Here begins the second journal of my travels – the first one was destroyed yesterday, so if you want to know how I got to this point you'll have to read the letters I've been sending my family.
After our altercation with a black slimy thing in Tinnidus, followed by two ghosts, Bimp and I waited out the last watch of the night. During that time we heard a soft scrabbling outside, and once or twice a loud clattering as if something had been knocked over. Since whatever-it-was showed no interest in coming inside, we were content to leave it be until morning.
Ilde: “If the dog dies, we're going to get an alligator.”
Soon enough, morning came, and with it another hazy day with a sulfurous smell in the air. We mentioned the night's noises to our companions, and when we opened the door Ilde found footprints outside which she identified as kobold. We followed them to the next building, and while the others stood around talking loudly about what they'd do with a kobold I opened the door and went in.
Inside, I saw not a kobold but a halfling. He told me he'd been travelling the mountain by himself, and we went out to meet my companions, who greeted him with suspicion and hostility as I suggested that we should join forces. Grot declared that he didn't smell like a halfling (the more I learn about Grot's past, the less I want to know) and Ilde demanded that he walk in a line “to show his capabilities”.
Kit'ari, that being his name, chose to demonstrate his abilities in a more direct fashion: he cancelled the illusion spell on himself, and revealed that he was indeed a kobold – although unlike the reddish-brown and green ones we had seen previously, this one was a rather pretty silver-white. I winced; I was already well aware that Ilde, Bimp, and Norton had considerable prejudices where kobolds are concerned (although not half-orcs, for reasons beyond my ken) and I half expected them to try killing him on the spot.
Ilde: “Kobold soup is really nice! So much better than dog.”
I suspect that's exactly what would have happened, had I not argued long and hard against the idea. I tried to persuade Ilde to judge him on his own merits, but she was completely intransigent. Eventually we agreed to vote on the subject: Osh and I voted to let him come with us, Bimp and Ilde voted against, and Norton abstained, leaving Grot to decide.
Osh: “Isn't there a little bit of kobold in all of us?”
Bimp: “AAAH! AAH! AAH! GETITOFF!”
Grot asked Kit'ari to show us what he could do, and the little fellow impressed us by opening his mouth and letting out a blast of cold air that cracked the tiles on a nearby rooftop – evidently his relationship to his draconic forebears was a little more direct than most kobolds'.
Osh: “Can you do Prestidigitation?”
Osh: “You're out.”
Imbezi: “...But DO you do Prestidigitation?”
Osh: “You're in!”
Eventually Grot decided to let Kit'ari travel with us for a little while and see how it went. Having spent entirely too long arguing about all this, we continued along the road to the north, which now began to curve uphill into a more desolate and rocky area marked only by drying grass and a few orcs and ogres dead on the roadside.
The clouds had grown blacker, and we could hear thunder approaching. A milestone indicated that we still had fourteen miles to go to 'C' (from memory, I think the name of the town was Coffred) so we looked for shelter. There was little enough, but we managed to find an overhanging rock wall that kept us at least moderately dry.
It looked as if we had not been the first to shelter there. There were letters crudely scratched into the rocks, accompanied by a stick-figure hanging from a gallows. (I thought perhaps some bored traveller had been playing a game of Hangman, but it seems not.) My companions identified it as Orcish, leading to a problem: the only one among us who speaks Orcish is Osh, who can't read. But it seems Orcish uses the same alphabet as Dwarvish and Gnome. Norton began reading out the sounds to Osh, who stared at him in amazement and then smacked him with the flat of his axe.
Osh: “Anyway, you never met my mother!”
Afterwards, Bimp used magic to translate it. It turned out to be the tale of Brago, an orcish outlaw who was caught and executed by the local authorities, presumably recorded by some of his companions.
As we waited for the rain to subside, we heard a rumbling noise. By now we are quite familiar with rumbling noises; this one was not Osh's stomach and didn't seem to be coming from the mountain itself, and as we waited it became clear that something large was walking towards us.
As it approached, we made out the lumpy features of a giant, standing more than twice my height. We were unsure as to its intent, and I stepped out of the shelter to greet it – speaking Common, since I don't know the giants' tongue.
Just as I finished my greeting, I heard two sets of gnomish chanting behind me. Before I could do anything, a fireball flew past and struck the giant, and as the blast died down a glowing weapon – one of Bimp's summonings – appeared in midair and began to strike it. Ilde called on what grass there was in the area to entangle it, and sent her dog charging towards it.
Grot: “Get it in the Jatz crackers, Barry!”
The giant was enraged – as it had every right to be – and threw a tremendous rock at me. I dodged out of the way, and – not having had time to think things through – shot back at it, hitting it square in the chest with my crossbow.
I won't dwell on the fight. Suffice it to say that between us we slew the creature, with the only injury on our part being to Osh, who was hit by another flying rock. In hindsight I deeply regret taking part at all – I was nearly flattened by a rock and thought to defend myself, but the fight was certainly not the giant's fault.
I was furious at Bimp and Norton, all the more so when it turned out that Norton knew how to speak the giants' language and simply hadn't bothered trying! We did our best to give the poor creature its last rites, and Osh covered it with stones.
Then we retreated to the shelter and began arguing about who should take which watch (something which comes up every single night – perhaps we should just work out the order once and for all, and stick to it?) While we were still discussing it, another rock flew out of the darkness and clobbered Norton, and a booming voice demanded “WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH HIM?”
Having had time to think about the previous battle, I was absolutely unwilling to let things get even further out of hand. I stepped out towards the giantess – she was the dead giant's widow – and tried to pacify her (and, perhaps more importantly, my own companions). I told her the truth: we had killed her husband by misjudgement.
She wanted to know who had started the fight. I was unwilling to name names, but told her that if those who'd begun it weren't willing to own up I would take responsibility on their behalf.
At this point, I cringed as I heard Bimp beginning to cast another spell. She was rudely (if very deservedly) interrupted in the middle of it, as the giantess hit her with another rock, and I couldn't help but see some justice in the fact that the two who'd been hit were the two who had got us into this mess. I think this also helped mollify her when Bimp and Norton were identified as the culprits, and eventually we came to a peaceful settlement: as blood-guild, we turned over a jewelled and valuable robe that we had taken from the ogre mage we fought earlier. She was touched by the fact that Osh had paid his respects to her husband, and gave him one of the rocks he'd been carrying; I presume they're important to these folk beyond their use as a weapon, but I don't know what it's about.
(I am sorry to say that afterwards, Bimp could not understand why we didn't just fight her. Argh!)
As the giant left, I heard a commotion behind me. Ilde's dog was trying to grab Kit'ari; she claims he had provoked it by offering the dog meat, but I would not be entirely astonished to discover that Ilde had instigated things. In any case, it was eventually settled without bloodshed, and we retired for the night.
During their watch, Norton and Kit'ari heard a rumbling from uphill and saw a red speck in the sky, flying up from roughly where we expected Coffred to be, and then saw the same speck returning some time later. This seemed ominous, but we decided to continue anyway; we had made it almost all the way around the mountain by now, and were looking forwards to returning to Odo's Rest.
As the milestone had told us, it was about fourteen miles to Coffred. Shortly before we got there, we saw an old, worn-looking path running steeply uphill with some very big footprints on it. All things considered, I thought it best not to seek out further contact with the local giants, and fortunately my companions agreed.
Soon after that we came to Coffred. It was a small town, neatly laid out with an eight-foot wall around it, and we could see a thick plume of smoke rising from one spot near the middle of town. As we approached we could see that the main gate had been smashed off its hinges – from the inside – and the houses near the middle had been badly damaged, quite recently, by some sort of explosion. In the middle, where the town hall probably used to be, was a big crater surrounded by debris, with a hole in the middle leading down into the ground.
We looked around the town cautiously. Like Tinnidus, it looked to have been deserted for the last three hundred years, but in this case more gradually – there was no furniture left behind. (We did, however, find one house containing an assortment of basic weapons and the like – perhaps Brago's old hideout?)
I volunteered to scout the tunnel, not because I had any great desire to climb down into what seemed like grave danger but because I was hoping to put an end to Ilde's cracks about 'dropping the kobold into the hole'. Osh held the rope and I lowered myself down. After a steep drop of about twenty feet, I found myself in an old mine tunnel. The sulfurous smell was strong here, and the wooden supports were charred. The whole place was very steamy and smoky, and I could barely see fifteen feet in front of me. I felt very uneasy about the whole place, and decided to return to the surface. Looking at the vertical section near where I'd entered, it seemed as if that final stretch had been blasted through the rock, and I was not eager to meet whatever had done it.
Ilde wanted to look around town for another entrance to the tunnel; Norton, Grot, and Bimp seated themselves on the wall and watched, eating and talking. Osh, Kit'ari and yours truly were feeling increasingly nervous about the place, and we were heading for the gate when trouble struck.
As I said, three of our number were sitting on the wall, watching Ilde, with their backs to the wide world outside... well, there was indeed a dragon, but it wasn't in the tunnels. It had apparently been out and about, and coming back it flew straight for those three, catching Norton across the back with a claw and then blasting the others with a gout of fire that put Grot out of action immediately and killed his hawk.
The dragon was flying low, in amongst the houses, and things got rather chaotic. Osh ran north, caught a second blast from the dragon and took cover inside a nearby house before it could do more damage, while I ran north between an old tavern and the town wall. Norton yelled “Spread out!” and ran straight towards me, which did not exactly fill me with confidence, and then the dragon swooped down at us. I think Norton had hit it with a spell of some sort, and so it went for him rather than me. I managed to shove him out of the way as it swiped with another talon, and landed a solid blow in its underbelly – but I doubt it even felt the blow. The black dragon we had fought earlier was about the size of a dog, and vicious enough all the same; this one was about the size of a horse, not counting the wings, and I knew we were in a lot of trouble.
Bimp summoned up a hippogriff, which flew after the dragon, clawing at its tail, but I'm not sure how much effect it had. We were shooting at it, and Norton and Bimp were targeting it with spells, but it was hard for us to bring much to bear on it. Osh had lost his crossbow to the black slime (although he nearly hit the dragon from a window, throwing the giant's rock) and Kit'ari caught it with the freezing blast of breath he'd shown us before.
The dragon had been circling, and just as Norton came up right next to me it came around again. This time it flew overhead and breathed straight down, leaving us with nowhere to hide, and I lost consciousness in a terrific blast of flame. Bimp tells me I came within a hair's-breadth of death before she healed me – I am glad, if a little surprised, that she stopped to heal me rather than trying to get in another hit on it – and my journal was incinerated. Norton was killed outright.
By the time I was conscious again, the dragon was flying away. It seems we'd battered it enough to discourage it. I got off one shot with my crossbow, from about three hundred feet; my aim was true, but the bolt just deflected off the dreadful beast's iron-hard scales. We were unable to catch it, so we had nothing to do but lick our wounds and wait for Bimp's healing. Grot, although unconscious, had survived, so the only two casualties were Norton and the hawk. (Perhaps it is uncharitable of me, and I certainly didn't wish him harm, but it does seem a little karmic that Norton died in a giant fireball.)
Osh: “I say we take Norton's body to the giant.”
Since the dragon had fled for the time being, we thought we might as well at least investigate its lair. Ilde began on her 'send the kobold' line again, and Kit'ari agreed to scout. About twenty minutes later he came back, not from the hole but from the south side of town, confirming that there was another exit over there. He had found the dragon's hoard, and my companions were eager to loot it. Osh and Kit'ari were posted as guards at the tunnel entrances.
We found a sizeable sum of coin and jewellery, but nothing magical. When we returned to the surface, Kit'ari was nowhere to be seen. Evidently he had decided to take his chances alone rather than putting up with Ilde and Bimp's constant hostility, and I can't blame him in the slightest.
It occurs to me that, given the not-tremendously-large size of the tunnel, he was down there quite some time before he returned to tell us about the hoard, and the last time I saw him he was moving slowly, as if his pack was heavier than it had been. But all things considered, that strikes me as no more than he and the others deserved.