“DEATH IS NO STRANGER”
Pressing deep into the kobold lair, searching for Chieftain Horde, whose blood trail led them into the cavernous bowels of the dragonkin fiends, Brukhart held the line as the rest of the party headed north.
Fighting their way past the kobolds, they discovered a secret tunnel leading further northward. Suspecting this was the direction Chieftain had been taken, they all converged on a meeting room, quiet and unattended. An Orc King and his consorts were in a bedchamber past another secret door, while another led into a long hall.
Spying a treasure chest in the meeting room, Willem attempted to disable an incendiary trap, but it exploded, revealing their presence and severely wounding the Pox Macchian.
Investigating, a brutal battle erupted as Willem Ashe and Sionen Raye both fell to the Orc assault. Brukhart, Sebastian, and Sir Foster took the fight to them, while Quentin and Magnar both kept the beasts at bay for periods of time, but ultimately, both Quentin and Sebastian fell to the aggressors.
Once these orcs were defeated, Brukhart explored ahead, looking for a means to escape while they roused Quentin from unconsciousness. He staggered forth, weak, giving command to Foster to retrieve Sebastian.
Looking to join Brukhart, Magnar and Quentin were confronted by two orcs coming from a northern chamber. Another Orc King and his bodyguard? These orcs looked different. It was another tribe, different from the ones they espied elsewhere. As the bodyguard did battle with Brukhart and Magnar, the Orc King delivered a fatal blow to Quentin Haftspeare. The mage joined Willem and Sionen in death.
Seeing his charge fall, Sir Foster came forward and the party was able to fell the King. Foster went back for Sebastian, but seeing more orcs entering the fray, took the fallen seaman into the king’s chamber.
Meanwhile, the brothers Magnar and Brukhart fought their way out of the caves, scrambling down the canyon-side and fleeing for their camp, rousing Donal from his sentry duty. The three mounted up and fled back toward the Keep on the Borderlands, quickly outdistancing their orc pursuers.
Foster, searching the King’s chamber, found several potions of healing and nursed Sebastian back to his feet. He staggered over to the bodies of Ashe and Raye and cut their hearts from their bodies, adding them to the pack that held the rest of the fallen Pox. Slowly regaining his stamina, he and Foster made their way east and south, sneaking pasty the orcs there and escaping out of the caves and down into the campsite where they too took up mounts and hit the trail, not too far behind the Ljunberg Brothers.
This marked the party’s third excursion into the Caves of Chaos. As they rode away once more, with a litter of corpses behind them, they took solace in the fact that they had killed far more of their enemy than they had lost, that their legend would grow for having entered the Caves and survived, but in their hearts they knew that they left more than blood and dead companions behind them. They left their innocence behind as well. They realized the cost of combat on both counts, be it victor or the defeated.
And as they cleared the forest and spied the chimney smoke rising from the Keep ahead, mingling with the purpling sky, they had no idea that these lessons learned in the bowels of the Caves of Chaos were to serve them in an even greater challenge in the days ahead.
to be continued