By Brian Flood
Chapter 52 - Into the Frying Pan
The Caves of Chaos
Near Kendall Keep, Kingdom of Cormyr
Early Afternoon, 21st Day of Mirtul; Year of the Tankard (1370 DR)
In the dark western corridor, Kerielle hears the strange cry from behind her as her eyes adjust from the normal spectrum to one that differentiates between the ambient heat of the surrounding environment and the varying degrees of heat emitted by creatures and objects. After her vision shifts, she sees that the corridor continues three or four paces beyond her current position before coming to a ‘T’ intersection with one branch going north and another to the south.
The elven archer considers dashing back to assist – she is eager to fight and to prove herself to her new companions – but she realizes that she would be unable to get a clear shot past them. Judging the vanguard as capable of dealing with any likely threat, she decides it is best to trust the others to deal with the threat while she ensures that no foe falls upon them from the western passage.
Fully drawing her bow, she scans the T-junction intently and readies herself to fire the instant anything emerges. Thinking that the short length of the corridor will only allow a very few shots if anything were to emerge, she again tries to get the assistance of someone better equipped to deal with close-in fighting.
“Alain? ‘Could use your company!” the archer calls back over her shoulder. Her tone is excited, but not urgent.
Even as she finishes her request, she hears movement and voices that seem to come from the northern branch of the T-intersection. The voices sound inhuman and the speech is unintelligible to the elf. Then she hears Amiel shout from the position of the main body.
“Ware!” Amiel calls out to the entire group trying to keep her voice as calm as possible. They are all keyed up enough – a misstep here could easily descend into an all out fight. Her sword is out and ready, however.
The ranger takes a step to the left and drops to one knee, trying to pose as small as possible a target while facing down the passage to the southeast. “Declan, Helios – Here!” she cries, gesturing to the two men to move in behind her.
“Everyone else – watch the other passages!” Again, she tries to keep any panic from her voice.
Helios’ head snaps to attention at Amiel’s warning. He draws his sword and moves behind Amiel, as requested.
Declan also quickly heeds Amiel’s call to arms and rushes past Helios, positioning himself a few paces to the right of Amiel’s kneeling form. Mimicking Amiel, he takes a knee and ensures that the beam of light is not directly shining on Amiel – or any other member of the company – but is instead aimed down the tunnel.
Back at the first intersection, Velgardrin hears Amiel’s commands and heads for the southern passageway. As the dwarf passes in front of Nathan, he gestures at the mage with his axe and says quietly, “South fer me. No light.”
Like Kerielle, Velgardrin elects to step from the boundaries of the light cast by the company’s lanterns. As he does so, he disappears from view from the rest of the main body. A few seconds later, as his eyes shift into a thermal spectrum, the dwarf sees that the southern passage – and the door at its end – is secure for the moment.
Nathan simply stands his ground, electing to remain where he can easily move to reinforce any of the four directions. Taking advantage of the opportunity, he cradles his quarterstaff in the crook of his elbow while he stuffs his map-making materials inside of his shirt – thus freeing his hands for spell casting should the need arise.
Malk also stays where he is, but turns as instructed by Amiel to face the southern passage wherein Velgardrin has moved beyond the light of the bard’s lantern. Then, he unwittingly starts to hum quietly a martial sounding tune.
At the cave entrance, Alain is more than a little disgruntled at playing rearguard even though he understands its necessity. The proud Cormyrean warrior obediently holds his position at the cave entrance, but his blades are ready to assist Kerielle in any way even if he cannot see the archer.
Meanwhile, trapped within the lightless eastern passage, Seth can see only glimpses of his companions through the heavy horizontal and vertical crosspieces of the portcullis. He does a quick pirouette as a wave of panic and anger confirms his suspicions – he is trapped and prisoner in a filthy cave, a recurrence of so many previous years in bondage.
The warrior rushes at the portcullis, drawing his long sword mid-step. When he reaches the barrier, he notices that Amiel, Helios, and Declan eyes’ grow wide at they look down the southeastern passage.
At the southeast corner of the hasty perimeter, Amiel and her two companions watch as half a dozen humanoids emerge into the light of Declan’s lantern. They are short – perhaps four feet tall at most – with bandy arms and legs. Wide fanged mouths, broad noses, sloped foreheads, and glinting yellow eyes characterize their flat, rusty-colored faces. They are clad in dark-hued leather clothing and armor. Each holds a spear in one hand while grasping a handful of spares in the other.
When the creatures see the three adventurers arrayed in the intersection of the east and southeast corridors, those in front come to a wide-eyed and abrupt halt. Unable to stop, the trailing individuals blunder into the backs of the first three. A flurry motion and unintelligible gibberish – with the word or phrase ‘bree-yark’ generously interspersed – ensues as the group untangles itself.
“Foes – half a dozen orcs – ten paces southeast,” Declan announces in a voice loud enough for only Amiel and Helios to hear.
We’re in their home, Amiel thinks. What would I do? Strike and ask questions first, of course! But then again - we must look like giants to them. I’d be bit hesitant about simply charging in if confronted with several mountain trolls on my doorstep.
Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, she says clearly, calmly, “Everyone – don’t attack unless attacked!”
Helios looks at Amiel with a puzzled look on his face. “They’ll warn the others!”
Despite his feelings on the matter, the paladin obeys the command by moving slightly to the east, intending to avoid the enemies’ missile weapon arc. He keeps his sword ready to attack in the event that the creatures round the corner.
Then Seth’s voice is added to the chorus of shouts. “AMIEL!” he roars from the other side of the barrier. A loud banging ensues as the elf batters the hard metal with his pommel of his sword.
Then the idea of treachery dawns on the former gladiator. Did Amiel know about this trap all along? Is that why she let him run forth without warning?
Meanwhile, Malk dutifully stays put and peers out to the western edge of the light, while also lending an ear to the urgent many voices behind him. He tries to make sense of the situation while remaining ready for the worst. His humming takes on a calmer, quieter style.
Out of sight of her companions, and already feeling claustrophobic and trapped in the confined western tunnel, caution and rationality are not foremost on Kerielle’s mind. “Charge and you die!” she calls out grimly in Common to the unseen creatures ahead. Her bow remains drawn and trained on the point at which the three corridors converge.
From the southern tunnel, Velgardrin’ voice sounds a calm announcement. “Door south here – otherwise clear.”
Amiel continues her hurried mental assessment. ‘Bree-yark?’ That must be their word for us, Amiel thinks. Well, communication is based on shared understanding. Let’s make a start on that, shall we?
Making a decision, she stands and shoves her sword into the ground in front of her. Without quitting the cover of the wall, she locks gazes with little creatures and points to herself and says in questioning tone, “Bree-Yark?”
In response, a volley of spears comes from the group of small humanoids. All of them skip harmlessly from the walls and floor around the three adventurers that block the southeastern passage. Those creatures that did not hurl missiles move to form a rough battle line blocking the tunnel some five to six paces from Amiel and the others. In so doing, two of them move out of the area illuminated by Declan’s lantern and disappear from the adventurers’ sight.
Meanwhile, standing in the four-way intersection and feeling more than a little exposed, Nathan moves towards Malk. As he reaches that point, he turns and continues to keep an eye on the western passage and Alain.
“Malk, can you see what is happening?” He asks over his shoulder.
Nearby to the mage and bard, Alain heeds Kerielle’s call by moving with an easy grace toward the western edge of the lighted area. In doing so, he leaves the cave entrance unguarded.
“Lady Kerielle, I can see no farther,” whispers the warrior into the darkness.
At the same time that Alain’s voice sounds behind the elven archer, a warm shape rounds the corner from the northern corridor moving at a steady trot. By its outline, Kerielle can tell it is short – no taller than Velgardrin, the dwarf. It holds weapons in both hands.
Without hesitation, the elf looses the arrow from her drawn bow. Her target flips backward as the shaft buries itself in its eye, the sharp tip erupting from the back of its head.
Before the corpse hits the ground, more creatures burst around the corner. “Bree-Yark!” Again the strange battle cry fills the air.
Kerielle nocks, draws, and looses as fast as she is able. She fells one more of the foe as the survivors begin to form into a loose formation about three paces away from her. Alain, standing only a few paces behind the elf, but unable to see past the edge of the lantern’s light, can hear the thrum, snap, and meaty thunks of Kerielle’s bow doing its deadly work.
“Alain?” the archer calls out. Her voice is tense, and grim with resolve.
* * * * *
At the same time, still trapped behind the portcullis, Serethaniel forces calm upon himself – something he was taught would help him in battle more than rage – and yet something he still struggles with. He drops the sword from this hand and tries to lift the heavy barrier, grunting with the effort. The rusted gate fails to even budge.
Nearby the portcullis, and at the head of the southeastern passage, Declan quickly realizes he has misidentified the beasties. “Goblins – not orcs!” he cries.
Malk turns slightly so that he can see the trio companions battling at the southeastern corridor. To Nathan, the bard reports quietly, “There are foes in the southeastern tunnel – goblins apparently. Stay put back to back for now.” The bard remains ready to move at an instant.
“Nathan, Malk – free Seth!” Amiel shouts. Then she adds “CHARGE!” as she reaches to retrieve her sword from where it is stuck into the cave floor.
Unsure of the numbers the party face, Nathan ignores the bard’s suggestion and Amiel’s orders. Instead, he turns and moves quickly towards Declan, hoping to catch sight of the creatures. As he gets there he drops his staff to the floor and prepares to cast a sleep spell.
“This should even the odds,” he whispers quickly before reaching into one of his vest’s many hidden pockets for a spell component.
Helios, on the other hand, is more than willing to follow Amiel’s orders. The paladin rushes by the ranger, his golden-polished armor making for an impressive show.
Before he can close on the foe, however, the goblins launch a second hail of hurled missiles – some of them coming from out of the area that is unlit by Declan’s lantern. Helios blocks a couple with his shield while others ricochet from the walls, ceiling, and floor around Amiel and Declan.
But one spear, originating from the darkness, leaves a bloody trail along Amiel’s breast as it pierces her leather cuirass at a glancing angle. The ranger’s lip curls into a sneer and she launches herself forward at the little creatures.
Ahead of Amiel, Helios continues his charge until he is within close-quarters of the goblins. His sword whistles harmless over the head of the one of the creatures as it ducks to avoid his blade.
In the paladin’s wake, Amiel runs to flank the enemy combatants from their left. So doing, she moves out of the light of Declan’s lantern – and almost immediately runs pell-mell into a humanoid that was standing just out of the illumination.
“Bree-Yark!” Ranger and goblin fall to the cave floor in a tangle of legs, arms, and weapons. Amiel curses in a rather unlady-like fashion as her sword falls from her hand in the darkness.
Meanwhile, in the western tunnel, Kerielle is slightly taken aback by the number of enemies facing her. Briefly, she considers withdrawing back into the light to allow Alain to assist her.
As if reading her thoughts, the warrior cries out beseechingly from behind her, “Lady Kerielle, back into the light!” Alain waits tensely in the light of Malk’s lantern, worry written on his face.
Rashly, however, Kerielle decides to hold the line. Her father did not teach her to run from such pitiful creatures as these! Moreover, although she would not admit it, she burns to prove herself – to shake off the dread feeling of helplessness she has suffered since her people were butchered.
Even as the elf reaches for an arrow, some of her adversaries draw back their arms and hurl a barrage of spears while the others try to shift into position to hurl their own missiles. Kerielle deftly dodges two of the shafts, but a third penetrates her studded leather jerkin and lodges itself in her abdomen
Kerielle cries out in pain as the spear pierces her. Then, with a wild elvish cry, she calls on all her training and proceeds to unleash a withering hail of shafts, sacrificing accuracy for volume.
“Alain, guard south!” Velgardrin barks as he turns from the southern corridor at a run, aiming to help Kerielle. “For Clangeddin!” he shouts as he runs back into the illuminated intersection before turning and disappearing into the western passage.
Velgardrin arrives at Kerielle’s side as the elf is frantically loosing arrows at the cluster of enemies in front of her. His dark vision is somewhat affected by the brief foray through the lit portion of the cave complex, but the dwarf can see that there are nearly half a dozen small humanoids arrayed a short stone’s throw away from Kerielle – goblins, he thinks grimly to himself, recognizing their familiar outline – with a handful lying motionless on the cavern floor.
Just as the priest regains full use of his underground vision, three of goblins hurl spears at Kerielle. The missiles clatter harmlessly against the stone wall even as the archer strings and fires three more shafts in a blur of hurried motion, dropping two more of the small peltasts.
“Three here!” Kerielle announces loudly. Her voice is wild and exultant despite the pain from her wound.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, Seth’s composure waivers at his failure and he punches the portcullis with his fist whilst frustration, anger and fear take hold of his mind. He paces back and forth in the darkness before remembering the chest. Leaving his sword lying on the cavern floor near the portcullis, he marches up to plunge first a gaze and then a hand within to search its depths.
The elf recovers only a single piece of parchment from the bottom of the chest. Unfortunately, there is no light in the darkened eastern corridor so he cannot discern what – if anything – is inscribed upon it.
At the same time that Seth is pacing the trapped corridor in frustration, Amiel is struggling with her goblin adversary on the floor of the southeastern passageway. “Declan! Light here!” the ranger yells as she reaches for a dagger from its sheath at her hip.
Oh no, not again, Malk thinks swiftly. With a scarcely a pause, he calls out, “Alain, to us – quickly!” The bard stays put as he realizes there is no room for everyone in these close tunnels.
In front of Malk but behind Declan, Nathan considers the risks of what he is about to do but determines that the risk of not acting outweighs the potential consequences. The young mage begins the arcane incantation of a spell. A few stray grains of sand fall from his hand as his chanting accelerates.
Before Nathan can finish his spell, and before anyone else can react, two of the goblins break from the ragged formation. They run toward the barrel that sits at the far extent of the light cast by Declan’s lantern.
Not paying any attention to their comrades, the two goblins nearest Helios lunge forward with their spears. The paladin dodges one weapon while the other rebounds off of his suit of golden splint mail.
But then the holy warrior of Torm screams in surprise as a spear penetrates his armor from his right flank, delivering a glancing blow but doing little damage. Apparently, Amiel’s adversary was not the only goblin standing out of the lantern’s light.
Behind the battling warriors, Nathan’s voice reaches a crescendo and the mage invokes a final word of magical power as he flings a handful of sand into the air in the direction of one of Helios’ several goblin opponents. The spell works – all too well. Not only do the foes around Helios fall to the ground deep asleep, but the paladin also collapses. Out of illuminated area of the cavern, and thus unseen to her comrades, Amiel and her struggling opponent also slip into an uncontrollable slumber.
The only individuals not visibly affected by the spell are the two goblins standing near the barrel. In fact, they reach into the barrel and turn to face back into the light, fresh braces of spears clutched in their hands.
Declan quickly comes to his feet. He rushes a few paces over to his left. Skidding to a halt, he reorients the light as he runs, trying to illuminate the passageway and the conditions therein. He kneels and sets the lantern down on the tunnel floor.
By the lantern’s new orientation, Declan, Nathan, and Malk can see Amiel, Helios and three goblins strewn across the floor of the cavern – all fast asleep. Near the far extent of the beam, one of the barrel’s customers is still partially illuminated but the mages and the bard cannot ascertain the location or condition of the other humanoids.
Meanwhile, on the western flank of the company, Alain hears the bard and feels torn between Malk’s beseeching cry and Velgardrin’s orders from only a few seconds prior. Feeling he is in a no-win situation, the warrior takes a few steps toward the four-way intersection and then focuses his attention toward the southern extent of the light provided by Malk’s lantern.
“I cannot! Someone must look south!” the warrior barks back at the bard.
A few yards away from Alain, beyond the light of Malk’s lantern in the western chamber, Velgardrin and Kerielle feel a sense of relief as the three surviving goblins turn tail and retreat up the northern passageway. Letting them go, the dwarf transfers his axe to his shield hand and reaches out to touch Kerielle with his empty hand. As he does so, he begins to mutter in dwarvish, calling on his patron deity.
For her part, Kerielle is stunned to find herself gravely wounded. Barring the attack on her village, she has never before been seriously injured in battle – and this is a grave blow to her confidence. Worse yet, it is her fault for underestimating her opponents.
The archer is frightened. Warfare in these horrible, confined tunnels is very different than that to which she is familiar. She has lost the advantage of range – as well as the benefit of the cover and concealment provided by her beloved trees.
She inwardly curses herself for not paying closer attention to their weapons, thus realizing that they could be thrown. Such errors of judgment can easily be fatal – and this might yet be. She resolves not to make the same mistake again.
The elf welcomes the appearance of Velgardrin with almost indecent relief. The grateful smile she flashes him through pain-filled eyes as he begins his spell casting lights up her entire face. She remains in place, allowing the healing prayer to run its course.
“Velgardrin, please heal me,” she gasps.
As the dwarven priest’s chant continues, Kerielle hears the sound of stone grinding on stone. The sound seems to be coming from the northern branch of the ‘T’ intersection just to the front of her and Velgardrin.
The priest finishes casting his healing prayer and a warm, silvery incandescence flows from his hand and the around the spear that still projects from the elven archer’s abdomen. When it fades, the spear remains in place but most of the wound has closed.
Velgardrin takes one step toward the ‘T’ intersection. “Goblins! Stay behind me, Kerielle!” he commands.
Gritting her teeth against the pain, Kerielle hastily backs up into the lighted area behind the dwarf – hoping he will provide her with some cover from any further missiles. As she does so, her vision shifts between the spectrums of thermal energy and visible light, causing a momentary sensation of blindness. She glances back over her shoulder and through a blurry haze can see two human-sized forms but no others.
Still standing within the dark western passage, Velgardrin looks toward the grating sound he heard earlier. So doing, he can see a small warm humanoid shape – most likely one of the goblins. The form stands near an opening in the cavern wall, either a doorway or another passageway. On the other side of the opening is a small, squat shape – an object, not a creature, by its heat signature.
“Bree-Yark! Bree-Yark!” The goblin screams the now familiar but still unintelligible cry.
* * * * *
“Thanks!” Kerielle gasps to the dwarven priest – who is now unseen beyond the boundary of the light cast by Malk’s lantern.
Thinking quickly, the elven archer decides that the threat from the west, while still present, may not be the most pressing concern. From the sound of her companions’ cries, they need her assistance more urgently. Although it appears that the goblins have gone for reinforcements, hopefully it will take them a little time to arrive.
“Hold here,” the elf says into the darkness ahead of her. “I come!” she calls out to the rest of her companions even as Velgardrin begins to speak.
“Kerielle, get ther spear. I’ll guard,” the dwarf growls as he stands ready to engage any approaching goblins.
Malk has come to the same conclusion as Kerielle. “Stay there with the lamp,” the bard says quickly to Alain as he places his lantern on the floor.
At the western edge of the lighted area, Kerielle judges Velgardrin able to hold the corridor for at least long enough for her to assess the situation. She turns and despite the spear that still protrudes from her abdomen, moves to the lighted four-way intersection.
Alain slips across the four-way intersection to the spot just vacated by the archer. Placing himself at the edge of the illuminated area, he cries into the darkness beyond, “Vel, get back into the light!”
Meanwhile, kneeling at the edge of the southeastern passage, his hands now free from holding his lamp, Declan elects to add his magical powers to those of Nathan – but hopefully in a more selective fashion. The mage begins to chant in the mystical language of the Weave.
A few seconds later, a small fiery dart leaps from his outstretched finger and traces an unerring line to the lone visible goblin. The magical missile strikes the creature in its chest and it staggers back a step or two in surprise and pain but remains standing.
Behind Declan, Nathan realizes the mixed success of his spell. The mage bends over to retrieve his staff from where he dropped it.
At about the same moment, Kerielle stops at a point within the four-way intersection where she can see down both the southern and southeastern passages. Casting a glance southward, she can discern nothing of interest in the few paces of the southern corridor that the light from Malk’s lantern illuminates.
Then she looks down the southeastern corridor and sees Helios and a goblin lying on the cavern floor about three paces to Declan’s front. The archer also discerns the wounded goblin standing at a point further down the beam of the mage’s grounded bull’s-eye lantern, just barely touched by the light.
The archer hurriedly reaches for an arrow, but before she can nock and draw it – and before anyone else can react – the goblin staggers southward. A few more steps of its bandy legs carry it out of the lantern’s light. A second goblin also appears briefly at the far end of the lantern’s beam and then it too, disappears down a distant corridor.
A heartbeat later, both Malk and Nathan race past Delcan and into the southeastern corridor. Malk steps past the prone bodies of comrades and adversaries and takes up a position of defense, his short sword held ready in his hand. Behind the bard, Nathan comes to a halt over Helios’ still form and kneels beside him.
Meanwhile on company’s western flank, Velgardrin watches as the goblin to the northeast turns from the tunnel opening he occupied a few moments before. Running past the squat object on the western side of the yawning corridor, the creature scurries away into the darkness. In its wake, a silence falls over the dark western corridor.
Apparently forgotten by the rest of the company, Seth expresses his frustration. “Rubbish!” he yells as he absent-mindedly jams the parchment into his sack and returns to pacing the small chamber.
Despite Seth’s immense frustration, an idea comes to the trapped and troubled elf. He walks to the portcullis and shouts out to his comrades, “Somebody, throw me a flint and steel!”
Meanwhile, Kerielle decides that she is safe enough for the moment and that none of her companions seem to be in immediate danger. The archer stows her bow on her back in preparation for the painful process of removing the spear from her midsection.
Within the southeast passage, Nathan shakes Helios with a measured roughness. As the paladin begins to stir, the mage steps over him to where Amiel lies on the cavern floor nearby.
A few paces south of Nathan, Malk continues to stand guard. The bard looks left and right into the lighted areas and listens for sounds from the darkness. For the moment, he does not detect anything threatening.
Noting Nathan’s efforts, the bard says quietly over his shoulder, “Unless you speak their tongue, kill the enemies now.”
At the western-most edge of the lighted area, Alain backs up a couple of steps to give himself a little room to see and react. The warrior continues to guard the western passage, hoping to see his dwarven friend materialize out of the darkness.
A few heartbeats later, as if in answer to Alain’s hopes, Velgardrin stomps purposefully into the light of Malk’s discarded lantern. The dwarf’s short but powerful strides take him past both Alain and Kerielle to a point from which he can see down the southeastern passage. From that position, he can discern Helios lying on the cave floor – apparently just awakened. Nearby is the motionless body of a goblin.
“Goblins west retreated, Velgardrin says in clipped language. “Any here?”
Kerielle elects not to answer the company’s dwarven priest. Gritting her teeth, the elf grunts in agony as she slowly and carefully pulls the weapon free.
Breathing heavily, and with fresh blood now flowing from her wound, she then calls out to her companions. “Where am I needed?”
Meanwhile, Nathan crouches next to Amiel and gives the ranger a vigorous shake of her shoulders. With a start, Amiel’s eyes flutter open.
The ranger immediately heaves herself to her feet. “Everyone alright?” she calls out.
Lying on the floor near Amiel, Helios does not answer. Instead, he shakes his head groggily as he comes to and looks around in confusion. The warrior spies his sword lying on the floor and so he rolls over and reaches out to retrieve it.
“I’m well enough,” Kerielle calls out in response to Amiel. With the spear removed, the archer readies her bow once more while waiting for any calls for assistance from the other party members.
“I am unharmed,” Malk next replies quietly while maintaining his post, “but would appreciate the light further forward.”
Hearing the bard, Declan picks up the bull’s-eye lantern that rests on the cavern floor nearby. The mage directs the beam left and right, briefly illuminating more of the southeastern passage for those who stand in or near it. Before Declan returns the lantern to its original orientation, the companions see that a fourth sleeping goblin lies nearby to Amiel and Helios. As well, they notice a small wooden table on the western side of the passage, and again see the barrel near the eastern wall.
Meanwhile, retrieving his sword, Seth bangs again on the portcullis. “Amiel!” the trapped elven warrior shouts in anger, not allowing the desperation he is feeling into his voice.
Hearing the elf and seeing that Amiel and Helios are awake, Nathan turns his attention to the heavy barrier separating the party from their comrade. He moves towards it and starts to remove his backpack in order to pass Seth the flint and steel that he requires.
“Alain, help me free Seth,” Velgardrin barks. He then moves to the portcullis as well.
Dismissing the dwarf’s request for the moment, Alain slowly backs away from the darkness until his back is nearly touching Kerielle’s. “You are needed here, Lady Kerielle,” he calls over his shoulder to the archer.
Kerielle turns around to help Alain watch to the west. She takes a step to her right, giving her a better field of fire if something were to emerge from beyond the light of Malk’s discarded lantern.
* * * * *
“Vel, free Seth!” Amiel shouts from the southeastern passage as she gains an appreciation for the current situation. Then she looks at the four sleeping goblins that lie on the floor at her feet.
“Rope!” the ranger says in a voice loud enough for only those nearby her to hear. She begins to shrug her pack off of her back.
At the four-way intersection, Kerielle backs up to the discarded lantern, seeking to attain the greatest possible range advantage. There, she draws an arrow and holds steady on the furthest lit extent of the western passage.
“I have the west!” she calls out to Amiel and the remainder of the group in the southeastern passage.
From behind the portcullis, Seth breathes a heavy sigh of relief at the sight of Nathan and a swallows a small nibble of guilt as he pushes thoughts of treachery from his mind. The elf unshoulders his sack and reaches within it for his small torch. Doing so, his hand brushes the scrap of paper he fished from the chest.
On the other side of the heavy gate, Nathan retrieves the flint and steel from his pack. He passes it through a small opening in the barrier near the cavern floor.
Seth notices the items slide across the floor to his feet. Then he pulls forth from his sack not only the torch but also the scrap of paper in the hope that it may offer word of escape.
Velgardrin meanwhile, puts his axe through his belt and reaches out to grasp the portcullis with his gnarled hands. “Ready, Seth?” the dwarf asks the elf.
Meanwhile, in the southeastern passage, Declan once again shines his lantern from left to right, illuminating as much of the tunnel as possible in the lamp’s narrow beam. Malk, for his part, continues to dutifully stand guard.
In the area between the mage and the bard, Helios clamors to his feet, straining somewhat in his armor. He sways somewhat, clearly still a little light-headed from the effects of the spell. He glances past Declan to Nathan, his brow furrowing in frustration.
“Careful with that, young mage,” the paladin says in a gentle yet chastising tone.
Just behind Helios, Amiel puts her pack on the ground, kneels in front of it, and reaches inside. Her hands come out holding a coil of silk rope. She looks back to the goblins on the floor around her and thankfully notices that they are still slumbering soundly for the moment.
“Help me collect them here,” the ranger says to Helios, gesturing curtly to the goblin at her feet. Then she reaches down with her free hand toward the sleeping creature to her left. The golden-armored knight follows suit, temporarily transferring his sword to his shield hand as he too, reaches for one of the goblins.
Nearby to the ranger and paladin, Declan glances quickly toward Velgardrin and Nathan and then decides to move a little farther into the southeastern corridor in order to try and bring some definition to their current battlespace. Once in his new position, the mage uses the lamp to carefully illuminate the surrounding area. Intrigued, Malk edges forward to try and discern more details of the immediate area.
The bard and the others in the southeastern corridor quickly realize that they are in more of a room than a passageway. The rough-hewn chamber is about thirty feet wide by twenty feet long, albeit the northeastern corner still escaped the full effect of the lantern’s reoriented beam. Two tunnels serve as exits. The first is in the southeastern corner – which the routed goblins apparently used to flee. The other is in the northwest corner – about where Declan now stands. Along the eastern wall is the wooden barrel with something akin to broomsticks protruding from its open top. Along the western wall is a small wooden table with a handful of clay mugs. A few seconds after the enlightening view of the room is provided, Declan orients the lantern’s beam toward the southeastern exit from the room, plunging the far western and eastern portions of the chamber into darkness once again.
Meanwhile, Kerielle continues to cover the western passageway, still believing the goblins that she and Velgardrin witnessed running off earlier will return with reinforcements. The elf is determined that any enemy that shows its face will be met with swift and terrible retribution. A spear to the gut is a poor way to get on this archer’s good side.
“Any foes with you, leader?” she calls out to the company’s captain.
In the southeastern chamber, Amiel is too busy to respond to the elven archer. She drops a goblin next to the one at her feet. Helios adds another. Then Amiel turns to grab the fourth sleeping humanoid.
At the same time that the ranger and paladin are collecting the fallen foes, Velgardrin glances to Nathan and barks, “Ready, Lerft! Urrnnnhhheeaaahhhhh!!!” The dwarven priest grunts as, muscles rippling, he and the mage try to lift the portcullis.
On the other side of the barrier, Seth sees what the two are trying to do. He drops the torch and paper to the floor and lends his efforts from the opposite side. Despite their best efforts, however, the three adventurers fail to raise the heavy gate.
Then all hell breaks loose.
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