After talks with the kobold ‘king’ Meebo, we asked if there were a place we could rest for the night. The kobold Kalrax showed us of a secret passage that Meebo swore the hobgoblins did not know of, a large clearing surrounded by thick forest. It was calm, and strangely uplifting to my spirit. Before I could contemplate the place, my fellow adventurers had went back into the cave to fill their waterskins. I followed them, and Kalrax showed us to a natural spring. She did not follow us in, saying she did not like the water. Gaervesk took a drink, claiming it was some of the best water he had ever tasted, so we all filled our skins with it. The pond was clear and cool, so I decided I could take the opportunity to bathe. By this time, Eisenheim had left to go meditate, and Al’Der’eth as well. Upon my taking off of my outermost robe, Rukh left in a haste; I did intend to inform him I would be disrobing, and would have asked if it could keep watch by the entrance. Instead, I turned around and saw Gaervesk had already taken up such a position, his back turned to me. He did not seem at all interested in gazing upon me, so I unclothed myself without fear of being spied upon.
I strode into the water. It was not deep, coming up to about my midsection. It was cool but not cold, and very refreshing. I tilted my head back to immerse my hair, rising again and shaking my head a bit. I then washed myself, praying to Pelor that in the cleaning of my body in the pure waters I would also, if only symbolically, keep clean and purify my soul. The ritualized cleansing did not take more than a short while or two, and after getting dressed and picking up my belongings, I noticed Gaervesk had not moved from the entrance, his back still turned toward me. I walked up to him, placed my hand on his shoulder, and thanked him for staying while I bathed. We then both went back to the clearing with our other companions.
Before going to sleep, we decided in what order we would watch for danger while the others slept. Eisenheim said he would not actually sleep all night, rather entering into a sort of trance that would replenish him. Gaervesk went first, then Al’Der’eth, Rukh third, and finally myself. Before going to sleep, I sat in deep thought, trying to understand the mystery of this place. I sensed it was perhaps of some importance once, long ago, but I could not say exactly what for. I took note of this feeling, and then laid my head down to sleep. My rest was not entirely without some disturbance. I had what I can only call a vision of some sort. I was awake and standing in the field, fighting against what seemed like an undead army, my holy symbol shining brightly. I laid to rest several of the creatures, and as the darkness receded, I turned and saw my companions around me. They were glowing with a golden aura, fighting with glorious fervor. I felt a strong bond with them, as I saw we were all fighting together. I had never thought so of myself before, but it now seemed clear to me that I, no, we were all meant for some great purpose, and our meeting was not mere chance, but destiny setting it’s course. As suddenly as the vision had come, it was gone, and I returned to a deep, dreamless sleep.
I was awoken by the sound of Rukh’s voice, I opened my eyes and turned to him, saying I had the most unusual dream. Rukh claimed he had as well, which surprised me. Had we both dreamt the same vision? I got up, and saw it was getting close to dawn. I wanted to explore and forage from this place. As Rukh laid to rest, I went to Eisenheim who was still his trance-like state. I said this place seemed to be peaceful and without danger, and I would be off to forage for a bit, and thus asked if he could watch over the others in my absence. He agreed, and as I turned to leave, he said, “May I ask you a question?”
I turned my head, surprised and puzzled, and replied, “Of course.”
“Would you ever kill, say, a skeleton?”, he asked.
I pondered for just a moment. “Well… they have no life in them, having been brought back through some unnatural or necrotic means, thus you cannot actually ‘kill’ them, but rather lay them back to rest. And I would do so, yes. I imagine undeath is far worser a fate than death itself. How can a soul rest when the body does not?”
He seemed content with my answer and asked further, “What about a demon?”
I thought about it for a bit longer. “Hmm… demons and devils are not like the living, they are the very embodiment of evil, the antithesis of the gods and angels themselves and all they represent. I cannot imagine it is possible for them to change their ways, for their very nature is evil. If ‘kill’ is the right word in defeating them, then yes, I would. There is no good to be had in doing otherwise as far as I can see.”
“Okay, just curious”, he said, before returning to his trance.
I shrugged, hoping I had satisfied his strange curiosity, and went on my way. I found fruit hanging from the trees, but I could not reach it, and the forest was too thick to enter. I returned to my companions a while later, as they were just waking up. We readied ourselves, then headed back into the caves. After a short talk with Meebo, and learning there would be seven hobgoblins to deal with, we followed his directions to where the hobgoblins could be found. Kalrax’s tiny son tagged along behind us, and Gaervesk turned to talk to him. Clearly he could not come with us, but I could not communicate with the child. He seemed reluctant to leave, but Gaervesk managed to turn him away, not too harshly I hoped. We continued on our way. Taking the passage through the caves Meebo had told us of, we came to a large cavern, with a small waterfall cascading down from the top of a cliff. We had to scale the the wall somehow, but thankfully there were stairs carved into the face of the rock, winding up to the top. There was a light at the summit. We walked single file up the stairs, rounding a bend, then another. Suddenly, I heard a quiet rumbling, like the sound of the waterfall. I looked up and saw a large, round boulder rolling down the stairs, headed straight for us!
My companions were surprised, but I was not. I called out to Rukh, who took up the lead position, to watch out for the boulder. In addition, two hobgoblin archers appeared at the summit, and I threw a lance of Pelor at the nearest one. They fired at us from the top of the cliff, as the boulder continued on its way, and I heard Rukh and Gaervesk formulating a plan of some sort. We counterattacked the hobgoblins, and the stone was nearly upon us now. Rukh used his shield to direct some of the waterfall’s water onto the steps, I could not imagine why. Suddenly, Gaervesk inhaled deeply, and exhaled an icy blast, freezing the water and creating a large ice patch. Rukh then called out to us to brace ourselves, and we all pushed forward against him, however my being at the end of the line, I am not sure how much help I provided. Rukh held his shield tight, braced against the wall at an angle, and the large rock seemed to slide on the icy patch, and finally struck Rukh’s shield. We were pushed back just a bit, but Rukh held fast and the heavy boulder was successfully deflected! We all cheered Rukh for his strength, but the fight was not yet over. Against our combined strength the hobgoblins could not defend, and we defeated them, myself knocking one of the beasts unconscious. He was subsequently roped up by my comrades and I tied a decent knot to secure him tightly. We found some gold on the hobgoblins, but no one wanted their longbows, so I emptied their quivers, reminding myself to blunt or remove the sharpened arrowheads later.
We rested for a short while, then went into a narrow passage with a small stream running along it. It was well illuminated, and inside we found two rooms, separated by a crevasse and connected by a bridge. The supposedly five remaining hobgoblins were awaiting us, an archer had overturned a table and was hiding behind it. Rukh was first to go in, but was met by two flail-wielding warriors. As he fought them, the rest of the party moved their in, and attacked. Upon seeing two of my companions injured, and feeling this would be a difficult battle, I prayed to Pelor for a beacon of hope. I felt my healing powers would be much strengthened. My companions attacked fiercely, and I supported them as best I could. I did contribute some to the fighting, but was not able to knock out any of the hobgoblins myself. Poor Al’Der’eth, he cast a thunderous spell twice at the enemy wizard, and missed both times quite badly. He was able to make up for it however, casting the same spell and throwing the hobgoblin wizard backward, into the pit. I felt we came together, fighting alongside each other, each of us trusting the one beside him or her. What might have been a very rough battle seemed almost effortless.
Finishing up the encounter, we searched around the two rooms. I again emptied the hobgoblins’ quivers for arrows. Al’Der’eth climbed down into the crevasse, Rukh holding the end of the rope and acting as a steadfast anchor point. They recovered the hobgoblin wizard’s body, and found a good amount of gold and silver upon his person, as well as a magical staff and a potion of healing. Having found and been given one the day before, we gave Eisenheim the second potion. A garnet jewel was found as well, and a desk cluttered with papers and a map, and a locked chest sitting beneath it. We managed to open the chest, and inside was a large amount of gold and silver and an emerald jewel, all of which I was given to hold.
We rested again, and remembered Meebo told us of a dragon the hobgoblins had captured. Rukh, feeling we should take an extended rest from combat before facing a dragon, suggested we should head back to Meebo’s chamber to find out more about this dragon. I surmised that perhaps we shouldn’t fight the dragon, as he may be the kobolds’ deity, from the large obsidian statue we saw in the kobold caves. With the hobgoblins all dead or captured, the dragon might not pose a threat anymore. Gaervesk applauded my honorable words, but knowing more about dragons than I, said any dragon remained a dangerous force. We returned to Meebo’s throne room, and asked about the dragon. It’s name was Smokesnare, and indeed Meebo wanted us to defeat it for him, with some immediacy it seemed. We asked what would happen if we did not fight the dragon right now, and he said we must or it would fly away. I was not in favor of fighting the dragon, putting forth that since the dragon had no one to control it, it would return to its natural den and leave Northbridge alone. The others did not agree with me, and rather than let the dragon escape, they wanted to face it. I reluctantly followed my companions, feeling as though I should keep them safe and strong to fight.
We went the same way we had traveled before, passing the living quarters of the hobgoblins we had fought, continuing down the passage and following the stream. We came to what looked to be it’s source. A large pond faced us, a small island sitting in the middle. We saw no dragon. Along the rightmost wall was a set of stone stairs. Rukh went up the stairs, and Eisenheim and Al’Der’eth set stones they found alight and cast them into the water, which seemed black. They sunk and illuminated the depths, but still we saw nothing… at first. A shadow passed over one of the glowing stones, and suddenly a large black dragon rose out of the water, and was now staring at us. It was time to fight the mighty beast we had heard so much about, and I prayed to Pelor that he give us the strength and courage to come out victorious in this confrontation.
The dragon attacked us first, namely Al’Der’eth and I. Al’Der’eth was able to get out of the large dragon’s claws way, but alas I was not so fortunate. It clawed at me, and for the first time since I started this adventure, I was injured. I saved my healing prayers, my companions might need it more than myself. And thus the battle begun. I prayed for Pelor’s lance to strike the beast, but it was a most agile creature, and not easily hit. My companions each attacked the dragon in their various ways, with not much success. It seemed this was a hopeless battle, the dragon was too strong for us. It submerged under the water, and reappeared in a different location, attacking my companions. It created a dark shroud around itself, and disappeared from our view. We attacked the darkness, but hit nothing. Again, we heard it submerge and it soon reappeared in a new location. It exhaled a poisonous cloud at Al’Der’eth, and he was gravely injured. I ran closer to him and healed his wounds. Whether bravely or foolishly, we attacked the black beast again, this time craftily lowering the dragon’s defenses. Now was the time to have at it. We dealt several strong blows, but the creature was still strong to fight. It again breathed an acidic cloud onto us, and I healed Al’Der’eth once more. Yet I was feeling weak myself, and Rukh’s touch healed me. Standing strong, I bolstered my companions, praying to Pelor that they strike true. We again hit the beast with everything we had, and she was finally bloodied. Perhaps feeling the tide of the battle was turning, our dragon foe beat a hasty retreat, flying away out a hole in the cavern. We tried to pursue, but she was too far away by the time we saw her again. We had won, albeit the black dragon was still alive. Hopefully she would fly far away, back to her lair, and would rest for a good long time, leaving the villagers alone. However, I could not shake the feeling we made an enemy today.
I collapsed to the ground, I had done all I could to aid my allies and set Pelor’s divine radiance upon the dragon, yet I did not land a single blow. If it were not for my allies, I would have stood no chance against a black dragon, even a young one. And perhaps in some small way, I help keep my companions in relative good health and able to fight. It was clear to me that alone we were weak, yet fighting along side each other we were formidable. Having caught my breath, I saw all my companions had swam to the middle island, apparently they had found something. Gold it seemed, and magical items. Sadly, the bones of several gnomes were also found. I prayed their souls find peace at the sight of them. Having collected everything, we went back to Meebo, telling him we had driven the dragon away. He seemed not entirely happy, but we had done our best. We sternly told him not to raid Northbridge or any village or farm again. I myself requested that should he and his people raid, not to hurt anyone. At this my companions all laughed, and I was deeply embarrassed, I clearly had not chosen my words well, for as honest and good as my intentions were. After some confusion with proper wording, we were satisfied that Meebo understood, and left the kobolds’ caves. There was the matter of the prisoner we had taken, the hobgoblin archer I rendered unconscious, we did not know what to do with him. The others looked to me, it seemed he was my prisoner. My companions each made suggestions; to bring him back to town and let justice be done, give him to the kobolds and let them do what they would with him, or to simply kill him and be done with it. I knew all those options would inevitably end in the hobgoblin’s demise, and I could not bring myself to knowingly send a living being to their death. I felt overwhelmed, I did not know what to do.
The hobgoblin was glaring at us this whole time. I untied the gag keeping him silent up until now. He spat in my face the first chance he got, and I calmly wiped it away. I asked him if he could understand my words, but he did not answer, eying me with hatred. Rukh angrily demanded he answer my questions, and after a pause he said he understood well enough. I told him that he and his fellow warriors had been defeated, and that if I were to set him free, he should return to his people and tell them of this defeat. It seemed his kind were not the sort to admit defeat. Rukh said that regardless of his beliefs, he had been bested, and he would do well to accept the mercy I was willing to grant him. I asked the hobgoblin his name, but he would not tell me. Calling him ‘nameless one’, I told him not to confuse kindness with weakness, and instructed my allies to let him go, leaving his hands bound. Before releasing him, Rukh grabbed the brute and thrust him against the cavern wall. He threatened that should he hear that nameless one did villainy again, he would come for him. The nameless one did not seem to take Rukh seriously, and he reiterated his threat more angrily. Tossing him away, nameless one ran off, towards the direction of the ruined keep. I did not feel satisfied with this resolution, I was conflicted about how to do the most good, and was not sure if I had done so.
It was dusk, and we headed back to town. I separated from my companions, feeling as though I had to talk with Father Tyran. I went to the temple of Pelor, and tested the door, but it was locked. Hearing a rattling and seeing me through the window, Father Tyran came and opened the door for me. He inquired as to what I wanted, and I asked if I may speak with him. He invited me in, leading me to his study, and we both sat down. I explained the situation with our hobgoblin prisoner, and how I doubted that I did the good and right thing. He told me that I should not doubt my decisions, to trust that Pelor would guide me to take the proper action, and to pray that the most good had been done. I replied that it seemed my allies did not always seek to do the most good, and he said that I should trust that one’s motivation was for what one believed to be good, if not their actions. This confused me, for what if someone were to do unquestionably evil acts but believed themselves just? Was that truly good and right? Father Tyran admitted he was not as well-trained as I in these matters, but I thanked him for his words, and bid him goodnight. Walking me to the door, I bowed and said a prayer before I left, and headed to the town inn, still not feeling fully resolved.
Entering the inn, Bronwyn the proprietress started to pour an ale, but seeing it was me and giving it some thought, she instead offered a cold water. My companions were all gathered together, telling me to celebrate and have a drink with them. Bronwyn recommended the mead, claiming it was not strong. It was fermented nonetheless, and I asked for a warm milk instead. Giving me an odd look, she fetched a glass for me. I sat by myself, listening to my companions chatter. Eisenheim tried to strike up conversation with Rukh, claiming he knew a man who worshipped Tuan, but Rukh saw through his lie, however he seemed amused and told Eisenheim of his faith anyway. My companions divided up the treasures we had found up until that point. I received over one hundred gold pieces, and they had also found a magical longbow and holy symbol in the dragon’s lair, and they gave these to me as well. I thought it was all far too generous to accept, but it seemed I was the only one who could use the items most effectively, so I thanked them and graciously took their gifts. The symbol was in the shape of a tree, it seemed to have life-healing powers imbued into it. The bow was more ominous, having an angry face carved into it. It seemed almost vicious, I was wary of using it. Still, so long as it would fire my blunted arrows, I could not kill with such a weapon.
It has been a very long and difficult day, and it has taken me a long time to write this journal entry. I feel my companions and I are connected somehow, and we are to head out again tomorrow morning. The journey will take a few days, no doubt I will have more time to get to know them. I am no more at ease now with the hobgoblin prisoner incident than I was before. I wonder what Father would say about it. I will write him as soon as I receive his reply to my last letter.