“The knuckledraggers are up to no good,” said the tree. So we went to the cave of the small, humanoid monkey creatures to find out what it meant by that (and to look for Drake, Michael’s “giant purple butterfly moth” friend).
As we approached the cave, Brandr seemed to be disoriented for a moment. As he recovered, we all realized the entrance to the cave was blocked by an inconvenient pile of brush which was (even more inconveniently) currently on fire. We fought our way through the fire to discover a broader opening which had clearly been very recently occupied by our monkeylike foes.
We looked around the grungy, littered cave, poking through a pile of trash in a little alcove and discovering some loot, including four books!* Next, we spied a large wingprint on one of the earthen walls. Hmm, signs of Drake? No time to think about that right now—across the cave, a smaller passageway rustled as tiny hands scrambled to finish blocking it with trash and more brush.
Finally, a use for Xavros’s ten foot pole! As we cleared the brush away, little daggers zipped out at us. Eventually it was easier to just light it all on fire and watch the little ones scramble away. Once we were through, Brandr briefly stepped out into the center of the small room, realizing his mistake as he was immediately struck in the arm with a thrown dagger.
Turns out the “knuckledraggers” were indeed not especially fearsome. After we killed most of them, the remaining three cowered against the dirt wall of the tunnel, giving up their weapons and hiding their faces, pointing the way down the passage in (apparent) submission.
Taking them at their…pantomime, we trundled heedlessly down the tunnel, Karamail and Xavros leading the charge…directly into the web trap of a tremendous spider, sprung by a slightly larger monkey-creature—their supposed leader. As Brandr used one of his seemingly-limitless supply of daggers to free Xavros, the rest of the party set about dispatching the spider and its monkey-master.
After a little judicious healing, we proceeded further into the tunnel, which was now transitioning from rough, hand-dug earthen tunnels to dwarven stonework. At a junction, we discovered a heavy door fastened with three large padlocks. Above it, something was inscribed in what were clearly dwarven runes, but Karamail wasn’t familiar with the dialect. It said something like “…Noble…Dead Clan…Year…422.” So yeah. Not so helpful. Freakily, if we listened carefully at the door, we could hear little scratching sounds. Huh. Maybe that was Drake in there? If so, he could hang out a few more minutes or hours as we checked out the rest of this cave network. Things were just getting interesting, after all.
So we moved further down the earthen branch of the passageway…which kept getting smaller. After a while, Xavros had to take off his armor and squirm, Gertie began to hyperventilate a bit, and even Karamail was forced to crouch, but we were suddenly and unceremoniously expelled into a larger room. Nothing leapt out at us, but there was a large curtain across one corner of the room, draped in front of what looked like iron bars. After Xavros put his armor back on, Brandr borrowed the 10 foot pole and carefully drew back the curtain, at which point a HUGE BLAST of purple gas came right at us from what was behind the curtain…which turned out to be a purple fairy dragon, aka Drake, aka Michael’s friend.
Once we had recovered from variously laughing, staring open-mouthed at Drake, obsessively polishing our armor, and digging in our packs for rations and hey, where did you put my wineskin, I have the worst wool-mouth right now.. we learned that Drake’s breath was an intoxicant, and that the knuckledraggers had captured him and kept him here to provide them with amusement. He was happy to help us dig out the cramped passageway back to the door with the dwarven runes, and stood back as we tried again to decipher the runes.
“I think this bit says "traitor"", said Karamail, “And there’s something about a noble house, and a three? But that’s all I can make out. So let’s just open the locks. Ok?”
And of course, that’s what we did. Unleashing the undead dwarf inside. Whom we summarily dispatched. Inside his tomb were four scroll cases, score! Al took parts 1-2 of what looked to be this poor undead fool’s family history, and Brandr took parts 3-4. Inside the scroll case for part 4 was a map!
We spent a fair bit of time deciphering the map, which was also in the same unfamiliar dwarven runes. “Looks a bit like some art I saw once from a really ancient civilization called Ultima or something,” said Gertie. “Let’s see if we can’t puzzle it out.”
After some time spent squinting and arguing, we decided that was enough for a day’s work and headed back out of the cave system with Drake, returning him to his home in the trees. How odd, did you notice that the body of the undead dwarf noble was…gone as we went back through on our way out? Huh. Welp. Surely that’s not important. Speaking of things that are important, Drake gave us presents! Brandr got a scroll with two spells on it (Charm Person and Read Languages)! Too bad he doesn’t know how to read spells.
We headed back into town and witnessed the secret reunion of Michael and Drake. A love that dare not speak its name. Or something. Onward, to the spot marked X on the dwarven map!
- “Tidal Forces of the Sea of Dread”
- “Types of Ore Found in the Cruth Mountains”
- “History of Halflings”
Brandr has these
- “The Art of Divination”
Al has this one