The party successfully bargained with the Kobold Queen and were offered a prize upon return, but only if they were to rescue Calcryx the dragon. The key, could be that prize. The queen gave them leave to rest before their dangerous journey into goblin territory.

As the adventurers were being lead to their rest room the woeful cries of the imprisoned gnome echoed from the jail room through into the columned hall where they stood. A kobold quickly shut the door and the volume reduced. Out of sight was not out of mind, and it as not something those of good heart could allow to continue. So, having seen enough, Jordan requested permission from their kobold “friends” to return and have one last audience with the Queen.

“Your majesty”, Jordan spoke with such respect that the Queen, positively charmed by the handsome youth before her, listened with interest to his obviously sensible request. 

“Your majesty, let us take the horrible gnome with us. The dragon will be hungry and we will need something to feed it with. The gnome will make a good meal!” The queen thought it through for a short moment, and agreed. “We will prepare the gnome for you, it will be ready for when you leave”, she said, as the gnome’s fate was sealed.

Proceeding to the rest room Jordan passed by a group of angry Kobolds, who tried to challenge the Queen’s decision, but her majesty had spoken, and they were sent to prepare the gnome for lunch. 

The adventurers were then lead to an apparent larder. The odour of rotting meat permeated the chamber. Most of the rusty iron hooks in the ceiling were empty, but a few held the skinned carcasses of large vermin, huge fungoid stalks, and several massive insect carapaces. On a small, battered bench along the south wall were pieces of nearly useless cutlery and rusting skinning knives. 

They walked through to an empty and surprisingly clean room.

A short rest was required, in order to be fit for the unknown dangers ahead. But Mac had other ideas, he was still not himself. Something was grating at him, an anger inside that needed to be released. He decided to investigate the kobold area. Perhaps he would find the Queen’s room. Surely it would be regally appointed. He could lift a few choice items while everyone else was at rest. 

He opened the door to the Columned Hall, which was now empty as the Queen had retired. But where was she? 

The sound of the kobold community could be heard from behind a door at the far end of the hall, to his left. Across the hall was the northern door to the prison, and from it could be heard some very disturbing sounds. Irky the gnome was being tortured again, and this time perhaps fatally, and so Mac, unsure if he wanted to help the gnome or simply witness his torturous end, slinked over to the prison door, to find it locked. It only took a second to pick it, but before he could open it, Jordan and Silas, who had also heard the screams, pushed by and entered the room.

Irky, still rammed inside the little cage, was surrounded by four nasty, angry looking kobolds. The exact ones tasked with “preparing” the gnome for release.

They were poking and sneering from each side, obviously enjoying the gnome’s pain, and in no mood to stop. Dragons still eat dead gnomes, and they were angry with the decision to let the gnome go free.

Jordan’s arrival only served to anger them more, but when he put on the blazing eyes light show and issued his command to desist, the kobolds lost their nerve immediately and fled through the southern door. Mac, increasingly appearing to be an expert with the lock picks, soon had the cage picked. Irky rolled out. At first unable to move his cramped muscles he eventually got to his feet. His gushing gratitude endeared him to his new companions immediately. Jordan quickly brought him over to the rest room, where a surprised and still beaten up Bowelin was nursing his bruised face. 

Silas held back. He could sense that Mac had not yet satiated his curiosity. A good quality door, perhaps leading to the Queens room, stood across the way. Lock picks at the ready Mac advanced towards it. Images of jewell encrusted tiaras, golden sceptres, the kobold Crown Jewels, came to mind. He picked the difficult lock in seconds, but was very disappointed to find nothing but an empty corridor beyond. It lead to another similar door at the far end. Maybe that was THE door, he thought, and so he carefully moved down the corridor and straight into a trap.

The floor tipped sideways and deposited Mac six feet below. From above Silas then watched the floor continue to rotate and the corridor return to its previous state. There was no sign of Mac, he was now stuck underneath, no one would know he had even been there. 

With no obvious way to release the trap, other than walking onto it himself, Silas considered his options. Two kobolds drawn by the noise approached. “Leave this room alone,” they ordered, “it is trapped to capture any goblins that may sneak up upon us!.” 

Silas was in no mood to agree, and forcibly told them so. Reminded how their brother has met his fate to the Warlock they moved on their way. Swearing that they would report the incident to the Queen. 

After careful thought Silas was able to trigger and disable the trap and release the embarrassed rogue from below. 

The party then reunited in the rest room and finally finished a short rest. It was obvious by the end of it that none of the kobolds had dared to report any misconduct to the Queen. Some kobold guards returned to escort the group onwards, and apologised for the gnome’s escape, only to find that he was there in the rest room. When the party said that they were keeping him fresh for the dragon, they accepted the explanation and proceeded with their order to take them to the exit. On the way they found Meepo. He was hoping he would not be discovered, but the order was that he accompany the group to atone for losing the dragon. He did not want to go. The party did not really want to take him, but the guards insisted. Meepo faced up to his duty and got to his feet. When he pointed out that the dragon food (gnome) should be tied up and gagged, Jordan made it clear that there was NO gnome food, and that there was more likely going to be kobold food. Irky relieved and certain he was now with friends was even able to show some forgiveness to Meepo, after all Meepo has not been one of the ones torturing him. But Meepo’s evil snarl put pay to any reconciliation. Gnomes and Kobolds will never get on.. it’s all Garl Glittergolds fault. 

Meepo then threatened to report the matter to the queen and stormed off, only to be thwacked across the head by a kobold guard and told to get going and don’t come back without the dragon.

A winding corridor. Meepo was pushed ahead of the advancing party. They all followed, only to find Meepo cowering at the end of a corridor, beside a locked door. Bowelin could see recent tracks from the previous adventuring group, and was in no doubts that they were now hot on their trail. Mac unlocked the door. 

Beyond was a large room. Dust and odd bits of stony debris and rubble lay scattered on the floor. An ornate fountain was built into the eastern wall. Though cracked and stained, the fountain’s overarching carving of a diving dragon retained its beauty. There was a relief-carved stone door stood on the western wall. A thin layer of scum coated the fountain’s basin, but it was otherwise dry. Jordan noticed a mostly worn-away inscription in Draconic on the basin’s front. It read, “Let there be fire.” Irky has moved over to the ornate door, carvings on it showed skeletal dragons. A Draconic inscription on the door, which Irky could also read, said “Rebuke the dead, open the way.” The air near the door was noticeably cooler. This lead the party to suspect undead. Jordan used a spiritual sense to confirm that there were five individual undead created on the other side of the door. 

Silas went to open the door. It was trapped! A scythe swung down from a recess above the door narrowly missing Silas and resetting into the ceiling above. Disarming the trap should have proved easier, however after a few cuts and bruises later, Jordan rammed a spare scimitar into the recess above and the job was done.

Opening the door was not so straightforward either. There was no lock, just a handle, but the door would not budge. The undead would have to wait for later. Although certain of some significance to the locked door and inscriptions both on the door and fountain, currently they could not fathom what the link was, and so proceeded ahead down the dank smelly corridor. 

Six doors, three either side contained filthy cells with piles of muck and god knows what else. The ranger identified them as giant rat nests and the party decide to leave them undisturbed. 

They advanced to another room at the end of the corridor. The cobblestone floor within contained two trapdoors blocked open by iron spikes. The north wall held a dry fountain carved with an overarching diving dragon remarkably like the one before, however the worn-away inscription in Draconic on the front of the basin read differently “Let there be death.” A faint rotten stench pervaded the room, which seemed to emanate from a door on the eastern side. 

Again unable to fathom the relevance of the inscription they made their way to the eastern door. One of the open pits stood before it, making it tricky but not impossible to edge around and through the unlocked door. The room beyond was beyond fetid. An oppressive smell suffused the air, rising from chewed carcasses of cave rats, smaller vermin, and a few humanoid-looking creatures. The bodies lay upon a floor of filth, old bones, hair, and fur that combined to make a particularly large and vile nest. Cautiously advancing it was obvious the nest contained something alive, as it quivered occasionally, scratches could be heard. Jordan not liking this one bit, and confident nothing good could be within, pre-emptively drove his mace into the heap of filth. It quivered and spewed three giant rats, from the sides. Then the main bulk of it lifted up and a monstrously swollen female diseased giant rat emerged and went for Jordan. 

The party kicked into action, surprisingly well coordinated, considering their very few combat hours together. Mama rat went down quickly, without getting its rotten teeth anywhere near Jordan, who was swinging his mace wildly to no effect. Bowelin completely skewered it with an arrow, which put paid to any suggestion that he was not the real deal. Silas finished it off and Mac dashed about with deadly speed, putting down one rat. The remaining two rats ganged up on Jordan, but they were barely able to get a bite in before they too were ruthlessly dispatched by other members of the team. Great job, Irky thought. These guys may actually get us out of here alive.

Dragging the human remains from the nest they were then saddened to discover that it was a member of the lost adventuring party (Karakas the ranger). The two Kerowyns were still alive at least. Karakas’s possessions were still intact, including a small potion vial, which Mac passed over to Silas for identification. “It’s Healing” Silas said, before pocketing the vial to Mac’s disbelief. Mac was still not himself, his sadistic side had not retreated yet, and now it was not just the kobolds he disdained. The Warlock had overstepped the mark. There would be payment for this. But revenge is a dish best served cold. He could wait. He would have to wait. 

Encouraged by the martial prowess evident in his new companions. Irky proceeded to open a door in the southern wall. A ten-foot-wide hall lay beyond, liberally strewn with sharp caltrops. On the southern wall, passage to the room beyond was partially blocked by a roughly mortared, three-foot-high wall, complete with crenellations.

Two goblins were stationed behind that wall, and one of them was alert enough to shoot at Irky before he could duck back. It hit the wall and not the gnome. Both goblins ducked down behind their defence ready for the forthcoming firefight.

The party, again acting with surprisingly effective coordination, swapped positions by the door to fire in. Lead by Irky the Gnome, now showing his true value. Irky’s revenge was in the form of fire, reining down upon his previous abductors. Jordan took a more direct approach but was quickly thwarted by the caltrops, and left exposed to the goblin’s fire. Careful progress and determined and accurate fire from behind (especially by the resurgent Bowelin) allowed him to eventually make his way to the barricade, and not even a couple of goblin reinforcements could save the day. Jordan reached over and grabbed a goblin by the neck, throwing him over and onto the caltrops. The one remaining goblin fled.

Jordan advanced on the prone goblin at his feet. “We have some questions of you,“ he said, in a way that suggested that the questioning may be a temporary thing before goblin dead.