“The Caves of Chaos”
Half of the invading goblins, lured from the Caves of Chaos by the magical “Horn of Heimdall”, had fallen, but the defenders of the Keep on the Borderlands were exhausted. The arrival of the so-called King of the North, Torin Mercer of Pox Macchia, along with more than two dozen warriors and a half dozen giants, helped route the goblins and preserve the Keep.
Gathering in the Great Hall, the wounded were tended to, as were the dead. While there was revelry, there was also much needed rest. Rune recounted lore of the Horn, warning against its further use. If one were to become attuned to such an item, a similar fate to that which befell Lord Hrothgar would be the outcome.
The only way to destroy such an item, and destroy it they must, was to return it to the Caves of Chaos, from where it was stolen from the Dragon Mother’s treasure hoard. It is said that only the Mother’s breath could unmake it, so the King of the North proclaimed five brave men should enter the Caves and see the deed done.
Gathering their gear and snow ponies, they set off. The frozen forest they passed through grew more dense, tangled, and gloomier than before. The thick, twisted tree trunks, unnaturally misshapen limbs, writhing roots, clutching and grasping thorns and briars all seemed to warn and ward them off, but they forced and hacked their way through regardless. Now the strange growth has suddenly ended – as they stepped out of the thicket into a snow-covered ravine.
The walls rose rather steeply to either side to a height of about 100’ or so – dark, streaked rock mingled with snow and ice. Clumps of trees grew here and there, both on the floor of the ravine and up the sloping walls of the canyon. The opening they stood in was about 200’ wide, the ravine running at least 400’ west to where the western end rose in a steep slope. Here and there, at varying heights on all sides of the ravine, they could see the black mouths of cave-like openings in the rock walls.
The sunlight was dim, the air dank, and there was an oppressive feeling there – as if something evil was watching and waiting to pounce upon them. There were bare, dead trees here and there, and upon one a vulture perched and gazed hungrily at the heroes. A flock of ravens rose croaking from the ground, the beat of their wings and their cries magnified by the terrain to sound loud and horrible. Amongst the litter of rubble, boulders, and dead wood scattered about on the snow-covered ravine floor, they could see bits of gleaming ivory and white – closer inspection revealing that these were bones and skulls of men, animals, and other things…
They knew that they had certainly discovered the Caves Of Chaos.
Rune called to one of the ravens and ask it to guide them to the cave mouth that led to the goblins, which it did, but the group decided they’d had enough of goblins — at least for the moment, and instead climbed the ravine to one of the cave entrances above.
Within the mouth of the cave they found an oak door that Paavo determined was untrapped, but barred. A sign on the door in Northern Runes read “Come in – we’d like to have you for dinner!” Unable to find a mechanism to gain entry, Brukhart threw his should into it, shattering the beam inside. Rune called his arcane arts to bear, lighting the way as they entered the Caves with Paavo leading, followed by Brukhart, Rune, Magnar, and King Torin.
Shortly within, they heard heavy footfalls and mumbled growls. Further ahead, Paavo spied a family of hobgoblins — four males, five females, and nine younglings. Backing up, hoping to use stealth to their advantage, the growls they’d heard earlier became more fierce as out of the shadowed darkness came two large hobgoblins down the west passage. The King raised his shield and prepared to meet them with his arming sword…
to be continued