To return to Winterhaven or to continue, in the end, turns out to be no decision at all, as these heroes are stalwart and brave and will not let this menace harm another innocent life while they take their ease in a comfortable tavern.
After a half day’s travel the adventurers come upon the majestic waterfall as Lord Padraig described it. If anything, though, the beauty of the water tumbling and crashing from dizzying heights into the river below is more amazing than any verbal description could possibly hope to attest; truly, a paradox that such beauty could hide such evil.
Aldhelm is of a mind to charge through the obscuring trees and mete out the unwavering justice of Torm when Snúgel catches a glimpse of movement through the trees. He quickly shares his perception with the party and is able to hold in abeyance any direct assault by appealing to his party’s sensibilities.
It is then that Sardonyx offers to scout ahead and get a sense of the size of the force opposing them. Moving like a panther, he stealthily approaches the trees, almost disappearing from sight to his own party members, even though they are watching his approach.
Inconceivably a loud noise suspiciously like a small tree branch being broken in half erupts from the otherwise peaceful nature glade. Everyone reflexively look looks at the towering Dragonborn, but he has not moved from his spot. Kerig is next to be greeted by glances but he too is standing stalk still. In descending order in rapid succession Erais and Skamos and Tira and finally even small Snúgel are all seen to not have moved from their spot.
Before any further visual investigation can be made the sounds of shrieking and twittering break through the trees, the familiar noise of kobolds calling to each other in draconic battle cries and combat ensues.
The chaos of melee and fighting through the obscuration of the trees precludes too much observation of individual accomplishments, but at one point Erais lights up the forest with the Divine Glow of his faith to Lathander. In addition, one of the kobolds slings stones and small wooden casks containing special kobold unguents. What mysterious contents could be contained within is quickly revealed as Aldhelm is blasted with one of the small casks. As the wood splinters harmlessly, a milky-white mucus like substance splatters across Aldhelm’s scales and he finds himself rooted to the ground by a super adhesive alchemical concoction. Growling in frustrated rage, he shoots the diminutive reptiles with his crossbow until he can pull himself free and wield his much more damaging greatsword.
The main fighting takes place around a magically glowing circle, from which the kobolds are led by one wearing scale armor and wielding a longsword and obviously in command of more military training than the rabble that surround him. However, Tira notices that one kobold hangs outside of the fray, closer to the waterfall. Her suspicions aroused she pursues the lone humanoid and harangues him with the Curse of the Green Fairie, which expands his blood vessels and constricts his heart. Having weakened his defenses against her psychic assault, her eye flashes a malevolent maelstrom of colors as she sends rivulets of pain streaming down his body and she disappears before his tearing eyes, though to everyone else she is clearly visible.
Tira’s vicious assault pays off as the stumbling kobold is unable to escape into the waterfall and warn the other kobolds inside of the pending danger, before its life is snuffed out.
Having dispatched all of the kobolds in a melee of carnage, the party discusses strategy about how to best assault the lair. Snúgel decides to climb a nearby tree to get a better vantage point and potentially gather some information from a visual survey.
Aldhelm listens impatiently and after 5 minutes of various plans being discussed, he marches off before anyone can think to stop him to have a word with the kobolds inside himself. Whether he is thinking to parlay in friendship or call them out into combat, none can say, though Erais does think to tag along about 20 feet behind the Dragonborn.
Once inside the lair Aldhelm is confronted by over a dozen kobolds, brandishing pointy spears and jabbering at him, fortunately, in draconic, a language they have in common. However, it is not hostilities they are shouting and neither are they pointing their spears at Aldhelm. Rather, they are pointing their spears past Aldhelm where Erais stands just inside the cave entrance.
“Did you bring us food? He does not look too big, but a stew with mushrooms and tree leaves to season would be much better with some human meat!”
A general chorus of agreement springs up.
Erais, hearing the cheering starts to move in closer, assuming a peaceful accord has been reached, when Aldhelm holds up his arm, halting him and roars something back at the kobolds. They momentarily cower and Aldhelm bellows out again, but this time in common, so that Erais and equally important, everyone waiting outside can hear and understand.
“Come in and in the name of Torm bring your weapons!”
The next 18 seconds is a blur of rushing feet. Spears, sling stones flying and the collective magical and martial might of our heroes meeting the scaly defenses of the kobolds. The ground both inside and outside of the cave is stained with blood from both sides. Just as the party is beginning to think they have things well in hand, with only 3 puny kobolds left, they hear noise coming from deeper within the cave. Two of the elite fighters the party has come to call dragonshields come thundering out, swords drawn. In addition, two of their religious figures or wyrmpriests as they have been given the moniker of are accompanied by 3 more scampering kobold spear wielders. The worst has not been seen as a goblin comes all alone from the West end of the cave. His casual manner belies no hint of fear or panic. The way he holds his sword allows no mistaking that it is a well honed relationship between weapon and wielder.
This can only be the dreaded Irontooth, the legendary leader of the kobold’s depredations against the innocent farmers outside of Winterhaven. This is the real enemy, the real danger and threat against which the group’s mettle will be tested.
The nervous glances of the party members are broken up as Sardonyx, unaware of the entrance he is interrupting, comes splashing through the waterfall that hides the main opening to the cave, in pursuit of a retreating kobold. However, it is not the soft splashing that draws everyone’s attention but the loud rumble in the ceiling above them.
Looking up, it is impossible to tell from his enigmatic expression what might exist in his mind at this moment. In fact, for the brief time that Sardonyx has been with the party his expression never seems to change, whether eating trail rations or deftly slipping his shortsword in the kidney of whomever seeks to be so foolish as to oppose him.
No more time for pondering the rogue’s inscrutable thoughts is allowed, though, as the ceiling in a 15’ x 11’ area begins to collapse, raining down rocks on Sardonyx, Erais, and Snúgel. The twittering kobolds appear to be laughing as their trap is perfectly sprung. The ceiling continues to rain down heavy rocks for another quarter of a minute, but everyone is wise enough to stay clear of the deadly hail of stones.
In the continuing struggle against Irontooth the question of the group’s mettle is more than answered. Snúgel pulls out all stops and whirls a dagger with such deadly accuracy it strikes Irontooth square in his brow, half-buried in his skull and leaking so much blood into his eyes that he is temporarily blinded. Not to be outdone, Skamos utters powerful mystical incantations and conjures a flaming sphere of fire that he uses to great effect against the goblin who can feel his flesh being burned even though he cannot see more than a blurry haze of fire through his blood drenched vision.
The vaunted martial capabilities of Irontooth are never truly revealed as a collective effort is made to end his life if in not a necessarily painless manner, nonetheless very quick. Unfortunately, this collected effort leaves Skamos and Kerig pinned against a wall when the two dragonshields choose them as their targets and begin to mercilessly coordinate well aimed sword thrusts into soft flesh. Fortunately, before Skamos can begin to wish Kerig’s soul fortune in wending its way through the Astral Sea, Snúgel expertly hurls a dagger at one of the dragonshields before it can surely end Kerig’s life, as he sags, undefended against the wall; the grievousness of his injuries having finally taken their toll. Yet still the kobold does not fall but with a last second mental effort Skamos brings the sphere of flame crashing into the scaly soldier to burn the last of his vitality from him, saving his friend from expiration.
While surely Tira would enjoy lending her occult powers to slaying an Irontooth or dragonshields, she finds herself outside the cave during this time, harried by two weaker members of the lair’s inhabitants and yet they manage to expertly wield their spears and with a never ending attack of their spear points she finds herself being brought close to death without the aid of any of her party members to intercede in the close combat. A most ignominious end looms; one versed in strange pacts with supernatural creatures from the Feywild to be brought low by two kobold runts, who, when not fighting, are surely given the most menial tasks of the lair’s maintenance.
Sardonyx surely too would have taken more pleasure in helping Aldhelm, Erais and Snúgel end Irontooth’s life as well as that of one of the wyrmpriests, but instead finds himself under the fiery assault of the second wyrmpriest, who is not only sending small but deadly balls of flame crashing into him but also using some of the weaker kobolds, or minions, as a buffer between himself and the rogue’s deadly blade.
The next succession of seconds are further chaos and harrowing moments of death hovering over the heroes like a vulture over prey. Snúgel runs off deeper into the cave, as he would later explain, looking for a magical weapon to aid the party in the battle. Aldhelm is still distracted by trying to catch a wyrmpriest who gives ground while sending orbs of fire blasting into the holy warrior’s imposing form.
The other sly wyrmpriest continues to use his minions to harry Sardonyx while he seeks to escape from the Eastern side entrance. Unfortunately, this brings him face to face with Tira, whom he mercilessly blasts with fire until her beautiful but ragged form sinks to the scorched grasses at her feet.
Not a moment later Sardonyx comes leaping from the same exit, having dispatched the minions. He gives pursuit on the fleeing kobold, but like a cornered wildcat it attacks with another orb of flame that catches Sardonyx squarely and sends him falling into the water.
Aldhelm is next to make his appearance from the cave and with a mighty roar he pursues the fleeing wyrmpriest, but it quickly becomes apparent his protective but heavy plate will prevent him from catching up to the vile villain.
Following on the footsteps of the mighty paladin, Skamos and Kerig make their appearance, futilely loosing magical missiles and arrows on the vanishing form of the kobold shaman.
A loud shriek is heard from within the cave finds Snúgel running out, holding his head and incoherently jabbering about some magical trap that is assaulting his senses. A moment later he shakes off the effect and quickly assesses the situation. Two team members fallen and the creature responsible is slipping away down the hillside, darting between trees at a pace that Aldhelm, bellowing and giving chase cannot hope to gain ground on and with such a head start that even the fleet halfling will not be able to catch up before he could disappears in the foliage.
Taking a desperate gamble, Snúgel grabs his crossbow and lets loose with a bolt that finds its way true, striking right below the leathery strap that holds the draconic mask in place on the small creature’s head and buries itself into his brain; robbing him of any further heartbeats, breathe and most importantly, the ability to use his faith to conjure any more burning spheres.
Finally, Skamos kneels down near Tira as she prepares to utter her final breathe. Though he has no formal training in healing, the tiefling is able to staunch the flow of her wounds, binding them with the holy hemp rope of The Pa, which he imbues with a quickly worded prayer.
And so, the heroes gather themselves together and understand that together they conquered the threat and separately they were in danger of succumbing to the spectre of death. Truly, united they stand, divided again they risk failure; a failure which would imperil the lives of uncountless innocents lives, as so few heroes stand to combat the ever encroaching darkness that threatens to snuff out the tiny points of light. However, on this day, having defeated kobolds both outside and inside the waterfall lair, the score stands at Heroes 2, kobolds 0.