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Max_Writer

Pathfinder - The Sunless Citadel 3 - Kobold Politics

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

(After Jacob Marcus ran his Pathfinder game “The Sunless Citadel” with Justin Moser, Katelyn Hogan, and me Monday from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.)

Iago’s Memoires

Brook indicated she wanted to go to the northwest first. She led the way, I followed, and Argie followed behind. We only had one torch so we’d have to leave shortly before the light died.

Through the doorway was a long hallway some 10 feet wide and 50 feet long. Near the far end, two doors led off to the right and left. An archway stood at the far end. Brook led us to the door on the right at my suggestion.

“Let’s listen,” I said too late as Brook pushed the door open.

The ruined chamber stood empty of all but rubble and rocky debris.

“Let’s not search this room,” I said. “We don’t have enough light.”

I suggested going to the door across the hall. That one had a hand-carved relief of a dragon without wings swimming.

“Listen at the door first!” I said.

She did so and said she heard only loud dripping inside. The door proved unlocked and Brook opened it. The small room, barely 10 feet square, was mostly filled with an upright keg filled fashioned of rusty iron. Several pipes led from the keg into the floor. I guessed it was a cistern. There were valves but no pumps.

Brook and I entered the room to examine the strange pipes. Argie waited in the hallway. As I suggested to Brook to hold the torch over the water to see if anything was within, a watery creature rose from the water. It was small, with thin, leathery wings, small horns, and a mischievous smile. Argie urged us to leave the room. Then the horrible water goblin, crouched on the edge of the cistern, blasted water from its mouth in a wide spray. Only I was struck by it, the others deftly ducking out of the way, and it slammed me back against the wall.

The little thing screeched with laughter.

Brook stabbed the thing with her spear. The thing staggered and looked surprised and angry.

“Stand down, you little *****!” I said in draconic. “I’m your master!”

I readied myself to cast a spell as the thing looked confused at me, obviously not understanding at all. Then Argie stepped into the room, touching my shoulder and casting a cure light wounds spell, healing me nearly completely. When the water goblin reared back to spray us again, I blasted away with two magic missiles. Unfortunately, the second blast of water hit me harder than the first had. The others escaped unscathed. Again.

Brook whipped her hair and stabbed at the thing but it ducked to one side. Argie cast a cure moderate wounds spell on me, completely healing me.

“Now fight!” she said to me.

I asked if the creature spoke goblin in the goblin-tongue but the water goblin just looked confused. I crossed to the other side of the cistern from the other two in the hopes of not getting caught in the breath weapon again. Then I blasted away with another pair of magic missiles. The thing cried out and fell back into the water of the cistern.

“Quick, look in the water!” I said. “Let’s get out of the room!”

I left the room. As I tried to wring out my robes, the other two looked in the cistern. They later told me they found 30 gold pieces on the bottom of the cistern in the shape of the thing. They retrieved the money and returned to the hallway. Brook gave me 10 gold coins and I pocketed them.

“Well done,” I said, thanking her.

Argie suggested making a fire to dry me off but I waved her off, figuring we could press on. She noted she had used much of her healing magic so if we got injured again, we’d be in trouble.

After thinking about it, I realized the creature was a water mephit. I remembered the spear and my magic had both injured the thing. It had not faked its death. The thing was definitely dead. It probably had spoken the languages of the inner planes, hence its confusion at my speaking to it.

We headed to the dark archway and peeked into the room beyond. Crudely executed symbols and glyphs scribed in light green dye decorated the large and irregularly-shaped, crumbling chamber. A large pit in the chamber’s center showed recently evidence of a bonfire. A metallic cage in the center of the southern wall contained a gaping hole and stood empty. A small wooden bench draped with green cloth stood before the cage and, upon it sat several small objects. A bedroll lay near the wooden bench from which the sound of whimpering was plainly audible. A small bump was in the bedroll. There were several other entrances.

Brook walked towards the bedroll as I took out my light crossbow and loaded it to cover her. As she lifted the edge of the bedroll with her spear, I aimed at the bump in the bedroll. A small kobold looked up at Brook, terrified. He stopped whimpering and froze in place.

“Do you speak Draconic?” I called in that language.

“Iago, talk to it,” Brook said.

I walked into the room, unloading and slinging my crossbow. Behind me, I heard Argie cast comprehend languages. Smart.

“Do you speak Draconic?” I asked again.

The kobold nodded, obviously terrified.

“Go ahead,” I said in Draconic. “Speak some.”

The terrified kobold said nothing. I turned to Brook.

“I’m going to cast a spell on you so you’ll be able to understand this kobold,” I said to her in Draconic. “Perhaps we can help him.”

I cast charm person on the kobold though I acted like I was casting it on Brook. The kobold crossed its legs and looked up, fascinated.

“You okay, buddy?” I asked the kobold in Draconic.

“Yeah!” the kobold said.

“What’s your name?”

“Meepo!”

“Meepo, do you speak just Draconic or do you speak common?”

“Uh-huh.”

“You speak common?”

“Uh-huh!”

“Let’s speak common! It’ll be fun, right?”

“Okay!”

“Yeah!”

The kobold bounced in place happily but then looked at the broken cage and began sobbing uncontrollably.

“Meepo,” I said. “Meepo.”

I went over and comforted him, casting detect magic to make sure the charm spell had taken hold. I realized the kobold was small for its kind. He was probably a runt and didn’t appear to be a pup.

“Tell us what happened here, Meepo,” I said.

Brook went to the cage and examined it.

Meepo reached up and grabbed his horns, furiously shaking his head as he cried and sobbed.

“The nasty goblins took the clan dragon!” he cried out.

“What’s the clan dragon?” I said. “Perhaps we can help you get it back.”

“The goblins stole Calcryx! They took my pet away.”

“Calcryx?”

Brook moved to the cage.

“Was Calcryx in the cage?” I asked.

“Mm-hmm,” Meepo said.

I looked at the cage which was about six feet tall by six feet long and four feet wide. The bars were very narrow, like the cage I’d had made a few days before. I guessed it was a big cage to hold something small. The hole in the side had been pushed inward.

“Tell us everything, Meepo,” I said. “Tell us how we can help. Where’s your clan?”

“Small dragon?” Argie mumbled.

Meepo thought a moment. Then he wrapped his arms around himself.

“Meepo doesn’t know,” he said. “But the leader does. Meepo take you to leader Yusdrayl if you make nice. Grant you safe passage if you promise not hurt Meepo.”

Argie walked over to us.

“Well, Meepo,” I said. “We’re going to be in need of getting back to town soon, a human town near here. We’re going to have to go back to the human town so we won’t be able to take you up on that until tomorrow. Could we meet you here tomorrow? Or would you like to come with us and see the human town? I can grant you safe passage to the human town. They have beer there.”

Meepo started shaking his head as soon as I suggested his leaving the place. He went over and started to pet the cage.

“Which direction is your tribe?” I asked him.

“Not unless you promise to save dragon,” Meepo said.

“Dragon?” Argie said.

“Yes, I promise,” I said.

“I wait here for tomorrow,” Meepo said.

“All right,” I said. “Sounds fair. We’ll return tomorrow around this time.”

I held out my hand and he lifted a fist in the hair. I bumped two fists to his one in the kobold fashion.

I took a closer look at the items on the bench. I saw there was a small, jade figurine of the black dragon that looked like the dragon on the tapestry in the mayor’s house. A little pot of green paint and a large, crude paintbrush were also on the bench.

“Oh, this is quite lovely, Meepo,” I said, pointing to the jade dragon. “Is this your dragon? Is this Calcryx?

“That is what dragons grow up to be,” Meepo said.

“So that’s what Calcryx looks like?”

“That is what he look like one day.”

“That will help us to find him, then.”

“So, Calcryx is a black dragon then,” Brook said.

“Yeh,” Meepo said.

“We’ll be back tomorrow,” I said.

“He’s little and Meepo look after him,” Meepo said.

“So, is this yours then, Meepo?” Brook said, gesturing at the dragon figurine.

“Uh-huh,” Meepo said.

“We’ll be back tomorrow,” I said. “Let’s go.”

Meepo smiled at me and went back to his bedroll.

“Meepo wait here,” he said.

We headed out of the room. Meepo must have noticed Argie’s tail and leapt up, sprinted over, and got in front of her.

“What are you?” he asked.

“Half of you,” Argie replied.

He grabbed her by the legs and hugged her. She knelt and hugged him back.

“Can Meepo follow?” he asked her.

“Can Meepo follow?” she asked me.

“Of course,” I said. “We’ll protect him in the village.”

“Meepo can follow,” she said.

“Meepo,” I said. “That dragon over there. You should hide it before we go so that the goblins don’t come back and steal it as well.”

Meepo retrieved the items on the bench, stuffing them into a dirty little bag and throwing it over his shoulder. He held onto Argie’s tail, dancing, as we went. I asked Argie to detect evil but she found no evil in the little creature. I lectured on kobolds as we walked out of the place, noting that traditionally, kobolds were an evil race.

We climbed up and out of the ravine on the chain. Meepo didn’t climb but hung onto Argie’s tail as we went up. Catarina, who had left us after the fight with the skeletons, waited up there for us. We introduced her to Meepo and all of us headed back to Oakhurst.

Meepo attracted a lot of attention when we returned to the village. Many people came out to look and Meepo hid under Argie’s cloak. While Argie and I went to the inn, Brook went to the general store to get torches. Nackle was interested in Meepo when we got there, asking Meepo all kinds of questions. Most of the kobold’s answers were “Meepo doesn’t know, but the elder does.”

“You want something to eat?” I asked the kobold.

Meepo nodded.

“What do you like?” I asked. “Cooked meat?”

“Meat!” Meepo said.

“Meat. Cooked?”

“Cooked?”

“You can try it. If you don’t like it, we can get it raw.”

I ordered a tray of all the different meats the inn had available and Nackle told me if we shared it, it was on the house. She ran off and came back with a tray of all kinds of different cooked meats upon it, mostly fish. Meepo liked the salmon and ate it down so we ordered more.

“Meepo not know you can cook food,” he muttered.

He tried many of the meats and the only one he didn’t like was the pork. I ordered some cooked potatoes and bread as well to round out the meal.

Brook soon returned and sat down with us in the booth.

“Did you get the torches?” I asked.

“I’ll do you one better,” she said.

She took out a hooded lantern.

“Ah, a lantern,” I said. “Nice.”

“Not just any lantern,” she said. “A continual flame lantern.”

“Ah.”

“You could swim with it.”

“Yes, I know. That’s what we lit the entire university with.”

The lantern glowed with a red flame. I examined it closely and found the spell was merely cast on the wick. I pointed that out to Brook, telling her the wick could be removed if she wanted to use it in a different way. I noted if I had the spell, which I had been studying, it could be cast upon anything. A tiny stick in the brim of a hat was a favorite.

I questioned Meepo about the other adventurers but he knew nothing. The kobolds had only been in the place for three weeks, having come from the caves. Meepo told me, when I asked, that they had come because the elder said the sunless citadel was a holy place of dragons. I learned the elder’s name was Yusdrayl. Yusdrayl was the war chief and was smart and big, but didn’t know magic, as far as Meepo knew. He only knew there were lots of kobolds in the tribe.

I noticed Meepo was barely reaching the table and so I asked Nackle for a booster seat or something for the kobold.

“Is your dragon Calcryx the only dragon in the clan or have they been stealing more?” Brook asked.

“He only dragon,” Meepo said. “He my dragon.”

“Are there multiple clans in the citadel?”

“No. Just our clans.”

“How many attacked your camp?”

“Goblins come. Meepo hide. Goblins kill all kobolds guarding dragon. Then burn bodies.”

We learned there were four kobolds guarding the dragon including himself. They had been outnumbered by the goblins, which had come from the south. We discussed which direction to go when we returned, thinking the goblins were that way. He noted the goblins had been there for a very long time and his tribe had known about the goblins, which were defiling the holy place of dragons: the citadel.

Brook went off once again. I later learned she had gone to see Hercule, the dwarven blacksmith.

We got a little ale for Meepo and the kobold ended up sleeping in Argie’s room.

* * *

On the 7th day since our arrival in Oakhurst, we got up, ate breakfast, and headed back for the ravine, arriving there in the late morning. We climbed back down to the broken tower top and then made our way back to the room where we’d found Meepo.

“Why’d they keep the dragon in this room, Meepo?” I asked.

“Kobold camp not far,” he said.

“How far is the goblin camp? Any idea?”

“Meepo don’t know.”

We bid him lead us to the kobolds. He took us to the doorway to the west in the middle of the room. The hallway beyond went both to the west and north and there were more doors leading off it on either side. He took us to the right, the north, and to a long hall with great pillars. We passed between the columns to the far end of the hall.

A short throne constructed of fallen bits of masonry stacked against an old altar stood against the far wall. A small, horned figure in red-dyed robes sat upon the throne. A force of six similar creatures guarded her. The alter top contained a variety of small items while the masonry that served as the throne’s back featured a carving of a rearing dragon. A metallic key was held firmly in the rearing dragon’s mouth. It appeared to be part of the altar.

The kobold female on the throne eyed us all suspiciously, including Meepo. She didn’t appear to be upset.

“Why have you brought them here?” she asked Meepo in the common tongue. “Why have you brought these humans here?”

“And!” I said, gesturing towards Argie.

“What are you?” the kobold female said to her.

“A wyvaran,” Argie replied.

The kobold’s eyes grew wide and she leaned forward in her chair.

“Where are you from?” she asked.

“I don’t remember,” Argie said.

“How old are you?”

“A hundred and forty-nine.”

“I would like to have a conversation with you later. Why are you three here?”

I bowed slightly.

“Meepo told us about your problem with the goblins,” I said. “We said we would help him and he offered safe passage to come and speak with you.”

“It seems you have a family dragon loose,” Argie said.

“Not loose,” the kobold female said. “Taken.”

“Great.”

“The goblins came at night. They killed some of my best guards and they took my dragon. Sorry, Meepo. Your dragon.”

“What kind of dragon?”

“Black wyvernling.”

“I’m interested.”

“A very young creature. We hatched it ourselves. My father hatched it himself. Took 50 years just for it to get 10 feet long.”

“It was 10 feet long?” I asked.

“Coiled in the cage, yes,” she said.

I frowned. The cage was only six feet on a side, much too small for any creature 10 feet long.

“It was the best cage we have,” she said. “Meepo took very good care of it. We didn’t even have to keep the cage locked.”

Damned animal mis-handlers, I thought.

“After all, Meepo is one of the best dragon handlers in the kobold tribes,” she said.

“Okay,” Argie said.

“So, there are multiple tribes,” Brook said.

“Only one is here,” the kobold female said.

“Tell us about these goblins who took your dragon,” I said.

“Great defilers have been here ever since the citadel sank,” she said. “They have been … troublesome ever since we arrived. We had to fight our way here, into this sacred throne room.”

“How long have you been here?” Argie asked.

“Three weeks,” I said.

“A little over three weeks,” the kobold elder said.

“How many are there? Goblins.”

“That is something we would like to know as well.”

“So, you don’t know anything about the apples of life and death?”

“We know that they are operating with some help. Someone is telling them to do that.”

“Well, we know who that is,” Argie said.

“No, we don’t,” I said.

“Yeah, we do.”

“They’ve only been here two months.”

“Huh.”

“Another party of adventurers, did they come down here?”

“Oh,” the kobold elder said. “We have only heard of them from listening and spying on the goblins. The goblins do not mess with them. They do not go near them.”

“So, they’re somewhere else,” I said.

“Yes, they’re on the far lower levels. The far lower levels.”

“So, they’re not working with the goblins.”

“The place where the goblins don’t go.”

“So, what did you hear?” Brook said. “About them?”

“They came … from what we know, one of them is one of the ones who gives the seeds to the goblins,” the elder said.

“They’ve only been here two months,” I said. “Haven’t they?”

“We don’t care about the business dealings. The curiosity extends only as far as we learn why they’re here in the hopes of removing them from this holy place.”

“What do you plan to do once the goblins are gone?”

“Rebuild.”

She looked around the room loftily.

“So, the citadel … is it yours?” Brook asked.

“The citadel belongs to all of dragonkin,” she said. “It was built hundreds of years ago by those who worshipped Ashardalon.”

“Who is Ashardalon?”

“Those who worshipped the great dragon Ashardalon built this place. No doubt you’ve seen the reliefs and etchings all over the walls.”

“We saw the tapestry in the human town of Ashardalon dropping the citadel into the chasm. Was that how it happened?”

“The tapestry showed a black dragon …” I said.

“Flying over,” Argie said.

“Ashardalon was indeed the blackest of dragons,” the elder told us.

“Blasting the citadel,” I said.

“It was said when he flew through the night’s sky, you could only tell where he was because the stars would disappear.”

“It showed him destroying this citadel.”

“Yes. Those who worshipped here perverted what his desires were, so he sank it.”

“Makes sense,” Argie said.

“Interesting,” I said, not completely believing the kobold mythology.

“They started worshipping other dragons,” she said.

“You wouldn’t happen to have any writings about Ashardalon, would you?” I asked.

“All writings in this place disintegrated years ago. All that’s left are the runes and reliefs on the walls.”

I looked around and only then noticed the reliefs covering the walls. Unfortunately, it was in ancient picture storytelling and the carvings had been long damaged beyond any hope of repair. Discerning any meaning from them would be impossible by that point. Parts of it were remarkably similar to the mayor’s tapestry, however.

“So, do you have any plans to enact revenge on the goblins, or …?” Brook said.

“Most definitely,” the elder said.

“What are those plans? If I may ask.”

“It starts with getting our dragon back.”

“Where are they holding it. Do you know?”

“We don’t know. We only know that their main base is somewhere on this level.”

“This level. And this is the level we found Meepo. We can go get your dragon for you, if you like.”

“Would you?”

“I … think I speak for everybody when I say that we would.”

“Why are you here?”

“We are chasing the other band of adventurers and also trying to figure out what’s happening with the apple trade.”

“Fair curiosity. Be careful as you go deeper. You may not come back out. The goblins don’t go past the steps.”

“Where are the steps?”

“On this floor, there is a threshold that goes down. It stops being citadel and starts being cave immediately. The goblins don’t go anywhere near it. We assume it goes deeper.”

“And you said there was someone helping the goblins?”

“We know through listening to them with the help of our elite spies that they are doing this … not willingly.”

While they talked, I whispered to Argie to see if the kobolds were evil and she quietly cast a detect evil spell. She looked at the kobolds and then around the room curiously.

“They’re not evil,” she whispered to me. “But they can still be dangerous.”

“Do you have a name of who is working with the goblins?” Brook asked.

“We don’t know who they are, what they are, why they’re here, how long they’ve been here,” the elder said. “We haven’t even heard names, just that there is someone forcing them.”

Brook turned to us and told us we should go back Meepo’s room, find the goblins, and question them. We were all in agreement. I quickly learned Brook spoke orc and I asked Argie if she spoke orc but she didn’t.

“So, what do you think?” I asked Brook in orc. “Can we turn these two tribes against each other?”

“Is that what you want to do?” Brook replied in the same language.

“Well, what I’m thinking is, kobolds are generally evil,” I said in orc. “Wait.”

I turned to Argie.

“Are they …?” I asked her in common.

Then I realized Meepo was still with us and so I shut up. She chatted with Meepo, trying to get him to stay behind.

“Can we try to play the goblins off in the same way that we have … we befriended the kobolds,” I said in orc. “Can we play the goblins off and make them think we’re going to help them as well.”

“Not if they’re being controlled by a third party,” Brook said.

“They might be evil too.”

“They’re already butting heads.”

“I don’t know if the kobolds are evil.”

I turned to Argie.

“Argie,” I said to her. “What is the kobold’s … disposition?”

“Not evil,” she said.

“Really!?!”

“They seem to be a decent tribe.”

Meepo took out the jade dragon.

“Calcryx follow this,” he said.

“Huh,” I said. “The kobolds aren’t evil.”

“I’m not evil either,” Argie said.

She seemed a little offended.

“Well, as a rule, kobolds are evil, at least as far as the moral code of humans,” I said. “That’s surprising. That’s good! That’s good! They’re not evil!”

“If it’s not evil, it’s good,” Brook said.

“No, not necessarily,” I said. “But at least they’re not evil. And they seem very lawful in that they haven’t attacked us when they said they wouldn’t.”

“Some, we might not want to approach,” Argie said. “But she’s fine.”

Meepo tugged on her cloak and handed her the jade dragon.

“Calcryx follow this,” he said. “Show to Calcryx. Calcryx follow you.”

“I … see,” she said.

She tucked the dragon away.

“So, Meepo, are you going to wait for you here?” I asked.

We had, by then, returned to the room with the cage where the dragon had originally been.

“Meepo wait here,” he said.

“You need to tell your … your lady that …” I said, gesturing at the cage. “That needs to be bigger.”

Meepo nodded.

“Meepo,” Brook said.

“Meepo say that all along,” Meepo said.

“Meepo, why does Calcryx follow the jade dragon?” Brook asked. “Is it the paint or is it the jade?”

I cast detect magic on the jade dragon. It had an innate magic about it of the enchantment school. I guessed it was made to cause young dragons to follow it.

“Calcryx follow sculpture of daddy,” Meepo said.

“Where did you get that?” I asked.

“Elder give,” Meepo said.

“So elder know,” I said. “Interesting.”

“It heirloom of dragon tamers,” Meepo said.

We left the throne room.

“I’ll need you to check the dragon for evil when we find it,” I told Argie.

“I’m sure it will be,” she said.

“The kobolds aren’t. Kobolds in nature, generally, are evil.”

“Generally. But black dragons …”

“Generally are evil. What do we do if the dragon is evil? Because it’s going to grow up and it’s going to be leader of the kobold tribe. That means it will turn the kobold tribe to evil sooner or later.”

“That’s very true,” Brook said.

“I’m just saying, we need to know if the dragon is evil,” I said. “Then we make a decision on what to do with it. It might be too young to be evil. If these kobolds aren’t evil, there’s a good chance they’ll raise it not to be evil.”

“That’s what I’m thinking,” she said.

“Worse comes to worse, we just kill it and say the goblins did it,” Brook said.

“If it’s evil, I don’t know what we’ll do,” I said. “Because I can’t let an evil dragon come back to this tribe.”

“Yeah.”

“Eventually it will be in command of the tribe.”

“Exactly.”

“And then it will teach them to be evil.”

“Yeah.”

“So, we’re going to have figure out what to do if that’s the case, but I need to know from you if it’s evil or not.”

“I understand. But I’m not going to be happy about it.”

“I’m not going to be happy about it either. But in the long run, we can’t allow an evil creature to influence kobolds which aren’t evil. The goblins might not be evil either. I’m guessing they probably are, but they might not be.”

“If they stole a dragon?”

We returned to the room where we’d met Meepo and went out through the door Meepo had said the goblins had come from. Brook led the way. The corridor was choked with rubble except for a very small gap at the top that no normal-sized person could ever hope to fit through. The smell of rat droppings was heavy there.

We returned to the round tower with the secret room and then exited the southwest door of that room. It opened into a wide hall. The masonry walls were in poor repair. The far end was especially bad as it had completely collapsed, filling the southern section with rubble. The western wall was in much better shape than the other walls and it held a strong stone door with a rearing dragon carved in a relief upon it. The door contained a single keyhole which was situated in the rearing dragon’s mouth.

“I think we need a key,” Argie said.

“Bingo,” I replied. “We have to go back and get the key.”

Brook listened at the door. She heard nothing. The door didn’t have any kind of handle or knob and was made of stone. I suggested Brook push on it to see if it was open but, of course, it wasn’t. We headed back to the kobold area to see about getting the key.

“Ah, you have returned, but dragon-less,” the kobold elder said. “What can I help you with?”

“Could we get that key in the dragon’s mouth,” Brook said. “We found a door that has a keyhole.”

It was definitely the key. It looked like a perfect fit for the lock.

“We’d like that key,” Brook said.

“We think it will help us get to the goblin town,” I said.

“Where are you looking for the goblin town?” the elder said.

“We can’t fit through the hole that the goblins came through. So, we’re taking another route.”

“Where are you looking though?”

“To the south and west.”

“The goblin town is to the north.”

“What? Meepo pointed us south.”

“He pointed us south,” Brook said. “But that’s where they came from.”

“Meepo said the goblins came from the door to the south,” I said.

“Who pointed you in that direction?” she said.

“Meepo did,” Brook said.

“Meepo said the goblins came from the door to the south,” I said again. “When they raided and took the dragon.”

“The goblins have paths that you cannot use,” the elder said. “Their town is not there.”

“Ah, we made an assumption.”

“But that would definitely be the reason why they could have gotten past my guards so easily, seeing as they were posted on the doors we expected them to come through.”

I was a little confused about how the goblins could have gotten the dragon through the hole but we learned Meepo had not seen the way the goblins had left the room.

“Do you know where the goblin town is?” I asked.

“All I know is that it is to the north and east,” the elder said.

I groaned. We realized we had to go through the northeast door of Meepo’s room to go in the direction of goblin town.

“Could we still take the key, though?” Brook asked.

“Bring me my dragon and you can have the key,” the elder said.

“Agreed,” Brook said.

“Sorry to bother you,” I said.

“Bring me my dragon and you can each pick anything you want from the treasures,” she said.

We headed back out. As we walked, I nudged Brook.

“She’s going to pick Meepo,” I said, indicating Argie.

We returned to Meepo’s room and Brook listened to the northeast door. She opened the door, spear in hand, to reveal a long, narrow hallway. We followed it first to the east and then south and then east again. There was a door to the north at the end of the hallway. Brook listened at it.

The door proved to be unlocked. The room beyond was about 20 feet deep and thirty feet wide. The lonely chamber was home to only rat droppings, crumpled flagstones, and nameless dark stains. A door stood across from the one we’d entered.

Brook listened at the other door then opened it into a room of similar size and shape to the empty room we were in. Dust and odd bits of rubble and debris lay scattered across the floor. An ornate fountain was built into the eastern wall: cracked, stained, and dry. The fountain’s carving of a dragon retained its beauty. A relief-carved stone door stood on the western wall. An archway stood across the room from our door.

Brook went to the stone door and listened but didn’t hear anything. I asked Argie what she saw in the dark hallway to the north. She told us it split a little ways down and then held doors on either side of it. I went to the fountain and saw very worn draconic writing on the base. They spelled out “Let there be fire.”

“What’s it say?” Brook asked.

“It says ‘Let there be fire,’” I said.

The fountain sputtered and from the mouth of the dragon poured forth a red, glowing liquid that proceeded to cascade beautifully down into the fountain. I cast detect magic and gazed upon the fountain and the liquid coming from it. I realized it was a prestidigitation blood spell cast in the mouth of the dragon. The glowing red liquid was literally blood, created by the magic of the fountain. It was activated by speaking the words.

“It’s glowing magical blood,” I said. “Gross.”

The stone door was not magical and there was nothing up the corridor that was magical either. I pointed out the spell would last a couple more minutes so if they wanted to go somewhere, we could. Brook thought goblin town was down the corridor but she wanted to open the stone door so I bid her do so.

Brook opened the door and two large curved scythe blades swung down from inside the room, slashing from side to side across the door and then back where they went up into the ceiling once again. If Brook had entered the room, she would have been badly hurt if not killed.

“Leave that open,” I said. “Wait, close it and open it again but don’t walk in.”

Brook did so. The scythes swung down and back again. It appeared they were based on the opening of the door.

“So, if we get chased, we run in here and slam the door behind us and just wait for whomever walked in next,” I said. “We’ll leave the door open.”

The room was some 20 feet wide by 25 to 30 feet deep. Five dusty sarcophagi stood on end in the silent chamber, three on the north wall and two on the south. The carved stone sarcophagi each resembled a noble, elf-like humanoid in ceremonial robes. A shrine carved of obsidian was set in the center of the west wall on which a single candle burned. I was surprised there were no dead goblins on the floor. Brook assumed it was because, like us, they had been scared to enter.

The candle was obviously magical, or at least the flame was. I assumed it was another everburning torch spell. I asked Argie if she could detect undead and, when she said she could, I asked if she could through the stone sarcophagi. She said she couldn’t.

“Shall we loot the dead?” I asked. “Or at least take their candle?”

“We will not be looting the dead,” Argie said.

“We won’t be?” Brook said.

“We will be leaving them as they are,” Argie said.

“What about the candle?” I asked. “Can we take the candle?”

“Can we go up to the alter and look at what we’ve got?” Brook said.

Argie frowned.

“It’s a waste of magic!” I said.

“We are not going to loot the dead,” Brook said.

“How do you know it’s magic?” she asked.

“Because it’s a lit candle and I can tell that it’s magical,” I said. “I’m a wizard. We know these things.”

She frowned at me.

“And there might be undead in the sarcophagi,” I went on. “Shouldn’t we find out?”

“If anything, it’d be safer if we just leave the coffins alone,” she said. “In case there are living dead in there.”

“If you feel that strongly about it,” I said. “But we should see what’s on the altar.”

“If they pop out of the sarcophagi though, it’s fair game,” Brook said.

“Fair enough,” Argie said. “Or we leave them alone, undisturbed, in case they are undead.”

“Let’s see what’s on the altar,” I said. “And take the candle. It’s of no use to the dead. Are you with me, Brook?”

“I am with you,” she said.

“Besides, we could use another light source,” I said. “It would be good to have.”

We all crossed the room carefully to the altar. Two beautifully carved obsidian dragons were carved looking down at the altar.

In addition to the candle was a single red potion and a solid glass whistle in the shape of a dragon. There was writing on the whistle as well. It was like a little dog whistle. I looked closer. The writing upon it was dwarven. The magic upon it was necromantic and the magic upon the potion was adjuration. The latter seemed to indicate some kind of protection or warding. Argie guessed it a potion to protect from fire.

I carefully examined the dragon mouths but didn’t see any nozzles or anything. Nor was there any hint of magic about them. There was no magic in the room except the items.

I told them of the whistle’s necromantic powers.

“Whistle up the dead, maybe,” I said.

When I told them of the protection magic on the potion, Argie again pointed out it was probably to protect against fire. I said it probably was but noted a potion could be made any color.

“What do we do, moral compass of the party?” I asked Argie.

“We take it,” Brook said.

“Well, it’s not on a dead body, so …” Argie said.

“It’s not on a dead body,” Brook said.

“You are desperate to loot something, aren’t you,” Argie said to her.

When Brook asked me if I thought it was trapped, I told her it didn’t seem to be. There was no indication of mechanical or magical trap about it. I pointed out the sarcophagi might be the trap. I checked again with Argie and she was fine with our taking it.

I picked up the whistle and looked it over. The dwarven spelled out “Azangund” which translated into “Night Caller.” I figured the word was said and the whistle blown to summon something up. Brook pointed out there was a certain dragon that was darker than the night’s sky. I realized the whistle was incredibly special. It was made of a substance called nifleheim, which was magical iron designed to look like glass. That knowledge to make it had been lost for thousands of years. It only existed in artifacts like the whistle and all of them were very small like it as well.

Then I took the candle. Brook took the potion.

“If we could find a library in a big city, we could probably find out what this does,” I said. “Without just blowing and hoping for the best.”

“Which may or may not have been my plan,” Brook said.

I pointed out to Argie that the kobolds were going to loot the bodies anyway. She said why should we do it then. I pointed out if we didn’t, someone else would. As we argued, Brook more carefully examined the altar and then opened a hidden panel on the front of it.

“It doesn’t work through stone!” I cried about my detect magic spell.

A small obsidian box was in the compartment. I cast detect magic again but it was not magical. It had two ornate hinges on the back and a dragon-shaped latch on the front. I told her there was no magic and she opened the box to reveal six beautifully carved dragon-shaped objects. The green peridot gems were each carved into the shapes of dragons. Brook closed it and put it in her bag.

We argued about the sarcophagi again. I pointed out the kobolds were going to disturb them and she didn’t care. When I noted if there was undead inside, they would hurt the kobolds when they disturbed them, she thought they already would have done so if they were going to do so. She finally got an attitude and told us to go ahead and loot the sarcophagi if we wished, but if there was undead, she wouldn’t turn them for us. I conceded that we wouldn’t loot them then.

We left the room and headed down the hallway, bypassing the intersection that was choked with rubble at one end and had a door down the other. Argie could see three sets of doors on either wall of the northern corridor and an archway leading into a room beyond them. We went that way first. Brook noticed giant rat tracks on the floor.

The long, narrow hallway had six doors, all of them slightly ajar. I readied my crossbow and advised Brook to peek in the first door on the right and we’d keep an eye on the other doors. I had shoved the magical candle into my belt pouch, the lit end sticking out. Brook likewise hooked her continual flame lantern on her belt. Then she went over to the door and nudged it open with the point of her spear.

A rat burst out of the room and two others came from two other doors. Argie was fast, blasting one of the rats to ash with a wave of her hand. I gave her a nod of approval. Another rat scurried up to me and lunged at me, stumbling and slamming into the wall behind me. Brook stabbed the rat that rushed her but tripped and fell to the ground. The rat near her scurried past her and attacked Argie, but merely crashed off her armor. Then I used a pair of magic missiles to kill the rat nearest me.

Argie drew her scimitar and hacked at the remaining rat, hurting it terribly. It struggled to move. Then Brook leapt to her feet and ran her spear into the rat, skewering it. I suggested to Brook to bring the rats to give to the kobolds.

The rooms along the hall proved to have once been prison cells. The doors had bolts on the outside and the windows in the doors were barred. I noticed the hinges were on the inside, the fools. It would be easy to escape from the rooms. The three rooms the rats had come out of had nests in them and we found a total of 15 gold coins in them.

We continued down the hallway to the room at the end, which proved to be larger than the others in the area: 30 feet deep and 20 feet wide. As we were about to enter the room, Argie yelled at us to stop, saying she’d seen a trap. She pointed out where the trapdoor was in the floor and we crept around it. An open trapdoor stood just inside the room in the doorway to the right. It had been deliberately triggered and held open.

Another fountain was against the far wall with another ornately carved dragon upon it.

“Let there be fire,” Argie said.

Nothing happened.

We went over to the fountain and I saw there was draconic upon it. I pointed out that this fountain would be the trap, now that we had successfully dealt with the other fountain. There was writing on the fountain in draconic that read “Let there be death.”

“What’s it say?” Argie said.

“It’s similar to the last one but it deals death,” I said.

Brook noted small pipes around the dragon’s mouth.

“Gas?” Argie said.

“It would have to be magic if the words do it,” I said. “Any goblin tracks?”

Brook looked around but found none. There were only rat tracks.

Unnerved by the fountain, we decided to go back to the cross corridor we had passed before. We went back and Brook found goblin tracks. She listened at the door at the end but said it was fine. She braced her spear and kicked the door open. The 15 by 15 foot room was bare and empty. Another door stood on the wall to the right.

Brook listened at the door but heard nothing. She braced her spear and kicked the door open. The sounds of a dozen or more cowbells crashed behind the door and several things skittered along the floor. The seven-foot wide hallway beyond had a floor covered in caltrops. The corridor was 20 feet long. At the far end of the hallway there was no door, but a crude, makeshift wall had been constructed. It was stone and mortar and even had crenellations upon it.

A screech came from the room and two goblins with bows peeked up over the short wall.

“We’re here from the village to talk to the goblin king about his apples!” I called in goblin. “We have cash!”

The two goblins stopped, the stupid creatures obviously confused. I edged towards the door lintel to give myself a little cover. However, they didn’t shoot. They looked at each other. They looked at me.

“Money?” the larger one said. “What money? What village?”

“Oakhurst!” I called.

“The people that buy the apples?”

“Yes! You’ve heard of us? Very good. Very good.”

“Why are you here?”

“We’ve brought a message for your king!”

They looked at me stupidly.

“If you’re here to see the king, what’s his name?” the goblin called.

“We’re just messengers!” I called. “We didn’t know there was a password! Do I have to go back to get it?”

“Messengers know the king’s name!”

“Well, they didn’t tell us that.”

“I think you’re lying.”

I sighed.

“Fine, I’m lying!” I called.

I cast a magic missile spell that cleaved the larger goblin’s head. He fell behind the barricade. I pointed my still-smoking finger at the other goblin.

“Do you want to talk to me now!?!” I said.

The second goblin flung his hands up, dropping his bow.

“Spell chucker!” he cried out.

I narrowed my eyes at him.

“Shuffle up there,” I said to Brook. “Quick!”

She shuffled up to the goblin.

“Don’t hurt him unless he gives you trouble!” I said to Brook in common and then in goblin, loud enough the second time for the other goblin to hear.

Brook grabbed the goblin and brought him back to the room.

“You won’t be harmed so long as you cooperate with us,” I said. Then to Brook in common: “Rip down those cow bells too.”

She did so as she passed. We closed the door and then turned our attention to our prisoner.

“All right, goblin, what’s the name of your king?” I asked.

“Charm person,” Brook said.

“Oh yeah,” I said.

“Chief name Durnn,” the goblin said.

I cast the spell on the goblin and then cast detect magic. Unfortunately, the spell didn’t take so I cast it again. This time I saw the enchantment controlled the goblin.

“Chief?” he said to me in awe.

“Yes, it is I in disguise,” I said quickly in goblin. “Sh! Don’t tell these two.”

I winked at the goblin.

“How can I help, chief?” the goblin said.

“Very good,” I said. “You see, I’ve been struck by a terrible magical spell that makes me look like a human and it’s taken part of my memory, so I need you to tell me─”

“Chief, that terrible!”

“I know, right? So, I need you to tell me everything about our tribe again. It’s terrible.”

Argie cast a spell that I recognized as comprehend languages. Now she would understand what we were saying.

“They told me once I learned everything, I’ll get changed back,” I said to the goblin. “Maybe.”

“Our chief strong,” the goblin said. “You make our clan strong, chief.”

“I try. I try. How many of us are there again? What’s the disposition? Which room is everyone in?”

“They’re over 60 goblins here.”

“Sixty goblins,” I said in common.

“Good idea keep human prisoners.”

“Yes. They’re filthy. Even more so than usual.”

“We has prisoner human too.”

“Oh.”

“And prisoner dragon.”

“Yes! Yes, that’s right! Where are they?”

“They in stockade, just through hall a bit.”

“That way?”

“Just through next room. Out southwest door is stockade. Where we keep prize prisoner.”

“What does he look like again?”

“Prize prisoner … uh …”

“He’s a human? A male?”

The goblin described a dwarf. It was probably Hercule’s son

“How many are guarding him?” I asked.

The goblin thought.

“There only two guard,” he said.

“Between here and there?” I said.

“No, next room is practice room. Where all goblins train.”

“That’s right! That’s right. There’s how many in that room. There’s … uh … it’s … uh …”

I snapped my fingers.

“There’s how many?” I said. “Oh! It’s … it’s right on the tip of my tongue.”

“There be … there should be four,” the goblin said.

“Four! Yes. Four.”

“Four training.”

“And the alarm system? It’s still intact?”

“There no alarm system outside of wall.”

“Oh, just the bells. That’s right. I always forget that.”

“There not need be.”

“Exactly! Because of the …”

“It be goblinville.”

I tried to get more information on the spread of the goblins.

“See if he’s evil,” I said to Argie in common.

She cast a spell to detect evil and turned to me and shook her head. That was surprising.

“Gurgle too stupid,” the goblin said.

I continued to try to get information from Gurgle though he was not terribly smart. He got very giddy and happy.

“Chief!” he said. “I have just thing for you!”

He led us back to the guard room. There were also a couple of makeshift bedrolls and a small chest in the corner. Gurgle got into the chest and produced a map of the Sunless Citadel. That gave us something to look at and a great deal of information. The very detailed map allowed us to determine where the kobolds were and where the goblins were. Since the goblins had been there since the citadel fell, it was obvious they knew much of the current level.

We determined where we were and where the practice room was, as well as the stockade.

We talked about whether or not to attack the goblins. I noted I had a web spell and Argie had her flaming spells. I suggested we leave Gurgle there.

“Several humans have infiltrated our clan, disguised as goblins,” I lied to the goblin. “But I don’t want you hurt, so we’re going to go back while you wait here.”

“Gurgle do that!” Gurgle said.

“Is there anything else besides goblins in the training room?”

“There are hobgoblin.”

“How many of those?”

“Not as many as goblin. Not as many. Our forge master is hobgoblin. One of stockade guards is hobgoblin.”

“Ah. Where is the dragon, Gurgle?”

“Dragon live in trophy room.”

He was able to point it out on the map. It was pretty far away. We would not get the dragon then. But we could get Dolf.

We discussed what to do and how to rescue Dolf. I noted we could rush the goblins.

“I’ll leave Gurgle here to guard this!” I said.

I produced my sewing needle.

“It is powerful magic, Gurgle!” I said in goblin. “Don’t lose it!”

I handed it to the goblin, who looked at it reverently. That would keep him busy.

“Whatever you do, don’t leave this room,” I told him.

We went back to discussing how to handle the goblins during the rescue. I had a plan to rush into the room, casting a spell to trap the goblins and hobgoblins in a web. Then Argie would enter and blast as many of them as she could with her flaming hand. While she dealt with the creatures in the room, Brook and I would rush the stockade, kill whatever we found within, and free Dolf.

We crept to the guard room, Brook picking up several caltrops. We doused our lights as the goblins had a guttered torch burning in that room. Then Brook listened at the door. She told us she heard the sounds of metal on wood and someone firing a bow. Then she quietly opened the door that led to the next room. There was a small hallway blocking the room from us though light came around the corner. There was a cast of flames as if there were a large fire in the room.

Brook peeked around the corner and then whispered to us what she saw: a large room with four goblins, all of them training. A hobgoblin had a bow on the far side. There was a fire pit in the middle of the room. I did a little calculation and figured I should drop the web on the far side of the room, giving us a chance to cross to the stockade.

I stepped out and cast the web spell. The webs covered the entire far side of the room, completely enshrouding it but leaving us a wide way to the door in the wall on our side of the room. The goblins and hobgoblins were all caught by the web or surrounded by it. The web near the center immediately caught fire, burning furiously. The only one that wasn’t caught by it tried to bolt for the door but immediately got caught in the web.

Brook and I ran towards the other door, leaving Argie to deal with the ones in the burning web. By the time she got around the corner, one of the goblins was already dead. Then she started casting flames onto the trapped creatures.

I cast a knock spell on the door but nothing happened. I cursed and told Brook it was still locked. She barreled into the door, the lock snapping off. Inside the room was a hobgoblin and a goblin. Cages in the far end of the room held a young dwarf and three kobolds tied together, back to back. All of them looked as if they had been severely beaten. The kobolds looked at us, first in fear and then in hope.

“Yusdrayl sent us!” I called in draconic.

That seemed to reassure the kobolds.

Brook rushed in, spear in hand, and rammed it into the hobgoblin’s gut. The creature screeched and then fell to the floor. The goblin swung his stubby little sword at Brook but the blade crashed on Brook’s armor.

I ran across the room to the cages.

“Surrender or be destroyed,” I yelled in goblin as I ran by.

I saw the cages were held shut with wire wrapped around the bars. I put my crossbow down and started working on getting the wire off Dolf’s cage. Meanwhile, Argie cut off the last goblin’s head off.

I got the wire off Dolf’s cage while Brook went to the kobold cage and got the wire off that before releasing the kobolds. They looked at me and one called to me.

“So, all is not lost?” he said in draconic. “The queen lives?”

“Correct,” I said. “Let’s go!”

Dolf was in terrible shape and Argie cast a cure light wounds spell upon him. He was able to walk better.

We fled. We ran through the training room and the guard room and the corridor filled with caltrops. Brook scattered those she’d picked up behind us as we fled. Then we heard the sound of drums. We made it through the empty room, grabbing Gurgle as we went. The deep, angry drums were loud behind us.

When we reached the room with the blood fountain, we heard screams from behind us, probably from the room with the caltrops. We fled through the next room and down the corridor into the room we first met Meepo.

“Will you come with us?” one of the kobolds said to me in draconic.

“Nope!” I replied. “We’ll be back though. Coming to save the dragon.”

The three paused, bowed to me, and sprinted away. I quickly bowed and we ran out the opposite direction towards the first tower. We fled through there and up the platforms to where our chain hung. There was daylight at the top and we quickly climbed up the chain and pulled it up after us. I took off my hat, putting it on Gurgle, who was having difficulty seeing in the bright sunlight, and peeked over the edge.

A minute or so after we had gotten to the top, several goblins reached the landing and looked around. They seemed angry they couldn’t find us and then yelled about the missing rope.

We ran back to town as quickly as possible. I didn’t want to chance the charm spell running out in the wilderness.

It was an hour or so later when we returned to Oakhurst.

“Don’t tell the mayor that the goblins are pissed at us,” I said to the others.

Argie wanted to get Dolf some food before taking him to Hercule but Brook and I were adamant about taking him to see Hercule immediately. Hercule couldn’t believe what he saw at first but then he fell to his knees.

“My son!” he said. “You managed to find my son!”

“Yep,” Brook said.

I nodded, still out of breath.

“You found my son!” Hercule said.

“We rescued him too,” I said.

“He’s a little better now, too,” Argie said.

“Don’t let him go again,” I said.

Hercule helped his son into a chair in the corner allowing him to warm up near the fire. I suggested Argie get some food for the lad but Hercule stopped her and told her he’d get the food. He ran into his house and returned with half a boar which he stuck on a great spit and started turning over the forge.

“Whatever can I do for ye?” he asked.

“Well, we will need to talk to Dolf at some point,” I said.

“Let him rest a bit─”

“No no, not right now. I’m saying, once he feels up to it.”

“That makes sense. As long as he’s willing to talk.”

“I’ve also got to figure out what to do with my friend here.”

“Ah, ye brought one back.”

“Yes. He’s simple. He doesn’t speak common.”

“Most of ‘em don’t.”

“He’s not evil.”

I took my hat back as it was dim in the blacksmith’s shop.

“Really?” Hercule said.

Hercule cooked a massive meal for everyone. Dolf didn’t talk. He ate and warmed himself but he didn’t say a word. I took Argie aside, noting if she had any kind of spells that could help a person’s mind, she might want to use them on him in the future. She didn’t think she had any spells that could help.

I also took Gurgle aside and confessed to him that I was not the chief. He was heartbroken. I told him that though I wasn’t his chief, I was his friend. He stopped and thought about that a little bit.

“You did save Gurgle,” he said.

“I couldn’t leave you behind, Gurgle,” I said.

I told him I would remain his friend if he didn’t do terrible, evil things.

“You do more for Gurgle than anyone else,” Gurgle said.

We got him food and drink. Hercule had brought dwarven ale and wine for all of us. I told the goblin I was going to take him to the store the next day to buy him clothing, weapons, and armor.

Halfway through the meal, Hercule leaned forward and professed he would forge anything we asked him to. I suggested he forge Argie better armor than the banded mail she wore. He said he would and could make metal plates for the tail and a barbed spike for the end.

When he asked what he could make me, I told him he could do me a favor.

“Have you ever heard of this?” I said.

I pulled out the whistle we’d found in the room with the sarcophagi. Hercule leapt out of his chair and grabbed it out of my hand, looking it over.

“Careful what you say,” I said.

“This is azangund,” he said.

“Azangund?”

“It’s a death-caller. Where did you find this?”

“It was in the citadel,” Brook said.

“Yes,” I confirmed.

“Figures it’d be down there,” Hercule said.

“Is it evil?” I asked.

“Depends on your view of necromancy,” he said. “These are famous pieces of iron glass. Nobody knows how to make this anymore. If I were to stick this in the forge, I couldn’t melt it, bend it, hammer it, or dent it.”

“I didn’t know that.”

“You could hit this with a hammer all day and you’d probably break the hammer first. It’s called ‘Death Caller.’”

“What does it do?”

“What it does … according to legend, the people who play these can make the dead dance. A got a book that mentions them. Do you want to read it?”

“Yes. Please.”

He gave me the whistle back and then went into his house, returning with a dusty, dwarven tome that read “The History of Dwarven Craftsmanship” in dwarvish on the cover.

“I would love to borrow that,” I said.

We looked through it and I found it was just a list of artifacts and when they were constructed or lost. We quickly found the whistle and learned that, when it was blown, any nearby corpses would rise and do the bidding of the blower until they were destroyed. It would create either skeletons or zombies and could create two per week.

A few hours went by and Dolf was still not talking. Hercule eventually got a little worried and tried to talk to his son.

“Boy, how are ye feeling?” he said.

Dolf didn’t answer but looked at his father. He tried to answer but couldn’t. I cursed and looked in his mouth. The goblins had cut his tongue out with incredible precision.

“The healing lady, is she able to heal people?” I asked.

“I just help her out,” she replied. “I don’t ask questions. I’ll ask questions now.”

“Go ask her to come here,” I said. “Wake her up right now. This is one of the people from the village. It’s her job.”

Argie didn’t seem to want to go but did. She later told us she found the old Halfling woman awake and playing the harp while an old man danced. She wasn’t pleased to see Argie and when Argie told her Dolf was back but missing his tongue, and asked for something that could help him speak again, the Halfling woman said she couldn’t.

“Figures,” Argie had told the woman. “Just thought I’d ask.”

That didn’t make the old woman any happier and she ordered her out.

“Dolf, can you write?” I asked.

He shook his head. He wasn’t literate.

“He can still answer questions ‘yes’ and ‘no’ … when he feels up to it,” I said.

Dolf nodded.

“So, you let us know when you feel up to it,” I said to him. “We need to know about this party you joined.”

He pointed at the ground and nodded, which seemed to indicate he wanted to answer questions right then.

“Did the goblins capture you?” I asked.

No.

“Were you given to them?”

Yes.

“By the man with the sword?”

Yes.

“And the other two?”

Yes.

“Right after you got in there?”

No.

“Did you explore as an adventuring party before?”

Yes.

“And once you reached the goblins … did they talk to the goblins?”

Yes.

“Negotiated with them?”

Yes.

“And then they handed you over at that point?”

Yes.

“What did they get … did they get anything in return.”

Shrug. He didn’t know.

“So, you’ve been down there two months?”

Yes.

“Have they been using you as slave labor? The goblins?”

Yes.

“And beating you and everything else.”

Yes.

“Did you see a little dragon?”

No.

“Were the … was the other party … did they do anything to indicate they were bad people before handing you over to the goblins?”

No.

“So, it came out of the blue. Hmmm. And this was two months ago. This was right after you entered the place?”

Yes.

“Well, we’re going to see if we can’t …”

Dolf pointed at the sky and made a motion as the sun passing twice.

“Two days you were down there?”

Yes.

“So, two days after you were down there, you were handed over?”

Yes.

“Did you see anything else besides the stockade that you were held in?”

No.

“We’re going to do what we can to help you. I know there are certain regenerative spells priests can cast, possibly from the bigger cities. If we find anything down there that can help you, we’re going to get it for you.”

Brook talked to Gurgle through me, as the goblin didn’t speak common.

“Ask Gurgle if he knows anything about the third party that the queen kobold lady mentioned that was controlling the goblins,” Brook asked.

“Is there someone besides your war chief in charge or advising your war chief?” I asked the goblin.

“Outsider?” Gurgle said. “You talk of Belak.”

“Sounds like the person,” I said. “Have you met Belak? Do you know anything about him?”

I told Brook and she asked what he looked like. I relayed the message.

“Belak old as time itself,” Gurgle said.

“Is he a man?” I asked. “Do you know?”

“Gurgle never see Belak.”

“Have you heard his voice? Have you just heard about him?”

“Belak only talk to chieftain and … older members of tribe.”

“All right.”

“But Belak been there since before goblins.”

“And the goblins have been there since the citadel fell.”

“About 50 years after.”

“So Belak was with the citadel when it fell, I think,” I told Brook.

I turned back to Gurgle.

“But he advises your chief?” I asked.

“Talks to chief,” Gurgle said.

“Talks to chief,” I said.

“So Belak was in the citadel when it fell,” Brook said.

“Belak very powerful,” Gurgle said. “Belak very powerful.”

“Is he a wizard, do you know?”

“Me not know.”

“He’s got to be a caster of some kind,” Brook said. “Or something if he’s controlling goblins.”

“He might be leading your goblins astray, Gurgle,” I said.

“For some other purpose,” Brook said.

I reiterated we were going to shop for gear for Gurgle the next day and I told him he could stay with me as long as he wanted but if he wanted to go somewhere else, he could. I told him he could do whatever he wanted. He seemed very happy. He was deep in thought.

I got him a room at the inn that night. I told him how to use the chamber pot and asked him not to make a mess.

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