Traveling down the halls, they pass the audience chamber where the dwarven plans were found scratched into the wall. Inside, some kobolds are seen cleaning the pile of moldy pillow and generally fixing the place up. The party asks where the Korners are. They’re told they’re just to the east, down the hall. They ask if one of them can guide them there. One agrees after he’s thrown a gold piece. So, off they go. Around the next corner, they come to another round room, this one is painted to look like a pleasant meadow with what looks like halfling cottages dotting the hills. They don’t have a lot of time to examine this, however, since there is a large group of orcs surrounding the opposite portcullis, yelling and carrying on!
Fortunately, they are facing the other direction. Also fortunately, Slayer understands what they’re saying. He hears them yelling out bets to each other and urging on someone that is obviously in combat. But they still can’t see what is happening since they’re all crowded around the gate. Phil decides to climb up onto Slayer’s shoulders so he can look past the yelling orcs. For some reason he decides it would be a good idea to clamber up the front of Slayer’s armor instead of his back. As he’s fumbling around, trying to position himself on the half orc’s back, his javelin clangs agains the bars of the portcullis they’re standing next to. As he finally mounts himself behind the paladin’s head, looking very satisfied with himself, he sees the orcs are all staring straight at them.
“Uh… What’s going on, fellas?” Slayer blurts the first thing that pops into his head. The orog patrol leader looks at him and lets out a guffaw. “HA! Sport! Gambling. The best kind. What the hell is that thing on your shoulders?” gesturing to the naked dwarf. “Oh. That’s my pet!” Slayer says, blurting out the second thing that comes to his mind. The orog seems to take this in stride, as if it were the most obvious answer he could have given. “Place your bets!” He yells, more of an order than an invitation. By this time, another Orc has come over and opened the portcullis and the others have shifted enough so that the party can see what the Open Sores were watching.
Through the bars, they see what looks like a large rodent, bloodied and haggard, fighting a small group of kobolds armed with sticks and small rocks. As rough as the rodent looks, it looks better than the poor kobolds even if you put them all together. Seeing this, Sieglinde turns around to tell their Kobold guide to go hide somewhere. Looking around, she sees the creature was way ahead of her; he’s nowhere to be seen.
The orog explains that they’ve caught a giant shrew and trained it to fight. They also found some kobolds sneaking around their territory, saying they were “cleaning”, so they had them fight. Now they’re betting on the outcome. Phil tells Slayer to let him fight the shrew alone. This is passed on and the orog loves the idea. He tells his troops to shoo away the kobolds – they can get more – now they’ve got a real fight on their hands!
Soon, a new round of betting begins as the orcs start to size up Phil and how well they think he’ll do against the shrew. Bill, the elf, pitches in some money so he and Slayer can bet 20 gold on Phil against the orog who bets on the shrew. Soon, Phil is circling the rodent, trying to get in an opening. Suddenly, it lunges and sinks its teeth into Phil’s shoulder! He drops to one knee but manages to get a good hit in before they break free. From behind the yelling orcs, Sieglinde quietly casts Cure Wounds on Phil whose wounds close up, but the blood remains so the orcs are none the wiser. Refreshed, he tries to jump over the animal and stab it in the back. Unfortunately, the shrew’s fur is slick with blood from the earlier fight and he slips on it, landing prone next to it where he takes a couple of claw slashes for his impertinence.
Lashing out again with the javelin, he slashes it down the side in a good swipe as he gets to his feet, putting a bit of distance between the two. Now the shrew is looking pretty haggard and its next couple of attacks are half-hearted and miss. Phil, feeling a bit sorry for the thing, finishes it off to groans and yells of victory from the orcs.
The bets are all paid off, including the forty gold to Slayer and Bill. Phil wipes himself and his weapon off as the orcs gather their weapons and start to file out, going on patrol again. The orog tells them, “Come find us if you’d like to gamble again. We could find another, better opponent for your pet next time and take our money back, eh? HA! HA! HA!” Then he throws his mace over his shoulder and walks out behind his men.
Down the corridor, they see a glow coming their way and a friendly voice yells, “Hey guys! Wait up!” Milo then appears, his flute illuminating his way. “I ran into a Kobold that said he knew where you were and he could show me for a gold piece. What’s happening here?” They fill him in on what they’ve been up to since entering Stonehell. They decide to continue to explore these painted rooms and they start with the one they’re in.
It’s shape is the same as the others they’ve seen: rounded walls and ceiling with four exits in the cardinal directions and portcullises on three of the passages. There are also a stack of small barrels next to one of the doorways. The painting on the walls here is that of an idillic meadow scene, with gently rolling hills and halfling cottages at the end of flowered lanes. Standing on one of these lanes, looking like it is walking towards the party, is another depiction of a sphinx. This one is larger than the previous two and in greater detail.
Slayer reaches out with his divine sense and clearly sees that the image of the Sphinx seems to glow in his sight. He senses a powerful, divine presence is embodied in the image, but it’s as if he’s seeing it through a gauzy haze. He gets a very strong sense that there is something even more powerful just up the hallway in the next room. They all decide to head up that way and enter another of the round rooms.
This one is not painted. Instead, the walls are covered in an intricate mosaic scene of craggy, snow capped mountain peaks and high plateaus. The tiny tiles are so skillfully set that it looks as if turbulent seas, vast deserts, thick jungles, rolling hills, and dark forests are all set off in the distance between the towering pinnacles. On one of the plateaus that seems closest, a highly detailed image of a Sphinx is seen, staring straight at the party, tiny jewels for eyes, gold leaf on its flanks and pearls for wings. Slayer sees the diving glow even stronger from this image, but it’s still coming to him through some sort of fog as if he’s not actually looking right at it. Again, he feels an even more powerful force in the next room up.
Fearing his sense may fade, he leads the party as they run pellmell up the hallway. Soon, however, he’s laying in the bottom of a pit trap set in the middle of the passageway! Luckily, Milo remembers this type of trapdoor mechanism from when Arya found herself in one and he gets to work cutting the ropes that set the tension on the doors. When the butterfly doors opened up, Slayer slammed his head on the opposite wall of the pit, getting a nasty goose egg on his forehead. This, and the effort to climb out with the help of his companions, breaks his concentration and he loses his divine sight for now. Brushing himself off, he leads them into the next room.
This room is made to look like a small clearing in a dark forest with towering trees. Paths lead out from the center and into the darkness where the suggestion of eyes can be seen. The ceiling is done with such skillful perspective artistry that it looks like the canopy of trees is hundreds of feet in the air, despite the ceiling being only about twenty feet high at the apex of the parabola. The most striking thing about this scene, however, is the Sphinx. Painted to what must be full scale and seemingly standing on the same plane as the floor they are, it’s a highly detailed, imposing and majestic image. They can even see individual feathers on its wings and tufts of fur in the mane that give the illusion of movement in a slight breeze. It’s so realistic, underneath the layers of dust on the walls, that it seems like it might simply walk straight out of the painting and say hello at any moment.
For now, they’re distracted from this amazing image by the dead body on the floor. Bill decides to pilfer what he can from it and rolls it over, revealing that it is the dead and slightly bloated corpse of Beg! Sieglinde explains who Beg was and the weird, silent pseudo-Beg that tried to lure them down the passages before they killed it. She’s very troubled by this turn of events and doesn’t quite know what to make of it. As she’s busy with her moral upset, Bill continues to see if there’s anything of worth on the poor sot. He decides not to grab the serviceable short sword for now and Slayer takes it. They find nothing else of value on the body.
Slayer looks closer at the image of the Sphinx and notices that it look as if it were painted here for centuries, covered with dust and even flaking through in portions. Sieglinde decides to investigate Beg’s death and determines that he was beaten by blunt objects, likely the maces the orcs tend to carry around, and left here to rot or be cleared away by the Kobold work crews that frequent the area. Slayer and Sieglinde both talk about how these rooms are basically the same as the Pilgrim Path rooms in the temples to the aspects out in the world, but they don’t carry that conversation any further. Figuring they’d ask Rocky about all of these troubling things later, they decide to leave.
They choose to head straight up and as they turn the corner they run into an unmanned barricade, likely put there by the Open Sores. Not wanting to deal with that right now, they turn back down. From the forest room, they decide to turn east, not back to the desert room past the column chamber. Picking a passage that goes parallel to that with the round rooms, they see a few doors. The first door is slammed open by Sieglinde’s Thaumaturgy. Around the corner, some kobolds poke their head down the hall and tell them to be quiet or they’ll attract the orcs. The room is full of broken furniture and reed rugs covering the floor. They find a set jaw trap under the rug that seems, if the evidence from the tracks in the dust are to be a clue, to have been set by goblins. They leave it alone, hoping to maybe let it break an orc’s leg in the future.
Across the hall they find a large dining hall, recently busted up with blood everywhere. Seems obvious this is where a large fight between goblins and orcs occurred. They find a small bit of coin left over from the scuffle that nobody came back to claim. Further down the hall they come up to a door and decide to look before they leap. Listening through the cracks under the door they can hear some goblins whispering about the loud sound of the earlier door slamming open. Not wanting to scare them, they simply knock and tell them they’re here to help. Tentatively, they goblins start talking to them. The party shows them the wolf fur talismans that Reshen gave to them and the goblins can be seen sniffing the air. Their eyes widen and they tell the party that they believe them since there’s no way they could have gotten that fur any other way. Asking if the coast is clear they thank the party and head back towards the goblin redoubt.
Down the hall and they’re back in the room where Phil had his arena fight. Taking a left, they soon find themselves in a room guarded by some kobolds carrying weapons, the first they’ve seen, inside a little guard room. Asking if they’re going the right way to see Trustee Sniv, they’re told yes, they are. “Just head through there and hang a left. All the way up to the main guard station where you’ll have to check your weapons.”
Walking through the hall, they find themselves in front of a large, rather ornate staircase. Walking up from below are two bugbears. As is usual for their ilk, they’re both wearing crisp, clean armor; obviously some sort of uniform for an organized military unit. They glance at the party but don’t really pay any attention to them. They head up the hallway into the main guard room. As the party follows, they see a couple of side hallways ending in doors but decide to keep to the task at hand.
Once in the guard room, they see the bugbears checking their weapons at the gatehouse. They just keep producing javelins and spears and swords and axes and brass knuckles and anything else you could think of strapped to their armor. The kobolds gather it all up and put it into one of a number of large chests behind them. Then it’s the party’s turn. “Anything larger than a dagger, good sirs, you’ve got to leave here with us. Thank you! Don’t lose your ticket!” And with that, they head through the door into Kobold Korners.