Turn 20 -- Heading Out

26th day of Alturiak. Mid-afternoon. Caverns of the Slaverer Trolls.

Rasumussen stairs at Talimar, his face as cold as the Troll hearts he has recently torn to shreds. With a steady calm, he relaxes the grip on the handle of his sword before sheathing it once again. He turns one last time as if a burden must be lifted and the dagger in his left hand flies with adrenaline enhanced speed into the crown of the ugly Troll's head, the force actually collapsing the eye sockets inward as one eye partially detaches. He then says flatly, "That is all. For Kre will this tribe be destroyed. As with our other friends, the dagger will remain where a friend has fallen."

The leader of the Red Feather Company looks over the carnage of the battle with grim satisfaction. Taking stock of the wounded he comments, "We didn't do too bad this time. Kre, could you please keep a watch on the entry." As soon as the elf finishes speaking, he realizes the error in his request for Kre will no longer be on watch in this plane. Repitition and instinct having forced the elf to call on his companion for assistance. The loss of Kre drives home even deeper to Talimar as his upbeat attitude from the outcome of the battle washes away. The proper time for mourning will come later, for now the Company needs him. "Ras, could you search the belongings of these Troll's?"

At the mention of Kre's name, Gnore lets slip a rare smile. He turns his head in the direction of Talimar, "I'm sure he will, leader Talimar. Once a Company, always a Company no matter where he watches from."

Looking around the chamber, Talimar nods his head softly at the words of Gnore before continuing, "Let's spread out and search the rest of the cavern. The Troll's may be hiding. If you see any, fall back so that we can fight as a group." The elven leader accents his own words by keeping his longsword out before him as he moves out to search the chamber. As if a switch was turned off inside him, extinguishing the rage and anger controlling him, Ras turns from Talimar and calmly begins searching the cavern as well.

In the center of the wedge formed by the Company, Gnore clutches at the wound in his left arm and others along his side. He finds a place to sit on a nearby boulder and rests, his bastard sword on the ground next to him. He sits silently trying to catch his breath as the others go about the business of searching the chamber.

Ignoring his own wounds, Garth takes a moment to first bind Gnore's wounds, then his own. Having cleansed and bound the wounds, he reaches inside his armor for his precious holy symbol of Selune. Kneeling next to Gnore, he closes his eyes and begins to pray for the healing energies of his Goddess.

Beleg wipes the gore from his now dull blade on the carcass of the Troll before him. Sheathing the blade, he scoops up his glow stone and turns to take stock of the situation. When he sees the wounded Garth begin to deal with Gnore's injuries, he moves to join him.

"Save your strength, my friend," the Paladin says to the dwarven priest. "We may need your magical power for other purposes before we leave this foul place. Let me use the powers of Forseti and Troll's Bane to heal." Garth nods to the large warrior standing over him, thankful that he can save his energy for later. Beleg quickly closes his own eyes and holding the tip of Troll's Bane before him, speaks the word of power that calls upon the healing energies of the blade before touching the tip of the weapon to Gnore's wounded shoulder. Instantly the pain subsides and the dwarven warrior's fatigue washes away in a cleansing flood of magical energy.

Sheathing the blade and turning from Gnore, Beleg murmurs a soft prayer to Forseti as his right hand begins to glow softly. Touching his index finger to the forehead of Garth, he transfers that healing energy to the priest of Selune. Both Garth and Gnore thank the towering warrior for his kindness and ministrations as they remain seated.

Dain sighs as he looks over the motionless Troll carcasses grimly. "At least these beasties were easier to deal with than the last." Taking advantage of the opportunity to rest, he takes a seat on a small boulder and lights up his pipe. As the blue-gray tabac smoke spirals up towards the cavern ceiling the mage appears lost in thought. At last he mutters, "I suppose we have no choice but to advance further into this god-forsaken rat hole."

Removing his great helm and wiping the sweat from his brow, Beleg hears the words of Dain and replies, "I don't believe that now is the time for extensive exploration. I suggest we search this chamber and return to the Svirfneblin city to rest, replenish our supplies, and see what information they are now willing to share with us."

Dain exhales deeply, sending a stream of billowing smoke rolling from his lips. "Aye, I suppose your correct. Perhaps the smurfs will have nice comfortable beds and fresh ale waiting for us. It has been such a long time since I've been able to sleep on a feather mattress. I'd give me right leg for one."

"I'd be careful of the declarations ye make down here," responds Talimar as he listens to the conversation of Dain and Beleg. "You just might find them coming true! But Beleg's plan is true. When we finish searching this chamber we should make our way to the deep Gnome city and report to them. From there we can rest before returning to Milbourne for supplies."

Kersath, Druckner and Gnore all nod at the plan from Talimar. "We have to go back," begins Kersath softly. "We promised the gnomes we'd return and I suggest we go about it as quickly as possible."

"That was ta deal," offers Druckner, "wipe out them Trolls and return, then she'd tell us more."

"We could use the rest and I have an apology to make to the old gnome," comments Gnore. "I did need the practice."

With the decision on the Company's next course of action set, the Companions begin the tedious search of the chamber. With his sword held before him in his right hand and the enchanted light stone in his left, Beleg moves about the chamber searching the disgusting sleeping bedrolls of the Trolls. The other Companions spread out along the chamber to search for any hidden passages or some possible sign of the remains of Kre.

As the stout warrior emerges from a dead-end niche in the chamber, a cry of joy comes from Ras across the chamber.

"Here it is!!! I found it!"

Rushing toward the sound of his friend's call, Beleg rounds a large stalagmite and an explosion of color greets his eyes as the light from the enchanted stone falls on the massed wealth hidden behind the boulders and stalagmites. Beleg raises his hand to shield his eyes from the glare of the light from the thousands upon thousands of coins that light scattered on the floor. Gold crowns, platinum, silver and electrum pieces abound among the many-hued gems and jewelry as well. Minor baubles and trinkets lie with exquisite diamond or pearl necklaces, bracelets of superb design and craftsmanship entwine with delicate studded earrings.

Gazing down at the pile of loot before him, Garth's jaw drops. "Never," he begins, "have I ever seen so much wealth in one place before. Either those Trolls have been here a long time or we only met a small group of their total."

Ortho grins at the words of his companion before elbowing Druckner, "Eh, Druck, looks like our friend 'ere be wantin' ta dine at Abbathor's table." He chuckles softly at his own jest of Garth dining with the dwarven god of greed.

"Wahl, I'll be right beside him then!" smiles Druckner with a twinkle in his eye. "Ah think Ah'll settle fer some of these fahn gold coins when we split this us. He, he he."

As everyone looks over the loot, Garth finally notices the possessions of Kre, his dagger Coldheart, the bag of holding he always carried and the pair of bloodstone pip dice. His other possessions having been ripped to shreds by the attack of the Trolls, Garth goes silent for a moment as the others finally notice them as well. Finally, he says morosely, "Better get the donkey's to cart what we may. A bitter windfall, but it will be worth us using it to get some proper gear again. I've no desire to lose another friend because we were no match for our enemies."

"I can carry a few trinkets if need be," mumbles Gnore as he sheaths his bastard sword.

Talimar tears his gaze from the treasure piled up in front of him, "We had better remain on our guard. Of course the Trolls may have been collecting this loot for a very long time."

"That would be a fair assumption," responds Beleg as he uses the tip of Troll's Bane to point to the edge of the pile. "This ground is recently disturbed with the addition of some of these goods. My guess is that this clan destroyed the remnants of the Topknots that we weakened and then took their loot as well."

"I too can carry some of these items, if anyone has a sack in which to put them," Beleg says as he continues to examine the treasure. "For myself, I would like to take this shield to replace the one I have lost." The young Paladin hoists the medium shield before him, showing it to everyone and listening for any objections. As he lifts it, his eye is caught by a fine set of platinum bracelets set with aquamarines and turqoise. He blushes and for a moment stands motionless, a far-away expression on his face. He then bends to pick up the bracelets, saying, "These too I would take, as a gift to my Lady. The gems match the hue and intensity of her eyes." Beleg stands with the shield in one hand and the bracelets in the other, silently regarding the fine craftsmanship of the jewelry and dreaming of the fair lady to whom he would give them. He remains thus for several moments as his companions look on.

Suddenly, he smiles and blushes again. "I apologize to you all," he says in his most formal tones. "I realize that this is not the time to talk about division of treasure, nor is it seemly or proper to worry about such things after the loss of our true and faithful companion. It's just that, well, the sight of these bracelets made me think of home and, well, someone who is special to me." He then bows formally to his companions.

Snagger grins and begins to laugh softly at the Paladin, "Ah, I nefer amagined dat a Paladine 'ould 'ave a sweeteart. Tis fine wit me if ya take em just as long as dey aren't magic an useful ta us. Ah don' feel lak givin' sumpin' dat 'ould save me life ta yer sweeteart."

The others nod at the words of Snagger. "Take the shield and the bracelet," offers Talimar. "You've certainly earned them."

"Thank you, my friends," replies Beleg as he wraps the bracelet neatly in a cloth from his backpack before carefully placing it inside.

Ras turns to the others, "Well, I say we pack what we can on the mules and utilize the bag of holding as best we can." His face drops as if a weight were hanging from his chin. He quietly speaks, "I would like to take Kre's dagger ColdHeart. I will remember Kre with every slash it delivers." He picks it up, "Many times Kre let me toss his dagger, it took him several weeks before he trusted me enough to feel it." He then spins the blade on his forefinger, "Never have I held a dagger so balanced." He looks for objections and seeing none, carefully sheaths the blade. To lighten the attitude of the party, his eyes rise as he says, "Who would like to play a quick game of craps? I found Kre's dice and I know he would like to die knowing he turned us all into gamblers!"

"Hrmph!" grumbles Gnore at the words of the halfling.

"Halflings!" mutters Ortho as he shakes his head in Druckner's direction, each of the dwarves shocked at the halflings jovial attitude toward the death of their friend. But of course, the dwarven people have never been able to understand the halfling idea of fun. Hard work and dedication to a good cause, that was the dwarven idea of fun.

Eyeing the large pile of coins before him, a thoughtful look spreads over the face of Dain. "Stand back everyone." Dain removes a small little misshapen house from his pouch, sets it carefully onto the cavern floor and speaks a few words of power in a low, undecipherable whisper. Suddenly the miniature house springs to full size, approximately thirty feet long by twenty feet wide with a ceiling of perhaps ten feet. With a smile, Dain speaks, "What ya all standin' there for? Put yer backs to work and let's haul it all in!"

The others quickly overcome the shock at the appearance of the dwelling before they all quickly start to fill empty sacks with coins and placing them inside the house. Within an hour's time, the companions have taken all of the loot from the chamber floor and moved it into the magical house. One of the bedrooms within the chamber is filled with the sacks of loot but there is still other room for more later. After completing the transfer, Dain speaks the command word to reduce the size of the house and it quickly shrinks to the mis-shapen miniature version of before. Smiling broadly, Dain walks over to retrieve the house and place it into his pocket.

"A wonderful trinket," mutters Ras as he watches Dain put the dwelling away.

"That it is," smiles Dain. "That it is."

Ras then turns away from the smug mage to gaze at the murky pool at the end of the chamber. "Am I going to have to check out the pool again?" he asks of no one in particular. Seeing no one rush forward to take his place, he pulls forth a small piece of bread to toss into the water. The bread strikes the surface of the water and floats there as it becomes water-logged. Nothing comes to the surface to strike at the bread however. Seeing nothing happen to the bread, Ras moves over to bend close enough to smell the water. Sensing nothing unusual about the water, he rises and pulls forth a piece of twine and his flint and steel.

Striking the flint several times, he finally has a sufficient spark that lights the twine. Wrapping the burning twine around a small twig, the halfling then tosses the twig into the water. As it strikes the calm surface of the pool the twig is extinguished, a small wisp of smoke rising in the air. Ras then turns to Beleg who has a strange look on his face as he watches the halfling, "Can I borrow that rock of yours?" The Paladin tosses the enchanted stone to his diminutive friend who ties a rope securely around the stone. Twirling the rope around his head, he tosses it toward the back of the pool before dragging it out, hoping to see anything in the water.

With the stone dragging over the bottom of the pool, the dirt and sand stir up to cloud the murky water even further. Realizing the futility of the effort, he pulls the stone forth, unties it and tosses it back to the now-smiling Beleg.

"Well, anyone else want to search this pool?" the halfling asks of his companions who have come forward to watch his search. Seeing no one else is jumping at the opportunity, he ties the rope around his waist and hands the other end to Gnore. He then takes off his jacket and shirt, tossing his boots to the side as well. His pack and all pouches at his belt soon follow and taking up ColdHeart, he slowly walks into the pool.

"Careful there, Ras," offers Talimar as he watches the halfling walk out into the murky water.

Ras' breath is quickly taken away by the cold temperature of the water around him. His teeth quickly start chattering as Ras regrets his decision to enter the pool. Deciding it's too late to worry now, he takes a deep breath and dives down into the dark waters. Able to see a few feet ahead of him in the dim water, he swims forward to look for anything of interest in the pool. Several small and medium sized fish swim by, quickly darting away from the intruder to their domain. Ras surfaces for a fresh breath before diving again several more times as he searches the pool.

After three such dives, he decides to make his last one his limbs becoming tired from the swimming and the cold temperature. Just as he dives below the surface of the pool, he sees a rather large and dark shape making it's way toward him. A moment of panic enters the halfling causing him to gasp momentarily, taking in a mouthfull of water. Quickly starting to choke beneath the water, he struggles to swim to the surface as he looks at the dark shape coming toward him.

Just prior to reaching the surface of the pool the air in his lungs is quickly forced out in a large gasp as the rope about his waist is pulled sharply. Ras' thoughts become a hodge podge of survival instincts as he struggles to reach the surface and the desperately needed air while also getting away from the approach of the beast in the water. Luckily for the halfling, Gnore had seen the approaching dark shape and his quick reactions were pulling the halfling away from danger. As Ras reached the surface of the pool, he nearly skis across the surface as Gnore and now Beleg desperately work to pull the halfling across the water and clear of danger.

Just as Ras reaches the edge of the pool, Beleg reaches over and graps the halfling about the waist and hauls him clear. Druckner and Ortho step forward with axe and shield ready as a large beast clears the surface of the pool several feet ahead, just where Ras had surfaced earlier. The creature has large fishy eyes, a pinkish sort of color and two large tentacles for arms. Appearing to be about seven feet in diamter, the creature surfaces to find it's evening meal gone before quickly diving back to the bottom of the pool.

Soaked to the bone and now shivering uncontrollably, Ras continues to cough up water as he rolls around on the cavern floor.

"Yyyyoou b-b-b-broke my ribs!" he manages to stammer to Gnore as he rises to one knee, his right hand holding at his side where a dark bruise and rope burns appear.

"Wahl that's some thanks!" grumbles Gnore as he tosses the rope to the ground in frustration. "Ye could 'ave been bait if'n it weren't fer me!" The stoic dwarf turns away from the halfling to walk back to the cave entrance to stand guard, his arms folded firmly across his chest.

"You must forgive our forcefulness," begins Beleg as he bends down to check the halfling's injured side with Dain. The mage having quickly handed the halfling a cloth to dry himself before putting some salve on the rope burns. "We were only thinking of pulling you to safety."

"Yeah, I guess. Thank you," mumbles Ras as he fishes for another shirt in his backpack.

"The ribs aren't broken but they are badly bruised. You will be sore a few days but should be none the worse for wear," responds Dain after thoroughly checking his companions wound.

"Thank you," answers Ras as he continues his dressing.

"Well, I guess that's that," offers Talimar matter of factly. "Let's be out of this cave and on our way to the Svirfneblin city."

After Ras notifies that others that he is ready, the group moves out of the chamber of the Slaverer Trolls and back up the tunnels toward the Svirfneblin city. Quickly slipping back into their accustomed marching order, Kersath slips ahead of the group to scout. His heart is heavy as he moves forward for the first extended time of scouting without Kre. A strange sense of loneliness comes over the dark elf as he quietly moves throughout the tunnels of the Underdark. As an outcast of his own race as well as the races of the surface world, he has spent the majority of his life alone. But recently he had begun feeling a strong bond with his companions of the Red Feather; especially the young half-elf. Now his friend was dead as he was once again quielty moving through the darkened tunnels by himself.

The Companions continue their march out of the Troll caves for the remaining hours of this day before Talimar finally calls a halt beside a suitably defensible alcove in the tunnel. Within a matter of moments, the camp for the group is set as everyone instinctively goes about the tasks necessary to secure the area. After a meal eaten in silence, everyone remaining solemn over the loss of Kre despite the destruction of the Trolls, watch is set and the others settle down to rest for the evening.

To the relief of everyone the evening passes uneventfully. After morning devotions are said for the priests, everyone breaks their fast before breaking the camp and moving out. Another two days of travel passes without incident as the Company heads northwest through the caverns of the Underdark back to the Svirfneblin city and their meeting with Carmeneran.

28th day of Alturiak. Late Night. Underdark.

Having spent the last few hours on another quiet watch, Kersath rises from his crouched position at the edge of the encampment to move over to Beleg. Nudging the warrior with the tip of the boot, he softly wakes the Paladin. Beleg's right hand moves forward to show the glint of steel as he rolls over to look at the dark elf standing over him.

"Time for yer watch," says Kersath to settle the warrior's nerves.

"Aye," responds Beleg as he clears his head, his warrior's instinct forcing him to almost immediate wakefulness. "I'll wake the others."

Kersath simply nods as he moves away from the warrior to seek out his own bedroll. Although being an elf and not needing the sleep necessary of the others, he still prefers to find a comfortable place to sit and relax while not on watch. After putting on the protective leather underclothes of his armor, Beleg straps on Troll's Bane before moving forward to wake Garth, Snagger and Ras for the watch. As he moves over to Rasmussen however, he quickly notices something wrong. The small halfling appears to sweat profusely in his bedroll despite the chill of the cavern chamber. He tosses and turns within the bedroll as he mumbles some unintelligible words.

"Ras, wake up. Ras," speaks Beleg as he softly tries to shake the halfling awake. To Beleg's dismay, the halfling mumbles again as he rolls over but does not wake up. Fearing the worst, Beleg calls for Garth to join him.

The dwarven priest quickly moves over to kneel at the side of Ras as he places a small hand to the forehead of the halfling.

"He's burnin' up with fever," answers Garth as he pulls forward more blankets to put around Ras.

"What's wrong with him?" asks Beleg as he looks at the frowning dwarf at his side.

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