A rope was tied round one of the ruined pillars and disappeared over the edge of the chasm, leaving the group in no doubts as to where the missing adventurers had gone. After a quick assessment, Mac swung himself over the edge using the same rope and climbed down to a ledge some fifty feet below. The ledge burrowed into the side of the cliff, providing a shelter. There was a well established fire pit and boulders rearranged for makeshift seats. Bones could be seen amongst the debris, but before Mac had a chance to sift through them, three giant rats emerged, disturbed from their own scavenging, and still hungry, Mac presented a tasty meal. Two of the rats attacked, as the third, perhaps the runt of the litter, scampered over to a set of rough hewn steps that exited the ledge downwards at the far side.

Mac reacted fast and attacked first, a glancing blow that did nothing to stop the vicious oversized rodents.

Meanwhile, Silas, next in line, was carefully making his way down the rope to the ledge. Upon seeing the young teiflings plight, he accelerated that decent, but dangerously so. His hand slipped and although he was able to stop himself falling the final distance, the lost skin on the palms of his hands served as a painful reminder to his otherwise good fortune. He arrived at the ledge but not in time to prevent the rats attacking Mac.

Up above Bowelin drew his bow and aimed an arrow at the rat which Mac had injured. The arrow did not fire true, it embedded just to the left of Mac. The sound of Bowelin cursing and reloading from above did nothing to ease Mac’s growing concerns. Jordan approached the edge and took hold of the rope. 

Rats know how to fight as a team, and the situation was fast getting out of control. The first rat made a lunge and Mac, blind sided, took a nasty bite to the leg, but he thankfully managed to avoid the second rat’s vicious attempt.

With a reassuring shout to the teifling below, Jordan descended rapidly by rope to the ledge below. The final distance made as a drop, leaving him in a crouch, he stood up in a cloud of dust. Jordan reached out a hand and placed it on Mac’s shoulder, at which Mac felt a surge of energy, and the searing pain in his leg bite dissipated. He did not need to look down to know that the wound had gone.

Bowelin fired again, adjusting his shot but over compensating. He thudded an arrow to the right of Mac, who was in the process of thanking Jordan. Mac looked up as if to say, ‘cut it out’.

Silas hexed the first rat and went in for the kill, swinging his quarterstaff and crushing the now cursed rat’s head to a pulp. The wounded second rat was quickly dispatched by Jordan and Mac, and the threat was over.

Jordan glanced over to the stairs. The third rat was frozen in it’s decent. Incredibly, a huge, magestic eagle swooped down from above. It attached its claws into the back of the rat and lifted it up into the sky. It was such an unusual event to see at short distance, that Jordan had a familiar, and now most welcome feeling. Tadriel, his angelic guide was trying to tell him something. In this natural phenomenon there was a message. He continued to watch as the eagle struggled with it’s prey. The rat, only a runt but with plenty of life in it, managed to get a bite on the eagle forcing it to land. The rat managed to escape the claws and dashed into cover, leaving the injured eagle to return to flight, and it disappeared into the distance.  

The group now together on the ledge continued their decent. 

A fortress emerged from the darkness. The subterranean citadel, though impressive, seemed long forgotten if the lightless windows, cracked crenellations, and leaning towers were any indication. All was quiet, though a cold breeze blew up from below, bringing with it the scent of dust and a faint trace of rot. The narrow stairs emptied into a small courtyard, apparently the top of what was once a crenellated battlement. The buried citadel had sunk so far into the earth that the battlement was now level with the surrounding floor. That floor stretched away to the north and south, composed of a layer of treacherous, crumbled masonry, which reached to an unknown depth. To the west loomed the surviving structure of the Sunless Citadel. A tower stood on the west side of the courtyard, a single door in the side of the tower proving the only obvious way forward. 

Jordan strode towards the door, unintimidated by the imposing structure and obvious presence of more giant rats within surrounding ruin. Before he could reach the door a pit trap opened beneath his feet. He fell a short distance to rubble below, and sat, dazed and surrounded by the skeletons and bodies of other unfortunate victims. A quick spiritual scan revealed nothing sinister about the piles of bones, but a giant rat appeared out from the mess. Jordan, not quite readied, was relieved to be spared a fight by quick acting fire from his companions above. Bowelin’s arrow, this time on target, failed to skewer the rodent was followed by a better aimed necrotic blast from Silas, and the rat lay dead at the feet of the Paladin below. 

Silas could not resist a friendly joke at the expense of his elven friend, although privately he hoped that Bowelin’s shot would improve fast. This was an unusually hostile environment they had found themselves in. It was a far cry from the wealthy towns and villages, such as Oakhurst, where they plied their confidence tricks. Hopefully the reward would make it all worthwhile! They could retire a while. Live the good life. 

Carefully side stepping the pit they all entered the crumbling tower. 

The hollow tower of loose masonry reached thirty feet into the air. All the intervening floors and stairs had gone, except for a couple of crumbled ledges. The circular area inside was cobbled with cracked granite, upon which sprawled the bodies of four goblins, apparently slain in combat. One corpse stood with its back against the western wall, the spear that killed it still skewering it and holding it upright. Two other wooden doors lead further into the citadel. Silas, intent on finding reward, made for the most southern door. 

It  opened to a twenty-foot-wide hall, it’s masonry walls in poor repair. The far end had collapsed, filling the southern section with rubble. The western wall was in much better shape than the other walls, and it held a stone door with a rearing dragon carved in relief on it. The door had a single keyhole, situated in the rearing dragon’s open mouth. 

On examination Mac discovered it has a mechanical lock as well as an arcane lock. Silas cast his expert eye on the enchantment, and provided the unfortunate assessment that without the key, which would bypass the magical lock as well as the mechanical one, the door would be best left well alone. The party returned to the ruined tower, and carefully proceeding, Mac opened the other door to find a corridor leading westward, one door midway along it and another at the far end. Mac was creeping forward when the group all heard the animal like howling and whining of an obviously distressed creature beyond the far door. Bowelin has a sense for sounds such as this, and he knew this was a Kobold in distress, and confident such a thing could not possibly be of great harm to them, the group opened the door. 

Crudely executed symbols and glyphs, scribed in bright green dye, decorated a large and irregularly shaped crumbling chamber beyond. A large pit in the center showed evidence of a recent fire. A metallic cage in the middle of the southern wall contained a gaping hole and stood empty. A small wooden bench draped with green cloth was next to the cage, and several small objects rested on it. A bedroll lay near the wooden bench, and the sound of the whimpering coming from inside it suddenly stopped as the group looked on. 

Responding to the reassuring tones of the evidently friendly newcomers, a kobold poked his head out from the bedroll. Upon further reassurance and careful encouragement, Meepo, as his name was, began to tell his sorry tale. 

“The clan’s dragon … I lost it. The wretched goblins stole Calcryx, our dragon!” He whined pointing at the broken cage. “My life is over, they hate me, there is nothing else for me to do!”

When the party offered to help find his dragon, Meepo at first seemed incredulous. “You will be my servants?” he gulped, “You will find my dragon?”

The group all agreed, yes. If the goblins have your dragon, we will reclaim it. We need to go and see the goblins anyway.

“Then Meepo take you to meet Yusdrayl, our leader. If you make nice, you get safe passage, if you promise to make nice, you promise to rescue dragon, Yusdrayl make nice to you, answer questions.” And true to his word, he began to guide the party through the complex, further into the citadel.

The stench of the Kobold’s home increased considerably as they proceeded. Corridors stretched forward, the place was unusually quiet. That was until an anguished cry sounded from behind a nearby door. When it is was followed by a terrified shout of “please no more, please stop!” In common and quite obviously not Kobold or Goblin the party stopped dead. 

“What was that?”, they questioned Meepo, who, puffed up by his own self importance and ingenuity in securing such impressive minions, casually dismissed it as “just an awful, unpleasant Gnome prisoner”.

Gnomes do not have the reputation of being awful or unpleasant at all, and this one, if that was what it was, was evidently undergoing some form of torture. Meepo having now realised that he had said the wrong thing tried to further justify the treatment, muttering something about Garl Glittergold and Tiamat. “Please come see Yusdrahl, she will explain everything”. 

Jordan was not satisfied with the explanation, and began to work on breaking down the prison door. Mac grabbed Meepo, and placed a dagger to his throat. Bowelin and Silas both stood guard, very uneasy with the growing situation. Not wanting to take on an unknown quantity of the unpleasant, but ultimately non-hostile kobolds. A second kick from Jordan took the door from it’s hinges. 

Inside was a squalid scene, four goblins were shackled by thick, rusted chains attached to a large iron spike set in the wall. Several broken weapons and sundered shields lay in one corner. In the centre of the room stood a small iron cage, a battered gnome inside hardly able to fit was being prodded by two goblins with long pointed sticks. Upon seeing the paladin in full righteousness they retreated to a door at the far side of the room, and made efforts to unlock it and leave. Jordan was having none of that, and as  he marched across the room the Kobolds cowered beneath his increasingly supernatural appearance. Jordan’s eyes were glowing, not with hate, but with purity. A purity that struck fear into the kobold’s dark hearts. They knew what was coming but to their surprise Jordan did not draw his weapon but instead turned to question the gnome. 

“Erky Timbers is my name.” the gnome said with unconfined joy. “Please let me out”.

“Not yet,”, Jordan replied with some suspicion. “Why are you here? 

“I was on my way to seek my fortune and took the Old Road. My bad luck that the goblin bandits caught me, and it was worse luck still that the Kobold’s captured me from them. I’ve been here ever since.“

Meanwhile out in the corridor 6 other kobolds had arrived, drawn by the sounds of the intruders and the yet again whimpering Meepo. Three on either side of the party, they cautiously advanced, one or two swinging slings in preparation for attack. Bowelin and Silas put their best efforts into intimidation. They did not want a fight, and were becoming increasingly concerned with what the young human paladin had got them into. Far better to parlay. 

Mac begun tying the wrists of Meepo with coarse string, but the Kobold resisted. An uncharacteristic look came over Mac’s face. The once innocent looking youth scowled with such spite that Meepo, not up for the fight, submitted immediately to his will.

Just then, Silas cast a necrotic bolt, aiming to the wall to the side of one of the advancing Kobolds, they cowered and stopped their advance, as Silas vowed in Draconic that the next one would be for the kill. 

Bowelin’s call for diplomacy was not so well received. One of the kobolds advancing in his direction launched the stone from his sling and hit Bowelin squarely on the nose, bring a flood of blood and pain. Inspired by this fantastic shot the cry went up and all six kobolds went in for the kill. Bowelin shot an arrow, catching one Kobold in the leg, his attempt to incapacitate rather than kill was unfortunately not enough to dissuade the attack. True to his word, Silas launched another blast, this time hitting one Kobold squarely in the chest. The life drained from it instantly and it dropped dead to the ground, a desiccated lifeless heap. That was enough to spook the lot of them, and they went into fast retreat disappearing from sight. 

Mac, still not happy with a whinging Meepo brought him face to face with the corpse of his cousin. “That’ll be you next, if you carry on like this”, he said, a flash of pure hatred crossing his face. He then slung the now fainted Meepo across his shoulders.

Jordan, unsatisfied with the answers he was getting both from the gnome and the two cowering kobold jailers, came out from the prison room and advanced down the corridor towards the retreating kobolds. His eyes were now glowing fiercely and an aura of light pulsed from his exposed skin. The other three looked at each other, wondering who they were involved with, and followed Jordan down the corridor. The kobold with the sling jumped out again, obviously encouraged by his recent heroic blow. To it’s surprise it was not Bowelin he saw, but the advancing, enigmatic, Jordan, no weapon drawn, but still no less frightening for it. Dropping the stone and sling the kobold ran back into cover. 

The group turned the corner to see the Kobold clan, maybe 20 of them, in a chamber at the end of the corridor. Fully aware that collectively kobolds could be a serious threat, and in these numbers an almost insurmountable foe, Jordan, fully supported by his companions, proceeded to talk the situation down. The approach worked, and an audience with Queen Yusdrayl was granted. The kobolds parted and they were allowed through and into the pillared hall. 

At the western end of the hall stood a short throne, constructed of fallen bits of masonry stacked against an old altar. On the top of the altar sat a variety of small items. The portion of the altar that served as the throne’s back featured a carving of a rearing dragon. A metallic key was held firmly in the dragon’s open jaws. 

A white robed female Kobold sat regally on the throne. Yusdrayl was ready to receive them.