This is part of the ongoing narrative of our D&D campaign, which is graciously being run by Proud Lion, a fantastic comic shop in Cheltenham. Their RPG Encounters nights are a lot of fun, and give me some entertaining material to work with.
[Before reading, please be aware that there may be spoilers ahead for the D&D campaign books. Equally, our stories are fluid, so things may not follow the books too directly]
Pounding into the mushroom garden came a huge bugbear, brandishing a gigantic club, followed by a couple of giant rats. Mostly hidden, the party looked on as the bugbear slowed down, then stopped to consider the room.
His beady, goblinoid eyes narrowed, looking around at the ill-fitting gardener’s robes covering Drenk and Jester. Not quite sure whether he could see a difference in their jerky movements, his gaze carried around, and he focused on the mushroom hiding the elven ranger, Luna. Her body wasn’t really hidden from his view, and he thought that if any other morsels were hidden around here, hurting her would draw them out.
“Get ready to meet my cook pot! Grit, Fang, spread out!” he shouted in a deeper Goblin dialect, before charging the tasty-looking elf. She dived out of cover, drawing her bow up, but the bugbear caught her around the face with his club, knocking her clear, with a pained cry when she landed.
The rats separated, one lingering after its master and the other weaving through the mushrooms being tended to by the “skeletons”. The one closest the door heard a slight clicking noise, then felt a large splatter of drool fall upon its shoulder. It looked dumbly upwards, and while it couldn’t see the creature hidden above it, it was overcome with a sense of dread as a black and orange striped tail descended slowly to rub along it.
The rat was frozen in terror, and Burian’s keen smell revealed that it had just realised the trouble it was in. The musk released by the rodent of unusual size assaulted his nose, and Burian let the instincts of his tiger form take free rein.
Releasing his grip on the ceiling, the tiger jumped directly onto the giant rat, plunging claws into its flanks. These grievous wounds were swiftly rendered irrelevant as Burian grabbed the rat by the scruff of its neck. A quick shake, left, right, left, and the rat’s neck cracked with a loud snap.
Throwing off his robe, or more accurately ripping it off his armour in pieces, Drenk surprised the giant rat prowling around his feet. Shouting “Splat the rat!”, he pulverised the spine of the creature in a single blow, then turned to watch Jester charge into combat.
The bugbear was knocked off balance by a cream-coloured blast from Kalashnikov, whose angry expression was even more violent in the violet glow, then Enna followed it with a splash of sacred flame.
Stumbling over Luna from the barrage, the bugbear was an easy target for Jester, who flew into combat, darting his rapier under the bugbear’s clumsy guard. As Levan pulled the ranger from underneath the clash, Jester plunged his sword into the bugbear’s chest, once, twice, three times, then the huge goblinoid fell for good.
“How’s that for a peasant?” Jester joked, throwing a victory pose as he cleaned his rapier of bugbear blood. Crouching down, he checked the bugbear’s ragged clothing, but he didn’t seem to have anything worthwhile on his person, and he smelt terrible as well.
The party reconvened around the downed enemy, Luna furious that she had been embarrassed by this pitiful creature, but Burian disposed of his rat and slinked into the cave system. A low growl alerted the group, and they followed him in.
Ready for any more action, Burian kept a wary eye on the crevices as he traversed the network of tunnels and dead ends, following the rat’s scent. He came quickly to a rough area, where the bugbear had evidently been living, connected to a foul-smelling nest. The scents hurt his sensitive nose, and as he pawed ineffectually to disperse the smell, the rest of the group joined him.
Seeing the glorious hides covering the bugbear hovel’s bed, Kalashnikov darted over with an un-dwarven agility, ripping the hides off and throwing them over himself. In the process of this, he found a small box, locked tight, but bland to look at.
The dwarf realised he wasn’t likely to get into this anytime soon, and reluctantly passed it over to Jester. The rogue grabbed his lock picking kit, settling down to fiddle with the lock, but as he remembered his awful performance so far in this field, he whispered to himself, “Not today, Jester, not today!”, and popped the lid.
Inside the box were a lot of coins, and Jester set to counting it while Drenk had a look at a large weapon rack at the back of the room. He called the gnome over, and tried passing him a greatsword. The gnome hesitantly grabbed the pommel of the gigantic weapon, but when Drenk released his grip, the blade fell fast, and Enna had to jump out of the way to avoid being hit.
“Well, take your pick of anything but that, why don’t you?” the half-orc patted the gnome, and the gnome walked out of the caves, muttering madly about his new group and their idiocy.
<Tut. Prick.> resounded in the companions’ minds, causing everyone to flinch at the warlock’s intrusion.
After gathering the hides, Kalashnikov turned to a large black cloak hung on a crag in the wall, and considered it for a moment. His eyes flashed purple as he called to his forbidden patron, using his favour to determine any magical influence on the cloak. Finding nothing of interest, he turned away and lobbed the patchy cloak into the corner.
“Huh, lots here guys! Two hundred and forty one silver pieces and fifty four gold pieces, this haul is gonna be quite useful when we get out of here.” Jester said, whistling to himself as he strapped the box around Burian’s feline body.
Grabbing a couple of weapons for Knott, when he returned to the party, Drenk left the caverns, as tiger-Burian investigated a small, tight tunnel further in. He spent a while patting down this crevice, but as soon as he felt the pull of his wild shape receding, he retreated to the bugbear’s cave. Shifting back into his dwarven body, Burian stowed the coinage more carefully and stretched out his back.
After a quick and awful bite to eat, courtesy of Drenk’s cooking and the previous pets of the bugbear, the group set out to investigate the other two exits they could explore. Luna scouted the mushroom garden for any tracks, but she could tell by the lack of any that no creatures had been through this area in the last few weeks, apart from the bugbear. Kalashnikov elected to remain in the garden, stricken by the loss of his most willing minion, vowing that he would return later to end the mad druid who had brought him this far into the dungeon.
The two half-elves checked on the doors, listening to see whether there were any indications of life on the other side. Jester could hear nothing on the far side of the southern door, but Enna reported back that behind the northeast door she could hear scratching and other muffled light noises.
“There’s definitely something behind that east door guys,” the cleric said, before looking for Jester and seeing him happily open the southern door.
“Seems legit down here guys.” Jester called out as the group rushed over to them, worried that he might have alerted some guards or set off another trap. Thankfully nothing activated, and the door opened onto a long corridor, stretching away past their sight.
Taking point, the rogue snuck along the corridor, followed by the bustling party, but had to hastily wave his hands out for the party to stop suddenly. A few bumps later, Jester narrowly avoided falling down a rift in the earth, as the corridor was intersected by a great crack in the rock.
The corridor seemed to carry on across the way, if a little offset by the movement of the earth, but there was no way across the crevice. The floor dropped a couple feet in the rift, and stretched away roughly to the east and west.
Craning their heads to look around the area, the group were a little confused to see a bunch of holes in the earth, around two feet wide, and their worry was heightened by the smell of burnt earth hanging in the air…