Archive for the “D&D 4E” Category

Incident at the Barn

Incident at the Barn

It was an odd chain of coincidences, we thought — Escobert sends us through a secret tunnel, straight into a kobold and cultist ambush. Then he sends us to a mill — straight into a cultist and mercenary, this time, ambush.

————-

The burning mill behind us tossed our shadows at our feet as we dragged the prisoner to the edge of the forest. Losing the mill wasn’t really part of our plan, but … at least we were all still alive. And now we had a prisoner who could tell us… everything!

“I can’t tell you anything,” said the prisoner, as we stopped for a moment to let him catch his breath without a gag. He smiled as if finding himself dragged along a forest path was the most natural thing in the world. “I don’t know anything! They just hired us to…”

“They?” snarled Zalandrin. The wood elf ranger continued sharpening an arrowhead as he spoke. “They — who?”

“Toomi never told us! Why would he tell us anything? Benoro Toomi is the boss, he’s the only one that talks to clients. Nobody tells Korma Rham anything. That’s me. Rham the toad. Guard this. Kill that. Eat this. I’m only a mushroom in this outfit. Kept in the dark with my feet covered with shit.” The mercenary — Rham — seemed desperate to please. And to keep breathing.

Zalandrin stayed silent. Eager to please, Rham continued. “Look. We’re supposed to collect all the pillage. I can show you where. And introduce you to Toomi.”

Errwyn coughed. The forest gnome had been trying to get the prisoner’s attention for some time. “I’m sure you would like to introduce us to Toomi,” piped the gnome. “And his dozen closest friends. Like the ones with you at the mill.”

Rham shrugged as best he could, caught in Gina’s iron grip. “A job’s a job. Toomi tells us to sit around in a mill until some adventurers come calling, that’s what we do. We all gotta do what we all gotta do, right?”

“Riiiiight,” agreed Zalandrin. “Gag him.”

Gina gagged him. Rham winced as the dwarf pulled the gag tight, but made no further sound.

As we headed through the forest toward the sewer grate, we happened upon a patrol — three human guards and a cultist. Gina dropped Rham, who scurried to the safety of the nearest tree.

Gina smiled as she unlimbered her axe and swung it in a smooth circle through the collarbone of the nearest guard. I drew my rapier and finished the job. Bards can do some harm with words, but sometimes steel sings more sweetly. Errwyn leaped up and smashed a guard upside his head. Zalandin took the arrow he had sharpened and planted it through the neck of the cultist. Gina gave a guard and his arm a quickie divorce; he then felt a stabbing pain in his heart and fell. As I pulled my rapier free, I wondered is that’s all heart attacks really were; gnomes with long knives. Just trying to get home. The last guard made to run, but Errwyn changed his mind for him.

At the end, Errwyn was the only one who’d taken damage, but he was determined to continue.

“Who knows how many more of them we’ll find before we get back to the keep,” said Zalandrin. He glanced at me. “I could use a little help to find out.”

I nodded, took out my hurdy-gurdy and gave him a couple notes of inspiration. Refreshed, the elf faded into the dark. A moment later he dropped from a tree. “One more patrol, looking for the ones we slew outside the tunnel.”

I stood outside their torchlight and shouted some curses at them. This kept them mad enough that they almost missed Gina killing a couple while Zalandrin finished them off. I snapped my fingers and set the last guard’s hair afire. He went screaming for the river.

Our drunken cleric roused himself just enough to unlock the sewer grate that led back into the keep before he returned to his somnolent state.

Gagged, and with his head covered with a spare sack we had fished out of the mill, the prisoner stumbled before us into the keep’s cellars and up the stairs and ladders until we were standing once more before the red-bearded dwarf, Escobert.

“The mill?” asked Escobert, as he ripped the sack harshly off the prisoner’s head and let him have the full force of his stone stare.

“Blowed up, sir,” replied Zalandrin. “The cultists got there before us. It was all we could do to chase them away, and capture this one.”

“Well. I guess that ended as well as it could have. We’ll have words with our guest, shall we?”

Gina’s blood ran cold for a second. Rham will tell them what really happened, she thought. As if following her thoughts, Rham looked at the fighter and gave her a slow, obvious wink.

We sat down for a short rest. I took out my baubles and bits and made a little wind-up rat. I felt better. I get restless when my hands aren’t working the hurdy or fixing something broken.

The cleric found a bottle somewhere and soon had it emptied. He fell into a drunken slumber with his back against a wall, and refused to be awoken when Rham, Escobert in tow, walked up to us, a catlike smile plastered across his somewhat bruised face.

“He’s what he seems to be,” said Escobert, nodding at the mercenary. “He couldn’t tell us what the cult wants with Greenest. I’ve had scouts reporting back with tales that the mercenaries are collecting their pillage in a barn on the northern side of town. Rham here says he can get you there. I know we have no call to send you back into danger, but we could all die if we don’t get some answers, and soon. That dragon isn’t going to hold back forever.”

Zalandin snorted with disdain. “Bring that snake with us? I think not. How many innocents have you killed — Sir Snake?”

Rham’s eyes widened. “Why, none. We’ve killed nobody. We’re not here to kill. We’re here to …. to loot. Cause a little fuss. That’s all.”

Gina shrugged. “We’ll do it,” she said. “Right after we deal with this killer. We saw your cultist friends trying to slice up a family — that’s them over there. They’d be dead if we hadn’t come by. Kill this murderer, and then we’ll get your mercenary lieutenant for you.”

Gina didn’t fight too much when the rest of us urged her to let him live. Killing on the battlefield is one thing — but the gods don’t react kindly to outright murder. There was no possible way we’d be taking the prisoner back to his friends, though. That would be worse than wrong — that would be stupid.

Rham shrugged and went to find something to eat as we descended again into the sub-basement, and through the tunnel to the sewer grate. We circled the town toward the north and soon came to the barn.

It was well guarded, with three mercenaries in front, clearly on the lookout for some adventuring party not unlike ourselves. Around back, two more guards stand near a rear door. Zalandrin asked me to make a distraction for him. I snapped my fingers, and a stream of gold coins dropped from a tree branch and piled themselves on the ground.

The guards didn’t miss this odd sight. One pounded on the door. A guard inside stuck out his head, the guards exchanged quiet words, the guard pulled his head back and shut the door.

The other guard waited a moment, then unslung a crossbow, lit a bolt from a wall torch, and fired it into the forest. It struck a nearby tree, which immediately began to burn. I extinguished it with a word.

Gina and Errwyn spotted the other guard sneaking around to the west. Screaming a challenge, they startled the guard and soon had him dead. Zalandrin shot the other. Wounded, the other guard fled into the barn.

The three guards from the front ran up on the west side of the barn. Gina and Errwyn stood ready. Three other guards snuck up from the east, taking Zalandrin by surprise.

Zalandrin emptied his quiver, then dropped his bow and drew his swords. As they fought, I did what I could, darting in with a strike, setting hair on fire when I had a breath, but it was clear things were not going well. Zalandrin is a deadly fighter, but three at once is much even for him.

There was yelling from the barn. I left Zalandrin to check it out — as Zalandrin fell, I entered the barn and saw it empty except for three people tied to a pillar, screaming as their flesh was ripped away by flames. Flames which had spread to engulf the entire interior. Of the guard leader and the loot, nothing remained. I ran out of the fully open front door as I heard Zalandrin’s last attacker enter the barn behind me.

As I ran to help Errwyn and Gina, the barn collapsed, killing that guard.

Errwyn staggered as I arrived, falling dead on the ground. Gina managed to kill the last guard. Bleeding freely from a dozen cuts, she still stood, grinning for a moment before remembering Errwyn’s sacrifice. It was too late for the forest gnome — he was dead. He’d fought bravely, and died bravely.

Gina tenderly lifted Errwyn’s small body, and we ran to find Zalandrin. He was unconscious — but alive. We suddenly remembered that Escobert had given us health potions and used one on the elf. Coughing, he spit out some blood and managed to stand. He looked at Errwyn’s body and said nothing.

“Back to the keep,” he said. We headed back, devastated at our failure and loss.

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Mill map

Mill map

Spend enough time in a kobold suit, and you begin to understand them, a little. The sideways sneers from those who don’t understand. All the gnomes in the lab calling you a “scaly”. But you need to really know your enemy in order to truly ridicule them.

Honor them, I mean.

Really, two sides of the same cognozzle, right?

We’d snuck up to a mill, the mill that the red-bearded dwarf had sent us to protect moments ago, though it seemed like weeks since we’d left the keep and battled the cultists outside the tunnel grate.

Human cultists lurked outside the mill, waving torches around but being careful not to singe the mill itself. We thought that was slightly strange.

Ellwyn, the shadow that walks like a forest gnome, suggested he cast a minor illusion to … but, he had no fleece. The drunken cleric, Dan Cain, smiles, whispered a prayer, and in his place suddenly stood the twin to one of the cultists we’d killed by the river. He asked someone to light his torch; I lit it with a word and a gesture with prestidigitation.

The Cain Cultist walked down the hill to a cultist guarding the east side of the mill. The cultist seemed a little shocked to see Cain Cultist. Cain Cultist learned from the real cultist that the whole mill was an elaborate trap designed to lure in and destroy a rogue band of adventurers. The three cultists outside are a decoy; within the mill are ten cultists and warriors. Any adventurer who steps inside… is dead.

Cultist Cain nodded, held up his hand, and charmed the real cultist. He ordered him to go inside and let the ambush folks know that the new cultist outside had been ordered here by the commander, Althorn, without any explanation as to what to do once here.

Meanwhile, the drunken cleric doused his torch and returned to the rest of us, still on the hill, by the light of his glowing gate key.

Well, Cain Cultist is clearly inspired by the cultist’s news: We should burn the mill and go soothe our parched throats at the nearest tavern. I think that Escobert set up this overly elaborate ruse to trap and kill us all, far from sight of the townfolk.

Zalandrin, our woody ranger, implored the drunken cleric to let him talk to the real cultist, who’d by this time finished in the mill and was back at his post. Down they went. The ranger looked in a window, saw nothing unusual — except a suspicious ladder leading up to a loft, on which he could dimly see, at the limits of his darkvision, some shadowy forms.

The charmed cultist helpfully explained all the death waiting in those lofts. Zalandrin’s prehensile ears suddenly lean toward the river. What is that… noise? The cultist ran to see, unable to stop Zalandrin’s sword from spitting his heart from behind.

The cultist’s last words were: Dude. That’s low.

Well. If we’re killing cultists, I wanted to play. I followed the shadows down the hill, and walked up beside the wall. The poor light, the flickering torches and the idiocy of the cultists let me get close enough to summon a quick breeze to extinguish the torch held by the nearest cultist.

Jig was up. Not my favorite kind of jig. The cultist dropped his darkened torch, yelled THEY’RE HERE! at the top of his formidable lungs, and ran off, taking his partner with him.

Taking that as a signal, Ellryn (the forest gnome monk) and Gina (the dwarf fighter) ran down the hill and joined Cultist Cain by the side of the mill, as Zalandrin passed them going back up the hill, ready to snipe any cultist that dared showed its head outside the mill.

The front of the mill, where I am, was unornamented, except for a dutch, er, dwarf, door. I snuck up and opened just the bottom half of the door, stuck my head inside — incredibly noisy. I heard nothing but the slow grinding of the mill stone. I set a fire burning brightly on a crate near the door. Was the creaking suddenly more creakingly? But… nothing. I stepped back out of the mill.

I really had no idea what I could do that wouldn’t get me turned into a particularly lovely gnome-cushion, but I needn’t have worried. The drunken cleric was on point. He used one of his torches to smash a windo, yelled that any ambushers that might or might not be lurking about leave or be set on fire, and tossed the torch through the window

The torch rolled around on the floor for a moment before igniting the flour dust in the air.

The resulting explosion… why, it reminded me of Introduction to Chemistry back at the gnome-versity. Brought tears and shards of stone to my eye.

The drunken cleric staggered out from the wreckage still largely intact, aside from his eyebrows.

Half the rear of the mill was blown away. The waterwheel collapsed into the river. The mill wheel shuddered to a stop as its mechanism was turned to tinder. Three dead humans fell from the destroyed loft, dead, and there was a hue and cry as the others jumped from the loft to the floor and started running for the river, through the new hole in the mill where the back wall once was.

One clever guard who tried for the front door, didn’t notice that only the bottom half was open and slammed into it, knocking himself out.

While Gina and Ellryn joined me at the door, Cultist Cain tried to douse the flames with flasks full of river water. Those guards that are neither dead nor unconscious made it to the river and floated or swam away. I hoped they took a moment to remove their heavy armor.

Finally, the cavalry came! Except, not really cavalry, because none of them had horses. A guard commander, a squad of militiamen and a patrol of archers showed up from nobody knew where, alarmed and aghast. We were supposed to PRESERVE the mill, not blow it up!

Zalandrin explained how the cultists had, faced with certain death at this band of first level adventurers, had blown up the mill themselves to cover their cowardly escape.

The militiamen form a bucket brigade with their helmets as they try to extinguish the still-burning mill. I do my part and extinguish the small crate fire I started.

The guard commander cursed the dark fate that left him no cultists to question. Well… as it happened… we had a guard knocked out in the mill, still, only a little worse for wear.

Finally, the guard captain said, a bright spot! We should rush the cultist back to the keep while the militia stays behind to save the mill.

Cultist Cain seems reluctant, until we remind him that if there’s going to be ale anywhere in this town, it would be at the keep.

That does the trick.

Cultist Cain took a look at me still in my kobold costume and promised to burn it off me. I promised that if he did, every ale he drank would taste like piss. And that would not be a metaphor.

——

I’d worried how we were going to handle such a superior force. None of us really wanted to burn down the inn — since the mission objectives were pretty explicit about not burning it down. In the end, though, it worked out. The mill is damaged, but most of the supplies they’d had stored there survived. Luckily for us, the militia were all too willing to believe that the cultists would try to destroy the mill.

It’s clear we’re not going to be a lawful good group :-)

After the adventure, we discussed choosing a leader for the group and settled upon Zalandrin as the best choice. We succeeded tonight, but everyone was still pretty much acting on their own. In a roleplay sense, perhaps it’s understandable that we are only now coming to know and trust each other and to understand what each of us brings to the group. But, now it’s time to coordinate.

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Cultists on the River

Cultists on the River

I’ve never seen such a tough crowd. I do mean crowd. The humans are stepping on each other’s shadows, and even we more compact sort are having to watch our step. Still, they seem upset, and why? How often do you get to see a DRAGON?

I haven’t seen one in a long time. Well, there was that platinum dragon from whom I bought a single perfect note. I keep it in a box at the very bottom of my pack. Someday, the time will be right, and I’ll open that box, and that Note will sing out.

No, you’ll never hear it. Not with your ears. Even if you could, it would destroy your world, and I don’t want that for you. But, if you have a chest of gems, well, we could work something out. What need have you for gems when your world is destroyed? Also, magic items. The Note is worth it. No cheap magic items. I’ll have my appraiser get in touch. It’s my brother. He may need to bring some of your magic items back to the burrow to form an accurate impression. It could take years. You might not know he’s been by.

Anyway. We were in a keep, and Esco-the-Red-Bear was trying to get us out of the safety of the keep. My ears perk up when people mention anything about “gold” or “payment” or “easy money”, and I have to admit that my ears were not perking up. Up-perking? Perkolating? Is that a word? It sounds like a word. I have percolated ears. I am percolating as I write, silently, to myself. The rest of this madcap group seemed equally reluctant to become the grounded part of a dragon-powered circuit.

We dithered as a ragged scout came by with a note for our dwarf friend. His already dour expression became more so. The guards on the wall, he said, have spotted a new threat. The cultists are trying to set fire to the old mill.

Without that mill, the village of Greenest will starve. WE will starve.

That got our attention, and we, reluctantly, agreed to help. He pressed some keys into the hands of the sadly sober cleric. There’s a secret exit from the keep, a tunnel to the river, used during the construction and kept secret since. We should head to the deepest basement and look for a hidden door. Behind that, we’d find a tunnel to the river, with an iron grate at the end. One key for the hidden door; the other for the grate.

If any creature saw us and found the tunnel back into the keep, disaster would follow. So we should try hard not to let that happen. We should immediately head down and escape to the mill and keep the attackers busy for about fifteen minutes, when Escobert would be able to pull together some sort of force and leave by some other means and meet us there.

The deepest sub-basement was used to store barrels and other useful things. We looked around a bit, and eventually discovered the hidden door behind some of the barrels. I let the larger types move those aside.

The trip down the tunnel was perilous — not because of monsters or any sort of existential danger. More because the human, the only one without darkvision, had cast a light spell on the grate key, and that’s just annoying. He chose to jockey for the rear position with the fighter, while Ellwyn, the potentially dangerous gnome monk, insisted upon being in front.

His vigilance was rewarded when we met, and dealt with, a swarm of rats. Ellwyn decided to sit this one out.

Let me tell you about this swarm of rats.

I know rats. You live beneath the earth, you know rats. And these rats were the worst specimens of rats I had ever seen. Patchy fur. MANGE. Three of the rats had their tails torn off, were possibly blind. Make a maze with cheese at every dead end and these rats would starve. I mean, these rats were really more like scrawny hamsters. Who had been stepped on when they were young. Right on their heads.

I viciously mocked that swarm of rats, and gave them disadvantage.

Gina, our dwarf fighter, loosed a hand axe from her belt and sent it clattering into the swarm of rats, to little effect. The drunken cleric shot a guiding bolt at the swarm that stunned them; the woodie ranger Zalandrin took his blade and finished the job.

We were all certain that Ellwyn had just been on the verge of attacking.

Finally at the gate, we paused before we open the gate to listen. We heard footsteps wading through the river — a noisy gate would summon them for sure. The drunken cleric handed the glowing gate key to Gina, who promptly broke it in half in the rust-frozen lock.

I cursed silently to myself, made a scrubbing motion with my left hand, and by the power of prestidigitation, the gate was cleaned free of rust. The drunken cleric pushed forward, grabbed the half of the key from Gina’s hand, and mended it with the half still in the lock. With a mended key and a clean gate, the gate unlocked easily and swung open noiselessly.

Sticking our heads out, we saw a party of kobolds to our north. They did not see us.

I put on my kobold costume.

The rest of the party prepared to attack the kobolds with surprise on our side. (Could we have avoided this fight? I don’t know. I’m not sure how stealthy Some People are).

Ellwyn, the pacifist monk, had initiative, but ceded it to the ranger. Zalandrin notched an arrow. It disappeared from his bow, reappeared in the shoulder of a cultist. Seeing this, Ellwyn dashed forward — but for some reason, only moved a fifth the distance he would normally move. This strange force would affect our movement the entire fight. The kobolds and cultists looked on, bemused, unaware that this strange force would hinder them as well.

Gina and the drunken cleric rushed out of the tunnel together, bunching up for a moment at the exit, then bursting out like two peas from a straw. Dazed, the cleric had enough presence of mind to put away the mended glowing key. I followed behind the two. Just a friendly kobold. Nobody you would ever want to attack.

Zalandrin, with no need to fight the force that paralyzed our legs, continued to pick apart kobolds. One rushed at me, but — kobold costume. Confused, the kobold attacked Ellwyn, and the monk finally got the fight he wished for.

And maybe a little more, as, once he had crawled into the melee, became a cultist punching bag and soon fell, senseless, to the ground. Gina, the nearest, rushed up and quickly bound his wounds, but could not bring him back to health.

The drunken cleric, who had been touching the ranger in some delicate place, fought his way instead through the force that kept us from moving at our normal pace, picked Ellwyn up by his robe’s collar and slapped him back to health. I started making out my living will right then and there because, I dunno, maybe it’s just better to shuffle off to the eternal workshop that awaits me in Mechanus than be slapped to health by an inebriated human.

With all of us back in the fight, the rest of the encounter goes well. The cleric called down flame, Gina’s heavy axe became a blur of darkness, Zalandrin’s arrows grew like trees in enemy throats, Ellwyn finally got to hit something, and I, an ersatz kobold, viciously mocked those poor examples of cultists from the sidelines and dazzled them with light shows.

We quickly dragged the bodies into the tunnel and closed and locked the gate behind them. I expected the Keep would find some undead cultists clawing their way into the basement pretty soon, because that’s the kind of night it had been.

While few to none of us were skilled in the stealthy arts, we made it without any further issue to the mill. Torch-wielding kobolds had the place surrounded, but they didn’t seem in a hurry to burn the place.

Did they know that there might be enemies watching them nearby, and they were scheming to draw us out? Zalandrin scouted the mill and got the lay of the land. We had taken so much time killing the cultists outside the tunnel that it seemed certain Escobert would meet us here, soon.

It was odd that, in all that time, the kobolds still hadn’t attacked the mill.

Something is wrong.

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Entering Greenest

Entering Greenest

There’s a song I wrote once. Everyone in Elturel was singing it. They loved me there, but what could I do? I’m just that good. They love me everywhere. The song was “Get Off the Cart”… I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the gnome cities beneath the rolling hills of the Western Heartlands, and why would you? You love the sun, the wind, the trees, and why not? Gnome cities were all mines in ancient times, and some still are, with the stone brothers ceaselessly chipping.

But we gnomes build workshops where deep pools one stood in their stillness. The old minecart rails now carry our automatons through the depths on their myriad tasks. Most gnomes only go where the rails go. But some of us get off the cart.

And yet here I am, stuffed beneath this dogcart like lost luggage, trying to keep out of the sight of the noble who hired me. I remember him. I’m hoping he won’t remember me. Or the music box I left going — by accident! — outside the door to his suite, all night. And the next day. See, I have nervous fingers, and sometimes I… build little things… and this music box looked so much like an ornate hinge that I just had to see if I could make the door musical.

I have to get off this cart. Soon.

My fellow guards are an odd lot.

Dan Cain, human cleric. Does he worship a god? Nobody knows what he does in the woods, but he always returns happier than when he left. The only way you can be sure he won’t go is the way he’s headed. Maybe that’s why he joined this caravan to nowhere.

Ellryn Leafwind, one of my forest brothers. He carries no weapons and wears no armor and his eyes burn with a quiet intensity. If he’s ever sprung a clockwork in the dark beneath the hills, I’d be shocked. One to watch out for.

Gina Battlehammer, a dwarf sister. The rock grows deep within her. She says little, still too young for her beard to grow in. She hates the stare of the sun but refuses to give that daystar the satisfaction of watching her sweat. The carven sigils on her battleaxe speak more loudly than her soft voice.

Zalandrin Silverthorn wears pointed ears and a thousand yard stare. Once on this accursed journey, I saw a squirrel chasing a bird away from its nest. Zalandrin was in full sight, and I swear he moved not a muscle, but the squirrel caught a sudden case of arrow, a look of startlement frozen on its lifeless face. As the carriage passed beneath, the weight of the arrow brought it and squirrel down to Zalandrin’s outstretched hand. The bird’s joyful song followed us a good, long while.

Me? Tinda Bronzenote, at your service. My full name would fill these chronicles, but this is enough for you, who have never visited the tessellated halls of my home, have never listened to our songs.

But if you have ever sung along to “Get Off the Cart”, then you owe me a shiny piece of electrum, or at least an ale the next time we meet. Music isn’t free, you know.

After many quiet days, the caravan master said we were nearing the town of Greenest, the end of our journey. A dark cloud hung heavy on the road ahead… rising from the towers of the small keep that peeked from behind the crown of a hill. A sudden gale shook the carts as a shadow sped over us — a blue dragon cried its electric cry as it flew ahead, the slow flap of its wings rolling thunder over the besieged town as the keep sprouted another tongue of flame.

Roger, the caravan master, tried his best to calm the panicking horses. The noble I’d been avoiding crashed out of the carriage, his widening eyes taking in the devastation, yelled words I could not understand at Roger, and stormed back into the carriage. Locks were turned. The door was barred, which I thought was excessive. The carriage is, after all, flammable.

The caravan master threw our pay at our feet and left us in the dust as he expertly turned the carts around and vanished down the Uldoon Trail, back the way we came.

With no better options, we decide to see what we can see in Greenest. The dragon has clearly been careful not to cause too much damage to the homes and houses, but hasn’t been as kind to barns and bales. It’s a rare dragon that cares that much what they burn. But we see, then, that humans and kobolds are looting the homes and chasing away the people. What could they be planning?

A small copse separates a river from the town. If we go up the river… standing in water near a dragon who breathes LIGHTNING? Plus — not that good at swimming. The kind of lakes you find in the Underdark are not the kind of lakes in which you learn to swim….

I rustle along the bank while the others wade in the river. I’m not all that comfortable among them, though Leafwind and Silverthorn are instantly at home. Leafwind look better with a hat. A tall, conical hat. Red.

Through the trees, we see a group of humans and kobolds looting a home near the edge of the village. Kobolds?

I put on my kobold costume.

When money gets short, sometimes I put on a quick production of “The Kobold Princess Who Grew Too Much”, a play I wrote. Performed the world over. Kings and queens tossing gold at me. I use a disguise spell to grow during the play. Not fitting into my clothes any more. The dwarfs always laugh.

If you have a couple silver on you, I might show you. Real silver, not that southern stuff.

I whisper disguise and there isn’t a kobold in Faerûn who wouldn’t invite me to perform for their king. From kobolds, I generally get gems. Uncut, but I know people. The rest of the group gives me odd looks. I bark. They sigh.

These people are not any fun at all. We see a family coming down the stream the other way, scared out of their wits. I bark at them. They scream and run the other way.

Pretty funny, but the group is kinda upset. They wanted information, but honestly, the best thing for those people was to get out of line of sight of the dragon. Disgusted, the party strongly encourages me to scout out the village, seeing I’m a kobold and all.

I wander up near a group looting a home. They yell something at me, but I haven’t learned comprehend languages, so I just smiled and nodded. That gets most people to leave you alone. But maybe kobolds don’t smile? They aren’t buying it.

Zalandrin, creeping to the edge of the copse, makes a noise. The kobolds and their tame human, their heads jerk as if pulled by an invisible string.

One kobold deftly catches an arrow with his right eye. He goes down in a puddle of greasy scales.

The tame human isn’t taking any of that. He draws a scimitar and swings at me, one of his allies! He misses, unsure, I guess, which side I’m on.

Gina Battlehammer runs up, axe already singing. I quickly charm person a kobold and set it on the human and decide Gina would be better with me behind her. Doesn’t have to worry about which kobold is the one she wants to not hit.

My kobold friend attacks the other kobold…? He was supposed to work on the human! Oh well! Missed anyway. That last kobold snatches an arrow out of the air with his throat, and only then do I hear the soft twang of Zalandrin’s bow.

The human, confused, turns from attacking me to swing at Gina. Someone should have had an attack of advantage or disadvantage when I moved away from him and he moved away from me.

Gina slices the human in two. Do humans have souls? Must remember to ask that drunken cleric. Or maybe he’s so drunk because humans don’t have souls. Maybe it’s okay to kill humans? I’ll have to check up on the local laws. Maybe there is a game preserve somewhere where you can bring your family to kill humans.

My charmed kobold friend, nobody left to attack, smiles stupidly, so I run him through with my rapier.

“We could have gotten some answers from him,” whispers Zalandrin. “I speak kobold.”

Well, thanks for that late breaking news, elf.

There’s a lot of plates, silverware and other valuables dropped by the dead kobolds. I drop my disguise and remove the kobold costume. It’s done its job. Cleaning it is murder.

A human family — couple hatchlings, a wounded man, and a woman carrying a spear with no little familiarity, comes running out of the village, pursues by a group of at least eight kobolds.

The kobolds, seeing us, assume by our arms and lack of running away that we’re friends, bark and motion clearly that we’re to help kill all humans. I suddenly have another vision of a walled off preserve where children of all nations could gather to kill humans in a safe, family-friendly environment. I’ll have to look into that. Are humans allies? I’ll have to make sure. Don’t want to kill them without a license, or something. Might be harvesting limits. And this village does seem infested with them. Perhaps they were sent here to breed. Could these be the dragon’s free range human farm? What are the rules about this situation?

Zalandrin says the kobolds are getting a little suspicious that we aren’t killing the humans yet, and frankly, so am I. But I tell Zal to tell our kobold friends that these humans are our prey (I hope). No go. I explain that these humans killed a friend of mine and that they should let us have these… they reluctantly leave.

The family is as terrified of us as they were the kobolds, and run to the keep, slip inside a hastily opened door that slams shut behind them. We knock on the door, exchange muffled words with a guard, and are soon let inside.

The keep is crowded wall-to-wall.

We look for someone in charge. The garrison commander, a red-beared dwarf who calls himself Escobert the Red, sees us and we are brought into a room with a crude model of the village on a table, asks us what the heck we are doing here. We explain about the caravan, and, accepting that, they tell of the suddenness of the dragon’s attack that morning, followed by kobolds and tame humans invading from the forest on all sides, driving people from their homes, looting and carrying away.

These same forces are working their way into the keep. There will be no leaving it without dealing with those cultists.

With the keep stuffed at over a hundred people and humans, at least that many trapped outside and perhaps still alive, their seems to be no safe place. There could be a couple hundred cultists out there as well, looting and burning but not doing all that much killing.

Our drunken cleric seems in danger of sobering up, insists on being shown the nearest tavern. He is ignored.

Escobert the Red makes it clear that we are welcome to take refuge in the keep — but we need to pay with services. He throws us a heavy ring of keys that will let us out of the keep through hidden ways. Get outside and kill cultists, or get outside and save more humans.

Or, just get outside and stay there.

I know my vote!

Sorry this update seems more focused on what my character is doing than what anyone else’s character is doing. I have to learn everyone’s voices so I can get more of what they say in there.

DM suggests we cut down on the comedy, so… probably will be somewhat more serious going forward. Nobody wants to be cut down in the next encounter. So far nobody has stepped up to lead the group — and maybe it’s early — but the last time we played we had no leader and so we all just did whatever we felt like, and this adventure is shaping up the same way. Nobody wants to take charge.

I’m not saying I’m not part of the problem — I definitely didn’t clear any of my moves with the group, who would probably have preferred I not dress up like a kobold and stuff. But, I honestly don’t know what else to do. We’re all MMO players and it shows so much. See mobs, kill mobs, see mobs, kill mobs. Loot the corpses. That’s not D&D. MMOs look like D&D on the outside, but inside they are dead. I figure, if we’re playing like it’s an MMO, we need to do the opposite.

A kobold, er, gnome bard isn’t going to be a leader. Zalandrin might. I have no idea what kind of things Superman and Leafwind can do yet.

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