With so many matters being put aside temporarily for sleep, Arak, Jak, Cronosophosm and I were quick to collapse and find slumber. Figuring that the kobold cave might provide them better protection than outside in the woods, we proceeded to nestle amongst a bale of hay deep within the cavern while we took their respective watches.
Most of the night passed in relative peace aside from Jak’s rather annoying snoring, which thankfully we were able to avoid the brunt of given that Jak graciously volunteered to take the first watch. Arak followed, and then me. Yet during the fourth watch, Cronosophos’, the voices of intruders suddenly sprung to life within the cave itself.
Quietly he gave us all a call to arms despite having woke us before we all were ready. We began to take defensive positions within their corner upon realizing that the intricately designed circle in the cavern’s rear had come alive with light. Yet when Jak attempted to sneak between walls, his massive form ended up being in plain sight from one of the kobolds that had managed their way within.
A battle quickly ensued as the kobolds shouted out “Ambush!” to one other and to ears that (as we had yet to discover) had yet to come. It was suggested, which then Arak and I implemented, a dangerous maneuver to split the party into two different fronts and attack from different ends. Jak and Chro’ began the attack first, doing their best to stave off the early arrivals as we began to attack from the opposite direction.
At first, it seemed as if the strategy might be effective as numbers initially were in favor of the four adventurers. However, despite the incredible power of Chronosophos’ flaming sphere summon to weed out the weaker enemies, kobolds continued to pour out from the glowing gate as the seconds ticked by. And it was only a matter of time before we were completely engulfed by creatures from the other side. Despite our long rest and a very valiant attempt to use all our available strength against them, I was soon engulfed by the masses as I made a (rather foolhardy) effort to reach the portal… and to keep our minotaur alive, and soon thereafter I lost consciousness.
There’s quite a bit I don’t remember after that point, given my unconsciousness and a little bit of light-headedness that came afterward, but I’m told that it was Chro’ that returned the favor from the battle before who came to my aid and kept me from perishing. I’ve yet to truly thank him for that, but time seemed to rush far too quickly afterward once I realized that my comrades were bloodied, bruised, and ready to fall themselves. Were it not for Jak’s sheer persistence, my adeptness in healing, Arak’s (finally!) steady-handed spellcasting, Chro’s flaming sphere of death, and quite a bit of luck from the divine Avandra, none of us would have lived to complete our mission and return to the Chicken. (Avandra only knows what ritual our bodies the heathens would then contribute us to.)
Unfortunately for us, we realized mid-fight that the character named Balgran, who turned out to be a goblin, was killed as we fought for our lives. We lamented this opportunity to learn more of our adversaries, but we certainly didn’t hold Jak to the flames for it. In fact, we were quite grateful.
Amongst the dead we found some amount of gold and silver, a rather curious locket with strange carvings upon it, and a silver key. Chro’ was quick to take the key and try it upon the chest we had found, and we were surprised to find quite a bit more gold — more than even the League was paying us for our mission, or so Chro’ tells me — and a suit of chainmail which was quickly thrown into my hands in an effort, perhaps, that our next encounter might not be so lucky. Well, perhaps getting rid of my hide is for the best; it’s still rather uncomfortable, but if Avandra provides, who am I to question?
With all of our accounts settled within the cave, and after quite a bit of discussion, we eventually all moved into the circle in an effort to find a way to enable the portal so that we might find the hostages from the caravan. The pedestal seemed to do nothing at first, but I realized that the carvings on the pedestal matched the carvings on the floor. Placing the necklace onto the pedestal seemed to be the magical trick for bringing the portal to life, and soon we were wisked away from a location none of us had seen.
The journey to this place was most uncomfortable, but the new locale itself was just as bad; the air was harsh and misty, and it had the faint odor of something unpleasant, though I could hardly describe what. It was difficult to see beyond the throes of the pavilion we arrived at, yet we found a recently used trail — complete with the standard prints of kobolds — leading to the north.
As we wandered, we encountered scraggly scrubs on one side of the road while gravestones littered the other side. Chro’ kept track of their number while I (and perhaps others) paced them along to find that they appeared at very regular intervals. As we traveled, Arak was able to parse the faint lettering of one of the tombstones — the letters “KEEG” — and he was reminded of the Ballad of Sir Keegan that a wandering bard had told him about. Keegan was the faithful guardian of a castle, yet one night he slew everyone within the castle walls before finally committing suicide. With the final count of 93 gravestones (plus perhaps the ones before the split tower we found in a clearing before our encounter at the cave), it seemed as if this legend might actually be somewhat accurate.
Even more convincing was the sighting of a castle — a keep, to be more accurate, though I hardly know the exact difference myself — just off the path. It was quite a large building, perhaps 200 feet to the side, and it was in practically ruins. The towers seemed completely unstable, and the walls looked like they might fall over if you breathed upon them wrong. We did, however, manage to find a stairwell leading down beneath the ground.
Thinking that this seemed to be the only logical place to start looking for the hostages, the four of us tiptoed down the stairs, trying not to make a single sound. Yet our luck proved to be rotten once again as a rock kicked from someone — thankfully, not me! — skittered to the ground, alerting a goblin of our presence.
I must stop writing here as I am weary and can barely stay awake. But fear not, the adventure continues onward, and I or my comrades will continue the tale soon!