The plan was perfect: the party would disguise themselves to sneak thru the kobold Underdark market. In a matter of minutes the party transformed themselves into: A hobgoblin astride a worg. A succubus. A drow. A little troll. A masked gladiator. And the paladin became an orcish blackguard. They were bounty hunters employed by the dragon, come to pit their captive gladiator in the kobolds’ arena. Crusher – their recent trophy kobold captive – was on a solo adventure with Raphael, the party bard, sneaking through as a duo to minimize the party’s presence. Alas, a bard would have come in handy.
Ardell dropped into “orc-speak” with the first kobold they encountered, going into detail on their fabricated bounty hunter story, only to be censored by Lily the “succubus” who reminded him astutely as all eyes were on the party that: “Less is more.”
Trolls, lizardmen, kuo-toa, duergar, and hobgoblins wended their way alongside the countless kobolds, through dirty dingy market stalls. There was scarcely any light in most of the market, making Zolar’s “darklight” ritual all the more helpful. Making their way thru the market, the PCs noted a captive dwarf being led to what was presumably the arena. Ak-Ak-Ak son of Ak-Ak attempted to sell them superior trap components, but the party brusquely passed him by. So far, their cover story seemed to be working. Kirito white-knuckled his restraints, chaffing at the indignity of playing “gladiator slave”, and imagined painting the room red with kobolds. Or was it green?
The party dealt with a pushy kobold merchant dealing in dire weasels who alluded to their fancy magic items being illegal in the market. Several party members theorized this was due to the presence of a red dragon, whose greed for such things is legendary. Tristan, intrigued by the merchant’s claims, instructed one of the dire weasels to “fetch kobold.” The dire weasel made a top-notch effort to fulfill on the command, and Tristan was sold, purchasing three of the weasels. Sadly, only the one he’d named “Pramatie” was long for this world. One would be dissolved in a gelatinous cube, the other eaten by Vitejie indulging in his worg nature.
Shortly thereafter, Miri spotted her old tribesman Vao’es who’d been enslaved and forced to make arrows for the kobolds…however, in her troll disguise Miri was unrecognized. She and Zolar brokered a trade for the “slave” in exchange for a glowing green gem. Ardell sold their cover by lying to Vao’es that he was now their captive…and went on to enumerate the rights and privileges he would enjoy in their custody that the kobolds did not afford him. Once again Lily grimaced – it would appear that when paladins lied, they did it kindly.
It was at this point that a she-hobgoblin approached Ardell and questioned him about his armor, to which Ardell readily replied “I killed a paladin and took his armor. Best day of my life.” After revealing that she had done the same, the she-hobgoblin revealed a holy symbol of the Knights of the Chalic – Ardell’s own holy order! On a closer look, he saw the she-hobgoblin had human eyes! Under the pretense of conducting a backroom deal, the party was ushered into a side chamber by the “she-hobgoblin” who revealed herself to be Sister Clarice, a knight hospitaler like Ardell. Sister Clarice tended Ardell’s wounds and gave the party a healing potion (replacing the one stolen from Lily’s pouch by kobold pickpockets), then explained her mission was to uncover evidence that Lord Napina of Harker’s Ferry had cut a deal with the kobolds: he would supply a steady stream of slaves if the kobolds stopped their raids. It would seem the PCs had prematurely placed Lord Napina back in power after the incident with the trolls…
“What, you mean this?” asked Zolar nonchalantly, pulling out a ledger the party had looted from the kobold temple. It was exactly what Sister Clarice had been looking for, and in exchange for turning it over to Clarice, the PCs asked that she take to the surface Vao’es, who had been happily reunited with Miri but was in no condition to fight kobolds let alone a dragon, and the two corpses of Kirito’s former adventuring companions. Before departing, Vao’es revealed to Miri that their tribal totem had been carried by kobolds to the lair of the elder red dragon Infyrana. Bidding the party farewell, Sister Clarice/the “she-hobgoblin” clasped hands with Ardell, then disappeared into the market.
Lily and Tristan had separated from the party for a moment, overhearing some kuo-toa mention the “gifts of the queen”, and did a little trading on the side. Between Lily’s enticing wiles, and Tristan’s overpowering gaze, the kobold scavengers turned over a pair of luxurious spark slippers for a sack of worthless gems…which seemed strangely valuable at the time!
It seemed the party was in the clear after leaving the market. But soon kobold drummers were spotted ushering the entourage of Harlichak, Chief of Clan Gnarled Fang. Peering closely, the PCs noticed bits of floating metal ahead of the drummers. Suspicious of a trap, the party sent one of the dire weasels ahead, and sure enough the weasel twitched as it was engulfed by a gelatinous cube which killed it in seconds. Thinking to simply avoid the procession, the PCs tried backing into a minor passage only to find another gelatinous cube being pushed forward by kobold musicians. Zolar dived through a side door and would have fallen into a pit trap with a gelatinous cube were it not for a quick spell of floating. Retreating back to the secret room where they’d met Sister Claric, the party regrouped.
That’s when the kobold commandos arrived with a kobold wyrmpriest. Kirito, in his mask, saw the wyrmpriest glare at him and (in Draconic) say “that’s him!” Just then Kirito shut the door and pressed his back into it as several javelins thudded against the other side. Kirito breathed a sigh of relief, but it was fleeting as the kobolds soon began smoking the party out…by lightning the door (and Kirito’s back) on fire. Realizing that their cover hand’t been blown and that these kobolds were only enforcing market rules which the PCs had unwittingly broken, the party wisely kept their cool and focused on taking out the commandos and gelatinous cubes with minimum collateral damage. Miri expertly slaughtered the kobold commandos, while Ardell talked down the wyrmpriest with a surprisingly good bluff. “He’s finally catching on,” Lily muttered under her breath.
Zolar calmly stepped in front of Chief Harlichak’s procession, noticing the captured elven slave in the rear, and lifted his orb. The gelatinous cube at the front was knocked back, engulfing the chief…however Chief Harlichak’s potions of growth were consumed by the cube in the process, causing the cube to double in size and engulf the entire kobold procession – including the elven captive!
On the other front, Lily and Tristan made short work of another gelatinous cube, pushing it back into some kobolds. When Lily blasted the cube to oblivion, two small metal spheres suspended in it fell to the ground and cracked open, pouring out alchemical gases which reacted and formed a cloud of sparks and flame. Thankfully, only kobolds were nearby at the time. “So…their gelatinous cubes are trapped,” Lily informed the rest of the party. Zolar was flabbergasted… Only kobolds would be so devious.
Kirito, realizing the elven captive was indeed Giliana Brightbough, his former adventuring companion, pulled out a healing potion and leapt into the gelatinous cube, administering the potion and helping Giliana escape (Zolar’s mage hand helped as well)…only now he was stuck in the cube! Impressed at the heroic (if sticky) display of their companion, Zolar and Lily warned Kirito to get clear of the trapped cube. Again with a little mage hand help, Kirito ejected himself from the slimy cube as twin blasts of thunder and lightning erupted from the spellcasters’ hands, frying the cube and triggering the trap. In a Hollywood-esque moment, a slime-covered Kirito and Giliana leaped clear of the exploding gelatinous cube.
After exchanging bitter greetings with Giliana, it became clear that the elf had suffered much and intended to leave the “cursed” Mountain as quickly as possible. Incredulous that the party intended to confront the elder red dragon Infyrana, Giliana concluded Kirito had finally found a group of adventurers as crazy as himself. Giving her some supplies and a spare magic sword, Kirito wished her good fortune and advised her to look out for Sister Clarice/the “she-hobgoblin” on her way to the surface.
Resuming their disguises, the party headed toward the kobold’s arena. What awaited them there? What had become of Miri’s missing monkey? And where were Raphael and Crusher?