The elation at finding the fifth child from Falcon’s Knights Adventuring Group was overwhelming. Zandu had not expected to find them all alive. He had witnessed the aftermath of a lot of depraved acts from his year of traveling since leaving Hermea. Five young children being taken captive by a hoard of kobolds did not leave many happy endings to the imagination.
Zandu took a moment amidst the turmoil to think about the incredible people who had accomplished this impossible task. He left Promise to find people of incredible character to join the Glorious Endeavor back on Hermea, and here they were standing around him. The honor and incredible will of Kieyanna, not to mention her physical prowess, were exactly the qualities he was looking for. And Dhohar, a caster, half-elf, and deep searcher of power beyond his imagination, was just the type of person who would fit in well in the learned institutions in the city of Promise. He was journeying with such incredible people.
The fatigue of the day was quickly catching up with Zandu. They were already on the second day underground and he was losing sense of time. How long had he actually slept last night. Long enough to refresh his mind and prepare spells but was that his usual eight hours or something much less. His body was starting to complain and that didn’t happen very often. Perhaps it was the intense fighting they had just undergone for two days. The cuts and bruises covered his body. Blood soaked through his clothing on his left arm and chest. Clothes were torn in more places than he could count. Zandu reached for his last vial of life-giving potion. Popping the cork he downed it in a quick fluid motion. The fatigue of the last few hours evaporated leaving him feel refreshed, allowing him to refocus his mind on the tasks at hand. His mind was sharper, he could focus it on what he was feeling. It was a feeling he had never known before. In his years of training with the masters in the Promise Monastery he had heard of them saying that a Monk could hone his mind to a razor-sharp point and gain new focus. He had just never experienced anything like it. But this was as close as he could imagine it would feel like.
He would have to study that later.
For now they had to make it out of this den of evil alive. The party was tired and wounded. Hollin was catatonic after his near death experience and they were losing the cooperation of kobolds who had helped fight to get them here. Kerrdremek was now on the throne of the Kobold King and most of the Bloodscale Clan was eliminated. But this didn’t mean they would have an easy time making it out. Dhohar and Kieyanna and he would have to carry out Hollin and take whatever loot they thought would be worth selling and rejoin the other children and Edgrin in the upper level of the Crucible. Then they had to leave the Crucible and travel back through the dangerous Darkwood to Falcon’s Hollow. With children it may well be a two day journey back.
After fighting their way up the middle of the cave and through a hoard of Bloodscales they fought the king. He was a vicious paragon of kobolds who looked like a god of his kind. It was a violent fight where we lost one of our kobold companions who had chosen to fight alongside the Glintaxe.
The final battle was a standoff against a sneaky and ancient sorcerer kobold witch who was ripping the hearts out of his victims while still alive. He immediately went invisible and called a swarm of spiders into the room. The two remaining Bloodscales attacked violently defending their charge while we battled to their death. Hollin was shivering in the corner of the room and nearly fell victim to the bloody dagger that had so recently claimed the life of Tyran Moonsilver, the missing companion of Edgrin Galesong and the Grey Eagles.
Thus they also had to get Tyran back to his friend and back to town. They took turns carrying Tyran and Hollin. Zandu loaded up his haversack with as many items as it would hold and lashed the javelins and short spears to the outside. It was slow going but they retraced their steps warned by Kerrdremek that many dangers other than the Kobolds lurked in the side passages. They made it back to the lift and Dhohar went up first. Then the lifeless body of Tyran followed by Kieyanna and Hollin and finally Zandu. They regrouped in the worship chamber (RM 16) and then went to get the other four children and Edgrin. Kimi was not in the room. Edgrin confessed she had slipped out through the secret passage while he rested his eyes. He had stayed with Mikra, Jurin, and Savram to keep them from running away in fear.
If Zandu had not been in such control of his feelings he would have let the furry flow through him the way felt. Instead he set his backpack on the ground and prepared to follow the girl back through the booby-trapped secret passages. “Dhohar, Kieyanna,” he advised, "Stay here and protect them. Bring Tyran here so that it’s defensible. I will look for the headstrong young woman and let us pray she is alive. Rechecking his weapons and straightening out his scarf he prepared for the task at hand.
Zandu went through the secret hallway and into the listening chamber. It was the place where yesterday…was that just yesterday?…they had fought the allip. Its ghastly remains were still there on the floor, bones and no flesh. Magic had held its body together and hungered for the flesh of the living. He went south from there into the Hall of Heroes. At least that is what it seemed like. There were inscriptions of many Dwarven names. Kimi was not in this room either. That meant she had made it into the third and most dangerous room. It was the trapped room. The room where great Dwarven statues did battle with each other. He was afraid to look in the room for the girl certainly lay impaled by one of the stone spears from when the room flipped on its side. He inspected the trap door looking for any triggers on this end. There were none. He flipped the switch and the door slid open reveling the large room 30 feet deep and 50 feet wide with the line of statues on each side. Without touching the floor he looked into the room peering at each row of statues. His first glance did not reveal anything but then he caught movement in the back corner. Was that her?
“Kimi!” he shouted. She looked out from between two large spears with fear in her eyes. “Help me!” she pleaded with a quiver to her voice. “The whole room turned sideways and I fell here. It sliced through my jacket.” Kimi’s usual stoicism and bravado was missing now. The fear showing through. She was scared. Zandu quickly formulated a plan. He told Kimi to stay put and he retreated back to the Abbot’s room and related the trouble. He grabbed the 50’ of silk rope and told Kieyanna to circle around through the dining room to the fountain, “I will meet you from the other side”. She did so without asking questions. Zandu retraced his steps back to the edge of the secret room and waited for Kieyanna to appear. It was a gamble that she wouldn’t run into any more trouble but it was a gamble they had to take. He quickly secured the end of the rope to the stone bench on his side and waited. Kieyanna appeared a few minutes later short of breath. He tossed the coils of rope through the trapped room and Kieyanna caught it and secured it to the fountain. There was slack in the rope and that was part of the plan. Zandu took the rope securely in his hand and told Kimi to hold on tight. He was about to trigger the trap and have the room flip on its side. He was two steps into the room watching and looking for any indications of triggers or weighted stones when the gears crunched and the room flipped within a heartbeat. His feet flew out from under him and he was left hanging on the rope. The rope immediately snapped taut, Zandu falling about 8 feet toward the stone statues but still above the statues. He did not know how long the room would remain this way and he didn’t want it to flip while Kimi was transitioning between the statues and him. He crawled hand over hand down the rope toward Kimi. The plan worked and she was able to grab onto him and climb up to the rope. Just then the gears crunched and the room flipped right. The floor came up to them knocking the air out of their lungs as they landed on their sides. Not daring to move a muscle they both lay there anticipating the room flipping at any moment. It did not. Both holding the rope tightly in their hands Zandu encouraged Kimi to stand up. He did next as the room stayed straight. Kimi was in front and she took a step forward. On her second step the room flipped again and both lost their footing and fell as the floor disappeared beneath their feet. Falling 5 feet they hung dangling from the rope on an angle toward the end of the room and the safety of flat ground again. Kimi had balled up and wrapped her feet around the rope. She began to climb up the rope. As they both made it out of the room it flipped right as if nothing happened. Kimi threw her arms around Zandu and hugged him tight.
They chose to take the long way around back to the others. It was more of a story than anyone wanted to admit. Kimi composed herself and put on a strong face for the others. She threw her arms around them after having spent the night alone on top of the statues. She went over to check on Hollin who had been catatonic but did turn to look at her. There was a bit of recognition but he did not move.
Zandu ushered her over to the bed and had her sit down. She would crash soon. He knew it. The adrenaline was about to wear off. He felt it fading in himself and was surprised she hadn’t fallen unconscious yet. She did have the heart of a warrior. He conferred with Dhohar, Kieyanna, and Edgrin that they should rest here. There was no use endangering everyone after the trouble of today. They needed to rest. But they were out of food. Zandu deduced the time would be a few hours before sunset on the surface and he could get up there and do some hunting to augment the last few rations they had in their provisions. The thought of fresh air brightened his mood.