For the next three weeks Allustan busies himself with the study of the various artifacts from the Whispering Cairn as well as the renderings of glyphs and extensive notes from Rue's journal. Meanwhile, Rue and Toerag have free reign to roam about his estate, though they are reluctant to venture into the town where humans seem to cause them so much trouble. Eventually, however, Rue's increasingly bizarre behavior forces Toerag to make a quick shopping trip.
Having divested themselves of most of their loot already (via third party sellers) Toerag has quite a nice budget to work with. Visiting several shop owners and dealers in town she is able to convince them of her benign intentions, at least enough to do business anyway. With Rue's shopping list in hand she is able to make arrangements and orders for several items (mostly enchanted weapons, armor and protections) from nearby Free City, though they aren't expected to arrive for at least two weeks.
Meanwhile Rue's dreams have continued to grow more and more bizarre until her mind nearly fragments from the stress. In her dreams she walks distant, alien shores where unimaginable shapes twitter and keen just out of sight. Even the barest glimpses of some of these strange creatures nearly drives her to madness but she finds herself compelled to seek them out nevertheless. Eventually, as her mind becomes practically seared to the horrors she sees in her dreams, they begin to fade. By the end of the week the worst of her ordeal appears to be over and the last of the after effects of her encounter with the strange column fade away. But not without having left their mark, it would seem. Even though she no longer suffers nightmares, she finds she carries with her a peripheral connection of sorts to that alien land beyond time.
During this period the Blood Claw clan shaman, Darkfoot, grows weary of waiting for word from the young kobolds whom he sent to deliver a simple message. Divinations show them still alive but reveal that they've embroiled themselves in a monumental mess. Spending several days divining the nature of these things Darkfoot finally draws the attentions of Lendys, the Scale of Justice herself. Sending an emissary in the form of a dragon-like planar, she relays to Darkfoot an overview of the Age of Worms conspiracy, just enough for him to realize the gravity of the situation. She then informs him that evil dragons are taking part in bringing about this catastrophe and must be punished. To that end he is instructed to journey to Diamond Lake, gather his subordinates to him and seek an end to this matter. Most especially insuring any dragons involved are utterly destroyed.
When the planar departs Darkfoot then calls his subordinate to him, relays all the relevant information and orders him to go in his place. Darkfoot, a quintessential kobold, is of course a coward.
Rachbensvelk, a dragon shaman who's studied under Darkfoot for several years, accepts the task with zealous, if fatalistic and morbid, conviction. Gathering only the necessary supplies for the long journey, he sets out that very hour, arriving at Diamond Lake at the end of the third week following Toerag and Rues escaped from the underground temples. Rachbensvelk takes the Common name "Copper" and soon finds directions to the wizard Allustan easy to obtain as the town's folk have become somewhat inured to kobolds coming and going from there recently.
Meeting with Toerag and Rue he has a bit of a chore convincing them to accept him along as they're still grieving the loss of their comrade. News that Lendys herself has taken interest changes their mind quickly and they accept him immediately (in Toerag's case, mainly in the hopes of garnering some approval from Lendys).
Toerag takes another level of Rogue
Rue takes her first level of the Alienist prestige class
Copper joins the team, replacing Gutter
Though Toerag and Rue had planned to return home once their new gear (and magic items) arrived, they now change their plans and begin pestering Allustan for more information. He informs them that he had planned to visit Marzena, a friend of his assigned to Blackwall Keep north of the Mistmarsh. She recently contacted him regarded strange green worms and clearly this ties into recent events. As he requires a guard or escort of some sort for the dangerous journey he invites the kobolds along and they readily accept.
Along the road to Blackwall Keep the wizard Allustan and the kobold team encounter only a small band of Halfling travelers, who give them a wide berth and an evil eye. They stop that night and camp in "Shank's Rest", an abandoned farmhouse commonly used by travelers for that purpose. Allustan tries that evening to interact with the kobolds on a more personal level but Toerag's rude behavior, Rue's incessant blathering about the "otherworld" and Copper's morbidity soon end that.
The following day as the group approaches the keep they notice an increase in the number of flies and a strong smell of smoke on the wind. Once they draw closer it becomes clear that the keep is, or at least recently was, under siege. Leaving Allustan on the road (and out of the way) the team moves forward stealthily to get a peek at the goings on.
When the keep comes into view the kobolds can see several small bands of lizard folks stationed, under cover, all around the keep's perimeter. The dead horses and the battered down doors of the stable making it clear that the lizard folk have attacked recently. Reporting back to Allustan he becomes quite upset and insists on using a teleport scroll to go back to Diamond Lake and rouse the garrison. He asks the kobolds to stay and help the defenders in the keep, suggesting they should be able to figure something out when they object that there must be at least thirty lizard folk around the place.
With Allustan gone in a twinkling the team grumpily light foots it back to observe the keep, discussing how they can possibly help the soldiers. Moreover, they're concerned the soldiers may mistake them for smallish lizard folk themselves. Nevertheless they assume they'll be able to avoid that fate if they prove themselves allies (or at least not enemies) by aiding the keep with their Lizard Folk problem. They eventually decide to stage hit-and-run raids on individual groups until their numbers are thinned enough to sneak past, possibly even enough that they quit the field.
Targeting the group of five at the stable first (being the closest), Rue casts Mage Armor and Invisibility on everyone and the team then moves out. Moving stealthily and slowly the kobolds are able to approach the group without being detected. They carefully position themselves, Copper within weapon's reach of three of them, with Toerag flanking, and Rue lining up two for a lightning bolt scroll's blast.
Rue activates her Lightning Bolt scroll:
LizardFolk3 makes his Reflex save: 8
LizardFolk4 fails his Reflex save: 11, disabling him
Copper activates his Energy Aura and attacks LizardFolk3: hit, 5, killing him
Toerag attacks LizardFolk5: hit, 7+5, hit, critical, 8+3, killing him
Rue fires her crossbow at LizardFolk4, hit, killing him. She takes a 5-foot step forward to get Copper out of her line of fire.
LizardFolk2 moves to engage Toerag. Copper's AOO: miss. Toerag's AOO: hit, 6. He attacks Toerag: miss
LizardFolk1 moves to engage Copper. Copper's AOO: miss. He attacks Copper: miss
Copper attacks LizardFolk2: hit, critical, 16, killing him.
Toerag takes a 5-step to engage LizardFolk1: hit, 6, hit, critical, 6, killing him.
Looking around from the cover of the corral the kobolds can see that the Lizard Folk groups to the northwest and southwest of the keep (who undoubtedly heard and saw the lightning bolt from Rue's scroll) have already each sent two-man teams to investigate. They Hide inside the corral, hoping to avoid notice. When the four Lizard Folk arrive and see the corpses of their comrades outside the corral they immediately call out, in Draconic, for their squads, warning them that the Lizard Folk there have all been killed.
Despite having hid well, one of the Lizard Folk Spots Rue behind the water trough. He demands she come out and surrender. Rue, deciding to attack, stands up but stays behind the concealment of the water trough. Seeing her wield her crossbow, the Lizard Folk attack.
LizardFolk1 throws his javelin at Rue: miss
LizardFolk2 throws his javelin at Rue: miss
Copper moves to the doorway and attacks LizardFolk1: hit, 9
LizardFolk3 throws his javelin at Copper: miss
Toerag moves to engage LizardFolk1. LizardFolk1's AOO: miss, LizardFolk2's AOO: miss. She attacks LizardFolk1: hit, 6, hit, 6, disabling him.
LizardFolk4 throws his javelin at Toerag: hit, 3
LizardFolk1 wields his club and attacks Toerag: miss, miss
LizardFolk2 withdraws and makes for his squad's position at half speed.
Copper attacks LizardFolk2: miss
LizardFolk3 runs for his squad, yelling for help, at full speed
Toerag sheaths her kukri, attacks LizardFolk1: miss
LizardFolk4 runs off after LizardFolk3, yelling for his squad as well.
Rue moves out of the corral, LizardFolk1's AOO: miss. She casts Magic Missile at LizardFolk3: 3, 5, 3, killing him
LizardFolk1 attacks Toerag: miss, miss
LizardFolk2 continues ambling toward his squad, yelling for help
Copper attacks LizardFolk1: hit, 5, killing him
Toerag wields her bow, fires at LizardFolk2: hit, killing him
Lizard Folk squads of the northwest and southwest begin grabbing weapons and preparing to run toward the PC's. They will arrive on the scene (on the battle map) in three more rounds.
The kobolds take up positions lateral to the doorway to fire on the Lizard Folk as they approach.
Lizard Folk squads NW and SW start sprinting for the corral (with the SW squad picking up their warrior on the way). Distance: 180'.
Copper fires his light crossbow at NWLizardFolk1: hit, 2.
Rue fires her light crossbow at NWLizardFolk1: miss.
Toerag fires at NWLizardFolk1: hit, 3
Lizard Folk squads NW and SW approach closer. Distance 120'
Copper fires at NWLizardFolk1: hit, 6, disabling him. He changes Draconic Aura to Power type.
Rue fires at NWLizardFolk2: miss.
Toerag fires at NWLizardFolk2: hit, 8+2
Lizard Folk squads NW and SW continue running. Distance 60'
Copper fires at NWLizardFolk2: miss
Rue fires at NWLizardFolk2: miss
Toerag fires at NWLizardFolk2: hit, 4+2, killing him
The Lizard Folk squads appear on the battle map...
SWLizardFolk4 moves toward the team and throws his javelin at Rue: hit, 7
Copper changes his Draconic Aura to Toughness type, fires at SWLizardFolk2: hit, 3. He moves inside the doorway of the corral.
Rue fires at SWLizardFolk2: hit, 6
NWLizardFolk3 moves toward the team and throws his javelin at Toerag: miss
SWLizardFolk3 moves forward and throws his javelin at Toerag: miss
Toerag fires at SWLizardFolk2: hit, critical, 18, killing him. She moves inside the door of the corral.
SWLizardFolk1 moves forward and throws his javelin at Rue: miss
SWLizardFolk4 moves to engage Rue, her AOO: hit, 4. He attacks Rue: miss
Copper changes his Draconic Aura to Energy type. He reloads his crossbow and fires at SWLizardFolk4: hit, 5
Rue Withdraws and arcs around, heading for the corral. She is stuck outside, unable to end her turn on the square that Copper occupies.
NWLizardFolk3 moves to engage Rue, her AOO: miss. Copper's AOO: miss. He attacks Rue: miss
SWLizardFolk3 moves to engage Rue. Copper's AOO: hit, 9. He attacks Rue: miss
Toerag fires at SWLizardFolk3: hit, 3, killing him
SWLizardFolk1 moves to engage Rue. Copper's AOO: miss. He attacks Rue: miss
SWLizardFolk4 moves to engage Rue. Copper's AOO: miss. He attacks Rue: miss
Copper attacks SWLizardFolk4: hit, 6, killing him
Rue attacks SWLizardFolk1: miss, moves behind Copper and Toerag. NWLizardFolk3's AOO: miss, SWLizardFolk1's AOO: miss
NWLizardFolk3 moves to engage Copper. His AOO: miss. He attacks Copper: miss
Toerag attacks SWLizardFolk1: hit, 7, miss
SWLizardFolk1 attacks Toerag: miss, miss
North and South Lizard Folk squads appear on the battle map, running to see what the disturbance is and evaluate the threat.
SouthLizardFolk1 runs in behind SWLizardFolk1. Copper's AOO: hit, 8
Copper attacks SWLizardFolk1: hit, 5, killing him
Rue hears the sounds of lots of other Lizard Folk coming and decides it's time to pull out the big guns. She casts Summon Monster III behind the Lizard warrior in the doorway of the corral, ordering the Pseudonatural Bison simply to "kill the big lizard people".
Kushak heads straight for the Pseudonatural Bison (it just appeared and is flat-footed) and attacks it: hit, 9-5DR=4.
Shesht moves up and fires her Wand of Produce Flame at the Pseudonatural Bison: hit, 4
SouthLizardFolk2 moves up and throws his javelin at Pseudonatural Bison: miss
NWLizardFolk3 attacks Copper: miss, hit, 1 (bite)
NorthLizardFolk1 throws javelin at Pseudonatural Bison: hit, 6-5DR=1
Pseudonatural Bison attacks Kushak: hit, 18, killing him
NorthLizardFolk2 bugs out and leaves the map, heading for home...
SouthLizardFolk3 bugs out and leaves the map, heading for home...
Toerag attacks NWLizardFolk3: hit, 5, miss
SouthLizardFolk4 bugs out and leaves the map, heading for home...
NorthLizardFolk3 bugs out and leaves the map, heading for home...
NorthLizardFolk4 bugs out and leaves the map, heading for home...
Routed members of the Lizard Folk pass the last group of five warriors on the way in, who join their ranks fleeing for home.
SouthLizardFolk1 bugs out and leaves the map, heading for home...
Copper attacks NWLizardFolk3: hit, 5
Rue casts Magic Missile at NWLizardFolk3: 5, 3, 4, killing him
Shesht bugs out and leaves the map, heading for home...
SouthLizardFolk2 and NorthLizardFolk1 both bug out as well, leaving the map.
Rue dismisses the Pseudonatural Bison and the team checks the corpses for loot, finding little. On approaching the keep Rue calls out to the lookout on the tower roof. He at first does not believe her that these three kobolds have routed the Lizard Folk that had besieged them and Rue is forced to try a Bluff check just to bring him around. Having seen the Lizard Folk all suddenly begin dashing for the corral, hearing the fighting and then seeing them again run away again in a rout it's not that hard to convince him. Still, being kobolds he is rather distrustful (as are the men listening through the arrow slits on the second and third tower floors). Rue tries a Diplomacy check and manages to sway the men around to a Friendly disposition and they finally dismantle the barricaded doors to let them in.
The team first sends a Quaal's Feather Token (Bird) after Allustan to let him know they've liberated the keep (but to continue on to Diamond Lake and summon reinforcements anyway), then go on in to meet with whoever's leading the soldiers inside. Once there they find that a mere sergeant is leading the rabble as the commanding officer was killed in the first attack. Furthermore three other soldiers and their battle mage, Marzena, were captured and carried off to some terrible fate. When the soldiers begin hinting that maybe the kobolds could mount a rescue (since they can't leave the keep with fewer defenders than it already has) they readily accept, having already decided to do so. They do ask for and receive lodging for the night to rest and allow Rue to recover her spells, which the soldiers agree to. Still nursing a mild distrust of the kobolds the soldiers ask them to remain in the tower while they busy themselves with what hasty repairs and fortifications they can manage. Agreeing, the kobold team takes their leave to run and fetch their riding dogs and cart, storing them outside the keep for the night.
Given the second level of the keep to rest in, the team doesn't hear the undead in the basement assault the barricade during the night.
The following day they head out for the marsh. Without any kind of tracking skill between them they can only press on and hope for the best. The going is slow through the waters of the marsh and the team are forced to stay mounted or swim. As they travel on they're lucky enough to spot a group of Lizard Folk up ahead and decide to capture one if at all possible, hoping it can give directions to the lair.
Toerag spots the 5 Lizard Folk at 100'. They don't spot the team. The initiates combat in the attempt to draw them in closer.
Rue fires at LizardFolk1: hit, 4
Copper fires at LizardFolk1: hit, 2
Toerag fires at LizardFolk1: hit, 3
Rue fires at LizardFolk1: 4, killing him
Toerag fires at LizardFolk3: miss
Copper fires at LizardFolk3: hit, 6
LizardFolk2 runs toward the team.
LizardFolk3 runs toward the team.
LizardFolk4 runs toward the team.
LizardFolk5 runs toward the team.
Rue fires at LizardFolk3: hit, 5, disabling him
Toerag fires at LizardFolk4: hit, 7
Copper fires at LizardFolk4: hit, 7, killing him
LizardFolk2 moves forward and throws his javelin at Copper: miss
LizardFolk3 stumbles over behind a tree, taking full cover
LizardFolk5 moves forward and throws his javelin at Copper: miss
Rue fires at LizardFolk2: hit, 7
Toerag fires at LizardFolk2: hit, 7, killing him
Copper fires his Dragon Breath at LizardFolk5: makes his Reflex save, 1.
[Yes, 1 damage. Johnny actually rolled two 1's the very first time he used his Dragon Breath.]
LizardFolk3 is disabled
LizardFolk5 moves to engage Copper. His AOO: hit, 3
Rue fires at LizardFolk2: hit, critical, 16, killing it
With only the disabled warrior left alive the Team rides, chases down and bare-handed attacks him, KO'ing him quickly. They tie him up and Rue uses her wand to heal him to 4 hit points. Copper then attempts Intimidate and succeeds (natural 20+10), Lizard warrior fails (rolling a natural 1). He gives precise directions to the enemy land. Team makes Sense Motive rolls and are confident he is being truthful. Team releases him, unarmed, and continue on at a faster pace.
They travel on until night falls, then make camp on a small, fairly dry patch of earth. That night they are attacked by two crocodiles while they sleep. Toerag is on watch, hiding. The crocodiles don't spot her but are heading for the camp from 80' out. When it becomes clear the two crocs have spotted Copper and Rue, Toerag acts.
Toerag yells for Rue and Copper to wake up, fires at Croc1: miss
Croc1 and Croc2 both dash for the camp, moving quickly in the water
Rue stands, grabs her crossbow and loads it
Croc1 moves to engage Toerag, her AOO: miss. It attacks her: miss
Toerag drops her bow and wields her sword, attacks Croc1: miss
Copper wakes up and wields his spiked chain. He's unarmored.
Croc2 moves to engage Copper. Copper's AOO: miss. Rue's AOO: hit, 8. Toerag's AOO: miss
Rue fires at Croc2: hit, 5
Croc1 attacks Toerag: miss
Toerag wields her kukri, attacks Croc2: hit, 9, miss, disabling it
Copper takes a 5-foot step, fires his Breath Weapon at both Crocodiles: both fails their saves, Croc1: 7, Croc2: 8, killing it.
Rue fires at Croc1: hit, 8
Croc1 attacks Toerag: hit, 12, wins grapple check, drags her to the edge of the water.
Toerag attempts to break free: fails
Copper moves forward, attacks Croc1: hit, 5
Rue casts Magic Missile at Croc1: 3, 2, 4, killing it
The following morning, as they press on toward the supposed location of the Twisted Branch tribe's lair, Copper spots five bodies submerged under the water at 20' out. The corpses are spread out to either side of their path. When they attempt to go around the bodies, they all rise up out of the water and rush to attack.
Ghoul1 moves to engage Rue and Toerag. Rue's AOO: hit, 5. Toerag's AOO: hit, 4.
Toerag drops her bow and wields her long sword, attacks Ghoul1: miss
Ghoul2 moves toward the kobolds
Rue takes a 5-foot step back and cast Summon Monster I, conjuring a Pseudonatural Giant Fire Beetle next to Ghoul1.
Ghoul3 moves toward the team
Ghoul4 moves toward the team
Copper moves around to line up three of the ghouls, Ghoul1's AOO: miss. He fires his breath weapon: Ghoul1 makes his save, 5, destroying him; Ghoul4 makes his save, 3; Ghoul3 fails his save, 5.
Ghoul5 moves to engage Toerag. Copper's AOO: miss. Toerag's AOO: miss
Pseudonatural Giant Fire Beetle casts True Strike, takes a 5-foot step, attacks Ghoul5: hit, 8
Toerag wields her kukri, attacks Ghoul5, hit, 7, hit, 4, destroying it
Ghoul2 moves to engage Pseudonatural Giant Fire Beetle, AOO: miss. Copper's AOO: miss. It attacks: miss
Rue fires at Ghoul2: miss
Ghoul3 moves to engage Pseudonatural Giant Fire Beetle. Copper's AOO: miss.
Ghoul4 moves to engage Toerag. Toerag's AOO: miss. Copper's AOO: hit, 8
Copper attacks Ghoul4: hit, 4, destroying it
Pseudonatural Giant Fire Beetle attacks Ghoul2: miss
Toerag takes a 5-foot step forward, attacks Ghoul3: miss, miss
Ghoul2 attacks Pseudonatural Giant Fire Beetle: miss, miss, miss
Rue fires at Ghoul3: miss
Ghoul3 attacks Pseudonatural Giant Fire Beetle: miss, miss, miss
Copper attacks Ghoul3: hit, 6
Pseudonatural Giant Fire Beetle attacks Ghoul3: hit, 8, destroying it
Toerag takes a 5-foot step, attacks Ghoul2: hit, 8, hit 5, destroying it
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