No sooner had they shaken the blood from their weapons then the party set out once again. They made their way through the cavern, ever vigilant for another ambush. They came to a great chasm with a flimsy rope bridge crossing over it. Below, something rotted and caused the entire chamber to reek of death and decay. Thorn decided to investigate the smell and tried to climb down the cliff next to the start of the rope bridge. He lost his footing and fell a ways, crashing into the rocky ground. Luckily, no creatures waited for him. Instead, a pile of refuse greeted his eyes and a great stench enveloped his battered body. After a glance around the midden, Thorn called for one of his companions to lower him rope so he could once again join the search to discover the whereabouts of the dwarven emissary. His curiosity had been satisfied.
They reached a part of the cavern that split in three directions. They could hear the voices of kobolds all about them, echoing through the chambers. The adventurers seemed confused after listening for a few moments until Thorn finally nodded to the right most path doubtfully. Numyer seemed ready to debate his choice when Braun whined and tugged at Numyer’s sleeve, urging him to go right.
The pathway curved around, sloping upward. The gradient changed quickly and caused their ears to pop as they reached the apex of their climb. There, they saw a cave room with a high ceiling and many tiers of stony outcroppings. Rope ladders connected some of the stone tiers together while others were untouched. The party descended the rope ladders until they were on the lower most tier. As they turned to investigate a mob of kobolds swarmed around the corner ahead of them. At last they had discovered the source of the kobold whispering.
The kobolds were mostly armed with sticks, but some had shields and short swords while one in particular hung back and cast painful magic. The party charged! Will and Grog were first to the creatures. Grog slew two of the humanoids in seconds, while Will had a harder time of it, he had to adjust to the large amount of the creatures and their ability to move swiftly around his deadly strikes. Numyer and Braun joined the fight and Thorn was soon after them. That’s when the dragon struck.
Mighty Caustrex flew from behind the stone outcropping he had hidden behind, waiting for this moment. He bellowed his challenge and filled the party with fear, except for Braun who growled back fiercely. Caustrex flew past them and roosted momentarily on a nearby cliff. He waited a moment while his minions moved in to capitalize on the stunned adventurers. He saw an opportunity. He flew to another stone tier that was just above where the party had been battling. Too late, Thorn, Numyer and Will realized that they positioned themselves in a bottleneck. The dragon unleashed his breath weapon. A torrent of acid drenched the adventurers. Caustrex smugly watched them groan in agony. However, the fear of the dragon had begun to wear off and Grog found himself able to move. He chose to close with the beast. He flew into a rage, raising his axe high. His blows found purchase and the dragon was dealt some terrible wounds.
The others moved to stem the swarm of kobolds while Grog stood alone against the dragon’s potent fury. Will, Numyer and Braun made short work of the kobold minions wielding primitive weapons. Thorn concentrated on keeping Will and Grog alive. Will had suffered horribly from the magics of the kobold priest. He turned his calculating gaze on the evil eyed kobold.
Meanwhile, Grog was suffering. Though he had managed to cause great hurt, he had sustained similar hurt to himself. Only the healing prayers of Thorn kept him on his feat as the dragon tried to rip him to shreds. Numyer and Braun moved quickly to help the Barbarian, attempting a flanking maneuver with mixed results. Thorn’s healing magic was running low. He had only one powerful prayer left, but he had to physically touch the barbarian to bestow the benefit. He bravely ran and scrambled up the stone wall, barely managing to stretch out a hand and infuse Grog with a great blessing. Most of Grog’s wounds closed immediately. Now, Thorn was in grave danger. He was a cleric in the service of Corvus Corax layed out like a sacrifice before Caustrex. It was too much. The dragon crushed him with his claws and Thorn lost consciousness.
Will had managed to slay the kobold priest and remaining kobolds. He decided to flank the dragon from a different angle. He climbed up above the fray and took position on a stone tier. Even while the Barbarian and the Ranger were lacerated by the whipping tale and sharp claws, Will persevered in his planned assault. He lept down upon the dragon, and there his plans were laid bare as folly. He struck the ground hard.
Grog had enough of this abuse from the dragon. His body was covered in lacerations that smarted from acid burns, yet the muscle beneath was as hard as ever. He struck out with all of his might and laid the dragon open. It’s blood pooled underneath it.
Yet it lived and spoke, “Yea, you are mighty and I am laid low. I beg for my life that I might leave these lands and never return. I give all that I have hoarded in this place to you, and yes, a great secret also. I know of a magical artifact and I will give you knowledge of it and its location for my life.”
This the party mulled over quickly and Grog replied “How do we know you speak truly, beast? Are you not a race known for deceit?”
The dragon replied, “Aye it is so, and I do regret it. Yet I know that if I deal unfairly with you now I will surely pay with my life. I have naught else to offer.”
Grog hefted his axe and his pride. “I hear you dragon, and do believe. I accept your surrender. I speak only for myself. My companions bear a great grudge to you.”
And as he spoke, Numyer struck at the dragon from behind. Though Numyer missed, the fight was on. Caustrex fought to his last breath before he was felled by axe, by sword and by fang. Death found Caustrex at last.
There the adventurers rested a moment; they had caused their enemies to suffer and suffered in their turn. Then they heard a gruff dwarven voice in the distance, and knew they had reached their goal at last. The emissary was safe, and a fair bit of treasure also.
*Next: Dwarf Friends