in the cave to ambush us?" Yanliz warned.

"Then what are we going to do," Valeria questioned, "not go into the cave?"

Just then, Duranki emerged from the cave and approached them.

"Well met, my friend," Vernim called out, as Duranki was approaching. "How have you been? Where are your superiors? Are they coming to meet us?"

Yanliz and Philip looked around the valley suspiciously.

"Yes, yes," Duranki replied. "They're ready to meet you. They only ask that you leave your weapons outside."

"Then they have to come outside," Valeria replied. "We're not doing that."

"Oh," Duranki halted. "They said that you should come inside to meet them."

"Then we're not going to be able leave our weapons outside," Valeria stated.

"Alright," Duranki considered. "Do you want me to give them that message?" Valeria nodded. "I hope they're not too angry with me. I guess I'll tell them that you're not coming in without your weapons. Is that right?"

Valeria nodded her agreement.

They waited for ten minutes, when Philip started preparing a midday meal for them.

They ate their meal, and Duranki had still not returned.

They decided to revisit the Skeltar and Zombire's cave. They entered through the goblin cave and circled around through the secret doors. Things were pretty much how they had left things, though the corpses were missing.

As they were leaving, Valeria spotted Duranki just outside of his cave. When he saw her, he ran back inside.

"Hey guys, I just saw Duranki run back into his cave," Valeria told her companions. "It looks like he was out there, but he ran inside when he saw us."

They decided to go back into the kobold cave to see if there were any stragglers.

They used Jess' rope to assist each other over the pit trap.

Inside, they found everything the way they left it.

As they were entering the lair beyond the painting of Kurtulmak, Philip heard something scuttling from the darkness inside, but saw nothing when he opened the floor.

"Shh!" Philip whispered. "Do you hear that?"

They all fell silent, but heard nothing.

Yanliz quickly examined the tiny tunnel in the wall behind the papier-mâché flap, but saw nothing but darkness.

They continued searching the rest of the cave and eventually made their way back to the entrance, again using Jess' rope to help each other over the pit trap.

Philip and Prynhawn had made it across the pit and were just starting to help the others over, when Duranki poked his head into the cave. "There you are. I came with an escort." He looked at Yanliz, who was holding the other end of the rope, and shouted the command, "Run!" Yanliz felt the urge to run, but resisted.

"What was that about?" Valeria asked, as she made it across the pit.

The answer was obvious as the dead bugbears they had killed came shambling into the cave.
"Everybody get back!" Jess shouted as she ripped the last bead off her necklace and tossed it at Duranki's feet, just past the cave entrance. The fireball instantly incinerated Duranki and a dozen bugbear zombies, leaving many others scorched as they kept plodding towards the group, cornering them against the pit.

Valeria cast faerie fire, enveloping the cave entrance in a violet glow, along with seven of the bugbear zombies that were still standing.

Yanliz handed the rope to Brother Martin and drew his bow, casting hunter's mark on a large bugbear in the rear, who had avoided the flames. His first shot missed, but his second sank deep into its chest, but it continued towards his companions.

"You got this, guys!" Brother Martin cheered.

Lawrence cast scorching ray, and dropped three glowing and singed bugbears.

Prynhawn dropped the rope and drew his sword, chopping down a glowing and singed bugbear.

One of the fallen rose and swung its morningstar wide at Philip, who dropped it again with a kick, and dropped another with his staff.

Vernim dropped his warhammer and shield, and drew his crossbow, but missed his mark.

Another bugbear zombie rose and brought its morningstar down on Philip's head, but was blocked at the last moment by Prynhawn's shield. The two of them managed to avoid two others' attacks each that had risen from the ground, but Philip was struck by another.

Jess drew her shortbow and dropped a bugbear zombie that was engaged with Prynhawn.

Valeria was surrounded by two that had yet to fall, and struck by glancing blows from both of them. She drew her sword and dropped one that had attacked her — the big one from the back.

Yanliz transferred his hunter's mark to the glowing one that had hit Philip, but accidentally hit Philip in the back.

Lawrence dropped three more with another scorching ray.

Brother Martin dropped the rope, cast healing word on Philip, and cast sacred flame, but his target evaded the flames.

Prynhawn swung his longsword, dropping one of his attackers. Philip dropped two that were attacking Valeria, and Vernim dropped one that was swinging at Philip, with his crossbow.

Another bugbear zombie rose and swung at Philip, but Prynhawn blocked the strike with his shield.

Valeria's felled attackers both rose, and she avoided one, but was struck by the other. Valeria dropped it with her sword, and the other fell to an arrow from Jess.

Yanliz transferred his hunter's mark, and dropped the last one.

They finished crossing the pit and chopped up the fallen zombies before any could rise again.

Vernim cast cure wounds on Valeria.

They recovered their dropped items and searched the bugbear zombies, but found nothing valuable besides the morningstars and Duranki's dagger. They dragged them all into the pit.

Yanliz determined that the bugbear zombies' tracks led back toward Duranki's cave, but he lost their trail at the stream.

Two hours after they first arrived in the valley, they entered the westernmost cave after considering returning to the keep or exploring more of the labyrinth.

Yanliz was in the lead, with Philip twenty-five feet behind him and fifteen feet in front of Jess and Valeria, followed by Prynhawn and Brother Martin, with Lawrence and Vernim in the rear.
What had appeared from a distance to be a natural cave mouth was actually an ancient stone lintel, like that of a tomb. Inside, the stone was blood-red with black veins separating the strata. The floor was smooth as if with the passage of many feet over the years. The air was cold and still, with a faint smell of decay.

Less than thirty feet beyond the entrance, the corridor split into wide passages to the north and south. The walls illuminated the passage with a soft red glow.

Given that the passages were lit, Yanliz stopped at the intersection, waiting for his companions to catch up.

"Look out!" Vernim yelled, preparing healing word, as suddenly a large chuck of the ceiling fell away on top of Yanliz.

Yanliz grunted as he felt something cold and malleable fall on him, painfully constricting his arms and legs, and continuing to squeeze. His flesh was burning from its acidic secretions.

Vernim cast his healing word on Yanliz.

Jess shot an arrow go, but it went high.

Vernim ran up and hit the amorphous creature with his warhammer.

Philip tried to pry the creature off Yanliz, but it felt like stone and didn't budge.

Valeria hit it with an eldritch blast.

The stone colored creature squeezed tighter around Yanliz, secreting more acidic fluid on the ranger.

Brother Martin cast sanctuary on Yanliz and swung clumsily toward the creature.

Prynhawn hacked into the creature with his sword.

From the back. Lawrence hit the creature with a chill touch.

Finally, Yanliz yanked himself free of the creature, which produced three protrusions on which it stood.

Vernim cast cure wounds on Yanliz.

Jess shot an arrow into the constantly transforming creature, and Valeria hit it with her sword.

Philip swatted at the creature with his staff, and kicked it, but it produced a protrusion that wrapped itself around the halfling, and quickly wrapped itself around him.

Brother Martin bashed the creature with his mace, and Prynhawn chopped it in half.

It finally stopped moving, like a statue of its current form.

Philip pulled himself free of the stone-like creature, as Vernim smashed his warhammer against it, shouting, "Die, you foul abomination!"

Brother Martin cast cure wounds on Yanliz.

After catching their breath, they went north, wary of potential danger on the ceiling.

After fifty feet, the corridor turned left. There was a door to the north, and another to the right that was almost ten feet wide, and extended to the ceiling.

Philip opened the door to the right and saw stairs descending into darkness.

Philip opened the door to the north, revealing a lavishly furnished room, with a thick black rug that stretched from wall to wall, a black and red sofa, three comfortable chairs, and several small end tables, which held a variety of wines and sweetmeats. The red stone walls appeared polished and shiny. On the far wall was an actual fireplace, unlit, with a marble mantelpiece holding large red and black candles.

Four kobolds screeched, leaped out from behind the sofa, and dove into the fireplace, disappearing behind the logs!

Vernim moved into the room, but could not reach the kobolds.

Seeing that the kobolds had disappeared through a small secret door, Valeria cast sleep behind the fireplace.

The secret door in the fireplace was similar to many of the round portals they had found, but this one was open!

Brother Martin peered through the secret door, and shared, "The kobolds are all sleeping."

Philip crawled through the secret door, and found himself in a natural cave. Four kobolds lay sleeping on the floor.

Prynhawn stuck his sword through the secret door, making sure it didn't close.

One by one, Philip disarmed them, grabbed them, and dragged them to the secret door, passing them back into the lavish chamber. They didn't appear to wake and didn't move.

They all had daggers, one also had a spear, and another had a double-bladed handaxe. Philip passed the weapons into the room. Brother Martin grabbed the handaxe.

Valeria and Philip examined the secret door.

"There's a small handle over here," Philip called out from the cave side.

They saw that there was no keyhole and the hinges were hidden within the door itself.

They gagged and bound the kobolds, and searched them. Their pockets were also stuffed with food, like what was on the table. Three of them carried thirteen copper coins each, except the one with the handaxe, which only had had six.

Valeria shook the one that had carried the spear until it opened its eyes.

Lawrence approached the kobold with his open palms. "How do we open the door?" Lawrence asked in Draconic.

"Don't kill us!" it yipped.

"I won't, if you answer my questions carefully and correctly," Lawrence promised.

"Will you let us go, dragon man?" It asked.

"I'm sure we will be able to work something out," Lawrence indicated. "I have no interest in hurting you. I just want some information. How do we open the door?"

"I can show you how to open the door," it teased. "I can help you get around. Will you help us?"

"That would be perfect," Lawrence replied. "How kind of you."

"Can I untie this one?" Lawrence asked Valeria, and she agreed.

"Will you help us?" it repeated.

"I think we can help each other," Lawrence suggested, untying it, "and we will all get out of this okay."

"Are you here to defeat the conquerors?" it asked.

"Can you explain the conquerors?" Lawrence asked.

"The conquerors that are killing all the natives of these caves," it explained.

"Can you describe them to us?" Lawrence asked.

"They look like them," it explained, pointing to the rest of the group.

"Are they us, or different warriors?" Lawrence asked.

"They live here," it explained, pointing around to the room. "They conquer us. Us all."

"How many?" Lawrence asked.

"Many," it replied.

"More than ten?" Lawrence asked.

"Many, many," it elaborated.

"I'm so sorry," Lawrence sympathized. "Do they speak? Do they have a motive?"

"They send the dead to fight," it explained.

"Can you take us to them?" Lawrence asked.

"Yes," it agreed. "Will you help us?"

"Valeria," Lawrence informed her, "the kobolds know where the necromancers are."

"And where is that?" Valeria asked.

"I don't know yet," Lawrence replied.

"Ask it where they are," Valeria urged.

"Where are the conquerors?" Lawrence asked.

"They're here," it explained. "We can show you secret ways."

"Valeria," Lawrence explained, "they said they have secret passages that can take us to them. The necromancers have been slaughtering all the inhabitants of the cave and they're scared. They want our help. I believe we might be able to help and solve our necromancer problems. Valeria, can we help them?"

"I think we can help them," Brother Martin suggested.

"Can you help us?" it asked. "We can show you where to go, and how to open the doors."

"We will trust you," Lawrence promised.

"How do we know they're not working with the necromancers," Yanliz warned.

"Don't we know the necromancers hate all monsters?" Brother Martin advised. "I don't think it makes sense that they would be working with the necromancers."

"But you have something of ours," it said.

"We can help, but we will not give your weapons back yet," Lawrence stated. "We will take them with us."

"You have to let us go," it said, "and give us back what was ours."

"You mean your weapons?" Lawrence asked.

"You have our egg," it said.

"They want their egg," Lawrence informed the group.

"Do they know where it is?" Brother Martin asked. "Ask them."

"What is the egg?" Lawrence asked.

"The goddess egg," it clarified. "You stole it!"

"They want their egg back," Lawrence reiterated. "They call it the goddess egg."

"But do they know where it is?" Brother Martin wondered.

"They know we have it," Lawrence advised.

"Well, what if we lost it?" Yanliz suggested.

"They won't take us to the necromancers if we don't give the egg back," Lawrence cautioned.

"That's not going to happen," Valeria threatened. "We'll just have to kill them then."

"We're not going to kill them," Lawrence said.

"Yeah, I don't know if I feel comfortable with that," Brother Martin agreed.

"They really want their egg back," Lawrence explained, "and they're not trying to trick us."

"What do they want it back for?" Brother Martin asked. "Because if it's anything—"

"Because we stole it," Lawrence explained.

"I'm not giving them the egg," Valeria stated.

"What's the worst that could happen," Brother Martin scoffed, "they raise some dragon overlord that destroys the keep in a single blow?"

"They won't take us to the necromancers," Lawrence warned.

"Yeah, and?" Valeria responded. "Can you ask it what color of dragon it is?"

"We will help you," Lawrence promised. "What color is the dragon egg?"

"You have the egg!" it demanded, pounding on the ground in frustration. "You stole it! If you give it back we will help you."

"Do you know the color of the dragon inside the egg?" Lawrence asked.

"We won't know until it hatches," it replied. "Give it back to us!"

"They don't know the color of the dragon," Lawrence relayed. "They want the egg and they're demanding it now. What do you want me to tell them, Valeria?"

"Tell them we're not going to give them the egg," Valeria said.

"We don't want to give up the egg," Lawrence admitted. "Is there anything else we can do?"

"Why won't you give us back our goddess egg?" it wailed. "We only want to help you. It was ours!"

"We will save you and kill the necromancers!" Lawrence offered.

"Only if we show you how to sneak up on them," it hinted.

"Yes, but without us you will all die," Lawrence warned.

"We might as well all be dead," it whimpered. "Most of us were already killed. We can take our egg and leave this place."

"We have the egg," Lawrence admitted. "Do you still want us to kill the conquerors?"

"All that matters is our egg," it cried.

"We cannot give you the egg," Lawrence regretted.

"Then kill us," it threatened, "and the conquerors will kill you."

"It wants us to kill them," Lawrence relayed, "if we don't give them the egg."

"They want us to kill them?" Valeria asked.

"They want us to kill them!" Brother Martin gasped. "That's ridiculous!"

"Yes," Lawrence confirmed. "It said, 'then kill us.' All they want is the egg, and it said if we won't give it to them, then we should kill them, and the conquerors will kill us."

"What if we strike a deal?" Brother Martin suggested.

"They don't want a deal," Lawrence explained. "They want the egg. I've already tried to strike every deal I could think of. I said we would kill the necromancers for them. I don't know if it's serious. He might just be desperate, but they really want the egg."

"Maybe we could lie about giving them the egg," Philip suggested.

"No, we're not doing that," Brother Martin replied.

"If you give us the egg, and let us go, we will show you how to kill the conquerors," it promised. "You can sneak up on them."

"If we give them the egg, they will show us how to sneak up on the necromancers," Lawrence relayed.

"It's not happening," Valeria insisted. "Unless all of you are okay with giving them the egg, having them show us how to get to the necromancers, and then killing them and taking back the egg, we're not giving them the egg."

"We cannot give up the egg," Lawrence repeated.

It slammed its head into the carpeted floor.

"Can't we say we'll give it the egg after they show us the way?" Yanliz suggested.

"Give one of us the egg and let us go," it suggested. "The rest of us will show you."

"What if we give you the egg after you show us?" Lawrence suggested. "We are okay giving up the egg, but first we need to see the conquerors so we know you aren't lying."

"Give us the egg first," it replied.

"You can trust me," Lawrence lied.

"You know we know how to get around here," it hinted. "We know you stole our egg."

"Trust me that you will get it," Lawrence fibbed. "I cannot give it to you first. I wish I could. I want to, but my boss tells me not to until we see the conquerors, and she will not change her mind."

"Once we show you how to open the doors, you can go wherever you want," it promised. "You can get into any room."

"Valeria," Lawrence relayed, "it says that once they show us how to open the doors, we can go into any room."

"If that's the case," Jess suggested. "Give the egg to them, open the door, and put them back to sleep."

"No," Lawrence said, "that's wrong."

"I feel bad, but we can't afford to give them the egg," Valeria sighed. "Our two options are, we do that, or we ignore them or let them go or kill them, but we're not giving them the egg."

"Knowing how to open the doors would be invaluable," Jess suggested.

"Think about what you want, Valeria," Lawrence said.

"Give one of us the egg," it pleaded. "Then we will stay with you and help you. We will take the egg far away."

"Why far away?" Lawrence asked.

"So we won't cause you any trouble," it explained.

"No, you have to stay here with us so we know you aren't lying," Lawrence insisted.

"What if we place the egg in neutral territory," Valeria suggested, "and then they show us."

"What if we give the egg to one of them that's tied up," Jess suggested, "and we let them hold onto it while they're tied up."

"I don't see the point in that," Valeria replied.

"Just let one of us leave with the egg," it pleaded.

"We cannot do that," Lawrence made clear.

"It's our egg!!!" it cried, pounding the ground.

"I'm not allowed," Lawrence explained. "Please calm down.  We are just here to chat."

"How do we know you won't just take the egg and run?" Lawrence asked.

"The rest of us will stay with you," it explained. "Just let one of us go..."

"But you said you were willing to die for the egg earlier," Lawrence questioned.

"...with the egg." it finished.

"So you could just take the egg and die before you show us," Lawrence challenged. "If we give up the egg, we have no guarantee that you will help us."

"Once we have the egg, and the egg is safe, we will help you," it promised. "We will be your prisoners."

"We can't let you leave with the egg before you show us how to open the door," Lawrence maintained.

"Once we show you how to open the doors, how do we know you will let us leave with the egg?" it pleaded. "Come on, we will show you the secret of the doors after you let us take the egg away. WHY WON'T YOU GIVE US YOUR EGG?!?"

"I think it understands Common," Valeria suspected aloud.

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