Frank opened his eyes blearily, he’d been out for a while. Shaking his head groggily he took in his surroundings. He was in the “Drowned Rat” the kobold attempt at an inn. He lay in a miserable room on a floor covered in rancid vermin infested straw. Wilhelm was close at hand leaning back against the wall eying a trio of gnolls whom the heroes seemed to be sharing the ‘inn’ room with. The gnolls snarled and yapped at each other in their hyena tongue, the whining tone gave Frank a headache. “Don’t move you’ll wreck the poultice.” Wilhelm warned. Frank looked down at the paste smeared bandage covering his chest and shivered in disgust. “I don’t need no stinking poultice.” Frank snarled as he tore it free and hurled it into a corner. In the distance they could make out the sound of kobold yelping. Some calamity seemed to be unfolding.
Heading into the tavern proper from their accommodation the group found the place thrown into chaos. A small kobold stood a top a table that wobbled precariously beneath even his light weight. “We are attacked!” He yelped. “The Khan is killing everybody!”
Frank was in his element. “Kobolds, harken to me for I am a great leader of men. Wilhelm and I have faced the Hobgoblins before and won through each and every time. We will lead you in the defence of your markets.” The kobolds raised an almighty cheer that drowned out the sounds of chaos and slaughter from outside. They picked up stools and bottles and gathered about Frank waiting expectantly with their makeshift weapons. “And what of you gnolls? Will you stand idly by while the kobolds defend the only safe place to gather in this stonehell?”
The gnolls looked confused at this human jabbering at them in monkey talk. Their leader curled his lip in a snarl and barked something crude in return. Frank in turn looked confused. It seemed they faced a language barrier. Frank recalled all he knew of these strange hyena men. Lazy creatures on the whole gnolls keep slaves who do all their work. Like Hyenas they are vicious when cornered but leave all the hard work to others. Still Frank was not easily perturbed and thought to shame them into fighting. He grabbed a nearby kobold to translate “Cowards!”
The kobold gulped nervously. “You want me to call them cowards?”
“Yes. Also tell them that they need to help us and that they are cowards.”
Needless to say this did not go down so well and almost ended in blows. Still Frank goaded them via a translator, wasting precious time while the hobgoblins completed their destruction of the slave pens and outer guards posts. Swearing vengeance against the cowardly gnolls Frank went to deal with the hobgoblins.
While Frank traded insults with gnolls via an interpreter Wilhelm raced to the kobolds rescue. At the guard post he found 5 kobold guards pinned town, several of their companions lay skewered by crossbow bolts. With two exits under attack Wilhelm secured one with a flask of burning oil. Frank arrived at this junction and raced west where he was confronted by a portcullis and a number of crossbow wielding hobgoblins. Their bolts clattered harmlessly of his plate mail as he raced towards the portcullis with flaming oil in hand. He smashed it across the bars searing the hobgoblins flesh and causing them to retreat in howls of pain. Pausing only to lift the portcullis Frank gave pursuit a mob of frenzied kobolds close on his heals.
Wilhelm struck west but was met by a pool of burning oil lit by the hobgoblin raiders. This delayed him long enough for the sounds of slaughter to die off. The kobolds at his side whined about the beetles imploring Wilhelm to brave the burning oil to save them. “Yes. Look about your beetles. I’m sorry but they are probably already dead and I shall not brave these flames on the off chance we save a handful of them.” The flames died down and Wilhelm struck south. Indeed the slaves and beetles had been put to the sword along with their kobold handlers. Wilhelm had adopted an orcish child he carried bout him in a papoose like backpack. He covered the child’s eyes sparing it the sight of it’s slaughtered orcish sibling in the slave pens. Wilhelm and Frank soon met at the southern most guard post of the kobolds on the edge of the stairs down into hobgoblin territory. The corpses in the room told the sorry tale, 10 slain kobolds and 2 hobgoblins. Seeing that they now lead an irate band of motivated kobolds, and with hirelings normally so darn scarce, the heroes decided to press their luck and plunge down the stairs into the domain of the Khan.
The group took the most direct route, the route they kind of knew. Frank charged the front gates like a mighty armoured juggernaut of destruction. Crossbow bolts fell around him like so much rain. Laughing he set the arrow slits of the hobgoblin fortification aflame reveling in the screams of pain he heard as their flesh was seared. With the hobgoblins vision obscured by flame he set about demolishing their portcullis. With that out of the way he ran the gamut of more arrow slits and again his armour proved to mighty. A stout iron bound oak door at the end of the shooting gallery proved a negligible obstacle as Franks smashed it clean of its hinges. He was in the heart of the enemy stronghold now. Waves of kobolds followed in his wake. In a rare moment of martial pride Wilhelm took up his sword and shield and joined the fray. Like a tsunami they crashed against the hobgoblins pikes. Forced back till there was no room left to maneuver the hobgoblins made a stand backs to the wall.
Hobgoblin reinforcements arrived. The corridor near became a scene of carnage with the combatants knee deep in hobgoblin and kobold corpses. By the time the hacking was done only 5 resolute kobolds remained from the initial 15. Frank was struggling with the pain from a lucky hobgoblin crossbow shot but he was not through. “Show me the map.” He demanded of his goblin henchman. “It should tell us where the Khan is hiding.”
The search for Khan proved tougher than it looked. The band explored the initial area discovering the hobgoblin barracks, the quarters of the Khan’s lions and the second access point to the hobgoblin fortifications. This point had been augmented with an innocuous looking decanter mounted into some kind of platform. Unfortunately for the motley band of hobgoblin defenders their ‘weapon’ was pointing the wrong way and the hero’s set upon them ruthlessly. The hobgoblin sergeant chugged a potion down which seemed to imbue him with boundless energy. He then hacked down the heroes goblin henchman Forgath, laid waste to their remaining kobold allies and laid a mighty blow on Frank which left him reeling.
Exploring to the west the band encountered more guards who frantically beat a gong hoping for some sort of assistance. It was not forthcoming. Finding an corridor that came to an awkward and abrupt end the group searched for secret doors and low and behold found one. It lead to some dusty office long ago abandoned and covered in broadsheets for pit fights that had occurred decades before. In this room was a chest yet as the group approached it shadows loomed up from the darkness attacking them. “I have nothing that can hurt such spectral beings. I have no magic.” Lamented Wilhelm as he beat a hasty retreat. Their remaining gobbling henchman battled the shadows and nearly succumbed to its icy strength draining grasp. Frank quickly put the monstrosities down with some well placed blows from his mighty enchanted hammer.
Gorgut, still somewhat delirious from the strength sapping touch of the shadows, examined the chest and determined it was trapped with poison. He opened it from a particular angle and the trap discharged harmlessly. Within the chest was more coin than the band had ever seen. They were rich. Further exploration of this disused section uncovered a pit full of trash the party left alone. “This isn’t right. The Khan isn’t this way.” Frank cursed under his breath. “Give me the map!”
Returning to the hobgoblin outpost the party stumbled across a patrol. Their attempts at negotiation were met by cries of “For the Khan!” Battle was joined and the hobgoblins dispatched with ruthless efficiency. Continuing to explore rooms the band smoked out a band of hobgoblins. The first brute to leave coughing and spluttering was put to the sword. The group took two injured prisoners. Wilhelm mentioned something about showing them mercy before he ran one through. Frank looked shocked and moved to intercept Wilhelm as he made for the remaining prisoner. “Don’t kill him! We need him. He can take us to the Khan.” Frank looked at the defeated opponent.
“Anything you want.” The hobgoblin stammered. “I don’t want to die and I am no threat. I can no longer fight.” He raised a stump where once his sword arm was.
“Great, lead us to the Khan.” Frank pushed him out into the corridor.
With the Khans location secured Frank proceeded to plot an intricate plan. The decanter they had secured from the hobgoblin post must be some sort of flame thrower he surmised. It’s command words, inscribed on the side of the decanter would cause some kind of explosion. All he needed to do was get the decanter into the same room as the Khan, say the magic words and adios muchachos. He wrapped the decanter in a hessian sack much like winos wrap bottles in paper bags. He handed it to their captive. “Tell the Khan that you found this bottle while exploring. You cam across a hidden cellar or something. And here’s 200 gold for your trouble.”
“What the Khan notice his soldier is carrying 200 gold? That much money makes an awful lot of clinking.” Wilhelm interjected.
“Hmm. You have a point. OK no gold. But deliver the bottle. Now go!” Frank pushed the captive towards the door they believed the khan was holed up behind.
“It’s a trap!” the captive howled as he dove for cover in the Khan’s room. Frank muttered the second incantation and was underwhelmed at the lack of explosion. There was no fountain of fire only water. The Khan’s guards sallied forth and began landing mighty blows on the hero’s. Combat was brutal and their was no retreat for the Khan as his body guards were worn down the Khan showed himself, till this point he had stayed out of sight in his room. “We killed your cats and now were going to kill you.” Wilhelm taunted. The Khan became enraged at the reminder of his fallen mountain lions and plunged his katana blade through Wilhelm’s midriff. Wilhelm clasped his stomach marveling at the brightness of his blood. Could he be dying? He collapsed to the ground in a state of shocked panic. Frank stepped up and smashed the Khan’s spine with one swift stroke of his hammer. The deed was done. The Khan was dead. “I’m dying.” Wilhelm stammered.
Frank looked him over as he looted the Khan’s sword. “Nope but that is a nasty wound. Now get up and help me haul all this loot back.” He gestured to their sole remaining goblin henchman. “Gorgut take the Khans head. Trustee Sniv will want to see it. Careful now it’s worth 10 slaves.”
The heroes were ushered into a part of the kobold markets they had not seen before. It seemed to be all storage crates and scurrying kobold workers. Beyond the warren of storage was Trustee Sniv’s audience chamber. A rickety wooden throne behind some tattered faded curtains. Sniv offered them crates of merchandise of dubious value and apologized that the slaves he had promised were not yet available. Frank asked for assistance, perhaps some warriors. Wilhelm scoffed at the idea of kobold warriors. He had experienced their ‘usefulness’ first hand. Frank whispered something about cannon fodder and Wilhelm nodded in agreement. Regrettably Sniv could not lend them his warriors as it would jeopardize the kobolds carefully cultivated neutral stance in Stonehell. Instead he offered them the use of a kobold scout who new the lay of the land, theirs for 5 days. That and of course the slaves when they arrived. Frank wanted them to sweeten the deal with the capture of the gnolls he had earlier antagonized but again Sniv refused on the grounds that it would violate their neutrality.