The Absent Ones
- Explored kobold den
- Discovered Shadow Dragon leading the kobolds
- Defeated Shadow Dragon
- Discovered link between Shadow Dragon and someone named “Kalarel”
- Upon returning to town, found that demons were invading the kingdom
- Duelist’s Rapier +1 – Adrie
- Strongheart Flail +1 – McNeil
- Thunder Broadsword +1 – Torvald
- 330gp/person worth of assorted items/gems/coins
Torvald sheathed his sword after the last kobold fell dead at the bottom of the sludge pit, choking on the muck as he gasped his last breath. He looked to his left at the hulking dragonborn, breathing heavy in his black scale armor, and then to his right at the pretty half elf standing at the end of the pit. They both looked down at the dead kobolds lying in the sludge, and all were wondering the same thing. Did they manage to sound the alarm? Or were the guards surprised enough that they were able to keep some semblance of surprise in store for whatever lay in the next room?
McNeil caught his breath. “It doesn’t sound like anything’s coming. I think we still might have the jump on em.”
Adrie listened attentively, then nodded. “I think you’re right. I’ll sneak up ahead and check it out.”
Torvald strode purposefully to the north end of the room, where the corridor led deeper into the keep. He had been on this plane no longer than a week from what he could tell of this time cycle, and had only just met his current companions yesterday, at the Festival of the Sun in Fallcrest. Yet in one day they had bled together twice, once against the bandit who called himself Verick, and now again invading this kobold den. He couldn’t explain what had possessed him to come here, but there was something about these creatures that made him uneasy. He sensed traces of the Shadowfell on them – highly unusual for such common vermin. He couldn’t help but feel that there was some reason he crashed here of all places.
Adrie returned and casually commented on the two kobolds in the next room, amongst an altar and some sarcophagi. The girl gave off an air of mystery. She was calm and attentive, but largely kept to herself on the journey into the woods. Come to think of it, they all had. It is a strange feeling fighting alongside strangers, but so far his companions had proved capable.
They crept to the next room in an attempt to surprise the kobolds. As they inched forward the corridor turned into a large chamber, exactly as Adrie had described it. Torvald heard a noise behind him, and he turned with his hand at his swordhilt. But it was only McNeil, clanging in his scale armor and heavy with his footfalls. Stealth was not the dragonborn’s strong point.
Where McNeil failed at subtlety, though, he made up for with battle prowess. Adrie was already halfway across the chamber, hidden, when the kobolds heard McNeil stumble. They turned, surprised, but immediately rushed in with their crude spears. They ran straight past Adrie, unawares, headlong into McNeil’s shield.
McNeil drew his flail and began to twirl it about his head, swinging at the kobolds and pulling it back round, the flailhead continually spinning. The skirmishers were quick, but the flail was a dangerous obstacle, and they could not penetrate the dragonborn’s armor. Before long one had its skull exploded when the flail connected solidly, and the other had been run through from behind by Adrie’s shortsword while he was busy avoiding the spinning iron ball. Torvald scarcely had to do a thing. He was impressed.
The altar across the chamber drew his attention. After retrieving her blade from the back of the second kobold, Adrie, too, turned to the platform in the corner. The three wordlessly began to walk toward the altar when something shifted below Torvald’s foot. A pressure plate had been depressed, and a dart flew from a statue on the wall into his arm. He reeled from the pain, but gingerly removed the dart and gave a cautionary look to his companions. No words were necessary as the three began to creep further forward, testing each step as they moved. Adrie scoured the floor looking for an indication of which stones were trapped, and as she did so another dart came flying toward McNeil, sticking into his neck.
He cursed loudly. Before he could say anything further another dart shot forward, but he blocked it with his shield. Another flew at Torvald, but he was prepared and with one motion drew his sword and slashed the dart in half before it could strike him. He looked at McNeil underneath his hood, and McNeil nodded at him. The two took off in a sprint toward the other end of the room, ducking their heads as darts flew at them from the statues on either side.
Adrie was already there, inspecting the altar. She was a half elf, and either especially lightfooted or lucky, as she managed to avoid the dart traps.
“These markings,” she said, pointing to some symbols that seemed like they had been scratched out and carved over. “The ones underneath, you see, are symbols of the goddess Tiamat.”
McNeil glowered. “Typical Kobolds. A disgrace to dragonkind everywhere.”
Torvald was unsurprised at the altar to Tiamat, goddess of greed and evil dragonkin, as most kobolds were prone to worship of her dark majesty of dragons. But he was more curious about the markings carved over those to Tiamat. “And the other markings?” He asked Adrie.
Her gaze rose steadily to meet Torvald’s, and it was a mix of confusion and dread. “Orcus,” she said softly.
That explained Torvalds sense of unease. Orcus lived in the Shadowfell, a twisted parallel plane of darkness and death. But it was odd for kobolds to worship the dark prince of undeath. More questions arose than were answered by this altar, and there was no choice but to press on.
Dispatching the Kobolds
A stairwell led down to a lower level of the den. Adrie led, moving swiftly and silently, and Torvald followed with McNeil covering the party’s rear. As they descended the steps, Torvald heard a familiar crashing noise behind him. As he turned to admonish McNeil for his inability to move quietly, he was struck by the tumbling dragonborn and the two rolled to the bottom of the stairs. Adrie, already into the next room, turned and glared with a mix of disdain and pity.
Torvald looked around. It appeared that this was a kind of game room, and there were several kobolds on a platform playing with some kind of rock on a rope hung from the ceiling. Clearly a moment ago they were having some kind of competition, but now all eyes were on the dragonborn and the genasi that had just crashed into their festivities from the stairwell. Before they could act, however, Adrie leapt out from behind a statue and hurled a dagger into the throat of the nearest lizard. He gasped, blood dribbling from his mouth, as he fell from the platform and crashed to the floor below.
The kobolds began to pepper Torvald and Adrie with javelins and rocks from their slings. Torvald took two steps forward, dodging and bending his upper body to avoid the projectiles, and blasted the slinger with a burst of thunder energy. He was blown backwards off the platform, his bones making a sickening cracking noise as he hit the ground.
One kobold hurled the rock, still attached to the rope, at McNeil’s head. He was struck, and again cursed loudly. But as the rope began to drift back to the thrower, Torvald raised his sword and fired a bolt of lightning. It streaked across the room, wrapping itself around the kobold’s neck, and the creature shrieked and seizured as he fell to the ground. The rope drifted without being caught, and was on its way back in McNeil’s direction.
Seizing the opportunity, McNeil sheathed his flail and took a running start. He leapt and grabbed hold of the rope as two more kobolds came running up the stairs to meet them. As McNeil drifted closer to the platform, he unleashed a mighty breath of forked lightning on the hapless kobolds, shocking them as their burned bodies tumbled lifeless back down the stairs. McNeil gracefully landed atop the platform and descended, as Torvald followed Adrie through the gate underneath and toward the next chamber.
Another platform lay ahead. This one had another kobold slinger atop it, and this time he was ready. Before Torvald could react, as soon as he saw the creature he was struck with a capsule and covered in a grey, sticky glue. His legs and feet were rooted in place, and could only stand and watch as his companions charged forward.
Adrie swiftly hurled a dagger into the slinger and moved to the right side of the platform to get at the kobolds behind it. A priest chanted incantations at the back of the chamber to the north. A sharp cracking noise and rumble echoed throughout the chamber. Torvald’s eyes grew wide as a huge boulder began to roll past Adrie.
McNeil charged at a lizard in heavy armor and the two battled, the kobold darting in and out of the path of the boulder. As it rolled around McNeil looked at it with determined eyes. He lowered his shoulder and prepared to smash the boulder with his might…as it barrelled into him and knocked him clear into the wall, rolling on unimpeded.
Torvald freed himself from the glue and rushed to McNeil’s aid to battle the armored dragonshield. The two dispatched it handily once McNeil stood and brushed himself off, the kobold dying from myriad cuts and burns from Torvald and bruises and broken bones from the warlord. Adrie held off the priest with her shortsword until her companions came to join her.
“I yield!” Screamed the priest, eyes wide with terror. His common tongue was good, with only a slight draconic accent. Torvald could tell he lived near the human encampment for some time, and was likely the leader here. But why become a priest of Orcus?
McNeil stepped up to question him. “Are you in charge here? Do you lead the raids on the town?”
“ME? No no no no no great dragon sir. Not me. It is….her.”
“Who?” McNeil demanded. “WHO?”
The kobold looked around warily, as if to make sure no one was listening. “Szarthilaxx,” he said quietly. “She’s big.” The kobold began to whimper and shrank back into a corner.
Torvald was growing impatient. “How big? Bigger than him?” He gestured to McNeil.
The kobold nodded.
“Bigger than that rock?” He gestured to the boulder, still rolling about the room.
The kobold nodded again.
McNeil, obviously finished with this line of questioning, brought the handle of his flail down on the head of the kobold priest, rendering him quite unconscious. “We’ll grab him on the way back and bring him to town. The Lord Warden may have questions for him, and someone should answer for the recent raids.”
There was a key on the body of the priest, clearly to the small stone door on the west side of the chamber. Without discussion, the three opened it and began to follow the passageway.
Eventually the stone passageway grew colder and darker, the worked stone walls giving way to bare caverns. With each step Torvald’s unease grew. Szarthilaxx sounded draconic, and it was likely the creature that had introduced these poor kobolds to the service of the demon prince Orcus. Torvald had his suspicions, being well learned of the various planes of existence, but he hoped very dearly that he was wrong.
The passageway opened up to a huge cavern. The air felt unnatural, and the darkness was impenetrable. Adrie moved foward slowly with her torch, leading the way, but no one could see more than five or so feet in any direction. Then they heard the voice.
“Can I help you?” It was a deep voice but feminine, raspy and almost playful. It came from the far end of the chamber.
Torvald looked at McNeil. Neither had any response. Adrie spoke first.
“Oh, no thanks. I’m just passing through.”
The voice laughed. It was a harsh laugh, lying somewhere between mocking and condescending. “I think you’ve taken a wrong turn then. There’s no way out of here.” The latter part of the sentence was more menacing. “Where are you trying to go?”
“My grandmother’s house?” Was Adrie’s weak reply. The voice responded with a laugh, this time it sounded closer.
“I don’t think you’ll find grandmother here.” The voice stepped from the shadows at the far end of the chamber, not 10 feet from where Adrie was standing.
The dragon was black as night, but its scales had an ethereal quality to them. It was large, but not as huge as Torvald had feared – the dragon was not yet a fully grown adult. Even young dragons are to be respected though, its claws were as sharp and breath as deadly. Torvald guessed from the unnatural darkness and the Orcus clues before that this was exactly as he suspected…a shadow dragon somehow summoned from the Shadowfell.
Adrie wasted no time springing into action. She ran forward at full speed, a quickness Torvald had never seen before, and launched herself off her hands into a spinning somersault toward the dragon’s face. The dragon appeared amused at this display until Adrie’s shortsword caught her across the face, making a deep wound. Her bemusement turned to anger.
Suddenly Szarthilaxx was gone. She had been not 5 feet from Adrie when she vanished. Torvald and McNeil stood back to back, scanning the room, when a blast of necrotic breath emerged from the darkness. Torvald tumbled out of the way, but McNeil was hit with its full force in the face. He cursed and covered his head with his shield.
Torvald fired a lightning bolt into the darkness from the tip of his sword, but couldn’t tell if he connected with anything. The lightning in this cave was unnatural, no doubt some kind of spell by the dragon. McNeil was not in any way discouraged by this however. After shrugging off the breath attack, he raised his flail and gave a howling warcry.
“With me!” He yelled as he charged headlong into the darkness, swinging wildly. Torvald had to admit, the bravado and bravery of this dragonborn was inspiring, if bordering on stupidity.
The battle raged. Szarthilaxx teleported about the chamber, seemingly always beyond reach, lashing out with her claws. The heroes blindly hacked and slashed at the beast, but they were accumulating wounds faster than they were inflicting them. Torvald kept her attention while McNeil swung away, shouting out encouragements. Adrie had somehow slipped away…
Torvald finally was able to lasso the dragon with a lightning bolt, pulling Szarthilaxx out of her shadowy cover. Adrie leapt from the shadows, striking immediately, and inflicted a severe wound to the dragon’s tail with her shortsword. Szarthilaxx flew into a rage. Surrounded and cornered, restricted by Torvald’s magic, she focused all her fury at the swordmage. Torvald dodged and parried the claws with precision as Adrie and McNeil furiously and relentlessly hacked at the shadowy scales.
Nearly out of breath, Adrie stabbed one last time with all her might, and the sword found a gap in the dragon’s underbelly, sinking in to the hilt. Szarthilaxx gave out a violent hiss, thrashing about, but soon lay dying on the chamber floor. The dragon was finished.
The dragon didn’t appear to have a traditional hoard, much to Adrie’s dismay. The three wearily scavenged through the assorted items in the cavern, likely stolen in kobold raids or left by previous brave, unsuccessful adventurers exploring the den.
“Hey, look at this,” said McNeil from across the cavern. He had picked up a piece of parchment and began to read aloud:
Cease operations in Fallcrest. Supplies are set. Send three units to Irontooth at Winterhaven, use remaining troops to shut down, then come back to me as soon as you are able under cover of night.
Torvald, in his state, couldn’t make any sense of it. They stored the note in a pouch, picked up what valuables they could find, and left the cave.
Wearily Torvald stumbled along behind McNeil, with Adrie trudging along behind. Torvald had taken the worst of the dragon’s fury, and he flinched with each step as the deep claw wounds continued to slowly bleed, his skin tingling from the raw necrotic damage taken from the otherworldy beast. As they passed the room where they had met the kobold priest, they noticed he was gone – probably scurried away to pledge his services to some other dark lizard. Torvald didn’t care, the only thing on his mind was rest, after which he would puzzle through some of the questions that lingered after the battle with the beast.
Upon reaching Fallcrest they went straight to the Lord Warden with troublesome news – the kobolds were serving a Shadow Dragon, and the implications of this could extend far beyond just the safety of the town. The Lord Warden was shocked, whether by the existence of such a creature or that it had been defeated by these three warriors Torvald could not be sure.
The Warden sat upon his chair, brow furrowed in deep thought. He looked up at Torvald as if to speak, when a crash at the door startled everyone. Torvald turned to appraise the situation, hand on his swordhilt. A soldier staggered in, dressed lightly in hide armor – likely a scout of the city guard on patrol. His tunic was tattered with slashes from both swords and claws.
“We’re under attack,” he stammered between gasps for breath. He was bleeding from several deep wounds Torvald could see, and it surely had taken all his strength to return to the town.
“Attack? By who?” said the Warden.
The scout’s eyes grew wide. “Demons,” he said, as he collapsed to the ground, still wearing the crazed, terrified expression that would mark his corpse.