The main body of the market known as Kobold Korners is a large chamber with a fifty foot ceiling whose top is obscured in smoke and collected soot from decades of cooking fires and cobwebs. The not unpleasant scent of some sort of grilled meat hangs in the air, mixing with the rank, wet dog like smell of unwashed furry creatures and spilled dungeon ale, fermented from all manner of sugars not consisting of grains… There’s also an underlying hint of exotic spices and mysterious spell components that helps create an intoxicating melange that tells the party members that they’ve arrived in a bustling and foreign port, of sorts.
As well as the mix of aromas that hits them as they walk in, there is a much larger variety of creatures walking around, commingling in, if not peace, a mutually beneficial peace within the confines of the market. There are the obvious kobolds who are both running most of the stalls, but also running around carrying things and cleaning up and doing every manner of task, as well as fairly well armed and armored Kobold soldiers standing guard. Then there are orcs, a couple of goblins and the hobgoblins. Some humans and Demi-humans, most seem to be adventurers, though a couple seem like they’re some sort of black cloaked monastic order. Then there are some more interesting races, none of which they’d seen in Stonehell so far, and a couple that none of the party had ever seen before and had no name for.
After selling Beg’s short sword to the weaponsmith, who promptly and proudly displays it over his forge, Slayer spies the live snake option at the grilled snake vendor and decides he’s going to purchase one. He decides on a cobra, since it’s got the “wow” factor of the hood, as well as a few live rats to keep it alive. To the raised eyebrows of his companions, he says, “I’ve got a flute. I’m going to train it!” With a look like that’s the most obvious thing anyone could do in this situation. Sieglinde sees a hidden treasure in a random junk vendor. A magnifying glass, not the highest quality, but still quite rare in larger cities, let alone down here in a Kobold junk vendor. Doing some haggling, she buys it for a gold piece. Knowing how rare lens grinders are, she knows that this is a steal.
They then head to a booth with a small Kobold female sitting at a table. On the table are a crystal ball, some cards and a selection of vaguely arcane looking implements like a small dagger and some beads. She beckons them over and says she can tell their fortunes. Sieglinde asks if she knows anything about an elf woman that may be lost down in the dungeon. The withered Kobold says, with speech laden with heavy sibilants , “What can you tell me about thissssss elf………… Woman?” Sieglinde tells her that she was her mother. “Ah… I sssssee. And who issss your mother NOW?” Exasperatedly, she explains that she’s still, in fact, her mother. “Ah…” Replies the crone again as she halfheartedly shuffles some cards around and moves the dagger over them. All around the table can see that she’s not actually doing anything, but trying to put on a show. She’s quite good at shuffling the cards though, as if she’s pretty good at gambling. As she begins to talk, however, it’s as if something else takes over her voice. She says, “You must look below… Where the chips flow…” Then she sort of snaps out of it. “That is all I can tell you for now…. NEXT!!”
Slayer steps up and tosses her a copper piece. “How should I tame this snake?” She looks at him and sort of cocks her eyebrow. “Um… I sssssuposssse you could… ” and she starts moving her cards around like she’s doing something “sssssing to it…?” Slayer gets excited about this and exclaims, “see? I just need to play the flute!” And he walks away very satisfied with this.
Next, Milo steps up and launches into a story about how, while wandering with his former troupe, he once made fun of a nobleman who put a price on his head. In typical bard fashion, it’s well detailed, a fact that isn’t lost on the old Kobold woman who takes to fiddling with her beads and such until he’s done. Finally, Milo asks if he needs to worry about this or is he likely safe? She gazes into her crystal ball and furrows her brow a bit, lays out some cards in some seemingly random shapes… Finally, she says, “hmmm… You musssst alwayssss be on your guard… For… People do not forget! Lesssst you forget alsssso the thingssss that you have done….” And as she trails off, like she’s trying to think of something else to say, Slayer nods sagely and says, “Expect the unexpected.” Milo just sort of scrunches up his face and says, “wow.”
Slayer, deciding this is a truly powerful seer, steps up again with another question. “How is the war between the goblins and orcs going to turn out for us?” At this question, she gets a slightly pained look on her face and the masquerade of the wizened old soothsayer drops. She looks at them all and says straight out, “I don’t think this is going to work out very well for any of us, to be honest.” The mood, having dropped a few degrees, makes them decide to head over a counter overtaken with rowdy, drunken orcs. They’ve all got their hands full with crude tankards of some sort of crude, frothy alcohol.
Tapping one of them on the butt, Phill says, “hey buddy.” The Orc looks around and snorts derisively then goes back to drinking after saying to the others, “someone lost their pet.” This sends another round of rowdy laughter through the congregation. Phil is incensed by this and turns around saying, “No respect!” Only to see Slayer trying to hold in his laughter. Milo decides to hop up on crate nearby and begins playing a song, “There once was a lord of the Open Sores / who once slayed a deadly dragon…” The orcs turn around and start getting into it, swinging their mugs around and yelling out requests. “Tell the one about the basilisk! I love that one!” Milo improvises some more songs and now their really in their favor. Milo tones the songs down to background music now that they are favorable and the party starts conversing with them.
Chatting them up about the campaign against the goblins, the orcs start telling about how they ran the stupid Wolf Gang from their territory and took it over. They’re riding high on this victory, though they still want to find Reshen and Gnash. Other than that, they’re having fun hunting the goblins through the contested corridors, since they don’t think the goblins have enough to strength to threaten them again, so long as that damned wolf and its handler are gone. Sieglinde asks about their further plans, now that they’re the big boys on the block. They say that once they take over the level, they’ll think about finding more fun up above the surface, who knows? Slayer begins asking logistical questions about the strength of their numbers and they start to get a bit suspicious. Phil and Sieglinde jump in and say that’s just his way of starting a wager… what he really wants to know is how fast they think they can take over if they wanted to, for betting purposes…. The orcs buy it and say, “oh, I suppose in a fortnight, we could have control of the whole level, if we wanted.” The talk veers back towards numbers and they begin to give each other side-eye. Leaving it at that, the party buys the greenskins another round, which seems to put their minds off the pointed questions.
Taking their leave of the main marketplace, they find themselves in a receiving warehouse with about a dozen kobolds moving some crates and barrels and sacks. A fastidiously dressed Kobold sits at a desk, writing in a large book with an enormous plume pen. “May I help you?” He asks. Sieglinde tells him in draconic that they would like to talk to Trustee Sniv. “Do you have an appointment, madam?” The party nudges her and whispers, “just say yes, tell him we do” to which Sieglinde whispers back, “I can’t lie to the man!” While this moral drama plays itself, Bill steps up and says, in Draconic, “Yes, we do, you’ll find our name there in your book, if you look” and as he points to the pages, he lets a couple of gold pieces drop from his hand. “Ah! Yes, I see… Simply head through those doors and tell the guards you have an appointment. Good day to you” then he slams his book shut on the coins and places it beneath the desk.
They go through to the waiting room to find about ten kobold guards lining the walls. They tell them that they have an appointment with Trustee and are asked what it’s about. They say they have an offer to make to Trustee. “What would it be about, then?” As Sieglinde slips him another gold piece, she says they’d like to talk to Trustee themselves. They’re told to wait while one of the guards steps through the double doors. Soon, he returns and tells them to enter. They see a fat Kobold sitting on a large chair that is decorated with shiny wire and cheap gems In front of a burgundy colored tapestry. It’s obviously meant to look like a fancy throne, but the effect is somewhat less impressive than that. Regardless, he obviously commands respect from the other six guards that are in this room, all wearing armor that is quite a bit nicer than that seen on any other creature other than the bugbears in this section of the dungeon.
Trustee Sniv, for that’s who is sitting on the throne, is leaning on one arm looking rather bored. He says to the party, “So, I uh, hear you wanted to talk to me. So what’s this about?”
Sieglinde says “it’s nice to meet you. I’ve heard a lot about you.”
He replies, “yeah, I’m sure. Time is money though, so, what’s up?”
She continues, “I was wondering if I could borrow some of your men. Of course, we’d pay you.”
“For what?” He asks.
“We need their help in battle.” Is her reply.
He chuckles a bit and says, “you see these guys here?” And gestures to his guards. “These guys are staying right here. Now, you’ve seen the rest of my boys out there, in the market and the passages. You really think they’re going to be any good in a fight?”
Slayer steps up and says, “So what you’re saying is that they’re cowards.”
Trustee leans forward. “Let me tell you something. I’m the biggest coward in this dungeon and I’m the richest because of it. Now, if there’s nothing else, I think we’re done. I’m not even getting paid to get insulted here.”
They tell him about the kobolds they saved from the orcs and giant shrew. He says, “well, that’s great! Thanks, that saves me some labor.”
Sieglinde says, “Ok. One more thing. Are you working with the orcs?”
He tells her, “I’ll work with anyone so long as they pay me.”
Milo interrupts and asks, “is there money to be made in the lower levels of the dungeon?”
Trustee’s eyes take on a shine of interest. “Ah! Now we’ve got a conversation! Yes, money to be made. Absolutely! That’s why I’m here! That’s why I’m sitting on this opulent throne! That is why I am not giving you my men for fighting orcs. Because there’s money to be made.”
Milo continues, “Perhaps there is something we can do for YOU and your profits that could also help us?”
“Contract killers, eh? I though so. We get a lot of your kind through here… How much you charge?” he asks.
“How much you offering?” Phil wants to know.
Trustee thinks a bit then offers them a job. “Alright, let’s see what you guys are made of. Close to the main entrance staircase is the den of what my boys are calling dragon. This thing causes all sorts of hell with my workers. I don’t know where it came from but it’s not good for business. I want it gone. I’ll give you guys 300 gold each if you take care of it and bring me the proof.”
Milo asks for more money, to which trustee replies, “look, neither of us has seen this thing, so maybe it’s not even a dragon. I’m not going to go broke for something I’ve never seen.”
Milo then changes tack and asks if he can spare a couple of his guards to help out. Trustee reluctantly agrees, though mostly he’s sending them to keep track of them and make sure they do the job as promised.
After finishing up the negotiations, they agree on the terms to go kill the “dragon” with the help of the guards and they take their leave. They head back to the keep with no further incident and tell the Kobold guards that they’ll meet them at the entrance in the morning to go take care of the dragon. And with that, they retire to the common room, and then to their bunks, each with the thoughts of the fight they are about to engage in.