The caves were not only dark, which complicated things more than he had expected from his readings, but they were also trapped. This was a perfect adventure! This was exactly what Gavin had dreamed about since he could dream. Navigating narrow cave tunnels was part of the job. He shouldered past Rusty to engage the Gnolls in the first big room. Why had Rusty stopped? PIT TRAP! FOUND IT! He cried from the bottom of the ten-foot trap. Thank Iomedae they hadn’t implanted spears at the bottom or he really would be in trouble. As it was the fall and his sprained left elbow were only an inconvenience. The floating ioun stone cast its light on the rough carved rock walls. Bits of false floor clung to his clothing and hair. It was just like getting knocked off a horse at full charge…thanks Crusader War College for teaching me what that feels like. This was actually easier.
Gavin brushed himself off and grabbed on to the rope that was thrown down to him. Rusty cautioned him, “Watch out for pit traps. There is one right over there at the entrance to the passage.” The combat progressed and soon the last gnolls were dead in the passages thanks to Lilith and Felinor. Rusty moved cautiously discharging one more pit trap without injury. The next room had two narrow cave passages leaving. One climbed up gently to a tiny room where Rusty explored and reported back that there was a door into a larger room. But the way was a squeeze and very exposed. The other passage was dark and eventually opened into the same room. However we found two more pit traps the hard way and had a fight for our life of five gnolls. Rusty nearly died but Felinor, by the Grace of Iomedae, was able to revive him.
I examined the room and we found three butchered and gruesome remains on three tables. One was clearly the partially eaten remains of a cow, one a sheep, and one a partially eaten person. I believe I recognized them from Fairhill but cannot place them nor remember their name. This surely must be related to the disappearances of the livestock from what we believe to Leucrotta raiding farms. Hardigan, the temple scholar in Fairhill, had told him many stories about the chimera beasts who worshipped Lamashtu, the demon mother goddess. Perhaps they were on to something here. Goblins working with Gnolls and in the same room with the remains of reported victims of the Leucrotta. Maybe this was more the quest of the Bump in the Night posting than of the bandits.
Gavin remembered the reward posting from over a week ago. 250gp for confirmation of what is killing the livestock and another 750gp for its elimination. Well, this was definitely the den of whatever beasts were doing the killing. Could it be just the gnolls? Not likely. Something more feral was using this cave as a home.
With Lillith outside regaining her energy the group lacked a skilled tracker. The brushed stone floor of the cave left little opportunity to leave tracks. The stench of the decomposing carcasses overwhelmed the room in the cave so no discernible smell gave away what could be waiting around the next turn in the passage ahead. Again, Gavin cursed wishing he had a wayfinder to accurately determine direction so his maps would be more accurate. In his mind’s eye he tried to draw the turns of the cave. Three lefts and a right should put them heading west through the room. Or had he lost track?
Felinor called for him to move up. They were going on. “I’m all out of spells,” Felinor remarked. “I used the last of my healing on Rusty. If we keep going we are at increased risk of not walking out of here.”
“At least Alton the Bright can sing songs about us,” Gavin replied. They may even avenge us if we die. The party went on, more cautiously than before. Rusty and Bromi moving ahead of the lights and scouting out the area. The beast was at the back, another right turn and down a long cave passage that split and rejoined. The back room was its den. The large creature, a leucrota for sure, loomed up and attacked. We surrounded it and valiantly fought to bring the beast down. Our blades bit true with the blessing of Iomadae upon us and we all survived. The beast was still young. Nearly full grown but not full strength. It had also been previously injured. We could not tell the origin or extent of the previous injuries but perhaps Lilith could tell us more.
Realizing this was not the mother beast we retreated to the tiny room that overlooked the big room which had narrow walls and no large beast would be able to enter. We planned to rest up, heal, and regain spells before tracking down the mother beast and ending this trail of destruction.
That night we ate cold rations and burned no fire. Voices were hushed and only one ioun stone cast its magical light. Gavin sat watch the whole night, having cast his spell that enabled him to eschew sleep and keep his senses alert while still starting the next day refreshed. Just a bit of what the elves have naturally, he thought for not the first time. This had been one of the first real spells he learned as a student in Lastwall. Apprentice studies, combat training, and guard duty took their toll on young men. This spell was the leg up that many magus and war priests used to make it through the school.
The muted conversation moved on to the next courses of action. “What do we do after we kill the mother?”
– Move back to the keep?
– Return to town and claim the reward, 1,000gp goes a long way!
– Track Arjana?
This was the fourth day away from town since meeting the new companions. It was probably time to move back to town, reassure the folk that the beasts were dead. Claim the reward and then think about the next. Returning the trade goods to town should be next. Perhaps they could negotiate a handsome compensation for escorting the safe return of the goods. Or perhaps they would just lead to the death of more caravan drivers. So maybe they should put the end to the bandits in the hills before trying to secure the goods. There were a lot of options, not to mention the Cursed estate, the vampires, the wizards tower quests too.
Gavin mulled over the options as his body rested but his mind remained alert. He proposed returning to town, claiming reward and re-equipping. Then going back to the keep to clear out the cave beneath. That was an interesting cave that predated the foundations of the keep. There could be something to report in his journals in there. After that hopefully Lilith would have been able to pick up Arjana’s trail, now nearly a week old, and close out that problem. After the trade lines to Mormouth and Pitax were open the party’s reputation would mean more and perhaps people would start to give them answers to some of the larger riddles.