Having arrived home with a new ship, the party deliberated on their next move. Should they finally proceed to the valley of nox, or should they seek to prepare themselves more? Mike and Steph, unfortunately, had been injured during the Vrok fight, and would need some time for recuperation. The rest of the party would have to go without them for a while.
After some discussion, Ben leaned forward and presented an idea. What was one thing every party needed? Healing. Abundant healing. And for that, he said, he had an amazing little device in mind. However, there was no way around it, he needed a fresh Red Dragon’s heart. But the party HAD just defeated some very powerful denizens of HELL. What problem would a dragon be? He didn’t even need a fully adult dragon’s heart. He just needed an adolescent heart, and Pol had mentioned he might know where to find an hatchery.
The team deliberated again. Could they just BUY one? No, the mage’s college didn’t have any fresh, and the things they suggested were going to cost upwards of 75,000 gold, and they didn’t really know where else they could find something like that. Then Pol stepped forward.
Pol had aged somewhat, or at least looked more mature now that he had a wispy beard and wore robes gathered around him like some ancient priest. He counseled the group, telling them about a red dragon hatchery at the edge of the desert to the west, close enough now that they had their ship. It was in an out of the way place, sparsely guarded by a group of heretic dragon worshiping kobolds who did not know or refused to speak common, but despite what the party had experienced before, these kobolds were ruthless. If the party ventured into their lair, they would be set upon by devilish traps and mechanisms, all designed to kill. It wouldn’t be a walk in the park, but Pol knew that they could make it, and offered them a wonder to behold if they brought him the eye of a dragon.
The party spent some time figuring out what supplies they needed, then headed out. It wasn’t hard to find the place Pol had marked on the map. Dragons didn’t tend to hide themselves much anymore, and the charred slopes and gaping cavern trailing smoke were a good indication of what lay within, not to mention the plumes of flame that burst from the mouth of the cavern when the ship flew too close. The group set down a ways off, and Ethan ordered the ship to make continuous passes looking for them to exit. He didn’t want the party getting stuck without a quick getaway if need be.
The entrance to the cave was more guarded than the previous kobold sanctuary the group had seen. This entrance boasted a portcullis, and a murder hole through which the kobolds could watch the party approach. Fearing what might be inside, Andrew instructed his undead Vrok to enter first, shortly after blocking the murder hole with a large rock.
As suspected, the Vrok was accosted from various murder holes inside the entrance, and quickly backed out having noticed nothing but a narrow door some farther distance inside. Bryan and Ethan elected to enter next, since they were both nearly invisible in shadow. Bryan headed for the door to see if the lock could be picked, and Ethan decided to see if he could make one of the murder holes slightly larger with his egg-hammer. Both failed their first attempt. Ethan’s knockback reverberated off the walls and sent him flying into the rock behind him, and Bryan lost track of his tools in the commotion. The rest of the party then entered, invisible, to see if they could help, but not long after the group entered, the trap was triggered.
Without warning, the portcullis slammed down behind the party, and the wall opposite the murder holes erupted in flame, igniting the oil slicks on the floor beneath them. The party was engulfed in fire, and Bryan failed another lock picking attempt. They were trapped in a burning room.
Luckily, Elaina had exactly what was needed for the situation. She quickly cast grease on the area under her feet, and again to catch most of the rest of the party. Bryan succeeded his next lockpick, which resulted in his and Ethan’s bursting into the following room and rolling on the floor to puth themselves out. The group behind had to struggle to stay on their feet, but at least they weren’t on fire anymore. Ethan then stormed the door leading to the room where the kobolds hid on the other side of their murder holes, and the kobolds quickly escaped down a well. Not wanting them to resurface behind them, Ethan used some spears to block off the entrance, and the party went on their way. Lisa smartly marked the wall with chalk as they went, making sure they could make a quick escape if need be, and cast detect secret doors, which led her to believe there were more than a few secret places around the area. Shannon cast detect magic to help the effort, and took notice of some distant magical remnants as well.
The next room the party approached had some waiting kobolds in it. They sneak attacked the party, then fled, leaving behind what looked like a break room for the guards, and a book which after some reintegration seemed to be about the rites and rituals associated with dragon hatching.
Bryan took the opportunity to explore further on ahead, since he didn’t need any light. He passed one hallway on his right, and after some time, took his second right. He quickly realized it was wise to check for traps before rounding corners, and spent the next several minutes picking what looked like porcupine quills out of his skin while waiting for the rest of his party to arrive. Ben met with similar misadventure. Having taken the right which Bryan had ignored, Ben had the pleasure of meeting a small kobold barrel bomb, more known for blowing off eyebrows and leaving nasty splinters and a singed smell than for killing, but painful nonetheless.
Lisa marked both trapped corners while Andrew surged forward, reaching yet another room containing kobolds who were preparing some traps. He managed to grapple one of the kobolds before it made it’s way into the well, and Andrew and Ethan attempted to interrogate it. Despite a successful intimidation check, neither Andrew nor Ethan actually spoke draconic, so most of what was said went to waste until comprehend languages was cast. Even then, the two decided that the kobold’s information was worthless, and decided to do some experimentation with Andrew’s chest piece. Ethan swung the kobold around like a bat, struck Andrew’s chestplate, and promptly exploded the creature’s innards across the both of them. Somehow, this would actually prove fortunate for them later on.
Unable to properly block off the well, Ethan asked Shannon to freeze the water for him, after dropping a disembodied kobold head down it in an attempt to strike fear into the kobolds. The group moved forward.
Bryan, aided by his darkvision, was able to relay to the group that something looked wrong in the floor ahead, and successfully triggered a floor trap that lead to a spiked pit below, before disappearing again down the hallway. Ben successfully disarmed a crossbow trap, and Andrew slipped on some charnel dripping from his armor, resulting in his falling into the open spike trap. Luckily for him, however, Andrew was able to notice that the spike trap continued on for some way, and that jumping over it would have just resulted in even more damage to the next person to attempt it. He called out his finding to Ethan, who proceeded down the hallway to the right and avoiding the spike trap altogether. However, he and the party came to an abrupt end, where a message spread itself across the wall as either Ethan or Andrew approached. When examined closely, it was found to read “speak, blood of the dragon, and pass.” It was determined to be both a secret door and magical in origin, but nothing was opening it.
It took a short while for Bryan to come back from his further exploration of the cave system, and when he did, the group was stuck against the secret door, attempting to open it. Someone made mention of speaking draconic, to which Bryan replied “Draconic? I speak draconic!” in draconic, immediately revealing the path before them. The combination of someone with kobold blood and the speech of the dragons had allowed them to pass, but the group was feeling tired and had endured a great deal of punishment, so they decided to hole themselves up in the previous room. Shannon cast Leomund’s Secure Shelter, and the party rested, their first night in the caverns completed.