With an angry squeal the albino giant weasel pulls at something beside the door, and with a great fwumpf, flour sacks swing out from above the door, tearing open and making a great white cloud in the room. The group’s captive kobold continues to rock and hum as the giant weasel stalks through the white cloud, sniffing out Sid and trying repeatedly to savage him. However, luck is with Sid, and he dodges each time, while everyone brings to bear their attacks, finally killing the weasel.
The room beyond is nothing but a simple gear and food storage room for the miner’s kitchen. Looking at the kobold, they accuse him of misleading them. He denies nothing, he told them what they wanted to hear, accusing them of thinking themselves better than kobolds, but they killed his unconscious tribebrother in front of him, the mercy they offer is a lie. Sid slaps him. Bruegger is uncomfortable. Fhas and Eryn head back down the hall.
Bruegger checks to make sure the kobold is secure, and continues to bring him along, and it follows dejectedly.
Sid takes the lead and they begin exploring the other passage. Many smaller side passages break off it, but few tracks lead down them – they appear to be old lines of ore, long played out. Descending ever more, Sid finds what appears to be a hastily dug pit trap, covered by a rock dusted tarp.
Pointing it out to the group, he moves across the threshold into a large natural cavern, studded with crystal formations, flowstone, glittering lines of silver ore, and coated in a faintly phosphorescent fungi. Tracks leads across the cavern through the pale blue lichen, scattered footprints, signs of fighting, and also toward a wide mouthed tunnel, and to the far wall, where mining has occurred, leaving piles of rocky debris.
Fhas, Eryn & Cannuth skirt the pit and look for places to cross the cavern quietly, as Sid has already made it halfway across. As Bruegger moves forward, the kobold, screams and leaps into the pit, trying the drag Bruegger in by his guide rope. Bruegger lets go before he can be pulled off balance, and the captive’s scream is cut off by the sound of a brutal impact onto makeshift spikes at the pit’s bottom.
The sound of falling pebbles comes from the far side of the cavern, and everyone halts…any surprise they may have had is now gone.
With Fhas using her message cantrip to coordinate with Siddrin, the group gets into position behind stalagmite columns, and moves forward stealthily in an effort to get to the ledge at the back of the cave without being targeted by the remaining kobolds they assume are there. Fhas is not particularly quiet, and despite their best efforts, kobold crossbowmen are ready – and a stinging hail of bolts rips into the group, Cannuth waits at the back for a shot, as the kobolds remain well hidden.
While Sid tries to climb to the ledge, Eryn turns the tables by summoning a flaming sphere, roasting several of the enemy, giving Cannuth the light to target several enemies, and causing a flurry of harsh barking commands, flapping feet, and a thump sound.
When Sid finally gets up onto the ledge, all that remains are a few arrowed and crisped kobold bodies, but clearly not enough to account for the crossbow volleys, and no obvious exits.
The rest of the group catches up, with Cannuth staying below and hidden, watching the other tunnel out of the cavern, in anticipation of an ambush.
With focused effort, they discover a hidden door made of convincingly draped and rock-dusted canvas over a makeshift wooden door crudely hinged into the walls. Ready for anything, Bruegger kicks in the flimsy excuse for a barrier, and suffers a withering fusillade of crossbow bolts.
Despite this, the group rolls in and kills off the remaining kobold warriors, knocking their leader, a shaman of some sort, unconscious.
The small redoubt has looted sleeping bags, tainted food, and mining tools. Several bags of silver and iron ore are stacked against the back, and that’s when they notice the whimpering: 3 small kobold children hiding under a cloak, clearly also infected with the Burning Plague.
Sid moves to kill them in cold blood, but a heated discussion erupts among the group. None to pleased at leaving what he considers vermin alive, Sid nonetheless stays his hand, and the group trusses up the shaman in an effort to interrogate him.
Fhas, able to speak draconic, acts as the interrogator, as the group has a side conversation in common in front of the vicious humanoid leader. When one to many pointed suggestion are made about how to proceed in common, the kobold reveals that he is considerably smarter than his tribemembers, and speaking common, calls out his captors’ less than moral suggestions, and pointing out the folly of thinking he’s stupid enough to do anything aggressive while trussed and outnumbered.
The shaman is clearly cunning and pragmatic, and filled with hatred toward the group, but engages them verbally on their own terms. When an attempt to bribe him for information occurs, he points out that they are trying to buy his loyalty with the very coin they have already looted from his belt. Being verbally outmaneuvered by a kobold is a rather humbling moment.
In the end, however, the shaman gives them the information they seek, in exchange for free passage out with the young, with food and weapons, since there are very few other bits of leverage he possesses. When Sid makes it clear that he thinks the shaman will stab them in the back, the shaman makes it clear that he won’t – certainly not now, and not with the resources at his disposal, swearing by Kurtulmak. But also swearing that if he ever runs into any of them again, alone, and unprotected, he will gladly cut them down, and sacrifice their hearts to Kurtulmak.
With that, the shaman informs them that the demon from below has stolen the bodies of miners and kobolds. Beyond a hot room full of corpses, winding old water tunnels lead to the deeps where the demon chants and often screams or roars. The shaman will head that way, and retreat through smaller old water tunnels away toward the shattered tribe he and his fled from in an effort to escape the plague. His part done, he and the young exist the cave via the other downward angling cave.
Wounded, but not completely without resources, the group give the kobold some time to get ahead, then follow into the deep earth passage, warm, brimstone smelling air rising to great them. Finally sweating profusely, they come upon a room where the bodies, of miners, kobolds, and rats are scattered about, sulfurous vents in the walls and floor emitting hot, foul air.
The passage continues down on the other side of the small chamber, and in an effort to help Sid explore for safety, Fhas casts sanctuary upon him, and he sneaks into the room, examining the bodies as he crosses. That movement of a corpses body and clothes wakes four of the corpses to animation, and the zombies stumble upright from their sleep. Luck is not with Sid, and three of the undead beasts see him, while one shambles away toward the rest of the group in the corridor.
Sid is pummeled mercilessly by the zombies, driven to the ground, while Bruegger takes a thumping from the loner, but gives back as good as he gets, dropping the beast. Eryn moves in to the room, as does Fhas. Fhas call upon her Goddess, and 2 or the remaining zombies are blasted to dust. Eryn strikes the last one, but her staff does little to it. Cannuth and the rest pile in, but not before the zombie can bludgeon Eryn soundly.
The group, injured and out of breath, notices that Sid has the look of having caught the plague, and Eryn and Fhas feel off. Gathering themselves up, the retreat as quickly as they can up the passage back to the glittering cavern. There they catch their breath, and find a comfortable spot to try and shake off their fatigue and lesser injuries.
As they wait and rest, about halfway through, there is a mighty echoing below from the descending passage. They all grip their weapons…but as the minutes pass, no greater threat shows itself.
With the rest under their belts, knowing the Alcori and the caravan are fighting the hobgoblins out on the mountains, they forge back down the passage.
Back in the sulfurous charnel room, they notice that one of the bodies, that of a dwarven miner, is missing, drag marks in the dust leading down.
The next 30 minutes are spent traversing a winding array of limestone tunnels, bored in the store in the past by water. If the shaman had not given them the signs to follow, they could’ve been hopelessly lost for hours or more. Halfway through, they hear the sounds of falling and gurgling water, the other sign given by the shaman, and past one last turn, they can see pale fungal light glittering and reflecting up the damp walled, cool tunnel walls.
A clear bend ahead of them clearly doubles back into a greater chamber they can’t yet see.
And that is when suddenly all sound of rushing water from around that bend utterly stops. The only sounds they hear are their breathing, their heartbeats, and the creaking of their gear.