22nd day of Alturiak. Afternoon. Underdark.
With Kre returning to the main group to report, Kersath turned and settled into a small niche in the wall of the passageway. Pulling his specially made cloak around him, he hoped that it was indeed working to hide the heat of his body. Making no sound as he adjusted his twin longswords at his side to provide more comfort in his sitting position, he took in the life of the tunnel around him. A strong sense of comfort and peace began to rise in him from being back in the darkened underground once again. To his left, a number of albino worms made their way through the soft earth as they searched for food. Kersath could hear nothing from either direction of the tunnel and he smiled with pride that his companions were able to remain so quiet in discussing their plans. The silence from the opening ahead of him gave him cause for concern though.
Back at the main group, Gnore moves in next to Beleg's left and whispers a jovial comment to his friend, "There you are, Paladin, go in there and clean the beasties out. I'll wait 'til you are done then burn the remains...Oh wait, your blade doesn't need that, eh? Perhaps I could persuade Druckner, Ortho, Garth and Snagger to help me in singing dwarven songs to assist you in your battle." Gnore smiles though he knows that Beleg will not be able to see it in the darkness. Gnore unsheaths his bastard sword and takes his place next to the Paladin in order to offer support. "Perhaps if you just pull your sword a part way out, we could see if the beasties indeed be near?"
Beleg smiles at Gnore's comment and makes a mental note to break into the Warson of the Northern Clans, a battle hymn sung by the Dwarves of the Frozen Hills who's lands border his homeland. "I would not deprive you or your kin of the opportunity to gain further glory in battle, friend Gnore," the young Paladin says lightly. He slides his blade slowly from its sheath, holding it out so that both he and his dwarven companion can see it, "I was thinking the same thing myself, friend Gnore. Perhaps I should remind our leader of the sword's ability? Could you lead me to Talimar? I'd hate to trip in the dark and alert our foes before it is seemly to do so."
"Gnore, yer not goin' after any trolls without me," pipes in Ortho after hearing the conversation of the two. "Like you, Ah didn' spend all those months learnin' how ta fight giants an' Trolls an' such fer nothin'."
Snagger grins to the others, "Don' forget 'bout me now. Ah would be appy ta come along with ye. Although dat may be a little too much." Looking at his mule he adds, "Maybe we shoulda left the mules with dem gnomes. Ah well, we'll just 'ave ta watch em."
Beleg smiles, once again grateful for the good humor and fearlessness of his companions. "No need to worry, friend Ortho," he says with a quiet laugh. "Gnore was just urging me to clear this scourge with the aid of Troll's Bane here and a hearty dwarven song. Perhaps you'd like to join the chorus?"
Without waiting for a reply from Ortho, Beleg turns again to Gnore, "What say you Gnore, should we remind Talimar of Troll's Bane's power?"
"If you'll wait just a moment kin Ortho, the human needs my dwarven eyes," Gnore jokes. Taking the free hand of Beleg, Gnore places it on his right shoulder. "I'll guide ya to the elf. I can hear him giving orders already." Gnore starts slowly toward Talimar, careful not to steer the imposing Paladin into any unseen obstacles. As the pair near their elven leader, Gnore lightly taps Talimar on his arm. Gnore silently hopes this action will slightly startle the Company's leader but the dwarf knows better.
"I believe Beleg's sword may be able to help in finding the Trolls, Talimar," Gnore offers through a wide grin.
Looking down the dark tunnel Talimar nods to Gnore and quietly comments, "We need to get a better idea of what we shall face. Ras, Kersath and Kre should go and scout ahead. The rest of us should arrange in battle formation--Beleg in the centre and the dwarves flanking to each side and the rest of us behind to support with spell and bow."
Glancing at the pack mules, the elf continues, "The mules will have to stay here for the time being. Tie them up for now. After the scouts have learned what is ahead, the rest of us can move up and then the scouts go out again. Any other ideas?"
Ortho looks at Talimar, "Tal, ye know Ah always favor goin' on the attack rather than wait ta be attacked. What say Ah take a little stroll into the cavern beyond? Move about a bit an' see if anythin' comes out right away. If somethin' crops up then y'all come runnin'. If not, then we can move on in order. If ye don't like this then let's have our scoutin' force see what's what." Having said his bit, Ortho awaits Talimar's decision. As Talimar thinks the plan over, Ortho strokes the muzzle of his lead mule, Hazel, "Ol' girl, ye gots ta keep quiet as ye can now for there be some beasties about that'd rather eat ye than loot at ye."
As Talimar continues to ponder Ortho's idea, thinking about the success he last had with the Goblins of the Mire, Druckner speaks up, "Like Tal said, let's learn more about ta situation. Recall what Carmeneren said, thar's two tribes of dem Trolls and they're battling. We've gotta finda way to get 'em up against one another. Ah've seen Trolls near Tethyamar and their fierce. We shouldn't rush into this, remember Randor and Zir'zool."
"Aw, Druck, sometimes yer just not much fun. From what Tal says Ah've got ta stay 'ere and scratch me mules' backsides while Kre, Kersath and Ras 'ave all the good times. This sneakin' around is no fun ta me. Not me bag. Fortunately, the others do 'ave a 'abit o' findin' things ta quarrel with," says Ortho as he rubs Hazel's muzzle.
"Aye," Garth agrees somberly. "Let us set them against each other. What might we introduce into this place that would make these Trolls fight each other berzerkly to gain it? Food? Treasure? Treachery?"
"Ow 'bout me? A little live bait always seems ta encourage the big uglies," says Ortho with a broad grin. "Tal?" Ortho looks to Talimar expanctanly, "This was me original idee."
"I agree we shouldn't rush into anything," Beleg whispers. "However, we need to remember why we are here. We do not have the time to wait until a war of attrition between the two tribes weakens the Trolls to a point where we can easily defeat them. Remember, unless those slain during this tribal war are burned, they will regenerate and eventually rise to fight again. Trolls do not use fire and I do not know if they will eat their own kind, so what is the point of trying to set them against each other?" He turns and faces the direction from whence Garth's voice emanated. "The Trolls are already at war with each other, according to our hosts. What do we have to gain by trying subtlety? I do not think that will be of much use against such creatures. While their evil and ferocity are to be feared, they are stupid creatures whose motivations are difficult to understand. I suggest we try to find the respective lairs of each tribe and deal with each seperately."
"I agree with Beleg," states Gnore flatly. "We need to deal with the tribes one at a time. The moment both tribes smell us kin and the rest, they'll forget their differences and attack us in frenzy. But this is all before the point. If Beleg pulls his sword a bit and the blade does not glow, all of this talk is wasted breath. I agree the scouting party may find evidence of the Trolls but Beleg's sword will solve the mystery right now." Gnore huffs in impatience, clearly excited about a possible tussle with the Trolls.
"Anyhow, if the Trolls don't smell us first, they'll sniff out them mules easy."
Dain remains quiet as the discussion unfolds around him, drawing a slender ash rod from his cloak he grips it tightly in his right hand. A grin spreads across his face as if he is picturing something humorous.
Snagger thinks on the remark of Gnore, "It 'ould be nice if'n we could get some fresh blood but Ah don' see 'ow. If we could it 'ould bring dem uglies a runnin'!"
Beleg slides Troll's Bane out of its sheath but no light emanates from the blade. "Apparently the Troll's are not near," he says to the others. "But I do not know the exact range of that ability. When I first saw the weapon Trolls were all over the battlefield so it was glowing brightly."
"We will go with the original plan of scouting out the cavern ahead," decides Talimar finally.
"Tal, should Ah stay with the mules until we actually get into a tussle? Like Snagger, Ah would 'ave preferred ta leave me mules with the Smurfs but Ah didn't think about it fast enough. Now we 'ave 'em with us an' they're awful vulnerable. Perhaps we will find a room or somethin' ta leave 'em in but leavin' 'em by themselves in a passageway is a great way ta 'ave 'em wander off or get killed. Ah'll bring 'em along fast as Ah can and Ah'll cover the reat in the process. If we run into somethin' up front Ah'll tie 'em off and hurry forward if needed." Ortho is obviously concerned about the safety of his newfound mulish friends.
"That will be fine," nods Talimar to Ortho. "Ras, Kre, move ahead and scout with Kersath. We will be right behind you in case you need us."
Ras and Kre silently nod to their leader and quickly move out down the passageway, both with daggers out and in hand. The other companions ready their weapons and set out behind the silent thieves. Kersath joins them from his hidden spot and the three slowly and quietly make their way down the passage and into the chamber beyond.
As the three thieves silently step beyond the walls of the tunnel behind them, they quickly see that they have stepped into a central chamber or intersection. Three tunnels branch off from this main one that appears to continue on toward the group's left. Two tunnels open up to their right while the third appears about a hundred yards across from them. As the three slowly fan out from the main tunnel, Kersath steps down on a loose stone causing his ankle to turn slightly. Off-balance, the dark-elf rights himself with the help of a nearby stalactite. Unfortunately for the three companions, another stone tumbles to the cavern floor.
Kersath curses to himself as the noise echoes through the chamber tunnels. The others freeze hoping that there is nothing hiding in the chamber to hear the stone. Again the luck of the companions turns bad as there are two Trolls stationed as guards in the chamber. The noise of Kersath's rock causes them to finally see the dark elf. One Troll takes off running across the chamber to the middle tunnel while the second rises from behind a stalactite to throw a boulder at the crouching Kersath. The boulder sails high and crashes to the wall behind the elf.
Kre and Ras quickly react by throwing a pair of daggers each at the fleeing Troll. Kre's weapons both sail wide of their mark, but Ras is more fortunate as both daggers strike the Troll. Ignoring the pain from the wounds, the Troll continues running toward the tunnel and disappears from sight.
Outside the chamber, the other companions of the Red Feather Company can easily hear the loud crash of the boulder striking the cavern walls. With calm certainty, they know that their friends have found the Trolls!