Pieter's bolt of lightning strikes the Kobold Slinger, killing it out right. The lightning bolts arcs, bouncing off of the Kobold's smouldering corpse but fails to find the second, invisible target.
Kriv gains a heightened awareness of the battle space immediately around him and prepares to counter any moves his foes might make and then thrusts violently at the drake in front of him.
Kriv's attack lands hard, drawing blood and seriously wounding the creature. As if reacting to the wound, the creature lashes out at Kriv, but once again its jaws bounce off of armour and shield.
Baldur notices the Gnome reappearing upon the edge of the pit with a scroll in hand. The gnome chants some unfamiliar words in a tongue long lost and the scroll transforms into a floating arrow, dripping with what appears to be bright green liquid. The magical missile flies towards Baldur, and hits him square upon the chest. The bolt bursts upon Baldur's chainmail, leaving a splash of burning acid.
Looking up at the crafty mage, baldur notices that the creature is now taking cover behind the rocks atop the 15ft tall slope.
Furgin watches the acidic arrow rain down onto Baldur's position, revealing the gnome's location. "Blasted magic!" The halfling curses as he tries to catch sight of the gnome hiding behind the rocks at the other side of the quarry.
Despite the gnome's cover, Furgin sees him and readies an arrow. "My eyes are too good fer you," he whispers, drawing the bow. "I've been hunting in the woods fer long enough..." With a quiet snap, the arrow is loosed, slowly arcing high into the sunlight before dropping at pace directly above the gnome's position. Almost immediately, Furgin has loosed another arrow, this one at a fast and shallow trajectory. It was a trick Furgin had learned many years ago; when done correctly, both arrows would hit the target at exactly the same time.
Confident that he has judged his shots right, Furgin focuses his attention on Baldur.
Both arrows hit their target, easily peircing cloth to find Gnome flesh. The Gnome screams out in pain as he tumbles down the steep slope. He rolls to a stand still a few feet left of the door, blood seeping into the loose mud and gravel beneath the body.
Kriv's opponent snaps at him once more. Unfortunately the creatures teeth sink into his armour, crumpling metal and drawing blood. The pain is almost overwhelming, any lesser warrior may scream in anguish.
Boindal sees his ally take a hit, and for a moment, his guard is down. The jaws of the other Drake wrap themselves around the Dwarf's leg, but the wound is not as severe as Kriv's, in part due to Boindal's psychically reinforced skin.
Bonidal hears the crunch of armour as the Drake bites into Kriv, and see the grimace of pain cross his face as the blood flows from his wound. As he readies a psionic attack Boindal takes a step closer to Kriv's opponent. Once in position Boindal releases his psionic force, projecting again the image of serpents striking out at the two Drakes, hoping to draw the attention away from Kriv to allow him to recover from his wounds slightly.
Baldur grimaces as the acid eats into his flesh. Bastard got the better of me, he thinks. He has little time to worry about himself, however. With a "lækningar orð" he relies on his magic to keep him safe and charges down the healthier drake.
Then calling upon all his strength, he makes a rallying cry, sending the drakes sprawling and bringing his friends together.
"Hann bað skrifa á skjöld, fyrir skínandi gyðja,
Á eyra Arvak er, og klaufir Alsvith er,
Á hjólinu á bílnum á Killer Hrungnir í,
Á tennur Sleipnir er, og ól á sleða.
Á paws af bera, og á tungu Braga er,
Á klærnar úlfurinn er bared, og örninn er gogg,
Á blóðug vængi, og enda Bridge er,
Á frjáls höndum og hjálpa gin-prent"
"Friends, use the lækningar orð and let my runes heal you!"
Spurred on by his success, he shakes off the effects of the acid.
Boindal carefully paces to the left, keeping both of the raging creatures in sight, and lashes out with a psychic attack. Both creatures attention is drawn to their psychic aggressor.
As Baldur moves past, the drake claws and gnashes at the Bardbarian, drawing bloody with a nasty hit. As Baldur bellows his ancient song, the Drakes are pushed back the booming arcane phonemes, giving his allies time to circle round and create a defensive formation.
As the drakes grind their clawed paws into the loose dirt beneath their feet to bring themselves to a halt, they snarl and roar ferociously. The furthest drake away struggles under the weight of his own muscular frame, before collapsing to the ground in a cloud of dust. The other drake's roars are cut short as it realises its ally is downed, it backpedals slightly, obviously startled, its tails is tucked down between its legs. The creature is about to run.
With combat resolved the party survey the area. The bones of a half excavated dragon lay in the centre of the pit, in the far corner there are two scared women, tied and gagged, both lying on their sides from where they have fell while attempting to flee the area.
The huge stone doors stand tall and firm on the western side of the burial pit. The gnome mage had evidently been attempting to unlock the doors by magical means. Upon closer inspection the door has an inscription in Common;
Speak of which you seek,
That which you cast but cannot retrieve,
That ye shall have but cannot always see,
The one weakness be light, invisible during the night,
Speak of which you seek, and ye shall enter.
Kriv is shaken for only a moment as the drake finally gets good hold with it's jaws. After Kriv's offender falls his eyes focus on it's partner. Though his pain is great, it seems to make him see clearer and heighten his senses. Kriv shifts his grip on his tranyr bringing it over his shoulder in preparation for a strong throw. Blood falls to the ground beneath him as he heaves the weapon through the air.
The tranyr lands a heavy blow on the creature, sliding through skin, sinew and muscle. Pinned to the ground, the creature whimpers as it draws its last breath.
Pieter dusts himself off, having gotten dust on his robe from the small descent into the excavation site. He smiles to see that his group had made fairly quick work of the enemies, and he was glad the mage was taken out as easily as he was. I was worried what mischief he would get into being invisible.. I guess there was no need. He walked forward as the large Dragon Born sent his spear into the last remaining creature, who was obviously ready to run. He frowned slightly, but understood the reasoning behind it. Better to rid it now than maybe deal with it later. He walked past Kriv, and as he did, He spoke rather loudly to the raven that was still perched on his shoulder. "Zed, take to the skies, let me know if anyone else approaches this site."
The raven hopped up and down a few times, extending its wings to take flight as it replied back "As you wish, Pieter." In his deep unnatural voice. He soared quickly upwards, and began to circle above, ready to descend and tell Pieter of any trouble he would see.
Pieter than turned his head toward the two women who were obviously captives in this situation, and he went forward to untie them. He whispered slowly as he got to them, and an unseen hand began to help him untie the helpless woman. He removed their gags and smiled at them, saying "Everything will be alright now ladies, You are in good hands." as he nodded over his shoulder to the rest of his group, as they were still moving about and helping eachother after the battle. He made quick work of the ropes and moved his hand toward his pack, offering them some water out of his waterskin as he stood up. "Now what are your stories ladies? What brings you to these unfriendly parts?"
The exhilaration of battle now over, Kriv feels his strength leave him suddenly for a moment and collapses to his knees. He coughs up some blood, adding to the significant amount already pooling onto the ground beneath him. "Wasn't quite fast enough. I shouldn't have let that beast slip past my guard." Kriv grimaces, "Guess I'm in even worse shape than I thought. I could have sworn I heard that bird talk. Give me a moment."
After some more coughing, Kriv begins chanting under his breath in draconic and his armor begins to glow white. Soon Kriv's wound stops bleeding and begins to close and the armor seems to repair itself sealing the wound behind it's steel plate. As the armor returns to its normal shine, Kriv picks himself back up. "I'll be feeling that one for a while. Are you two unharmed m'ladies?"
Having seen the brutes off, Baldur turns his attention to his battered body - patching himself up as best he can before submitting to the draw of a puzzle.
"Well now, what have we here?" he wonders as he approaches the door. "It seems that those who wish passage through this door seek something we all cast, always have but not necessarily see and is affected by both light and darkness. My first thought would be a skuggi, shadow. Shadow... Shadow? Wait, Boindal, what was that liquid you lost called? Didn't that have something to do with Shadows or the Shadowy Realm?"
Seeing an end to the fight, Furgin wipes his brow and removes his pack. Rummaging inside, he finds a small packet of journeybread. "Excellent!" He exclaims, hefting the pack onto his shoulders and readying himself for the descent down the slope.
Furgin hops and skips down the slope with ease as he picks apart the journeybread and stuffs a small piece into his mouth. As he hits the bottom of the quarry, he smiles broadly at his companions. He notices that Kriv and Baldur look a little worse-for-wear, but the others seem fine. With an odd noise, Pieter's raven takes to the skies. Definitely something odd about that bird, he thinks.
Still chewing, Furgin makes his way to Pieter and the two women. "Did they treat you rough?" The two women stare sullenly at the food in his hand. "Oh, I'm sorry! Would you like some? It's journeybread...it'll give you back some strength, the stuff works wonders!" Turning to Pieter, the halfling gestures to the gnome mage's corpse a few feet away and swallows his piece of journeybread rather loudly. "We should check him for clues."
Pieter's raven soars into the sky getting a good vantage point of the surrounding woodlands. The only areas that aren't covered by forest canopy are the roads leading to and from the site, to the north and the south, both of which seem clear. The farmsteads surrounding Winterhaven stand out as patches of yellow and brown against the thick greens of the forest. Zed notices the prevalent eastward wind and darkened clouds, suggesting that rain is on its way. Summer rain is to be expected after several hot days beneath the baking sun.
Baldur and Boindal inspect the huge stone doors. Standing at twelve and a half feet tall, they present a foreboding sense of otherworldliness; of a world long since lost to the ravages of time. It is evident that these doors are at least a few hundred years old. Dotted across the doors are the occasional Draconic symbols, eroded letters of the Draconic alphabet. Once there was probably an entire text scrawled across these doors, but they are long since lost. As Baldur inspects the doors closely, he notices that on either side of the doors knee high remains of a wall strut out and then descend at a steep angle into the earth. It would appear that it is quite possible that this burial pit was once a tomb like structure.
Boindal notices immediately that the riddle carved in Common upon the door is a much later addition to the stonework of the door. If we were to make an educated, Dwarven guess, the riddle was added around a century ago, while the stone of the door is at least four hundred years old or more.
Pieter makes short work of untying the women, but they both begin to cry, evidently traumatised by their ordeal. Kriv and Furgin approach cautiously, and show their concern. The women carefully accept the food and water offered by the party, which helps them to calm themselves. On closer inspection, the younger of the two women is a Half-Elf. Still crouched on the floor, the older of the two gains back a semblance of composure long before her younger friend stops crying Leaning forward she places her hand upon the boot of the young Wizard and looks up into his eyes,
"Thank you, thank you, thank you!" she sobs, clutching at his robes. "Hob-goblins killed my husband, and took my children!" she screams, breaking down again.
Furgin begins to search through the belongings of the Gnome, finding a dagger, basic cloth robes, a magic scroll, a coinpurse and a note. The note reads,
I think you will find the money and women enough payment for finding me the relic. I have heard nothing but good things about your abilities as a treasure hunter. I offer these prizes as mere glimpse of what delights of the flesh await you if you serve Kalarel and our Master well. However, do not underestimate me and mistake my generosity for friendship. At present time, you have not proved your worth, and I will not take failure lightly; be warned.
Opening the coinpurse Furgin finds 500 gold pieces and a large red gemstone.
As Pieter and Kriv help each other to calm the women, they feel a rumbling beneath their feet, turning their heads they notice Baldur and Boindal stood in front of the massive stone doors. Each of the large slabs of rock slowly slides aside, grinding against rock, throwing up a cloud of ancient dust.
It appears that someone had solved the riddle.
As the dust clears, the Bardbarian and Dwarf can see a long corridor descending into the earth an ever so slight gradient, at the end of the corridor is an open archway. The corridor is low-light due to the flood of sunlight from the outside, although what lies beyond the archway is a mystery, as it is bathed in absolute darkness.
With a grin of self-satisfaction on his face, Baldur unslings his pack and digs out a torch. "Looks like were headed underground, my dwarven friend. But judging by these ruins, we'll encounter nothing that hasn't already met an end of some kind. Ever killed a dead man?"
Furgin holds the red gemstone up, allowing the sun to shine through. He smiles, thinking of the substantial price it could fetch from the right buyer. He turns to the opening doorway, slipping the coinpurse into his pack. With an awkward glance back at the hysterical women, Furgin decides he'd rather take his chances with the mysterious darkness.
"I guess we'll be heading in once Kriv and Pieter have calmed the poor ladies, eh?" He says to Boindal and Baldur. "It sure is dark in there..." Furgin stares into the darkness for a moment, lost in his own thoughts regarding the nature of this place. Suddenly, he remembers something. "I've got an Everburning torch for when we eventually head down. Don't want to be venturing into the dark without a light to see by, right?"
Almost without a pause, Furgin jumps into another topic. "What do you guys make of this?" He presents the note from Derindahl to his to two companions. "Could the relic he mentions be the vial you had stolen, Boindal?"
Baldur is impressed by Furgin's forward planning. "Everburning torch? An item of such power puts my common sticks to shame. You are a Halfling for all occasions, it seems."
Baldur considers the note, "If it is, why was the Gnome looking here for it, when we found it in the woods? I'll wager that a kobold couldn't get past this door without help. Perhaps this relic lies within. Do the names mean anything to anyone?"
"Just stuff I've picked up along the trail..." Furgin shrugs. "I think Pieter knows something of Derindahl," he says, casting his eyes towards the man. "He mentioned yesterday that Derindahl is a rogue wizard, a criminal. If this relic is inside, then we definitely have to claim it before any ne'er-do-wells such as Derindahl do."
Furgin peers into the darkness of the archway once again and suddenly feels a shiver run down his spine. He hesitantly looks up at Baldur. "You mentioned killing dead people? Do you really think there could be spirits down there?" Furgin had fought and hunted many creatures during his life, but ghosts were not among them. The prospect chilled his very insides.
"Spirits or draugr, zombies to your tongue. In my homeland there are many haunted barrows of restless warriors. Some clans use dark magic to keep their guards in a state of eternal unlife to guard their Thane's treasures. But take heart, my friend, years of resting in a dusty tomb like this make draugr slow and easy to avoid. As for spirits," and now Baldur himself looks slightly uneasy, "a magic sword like this would hold one off, but I've only ever seen magic exorcise such evil souls. Let's hope Pieter is up for the task should we come across one."
Baldur casts his mind back trying to think if he had heard these names before. Derindahl is the wizard criminal of which the Kobold's spoke and Peiter knew of. Other than that, both the deceased Talahand and Kalarel are a mystery to the Bardbarian. This ominous 'Master' character was also an interesting development.
Pieter smiles at the women in front of him, offering a reassuring look. He takes the hand of the woman who was grabbing his robe and carefully holds them, before saying "Everything will be okay now, you will be safe as long as you are with us. I am sorry about your husband, I am afraid he is gone, but if it would help I would dare to say that we could look for your children, and let you know what happened to them. But for now, I must Suggest that you both calm down, and tell us anything that you think would be helpful information, so that we may better stop the people that hurt you.". The word suggest sounded different, as Pieter placed a strange emphasis on it and it gave a little bit of a uncomfortable hum to those that heard it.
Furgin nods gravely at Baldur's mention of zombies, but his attention is quickly drawn back to Pieter and the hysterical women. "Excuse me a moment," he says to Baldur before jogging towards the other group.
Smiling sympathetically at the women, a plan hatches in Furgin's mind. "I couldn't help but overhear your further troubles, good woman. I'm very sorry about your husband, no doubt Lord Padraig will take care of you if you find yourself in a monetary fix." Seeing the woman's face crumple with tears once again spurs Furgin on with haste. "Your children, however, I have seen." Her attention fixes passionately on his face. "Yes, I happened across a group of Winterhaven guards escorting a couple of them back to town. After enquiring about what was going on, one of them-" Furgin stops abruptly, scratching his head in thought. "His name was Aron, I think. Anyway, he informed me that they'd happened across a group of hobgoblins who had quite obviously kidnapped the children. The guards rescued them and were taking the children back to Winterhaven."
As Furgin's words sink in, he flashes the note in front of the woman. "The one who kidnapped you... Was his name Derindahl? What did he look like?" Furgin waits patiently as the woman continues to stare silently.
As soon as the battle dies down, Boindal centres himself, recharging his psionic energy and ensure that his body recovers from his minor wounds.
Boindal nods at Baldur's comment, "Aye that vial that was STOLEN from me had to do with the Shadowfell, mahaps they be related?" Boindal takes a careful look at the carvings. "The answer most definitely is a shadow, bit these carvings be quite younger than those draconian runes." After studying the carvings some more Boindal turns toward the two now free women. "What shall we be doin with these women? We can'na take em with us."
Pieter's words, and magic, work well upon the women, they calm enough to be spoken to properly. Zed lands upon Pieter's shoulder and whispers in his ear; there is no sign of a threat, though Zed has spotted the bodies of the excavation team and their bodyguards, piled up over at the treeline to the south of the pit.
Furgin makes his way over, and tells his story of the guards and the rescued children. The oldest of the women stands up and dries her eyes, "Really?" she asks incredulously, "My boys might be safe? You hear that Ellen, the boys might be ok!" She turns to the younger, half-elf and helps her up. "This is my eldest, my daughter Ellen, and I am Prudence," she swallows hard, "and my husband was brutally murdered by those... monsters." Her upset has turned to visible anger. The mother is of middle age in Human years, though she is slender. Her hands are dry and evidently well worked.
Ellen steps forward, tears still fresh upon her cheeks, "Did you say Derin... Derindahl?" she begins to shake and eyes Kriv wearily, "That was the Dragonkind that took us off of the slavers." The girl, in her late teens with long blonde hair and a pale complexion, hugs her mother tightly, crying.
Prudence rocks her softly and whispers gently to her, "It's ok, these men..." she looks up, a brave smile on her face, and speaks louder, to everyone "they are our saviours. The Hobgoblins, when they spoke common they referred to themselves as the 'Blood Reavers', they were some band of mercenaries or slavers or something, and they were working for that Dragonborn in the purple robes, that Derindahl bastard. We are," she splutters a bitter laugh with tears in her eyes, "or should I say, were, a farming family from the farms to the north of the Snakewood. Our homes were attacked days ago, and we have been travelling with the Hobgoblins for days. They attacked more hamlets and homesteads on the trip. Two of their kind, after their meeting with that Dragon-bastard inspected us, they brought us here for some reason. That slimey Gnome put his hands on me," she shivers, "he slid them over my skin. I dread to think what he would have done to us, to my only daughter, if you hadn't intervened." Once again, she smiles bravely.
As Boindal asks Baldur's opinion on what to do with the women he catches something moving in the darkness, out of the corner of his eye. He peers down the passage, and gets the impression that the thick and empty blackness beyond is reaching out to him. Some one, or something, whispers to him, a slithering set of syllables almost too faint to be heard, "Sssssacrifice."
He looks to Baldur, who appears oblivious of the sound.
Boindal looks around wondering if anyone else heard the whispered voice, when it becomes apparent that no one else has he turns back down the passage and shouts, "Aye, this be one sacrifice ye not be having ya slimey devil!" Satisfied he turns back to his companions only to find everyone staring at him. "What?" he says as he shrugs.
"Well I certainly took care of the wretched gnome, good woman." Furgin replies, whilst gazing upon its corpse. He feels dirty for lying to her about the children, but learning more about how to stop Derindahl seemed more pressing to him than finding her children. There would surely be time enough for that later.
After a moments pause, Boindal suddenly begins to shout. Turning towards the dwarf, Furgin see's him shaking his fist angrily at the opening. Furgin stares, cautiously at the dwarf, taking a few steps towards him. "Are you ok, friend? Did you take a blow to the head?"
Baldur peers down the passage, trying to glimpse Boindal's phantom, but the darkness overcomes his human eyes. He pats the dwarf on the shoulder. "What ever's down there, we'll make sure it never makes another sacrifice." He looks at the women "Do you ladies need an escort to town, or can you make it okay? We must stop whatever evil lurks below his unholy ground."