Stopping for a moment between trips to the brush, Oni asks, "Would blocking the vent be fruitful?"
"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken
Fanax shrugs, "Not sure. Depends on how large the cavern is and if there are other chimneys."
"Can't we put this fire out and just go kill the beast already?"
Wiping his brow, the bugbear braces a hand on his lower back and regards Fanax. "I don't know. Can we? Have any of us even seen it clearly enough to fire an arrow or throw a spear? Is it the sort of beast you can see at all? Maybe the smoke is what gave it away."
Before long, Oni realizes that he'll get more smoke and a longer-lasting fire if he intersperses rotten, green or damp wood with dry fuel. Accordingly, he roots around near a fallen pine some distance away from the cavern's entry, looking for appropriate fuel. This far away, the forest floor is stippled with pockets of lush plant growth, and that's especially true here because the fallen tree has knocked a hole in the forest canopy.
He's halfway back to the cavern and the rest of the expedition when he realizes that he should have been paying better attention. One of his arms is beginning to itch where he brushed up against a shrub or small tree of some kind.
Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold
As Oni is starting to be annoyed by his itchy arm, Yonah is picking out a partly-decayed log to haul back to the cavern entry. His eyes are a bit sharper than Oni's, and he has the advantage of having been part of a band that had more to do with the pinkskins than Oni, so he recognizes before it's too late that the downed pine is nestled in a stand of young lacquer trees—the source of a trade good favored by the Imperials, who use its sap both as an adhesive and as a component in . . . wood finish. Whatever that is.
Lacquer trees are (unfortunately) extremely toxic. Touching them is sufficient to cause an unpleasant, itchy rash, and the sap is more potent still. They should be avoided as a source of firewood.
Yonah stands over the dead pine and observes to his fellows, "Don't touch the ones that look like this one. They'll make you sick. Especially the sap." Scratching his left ear a moment, he wonders, "But could we...turn that to our advantage, if we were careful?"
Late Afternoon, 28 Urthan, 973 IRThe Desolation of VumrotAdrag Plateau
Grimvaalk announces that since it looks like this project is going to take some time, he's going to go forage for food to supplement the expedition's rations. This late in the day, his odds of securing enough food to make a noticeable difference really are pretty low—it's not going to be long before the sun sets—but nobody raises an objection. One less goblin at your makeshift siege encampment is one less goblin to bicker with the others, so nobody raises an objection when he rides off on his wolf to scour the nearby hills for edible plants and game.
Surprisingly, Grimvaalk has a run of good luck, scaring up a pheasant, and then stumbling onto a large stand of wild rhubarb. It's not much, maybe enough to feed one of the bugbears a solid meal. But given that it's impractical to try to stalk a deer or mountain sheep this late in the day, the steppe hunter concludes that he's used his time effectively.
Knowing that edible plants often cluster in areas where soil, water, and sunlight are favorable, Grimvaalk has his wolf creep a little further east across the shoulder of a hill, hoping to augment his take of the sour vegetables, and spies movement further downhill, almost seventy yards away. He freezes, and after a closer inspection determines that he has stumbled upon a small sounder of pigs. He's pretty sure they haven't noticed his presence yet, because their vocalizations are infrequent and carry no trace of alarm.
Orange squares indicate light undergrowth. A space covered with light undergrowth costs 2 squares of movement to move into, and it provides concealment. Undergrowth increases the DC of Tumble and Move Silently checks by 2 because the leaves and branches get in the way.
Brown dots indicate normal trees. A creature standing in the same square as a tree gains a +2 bonus to Armor Class and a +1 bonus on Reflex saves (these bonuses don’t stack with cover bonuses from other sources). The presence of a tree doesn’t otherwise affect a creature’s fighting space, because it’s assumed that the creature is using the tree to its advantage when it can. The trunk of a typical tree has AC 4, hardness 5, and 150 hp. A DC 15 Climb check is sufficient to climb a tree.
Blue squares indicate flowing water in a small creek.
Green squares indicate gradually sloped terrain, heading downhill from light to dark shades. This incline isn’t steep enough to affect movement, but characters gain a +1 bonus on melee attacks against foes downhill from them.
Grimvaalk urges his wolf downhill to close the distance between himself and the pigs, loosing an arrow as goes. He misses the porkers, but skewers the hell out of one of the bushes between him and them. The creatures let off squeals of alarm at the sudden noise.
Grimvaalk - 6a
Pigs - 6b
Grimvaalk spurs his wolf onward toward the pigs, loosing another pair of arrows as he comes on with the hope of putting down the pig that looks least vigorous (although it must be said that all four are large healthy-looking sows). Both his shots smack into their intended target.
For their part, the suiids run away. All of them are squealing loudly in distress, but the injured one is squealing loudest of all, and Grimvaalk can see that he's landed a couple of solid shots. Obviously not enough to prevent his quarry from running on him, but solid nevertheless.
Pig #4 has suffered 10 points of damage.
Grimvaalk urges on his wolf, crashing through the thick of the underbrush in ungainly but efficient fashion, and looses a couple more arrows shortly after bursting free. Neither one finds its mark, unfortunately, but the goblin doesn't allow this to deter him from giving chase.
But even as he's splashing into the stream after the fleeing pigs, the pigs are clambering out of the stream and skirting past another stand of brush.
Grimvaalk continues his pursuit, his wolf splashing noisily through the shallow stream even as the goblin continues trying (ineffectually) to shoot down his chosen pig.
His noise and efforts prompt the sounder to split up, pigs darting in every direction except toward him. One porker even turns north, crossing the stream a second time in its haste to get away from him.
Grimvaalk rides southward past the edge of the screen of vegetation, and puts another couple of arrows into his chosen prey.
The pig screams, probably in agony. The other pigs scream, possibly because that's just what pigs do when they're upset.
All of the pigs take off at a run, moving surprisingly fast despite their stubby little trotters. But the one Grimvaalk shot at is at least leaving a blood trail.
Pig #4 has suffered 23 points of damage and is bleeding.
Dinner is yours, after you track it down and drag it back to camp.
In fairly short order, Grimvaalk tracks his pig to where it lies dead. It ran a surprising distance, covering probably a hundred yards before blood loss finally brought it down. This animal is a sow, but that hardly means she's small. She's got to weigh at least five hundred pounds, and the goblin is pretty sure that even if he guts her right here, she's going to be too heavy for his wolf to carry back, even if he shoulders some of the burden and walks. And dragging her is going to be a nuisance in wooded, overgrown hills, especially with a stream to cross.
He concludes that he'll have to get help, make several trips, or allow some of the meat to go to waste.
Grimvaalk decides some is better than none and sets about roughly butchering some of the choice bits of the pig, taking what his wolf can carry and leaving the rest for a second trip. With that task done, he returns to the rest of the party with his spoils.
When Grimvaalk returns to the others, he finds them still scattered around the clearing outside of Vumrot's lair. They appear to be watching the fire burn.
Save Fanax, who is sitting against a tree. It is clear he is fighting the fight of boredom and sleep. Rather easily, Grimmvalk can see sleep is slowly winning.
"Well, I can see you've been productive," Grimvaalk observes sarcastically as he leads his wolf into the clearing. He unstraps what he's managed to carry back of the pig and his other foragings and lets it drop uncerimoniously. "You think some of you could pull yourselves away from fire watching duty to help carry the rest back? It's more than enough to give us another day or two here. The wolves can eat their fill of what's left afterwards."
Fanax stands and says, "Lead the way."
Late Night, 28 Urthan, 973 IRThe Desolation of VumrotSomewhere on the Adrag Plateau
After a surprisingly decent supper of rations from Grimvaalk's pack, roasted pork and pheasant, and wild rhubarb, the majority of the expedition settles down to sleep. The first watch passes without incident for Yonah and Zathrus; they wake Fanax and Grimvaalk and then bed down. Even when someone has to go in close to refuel the bonfire that's keeping Vumrot contained, there just isn't much to see, other than a gradually lowering cloud of smoke against the cavern's ceiling. For all you know, the dragon could be dead or escaped. He certainly isn't interfering with you.
This monotony continues for another two hours, until the goblins' shift is about two-thirds finished. Suddenly, they're confronted by a dramatic change in the character of the bonfire's light; between one breath and the next, a bank of dense fog flashes into being just outside the cave's entrance, obscuring everything beyond it. The bonfire clearly is still burning, because its light is diffused and softened by the fog into something that's honestly rather pretty. But the fog is impenetrable to your vision.
The blue shaded area represents a bank of dense fog which obscures all sight, including darkvision, beyond 5 feet. A creature within 5 feet has concealment (attacks have a 20% miss chance). Creatures farther away have total concealment (50% miss chance, and the attacker can’t use sight to locate the target).
White squares represent the valley floor. It's reasonably flat (flat enough not to affect movement or combat). Brown dots represent ordinary trees. A creature standing in the same square as a tree gains a +2 bonus to Armor Class and a +1 bonus on Reflex saves (these bonuses don’t stack with cover bonuses from other sources). The presence of a tree doesn’t otherwise affect a creature’s fighting space, because it’s assumed that the creature is using the tree to its advantage when it can. The trunk of a typical tree has AC 4, hardness 5, and 150 hp. A DC 15 Climb check is sufficient to climb a tree.
Grey stippling represents boulders and rocks of size significant enough to affect movement. They are "dense rubble." It costs 2 squares of movement to enter a square with dense rubble. The DC of Balance and Tumble checks on dense rubble increases by 5, and the DC of Move Silently checks increases by +2. As a result of the movement penalty, dense rubble counts as difficult terrain; you can't run or charge through it.
Orange squares and yellow squares are light undergrowth. A space covered with light undergrowth costs 2 squares of movement to move into, and it provides 20% concealment. Undergrowth increases the DC of Tumble and Move Silently checks by 2 because the leaves and branches get in the way, but the concealment enables Hide checks.
Dark grey squares represent the hillside. At all times, you may assume that the hillside represents a "steep slope," on which the downhill side is toward the nearest white square. Characters moving uphill (to an adjacent square of higher elevation) must spend 2 squares of movement to enter each square of steep slope; as a result, you cannot run or charge uphill. Characters running or charging downhill (moving to an adjacent square of lower elevation) must succeed on a DC 10 Balance check upon entering the first steep slope square. Mounted characters make a DC 10 Ride check instead. Characters who fail this check stumble and must end their movement 1d2×5 feet later. Characters who fail by 5 or more fall prone in the square where they end their movement. A steep slope increases the DC of Tumble checks by 2.
Dots on the hillside are also trees, with mechanical effects identical to those already described.
The darkest area of the hillside represents a cliff, roughly 40 feet high. A cliff typically requires a DC 15 Climb check to scale. This cliff is not perfectly vertical. For every 20 feet you ascend, you will automatically move 5 feet into its area. If you fail your Climb check by 4 or less, you make no progress. If you fail by 5 or more, you fall from whatever height you have already attained.
The interior of the cavern has natural stone floors. It takes 2 squares of movement to enter a square with a natural stone floor, and the DC of Balance and Tumble checks increases by 5. Running and charging are impossible, except along paths. The walls and ceiling of the cavern are unworked stone. It takes a DC 15 Climb check to move along an unworked stone wall.
Pausing only briefly to consider the possible personal gain that could result from the others being eaten, Grimvaalk rushes toward the camp with the intent to wake any of his sleeping companions.
"About time," Fanax mutters to himself beginning to walk towards the fog.
"Come on Grim let's," the sentence is cut short as Fanax glances over his shoulder and doesn't see his fellow watch goblin.
Eyes quickly looking around Fanax stops walking. When he sees what Grimvaalk is doing both the head and shoulders of Fanax visibily slump.
Looking at the ground Fanax offers a few quiet expletives and waits for the others.
Grimvaalk isn't far from the nearest of his companions—Oni, he thinks—but the amount of light being emitted by the bonfire suddenly but significantly decreases even as the goblin stoops to wake the bugbear.
The shroud of fog makes it impossible to ascertain what just happened, but whatever happened was decisive, and Fanax feels a stirring of hope—maybe the dragon has figured out some way to put out the fire!
23 - Fanax
22 - Vumrot
21 - Oni
20 - Zathrus
18 - Gorx
15 - Grimvaalk
07 - Yonah
It is currently Fanax's turn.
Fanax hustles toward the cavern as quickly as he can without risking the amputation of a thumb or finger while he draws his weapons.
He's about twelve feet from the edge of the fogbank when he hears a thud and a faint sizzling noise. Even without the sounds, he can tell that someone's tampering with that bonfire because the amount of light being shed by it undergoes another sudden but decisive reduction.
Grimvaalk hasn't shouted them awake, and they're much farther away from the fire than Fanax, so Gorx, Zathrus, Oni and Yonah all slumber on. With some luck, at least the quiet so far may mean Vumrot doesn't know that his adversaries are aware that he's doing whatever it is that he's actually doing behind that fog.
It is currently Grimvaalk's turn.
Grimvaalk begins kicking his companions awake. Oni and Yonah are the closest to him, so they get kicked first.
23 - Fanax (Blue 1)
22 - Vumrot (Red)
21 - Oni (Blue 5)
20 - Zathrus (Blue 6)
18 - Gorx (Blue 2)
15 - Grimvaalk (Blue 3)
07 - Yonah (Blue 4)
It is currently Yonah's turn.
Gorx is asleep.Oni is prone.Yonah is prone.Zathrus is asleep.
Yonah hops to his feet, hisses, "He's putting the fire out!" and proceeds to wake Gorx by prodding the sleeping shaman with his foot.
Fanax creeps up to the edge of the fogbank, peering ahead and listening for signs of what might be happening in the cave.
The goblin scout isn't disappointed; as he draws close to the fog, he hears a strange clattering noise, as if someone is dragging a heavy block of stone or wood across the floor of the cavern. And as an undertone, something hissing. Sizzling.
It is currently Oni's turn.
Gorx is prone.Oni is prone.Zathrus is asleep.