The group had decided on trying to lure some kobolds out and whittle the numbers down before attempting to hit the Warren as is. Even if the estimated number is under 30, that is against 6 active party members, 1 henchman, a giant bat and (now) and undead deer. Outside our ability with the "B" team of 1st and 1.5th level adventurers.
The party's strength continues to be the ability to come up with a plan and then revise it again and again and again until they have it honed down to the needed parts and everything else cut away. It's that sort of 1st level in depth layered thinking that makes playing a lower level party shine as opposed to the mid and upper level party whose more apt to "nuke the site from orbit" in resolving a problem.
Write up follows:
After awakening and getting our morning situated, we discussed possibilities for scouting out the keep or perhaps finding a second way in. This led the party (4 dwarves!) to discuss tunnels and logical directions for them to run and what not. Eventually the party came upon the idea that they should look over the ridge line in the direction of the river and see if there was an exit tunnel there. It’s 1 plus miles along but Dizzy had some good arguments as to why it made some feasible sense so we decided it was better than no plan at all.
We opted to take the longer way around, going around the 4,500’ tall peaks and coming around the lake with the reed boats before heading north and coming to the other side. The trip for the first 45 minutes plus was without issue as we stayed to the low slopes and heavy tree cover but it was while we had come around near the east side of the slope and were heading north that we heard the raucous call of crows, lots of them.
We watched as they flew in a cloud of 80, 90, maybe 100 of them around the side of the same mountain that we had come from. They flew towards the lake and boats, circled the area overhead a bit and then flew back the way they had come – the entire trip being 10, 12 minutes tops. While we thought it was odd and pertinent, it wasn’t until a single MUCH larger crow came around the same mountain and flew also to the lake. While it was searching around, the same swarm of original crows came back, joined the larger one, and then the entire group flew back the way they had come from.
Ok, now we were sure it was the newer shaman at the Warren. Since they had gone to the lake and back, party suspected they hadn’t been found or discovered, but actually the crows were scouting the fishing area the kobolds use normally. We didn’t want to be in the area for this so stayed to the trees and made our way north around the mountain.
We tried our best to line us due north of the opposite side of the mountain from the keep and once here, split up into two groups while Einar went hunting. We searched for almost 2 hours, finding no back entrance or tunnel, but we did discover an ogre skeleton that had been here in the mud and undergrowth for 2-3 years. He had some spears in his back and a leather bag under him that he had fallen upon. Thought was it was a lone ogre who had been killed by kobolds and then was left here to die/lost sight of by his pursuers.
The bag had some stolen treasures, almost 50 ornamental stones, a large hunk of glass, an iron cudgel that looked like it was gripping a hunk of metal, and two dwarven made small helms one with a series of snake designs, one with a series of bird designs. Some detecting followed and most everything had a faint glow. Nice!
We then spent some time deciphering what properties we could. The cudgel we wiped clean and a few mending spells on the handle sharpened the scratches there so they eventually spelled out the name “Smiter” on the item. A test of saying the name had it hum and the iron ball was crackling red – but nothing happened. Didn’t want to waste it by saying the name but didn’t know how to turn it off. The bottom of the pommel had the dwarvish rune for the number “12” there now visible and the same red as the glow. So we dropped the weapon instead and the glow ended without wasting its powers.
The 2 helms were taken by Hjalgrim and Merica who did note that wearing them had the helms buckle immediately AND if the animal or animal type on the helm was said, the wearer heard a crackle and got a boost in his hearing for that animal type, knowledge of where they were in relation to the wearer, and a bit of intuition as to what the animals next intention was.
The glass like substance we talked about and Norris suspected that it was a piece of the Bifrost Bridge, especially when it was held up to the sunlight and prismatic lights were flaring around it. Thalin tried to tap an arrow against it and the rainbow light flew into the arrow, the gem no longer glowed. BUT a subsequent detect magic showed the gem was still magical and now the arrow was magical as well. Very nice!
By this time Einar had returned with a fat doe and 3 grouse he had hunted, giving thanks to Frey for the bounty. We then took it all back to our cave and dressed the deer. We set up a simple smoking pit to smoke the meat, cooked some for now, and talked. Thalin was reviewing his spells and wanted the bones from the deer once we had stripped all the meat off of them. So we did so, hooves and all, and included the head which had NOT been stripped, left whole, and put it all together.
He then worked some arcanic energy, pouring it into the skeletal pieces and the deer was slowly stitching itself together, one bone at a time to the next one until it ended at the head which fused to the body and the mostly skeletal deer stood up, looked around, and then tongue lolling, stopped in front of the elven wizard and made a single Gronking-honk noise. Nice.
Opting to call the undead deer “Joan”, he was able to put it through some paces and figure out how responsive the creature was to his commands and what its capabilities were. We then set up watches and the group went to sleep, taking turns during the night.
The next morning we were up by 6, ate, prayed, studied, and got ready for the day. Dizzy cast Sacred Guardian on Sybil and the party wanted to head back to the lake before 10 and see if the kobolds came out and if possible, waylay a few. So we were back at the tree line again and waited. 10, 10:30, almost 11 – no crows and no kobolds. This wasn’t going to work today. Sybil did take out the Bifrost gem and holding it up to the sun it absorbed a large swath of it and again rainbow light came out. A follow up detect magic showed the arrow from yesterday was no longer magical. So we touched Hjalgrim’s spear to it today and let the light flow into it.
We discussed plans and decided we would dig a pit to catch the kobolds in, lining it with sharpened sticks. The thought was to go 1,000 yards southwest of the reed boats and dig it there, and then bait the trap so the kobolds would come and fall into it. Seemed a bit weak for now but the party was going to further think it as time went on.
We found a spot, broke out the 2 shovels we had, and then set to digging a 5’x5’ pit in the hard somewhat rooty earth. Einar was working on a woven pit cover and those who weren’t digging were gathering sticks and sharpening them. The pit went fast at first but after 3’ progress slowed and it wasn’t until 4:30 that we hit 6’. We sunk over 20 punji stakes in the bottom and Einar dragged his cover over the pit and dressed the area. So well that even though the group KNEW the pit was there, they were hard pressed to find it without some guidance and a marker.
The new plan was to get up early and have the undead deer dressed in its own former skin walk around the kobold keep, then walk to the lake, then walk to the pit and act as bait while we went with it, obscuring our prints, and then hiding nearby to ambush the kobolds who we hoped would come and investigate. Seemed like a good plan and we were back at our cave by quarter to 6 where we ate, settled in for the night, and rested.
We awoke the next morning early and then set off to do as we discussed, Thalin and Einar taking Joan around the keep in the woods and then we all followed nearby on the path we discussed to the lake and then the pit. We coaxed Joan to lie down on one side of the pit where the kobolds would have to cross it and fall in and then set ourselves up behind some trees as cover about 60’ away from the pit and waited, talking low amongst ourselves as to our plan and what we anticipated would happen and soon.
It was a bit of a wait; almost 10:30 before we saw a distant murder of crows fly west from the trees near the keep, head towards the lake, and then followed the trail towards the pit and Joan lying on her side. The came low, 30’ or so, cawing and flying chaotically around before heading back the way they came. And sure enough, the larger crow then came next, flying very slowly and landing some 50’ away from Joan.
Now that we could see it up close (so to speak) it was fucking huge. Its head was a bit over 3’ tall and it had to have an 11’ wingspan. It also was wickedly intelligent, not getting close to the deer and instead picking up small stones with its beak and whipping them at the deer who just lied there – looking sort of real with its head and wrapped in its own skin. Eventually the larger crow took off and headed back where it came and the group waited, knowing the kobolds would be coming next and soon.
It was almost an hour later when the party spied a group of 5 kobolds loping through the tall grasses by the reed boats. They turned south southwest and jogged towards the party, Joan, and the pit following the tracks. At 100 yards they slowed down and then at 30 yards they stopped. The five of them chattered briefly in their language and then 4 of them dropped to their bellies and started to move about, getting lost to sight while the last one started getting closer, angling around to the west to see the deer by the front. No longer lined up with the pit.
Still pretty far away, Thalin ordered Joan to speak and it gave a gronkinghonk-like bleating sound that scattered the kobolds back again some couple hundred feet until they regrouped and talked again. After some delay the spear wielding chalk wearing kobold crawled forward again, inching with care to Joan. Who was ordered to honk again. Which again had them spasmodically run back and gather their courage for a third approach.
The lead guy got closer and hurled his spear at Joan, and it punched through the skin and struck some bones inside before stopping. The kobold appeared proud of himself, drew a flint knife, and then ran for the undead deer before jumping on its side and slashing down hard. He crowed with glee at his stroke and then plunged his scaly hand in the hole to draw out some entrails but when he encountered nothing beneath the skin he staggered back and cried out to his friends that “it was empty! Spirit deer!” in their kilcking language (according to Sybil).
At this point Thalin called on Joan to “kick the kobold hard” and the deer’s undead limbs ratcheted back and then stamped out – slamming into the kobold’s chest and knocking him back till he fell to his sound and was choking on his blood filling lungs. The other 4 more distant kobolds broke cover and ran as long and as fast as they could back in the direction of the kobold Warren. We went to the dying kobold, slit his throat, and then pocketed his ears.
We then redragged Joan into a different position to the side of the pit now and then positioned the kobold so he arm was by her mouth, Thalin instructing the deer to “chew”. Satisfied with the new positioning, we went back to the copse of trees some 60’ from the pit and hit down again to watch. Within 20 minutes the crows returned, this time with the big one. They circled the deer and the big one flew in real low and then landed; this time it had a rawhide thong on its neck sporting a dangling tourmaline crystal. It stayed there looking at the deer and kobold for 30, 40 seconds and then took wing and headed back to the keep, the murder of normal sized crows flying off with him.
We suspected that after this reconnaissance that more kobolds would come so we waited and after a few hours our patience was rewarded. 4 kobolds were approaching across the plains now, moving with exaggerated care as they came once again near Joan and her well gnawed dinner. One of them broke away from the other three and took out a small wrapped bag with some berries. According to Sybil he was bragging to the other three that we was going to be the next shaman as soon as he showed his skill in taking this spirit deer.
So he crept closer, smiling, hand extended towards Joan’s mouth offering benedictions and some berries, wishing to show his friendliness and…
He stepped on the well disguised pit, the cover snapped, and to everyone it appeared the ground swallowed him hole as he dropped on the sticks below and screamed his guts out. The 3 remaining kobolds dropped their weapons to lighten their load and ran even faster back towards the warren while the party laughed at their 2 successes and proceeded to once more dispatch the next kobold and take his ears. As it was already 4 PM there was talk on packing this all in and heading back to the cave to rest for the night.