A Thunderspire Arrival

Characters: Chiria (Doppelganger Sorcerer), Gwendolyn (Human Fighter)
Adventure: Thunderspire Labyrinth
GM: David

Evening twilight begins to spread across the sky, turning it into a purple bruise as the sun begins to edge down the horizon. You are taking the Trade Road through the Khell Vale, heading upwards towards the legendary Thunderspire Mountain, a place full of adventure and dread danger. Rumors of treasure to be found within its labyrinthine passages and slavers to be vanquished have drawn you here. Your companion, the vaunted bard, has drawn back a ways, speaking to various persons and gathering information while you pushed forward, hoping to reach the edge of the Vale and the mountain fastness itself. With the night falling, you /just/ might make it…

Plant … swing … land … plant … swing … land. Chiria's staff is actually a few inches taller than she is, not that her accustomed form - nut-brown and wiry, with a fringe of heavy bangs - is all that imposing. Try 'tiny,' in point of fact. Her chosen method of motion, at the time, bears a disturbing resemblance to groundbound brachiation: she plants the staff ahead of her, swings forward to land next to it, then disengages to launch again. It eats energy, but then, she's assuming they have to stop soon.

Gwen, in contrast, is just marching up the mountain, keeping relatively quiet. While she's not stealthy by any means, particularly as she has a double-sword nearly as big as she is strapped to her back… she's doing a decent job of not disturbing things more than absolutely necessary. She occasionally glances at Chiria, and fights the urge to chuckle a bit at the staff-vaulting sorceress. Instead, she keeps her mind focused on the path, and what might be leaping out to try and have them for dinner.

As you head up the mountain, you can see in the distance, the opening to mountain itself: the gate known as the Minotaur Gate, where the Minotaur Warlords of the Thunderspire held sway. Both Gwen and Chiria hear mutters coming from the darkness of the gate as they near — and laughter. A rough voice announces in common, "You're ours now — we'll get ten gold for you, easy!" The sound of a strike and a cry can be heard, as if someone struck another. Then: "That's a shame, because I'm worth at /least/ twenty! I'd buy myself, if you let me go!" Someone's got balls. Then: "Hey, someone's comin'…" and silence.

Chiria pivots around the staff, her chin coming up and her eyes searching the shadows. Her tongue snaps against her palette, an angry click. She flicks a narrow look to Gwen. "Someone's in trouble." It's all she says before she marches forward, intending - unless stepped - on taking the most direct to (and into) trouble.

Gwen shakes her head, "Yeah, I heard, hold up and let me lead, would you?" She moves to catch up with Chiria, drawing out her double-sword. Twirling the elegant weapon easily, she grins at the sorceress, "Remember last time you ran out ahead and didn't wait for the rest of us, 'Ria?"

When people approach, they find a group of hobgoblins: four big, tough hobgoblins with long flails held in their powerful grip. Behind them stands one even /bigger/ in robes of a priest or sorcerer or the like. Behind them, laying on the ground with a big bruise forming in his eye is a small halfling, his hair done up in a complex set of braids falling down his back. The fellow in the rear calls out, "More money! Don't kill them— /hurt/ them, for the Bloodreavers!" He's an arrogant, over-confident git, isn't he? The four step forward in the hall, blocking the passage behind them.

Chiria's lips curve into a strange smile. It's hard to read whether it's innocence or irony. "We won. It was exciting." What's any other complication (or two or three) as long as there's a rollicking good time? She trails behind Gwen, the staff twirled from one hand to the other and back again. As they emerge into the clearing, she uses it to point at the formation, like an accusing finger. "I have a better idea. You - apologize."

Gwen looks wryly at Chiria, "Yeah, I'm sure /that/ will work." She shifts her stance a bit, and suddenly the blades of her double-sword are wreathed in flames. "Alright, I guess being reasonable is out of the question here. And by reasonable, I mean, you five just leaving the halfling and getting lost."

The robe-garbed hobgoblin stops near a pile of casks while the halfling dives over and hides behind some cots, keeping /away/ from all this … excitement. The hobgoblin laughs and says, "Why would we? We have you outnumbered," he says. He says a few words, ending with, "… Asmodeus!" A scintillating whip of black force streaks out and clasps Chiria, tugging her forward. She finds herself staggering past Gwendolyn, right into the front line, staggering against one of the hobgoblin's chests as she oofs. And not in a good way! The whip leaves a line of burning across her chest, where it clung rather tightly…

Chiria shrills in surprise, bouncing off the hobgoblin - quite literally. She spins, the staff arcing in her hand and hitting the rock with a resounding knell. She keeps turning, an intricate twist of her feet with the staff serving as a graceful third limb. In that dance, she seems to have a diaphanous partner, scarlet force arm in arm, locked close … and then bursting into flame. The staff swings left, guiding a limb of fire about to scorch the soldiers and send them staggering. She still burns, pivoting to a halt. "Your math is too literal," she says. A glance over her shoulder to Gwen and, serenely, "*I* didn't choose to move out front," she points out.

Gwen moves up, and stifles a laugh despite the situation, "Duly noted, 'Ria. I'll mention it later." She then glares at the hobgoblins that attacked, "Alright. Let's do this." Spinning her blades in a wicked arc, she slashes at two of the hobgoblins near both herself and Chiria. One looks very badly hurt by the attack, suddenly clutching his stomach as the wound created by the blade was cauterized rather painfully by the flames the instant it was made. The other takes a slash to his arm, but she definitely has made an effort to get their attention.

The hobgoblin soldiers growl in rage as three of them are char-broiled and then two are cut into ribbons by the lady warrior. They lift their flails, beginning to strike as the flames surge around them, still spiralling, and a surge of fire does more damage, causing howls of pain. One of the soldiers crumples, flames eating at his skin as he falls, his flail landing on the ground with an audible clink against the stone. The others howl in rage, attacking: one at Chiria, and one of them at Gwendolyn. The last one, the one out of range of the spell, also attacks Gwendolyn as Chiria's too far away from him. Unfortunately, all of their attacks do little more than ruin Chiria's hair. (Your hair! You mussed up my hair!)

Even as they fight, the robed hobgoblin takes a step forward, pointing his staff. A burst of black force streaks out from it, slamming into both Chiria and Gwendolyn. It stings, the force staggering them both, but does little other than that. It /hurts/ but they're still on their feet, and still pissed off!

It's hard to tell when Chiria's hair is messed up, given her predilection for wearing it in toussled curls, impenetrable bangs or both. The fire crackles and fades as she whirls to the left, the staff cracking down …

Boom. Thunder rolls. (It rolls a 4.) Lightning flares out of nowhere, forking in two directions. One spike hits Chiria; the other hits the warcaster, causing every hair on his body to stand up at once. The lightning reforms a few paces behind where Chiria stood, the sorceress shaking a few stray electric sparks out of her fingers.

"Ooh, that tingles," she chirps.

Gwen gives the one that received the cut on the arm a more serious slice on the thigh, as she twirls her blades and steps into the space that Chiria vacated. Then she grins at the hobgoblins, "Really, is that the best you can do? I thought Azzy would have demanded you fight a bit better than this?" Okay, so maybe taunting the hobgoblins isn't smart, but she's trying to get their attention towards /her/ and not Chiria. "Seriously, I've had drunken barflies give me more of a challenge." She pauses, then adds, "Drunken /gnomish/ barflies."

"Do you want to live forever!? GET THEM!" calls the robed hobgoblin, and the others roar and attack, one shifting inwards to block Gwendolyn from the Warcaster in the process, closing ranks as they lash out at her with their long chained flails! Only one of them manages to land a hit, the flail slamming into Gwendolyn's side and causing pain. She's definitely pissing these fellows off, though!

The warcaster howls in rage, and gestures. Another scintillating whip of black force streaks out, twining around Gwendolyn and sends her flying forward into the casks. Some of them fall, rolling around her and causing her footing to be less than ideal. That really hurt though, she's having a few problems breathing from that spell…

Chiria's hair still has a wild buzz from the lightning, and she's grinning a fashion that maybe more (or at least as) frightening as the spell-slinging. The expression vanishes without a trace, however, as Gwen goes flying. She makes that tongue-click sound again, more rapidly - almost as if she'd be snapping, if there were a language to it. The dance seems to change character on every third step, going from something like a gavotte to a country dance and taking a brief stop in waltz. The staff whips about … apparently in the absolutely wrong direction, manifesting a rainbow orb. It does a roundabout circuit of the hall and whips about to slam into the warcaster, where it explodes in noxious green gas.

Chiria claps her hands together - it was as much a mystery to her how it was going to manifest. The result, however, literally has the caster's skin sloughing off the bone, and he staggers and collapses.

"Should have apologized," Chiria observes, and then glances about, "Gwen?"

Gwen grimaces as she picks herself up from the soaking remains of a couple casks. On the bright side, there are worse things to smell as than stolen elvish wine. She then looks at Chiria, "What I wouldn't give for a nice long bath after this is over." She glares daggers at the remaining hobgoblins, and quickly spins and slices her way down the row. Two of the hobgoblins nimbly step back to avoid the blades, but the last one is too slow, and feels himself quickly bisected by the flashing blades of the fighter. She then glares at the other two, eyes narrowing. "Ready?"

Now, the last two look at their companions, then Gwendolyn and Chiria. Then move back carefully and run. Very fast. Heading deeper into the tunnels that criss-cross the mountain… they aren't stupid. Just arrogant. They are NOT sticking around…

"Come back and apologize!" Chiria insists, her little voice booming down the hall as she jogs after them. Her pirouette is brief, the steps simple, but ending in a bow and a beckoning gesture with the staff. Come back here … faint tendrils of pale opal energy rush down the hall and surround both soldiers, though they only manage to latch onto one. He cries out in pain, staggering, and disoriented enough that he plunges straight in Chiria's direction … and past her. "Hey! Hold still."

Gwen shouts, "Hey, Miss Manners, wait up!" She moves after the sorceress, and suddenly stabs out with her blade, hooking the hobgoblin through the chest. There's a rather sickening crunch, as she then flings the now-lifeless hobgoblin back behind her, taking his place as she looks at Chiria, murmuring, "Normally I'd lecture about running off ahead, but we can't let these folks raise an alarm."

The last one really should run. But you just killed its last companion in front of him. Hobgoblins are disciplined, but they have limits. He roars and attacks, lashing towards Chiria with his flail, the spiked head moving right towards /her/ head. She manages to avoid /that/ but the head cracks into her arm at a glancing angle, numbing it — that /stung/!

"You have longer legs than I do, it is not my fault if you don't keep up," Chiria counters, eyes widening in that same display of innocence-irony. She squawks as the hobgoblin swings at her, the staff grounding behind her. She swings back and out of the way into a swift series of steps. Brilliant red light zips out of the staff, rips into the hobgoblin with bruising force … and keeps going. Chiria swings out the staff and dips it down … the light lands with a ruby splash.

Gwen moves up towards Chiria, then suddenly spins her blades in a rapid pattern. She lunges out with one, neatly slashing through the left hamstring of the hobgoblin, who wails in agony at the burning sensation of flaming steel piercing his tender flesh. She glances back at Chiria, "Bah, you walk three times as fast as anyone else to make up for it, anyway."

The hobgoblin is frozen in place, frozen in pain, staggering from time to time as he tries to shake it off…

"Thank you," Chiria chirps. Another graceful pivot, a quick coordination of steps and staff, and she launches another bolt - this one aqua - and this one also lost somewhere in the ceiling. A shower of rock-dust falls.

Gwen hrms, "Darn those ceiling lurker hobgoblins… never know when they're going to strike." She then looks at the hobgoblin, and does a quick one-two slashing motion with her blades. The hobgoblin then collapses lifelessly to the ground, and the flames die down from the steaming metal of the double-sword. "Let's go see if that halfling was still there. And if the others have caught up to the entrance."

In the wake of the battle, a small head peeks out from one of the cots. And the rest of him follows. The halfling announces, "Thanks so much for helping me. I'm Rendil Halfmoon, and I reside in the Seven-Pillared Hall with the others." A pause, "Not these bastards," as he kicks one of the corpses. "Come with me and I'll buy you an ale or four, it's the best — er, only — inn in this place." Yes, you saved his life, so he's going to give you FREE BEER. Woohooo!

"Who're they, then?" Chiria asks, planting the staff behind her and leaning back against it. "How about some food, too?" Beer really has minimal interest to her. Yes, it's perfectly good wheat product that they've soaked and let go sour. What's the point?

Gwen nods slightly, "Sounds good to me, actually. I wouldn't mind a bit of a rest from dealing with those hobgoblins. What were they after you for, anyway?" She nods slightly to the halfling, "Lead on."

"They? They're the Bloodreavers. Slavers, they live in the Chamber of Eyes, and come out to take people from time to time as slaves to sell or keep. Mostly travellers." He shrugs, "I was unlucky, they caught me out of the Hall, and so…" He gestures, "Come on, I'll give you a tour." He leads them through the Minotaur Gate. The mountain surrounds them, and eventually it opens up into a huge cavern underneath the mountain, though most of the buildings have been destroyed by time. Some have been rebuilt. Think a tiny slice of Moria. If built by Minotaurs.

Thump. Thump. Chiria's not brachiating any more, instead bringing the staff down somewhat heavily as she follows along. She keeps quiet during the explanation, though her face crinkles up in some nebulous diapproval. "Ooh," she comments finally in approval.
Gwen smiles a little, "Very nice architecture, I have to say. Of course, I grew up in the mountains." She pauses, then adds, "Well, not literally like this. More like "on" the mountains." She nods a bit at the explanation of the Bloodreavers, "Are they a serious problem here?"

"They can be. The Mages of Saruun keep them out of the Hall of Seven Pillars," obviously this cavern, as you can /see/ seven huge pillars supporting the roof, "But it's dangerous if you go deeper into the cities or outside," he declares. "Most of us just live here, and serve the travellers and merchants and so on. My aunt runs the Halfmoon Inn," he says proudly.

"How many of them are there?" Chiria inquires, head swiveling this way and that. She peeks back at the halfling at this last announcement and wonders, "And what do you do?" She tries to look impressed at the notion of Inn ownership. Gwen might catch that she's not, but she's very deft at putting on a face.

Gwen nods slightly, "Well, if the inn has a tub, I'll be very happy, honestly." And yes, she does still smell very much like elvish wine. Granted, it's a fairly good vintage but that is NOT the point. She does catch the look from Chiria, and flashes a smile back as she looks around.

"I don't know, a few thousand?" the halfling states. "I never really counted. Most are merchants from the depths or the outside world, though," he says to them with a slight shrug. He adds to Chiria, "I help my aunt run the inn, mostly. I was out looking to see if there were any merchants coming when the Bloodreavers got me," he explains.

"There are a few thousand Bloodreavers?" Chiria looks blank and puzzled, then blinks. "Oh. That was not what I meant." A moment of brushing the hair away from her eyes, not that it does any good. "Family is important. That sounds like a worthy job."
Gwen nods slightly, "Indeed. Especially out here." She looks around, "Do the minotaurs still dwell here at all, or have they abandoned this place?"

"Oh. I don't know, it's a small tribe. Mostly goblins and hobgoblins. A few humans work for them too," he says with a shrug, "Maybe twenty total? Thirty perhaps? I don't count them, but from what I've seen perhaps that many?" As he says this, he continues to lead them in and when he enters the inn, calls, "Auntie, these people rescued me from the Bloodreavers!" An older halfling woman with a low-cut bodice looks over and approaches. It's just /wrong/ for a halfling woman to wear a bodice like that. Just /wrong/. He says to Gwen, "The cavern city's been abandoned for a long time. No one knows much about it, really. A few sages research things, but it's /dangerous/ inside the labyrinth tunnels, so most people avoid them. We just use the Hall as a market."

"Hmm." Chiria ponders this idly, but it doesn't seem to go any further than thought as she latches onto the next event. "Hello, Auntie," she chirps, then considers this. "I don't think I should be calling you that. My name is Chiria." She offers a hand, beaming. "Which sages?" Thinking it might be useful to speak to them, perhaps.
Gwen nods, "And I'm Gwendolyn. Or Gwen, really. I know it's a bit of a mouthful." She smiles at the matronly halfling, then looks over at the younger of the halflings, "Yes, which sages would these be?"

"Vadriar the Sage, for one. Though he's been a little strange the past few months. He's always scared. My Auntie says that his mind broke due to something he saw, and —" "You young scamp, leave Vadriar alone," the woman says with a sniff. She looks at them, and says, "I'm Erra Halfmoon, and welcome. If you saved my nephew, I can offer you a place to stay while you're here," she says to them. "As for Vadriar, he stays here when he's in the area. We haven't seen him in a few weeks, so he's due back soon…"

"Something he saw?" Chiria echoes, eyes glimmering with curiosity. "A place to stay would be most appreciated." Her tone, when she's trying to be polite - and it doesn't come naturally to her; she might rather be grooming someone rather than greeting them - is perhaps excessively prim.
Gwen hrms, "Well, we might want to talk about that with him when he comes back." She pauses, the smell of elvish wine still clinging to her, "I don't suppose there are any sort of baths in the inn, are there?"

"Makes the most sense. Lots of strange things out there," the young halfling says before Erra points a finger from him to the back. He sulks and goes back into the kitchens, while she answers, "There are, actually. Just have the scamp fill the tank for you. He'll have to bring in a cauldron of hot water, though," she says, "First."