There is a strange property of this land: sometimes people simply vanish. Perhaps it is because we were born outside the shield. Keller and Fungdark have spoken of a strange, otherworldly adventure that took them out of our time for several hours, and which none of the rest of us noticed. Sirette has vanished, and – so far as we know – has not reappeared. And most recently, Dragda vanished without a trace, just as we were entering the Kobold Caves.
Ironically, I suspect if she had been there, some of us would not have survived.
We had entered the cave cautiously – the footprints outside spoke of a mix of goblins and kobolds within. Not long after we entered, we found a chamber containing several goblin bodies, hacked to bits. We reinforced our arcane and divine protections and continued down a side passage into an apparently empty room.
Moments after we entered, a kobold struck at me, shimmering into visibility as his knives grated across my armor. I fell back to the mouth of the passage, shielding Keller and Fungdark as two more kobolds emerged from hiding and joined the battle. My combat abilities pale in comparison to Dragda’s berserker fury, but I was able to block them from going after the others while they cast spells and fired arrows past me.
One of the kobolds was quickly disabled and the other two withdrew. We pursued, wary of ambush, arriving at another seemingly empty chamber. Two kobolds struck from ambush, one with magical missiles, the other with a knife. Both of them were unable to penetrate my armor and magical shielding. This time, Keller, Fungdark and I quickly filled the room with sound bursts, exploding alchemical mixtures and a fine glittering dust that clung to the outlines of three invisible kobolds. Our attacks left two of them stunned. The third threw down his weapons in disgust and snarled something in a hissing, growling language.
To my surprise, Keller snarled and hissed back, then said, “They speak Draconic! And I think they’re surrendering…”
Having established communication, we quickly learned that the kobolds were not allies of the goblins. Indeed, they were defending their home – first from the goblins and then from us. Fortunately, the kobold we had disabled was only wounded, not dead, and I was able to heal him.
The kobold shaman told us that he had been second in command of a group of ten kobolds who had been frozen in time. He showed us the room where he and his compatriots had stood on pillars for untold years. Something had gone wrong somewhere – he feared that they had been there for far longer than intended. The world had changed drastically from when they entered their sleep.
He was unsure what had awakened them, but there was a crack in the wall of the pillar room. A slow dripping leak had undermined the stone. And – worse yet – there was a creature deep in the caves. Something horrible had killed six of the kobolds, including their original leader. In recompense for having attacked the kobolds in their home, we agreed to see what we could find.
In the far wall of the room where the kobolds surrendered was a narrow fissure – barely large enough to admit Fungdark. Keller and I were far to large to fit, but fortunately both of us had arcane means to reduce our size so that we could squeeze through. The kobolds were roughly Fungdark’s size, so they would follow us through the crack to assist in the fight.
Having seen how effective the sonic burst was at stunning opponents, the plan was that Fungdark, the kobold shaman and I would take turns blasting whatever it was with sound while the kobold skirmishers engaged it in melee. Keller would lend arcane support with his most damaging spells. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, few plans survive actual contact with the enemy.
The cavern at the end of the fissure was a rough sinkhole, muddy, rocky, and half submerged in silty water. Keller, Fungdark and I entered and attempted to flush out whatever creature lurked in there. Our efforts were fruitless until Keller lit the room with glittering dust and a man-sized figure of mud launched itself from a puddle and lashed out with viscous limbs across the room.
The muddy tendrils slammed into Keller and Fungdark, wrapping around them and beginning to squeeze. I could see that Keller was half-dead from the initial impact, and Fungdark wasn’t much better. I fired off a sonic blast, but the creature shrugged it off and began to bear down on the two people it had trapped.
Fortunately, the kobold shaman was able to act in time, casting his own sonic burst into the room. This time, the creature loosened its grip, dropping Fungdark and Keller. We quickly beat a retreat, taking advantage of its temporarily stunned state.
We have escorted the four kobolds out of their caves and are on our way back to the tower. The kobold shaman has a key around his neck – one which may, perhaps, match the locked chamber we found so long ago… Perhaps we can make a deal, helping to give them shelter and some measure of protection in exchange for the key.
Our physical injuries are, fortunately, minor, but Keller’s pride is rather bruised. He groused to Fungdark, “I don’t think we’ll be getting a song out of that adventure.” But the bard disagreed. “The survivors write the songs” Fungdark said. “And there’s a lot to work with: A tragic misunderstanding, averted at the last minute. A hasty alliance between former foes. And, at the end of it all, a chancy rescue… And who says we have to go into the trifling details about who rescued whom?”
I wrote about an irony earlier. By going into this cave without our strongest warrior, I think we benefited more than if Dragda had been there. With her in the fight, I doubt the kobolds would have lived long enough to surrender. Without their warning, we would have stumbled into the room with the mud creature unaware of the danger. With her help, but without the assistance of the kobold shaman, some of us might have survived the fight with it, but we would probably have lost Keller. As it is, we have gained some interesting knowledge and possibly some useful allies.