As the caravan gets underway the next day, there is an insistent knocking on the nightwatch wagon. Fhastranja investigates, and finds one of the half-orc women astride a horse by the back of the wagon. She smiles toothily, “Ah, demonkin. Wish to give thanks. You found father’s sword for sister. We have little left to remember by. I thank you again for her.”
With a “Your welcome” from Fhas, the warrior woman rides off.
The next two days seem to pass uneventfully…except that a few hours before Nightwatch on the second day, Dagolas wakes them with a hard rap on the back of the wagon. “Up with you. We’ve got a problem, and you’ve got a job to do.”
Smelling smoke, they exit the wagon, and see the caravan stopped early by a modestly fortified freehold. Except now it’s a smoking ruin, it’s gates smashed in, the place sacked, bloodstains everywhere, but few actual bodies – mostly just burned chunks of flesh. Without much to go on except for what appear to be dozens of small three-toed footprints suggesting kobolds, and tracks of something much much larger, Alcori has ordered a group to follow the trail out and then parallel the caravan’s path for the rest of the afternoon.
Dagolas get them on mounts, and links them up with a cloaked and woodsman looking sort, introduced as Scout Cannuth. Cannuth has not been among the caravan as they recall, but he clearly interacts with Dagolas and the Old Guard like a part of the caravan crew.
Siddrin is quick to ask why they should care, to which Dagolas matter-of-factly states that 1) they were supposed to pick up supplies here, which are now gone, so if they can be regained, so much the better; 2) there aren’t enough bodies, so if there are survivors, it’s worth a shot to see if they can be found and freed without delaying the caravan; 3) If the attackers are still out there, better to have a scout force find them first before they stage a night raid on the caravan while most of it’s folk are asleep; and 4) Because I and Alcori said so…now get.
The small group heads out, following the initial trail out into the rolling scrub hill between the freehold and the mountains while the caravan pushes on. After a quarter hour Cannuth breaks from the initial trails and starts paralleling the caravan’s path while looking for more tracks or signs of passage. Erin having realized something about her training between the rat negotiation and now offers to scout from above. Cannuth asks if she can fly, and she replies, after a fashion. Acknowledging that it would be useful to get a sighting from above, the group stops and Erin transforms into a hawk, much to Bruegger’s fascination. Spending a few minutes climbing on thermals, Erin begins circling and ranging above the scattered copses of trees while the group on the ground follows and continues to scan for tracks.
Unfortunately, two hours of fruitless searching turn up no obvious current camps or large tracks that aren’t obscured after some time. Erin returns as the group heads back toward what the region loosely refers to a road and the caravan. Between Fhas and Erin, the only thing they can puzzle out is that the large taloned tracks belong to some kind of weird four-legged bird – but they can’t be certain what the beast actuallty is, though there is a concern that it is from some other dimension or hell.
Back at camp, nightwatch reports in, and gets a break from training and setup due to their scouting, and settles in for a nap and dinner.
A few hours later, the camp is settled, and Nightwatch starts their normal shift.
A few hours in, the group notices that they are being watched. As they continue their patrol, they inform Dagolas who makes it clear that the plains side of the camp is clear of watchers, so it appears the visitors come from the mountainside of the area. A plan is passed around to keep someone on watch while some sneak out toward what appear to be three small individuals hiding in patches of scrub brush. Dagolas goes through camp making sure a second watch is wakened before he sneaks off to the north. Siddrin angles out looking the come in from behind the western watcher, while Fhas and Bruegger head south. Erin takes scout position on the West, staying in plain view, while not being overly conspicuous in watching the watchers.
When Fhas and Bruegger arrive at the south, they catch the single kobold there unawares, but as Fhas knows how to speak Draconic, rather than attacking, she reveals her tiefling appearance from under the hood, and asks the kobold why it’s watching her caravan!
The bewildered lizard/dog man engages in hushed conversation with Fhas, unaware that the caravan was under the protection of “Iskini”. Fhas tries to roll with the kobold’s accidental slips of information, gathering that the kobolds work for this Iskini, and were likely partly responsible for the freehold assault, and are also tasked with finding travelers or caravans so they can be attacked and looted with the “Akker”. Unfortunately, while Fhas underworld origins provided a good start on intimidating the short humanoid, her lack of detail makes the creature somewhat suspicious. It demands that she come with him to talk to “Sheeld”, as he will know.
Fhas accompanies the kobold while Bruegger continues to slink along halfling-style in the dark beside them.
Siddrin finally arrives behind the western watcher, a kobold in heavy plated armor and helm, with a curved, spiky shield slung over his back. He can see Fhastranja and a kobold closing on the shieldbearer kobold’s position, and considers what to do.
That’s when a kobold shriekd followed by a dwarven bellow to the north rings through the night, gaining all of the remaining kobolds’ attention. The one by Fhas turns on her, drawing a blade, but Bruegger is faster, bringing his hammer down in an overhand smash! AND MISSES! The kobold has a moment to hiss before the hammer bounces back up off the rock it hit in the ground, cracking the kobold in the bottom of it’s jaw, causing it to bite its own tongue off and die of shock.
Siddrin rushes forward and drives both of his daggers into the back of the kobold before it can react to his presence, causing a spray of oily black blood to erupt from the wounds onto Sid. The kobold falls over dead. Sid hears a strange sizzling sound from the kobold, and dances away. Seconds later, the kobolds body erupts in flame like a roman candle, lighting the night spectacularly as the body and it’s gear is immolated. Erin, Fhas and Bruegger rush to the kobold pyre in alarm, while the caravan quickly wakes.
Bruegger is first to shout irritably at Siddrin, “Why did you do that? You didn’t have to burn him with magic! If there were any other scouts out there they’ll have seen that miles away!”
Siddrin looks at Bruegger confusedly, then feels a tingling on his right hand, where the majority of the spray of black blood landed….and his hand ignites!
“What is it with you? Anybody can see that in the middle of the night!” Says Bruegger.
Then Sid begins flailing and screaming about being on fire. “Oh”, says Bruegger. And the group puts Sid out before he is calamitously burned.
While there is nothing but ashes and slag left of the kobold shield warrior, examining the others after Dagolas shows up revels a few crude baubles, a pouch of live scorpions, and one of small venomous plains snakes, and a thick leather pouch with a strange cinch. After some examination, it looks like a short knife can easily be stuck in through the cinch, and a gummy substance lines the pouch. Seeing if he can apply the substance to his daggers, Sid accidentally nicks himself, and falls over paralyzed.
Fhas applies her medicinal skills to the task, and in under a minute, Sid is moving again, but wobbly and a titch more cautious of the gummy poison.
With the kobold scouts dealt with, the group resumes their normal watch, while about a quarter of the other guards also join watch for about an hour. When no attack materializes, things quiet down. In the morning, no new evidence is found in the light, and the caravan presses on, moving along what is barely a track in the rolling plains.
Another several days pass without incident before another early wake up occurs for the Nightwatch.
Again it’s Dagolas, beckoning them out. Siddrin sees nothing amiss out the back of the wagon and tucks back in to get his stuff. Bruegger then steps out, also seeing nothing looks at Dagolas…who points Southeast….where a wall of black clouds are rolling across the horizon.
Shortly, they are one more mounted up on horses, this time with Dagolas in the lead. They are headed to an old tor where a hobgoblin fort used to stand, but now abandoned for some 200 years is just a ruin. Nonetheless, it might provide enough shelter for the caravan, if nothing currently uses it as a lair. Their job is to get their first, investigate, and clear if necessary, so that by the time the caravan arrives a couple hours later it can just set up in the shelter of the ruins walls.
The first patters of rain hit them before they finally arrive under an overhang of the tor, but the storm, like a rolling wall of night is not far off. Seeing that what appears to be old lightning strikes have shattered a great boulder in the overhang, closer inspection reveals a huge door, meant to swing outward. Dagolas tells them to figure out if they can get in, he’s going to circle around the Tor and look for a path up to the ruined tower and keep they saw on the top of the hill while they approached.
After a few minutes of checking for traps or other dangers, the group approaches the door, and Bruegger finds where a pull ring used to be, hooks his fingers in and gives a quick pull to see how much resistance there is….and the door, with only the faintest of squeaking hinges opens with ease, the sound of a counterweight system echoing somewhere in the walls. With rush of wind, and a bright flash followed by deafening thunder, the storm is upon them, sheets of black rain obscuring the world.
They grab the horses reins and lead them into the massive square room under the Tor…
Nearly 100 ft across, the room has long faded murals on its walls, and the flagstones are cracked, a smell of must hangs in the air, freshened briefly by the storm’s gusting. Three other doors, one to a wall close off passages. The horses are moved to one corner and settled as Bruegger lights a torch, marveling at the solid craftsmanship of the counterweight system, as old as it is. Which is when a great thundercrack rocks the tor, sending dust drifting down from the ceiling, their is a second echoing crack, and the great door swing shut with it’s own thunder, then the sound of flowing water and another crack echo from inside the walls, and the other three doors all slam open, revealing utterly black passages into the hill.
With none of it’s weight supported, the great door refuses to budge. Everyone looks at Bruegger.
That’s when, from the southern door, comes a tumultuous squeaking, and a horde of drenched rats barrels into the room. In an effort to keep them from the horses, already spooked by the thunder and the dark, the group engages the rats in a futile effort to think the numbers which blanket the floor, getting bit for their troubles. Until Erin calls upon nature, and grasping rootlets erupt from between the flagstones, entangling the rats in place.
The next 2 minutes is the least heroic tale of stabbing, hammering, and crushing with staves and rocks dozens of trapped half-drowned rats, wild with fear.
With nothing else for it, the group sets the horses up with their feedbags, and goes to investigate the passage from whence came the rats. Sneaking down it’s 40’ length, they come to a portion where a chunk of the wall has caved in, and water rushes down and out of cracks in the stone behind the bricks, and down into deeper cracks after pooling briefly on the floor of the hallway.
At the end of the hall, they find a rectangular room, dusty except for occasional rat prints, it’s walls dusty, cobwebbed, and bearing long faded murals. A single sarcophagus sits against the far wall, standing upright, and depicting a hugely muscled humanoid in studded armor and wielding paired swords. The head is the most interesting as it seems too small, with pinched angular features and dreadlock-like tendrils for hair.
Considering what to do, the group is taken aback when the heads eyes flick open and look in their direction, glowing with a baleful greenish light, bat-wings erupt from the tentacular hair, lifting it into the air, it’s mouth agape with blue-green fire…
“Oh crap” says Bruegger…