The kobold markets were neutral ground where deals could be struck, information gathered and slaves bought and sold. Amongst the kobold crowd the group picked out some savage orcs, disciplined hobgoblins, sniveling goblins, sinister cultists and the odd bugbear that seemed to keep the peace amongst the various factions. It was in the markets that Derek Schiller parted ways with the group, returning to the surface and Drellin’s Ferry. ‘Who knows what my sister has been up to during my absence.’
Frank roamed the markets looking for equipment to outfit his newly purchased, or liberated depending on your outlook, slaves. He traded a number of badly cured wolf pelts he had been carrying about as well as some of his coin for shoddy short bows and worn leather armour for his slaves/followers.
Wilhelm visited the kobold equivalent of a tavern. The place was crowded with a motley assortment of creatures and the smell was off putting. In one corner of the tavern sat a woman wearing a heavy veil. At her side stood a mage and two hulking ogre bodyguards wearing full helms that seemed to prevent the wearer from seeing. Wilhelm made some inquiries at the bar about mercenaries and learned that some of the bugbear guards might be available for hire. Two were recruited to the cause and promised a share of the loot. Like the majority of the followers the band would recruit they perished in the dungeon, though being bugbears they lasted longer than most. Wilhelm sauntered up to the bar and ordered their finest ale. The barkeep, a kobold, looked at him strangely and tapped the single keg he had producing a fine, if lumpy, ale. With drink in hand, but untouched, Wilhelm enquired about the veiled woman in the corner. Her name was Larchess and the mage by her side Gerhadt. She was an information broker who was waiting for a dragon to meet her. The dragon would be taking the guise of an elf for the meeting. Not sure whether to believe the barman’s tale Wilhelm approached Larchess. Their conversation was brief and amounted to Wilhelm suspecting Larchess of being a medusa. It seemed very little of worth could be gained from discussions with Larchess without much coin changing hands. Gerhadt the mage seemed like a nice enough fellow though he was too attached to Larchess to part from her company.
While roaming the markets Frank was accosted by some of the sinister priests. They insisted that he repent and convert to their god Thazridun, duke of bones. Frank, who had his liberated slaves in tow, declined the priests offer and drew his weapon. The priests responded in kind and battle was joined. Things ended unfavorably for the priests in a short and one sided conflict. At the conclusion of the battle a number of kobolds guards arrived. One of them pointed to the bloody war hammer in Franks hand.
‘Manling, how did you get your hammer back from storage?’
Indeed something mysterious had happened. In order to access the kobold markets the heroes had turned in their weapons, which Frank himself had secured with a lock bought from town. Now as violence loomed his war hammer had mysteriously appeared at his belt. Frank merely shrugged at the unusual turn of events and turned in his weapon once again.
Tiring of the markets the group set off down some nearby stairs delving deeper into Stonehell in search of the famed burning priest. Defeating the burning priest had originally been the quest Derek and Frank had settled on in order to win fame. With Derek gone Frank saw no reason to abandon the quest. At the base of the stairs the band were accosted by hobgoblins that demanded many things of them. Wilhelm became frustrated by their line of questioning and became more than a little snarky. He waved them away dismissively. ‘I tire of your constant questioning hobgoblins, you bore me.’
‘Watch your tongue human, we could just as easily spit you on a pike.’
‘Is that a threat hobgoblin? For if it is then know that you had best back up your words with action.’
‘You are a coward!’ The hobgoblin roared stepping closer.
‘Sorry I couldn’t hear you.’ Wilhelm responded. The nobleman had selective hearing when it came to insults towards his person. The hobgoblin raised his gauntlet ready to challenge Wilhelm to a duel. ‘Oh you will see action soon enough. You and me. One on one’
‘GET THEM!’ Wilhelm shouted pushing his henchmen forward.
The hobgoblins were put to the sword but during the battle a liberated kobold slave fell; his body was to be left on the dungeon floor. Sure that hobgoblin reinforcement were on the way the band hurried back up the stairs and lost themselves in the markets waiting for the situation to cool down.
After some time, and assuming the coast was clear, the group ventured back down the stairs. Again they were accosted by hobgoblins who seemed on edge. They asked the party to wait while they went to fetch the Khan. The band still intended to pass through hobgoblin territory on the way to where they believed the burning priest could be found.
’This is the first time we have been down those stairs, honest.’ Wilhelm insisted.
The Khan, when he arrived with an entourage and pet lions, was skeptical of their tale but held the kobolds responsible for murder of his guards. As payment for passing through his territory he would be entitled to give one of their kobold slaves a kick, thus in some minor way venting his pent up aggression. Agreeing to the deal, the heroes offered up a kobold follower who the Khan booted in the head. The force was such that the poor creature went flying backwards and an audible crack was heard as its skull shattered.
‘Now see here good man.’ Wilhelm interjected ‘This was not the deal at all. There was never any discussion about killing.’
The Khan shrugged.
‘It seems we should at the very least be able to kick one of your men in the head.’ Wilhelm demanded.
The Khan looked displeased giving the nobleman a withering stare. The Khan’s mountain lions snarled.
‘Don’t worry about him Khan.’ Frank interjected. ‘We’ll be on our way.’
Scouting to the west the party encountered a grey ooze which they fled from and a spilt potion which they had their sole remaining kobold slave sample. Pressing on they encountered another hobgoblin patrol which let them pass unchallenged. Their band seemed too strong to mess with based on numbers alone. In a ruined church of sorts far to the west the group found the burning priest. A skeletal robed figure wreathed in a column of fire. The priest ranted and preached a sermon about end times which included passing references to the heroes. While obviously not hostile the group surrounded him and then launched their attack amongst the decaying pews of this long abandoned chapel. The burning priest fought like a demon his flaming fists landing telling blows on Frank knocking the fighter out. Wilhelm pressed the undead monstrosity but to little effect before one of the bugbear retainers hired in the kobold market landed a telling blow with it’s mace smashing the burning priests spine. After some time Frank regained consciousness and decided to claim the priests continuously flaming skull as a prize which he attached to his shield.
Exploring further the group found chimes, a gong, a number of minor traps and a secret door behind a bookcase. Beyond the secret door the group found some scrolls and potions and perhaps more importantly a safe place to rest and recuperate.
The band continued exploring northward. A rug covered pit trap claimed their sole surviving kobold scout before the group found a room full of wooden statues. Neither hero trusted statues and Wilhelm produced from his pack one of the countless flasks of oil he had collected. These the group threw on the statues from a distance before igniting them. Their caution was justified as one of the statues animated and was swiftly put down by sword and hammer blows. Further exploration uncovered a corridor choked with spider webs, which the band put to the torch.
Having earlier encountered a giant wasp nest the party made their way towards it all the while pushing the heaped burning wooden statues ahead of them. On the way they encountered some zombies that braved the flames to reach them. Badly burnt they were no match for the seasoned adventurers. By the time they had reached the wasp chamber the band stoked the flames higher encouraging as much smoke as possible. The net result was some drowsy wasps that were easily dispatched. The wasp nest was a brittle affair and was quickly set ablaze with burning arrows. With the wasps corpses still smoldering about their feet the group set about searching the chamber. In it they found sections of the floor dug up as if someone had been digging for something. The group decided to dig up the remainder of the floor and were rewarded with a sizable cache of treasure.
Content with their accumulated loot the group decided to retire to the secret alcove in the chapel area for a rest. On the way they were greeted by Irish accents emerging from thin air. It seemed invisible pixies had found them. Wilhelm and Frank each sighed in relief as the encounter with the pixies offered a brief respite from the life and death struggles within Stonehell. With the pixies watching on the group prepared to make camp.