The kobold slinger’s firepot shot burst on impact and Harold was instantly enveloped in flames. Incredibly, being on fire failed to slow down the hulking fighter’s thundering charge. He continued to plow through the thick foliage near the road, seeking to close with his foes. The sight of a huge, blazing minotaur waving an enormous greataxe was too much for the kobolds, though, and with shrieks of terror, the small creatures fled in every direction.
* * * * *
Despite a snowstorm and frigid temps, seven of us met at Stonebridge Games this past weekend and started our Keep on the Shadowfell campaign. Besides Harold, there was Arak of the Shadows (drow rogue), Korlon (half-elf warlock), Sardalf (razorclaw shifter), Tarionsus (tiefling warlord), and Tosdar Strudil (dwarf cleric). Scott (aka DiceWrangler) was our DM.
As the adventure began, the player characters found themselves traveling together on the old King’s Road, heading for the small, remote village of Winterhaven. Arak, Korlon, and Tar were heading for Winterhaven after hearing that some rich noble had recently offered a generous bounty on kobold heads. Sardalf and Tosdar were on the road because they’d been hired to deliver a heavy, sealed chest to Valthrun the Sage in Winterhaven. Harold had been tasked with investigating rumors of a death cult operating in or around the small village (see my last post, “Meet Harold the Minotaur”). The PCs had found themselves leaving Fallcrest at the same time and decided to band together since the old King’s Road winds through a dangerous wilderness where there’s safety in numbers.
While still some hours away from Winterhaven, the party was ambushed by kobolds. Not surprisingly, given that they’d never before fought together as allies, the small band of travelers had a difficult time coordinating their efforts in combat. The razorclaw shifter was unconscious and dying by the end of the encounter, but the rest of the group (including a flaming minotaur!) finally managed to defeat the ambush. They captured a badly wounded kobold dragonshield and it told them about a goblin overlord named Irontooth, whom the kobolds apparently despise. While stripping the prisoner of his armor, the adventurers found that he had a symbol of Tiamat crudely branded onto his chest. The drow, tiefling, and half-elf collected several kobold heads so they could claim the bounty for them, then— with one very frightened prisoner in tow— the party resumed their trek to Winterhaven.
“Welcome to Winterhaven!”
As the adventurers approached the stone walls of Winterhaven, they suddenly realized what an odd sight they would present to the rural villagers. After all, it probably wasn’t every day that a dwarf, a shifter, a half-elf, a drow, a tiefling, and a minotaur appeared before the gate with a bound, bloody kobold in tow. The two guards manning the outer gate did indeed seem astonished by the party’s composition, but they still waved the small band through and pointed them to Wrafton’s Inn.
Salvana Wrafton warmly welcomed the adventurers, although she wasn’t at all sure what to make of the minotaur. While the rest of the party relaxed in the alehouse’s spacious public room, Korlon and Sardalf (taking the kobold with them) headed for Valthrun’s tower to deliver the chest. The magician’s tower, a solidly-built five-story structure, is the highest building in Winterhaven and is rumored to be over 300 years old. As the shifter and half-elf knocked on the door, several villagers stopped to watch. Hardly waiting for the sound of their knocking to die away, the rogue proceeded to pick the door’s lock. Apparently not caring that his actions were plainly visible to any number of curious bystanders, he slipped into the tower. Finding that the bottom floor of the structure was being used as a storage room, he began to rifle through the boxes and chests that were scattered about. Despite the fact that he could now hear footsteps coming down the stairs that led to the tower’s upper levels, he broke into a chest that was a twin of the one he’d brought from Fallcrest. Incredibly, Valthrun seemed not at all put out to discover an intruder in his tower. Nor did any of the bystanders run to alert one of the town guards that a stranger was breaking into the sage’s residence. I guess they’re a pretty laid back bunch there in Winterhaven.
Meanwhile, back at the inn, Arak of the Shadows tried to strike up a conversation with Ninaran, a female elf who was quietly drinking by herself off in a corner. Finding his polite greetings firmly and rudely rebuffed by the surly huntress, the drow could only wonder at his ill-luck with the ladies. Shortly after Ninaran departed, the town’s lord— Padraig— arrived to sip some beer and rub elbows with the villagers who gather each evening to drink, gossip, sing, and play games of chance. Padraig was delighted to meet the adventurers and invited them to join him at his table. During the course of their conversation, they found out that Padraig hadn’t heard of Irontooth or any goblins in the vicinity, but recently something had been stirring up the area’s kobolds. He offered the adventurers a reward if they’ll clean out the kobold lair that’s rumored to be somewhere south of the village. The party accepted the commission and promised to start out the next day. Padraig was surprised to discover that the adventurers had brought in a live kobold and, despite the lateness of the hour, he immediately wanted to put the prisoner on display out in the market square. While villagers began to gather in the square to view and torment the kobold, the terrified prisoner began to babble in draconic, mumbling something about Orcus. Just as the adventurers began to question him more closely, an arrow shot out of the gathering darkness and killed the kobold. By the arrow’s fletching, Arak recognized it as belonging to Ninaran.
After spending a comfortable night at Wrafton’s Inn, the party prepared to set out in search of the kobold lair. Before they started out, though, Harold and Tosdar paid a visit to the village temple. While several deities are worshiped at the temple, it is formally dedicated to Avandra. The minotaur and dwarf questioned Sister Linora, the temple priestess, about any unusual or strange occurences in the area. She said that the kobold attacks had grown more frequent lately, but that nothing else out of the ordinary had happened. When they asked her directly about rumors of a death cult operating in the area, she passed off the idea as ridiculous, but Harold sensed she was holding something back. Politely leaving a small offering to Avandra, the adventurers took their leave of the halfling.
Leaving Winterhaven, the PCs headed out into the wilderness again. Several miles southwest of the village, while still in an area of scattered farmland and pasture, they suddenly heard a chicken squawking nearby, somewhere in the brush that bordered the road. When the squawking was abruptly cut off, as if something had wrung the bird’s neck, and was replaced with the sound of a creature moving quickly away through the thick foliage, the razorclaw shifter took off, hot on the trail of the mysterious chicken thief. After hesitating for a moment, Harold and Tar followed.
Sardalf ended up paying for his rashness by falling into a trap that had been cleverly hidden amongst the bushes. Extricating himself from the trap, the rogue rushed into a small clearing where he was promptly set upon by several kobold bandits. Picking up right where he left off in the last fight, the shifter spent most of the rest of this fight unconscious and dying. In fact, by the end of the encounter he was one failed saving throw away from being dead-dead.
The novice adventurers again neglected to coordinate their tactics, so this fight was a lot harder than it needed to be. The party was split up for most of the encounter, with three members fighting on the road while the other three (minus the downed rogue) rampaged around in the thick brush rooting out the creatures. As evidence of our bumbling strategy, by the end of battle the tiefling and drow had joined the shifter in taking a dirt nap.
When Harold finally managed to slay the pesky kobold wyrmpriest, the dying magic-user called out “Orcus take me!” in badly accented common. The adventurers who heard him got the distinct impression that the kobold was less than enthusiastic in this proclamation. When they stripped his corpse of its weapons and armor, they found he had a symbol of Tiamat branded onto his chest. Around his neck was an amulet, an obsidian dragon head with a crude symbol of Orcus scratched on the bottom of it. While searching the immediate vicinity for an escaped dragonshield, the adventurers discovered that it had bolted down the entrance to a compact tunnel. They wondered uneasily how many other hidden tunnels might criss-cross the area. Increasing the heroes’ unease was their certainty that this was no random ambush by the kobolds, but a cunning attack that had specifically targeted them. With the hunters having become the hunted, the group now had a very personal stake in the quest to dispense with the kobold threat once and for all.