Caves of Chaos 11 Vatermont 1000AC
Gwydion stood on the side of the canyon and watched his efforts to instigate combat between the various tribes of humanoids evaporate. Cooler heads or perhaps some native cowardice lead the Kobolds to retreat from the orcs and goblins into a copse of trees behind them. He moved up the slope when he noted the orcs circumnavigating the copse to his, uphill side of the trees.
Across the way, the goblins seemed to be heading south of the trees and forming up to return back to their own cave to the southwest.
There being no more here that he could do he headed south, rounding the goblins as fast as his legs would carry him. Invisible as he was he still made noise and footprints. He just hoped that the large numbers of goblins and movements in the snow and mud would conceal his own steps.
Kart and the others caught their breaths in the minotaur’s cave. The followed their previous chalk marks and the trail of dead hobgoblins, picking belt pouches and arrows off the bodies as they went.
Moving towards the cave entrance they organised themselves again.
“Telanith, Alandros, move up and have a look outside. Tell us what you see.” Directed Kart.
A minute later they summarised. “Movements in the trees 150 feet ahead of us…” Alandros began. “Movement away from us in two large groups more northward and southerly.” Finished Telanith.
They formed into marching order and left the cave, veering so that another grove could be between themselves and the aforementioned trees. They approached the churned mud where the host had stood before.
Nerva looked down at the footprints. “The smallest head for the trees, the next smallest towards the south.”
“Orcs north, towards their caves, goblins south to theirs and the kobolds waiting in the trees then?” Gareth assessed. “Best to attack the kobolds while they’re distracted by the others.”
“We don’t want to alert the others.” Warned Helga.
“True.” Noted Kart. “Lets get through these trees slow and steady and then run across the gap to the next copse. It will give the orcs time to get inside their caves.”
Rest in the caves.
Weapons out, they crossed the mud to the trees and started to spot the small shapes between the trees. Kruggh swooped to pick up the sack of silver from the dead from of Bjorngulf.
The first warnings the tiny humanoid warriors received were arrows hitting trees next to their heads, if they were lucky, comrades dying nearby them if they were luckier.
Dargar and Gareth led the charge, Kart just behind them, towards the king, his guards and the two robed kobolds behind him. Sensing that the most skilled warriors were after him, the king of the Kobolds rushed past them and attacked Kruggh, striking a heavy blow at the lightly armoured bugbear.
Helga moved up and launched an arrow at one of the robed figures, embedding the arrow in its forearm. Dargar’s path was stopped by kobold guards and he started striking at his opponents with a flurry of angry blows. Gareth charged at the remaining robed kobold but before he could strike, the kobold cast a spell and drifted upwards into the leaves of the tree above.
To their left and right kobold groups were exchanging arrows with the elves, the dogs flanked Kruggh and attacked the kobold king. Kart vaulted into the tree near where the floating kobold had disappeared.
The kobold soldiers were quickly succumbing to the more experienced fighters. In retaliation, Khizzk, the kobold king struck Rover down. Max ran to the wolf’s side, dragging him out of the reach of Khizzk’s scimitar and stared staunching her companion’s wounds.
Gareth caught up with the hidden robed kobold, and engaged him so that the shaman could not cast spells.
As the floating kobold raised himself further through the trees, Kart used a supple tree branch to leap up and grab the witchdoctor. The creature rose higher and addressed the sailor in accented Thyatian. “Promise to let me go and I will let you down gently otherwise we will only go higher. The fall would surely kill you.”
Kart looked down. The tree was still only fifteen feet below at this time. He decided that he should get down. Pulling himself up the kobold he pushed a foot off the kobold’s chest.
Two things occurred. Firstly Kart arced gracefully down to the tree below and swung from branch to branch to settle in the upper limbs of the tree. Secondly the witchdoctor started drifting quickly to the east away from the trees, slowly decelerating due to the prevailing wind.
With most of the kobolds dead, the adventurers started regrouping. In the meantime, Khizzk struck down Spot and seemed impervious to the blows of Kruggh. The Kobold King seemed oblivious to the loss of his soldiers.
Gareth drove his mace into the shamans’ chest and watched the little humanoid form crumple before him.
Khizzk fought on. He seemed aware that his tribe would live or die by his hand. Closed in on all sides, he finally succumbed to his wounds.
The elves and Helga emerged to the east of the trees and shot their arrows at the floating but quickly descending witchdoctor.
He attempted to guard himself with a spell but the arrows struck true. Eventually he reached the ground but it was too late, Helga’s final shot found a chink in his chain armour and he died in agony.
Looking around, they noted a single orc at the entrance off a nearby cave watching them, and then quickly run into the cave.
Gwydion reached the entrance to the hobgoblin caves, the entry decorated with clubs, the steel door ajar. He looked inside, noting the darkness he pulled out his lantern, lighting it despite his invisibility.
He entered the cave and found three paths, following small wet footprints. His own steps left no wet marks, presumably due to their minor enchantment. The footprints started down the passage to the right and started to lighten as they progressed.
Due to his caution and diligence, Gwydion noted some drier prints returning down the path he had come from, so he followed them instead. The second set of prints had almost become invisible by the time he reached the junction, and so Gwydion had to guess at which direction to travel.
He started to the leftmost passage from his point of origin, stealthily walking forward before he felt a. Hand tugging on the sleeve which was holding the lantern. Emily’s familiar voice whispered to him. “Shutter that lantern. Stop moving and let me tell you what is up ahead.” Gwydion looked down and saw her form in the shadows next to him.
Gwydion obeyed and knelt down so that Emily could whisper in his ear. “There are prisoners chained in the next room and two hobgoblins. It would have been suicide to attack on my own but if we both attack them I should be able to kill one straight away, whilst you hold the other off.”
Gwydion nodded invisibly. “Well we’d better hurry because I have no idea if we’re about to get trapped in here.”
“Don’t do anything until you see me attack the first hobgoblin.” Emily dictated.“I’ll go for the one to the left.”
Gwydion drew his daggers and stepped next to the second hobgoblin, hoping that he had not made a sound. The other hobgoblin died gurgling as two feet of short-sword was shoved through its back. Gwydion drove his dagger upwards and caught his enemy in the chin with a blade And his invisibility faded. Reversing his hold he slashed the humanoid across the chest.
Emily leaped to his aid and flanked the hobgoblin, driving her bloodstained blade into his thigh. The hobgoblin struck a glancing blow at Gwydion. Distracted, the hobgoblin left himself open to a killing blow, falling to Emily’s shortsword.
The prisoners were a mix of naked humans, three males, and a female, a wild eyed gnoll, and an orc. Grabbing a key from the wall, they released each of the humans, allowing them to grab scraps of clothing to wrap themselves in.
Two of the prisoners, a flabby man and the recently naked woman ran to each other and embraced. The orc and gnoll called out to them to be freed but the rescuers ignored them. “There is not time to waste. Make no sound. We make for the entrance.”
Emily took the lead and Gwydion followed, leading the prisoners with a chain of linked hands.
They reached the entrance to the cave, Gwydion looked out of the cave. The last of the goblins had just filed past the cave. They waited another couple of minutes.
Gwydion addressed Emily. “We need to let the others know we are leaving. I’ll take the prisoners to the Gnoll cave near where I left the chainmail. You go and find the others. Try not to go deep into the minotaur caves on your own though. If you can’t find them meet me back at the gnoll cave entrance and we’ll take these guys back to the Keep.”
Emily readily agreed and sped off to the nearest tree line. It was not long until she saw a kobold in robes attempting to flee by lowering itself from the sky but failing to do so.
She hurried to the copse when the rest of her companions were collecting themselves and anything of value form their opponents.
“Don’t forget the scimitar.” She suggested. “Gwydion and I are ready to leave. We have rescued the other prisoners.”
Max looked down at her two unconscious wolves. “The only way they can come with us is if they walk. I will pray for healing.”
They waited a few more minutes, the elves keeping lookout against the orcs. “They’re coming again.” Telanith announced.
“Quickly as you can.” Helga directed. “Don’t waste time heading into the cave. Gwydion will see us coming.”
They started running headlong, a few arrows streaked in their direction but fell short and they saw a ragged stream of orcs chasing them whilst the main body of orcs gathered outside their caves.
Walking back down the road to the keep, the flabby man addressed the party “Thank you all. I am Heinrich Plasberg, and I am the guildmaster of the Wulfwode trading company. This is my wife and these men were guards we had hired to travel here. I would like to offer free guild membership to you all for a whole year.”
The rest of the journey went as planned and they walked through the cooling afternoon reaching the keep shortly before dusk. They sent an emissary to the keep to get permission to bring Kruggh into the keep.
Entering the keep, the guards gathered around and slapped them on the back as they entered before the corporal and scribe annotated their equipment. Helga and Gwydion headed into the fourth company headquarters to introduce Kruggh to Sergei Malenkov and update him on their progress.
Upon their return, the others reported that they were to be honoured that night at the Guildhouse. They spent the next few hours cleaning up, selling treasures and organising their equipment.
That night, they were presented with a magic kettle and the human warriors they had saved pledged to follow them into battle. During the meal, Lady Ateleia appeared and asked to pull Gwydion and Helga aside. They stood up and Kart followed them without any complaint from the Lieutenant.
Ateleia began: “So, from what we can tell there are no hostages left in the caves and there should only be three intact tribes, or caves, of humanoids.”
The northerner warrior nodded and she continued. “Also from what this bugbear Kruggh says, there are no other shamans or witchdoctors native to the caves.”
Ateleia turned around, slightly pacing in front of them. “The humanoids up the valley are the real threat, but these humanoids work as an effective forward base for any invader. We need to deal with the caves before the inevitable attack comes. Lord Wulf and I have decided that we should attack and disperse the inhabitants of the Caves of Chaos in force as soon as possible, collapsing the remaining caves. We can offer two half strength companies of heavy infantry and all of our available cavalry.”
She turned towards them. “We would like you to go back tomorrow with myself and Lieutenant Malenkov, rooting out the caves. Any treasure we find is yours, if that sways our decision.”
She waited for a moment. “Do you agree?”
The celebration was curtailed shortly after. They rose early, surrounded by the soldiery, they left the Keep before dawn.