As the party entered the teeming kobold market, it wasn’t long before the scaly proprietors started to give them clandestine glances and whisper amongst themselves. The massive slain lizard that Grumble and Krunk carried was attracting attention. The party paused, debating on which stall to approach with their 400 lbs. of lizard meat, but were interrupted by a quartet of bugbears pushing their way through the crowd. The largest of the goblinoids, a mangy specimen with a scarred face and a dead eye, gruffly informed them that “Trustee Sniv” wanted to see the party—now.
The adventurers were led from the marketplace, the bugbears falling into flanking positions, and brought through a storeroom filled with crates, barrels, and other containers of trade. Numerous kobolds swarmed over the stacks, taking inventory and sorting items for some unknowable purposes. The bugbears guided the band down a side corridor and through a barracks holding a half-dozen oversized kobold warriors. After knocking on a set of sizeable double doors, the party was brought into a blood-stained, bodyguard-filled audience chamber, its far wall obscured by a tattered curtain of red velvet.
With the sound of a squeaky pulley, the curtain parted to reveal the fattest kobold the party had ever seen. Perched atop a wooden throne, the kobold wore a rodent fur coat and sported a crimson fez atop his scaled head. He glared down at them through a brass monocle while stroking a hairless rat of unusual size. This was Trustee Sniv, leader of the Stonehell kobolds.
Sniv wasted no time in chastising the party. He was displeased with their slaying of “his dragon,” a creature that he had acquired some months ago and installed in a disused cave in order to use its presence to control his less than devoted subjects through fear. With it now dead and its corpse viewed by numerous kobold underlings, he would have to find a suitable replacement. But first, the party had to pay a sizable fine for dragoncide: 100 gold marks to be exact.
Unfortunately, a little success can really go to the adventurers’ heads. Despite being flanked by the bugbear brute squad, and a dozen kobold bodyguards, the party—Kaldar in particular—decided that this would be the perfect time to try and dictate orders to the kobold regent, demanding that the party be paid to replace the dragon. When he missed the not-so-subtle clues that they really weren’t in a position to negotiate, Kaldar pressed the issue to the point where Sniv simply pointed at the half-elf and said, “kill him.” A bugbear stepped up to do just that.
At this point, I laid out the room and the position of the kobolds, bugbears, and the party on the battle map. It was only after doing so and them remembering that they had naught but daggers and arrows (without bows) to defend themselves, that the players realized how screwed they were. But, leave it them to go with their original plan. As they quickly declared their intentions before rolling for initiative, Pete stated that he was pulling out his money sack and offering to part with some cash. The rest of the players suddenly jump on this idea and, with a hasty but loud call of “Parley!”, combat was averted. All Sniv wanted was a bribe in the first place.
After forking over the cash, the party was told that they had an hour to conduct their business in Barkruf-Yip-Yip, the jewel of kobold culture, before they were effectively banned from town—until they found a replacement monster for Trustee Sniv, that is. The party, having heard of a “tavern” next to the kobold market, stopped in to see what they could learn about the Quiet Halls, their next intended destination.
The tavern was little more than some battered tables and chairs thrown haphazardly about a 20x30 room. A menagerie of patrons sat huddled over skull tankards, drinking whatever it was that passed for libations down in Kobold Korners. A group of crazed gnolls barked amongst themselves at one table, while a pair of lizard men devoured a meal of meat and grubs at another. Two twitchy-looking men dressed in leathers watched over the room with red eyes, and another human male, with pale blond hair and light blue robes, sat in hushed conversation with five hobgoblins. Somewhere, Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes played. Amidst this sea of villainy, however, was a human male dressed in dirty robes that looked ecstatic to see the party. He lost no time in introducing himself. He was Korlack Nightspring, the sole surviving member of an adventuring band who met their demise—coincidently enough—in the Quiet Halls. He had lost his bearings in the dungeon fleeing from ghouls and found himself at the back gate of Barkruf-Yip-Yip. Taking shelter in the kobold Casablanca, Korlack was desperate to find an adventuring band bound for the surface. The Society of Planewalkers fit that bill and the relieved mage joined them on their return to the sunlit lands.
The party returned to Blackpool to heal and prepare for an expedition into the Quiet Halls. Poor Johan was bed-ridden upon return as Mars’ first round of healing was insufficient to revive him much. Luckily, Lyrax Tonn had purchased a “healing potion” at the kobold market for an unbelievable bargain price of 10 copper pieces. Of course, its thin oatmeal consistency and eyeball ingredients made it less than suitable for drinking consumption. Back at the Mad Manor, however, Johan, perhaps dazed by his wounds, was convinced to eat the stuff to aid his recovery. A bout of botulism later, Johan concluded that he had enough adventuring to last him the rest of his life and that he would be returning to Goodearth as soon as he had recovered. At least, that’s what he told his former comrades-in-arms…
Recovered and resupplied, Grumble, Krunk, Lyrax, Kaldar, Korlack, and Mars headed back to the dungeon. For this bout, Anwar has shrouded his fellow magic-user, Korlack, in invisibility. The band made it back to the first level unmolested and set off following Korlack’s directions. Heading north from the H room, the party returned to the rusty signpost that indicated the former dragon’s den and turned to the east. Immediately thereafter, they found a room containing piles of junked goods so battered that they had no resale value even at the kobold market. Grumble and Krunk turned up a nest of spitting cobras in their search of the room and the two delivered a second dose of double “natural twenty” fury upon the surprised serpents, thus confirming their tag-team status. I informed them that if they were able to do that one more time, I wound grant them some in-game mechanical advantage or bonus. We’ll see if they can pull that off.
Past the snake room was a chamber that bore the sooty silhouettes of human-like figures on the walls. Mars and Lyrax were reminded of the strange burns they encountered back in the Black Gut on their home world, but these seemed to be of a different, if not less mysterious origin. The party exited the chamber and made their way further east towards where Korlack told them the Quiet Halls were to be found.
A brief side excursion discovered an offal- and feces-filled chamber that contained a slimy staircase leading up, but, when giant centipedes began emerging from the dung heap, the party withdrew from the room to concentrate on their planned destination. They passed through a room filled with battered weapons, armor, and bones—a room unnaturally cold—before finding a pair of heavy stone doors adorned with a danse macabre. Beyond these doors, Korlack informed them, lay the Quiet Halls.
Past they doors lay a lozenge-shaped room that glowed with a pale red glow. Lichen encrusted pillars and fallen masonry filled the room. An eight-count of large beetles, their abdomens glowing with a steady red light, munched contently upon the lichen. The party inched cautiously into the chamber, causing some of the nearest beetles to begin vibrating their wing casings menacingly. Weapons were drawn and the party engaged the nearest four beetles.
The fire beetles (for that was what they were) proved to be tougher adversaries than expected (“I don’t remember fire beetles being so dangerous,” Jack uttered). One managed to take poor Grumble near death twice, and only Mars’ prayers were able to revive him before his face was chewed off by the enraged beetle. Deciding enough was enough (and expecting to encounter undead which greatly limited the spell’s potency), Kaldar dropped a sleep charm on the beetles, putting all but one into slumber. The fight was finished soon after and the party set about collecting the glowing glands and reviving their flagging spirits with wine.
Unfortunately, before they could benefit from the wine’s rejuvenating properties, the sound of moaning echoed down the hallway to the north. Assuming a battle stance, the party watched as a trio of zombies shambled around the corner and began advancing down the hallway towards them. Mars called upon the Spider Lord and turned away the advancing dead (as well as a few more around the corner), but Mog’s power was insufficient to affect all seven of the zombies that were bearing down on the party. The three remaining shambling corpses continued towards the band.
Grumble and Krunk stepped to the fore while the rest of the party prepared to pepper the dead with missiles and spells. The tag-team warriors managed to hold back the zombie for a round, but then the dead got the upper hand. Grasping Grumble, one zombie tore the dwarf apart, leaving his corpse to bleed out on the cold dungeon floor (a critical hit for 8 points dropped Dave’s EIGHTH character to -3 hit points, killing him). Krunk found himself under an assault that also dropped him to -1, and his unconscious but barely alive body fell to the ground beside his slain partner.
The zombies moved in to engage Lyrax, the archer, Mars, the weakling cleric, Kaldar, the other archer and sometime swordsman, and Korlack, the invisible mage. Not the heartiest of melee combatants to be sure.
Just when things couldn’t get any worse, Pete managed to latch onto a series of fumbles. Fumbles are very rare in the campaign, but the dice had it out for Pete this session. He broke the string on his masterwork longbow, forcing him to use Mars’ off-the-rack bow. With cruel irony, he almost immediately shot Mars in the back with his own bow when he tried to fire past the cleric at the advancing zombies.
Right about then, things started looking real grim for the remaining party members. They just couldn’t seem to inflict enough damage on the zombies to destroy them, and were continually forced back to keep their bows in play. Korlack’s magic missile was more tragic than magic, inflicting a bare minimum of damage. In response to all this, Mars decided that flight was better than fight, and fled the room with much alacrity, leaving his companions to deal with the dead. Finally, after some close calls, the resolute members of the party that held their ground were able to nickel and dime the zombies into a second death.
That was enough Quiet Halls for the party and, after feeding Krunk a potion of extra-healing to get him mobile, they collected Grumble’s corpse and returned to Blackpool. Again, they had suffered much at the hands of Stonehell’s residents with no treasure to show for it.
Next week, it looks as if the party might be checking out a rumor about a possible way to revive Grumble. Poor, poor Dave…