Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 12

“Poison gas!” Hajima exclaims as he covers his mouth and nose with a cloth from his coat. He looks down at the gems, then looks over at the carvings once more. “Quickly! I believe these gems will unlock a secret door that will allow us to escape this foul odor!” He picks up the emerald and places it in the corresponding slot in the carving of the garden and the snake. “Try to match up the other gems and carvings!”

Tuskor grabs the sapphire gem and rushes to find its corresponding location, guessing it to be the thunderstorm. He gasps as he tries to jam the stone into place, taking in a lung full of the wretched gas.

Hajima suddenly exclaims out loud, “I’ve got it! They are the colors and scenes that represent dragons! Red is fire, white is ice, blue for lightning, green for poison, black for acid!” You can almost see smoke coming out of Hajima’s ears from using his brain that hard. He’s a man of action and not the go-to guy for riddles. There’s a definite sheen of sweat across his brow, but whether it’s from using his brain too much, or the poison, no one in the group can be sure. “The black gem goes in the laboratory carving, the red gem goes in the fire carving, and the diamond goes in the winter carving.” Hajima coughs a bit more and looks quite pale.

Vellk doesn’t even bother to cover his mouth, the poison is no match for his hardy constitution.  The warrior picks up the black opal and fits it to the carving in the laboratory scene.  Rowan rushes to place the diamond in the snowy scene, trying not to breathe. Unfortunately, she holds her breath so hard that she gasps for breath, breathing in the foul vapors.

“Think evil dragons yeah? That’s the ticket!” Lanaver clicks the ruby into the final slot.  “I hate dragons, their stupid cults and their THRICE DAMNED TRAPS AND PUZZLES!”  His tirade is spoiled by a racking cough as he expels the last of the gas from his lungs

As the gems are inserted the gas ceases and dissipates as the door to the crypt groans open. The sarcophagus too groans and shifts upon stone, making way to a staircase depending below. There is dust on the stairs, it appears to have been recently disturbed by two humanoids.

Brother Keefe wheezes and gasps for breath, “Please, I cannot continue as I am weakened by this foul trap.  This violation of the crypt must be investigated!”

The stairs descend steeply and curve off to the right, spiraling into darkness.  Tuskor moves forward to investigate, peering into the darkness with his keen Dwarven eyesight.  He looks at the footprints in the dust, doubtless humanoid but are they human? Or are we dealing with a more dangerous pair of foes?

“Since we are in no rush, I suggest you all let me administer a quick antivenom.”  Says Sebastian, We could take a brief respite before proceeding. I have quite the tonic to help poisoning, but it takes a few minutes to take effect.”

An eerie hour passes in the cold, stony crypt and they all begin to feel better as Sebastian’s tonic counteracts the poison in their blood.  At last, feeling more steady on their feet they move toward the staircase. Tuskor takes the lead, utilizing his darkvision as he cautiously descends the stairs with his tusk staff in hand.

The spiral staircase opens into a chamber. Five odd humanoid skeletons, topped with draconic skulls, stand at attention, holding swords. At the back of the chamber is a large throne-like chair, currently empty, on a mahogany dais. The skeletons stand perfectly still, not even twitching at the party’s approach.

Sebastian readies his sling in one hand, his arcane focus in the other while concentrates on casting a spell.  His eyes begin to glow a soft blue color and he can see Divination and Necromantic magic within the room, radiating from the throne.

“Bash the walking bones, as was said by our friend with the rolling pin.”  Tuskor mutters, “Swords and rapiers do less to those without flesh, blood and bone”

“Most likely the divination magic I’m sensing is going to be able to tell when something living comes in the room and the necromantic magic is going to animate those skeletons to prevent us from investigating whatever this room is.” Says Sebastian, his eyes still glowing.  “Ready yourselves before we decide to go further. Perhaps we should be ready to retreat back into this doorway, to limit their attacks on us.”

“Tuskor-Dwarven druid friend, are they all within the range of your entanglement spell?”  Lanaver asks with a shiver, “Did I mention I hate tombs?”

“Vellk use this”  Sebastian hands his quarterstaff to the large warrior, “It’ll be more effective than your axe.

“Many thanks friend Sebastian, I will put it to good use!”  Vellk says with a grin, hefting the staff one handed.

Lanaver takes a lead weighted sap from an inner pocket.  “Haven’t had to use the old’ gal in a fortnight, it’ll be good to get some practice in,” He takes a few practice swings. It’s clear he’s bludgeoned a few skulls in his career.

Tuskor mutters arcane words and the strange white root tendrils emerge from the stones of the wall and floor to wrap around the dormant guardian skeletons.  “That will hold them when we enter, but be on your guard; my grubs are not indestructible.”  His companions notice that they aren’t roots at all, but small segmented worms, some oozing a kind of sticky slime and others equipped with hundreds of tiny legs.

Entering the room quietly and carefully, Sebastian skirts the skeleton guards.  Shrinking back either from the writing worms or the quiescent undead, he makes his way around the large throne like chair, noticing a hinged panel at the bottom.

“Have a look at this lads!”  He says, crouching and reaching for it with a grin on his face.

“Hold up!”  The unusually sharp tone of Lanaver’s normally soft voice stops Sebastian’s hand mere inches from the small panel.  “These things aren’t always as they seem.”

The wood elf swiftly manifests the tools of his trade. Unrolling a tightly rolled leather bundle in a clear, safe space in front of him he whispers, “Lady Luck be with me.” and goes to work with his lockpicks.

After a few tense moments, a harsh metallic click announces that the lock has been picked and Lanaver leans back on his heels, taking a deep breath.  Vellk wipes an annoying bit of sweat off his brow and the rest of them let out a collective sigh.

“There was a poison needle trap on this one… it was cleverly done, however I’ve managed worse.”  Reaching inside, he withdraws a sparkling gemstone and holds it up to glitter in the torch light.  “Ahh… well worth it.”  

Sebastian, his eyes still glowing, reaches inside the opening and withdraws a wrapped and sealed Vellum scroll

Lanaver looks up from his kit as he puts it away and notices Hajima with the rolling pin for the first time.  “You gonna make ’em into biscuits with that, eh shooter?” He smirks.

Hajima just chuckles at Lanaver and pats him on the head as he kneels on the ground before him. “We’ll see how well you do trying to stab a skeleton. I’m sure that will be much more effective than bashing it to pieces. I look forward to witnessing your expert display of deadly skill.”

“Oh yeah, that’s why I got the nighty-night here.”  Lanaver grins, patting his sap, “It’s not very big but it packs a wallop!”

“Let’s keep moving shall we?”  Rowan asks, looking nervously at the skeletons and their strange restraints.

The group continues down spiraling stair, finding that it opens again into a chamber set up as a small laboratory.  Tables around the room are covered with beakers, vials, tomes, cauldrons, and pots full of alchemical agents. In the middle of the central table is a note next to a blue clay pot.

Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 11

The crowd at the Boiling Kettle is sparse for the Highsun meal. Lanaver, Rowan and Hajima are lingering at their usual table, trying to decide whether or not to order another round.  It has been a few days since their daring rescue and subsequent run from the Goblin Caves, and they’ve been taking it easy, nursing wounds and mending equipment.

The youngest of Madame Freia’s daughters, Grelinda, is clearing the table after a pleasant meal. Grelinda’s short hair is tinted an odd shade of coppery green, and she treats the flatware roughly as she stacks it on a tray.

“Stupid boring work.” she mutters under her breath. Before any of the party can comment, the door of the Boiling Kettle opens and a cool draft plays through the room.

A tall, dour-looking human glances around, and his sallow expression finally settles on their table. He removes his tall black hat to reveal a balding pate. “I apologize for disturbing you,” he says in a deep, monotone voice. “I assume you are adventurers for hire, and I seek your expertise for a small matter.”

Rowan smiles up at him, and gestures for him to pull up a seat. “I am Rowan, and if your task is to our liking, we would be happy to help.”

“What she said,” Lanaver says, toying with his mug of ale.

“I am Brother Keefe, Priest of Kelemvor with the title ‘Keeper of the Dead’.”  He drones, standing at the side of the table with his hands hanging limply at his sides.  “My Residence is in the Valhingen Graveyard, most holy and revered ground in all of Starvale.  I am, if you will, the overseer of the permanent residents who have committed their remains to my care.”

He pauses and looks from face to face, taking in the mixture of fascination, disgust and fear playing across their faces.  “I am also in charge of disturbing their rest when necessary and the need has arisen for that unfortunate task to be performed.”

His voice drops to a dry, reedy whisper.  Evidence has been brought forth to the clerics of Kelemvor that one of the long-standing residents of the cemetery, Xandria Welltran, was not in fact human, but a polymorphed green dragon.  This is a serious matter that must be handled with delicacy.  I must now enter the crypt and inspect the body to confirm or disprove these claims. I fear that there may be more to this than meets the eye, but the other priests of Kelemvor mocked my concern.”

“You’ve told us the job, what’s it pay?”  Lanaver asks in his usual mercenary tone.  Rowan gives him a stern look but realizes she was wondering how much this dour man would have to pay her to get her to go into a graveyard and dig up a body.

“If you accept, I offer a fee of one hundred gold pieces and a scroll containing a spell that will help protect you against the undead.”  He says, “Keep in mind this must be kept quiet.”

Hajima gives a short nod. “I would be happy to help you and will gladly offer my services as a bodyguard during your inspection. Some of us have served in such roles before, I expect my companions would also be amenable. How soon would you like to go? If there are expected encounters with the undead, then perhaps a trip to her grave during the daylight hours would be prudent, just in case.”

“I would not wait, sir.” He says, rubbing his hands together. “I would go at once if your party consents to my offer.”

Rowan listens intently, her brow furrowed, “I have little experience with dragons or the dead, but will gladly aid you in your inspection to the best of my abilities. I can promise you that these, my friends, are worthy companions in time of need. Yes, very worthy indeed. Let us just grab our things, then, shall we?”

They disperse to their room, gathering weapons, armor and equipment as well as rousing Tuskor and Vellk from where they were relaxing and reading.  Before they leave the Inn, Hajima quickly turns back and enters the kitchen area. Returning shortly, he now carries a heavy wooden rolling pin used for baking bread. When the others look at him quizzically, he shrugs.  

“We learned at the military academy that the best weapon for fighting the undead is a sturdy club. They do not feel the bite of a sharp blade as living creatures do. Since we must leave immediately, this will have to do.” He then tucks the big rolling pin into his belt and follows the others outside.

Brother Keefe leads them to the Welltran Crypt in the Valhingen Graveyard. When they arrive, they might be surprised to learn that the graveyard is actually quite well maintained, if somber.

“Doomguide Yovir Glandon, my superior and the senior member of the Most Solemn Order of the Silent Shroud, personally sees to the maintenance of the grounds.”  The Brother says in his dull monotone, “He is very thorough.”

The crypt of Xandria is a nicely appointed stone and marble building, roughly 20 feet square. Brother Keefe produces a key to unlock it. The interior is equally fine. The walls are carved and painted with various scenes showing a lovely human woman in different locales: looking toward a snow-covered peak, standing in the rain of a thunderstorm, sitting in a comfortable room by a roaring fire, holding a venomous snake in a garden, working with bubbling vials in a laboratory, and many others. The lid of the marble sarcophagus in the center is carved with the likeness of the same beautiful human woman in the prime of her life.

Hajima admires the paintings and the figure they so vividly depict. “A woman so beautiful, it is easy to see why others might try to name such powerful charm as magical. It seems she had quite the varied pursuits in throughout her life as well.” He then slowly approaches the sarcophagus and scans it for any sign of disturbance.

As Hajima inspects the paintings, he can see are scrape marks on the floor around the sarcophagus, showing it can move. He puts his weight against it, however pushing does nothing.  Running gentle fingers over the walls, he sees that five of the carvings have a place in them where something tiny could be inserted.

“I wonder, do these carvings have anything to do with the paintings?”  He muses, leaning close to examine them.

Vellk strides forth and heaves against the sarcophagus lid. It rumbles and you hear the sound of stone shifting on stone as it slides off, revealing a jumbled pile of bones.  A quick investigation by Lanaver shows that these are definitely not human bones—many of them are draconic in nature. It is also readily apparent that at least half the bones that should be there are missing.

Also embedded in the skull in place of teeth are five tiny gems: a red ruby, a green emerald, a black opal, a white diamond, and a blue sapphire.  The rogue sees the tiny gems are all the same size and shape, cut like identical incisors.

A few moments after the lid is removed and the sarcophagus contents examined, a scraping sound echoes through the crypt. The door slams shut, and a hissing sound announces that some kind of gas is entering the crypt. It does not smell pleasant.

Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 10

It’s a weary, sore band of adventurers that makes it back to the Moss Family farm.  They are met by Millivent, who has cooked a huge feast of crayfish and wild leek stew.  She weeps openly, laughing and crying as she welcomes her family and their farm hands back into the farmstead.  A stiff, earthy flavored brew Haldred calls bog ale is distributed in quantity and Rowan’s spirits lift enough that she plays a few jaunty tunes on her flute.

After a few bowls of the spicy stew and a mug of ale, Vellk excuses himself.  “I’m taking first watch.  We don’t know if those critters will have the stones to follow us out here without their leader but I’m not taking any chances.”

“Aye, it will be good for us to stay there in case they come back in the night.”  Hajima says, his mug of ale sitting untouched although four bowls of stew passed his lips.  He has carefully disassembled his crossbow and is cleaning the trigger mechanism while two of the adolescent Moss children watch with wide eyes.

“I thankee fer savin us.”  One of the peat farm workers says, shuffling his feet awkwardly.  “We ain’t got no funds but we grabbed that big nasty critter’s shield.  Might be worth sommat.”

“No further reward is necessary my good man, we are glad to help.”  Sebastian says with a gracious smile, accepting the shield.  “I too was a farmer before I went into the military.”

Rowan pauses in her playing and approaches Chaab. “I am Rowan Wildpiper master Chaab. I’m sorry we couldn’t recover your things. Do you know these people?”

“I know them not, Halfling Rowan.”  He says between drinks of bog ale,  “I was taken prisoner afore them.  I know I ain’t much ta look at but if you kind strangers would help me back ta town I can offer ya a reward.”

“Of course, you are more than welcome to come back with us.” She smiles warmly at him, and then around at the family. All exhausted. She smiles again, and pulls out her flute. “I think a little cheer and relaxation might do us all good this evening.”  She resumes plaing for a while, not the bright sprightly tunes of earlier but more sedate and relaxing music.

As the comforting music plays, Vellk and Tuskor take watch of the peat farm.  Chaab shows them that the shield was using was actually the scale of a black dragon. While it acts simply as a regular shield, it is a trophy that can be carried with pride.  After a time, Hajima relieves the tired Vellk and helps Tuskor keep an eye on the slumbering farm.

Music lulls the folk to sleep and everyone sleeps the deep slumber of the exhausted. Vellk yawns as he lays his armor in an orderly pile near the front entrance where he takes a long rest.  His axe, however, stays within easy reach of his hand.

After most are asleep, Rowan puts away her flute and snuggles up next to the fire for a good night’s sleep. Relatively unused to battle, she suffers several nightmares, and is restless. Finally, after much tossing and turning, she drops into a deep and dreamless sleep.

Once the others are either out on guard or asleep, Chaab begs a smoke from Lanaver.  “I ain’t had a pipe in days.”  He explains.  While Lanaver prepares his pipe, Chaab confides in him.

“I was sent to investigate activities we think are related to the Cult of the Dragon.”  He says, hands clutching his mug of bog ale.  “The Ruman have been investigating some of strange happenings in the area.  A black dragon had made its lair here for a time, and until recently it was working with a group of humans for some reason.

“When I came to investigate, I found that a group of stalwart adventurers had slain the dragon but perished in the act.  Some enterprising group or another cleaned out the hoard while some other group, or perhaps the same one was harvesting parts off the wyrm’s corpse.  It was shortly after I’d found out that ghoulish little tidbit that I was captured by a veritable army of Goblins.”  

He shudders and takes a deep drink of his bog ale.  Lanaver puffs his pipe alight and takes a deep drag before proffering it to Chaab.  When the man reaches for it, the Elf grabs his wrist in an iron grip.

“You’re a worshiper of Ruma, and the Mad Goddess doesn’t care about much beyond spreading chaos, death and destruction.”  Lanaver’s dark eyes flashed, and his grip tightened.  “So I want to know why you’re telling me this.”

Chaab took the pipe carefully in his left hand before expertly twisting his hand so that Lanaver’s grip was broken.  He took a drag on the pipe and exhaled smoke out of his nose, meeting the Elf’s gaze.

“You saved my life.  I figured I owed ya something.  Here’s something more, there are hundreds of Goblins in that cavern system.  You and all these people need to get the hell out of here.  I don’t know what they’re planning but someone has the green skinned bastards are well organized.”

“Hmph.”  Lanaver grunted, “Fair enough.  I appreciate the warning.”

“It’s the least I could do.”  Chaab replied, handing the pipe back.  “Thanks for the smoke, I’m going to get the first decent night’s sleep I’ve had in ages.”  With that he simply lay on the floor and was asleep in moments.

The peat farm was not attacked during the night, largely due to the diligence of Tuskor and Hajima.  The pair managed to track and kill several Goblin scouts, attempting to prey on the farm. “Sure’n this will keep the dastard Goblins at bay a while.” muses Tuskor as he cleans his staff.

“Aye,” says Hajima. “The Goblins hereabouts have suffered much this last day. Perhaps it will make them wary, although I wouldn’t count on them just going away.”

“Good lady.”  Lanaver says seriously to Millivent as the woman helps her husband dish out a hearty breakfast of oatmeal and a strange tea made of the leathery leaves of a swamp plant.  “I believe it would be foolhardy for your family to remain here.  There are hundreds of Goblins in that cave yet and I would not want further harm to come to your familiy.”

“I don’t like the thought of leaving our place.”  She says, looking around at the cozy home, “But we can rebuild if need be.  I won’t risk losing my family again.”

“It is certainly disturbing to think about giving up our home.”  Haldred said, but he took his wife’s hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.  “But Millivent has the right of it.  We aren’t going to put our family or our hired folk in danger by staying.  The Starshield Guard will hear of this, for all the good it’ll do, but mayhap if we make enough noise about it we will get some kind of compensation or else a patrol to come out here.”

Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 9

Sebastian calls out to Aesis for protection rushes over to bind Rowan’s wounds. Vellk and Tuskor bravely stand back to back between them and the growling Warg.  The former brandishing his axe and giving their enemies a grin that rivals the massive wolf’s and the latter hefting his spiked ivory quarterstaff.  

Tuskor runs toward the two remaining Goblins, brandishing his staff and bringing it down on the stone floor with a resounding explosion.  Arcane runes flash out from the impact and a thunderous boom reverberates through the chamber.  The two creatures take a faltering step backward but howl their defiance, preparing to retaliate.

Vellk takes a cue from his Dwarven companion and leaps forward to the attack.  His axe bites savagely into the side of the warg.  It howls in pain and bites him on the thigh before he can get out of reach of its teeth.

Rowan rushes to help Tuskor the instant Sebastian ties the bandage on her arm, stabbing over the Dwarf’s head, barely missing the green skinned monster as it jumps back out of reach.

Sebastian seeing the dire straits that his squad is in steels his resolve and he tries to remember his military training. He runs over the checklist in his mind. First assess the severity of the wound, second apply tincture powder (ground Acacia, Figwort, Oak Bark, White Willow Bark) and mandrake root directly to the wound to staunch the bleeding. Apply absorptive and sticky bandages (coated with Sea Buckthorn Oil and Copaiba Balsam) to the wounds.

Hajima sizes up the health of his comrades and the imminent threat of the enemies. He mutters to himself, “This bugbear must be stopped, no matter the cost.”  He takes careful aim again and waits for an opening.  When the monster opens its mouth to shout an order, Hajima fires a speeding bolt directly into the left eye of the bugbear.

The monster shrieks in pain, “Margk rakka kallanzarh!”  It shouts gesturing at the party with the hand that no longer holds the Warg’s chain.  After issuing the command, likely for their deaths, it jerks a javelin from a quiver on its back and hurls it into Tuskor’s leg.  The Dwarf stumbles, reaching for the missile transfixing his leg before his eyes roll back in his head and he slumps to the ground, unconscious.

Lanaver runs to assist Vellk, using the pack tactics so recently exhibited by the wolves against their larger cousin and striking it from the other side while it’s distracted by the larger warrior.  He opens grievous wounds with his blades but it fights on with wild animal rage.

The Warg attempts to savage Vellk again but the leg Lanaver wounded buckles at the last minute and the warrior evades the gnashing, yellowed teeth. The two Goblins round on Lanaver, slashing out at him with scimitars.  One blow skitters across his dagger and slices away the skin of his forearm when he tries to parry but the other hits him in the side, hacking through his leather armor and cutting into flesh beneath.  He topples to one side with blood running freely from the wounds.

Rowan springs into action, striking out at the Goblin who cut into Lanaver’s torso and piercing him through the throat, killing him.  “Get back from him you green skinned fiends!”  She shouts, her eyes bright with the exhilaration of combat.

The fierce attack and swift killing of his fighting partner startles the last Goblin who turns to run.  The moment his back is turned, Rowan’s rapier stabs into it with ruthless efficiency.  The point skewers vital organs before she twists it and pulls it out and her foe collapses to bleed his life out on the cavern floor.

Sebastian, still running through his mantra of field medicine, moves to assist the fallen Tuskor.  Hacking off the end of the javelin with his sword, he draws the weapon from the wound, sterilizing it and staunching the bleeding before wrapping it tightly.

The Bugbear, clutching his bloodied eye socket, the bolt protruding through his fingers, advances on Vellk, to flank him with the Warg.  Raising his morning star, he smashes it into Vellk’s armored shoulder with enough force to nearly drive the big man to his knees.

Hajima drops his crossbow and approaches the Warg at an oblique angle, waiting for the right moment before stabbing it through the spine.  It yelps and goes prone, twitching, trying to control its body despite the debilitating wound.

Baring his teeth in defiance, Vellk swings his axe in a counter stroke at the monster’s blind left side.  The weapon bites deeply into the monster’s jaw and neck, nearly severing the creature’s head.  With a surprised gurgle, it topples to the ground, lifeless.

A brief silence descends before it is broken by the sound of greater alarm coming from the earthen caverns beyond. The sounds of scores of Goblins shrieking in alarm and readying themselves for attack. Vellk sneaks into the room where the bugbear and his minions came from.  He sees that this room  is better furnished than the previous rooms, with some serviceable tables and chairs, some flagons of ale and haunches of roasted meat are on the table.  

Several passages lead out of the room deeper into the cave, but he sees what he is looking for at the back. There are two large cages at the back of the room, one holds the prisoners taken from the peat bog. In the other cage sits a human dressed in black underclothing, the kind you would typically wear under armor.

“Keys, I need keys to free the prisoners!”  Vellk shouts.

Rowan finds keys after rifling through the disgusting belongings of the Bugbear.  Now that the adrenaline of fighting is gone, his stench threatens to make her gorge rise.   She tosses them to Vellk who proceeds to unlock the prisoners from their cages.

The warrior, spits on the Bugbear’s corpse and despite looking thin and wasted picks up the monster’s morning star.  “Thank you, strangers, I am Chaab. You have saved me from yonder filth, but we must flee now, for they come!” He points down the corridors where the sound of Goblin feet can be heard flapping on stone, a strange accompaniment to their guttural cries for blood.

Sebastian applies healing balms and bandages to Lanaver’s wounds, bringing the rogue out of his unconsciousness with a bottle of smelling salts after he finishes.  Together they begin to carry the comatose Tuskor towards the exit.

Everyone moves from the Bugbear’s room, back out through the guardroom.  Hajima Jom offering sniping cover while Chaab and Vellk take the position of rear guard.  Rowan leads the refugees, working with Haldred, Millivent’s husband to keep people together.  

“Do you know how many of them there are?”  She asks.

The peat bog workers are terrified but grateful for being rescued.  Haldred is carrying one of his daughters and chivying the rest along, but otherwise cannot offer much in the way of information or assistance.  “I ain’t seen naught but this place here yer – ah – ladyship?”

Rowan ignores the talk of title or rank, smiling encouragingly at the prisoners.  “It’s all over but the running my friends!   We have to get outside and fast.  There’s a cart outside, and a donkey. Head toward town as fast as you can. We will guard your retreat!”

“Wait!”  Lanaver sprints to the front of the line of hurrying refugees.  “There’s a trap just outside the door that might make some noise and perhaps do worse if the falling stones start an avalanche.”  

Rowan watches him helping the prisoners out, keeping an anxious eye on the cave “Hopefully they will be disheartened by the death of their leader and his warg and will not follow.”

Rowan helps the weakest and slowest into the wagon, as well as encouraging the worst wounded of her friends to climb aboard.  “Easy up there little one.  Watch your step there.  Here, grab his arm please.”  Her assistance is slightly hampered by anxious glances towards the cave entrance, looking for enemies.

Hajima and Vellk are last to leave the cave. “Run!  Why are you still here?  There’s a veritable swarm of the green skinned devils behind us!”  Vellk punctuates the statement by hurling a hand axe into the cave mouth.

Rowan pulls her war pipes from Bo’s tack, pumping the bellows and unleashing an ear splitting shriek, hoping to frighten them and slow them a little.  Either their bloodlust or Rowan’s piping confuses the Goblins for as the wagon begins to roll away, they boil out of the cave and run smack into the traps laid there.  String tangled in their feet and a tumble of rocks cascades down on them.  

Howls of rage become screams of pain, and Hajima fires bolt after bolt into the writhing mass of Goblins until the wagon is out of range.  After a few nervous minutes of speedily jouncing along on the wagon, they begin to breathe easier.  The sounds of angry Goblins fades away as the stolid donkeys widen their lead.  After a few bends in the trail no sign of pursuit seems to be coming, so they slow the speed of their flight.