They wait, weapons and spells at the ready… But nothing happens. They wait a little more… And still nothing. Apparently the orcs are either too stupid or more scared than Beg to use the glyph. Sieglinde chances a look. She tells the others if she’s not back in about five seconds, come out and help her out. She pops out and sees the hallway empty, then goes in and gets the other two and they continue their scouting.
Just past the gallery of broken statues is a stairway that goes down into the dark depths. They decide to see what they can see, so down they go. At the bottom of the stairs is a room whose walls are completely covered in child-like stick figure drawings, mostly depicting humanoids, though there are some other creatures depicted. Sinetel says he notices the same Chaotic influence as in the old fresco paintings in the level above, despite these drawings being far less sophisticated and most being very recent as well.
Taking the passageway to the right, they encounter a human skeleton, completely stripped and leaning against the wall of the hallway. Scrawled in blood above the head is the message, “my mother never loved me”. Passing this by they come to a fork in the passageway. To the right it slants away at about a 45 degree angle while on the left it continues on for a bit before slanting off in the opposite direction. There are a couple of doors on either side of the passage as well.
Looking down at her map, then up at the suddenly not straight corridors and 90 degree turns, Sieglinde turns everyone around and heads back up to the first level. Heading back to the main north / south passage from the room with the dwarves, they literally run into a patrol of four orcs. The leader shoves Sinetel out of the way and says in guttural common, “Out of the way, weakling! This is Open Sore territory now! No more scurrying weaklings. Leave!” Then he says something in Orcish to his companions and they all walk away laughing, turning into the room with the garbage and erstwhile rats.
Ignoring this heartfelt plea, they decide to head down in the direction the orcs just came from. At a four way intersection, they turn right and eventually find themselves in an uncarved natural cavern. The only remarkable thing about it is the line of a dozen kobolds carrying sacks over their backs heading towards the party. Sieglinde asks what they’re up to and they say they’re harvesting fungus on orders for Trustee. After a somewhat awkward and stilted conversation, they continue on their way. Sieglinde decides she wants to see where they’re going, so they start to follow them stealthily.
Turns out, the kobolds turn into the trash room! Stepping through the garbage as quietly as possible in pursuit, they notice the weirdly calm rat with the collar is still here. Deciding to investigate, they find that it’s tame and appreciates the attention. Looking more closely at the collar, they see a round brass tag that says, “Precious”. Looking more closely at other things, they see that it’s a female. Again, not terribly interested in this, they leave it be to continue following the kobolds.
A short way past the garbage room, they hear the sounds of orcs muttering to themselves and a general scraping and moving about of heavy things. Peeking around the corner, they see a makeshift barricade that the orcs are putting back together, having let the kobolds through. They can just see the last of the lizard-like creatures disappear into the passage opposite their hiding place. Again, using Thaumaturgy, Sieglinde causes a sound to occur in the third passage to see what happens.
As the orcs behind the barricade hear it, they call out in Orcish. From the same passage the sound came from, more orcs appear and yell at the ones in the room. Both parties of greenskins look confused for a bit, then look around to see Sieglinde’s head poking out of the corner. Not waiting to see what they’re going to do, the party decides to cheese it. They hang a right and find themselves back at the room with Snorri and his assistants. From the sound of it, the orcs went the opposite way, likely because the patrol saw them down there. It also seems that Precious has followed them.
Snorri seems delighted to see them. “Ah! You’re back! Excellent! Let me see what you’ve found…” And he expectantly holds out his hands for some research. Sieglinde explains they haven’t actually found anything yet, sorry. “Ah… Well, I suppose it hasn’t really been that long, has it?” Asking again how to find these dwarven rooms, Sieglinde admits that she doesn’t actually know what the Kobold Korners even are, let alone where they are, so couldn’t just walk in and hire a guide as Snorri suggests.
He tells them that the Kobold Korners is a section of this level that is controlled by Trustee Sniv, the leader of the kobolds. They’ve set up a loosely neutral ground where a market has sprung up selling foodstuffs harvested from the caverns as well as basic supplies. There’s also a crude place to sleep and fermenter, though he wouldn’t call it an inn nor tavern. It’s quite likely that someone there could be hired on as a guide, or perhaps they could purchase a map. Who knows what sort of random stuff could be there, week to week?
Asking how he stays here unmolested, he explains that the orcs have only very recently moved into this section of the tunnels. They call themselves the Open Sore clan, and they have aspirations to take over the entire first level. They used to have a rough alliance with a clan of goblins calling themselves the “wolf something-or-other” but that seems to have been put to the side in the orcs’ bid for power. They seem to leave him and other non goblins alone, so long as they stay out of their way and pay their “protection” money and tolls for passage through their territory.
Deciding to scout out some more, they turn down the passage opposite the one leading to the lower level. Down the hall a bit, they enter a small, oval room and a larger, lit room with shadows moving around in it just past that. In the oval room there are two statues of humans staring and pointing straight at each other. Noticing the slight blackening of the fingertips, they do some more investigating and figure out this is some sort of magical trap. Figuring they’ll try to just get around it, they all try to squeeze their way behind the statues. It almost works, but Beg’s sword scrapes along the wall making a horrible noise. Within seconds, the same large Orc that bumped into them in the corner comes from the lit room. He looks slightly more than unhappy as he pulls his mace threateningly and yells, “told you, LEAVE! YOU LEAVE NOW!” He doesn’t seem in the mood to argue the point, and neither are any of the party, so they slink back the other way.
They’re not followed or watched, though, so they head back down the main north south passage, Precious trailing them a few steps back, silently. This time turning away from where they met the kobolds. On the wall, scribbled in charcoal, is a loud looking message in Orcish. Not being able to read it, they keep going. Looking down another side shaft and taking a second to draw the map, a small lookout door inside the door behind them opens up and a burly looking Orc face stares out at them. “This Open Sore territory now. You leave!” Getting the message, the head back to the main passage.
Heading down, they enter a longish room with columns down two rows in the center. Just as they enter, they see the torches of an Orc hunting party, led by a larger, more militant looking one and three sets of two following behind. The pairs are each carrying a pole between them with some dead fire beetles trussed to them. The party books it back up the passage and hides out in the natural cavern where the Kobold fungus harvesters were until they see the hunting party pass on by.
Going back to the room with the columns, they see a door on the right side and a busted down door on the left. Going over to the busted door, they see movement inside the small room past it. Getting closer, they see two enormous toads lazily sucking up a snack of a swarm of flies in the room. Each one of these toads is easily the size of a small cow and seems uninterested in the party until they decide to walk into the room. As Sieglinde steps over the threshold, the amphibians seem extremely agitated and turn towards them.
Boldly ignoring the threat posed by the giant toads, the whole party (except for Precious) walks into the room and is immediately set upon by the angry toads! One hops over to Beg and bites him. The dripping saliva and mucus gets in the wound and he’s poisoned as well as bleeding. A lot.
The other makes a large jump over to Sieglinde, biting her as it comes down. It’s so fast, she has no time to scream as she drops unconscious to the floor, bleeding out. The toad then decides to ignore her as a snack until the other pests are taken care of.
Beg is valiantly fighting for his life and manages to damage one of the toads pretty badly while dodging the tongue lashings of the other. Sinetel quickly rummages around in Sieglinde’s pack for anything that may help and comes up with a healing potion! Pouring it down her gullet, he gets the both of them back up and into the fight. Sieglinde gets off a spell to damage the hurt toad before the other turns around and gives her a big ‘ol bite again, dropping her to the floor.
A this point, the two companions are ready to say to hell with this shit, so Sinetel casts a Fog Cloud and drags the unconscious Sieglinde out of the room while Beg covers the retreat. Back in the main room with the columns, the toads don’t follow out of the fog bank. They manage to carry Sieglinde back to the dwarves’ camp where they take enough of a rest for Sieglinde to get back on her feet. Walking, but barely, she casts Thaumaturgy on the one way door back to the spiral staircase out of the dungeon. Snorri looks impressed and says, “well, I never thought of that… Might come in handy to not have to pay the tolls out of here, if I can figure that trick out…”
They get back to the keep with little incident. Nursing her wounds with Precious at the foot of the bed, Sieglinde asks Sinetel to figure out what the spells are in the book. He’s very excited and says he’d love to head back down into the dungeon, if she would ever need some help again. He’d probably have to charge a bit more next time, though, seeing as it was a bit more dangerous than he’d thought originally. Plus there was the whole thing about saving her life. Twice.
Beg is not so happy about the affair. Between the creepy paintings, orcs yelling at them all the time, smelly rats and garbage, then almost getting eaten by frogs, he’s out. “That was not like the stories! I’m going back to my farm, to hell with this place!” He then commences to sulking on his bunk with arms crossed.
Hoping she’ll soon get a clue as to where her mother has gone, Sieglinde drifts off into a deep sleep…
And so ends the second delve into Stonehell Dungeon!