Silence. Darkness. Both were welcome. Only a hint of oily smoke hung in the air. Krahn and Elan lifted their swords and the soft glow from Elan’s light spells made it so the group could see each other.
“I much prefer that to me being the torch,” joked Krahn. No one laughed. His nostrils were filled with the smell of smoke and he was not sure that his clothes were not still smoldering. His chainmail was still a bit warm to the touch.
The group huddled together in the rough cavern. They paid no attention to the shattered carapaces of the fire beetles they had stripped of glow organs. Lard’s tethered fire beetle seemed to pay them no mind either. Though injured, they were all still alive and that counted for something at least. They took some time to bandage their wounds and rest a bit before really speaking to each other and deciding to move on. The party was split on the benefits of going back through the area from where the fire beast had come or turn and explore the area beyond their current cavern. As usual, Lard just began walking. He chose the way of the fire beast.
Only a few smoldering pieces of broken wood were left at the far end of the passageway. Barely noticeable above the acrid smell of smoke, the group noticed the smell of animals . . . goats?
Sure enough, in the dim light of the glowing swords, the groups saw the red night time eyes of a large herd of goats, filling the cavern and blocking their path. The herd was quiet except the faint, occasional, halfhearted bleat as one billy jostled another. Krahn noted that it must be late in the night or early in the morning considering how much they had had to rest and bind their wounds.
The Dwarf, wasting no time, headed towards the far end of the cavern and wading through the herd. “There’s only one way left to go and it is straight through them,” he growled. The others followed and no one proceeded cautiously. The goats were none too pleased and soon the entire herd was snorting, bleating and raising a ruckus. Anything ahead of them would be forewarned . . .
The group eventually reached an immense chamber, at least 40 feet by 60 feet with a 20 feet high ceiling (at least that was Lard’s estimation – he may be a Ranger but was still a Dwarf). To the east lay a pile of furs and situated along the north wall was an unlit fire pit and a huge iron-bound chest, perhaps 10 feet long. To the west was a curtained-off area. The group spread out with Wapa, Elan and Lard arguing over who would open the chest. Silaqui and Morlar began poking at the furs while Krahn peeked at the empty fire pit on way over to the huge curtain.
As he started to peek around the edge of the curtain, the hairs on the back of Krahn’s neck stood up like toy soldiers. He would never be sure if it was a partial shadow, some soft sound of breathing or divine intervention, but he knew to duck and take a step back. As he did, the curtains came down around the spot in which he had stood just a fraction of a second before and a great roar of anger poured out from behind it. There, in all of his glory and with no hint of druggedness or drunkenness stood Blogg, the Ogre of Dauth.
Tired though they were, the group sprang into action, sensing that their mission was nearing an end. Silently, Silaqui gave a quick thankful thought that the fire pit was not lit and did not contain any remains recognizable as Dayl or Jonas. She moved with lightning speed towards the Ogre, preparing to show him what it mean to be at the receiving end of an Aes Sídhe monk.
But it was Krahn that was closest. He had had his sword at the ready and he slashed at Blogg viciously, opening a large, seeping gash across the leather armored chest of the beast. The Ogre grunted in pain then laughed. “Puny HOOmahn! That just makes me stronger,” he said in accented but clear Common.
The group swarmed him and traded blows with Blogg but neither side could land. Blogg’s massive club, as thick as a birch tree, deflected their efforts and neither the swirling swords of Elan and Krahn or the kicks and punches of Silaqui connected. Lard could not get into the fray as the others pinned Blogg back against a table.
Aiming carefully, the Gnome did manage to sneak in a crossbow bolt that sunk deep into the Ogre’s thigh. That shot saved a rib crunching jab to Krahn’s chest from Blogg.
The Gnome screamed at the top of his lungs, “Stand clear! I am going to magic missile his arse!” But no one hears him and the crowd did not move. “Best not to waste the spell,” he thought as he remembered the gift from Tarik.
Wapa stepped towards Blogg but his swing was batted away by the Ogre’s club. The beast swung it around and over his head then brought it crashing down on the Elf’s head. Wapa’s knees went weak and he stumbled to a kneeling position. Blood gushed into his eyes and he felt like he might pass out. As the club returned to finish him off, Lard grabbed the back of Wapa’s collar and quickly dragged him out of the way; the club crashing into the floor rumbled the cavern like a mini earthquake.
Silaqui gave a high roundhouse kick that she hoped would knock the Ogre senseless. Unfortunately, his last missed swing had led to a sort of duck and she aimed over his head. But the fierceness of it made Blogg hesitate and Krahn thrust forward with his sword, burying the blade deep into the monster’s belly and out the other side.
The creature stood up to his full height, eyes full of anger and for the first time in a long time . . . fear. Instead of roaring he could manage only a whimper. It was clear now to him that either all of these home invaders or he would die that day. Blogg did not want it to be him so he drew back his club, determined to knock Krahn’s head from his shoulders.
The metallic crossbow bolt shot forward with a soft “Feethwap” sound that belayed its deadliness. No sparks flew nor did the magical quarrel leave a light trace in the air (much to Morlar and Elan’s disappointment). But it did find its mark: Blogg’s left eye. The projectile, fired by Morlar, ripped through flesh and brain matter, stopping only after piercing the back of the Ogre’s skull. For a second, or perhaps it was a mere millisecond that everyone felt as longer, there was silence. It was almost comical; that huge beast, all eight feet of him, stood transfixed by a tiny, little crossbow bolt. But then time restarted and the beast fell back on the table, crushing its weak wooden legs and stained surface. Blogg was dead.
The party scoured the room. Lard told hem that someone or something had escaped via the trap door they found beyond the curtained off area. But they needed to make sure that nothing lurked up with them. Also, Elan decided he needed to scalp the Ogre and take a war prize. It was messy and gross and the rest of them tried not to watch (but did).
They did not find much in the room except a humongous, Ogre sized set of leather armor, a spare great club and six large rocks. But they did stuff their pockets, pouches and packs with as many silver coins as they could carry from the chest. They had to leave behind most of them; there were at least 1000 inside. Unfortunately, there was still no clue of where the Ogre had hidden the missing townspeople. Other than down the trapdoor.
The descent was almost disastrous but luckily the Dwarf spotted a loose rung trap after puzzling over the clue carved in the pit’s wall. The group also found a trip wire in the hall below which seemed to trigger some additional trap in the ceiling. The halls were lined with torches which still burned and led to a large smooth carved cavern lit by some unknown light source that seemed to come from everywhere at once. Elan and Morlar agreed it seemed to be some variation of a continual light spell.
The room itself was amazingly clean; unnaturally clean. Along the northwest wall was a stocky L-shaped wooden workbench covered with beakers, flasks and assorted glassware. A smaller wooden table rested to the southwest but did not appear nearly as cluttered. It held a few opened books and orderly rows of upside-down glassware. Along the northeast wall were several pegs holding cloaks and a broom. Picking up a book, Morlar and Lard began to read about silver smithing . . .