17th day of Alturiak. Morning. Underdark.
Beleg's face pales at the mention of Trolls but he makes no comment. He stands quietly waiting for his companions to express their opinions. As he listens, his hand unconsciously comes to rest on the bejeweled pommel of his sword.
"A test is it?" ponders Dain as he scratches at his chin in thought, "I've never seen a Troll up close myself but then again, I've never taken a test I couldn't pass either. I think I read somewhere that Trolls don't like fire." Dain chuckles heartily, "I just might be able to do something about that."
Still somewhat angered at being lectured at, Gnore's eyes widen in disbelief at Carmeneren's suggestion of a test for the group. "A TEST!?! Why you pompous....HMPH!!!" Gnore exclaims with clenched fists. The dwarf visually struggles with his fury as he tries to keep it under control. Only after a few tense moments does Gnore continue in a low, rumbling monotone, "I would think clearing out a cavern INFESTED with corrupted humans and filthy orcs would have been test enough. We lost one of our members is it is down here. We may be nowhere near skilled enough to battle the sponges but we are definitely not smooth-kin youths awaiting our first beards. As I see it, you do not exactly have a line of crusaders forming to assist you in concern to your problem or perhaps you might consider taking under wing that other 'group' to assist your people." Gnore glares at the wisened gnome. After a couple of deep breaths, he waves his free hand in resignation.
"Whatever the Company decides is fine. I suddenly have an urge to cleave something." Gnore huffs, walking a few feet away to be alone in his anger.
Talimar glances at Gnore and quietly commands, "Shut up Gnore, they said nothing of a test. I feel it would be worthwhile to undertake this task to get secure allies, as well as information that would prove invaluable for our quest."
Turning back to Carmeneren, he adds, "We shall destroy this infestation for you. What can you tell us about the area they lair in, and what sort of numbers we are up against."
From his darkened corner, Gnore huffs at the correction from Talimar, "Pardon me, O master of the Common tongue, when the wisened lady mentioned the words 'first test', I assumed she actually meant a test not a task, as you so clearly divined. Forgive this dull-witted dwarf who takes mention of words at their face value."
Talimar ignores the sarcastic remark from the dwarf and instead focuses on Carmeneren.
"I don't mind killin' trolls and I don't mind earning skill, I just don' think we need to be tested is all." Gnore huffs in conclusion but it is evident that his anger is not as intense as it was moments ago.
Carmeneren shakes her head at the harsh words from Gnore, turning away slowly until Talimar speaks up. Mumbling something quietly in her native Svirfneblin, Kersath is the only Company member that understands the gnome priestess and he thinks to himself that he hopes her statement proves false.
Listening to the declaration from Talimar and the possible loss of time to destroy the Trolls, Garth pipes up and asks, "Might'nt playing with Trolls unnecessarily delay and possibly weaken us? I thought time was important?"
Hearing the words of Garth, Carmeneren speaks up before the others have a chance, "Time is important only if you are in a hurry to meet your death. As I said when last we met, a direct line of march toward the illithids will only bring about your group's demise. There are many dangers in the upper caverns of the Underdark that can provide you with the necessary experience and magic to defeat those below. Time spent gaining knowledge and experience is time well-spent."
"Hmmmph. Ah stand corrected in me doubts," utters Garth.
Carmeneren sees the frown on the face of the dwarf and her expression softens a bit, "Forgive my harshness. The continued existence of my people depends a lot on the success of your group. If you foolishly bring the wrath of the illithids to bear on us we are doomed. I must be sure that that will not happen."
Kersath agrees with Carmeneren and turns to Garth, "The Trolls could be a danger to us too. We do not know what we will encounter down there and I think it's best that we make the first move. Who knows, they might even be involved in this whole matter with the orcs and bandits. I say we go and destroy them. Yes, fighting them won't be easy but I think we should do it."
Ortho nods his head to the affirmative as Carmeneren looks into his eyes. His brow is furrowed though for he contemplates the difficulties of battling a nest of trolls.
Druckner addresses Carmeneren, "Ah agree with Kersath but wot do ya mean by 'infested'? Sorta like cockroaches comin' out of ev'ry hole, or more like two big ol' trolls makin' noise? An' yes, ah'd sure like to see that map o' yours."
Carmeneren gazes at the fiery dwarf, Druckner, "We do not know their exact numbers but there are two tribes of trolls that are battling each other for control of the tunnels. We do not have a map of the Troll caves, just the tunnels prior to them. We will show you that map of the upper levels upon completion of this task. I hope you understand that I cannot allow that map to fall into the wrong hands as it shows the area of our city. We can lead you to the tunnel that branches off this one and leads to their domain."
Talimar nods at the wisdom of Carmeneren's words, "We will return for the map after destroying the Trolls."
"Trolls eh?" remarks Snagger, Ah guess it's ah good thing dat we braght dem barrels of oil! Heh, heh! Eh Gnore, Ortho, Garth, what say ye ta cleavin' up some stupid trolls? Me axe is ready ta prove itself to ye an so am I." Snagger grins at the thought of finally getting to fight with the whole group.
Druckner raises his axe and tests its edge with a manic grin, "Waddya say Ortho, time to break out the oil?"
"Ah didn't bring me oil ta waste on a bunch o' ugly Trolls. We'll just 'ave ta root the big uglies out," says Ortho. "Gnore, don't get so upset. She's right, ye know. We're not ready ta take on a bunch o' spongeys right now. Perhaps a tuneup against the Trolls won't be so bad and it would both help the Smurfs and secure our rear."
"Smurfs?" Garth asks with a raised eyebrow, "Who or what are the Smurfs?" A disturbing image of little blue skinned creatures a little smaller than the gnomes lead by an old wizard, with only one female to their clan glides across Garth's mind. Shaking his head to clear the image and wondering at it's origin, he turns back to Ortho.
"The S-v-i-r-f-n-e-b-l-i-n, ye thick-headed, bearded moonchild. 'Smurfs' fer short," responds Ortho.
"Oh," Garth replies as a creeping flush of red spreads across his bearded face.
Ras clears his throat and speaks up for the first time, "I think you are right Ortho, we should try and clear the upper levels first. We go too deep too fast and we will all just die quicker. If we need to retreat from the lower levels, we don't want to have to fight our way out. Let's get the Trolls, they are disgusting beasts anyways and always a threat to everyone, not just our new friends."
Beleg nods in satisfaction after hearing Talimar's assent to Carmeneren and the rest of the party's agreement. With the decision made, the young paladin finally speaks, "Destroying Trolls is a task worthy of our efforts my friends, though it will not be easy. It is my honor to possess something that may prove of great assistance in our efforts. This is Troll's Bane, a holy relic of the Paladins of Forseti," Beleg says as he draws forth his large bastard sword, displaying it to the party and the assembled Svirfneblin.
The weapon is a great bastard sword with a hilt wrapped in dyed-green griffon hide. The pommel is set with a large emerald and the blade is engraved with the name of the weapon in the tongue of the Far North. The blade is polished to a mirrolike finish.
"Troll's Bane is a fearsome weapon against these creatures," continues Beleg with pride. "He will glow brightly when Trolls are near and the wounds he inflicts upon the beasts will not regenerate." He sheaths the great blade before continuing, "I believe we should avail ourselves of the hospitality, wisdom and knowledge of our hosts," he says with a bow to Carmeneren, "and then go forth and smite these vile creatures of darkness."
Kersath's eyes widen as the Paladin explains the sword's power. He whistles softly, then turns to Beleg, "Nice toy you got there...Might be useful, eh?"
"Ah do believe we have found a use fer our returned comrade," says Ortho with a big grin. "Beleg, you're in front!"
"My pleasure," Beleg says with a bow and a grin to match Ortho's. "It's comforting to know that you think I'm useful for something, friend Ortho," he adds with a chuckle.
Carmeneren is quite relieved that the party agrees to see about the menace of the Trolls and appears to gain strength from that agreement. With members of her tribe leading the way, the Red Feather Company and the Svirfneblin set out along the darkened passages of the Underdark.
To Dain, Talimar, Ras, Kre and Beleg, the damp, dark tunnels of the vast underground appear to go on forever and ever, never changing or offering any vast change of scenery. They all remark at the ability of the innate ability of the dwarves, the gnomes and the dark elf, Kersath, to be able to tell the time of day or night without the aid of the sun or the moon. The humans and elves have only their weary bones and rumbling stomachs to inform them of times to stop and rest and eat.
Four days the strange troupe walks on without incident, the Svirfneblin scouts quickly able to warn of any danger up ahead allowing the party to wait for it to pass or taking them through various side passages and avoiding any threats. Although anxious to wet their blades in the Underdark, the companions do not complain much at avoiding any wandering menaces as they know they will need all their strength to fight the Trolls.
The Svirfneblin have no trouble identifying the strange tunnels that twist and snake around the interior of the Underdark, avoiding those that wander off to parts unknown and taking others that eventually lead back to the main passageway. Finally, the morning of the group's fifth day of travel with the Svirfneblin, they come to stand before a passage that branches away to the south. Carmeneren comes to stand before Talimar and the others as she points to the passage.
"Down there you will find the caverns of the two Troll clans. Return to this passage after you have destroyed them and then continue along this passage. Our scouts will then find you again. May Callarduran guide and protect you."
Talimar bowed deeply at the blessing from Carmeneren and turning to Kersath and Kre, motioned for them to lead the group south. With a smile to their leader, the dark elf and young thief set out down the passage. Waiting a few moments, the remainder of the party continued down after them, mules in tow. After several hours of anxiously moving through the darkened passageway, Kre returns to the front of the group to report to Talimar.
"Douse that light!" he quickly says to Beleg, the large paladin quickly dropping the enchanted stone light source into a pouch at his side, Dain quickly following suit. "Kersath is ahead watching the passage. It continues on ahead about sixty yards before opening up. How do you want to proceed?" asks the thief of Talimar.