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Max_Writer

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition “The Keep on the Borderlands”

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Monday, April 11, 2016

(After playing Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition “The Keep on the Borderlands” on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Appalachian State University Game Fest and LAN Party with Quentin Russell, Ashton LeBlanc, Katelyn Hogan, Mike Miller, and Daniel Houchins.)

The realm of mankind was narrow and constricted. Always the forces of chaos pressed upon its borders, seeking to enslave its populace, rape its riches, and steal its treasure. If it were not for a stout few, many in the Realm would indeed fall prey to the evil which surrounded them. Yet there were always certain exceptional and brave members of humanity, as well as similar individuals among its allies – dwarves, elves, and Halflings – who rose above the common level and joined the battle to stave off the darkness which would otherwise overwhelm the land. Bold adventurers from the Realm set off for the Borderlands to seek their fortune. It was those adventurers who, provided they survived the challenge, carried the battle to the enemy. Such adventurers met the forces of Chaos in a testing ground where only the fittest would return to relate the tale. Here, those individuals would become skilled in their profession, be it fighter or magic-user, cleric or thief. They would be tried in the fire of combat – those who returned, hardened and more fit. True, some few who did survive the process would turn from Law and good to serve the masters of Chaos, but most would remain faithful and ready to fight chaos wherever it threatened to infect the Realm.

The five who came down the road that fateful day were indeed members of that exceptional class, adventures who had journeyed to the Keep on the Borderlands in search of fame and fortune. Of course, they were inexperienced, but they had their skills and hearts that cried out for adventure. They had it in them to become great, but they still had to gain experience and knowledge and greater skill. There was much to learn but they were willing and eager to be about it! Each of them had come with everything which they could possibly be given to help them. But now they had to fend for themselves; their fate was in their hands, for better or worse.

Ahead, up the winding road, atop a sheer-walled mount of stone, loomed the great Keep. There, at one of civilization’s strongholds between good lands and bad, they would base themselves and equip themselves for forays against the wicked monsters who lurked in the wilds. Somewhere nearby, amid the dark forests and tangled fens, were the Caves of Chaos, where fell creatures lay in wait. All this they knew, but before they dared adventure into such regions, they had become acquainted with each other, for each of their lives would depend upon the ability of the others to cooperate against the common foe.

They had only met the day before and decided to travel together.

Sister Mad Martha was a solid woman who talked very loudly. She was a priestess of Dionysus and of average height. She had red hair and wore hide armor over her nun’s habit. She walked with a quarterstaff and had a whip on her belt. She drank beer out of her wineskin. She had been warned to beware of treachery from within her party. She suspected Dodan of such.

Alissa the White was a noble-born mage. She wore her platinum hair in a bun and was very tall, wearing robes and walking with a quarterstaff. She bore herself regally. She had heard rumors that a merchant, imprisoned in the Caves of Chaos, would reward his rescuers.

Arya was an elf ranger. She had long brown hair that she kept up and wore leather armor. She carried a bow and had a short sword on her belt and a dagger in her boot. She had heard that “bree-yark” was goblin-language for “We surrender.”

Dodan “Sticky-fingers” Swiftfoot was a Halfling. He had short, messy brown hair and was a rogue. He wore leather armor. A dagger and a sling hung from his belt. He had heard rumor that an elf had once disappeared across the marshes near the Keep.

Bran Frostgrim was the largest of them, a man standing six and a half feet tall. He was slim with long blonde hair and a thick blonde beard. He was fairly dirty, wore splint mail, and carried a spear. A long sword and a dagger were on his belt. He was a warrior, born of the north, whose family was all dead. He had heard the bugbears in the caves were afraid of dwarves.

They had each traveled many days, leaving the Realm and entering into the wilder area of the Borderlands. Farms and towns had become less frequent and travelers few. The road had climbed higher as they entered the forested and mountainous country. When they had seen the keep, they had taken the side road that led to it.

They moved up a narrow, rocky track. A sheer wall of natural stone was on their left, the path falling away to a steep cliff on the right. There was a small widening ahead, where the main gate to the keep was. The blue-clad men-at-arms who guarded the entrance shouted at them to give their names and state their business. All along the wall, they saw curious faces peeing down at them – eager to welcome new champions of Law but ready with crossbow and pole arm to give another sort of welcome to enemies.

“My name is Martha,” Mad Martha said. “And my business is … my business is … I need to know where I can refill my wineskin with some beer!”

The men looked at each other.

“What about the rest of you?” one called.

“I don’t know,” Mad Martha called back up. “I think they’re here for adventure!”

“That’s why I wasn’t talking to you!” the guard called. “What about the rest of you?”

“I’m here to make some money,” Dodan called.

“I’m here to fight,” Bran called.

The guards looked at each other.

“Who are you fighting?” one called.

“Anything I’m paid to fight,” he said grimly.

“It’s another mercenary,” one guard said.

“I heard there’s a merchant trapped in a cave,” Alissa said.

“I heard that too,” one of the men said to another.

“I’m just traveling,” Arya said.

The guards mumbled amongst themselves and when someone yelled to lower the drawbridge, it was dropped and the portcullis raised. The five went through the gatehouse and into a courtyard beyond.

They stopped in the paved entry yard when a man in plate mail carrying a shield and armed with a long sword bid them to halt. Next to the man was another who wore robes and had a great book. Flanking the two were two men-at-arms in plate mail. The center man gestured them to come to him.

“Excuse me, sir!” Mad Martha said. “Do you know where I can refill my wineskin with some beer?”

“Probably the merchant,” the corporal said. “But we need to know some information first.”

He asked their names and the scribe wrote them all down in his book. The armored man asked if they were merchants and when they claimed they weren’t, he waved them through, allowing them to finally enter the keep proper.

They walked south past stable and warehouse with parapets atop their roofs, then turned to follow the way westward. A taller smithy stood in the cobblestone street and they could hear the men working within. Small apartments stood against the wall of the Keep across from it. The way past that led to the west and to the north.

Mad Martha approached one of the residents walking by.

“Sir, do you perhaps know where I could refill my wineskin with quality ale?” she asked.

The man pointed vaguely to the west. She wandered that way with Arya and Alissa behind. They passed by two low buildings with wooden placards over the doors to their right. The first read “Provisioner” and the second “Trader.” They were well-provisioned and so walked past them and the houses that lined the other side of the street. On the corner was a larger building with a guard outside the door.

They finally came to another courtyard, this one with a large, gushing fountain in the center of the square. A few women drew clear water from the source. Two more buildings opened into the Fountain Square. Over one door was a sign that proclaimed it to be the “Traveler’s Inn” while a simple sign over the other listed it as a “Tavern.”

* * *

Bran and Dodan stopped at the smithy as the women had headed for the tavern. The building was two stories high and had a parapet on the top as well. It was directly connected to the warehouse. Wide doors opened in the front and forges, bellows, and other items were central in the place. A large blacksmith worked on horseshoes while two young men assisted him. Some weapons hung on the wall: a couple of swords, a mace, and a suit of chainmail were all present. Several spears also leaned against the wall. A narrow set of steps climbed to the second floor.

The big, burly blacksmith noticed them and stopped his work, wiping the sweat from his brow.

“What d’ y’ need, gentlemen?” he asked.

“Just appreciating your fine hardware,” Dodan said.

“Oh. I do my best.”

He and his boys went back to work. It was blisteringly hot in the building.

“So you have any shields?” Bran asked the blacksmith.

“Nope,” the man said. “All I’ve got is these weapons over here.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

They left the smithy and headed west, the same direction the women had gone.

* * *

The women’s throats were dusty and dry from the road so they opted for the tavern first. The smell of cooked meat, bread, and other good food greeted them as they entered the room and they found that in the early morning, they were alone. A man stood near several casks stacked up by the far wall and over him was a sign that listed the prices of food and drink in the place. The prices were quite high. Only Mad Martha and Alissa could read it. Arya was not familiar with any written language.

A mug of ale or a glass of wine cost an electrum piece, according to the posting, though small beer or bark tea was only a silver coin. The honey mead was a gold piece for a mug. The tavern had a decent variety of food with bread being only a copper coin a slice and pudding, soup, or fruit only a silver coin for a bowl. Both the stew and the hot pie were an electrum piece while the roast fowl coast a gold coin and the roast joint cost two gold coins.

“How much to refill this wineskin … skin of wine,” Mad Martha asked the man there. “Beer. Whatever this is.”

“Well, what do you want?” he asked.

“I want …”

“You want ale or small beer?”

“Beer.”

“A silver piece.”

“I’ll do that.”

The man filled the wineskin from one of the kegs until it started to overflow, stoppered it, and handed it back to her. She drank from it.

“Very good, very good,” she said, suddenly seeming to be a bit more sober, actually. “It’s quite a time since I’ve had any beer. The headache! Oh, the hangover! I’m good now. Let’s go.”

“I tell you what I like better is honey mead,” the barkeep said.

“See, I always prefer beer to a honey mead.”

“Ah.”

“Honey mead is too sweet. But beer just … beer just sits right in the stomach.”

“I would like a tea, good sir,” Alissa said.

“Of course,” the barkeep said.

He put the kettle over the fire. She asked him about the merchant.

“I don’t talk a lot unless my throat’s been quenched,” the barkeep said. “I love honey mead.”

She purchased a glass of honey mead for the man.

“Merchant, you say, merchant?” he said, taking a long sip. “I have heard of that merchant. I’m not sure which of the Caves of Chaos he’s in, but I’m certain he’s there. It’s said he’ll reward his rescuers. He’s a man. He’s a man who passed through here. I don’t remember much more about him. But you won’t find many men there, I think. Most are monsters.”

“Do you know who else would know more, possibly?” she asked.

“Oh, I couldn’t tell you. I really don’t know.”

“Which direction are the caves?”

“I don’t know exactly. I know they are to the east. The road continues on and the Caves of Chaos lie somewhere in that direction.”

“Good sir,” Mad Martha asked. “If this merchant is trapped in the cave, then how are we to know, how would anyone know, whether he would provide a reward for his rescuer? How do we know this isn’t a trap laid out by, say, vagabond bandits?”

“It could be,” the barkeep said. “I’m just telling you what I’ve heard. That’s just the story that’s going around town.”

Bran and Dodan entered the tavern.

“Do I smell tea?” Dodan said. “I’ll have some of that!”

“All right,” the barkeep said. “Come on in, gentlemen!”

He poured large cups of bark tea for Alissa and Dodan.

“I’ll have me a cup too,” Arya said. “And some fruit if that’s all right.”

“Of course!” the barkeep said.

He brought her a small bowl of apples, grapes, and a lemon after pouring her a large cup of bark tea. Bran asked for ale and the barkeep poured him a huge mug of ale, overflowing it a little to get rid of the head.

“Lightweight,” Bran said, looking at Mad Martha, who sipped from her wineskin.

“It’s not that I want the beer or the ale or the alcohol, it’s that I need the beer to function,” she said.

“I’m a man,” Bran said. “I have a stein!”

“Good sir, what have you got by way of meat?” Dodan asked.

He couldn’t make head or tail of the placard on the wall with prices.

“Well, we’ve got roast fowl and roast joint,” the barkeep said.

“How much is the roast joint?”

“The joint is two and a half gold.”

“How about the fowl?”

“Fowl’s a gold piece.”

“I’ll take one.”

“All right, I’ll get on it.”

He left the room for a moment and then returned with a chicken carcass. He put some spices on it and skewered it onto a metal pole and then put it over the fire, turning it occasionally. It would probably be some time before it was cooked. The smell of the chicken filled the place while Bran leaned back, feet on the table, and enjoyed his ale. They discussed going to get provisions and Alissa, Arya, and Mad Martha all left the place.

They entered the trader’s house first and found the place was filled with armor, weapons, and large quantity goods like salt, spices, cloth, rare wood, and the like. A small, slim man stood in the place along with two younger men. They could see the family resemblance between the three.

“Yes, can I help you?” the man asked.

“I’m looking for a lantern,” Alissa said.

The man told her she could find such things next door at the provisioner. He told her he mainly dealt with weapons. He noted if she found any furs he’d buy them from her.

“Furs?” Arya said.

“Furs,” he said. “I’m looking for furs.”

“Well, I happen to be a hunter.”

“I will pay you one and a half times what normal people would pay.”

She asked what kind of furs he wanted and he said he would take any kind of furs.

“The bigger the better,” he said. “Bear would be good. Something large. Larger the better. But I will pay for small as well. I just won’t pay as much. But I’ll give you a good price.”

“Would you happen to have any weapons of the more clerical persuasion?” Mad Martha asked.

The man had all kinds of weapons but she didn’t know how to use any of them.

“Well, my good sir, it would seem you have nothing that would interest me,” she said. “So, good day.”

“You too,” the man said.

They went to the provisioner next and found just about anything they wanted. The only weapons there were spears, daggers, arrows, and bolts. A few shields stood against the wall as well. He was also willing to purchase weapons and armor from them if they ever wished to sell. Mad Martha ended up buying a small, round shield.

* * *

Bran mentioned wanting to get a shield and the barkeep told him the provisioner sold them. He left and Dodan asked if he could come back for the chicken. The barkeep told him he could so he followed the man. They found the other three in the provisioner as Alissa purchased three torches, flint and steel, some hemp rope, and chalk. Bran wanted to buy a medium shield but didn’t have the gold coins. He thought the provisioner was gouging the prices.

They left the place. It was about midday.

“I feel like we should go exploring,” Mad Martha said.

“I agree,” Arya replied.

“Hang on,” Dodan said. “I’ve got to get my food.”

He ran to the tavern and got the roast chicken, returning with it. He found Alissa talking to one of the guards at the main gates who seemed quite friendly.

“Hey, how’s it going?” he said. “Whatcha need? Whatcha need?”

“I want to know where the Chaos Caves are,” she said.

“Oh yeah yeah!” the guard said. “There’s a bunch of different tribes of different types of monsters there. Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.”

He thought a moment.

“If you follow the road east, you’re going to see the marshes to the south,” he said. “They’re dangerous. They’re dangerous. Then the woods start closing in on the road. If you keep following the road until it curves to the north and you see the land rising to your left, the caves are back there in the woods somewhere. But be careful. It should be right there.”

Dodan stood and watched, eating his chicken.

“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to use a napkin,” Mad Martha said to him.

“I’m going to have to ask you to kiss my ass,” Dodan said.

“That’s your fetish, not mine,” she replied.

“Right, it is,” he said.

He used Arya’s sleeve to wipe his mouth. She was not pleased.

“What a disagreeable little man,” Mad Martha said of him.

The guard scurried off.

“What an interesting guard,” Arya said.

They went to the main gate and spoke to the corporal who called up for the guards to lower the drawbridge and open the portcullis. They left the Keep, going down to the main road, and heading east. To the south they saw what looked like swamps and a wide river that came close to the road before meandering away again. A grove of pine trees stood past the swamps, perhaps a quarter mile away. The woods came close to the road but then fell away again and they passed a tall, grassy hill to the right. Then the woods came close to the road on both sides as the road turned northward and the land rose steeply on both sides.

They turned to the left, heading back westward. It was dark under the boughs of the trees but they could soon see clear areas a few hundred yards to the right and ahead. To the left were simply dark woods.

“I say we go towards the clearing,” Mad Martha said. “That way we can get out of this accursed dark. I’m not a fan of the woods.”

“What dark?” Arya said.

Her keen Elvin senses allowed her to see clearly in the gloom of the forest.

“We’re going to a cave and she doesn’t like the dark,” Alissa muttered.

“I didn’t say I was happy with going to the cave,” Mad Martha said. “I say we go towards the clearing.”

“We can take a look, but if we don’t find anything, we’ll go elsewhere,” Arya said.

Mad Martha led them to the clearing to the right. They could just make out the road down the hill. Dodan finished off the last of his chicken, tossing the bones behind him. Bran glared at him for not sharing. He was so hungry.

The forest they had been passing through had been getting more dense, tangled, and gloomier. The thick, twisted tree trunks, unnaturally misshapen limbs, writhing roots, clutching and grasping thorns and briars all seemed to warn and ward them off, but they forced and hacked their way through regardless.

The strange growth suddenly ended. They stepped out of the thicket into a ravine-like area. The walls rose rather steeply to either side to a height of about 100 feet or so. Dark streaked rock mingled with the earth. Clumps of trees grew here and there, both on the floor of the ravine and up the sloping walls of the canyon. The opening they stood in was about 200 feet wide and the ravine ran at least 400 feet west to where the far end rose in a steep slope. Here and there, at varying heights on all sides of the ravine, they could see the black mouths of cave-like openings in the rock walls. The sunlight was dim, the air dank, there was an oppressive feeling there – as if something evil was watching and waiting to pounce upon them. There were bare, dead trees here and there, and upon one, a vulture perched and gazed hungrily at them. A flock of ravens rose croaking from the ground, the beat of their wings and their cries magnified by the terrain to sound loud and horrible. Amongst the litter of rubble, boulders, and dead wood scattered about on the ravine floor, they could see bits of gleaming ivory and white – closer inspection revealed they were bones and skulls of men, animals, and other things ...

They knew that they had certainly discovered the Caves of Chaos.

There were numerous caves and some of the small thickets were too dense to see through. They guessed there might even be more caves amongst those copses.

“Let’s turn around,” Mad Martha said. “I feel there is other adventuring to be done.”

She made a quick supplication to Dionysus to keep her alive. Dodan drew his dagger and spun it in his hand. Bran was tempted to toss his spear at the vulture.

“Let’s go to the first,” Arya said.

“Who wants to go in first because it’s certainly not going to be me,” Mad Martha said.

Bran gave her a shove.

“Everyone goes to the first,” Dodan said. “I say we go to the middle caves. Everybody’s going to go to the first and the last. We want unspoiled territory.”

“Maybe everyone thinks like you,” Arya said. “They all go to the middle.”

“They’re not as smart as me!” Dodan said.

Alissa looked for footprints and saw all kinds of tracks in the area.

“We’re looking for the merchant,” she said.

“Also, why would we want to go to the unspoiled caves?” Mad Martha said. “That would mean there are things that are fresh that could freshly kill us, right?”

“Thinking you should take a fresh swig of that beer, love,” Dodan said.

“Maybe. I. Will. But not because you told me to. First of all, I took an oath: Dionysus is the only man for me.”

Arya stuck out her tongue and made a gagging motion.

“Whomever wants to go first can go first,” Mad Martha said. “I’ll stick to the back.”

“By all means, I am a gentleman, so ladies first,” Bran said.

“No, thank you,” Mad Martha said. “How about age before beauty?”

Arya started walking towards the nearest cave at the bottom of the slope to their left.

“I’m thirty!” Dodan said.

“I’m only 16, thank you very much,” Mad Martha said.

Alissa started a random count to pick a cave and then followed Arya towards the second cave on the left.

“Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa,” Mad Martha said. “What are you all doing? Why are you choosing to go into different caves? We should all go into one.”

“I chose this one first,” Arya said.

“I’ll follow you,” Mad Martha said, running to catch up to the elf. “You seem decisive.”

I got the cleric, Arya thought.

Dodan and Bran followed them as well, Bran shaking his head. Alissa saw they were all heading for the first cave so joined them.

They reached the cave and stopped to discuss their marching order. Alissa noted they should not put the ranged people in the front. She moved towards the back of the party. Arya argued she was going in first and Dodan said he’d go in second. The cave mouth was wide enough they could walk two abreast if they wanted but they went single file. Arya went first, followed by Dodan, then Mad Martha and Alissa, with Bran in the rear. They all drew their weapons.

The cave was dark with only a little light coming in from the entrance. Alissa lit a torch. The corridor split, going three directions some 30 feet ahead of them.

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Mad Martha said.

Dodan squinted in the hope of his eyes not getting too used to the torchlight.

The natural cave quickly turned into worked stone tunnels.

“Well, this certainly bodes ill,” Mad Martha said.

Dodan stopped the group.

“All right, we need to think about this strategically,” he said.

Arya continued walking forward but he grabbed her by her belt. She nearly tripped but didn’t fall.

“I think we should put the heavy hitters up front,” Dodan went on. “The people with armor.”

“So, what if we have a rear attack?” Arya asked. “Then what?”

“We’ve just walked through the tunnel. Presumably, there’s not much behind us.”

“From what I can see, there’s three paths up there.”

“Well with three paths, that means …” Mad Martha said.

“We’re more likely to walk into trouble than to have trouble walk into us,” Dodan said.

“All right,” Arya said.

“Here’s the thing,” Mad Martha said. “Either way … or either triple way, I don’t know … we’re probably heading into almost certain danger, so … as long as someone else is getting hit I’m fine. If someone needs healing, I’ll heal them, but if I have to get hit, we’re going to have some trouble.”

“So, here’s what I propose,” Dodan said, ignoring them. “I propose the fighter and the cleric up front.”

“How about no,” Mad Martha said.

“I agree,” Arya said.

As they discussed it, several goblins walked into the intersection ahead.

“I told ya!” Dodan said.

“Be quiet; we’ve attracted danger,” Arya said.

The goblins stopped when they saw the adventurers.

“Bree-yark!” some of them yelled as they rushed forward.

They cried out in their own language and only Alissa understood they were saying to kill the intruders. Two of them attacked Arya with short swords but weren’t able to hurt her. The other attacked Dodan but missed as well. Mad Martha took a deep breath.

“Woooo!” she screamed. “Let’s party!”

She swung her quarterstaff at the goblin attacking Dodan, hitting it in the head.

“Woo, mother****er!” she cried out again. “This is how we roll with Dionysus!”

Dodan stabbed the creature in the side and it went down with a shriek. Bran rushed forward with his spear but slipped on the blood of the goblin who had just fallen and crashed to the ground, stunned. Arya, in the front ranks, dropped her bow and drew her short sword, swinging it wildly at the goblins. The goblins rushed forward, one of them climbing over Bran’s body and making his way towards Alissa, but tripping over the body of his companion. A second goblin climbed over Bran and managed to get over the bleeding goblin and then skipped over the goblin who had just fallen. Then it stabbed Alissa with its short sword and she went down, the torch dropping beside her. Another goblin leapt atop Bran’s prone form and stabbed Dodan.

Dodan dropped his dagger and took out his sling, whipping it over his head. The bullet flew off into the caves, missing completely. Arya slashed at one of the goblins but the blade struck the goblin’s leather armor and trembled terrible, dropping from her hand.

“All right, you ****ers!” Mad Martha yelled. “Let’s get this shit going! Get set to get dead mother****ers!”

She swung for the goblin’s head but he ducked. On the backswing, she broke his leg and the goblin fell without a sound, lying on Bran’s body.

“Let’s go, mother****ers!” she screamed in a deep voice.

She turned towards the goblin who had cut down Alissa and swung at it but missed. One of the goblins Arya fought stabbed her, hurting her badly. The one near Mad Martha was unable to penetrate her armor.

“I am the phenom!” she screamed. “I am the wrecker!”

Dodan moved to his right, climbing onto Bran, and fired another lead bullet from his sling at the goblin that had just stabbed Arya. The bullet missed, zipping down the corridor. Arya drew the dagger from her boot and tried to stab one of the goblins but only nicked his armor. Dodan’s next bullet struck one of the goblin’s in the head. He went down like tenpins.

Nice, Arya thought.

In the back of the party, Mad Martha swung and missed again, grunting at shrieking. The goblin turned and ran.

“You think that you can get away mother****er!” She shrieked as it turned. “This is─”

She swung, slamming the goblin in the back of the head and it went down.

“You think you can get away!” she cried. “No! This is Martha’s town! You’re in my world now, *****!”

Then the goblin who slipped and fell leapt back to his feet, picking his sword up.

“What?” Mad Martha shrieked. “You wanna come to my world!?! My town!?!”

There were only two goblins left. They fought fiercely but couldn’t hurt the adventurers. Mad Martha had progressed past speech and was merely groaning angrily. She struck the goblin in the side but didn’t seem to hurt it. Then Dodan shot him in the head with a sling bullet and down he went. The lone remaining goblin tried to stab Arya unsuccessfully. She had no better luck injuring it.

Bran started coming around. He shook his head groggily.

Arya stabbed at the goblin again without luck, the blow skittering off his leather armor. Mad Martha strode forward, pushing her way to the last goblin. She swung her staff but missed.

“Bree-yark!” the goblin yelled as he turned and ran away.

“You think you can run?” Mad Martha yelled.

She struck the goblin as he fled, heading for the left. Bran finally stood up as Mad Martha screamed. She went to the back of the group and cast a cure light wounds spell on Alissa. Then she took a sip of beer.

“Wow,” she said. “Wow. That was … what’s with all these goblins around. Oh! I did this, didn’t I?”

Arya scooped up her sword and bow and ran into the cave after the goblin. The corridor curved off and there was a side corridor that dead-ended but the goblin continued on into a small room at the end of the main passage. She slowed as she approached the chamber, moving into the side corridor and hiding there. She thought she heard several other goblins in the room, all of them speaking in their own language. She turned and ran back to the entrance.

Dodan and Bran were searching the goblins on the ground. Each were able to get a few silver coins. Dodan noticed two larger bags in the intersection the goblins had dropped before they’d charged the party. Mad Martha started ripping off bits of cloth and tying up the unconscious goblins.

Arya ran back to the others.

“Goblins. Room. Back there. A lot!” she said.

Several of them heard the slapping of feet coming down the corridor. Dodan ran to the intersection, followed quickly by Arya, and they grabbed the two sacks. They saw the goblins coming so they ran. Dodan snatched up one of their short swords as he ran by.

“Bree-yark!” came a shout from behind them as the goblins ran after them.

They all fled the cave, running out into the sunshine and away from the Caves of Chaos. As they ran back into the woods, a half dozen goblins came out of the cave. They shouted in goblin and tried to shield their eyes from the sunlight as it obviously pained them.

Mad Martha turned.

“Does anyone know goblin here?” she called.

“I know goblin,” Alissa said.

“Do you know the word for ‘die’ in goblin?”

She told her the word. Mad Martha cast a command spell and yelled the word. One of the goblins fell to the ground. The other goblins slowed as they were certain she had just killed one of their number.

Then the party all ran away, slowing so Dodan could keep up with them. Arya yelled for someone to pick Dodan up. Bran changed course and moved towards him to pick him up.

“No no!” Dodan called. “We’re fine. We can outrun them!”

Bran shrugged and they fled back to the woods. They walked back to the Keep, examining the two bags as they went. Each proved to be filled with goblin food. Though it wasn’t the best food they’d ever seen, it was not poisonous and quite edible. Arya handed the food in the bag to Dodan.

They were let back into the Keep, battered and bloody. Bran was covered in blood and the guards seemed quite concerned for him.

“It’s not mine,” he grunted.

Arya wanted to find a chapel for healing but wasn’t sure where one might be. There was a street they hadn’t explored and she saw a large building with a peaked roof that might be a chapel. Alissa and Dodan went with her. Meanwhile, Mad Martha and Bran cleaned themselves in the fountain in the square. The bloody water quickly grew clear again and they guessed it was some kind of natural flowing spring.

* * *

The other three, still bloody and beaten from the battle, headed up the other street. They passed a large, two-story building that appeared to be a merchant’s guild of some sort. Just past it was a large chapel. They went into the peaked-roof building. The altar was located at the far end with a stained glass window above it. An offering box was fastened atop a heavy pedestal in the far corner to the right. A single, old man in robes was there.

“Hello, is there a healer?” Arya called.

The old man walked over to them. He carried a staff with a snake head upon it.

“I am the Curate,” he said. “How can I help you?”

“I have a wound,” she said.

“Oh, do you?”

“Yes.”

“Oh dear. Oh dear. I usually don’t use healing on outsiders, only on guards and other people who live in the keep. But, perhaps for a donation.”

He looked towards the box in the corner. She went over and dropped a gold coin into the box.

“Well well well well,” he said.

He cast a cure light wounds spell upon the young woman. She was not completely healed but was better than before.

“That’s fine,” the priest said. “What happened to you good folk. What about this little fellow? He’s all covered in blood as well.”

Arya looked down and was surprised to see Dodan. She hadn’t realized he’d accompanied them.

“I could use some healing too,” he said.

“As you’re not a member of the keep …” the Curate said.

“I think a gold covers two people,” Dodan said.

The man just looked at him and growled slightly.

“Yeah, gold doesn’t go as far as it used to,” the Curate said.

Dodan put a coin into the box and the man cast a healing spell upon the Halfling.

Alissa headed off while Arya talked to the man.

“We are adventurers,” she said. “We were just wondering, since we go out, if there’s anything you might want from the outside.”

“No no no,” the Curate said. “I’m fairly well stocked. I have to tell you though, to beware. There’s a priest in this town, who we all thought had died some time ago, but came back. I don’t trust him. I don’t trust him, I tell you.”

“Who is this?”

“He’s a priest. He just calls himself ‘The Priest.’” He related where the man lived. “But you cannot trust him! He’s not to be trusted. As I said, he went away with adventures who claimed that he had betrayed them, but fled. Then he came back. I don’t know whether the adventurers were lying or not.”

Meanwhile, Dodan crept to the offering box and found no lock or latch upon it. He opened it quietly and reached in, snatching out the two gold coins and a handful of others that were already in the box. He pocketed everything and then walked away as if he had been admiring the place.

“Is there anything you want us to do with this priest?” Arya asked.

“Just don’t trust him!” the Curate said. “If he comes to you and he wants to join your party, don’t trust him.”

“Gotcha. Thank you very much.”

She left the building as well, quickly catching up to Dodan, who was counting coins. He’d gotten the gold, several copper coins and several silver coins.

“I didn’t like that priest very much,” Arya said.

“Charging that much for healing,” Dodan said. “Hmph.”

“Well, he didn’t charge but he did expect payment to the church.”

“Oh, how naïve. You think that money doesn’t go straight into his pocket?”

* * *

Alissa had returned to the Merchant’s Guild. The door opened into a hallway with two desks behind a railing. A couple of men sat at them, writing in ledgers with quills.

“Can we help you?” one of them asked.

“I’m part of a group of adventurers and I was wondering if you needed anything done?” she said.

“No, we usually just deal with merchants who come through. This is the merchant’s guild so merchants can stay here after they’ve paid a tithe on their goods. If you’re not a merchant though …”

“Did you hear anything about the merchant that’s trapped in the caves?”

“Oh! I haven’t heard anything about it. Why? Wait! Are you here to ask for ransom!?! Is that what you’re doing here? This lady here is asking for ransom for the merchant that went missing! I’m going to call the guards!”

The other man seemed confused. Alissa left the building quickly.

“Hey!” the man yelled after her. “Come back here!”

* * *

As they approached the merchant’s guild, Arya and Dodan argued about getting her gold back.

“I didn’t get any gold,” Dodan said. “I got my gold.”

“How much did you get,” Arya asked him.

“I only got one gold,” he lied.

She looked at him.

“I don’t believe you,” she said.

“That’s good for you,” he said.

She continued to glare at him.

“My gold,” she said.

“No.”

“I knew I should never trust Halflings!”

She increased her pace and outdistanced him quickly. She passed the merchant’s guild and Alissa walked out. Someone inside was yelling at her as she closed the door behind her.

“I helped you out!” she said to Dodan, who caught up.

He handed her five silver coins.

“I want my gold!” she muttered. “Where’s the other five?”

“We’ll see,” he said.

They found Bran and Mad Martha in the square and all of them went to the Traveler’s Inn. The building was a long, low structure and they learned from the innkeeper there were five private rooms and a large common room with room for a dozen. The private rooms cost a gold piece per night while sleeping in the common room was a silver piece per night. Bran, Dodan, and Mad Martha slept in the common room while Arya and Alissa got private rooms.

The common room had cots with straw ticks and space for each person’s gear. The private rooms had feather beds, a wardrobe, a nightstand with a pitcher and bowl, chamber pot, and even a window. They had an inexpensive meal for dinner that night and then slept the sleep of the righteous

* * *

As they ate gruel at the tavern the next morning, they discussed what to do. Alissa was of the opinion they should go to the second cave. Bran thought if there were a lot of goblins in there, they must have been in there for a reason. He wanted to explore that first cave further, but pick a different route. Mad Martha was fine with either. She had plenty of beer so she felt she’d be okay again. Arya told them what she’d seen. Mad Martha reminded everyone that they hadn’t necessarily killed the goblins they’d fought, only knocked them out. Bran pointed out they knew what was in the cave and so they could be more prepared.

“Now that there’s an enemy we know, we’re not going to go into an unknown, necessarily,” he said. “We actually know what’s in there now. That’s why I suggest going to the same cave.”

“I’m more prepped for combat today,” Mad Martha said.

A few of the locals were also in the tavern and they overheard some of them talking. Mad Martha heard tribes of different creatures lived in different caves and there was talk of the new party of adventurers going into the caves. Alissa heard a magic wand was lost in the cave area. Arya overheard that the big dog men lived very high in the caves. Dodan heard that “Bree-yark” was goblin for “We surrender.” He told that person he was full of shit.

“What?” the man replied. “I heard that from my brother’s cousin’s nephew’s uncle!”

“I heard it from a goblin’s mouth as he was trying to attack me,” Dodan said.

“Whoa.”

Alissa, who spoke goblin-speak, realized “bree-yark” was essentially a goblin call for help.

They shared their rumors with each other. No one was sure what dog men were but Dodan thought it sounded dangerous. Arya advised they not go to the higher levels.

“Well, danger usually means more loot,” he pointed out.

“Usually, but I don’t think I want to die,” she said.

“Do you have to be so greedy, little man?” Mad Martha said.

“We nearly lost our wizard,” Arya said.

“Yes,” Dodan answered the priestess.

“I’d like to be part of the fight the next time,” Bran said.

“Next time I’d like not to be part of the fight,” Mad Martha said. “That is very …”

“You didn’t sound like it when you were in it,” Dodan said.

She just looked at him.

“Look, that’s not … that’s not the me that you think I am,” she said.

Arya still favored her injury.

“I say we gotta search for this merchant,” Dodan said. “Sounds like he could give us a right reward.”

“I say go back to the cave,” Bran said. “I want some revenge.”

“You just want to kill goblins.”

“I still say go back to the cave in a different route.”

“And prove you’re not useless.”

“I will stab you.”

“You won’t catch me.”

“I can throw a spear far and fast.”

“I just feel we’d miss something if we don’t go back,” Arya said.

“Fine, let’s go back to the cave,” Mad Martha said.

They left the Keep once again and walked to the forest. They soon found themselves at the Caves of Chaos. As they looked into the ravine from the edge of the woods, Mad Martha said they should go in more stealthy this time and with a better plan.

“This time, I say you send me in first,” Dodan said.

“But can you see in the dark?” Mad Martha said.

“I can,” Arya said.

“I say we send her in first,” Mad Martha said.

“I agree,” Arya said.

“I agree,” Bran said.

“What does everybody know about goblins?” Dodan asked.

“We know ‘bree-yark’ doesn’t mean ‘I surrender,’” Arya said.

The Halfling laughed.

They talked about goblins. Dodan knew goblins could see in the dark. Arya knew that individually, goblins were not very strong, but in groups they could rush and be very dangerous. Alissa knew some goblin tribes had shamans though they were usually not nearly as powerful or prevalent as wizards. Mad Martha told them there had been a few famous goblins in history, though none were known to be from the borderlands where they were presently standing. Bran told them he’d heard if you hit a goblin with a gold brick, it would immediately become your slave and give the brick back.

Mad Martha started to talk more and more aggressively as they looked down on the ravine.

“All right, guys,” she said. “Here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna break some skulls. Who’s with me? Team on three! One! Two! Three!”

Bran slapped her when she said “Three!” The woman looked at him.

“The **** did you just do!?!” she shrieked.

Dodan laughed and the Mad Martha punched Bran solidly in the face, knocking him backwards but not off his feet. She growled at the man.

“You come after the Skullcrusher, you are gonna get crushed!” she yelled at him as Dodan laughed and Arya giggled. “Don’t **** with the Skullcrusher! You ****ing with me, little man!?!”

Bran glared at her. He would remember this.

They went down to the cave once again. Mad Martha was ready to fight, breathing heavily and grunting and groaning.

“Just go!” she said. “Bring ‘em to us!”

Mad Martha waited in the entrance while Alissa and Bran stood just outside the cave.

Arya went in with Dodan holding onto the back of her belt. Mad Martha leant her hooded lantern to Dodan and he lit it and hooded it and held it down. The two of them crept into the cave and down the corridor to the left, heading for the room where she’d heard the goblins before. She heard more goblins there and Arya peeked into the pitch black room. She spotted a half dozen goblins within. A barrel filled with spears was also in the room and there was another passage on the far side. Three goblins watched in either direction. One of them spotted her as she peeked in. He started jabbering and sounded angry.

Dodan flung open the shutter on the lantern and light flooded the room. The goblins squinted and jabbered.

“Get in here!” Dodan yelled.

Arya drew her bow and nocked an arrow as Dodan took out his dagger. He rushed into the room and stabbed at one of the goblins.

* * *

The others at the cave’s entrance heard the cry. Alissa quickly took out flint and steel and lit a torch. Mad Martha cast a shillelagh spell on her staff and then rushed into the caves as best she could in the dark.

* * *



Mad Martha ran into the room with a shriek, holding a magical staff in her hands. Bran followed close behind her, crashing through the corridors. The goblins tried to stab them with their spears as he ran into the room, one of them cutting Mad Martha. Two other goblins backed away from the fray as Bran ran one of the goblins through with his spear. The horrible creature died screaming, blood spewing everywhere. Arya moved into the corner of the room and shot a goblin on the far side. With a cry, it fell to the ground.

Dodan tried, unsuccessfully, to stab the goblin in front of him. The little creature laughed at his feeble attempts. The other goblin in the back of the room ran away, disappearing around the corridor.

“Y’all handle these!” Arya said, running after him.

“You killed my brother!” one of the goblins yelled in his own tongue.

Only Alissa, still outside the cave and just picking up her torch, understood him.

He moved to Bran and stabbed him with his spear. The other goblins missed. Alissa arrived behind the others, torch in hand. She chanted and a magic missile flew from her hand and struck the goblin Dodan was fighting.

* * *

Arya ran around the corner and up the steps beyond. She mounted a landing and went up another short flight of stairs before she caught up with the goblin. She tried to club him with her bow but he heard her coming and ducked. She saw a door at the end of the corridor some 20 feet away. The goblin said something and readied his spear.

* * *

Bran stabbed one of the goblins but didn’t kill it. It grunted and groaned and said something in its own language. Only Alissa understood the surprised goblin had said “I’m not dead yet.”

Mad Martha slammed a goblin with her enchanted staff and sent the beast flying across the room to crash in the corner. Dodan slipped behind the goblin fighting Bra, stabbing the creature in the back and twisting the blade. With a terrible cry, it dropped to the ground.

Both Alissa and Mad Martha took off down the corridor after Arya, tearing up the steps and attacking the goblin they found at the top.

“Surrender!” Alissa called in goblin tongue.

But it was too late. Mad Martha reached the goblin at the same time and brought her staff down on the creature’s head. It went down.

“We need to ask it questions!” Alissa said.

“**** that!” Mad Martha replies.

She smashed the thing’s skull.

* * *

Back in the little guard room, Dodan cut the throat of the goblin he’d just taken down. As he started killing all of the goblins, Bran began looting the bodies. They finished off killing all five and got everything of value off the bodies, including a good number of copper and silver coins.

Now that they had time to look around more carefully, they saw there was a barrel of spears, a small table, two benches, and a keg of water in the room.

* * *

Mad Martha ripped open the goblin’s throat and tasted the blood. She smeared it on her face, splashing it all over herself. Then she bit into the goblin’s flesh and ate of it. It did not taste good.

“It’s delicious!” she said. “Takes like chicken.”

Arya moved to the door. It looked typical with a latch and keyhole. She put her hand on the latch and pressed down. There was no resistance. Unless it was barred, she guessed it was not locked. Alissa moved up beside her, torch in hand.

Mad Martha ripped the arm off the goblin to take with her, tucking it into her belt.

“We should probably wait,” Alissa said.

Arya nodded and let go of the latch slowly and without a sound. Mad Martha stood up as Bran and Dodan came up the stairs.

“How’s it going, Bran?” she muttered angrily.

Dodan shuttered the lantern.

“I’m going to kill her the first chance I get,” Bran whispered to the Halfling.

“That might not be a bad idea,” Dodan replied.

Mad Martha walked towards the door with purpose as several of them said she should take a swig from her wineskin.

“**** that!” she said.

As she passed Alissa and Arya, she rushed the door, slamming into it. Arya backed into the corner to the left. Alissa backed to the stop of the stairs where Bran and Dodan stood, ready to run. Mad Martha struck the door, breaking it down and rushing into the room. The light from Alissa’s torch revealed a large room filled with hobgoblin males, females, and cubs. There were at least five males, almost double that number of females, and a few cubs. It appeared to be a common room where a good portion of the tribe probably lived. There were heaps of cloth and skins in the room for beds, some odds and ends of furniture, a small barrel, buckets, and the like.

Mad Martha charged ahead and struck one of the hobgoblins with her staff. It obviously hurt the creature but it didn’t fall. The creatures were much bigger than the goblins.

“Intruders!” one of them yelled in goblin-speak. “Kill them! Kill them all!”

Only Alissa understood though the tone of voice gave the others a hint it was not good. She turned and ran away, taking her torch and the light with her. Arya reached into the room and pulled the door closed and then followed Alissa. Bran felt his way in the dark, being careful of the steps, as he followed as best he could in pitch blackness. Then light erupted behind him as Dodan opened the lantern and ran down the steps to the goblin room. He started pulling spears out of the barrel and snapping off the spearheads. Bran went by him, heading for the exit.

* * *

Mad Martha swung her staff, still glowing with the residual energy of her last spell, at the same hobgoblin she’d struck before but the creature easily ducked aside. Then four of the males, each of them armed with a long sword, attacked her while the fifth went to the door and opened it. The females, meanwhile, picked up clubs and headed her way. One of the males stabbed her but barely hurt her.

“You call that a hit?” she screamed. “I call that a tap!”

Others attacked her but were unable to hurt her. She cast a command spell at one of the children, yelling “Die” in the goblin tongue. The child fell to the ground. The hobgoblin females wailed in terror.

* * *

Bran saw the light of Dodan’s lantern behind him as he stumbled down the corridor towards the entrance, bumping into Arya and making it to the cave entrance just behind her. Dodan, having heard the door open to the hobgoblin area, fled the guard room as well.

* * *

Mad Martha used her shield to good effect, blocking the blows of the hobgoblins for a short time. Then another one stabbed her in the chest. She breathed heavily before falling flat on her back, unconscious.

* * *

They stopped at the entrance of the cave for a moment and then moved to the woods near the edge of the ravine. After a short time, a hobgoblin came out of the cave and looked around before going back and disappearing into the darkness.

“Well, it’s a pity all that gold got left in there,” Dodan said.

They discussed what to do next. Arya thought they should enter the cave again but go straight. She knew what was up the steps and didn’t want anything to do with it. Dodan noted they had explored and it had almost killed them twice, and it did kill one of them.

“Just don’t go upstairs,” Arya said.

“They’re probably alert and waiting there at the intersection, if anything,” Dodan said.

“I still say cave two,” Alissa said.

“Do you think they’d think we’d come right back after being chased out?” Bran asked.

“Yeah,” Dodan said. “They might think we’re coming back for our friend.”

They discussed which cave to enter next.

“Eeny-meeny-miny-mo has never failed me,” Alissa said.

They ended up going to the second cave, a little west of the first they entered. The place had a strong, sour odor and appeared to be a natural cave, cut in two by a natural stone wall. There appeared to be a huge bear sprawled asleep on the far side of the cave to the right. Arya, in the lead, took a step into the cave and peeked into the other section. Sitting there was an ogre. It looked her way with his tiny, evil eyes.

“Oh hi,” she said. “Bye. Sorry to disturb you, sir.”

The ogre roared and Arya stepped back, as did the rest of them. The ogre came to the entrance of the cave and they all ran away, fleeing from the terrible beast. Dodan considered attacking it but ran like the rest. The creature shook its fist at them and went back into the cave.

The party regrouped at the edge of the forest and decided to try the third cave, hidden under the bows of a copse of trees. As soon as they got to the entrance, they smelled a horrible stench coming from the place. Arya just shook her head and walked away towards the last cave on the lowest level of the ravine.

They went under the boughs of another terribly wicked-looking copse of trees. The cave quickly gave way to worked stone, much as it had in the goblin caves. Arya and Dodan led the way with Alissa and Bran behind them. The initial tunnel went about 30 feet before splitting to the left and right. The two in the front stepped into the intersection. To the left, it went around a corner, possibly into a room. To the right, it disappeared into darkness, but in a small niche near the entrance were a group of tiny humanoids with brown, scaly skin and dog-like faces.

A half-dozen kobolds were in the tiny guard room. The two groups spotted each other.

* * *

Mad Martha awoke and found herself bound hand and foot, completely tied up. She was at the bottom of a pit with two hobgoblin guards standing over her. She knew they were terrified of her and she had them exactly where she wanted them. She tried to break free of the ropes without luck.

“We are sending for ransom to the keep,” one of the hobgoblins said in broken common.

She tried to bite at the creature without effect. Two climbed down into the pit and beat her into unconsciousness.

* * *

Arya shot at one of the kobolds but missed completely, her arrow clattering into the tunnel. Dodan fired his sling, just missing as well. The kobolds rushed out of the niche but then stopped and yelled at the adventurers. Only Alissa understood they were yelling taunts at them.

“C’mon cowards, we’ll rip your spleens out!” one shouted.

“We’ll bite your kneecaps off!” another yelled.

“We’ll wreck you!”

“Come and get us you idiots!”

“You … are stupid humans and do not know how to fight!”

Bran ran forward with his spear and suddenly the floor in the intersection collapsed under him, dropping him into a 10-foot deep pit. The floor appeared to have been made of some kind of light material that couldn’t hold his weight. The kobolds laughed uproariously and continued taunting.

Alissa moved forward and tossed one end of her rope down the hole. She ran back out the cave and tied the other side to one of the trees in the copse outside the cave. Dodan fired another bullet at the taunting kobolds, hitting one in the head. It went down.

“*****!” Arya said with a grin.

“C’mon!” Alissa heard the kobolds taunting. “Cross it. That’s the only spot! That’s the only spot!”

Bran climbed up out of the pit, pulling himself up onto solid ground again. Arya fired another arrow, realizing the ground under her was not very solid. She almost dropped her bow as she fired and the arrow skewed around but she managed to keep her hand on the bow. She figured it was from the shaky floor.

Dodan started to feel around on the floor and realized the 10-foot by 10-foot area in the intersection was all part of a trap. The entire floor there was shaky, made of weak wood covered by painted linen of some kind. The whole spot was unstable. Arya was standing on it while Dodan was on the edge of it. He told everyone about it as quickly as possible.

The kobolds continued taunting them. Alissa understood they were telling them to come across the floor as they would be fine. Arya stepped back off the floor and then shot one of the kobolds, which dropped to the ground with a squeal. Alissa walked over towards Arya, crossing the trapped floor. She crashed through the floor but Arya grabbed her as she started to fall and pulled her to safety.

Bran leapt over the hole, landing in front of the kobolds. He charged at them with a battle cry.

“No this time!” he called.

He tried to stab one with his spear but the kobold leapt out of the way as the rest converged on him. One climbed over a dead body, flanking him. Two of them stabbed the man while the other missed. Another kobold was holding back from the battle. Arya carefully walked across the pit, taking her time. It collapsed underneath her and she fell, hurting herself badly. She shook her head and cursed.

Bran dropped his spear to the floor and drew his longsword, cutting one of the kobolds down. Dodan tucked his sling away and drew his dagger, jumping over the corner of the pit. He landed next to the kobold who gave him a double take. He tried to stab the kobold who turned towards him. Arya climbed up out of the pit and back onto solid ground. Her legs hurt badly.

The kobold in the back climbed over the bodies of his comrades and he and another kobold attacked Bran. One stabbed him but the other missed. The kobold that attacked Dodan missed the Halfling completely. Bran cut down another kobold. The last kobold fighting him couldn’t hurt him and he cut it down.

“Surrender or die!” Alissa called to the last kobold in his own language.

“Never!” the kobold shouted back. “You are awful, evil monsters who come to kill our children and eat our young!”

“Capture him alive!” Alissa called. “Let’s interrogate him!”

Dodan used the flat of his dagger to try to knock out the kobold but missed the creature completely. Arya dropped her blow and drew her short sword. She reached over and smacked the kobold in the head with the flat of her blade. The kobold went down, unconscious.

They helped each other back to the main corridor near the cave after Bran and Dodan searched the bodies. At Alissa’s suggestion, Arya retrieved her rope and tied the kobold to a tree outside. Then she helped Alissa back across the pit. Dodan flung the kobold bodies down into the hole. One made a terrible crack when he landed.

“How do you like your hole now, guys?” he called to them.

Bran and Dodan helped each other across the pit and the former hobbled outside. He’d been badly injured in the battle. Alissa slapped the kobold’s face a few times. He began jabbering in kobold angrily.

“Let me go or feel the wrath of my people!” he said in kobold to the wizard. “They will fall upon you like the wolves swarm over a bear!”

Arya took out one of her arrows and put the pointed end in the palm of the kobold’s hand.

“Should I?” she asked Alissa.

“We can kill you right now or you can tell us what else is in that cave,” Alissa said in the kobold tongue.

“You will kill me anyway!” the kobold said. “I know that. You come to kill my family and my children! You terrible people!”

Dodan moved to the kobold and started peeling off a scale.

“No!” Alissa said. “Stop!”

The kobold cried out in pain.

“I knew it!” he cried. “I knew it! I knew it!”

“Let’s just take him back to town and get rest,” Alissa said.

“You want information out of him or not?” Dodan said.

“I do, but I can get it my way.”

“I’m bleeding over here,” Bran said.

“You know what we could use?” Dodan said. “A ****ing cleric!”

“Well I kind of locked her up so …” Arya said. “No, I didn’t. I just shut her in.”

“Yeah … well …” Dodan said.

They returned to the Keep with their prisoner. They were questioned about why they wanted to bring a kobold into the keep and Alissa told the guards he had information they wanted. She was warned that if he got loose, they’d be in big trouble, probably being expelled from the keep. The guard told her the kobold was her responsibility. She pointed out he was tied up with 50 feet of hemp rope. She was told if he got loose, anything he did would be her responsibility.

Dodan went to the trader and sold his spearheads and the goblin short sword.

That night, Alissa, Arya, and Bran got private rooms while Dodan paid for the common room once again.

* * *

The next day, they learned a hobgoblin came to the Keep the night before, demanding 100 gold coins for the return of an insane priestess by the name of Mad Martha. The Castellan had not paid the ransom but put out the word that if anyone wished to pay for the person’s ransom, they could, but the keep would not be paying for this stranger. The Castellan was also willing to front the money though those who took the loan would be in debt to the Keep until they paid it off.

That same day, Alissa prepared to cast a charm person spell on the kobold. He was still defiant before she cast the spell but then she brought him a bowl of gruel.

“Ugh, your food is terrible!” he said. “I hate it!”

She also offered him some wine, letting the kobold drink some of it.

“This wine is terrible!” he said. “Give me some more!”

She ended up giving half the wineskin and the kobold was plastered by the time she was ready to cast the spell.

“I hate you … *****es,” he slurred. “You … done these … things … I don’t know what they are …”

She cast the spell on him.

“Except for you!” the kobold said. “You’re my best friend!”

She knew the spell would probably last three or four weeks.

“You’re my very best friend,” the kobold said, tears in his drunken eyes. “Oh my gods, I’m so glad you found me!”

He cried drunkenly and then fell asleep. She was convinced the spell had worked and knew she had him for a while. Hours later, after he awoke, she untied him. When walking about the keep, people gave her the strangest looks.

* * *

Later that day, Bran asked Dodan if he could pay for the priest in town to heal him.

“I don’t know if I have enough gold for that,” Dodan said.

“Bullshit!” Bran said.

Dodan gave the man nine silver coins to pay the priest and Bran went to the chapel. He talked to the Curate and put a gold piece into the offering box. The priest was willing to cast another cure light wounds on the man as he seemed to desperate. Bran noticed he watched the box closely and checked it as the man left.

“You see a Halfling around here, you tell him to stay outta here!” the Curate told him.

* * *

Dodan went to the Chapel but as soon as the Curate saw him, he yelled at him.

“Get outta here!” he yelled. “You’re not welcome in here, you little thief!”

He got a broom.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dodan said.

“Get outta here!” the Curate said.

He started hitting Dodan with the broom.

“Get out of my chapel!” the Curate said. “Get out of my church! You’re not welcome here!”

Dodan fled.

* * *

Alissa came to the tavern with the kobold that night. The little creature dug into the gruel she bought him.

“Yea, gruel!” he said in his own tongue. “I love this gruel that you give me!”

Dodan walked in, muttering about untrusting priests.

“Hey, there’s that Halfling!” the kobold said. “Can I kill him?”

Alissa shook her head.

“Dang it!” the kobold said. “Hey, there’s that elf! Can I kill her?”

“No,” Alissa said.

“Dang it!”

“I heard lizard tastes good,” Dodan said.

“Hey, that guy smells good!” the kobold said, gesturing at Bran. “Can I kill him?”

“No,” Alissa said.

“Dang it!”

Alissa actually found Bran’s scent quite offensive. He stank.

“Have you ever eaten lizard?” Dodan said.

“I like hobbit feet though!” the kobold said to Alissa.

Arya just gave the kobold the eye and wondered why he was just walking around.

“You have the best gruel!” the kobold said to Alissa. “You’re the best!”

Dodan wondered if the mage had used the spell on them.

Alissa talked to the kobold about the caves and he told her there were rats in the room to the left as they went in. The kobolds avoided it. There was a food storage room, a guard room, and the chieftain’s room. The chieftain had a key to the storage room and a really big gem on a golden chain around his neck. He also had five females in his room. He told her there were 17 more male kobolds in the tribe, and 23 females, and eight young. She asked about traps and he said there were not anymore; they only had the one and they repaired it pretty often. He guessed it was already fixed.

“As long as you don’t remembered it … don’t tell your friends,” he said. “Maybe they’ll fall in. Well, your non-friends. Your associates. Your … other peoples.”

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