Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition: Secrets of the Snakewood.

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Kriv eyes Furgin with a bit of disapointment at the halfling's lie. Noble Dragonborn such as Kriv value the integrity of their words, but he decides not to expose it for the women's sake. "What of any other captives? How many there are, who they are? Where they've been or where they might be going? Anything you could possible tell us could be of immense help in tracking them down and rescueing them. Our focus must remain on saving anyone we can. Then we can bring this dispicable Derindahl to justice. He brings dishonor to all Dragonborn kind."

Boindal

Boindal once again looks at the two women, formulating a plan, "me thinks one of us should accompany these young ladies back to town. It's not far, and Kriv or meself has a mount we could ride back to shorten the journey. What so ya say?"

"I'll go too!" Furgin says a little too enthusiastically. Looking down at the ground in embarrassment, the halfling explains. "I know the woods pretty well," he glances furtively at the dark opening, "besides, travelling back alone wouldn't be a good idea right?" He smiles smugly. "If something were to happen, who'd know?" He points a thumb absently at Boindal. "I think you and I should escort the ladies back, Boindal."

"I can go. If there is any exploring of ancient underground ruins to be done, it might be best to have the Dwarf with you." Kriv turns to Boindal. "I'm sure you have more experience dealing with such spaces than the rest of us. I think you're expertise will be put to better use here if there's to be any splitting up. Furgin and I can take the ladies back, check if there's been any developments in town than meet you back here to assist searching for any clues."

Baldur

Baldur places a firm hand on Furgin's shoulder and steers him toward the dark entrance. "Nonsense my friend. I'm going to need you and your light. Kriv can take care of these ladies." He leans close the Halfling's ear and mutters "You better hope there are some children down there."

Furgin warily eyes the large hand on his shoulder. Brushing Baldur's hand away, Furgin holds his hands up in placation. "I know what I did was wrong..." He says quietly, so that only Baldur can hear. "But we needed to learn what they know. We can hunt down the hobgoblins once we've dealt with this place." Furgin sighs, shaking his head sadly. "I truly am sorry..."

Kriv escorts the women up the path leading into the pit and on towards Winterhaven while questioning the mother again.

"There was a few dozen that I saw, and I was only in their camp for a day or so. If I had to guess, these monsters have been raiding more than the occasional home in the north. These are troubled times..." she says, trailing off, her eyes falling to the dirt code and occasional patch of ancient coble stone.

"Once my daughter and I have rested up, I have my boys in my arms and I have seen Lord Padraig, I will endeavour to look over some maps and see if I can figure out our route from our Farm to the far north to here. That way, you guys would know where to look for these bastards. Winterhaven you say? That is at least two days travel from the Hamlet of Hendlecross. I hope they are ok," she looks up to Kriv, "but those creatures probably didn't spare anyone, did they sir?"

Ellen speaks up, "I can't wait to see Carl and Thomas, ma."

Back at the Burial Site

An awkward atmosphere hangs in the air, as the others prepare to enter the tomb.

The Gates of Winterhaven

Kriv explains the predicament to the town guard, and ask them to relay the information to Padraig. When Prudence's questions about her children are met with blank stares from the guardsmen, she looks to Kriv for an answer, tears welling in her eyes, her face a look of confusion, anger and resentment.

"My children are dead, aren't they?"

Baldur

"I won't tolerate innocents being taken advantage of, regardless of the situation. Consider this your only warning."

Baldur releases Furgin. "You seem a kindly soul, I hope you remain one. Come, we'll go down together and reforge our friendship in the fires of battle. You're still going first."

Baldur prods Furgin towards the entrance.

Boindal

While Kriv is gone
Boindal looks between Furgrin and Baldur wanting to break the uncomfortable silence, "Ye don't have to worry down there Furgrin, ye'll be with us and we won't let anything terrible happen to ya." He then turns to Baldur, "and while I'm not completely happen with lying to that lass about her children, I am sure that the thought of having to explain the truth to her later will be punishment enough for our Halfling friend here. Now let us focus on the task at hand, we should wait till Kriv comes back before headin down into that tunnel, I am sure he would not want to miss out on the chance to smite evil."

While Kriv is gone

"My conscience burns my very heart but..." Furgin sighs, trailing off pathetically. He looks at Baldur and Boindal's heroic bearings, feeling even worse that he's let the group - but most of all his integirty - down. "If we can't find the children, I'll be the one to tell the good woman. I'll offer her some gold as compensation." Furgin cringes at the stern look Baldur gives him. "I know it won't make what I did right, but it's better than nothing right?"

Puffing out his cheeks, the halfling peers into the forbidding darkness of the opening. " As Boindal said, we should definitely wait for Kriv to return. An extra blade would be a great help if we have to face..." He stammers, before coughing in embarrassment, "...if we have to face the undead." He turns to Pieter, "do you know much about fighting the undead, sir?"

Kriv had stared into the eyes of dozens of stern, vicious, and barbaric warriors and bandits and never once backed down. He had always met their gaze, returning it with a burning passion to dispense justice that often incited them to recoil away. Today however, Kriv found his gaze shying away from the eyes of a harmless and defeated human woman. He stared at the floor for a moment in shame. "I had suspected Furgin had fabricated the story of his possible encounter with your boys, but I wanted you to be able to hold on to the hope it had given you for as long as possible. I am sorry."

Kriv fidgets in his armor uncomfortably, unsure of what to do in this kind of situation. He musters the courage to look the woman in the eyes again and is unsure of what to make of her expression though he suspects she means to strike him. "I know you don't know me my lady, but unlike my shorter companion I honor my words and believe in speaking only the truth. What I can tell you is this. I do not know whether your sons are dead or alive, but until we find out otherwise there is ALWAYS hope that they still draw breath." Kriv unsheathes his khopesh and drops to one knee before Prudence. He bows his head and offers her his blade. "If you so wish it I will make up for my companion's dishonesty. I offer you my sword that you may use it to bind me to an oath to do everything in my power to find your sons, dead or alive, bring Derindahl and his lackeys to justice, and restore peace to the snake wood. I will not be released from my duty to you until it is either done, or I meet my end in its pursuit. You have my word, honor, and glory for all it is worth."

Pieter had stayed quiet during the ordeal, listening to everyone talk and watched as Kriv strode away with the two women, leaning on his staff. Zed came down at one point and began talking gently in his ear, and he decided that it was safe enough around the area. He frowned at Furgin's blatant lie toward the women, but smiled when he tried to get out of going into the tomb. He rested a while longer, and at Furgins comment about undead,he took his weight off his staff and gazed at his bird again. He quickly said "Ready to venture into that dark, dank, cavern?" and with a chuckle he turned toward Furgin and said "Living, undead, spirit, I have found magic to be most effective when fighting any of the creepy crawlies that live in the darkness." with a smile, as he poked fun at Furgins fear of the dark.

Zed ruffled his feathers as he realized he would have to go into the cavern with Pieter, but remained where he was. He did not like the idea at all, he would have little room to fly, but he trusted his master. "You know I would follow you anywhere you choose to go." The bird said, and he began preening his feathers.

Baldur

"Then why waste time? Evil exists below and we have a duty to stop it. Kriv's blood lust is secondary to our duty. If we succeed or fail, I'll not have our last thoughts be 'If only we'd made it sooner'. Pieter, if your companion is willing, what does the hesitation of our fellows say about their hearts? Come, glory and the death of evil awaits. Let us proceed!"

Furgin stares at the raven, mouth agape. "I knew there was something suspicious about that bird." He then looks at Baldur in shock, wondering that the man can so easily dismiss a talking bird. "You've encountered talking ravens before?" Furgin trails off, shaking his head in bemusement. "Today is not a good day..." He groans, pulling the everburning torch from his pack. "I guess if you're so eager to leave our Dragonborn friend behind, then we should be off."

Furgin steps towards the entrance slowly, peering cautiously into the darkness. A sudden thought occurs to him. "I've just thought of a way to allow Kriv to follow our trail." Shoving a hand into his pocket, Furgin pulls out a small piece of chalk. "A gift from a grateful scholar." He flashes a small smile. "We could leave a note on the wall here for Kriv and make markings within the cavern for him to follow. It'll also prevent us from getting lost. Who knows how many twisting passageways are down there..."

Boindal

"Aye, tis a good idea, a trail for us to follow back and Kriv to follow down. Now as for me heart, I be thinkin ye'll find its not as weak as ye may be thinkin. If'n ya be wantin ta head down now then I'll be right there with ya. After all, a Dwarf's as comfortable underground as an Elf is surrounded by trees." With that Boindal heads to the mouth of the tunnel, his face set in a mask of determination. "Well? What are ye waitin for?"

Baldur

Stepping up to one of most visible walls, Furgin begins to scrawl a quick note to their Dragonborn companion. Unused to writing, the halfling sticks his tongue out with intense concentration. Stepping back, Furgin inspects his work:

KRIV. WE HAF GON INTO THE ROONS KAAV DARK. I WILL GIIDE GIDE YOO WITH CHAUK. BE PRIPARD PREPARD. FER FURGIN.

Furgin smiles, satisified with the message. He steps up behind Boindal, gripping the everburning torch in one hand and the eternal chalk in the other. "I'm good at spotting things...comes with being a hunter, y'know. Just in case there be any traps." He shrugs at the surprised looks that the rest of the group give him. "It's not the dark I'm afraid of..." Glancing past Boindal into the eerie darkness, Furgin recalls Baldur's talk of spirits. "...It's just spirits that I'm not keen on."

Boindal

Boindal, hammer and shield at the ready, looks from his companions to the darkened tunnel. "Well, off we go then," he says as he descends into the deepening dark.

Pieter follows them into the tomb, deciding to stay a little further behind, so he can make use of his range if needed. He walked to the point where Furgin had written his message, and noticeably shudders. He shakes it off quickly and turns to him and says "I think I will be taking that chalk before you destroy this language for me." as he whispers a spell under his breath and an invisible hand grabs the chalk from Furgin and it slides through the air towards Pieters outstretched hand, and he sets to working on correcting all of Furgin's mistakes in the note to Kriv.

Furgin jumps in surprise as the chalk floats over to Pieter's outstretched hand. "Don't do that! I thought you were a ghost!" Furgin calms his nerves and smiles sardonically. "Go ahead and use the chalk." He turns his back on Pieter as the group continue on their way. "I never did learn to spell well enough." He throws over his shoulder, the silence of the cavern magnifiying his words. "My reading's alright...but I never could get the hang of spelling. Maybe one day I'll learn."

As silence grips the group once again, Furgin focuses on surveying the walls and floor for anything untoward.

Within the Ancient Dragon Burial Tomb
The party proceed cautiously, Furgin with Everburning Torch in hand lighting the way for Boindal up front, while Baldur and Pieter follow closely behind.

The walls of the corridor are covered in ancient carvings, depictions of battles long past, the small stone warriors and dragons dwarfed by the clumps of dirt, dust and spiders webs that cling to these long unseen walls.

With every footstep a small eruption of dust is kicked up from the thick layer that coats to the tomb floor beneath the team. Suddenly, Furgin pats Boindal on the shoulder firmly and commands him to stop, before pointing ahead. "I think I see something..."

Furgin moves a foot or so past the Dwarf and eyes the floor of the passageway carefully. "Pressure plates," he informs the group. Ahead of him for twenty or so feet the floor is covered in small pressure plates arranged in such a way to make it near impossible to get down the corridor without stepping on one. The Halfling's eyes scan the walls and ceiling in an attempt to figure out what the pressure plates are connected to, but to no avail.

He turns to the party and frowns. Up ahead of the evidently trapped passageway the tomb opens up into a room. Boindal can make out what looks like two large stone sarcophaguses, but nothing else from where they stand.

The Gates of Winterhaven

Ellen falls to her knees, shrieking with horror she brings up her hands to cover her face. A guardsman moves over cautiously, and rests his hands upon her shoulders. Kneeling down, the young town guard attempts to reconcile the young girl. She continues to howl, her cries a lament for family lost.

Prudence gently pulls Kriv to his feet. She takes a moment to fight back her tears before placing her hand gently against the side of his face. Looking him square in the eyes she talks softly, her words almost a whisper, "You speak of hope, something I had all but lost, until your group saved my daughter and I." She swallows hard, "Bring this Derindahl and all that work for him to justice, I beg of you. If my boys are still-" she hesitates, "Just bring them home, however you find them, please," she falters, her face contorting, a tear rolls down her cheek.

A few moments pass while Prudence rocks her daughter gently, calming her. The town guard look to Kriv awkwardly, not sure of how to deal with two grieving women. The gates of the town open, and a runner is sent to fetch one of the priests from the temple.

Prudence looks up to Kriv one last time, "Their names are Carl and Thomas. Half-elves, both their hair is a rich auburn like their father's." She turns her back on him to focus upon her crying daughter. His heart heavy in his chest, Kriv enters the town. if he collects his mount from the stables, he could be back at the burial site very quickly.

The market is on, just as Lord Padraig had said it would be. Market stalls selling all kinds of produce, from fruit to pottery, are surrounded by a mass of potential customers; some of which are farmers or local towns people while others are obviously travelling merchants.

"Mr Knight sir, Mr Knight sir!" an old lady calls out over the noise of the bustling crowd as she darts in front of Kriv's path giving him no other option than to stop and hear her speak.

"If I may steal just a smidgen of your time kind sir, I need your help. You adventurers being in town has caused quite the stir, especially one as scaly as yourself, if you don't mind me saying so." She chuckles, her black and rotten teeth showing, "Allow me to introduce mi'self. I be Old Sara. I used to own the ol' general store here in Winter'aven, that is until that Bairwin came to town and bought me out. No bad blood, he offered me more than enough for the place... but anyway, I should get to the point." She begins to walk with Kriv as he makes his way to the stables, "Y'see, I heard a scream the other night, coming from Bairwin's store, 'The Tenacious Trader'. Now, the guards ignore me, telling me to 'stop spinning those rumours' as if I am some old nosey busy-body." She frowns, "But truth is, I hardly ever get involved in other people's business, ye know? And that Bairwin is such a nice chap I even got to thinkin' I must-a been imagining it. But then I thoughts to myself, maybe that man is just too nice, ye know? Could ye do me a favour, and just take a look around his shop, see if anything is outta sorts, ye know?" She smiles once again, a grin that may have once been toothy, "I can't offer you any payment, but what with all these monster attacks on the road, I just want to be safe in the knowledge that mi home town is, well, safe, ye know?"

Pieter follows along, grumbling at the sloppiness of the sentence, but helpless to erase it. He continued to make notes along the way, just short little reminders to himself and to Kriv, if he managed to find his way back. When they made it to the pressure plates and Furgin stopped them, he frowned. He was not the best at dungeoneering, and he knew that he would have trouble getting over this if they made him go over it. He looked to his companions with a slight frown, saying "What next? I dont think I am going to be able to jump this."

Baldur

Baldur

Baldur scratches his beard. "Traps are commonplace in guarded barrows and dragon's dens. I'm a little rusty on this, but let's see if I can..."

"Crap."

Baldur clumsily attempts to disarm the first set of plates. Sliding his hand through a small gap, he feels for a connection or something. Truth be told, the Bardbarian hardly had any idea what he was looking for. Before he knew it, he had accidentally putt too much pressure on the plate, pushing it down, activating a small section of the trap.

A clicking noise from above draws Baldur's attention. He quickly pulls his hand out and dives backwards as darts fire from the funnels hidden in the ceiling. Standing up, the Bardbarian finds a bloodied, four inch metallic dart jutting out of the back of his hand. A hot searing pain passes through his arm and he feels sick for a moment, before the nausea passes.

The first five or so feet of plates all seem to have locked down together, suggesting that the trap is set up in stages.

Baldur

Baldur clutches his injured hand. "Blast and damn! That hurts. Next time I'll have to be faster, unless anyone has a better idea?"

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