Here is part 6...
Morning finds the lot of you standing in front of the tavern. Ghordon, Gwynth, Pedrov and Salinor look very refreshed the others look a little tired, especially Bodewin.
After a short and inexpensive breakfast the lot of you pass through the front gates and onward to the Caves of chaos.
After spending almost two hours on the road you enter the ravine area you had heard about. Within another 30 minutes you find the trails. Following them the trails becomes more overgrown.
The forest you have been passing through has been getting more dense, tangled, and gloomier than before. The thick, twisted tree trunks, unnaturally misshapen limbs, writhing roots, clutching and grasping thorns and briars all seem to warn and ward you off, but you have forced and hacked your way through regardless. Now the strange growth has suddenly ended - you have stepped out of the thicket into a ravine-like area. The walls rise rather steeply to either side to a height of about 100' or so - dark, streaked rock mingled with earth. Clumps of trees grow here and there, both on the floor of the ravine and up the sloping walls of the canyon. The opening you stand in is about 200' wide. The ravine runs at least 400' west to where the eastern end rises in a steep slope. Here and there, at varying heights on all sides of the ravine, you can see the black mouths of cave-like openings in the rock walls. The sunlight is dim, the air dank, there is an oppressive feeling here - as if something evil is watching and waiting to pounce upon you. There are bare, dead trees here and there, and upon one a vulture perches and gazes hungrily at you. A flock of ravens rise croaking from the ground, the beat of their wings and their cries magnified by the terrain to sound loud and horrible. Amongst the litter and rubble, boulders, and dead wood scattered about the ravine floor, you can see bits of gleaming ivory and white - closer inspection reveals that these are bones and skulls of men, animals, and other things.
You know that you have certainly discovered the Caves of Chaos.
"Hi guys, Jimbob says, I heard what happened to the group before us that dared to defy these horrible cave. That's why I suggest we back off and discuss of a battle strategy before we go in, my advice is we use long range weapon as often as we can."
Salinor walks towards Gwynth, with spear in hand, and asks, "Well, Gwynth, is this where your first party met their demise? Considering the resistance you encountered in your first foray, perhaps it would be wise to select another cave to explore?" he asks. Salinor prods a few of the bones that litter the ground with his spear head, and smiles when he notices Bodewin's unease with the telltale signs of death that lay around. "I feel that our party is comfortable with any advice that you may have to offer, considering that you, alone, among us have been here before."
Cirdan says, "What do we know about their weapons? If they got melee weapons it will be a good idea to use range weapons but if they got range weapons we will have to charge them. And it will probably be difficult using long range weapons in the cave, another thing is who of us got range weapons I don't."
"I do!" Jimbob says, "Actually, one should never leaves his home without his bow. If the enemy has melee weapons, I suggest we shoot until they get close enough so fighters without long-range weapon can engage in melee combat. If one of us feels like being a hero, though, and rushes on the enemy when we could fire at him, I will fire anyway and I don't care if hit an ally." He then adds, "I think it is a pretty good idea indeed, Pedrov, to decide of an order or march. I don't think we should keep thieves out of the battle, though, since they can help us a lot if they have long-range weapons. Of course, magic users should be way behind the fighters."
"I too do not have a long range weapon. We should probably set up a 'marching order.' How about the warriors in the front, elves and I next, and finally the thieves and the halfling last? Also, who is going to the carry torches or lanterns? One more thing to archers of the party, please use caution with your arrows so that you do not shoot anyone in the back." Pedrov stops and looks to Gwynth for instructions.
"I have a spear which I plan to throw before charging an opponent. I will take a front rank and fight up there until I have been substantially wounded. How does that sound," asks Ghordon?
Cirdan says "I would be better to have maybe one fighter in the back if they are trying to sneak up on our back."
"I have a bow as well," Sarlox yells from the back. "I will keep to the rear and use my expert marksmanship to our advantage, if that is alright with everyone."
Gwynth looks at the group and says, "let's put Pedrov and Ghordon out front, followed by Cirdan and Jimbob. Then in the middle we can have Finster, Bollas, Sarlox and Salinor. I will stay in the back with Bodewin, so I can use my sleep spell if necessary. Also, Bodewin will be available to scout ahead if we need him to do so."
Gwynth continues, "I know the goblins have bows now, since they took them from those they struck down. We must be ready for them to come at us with those and other weapons like the spears they already had. I suggest we scout around outside a bit before we head right into the caves. We can check out the path the ogre came from. What do you think of that?"
She looks around, waiting for a response.
"I agree, Jimbob says. I just hope we won't meet any other ogres in that cave."
"A warrior to guard the back is a good idea." Bodewin strokes the wood of his bow for luck. "Those with the greatest shields should go up front, to lessen the danger of enemy fire, especially in confined quarters. And those specializing in stealth make good scouting companions, perhaps one of them would join me?"
"I agree with Gwynth's suggested marching order." Begins Bollas. "But I should warn against 'scouting' ahead in tunnels. Scouting may be of great use in the wide open woods, but when there is only one way in, the enemy will always know where to look. By sending one or two ahead, we simply divide the group and are more easily concurred." He grips the handles of his short swords and draws them with a flash. "Let us present ourselves as one to the enemy!"
"I am also in agreement with Gwynth on this matter. Perhaps it would be wise to follow the ogre's path first, to determine if there is any treasure to be found in its lair," says Salinor. "And Bollas, my friend, your are correct as well in your assessment of the use of scouts. We should attempt to stay together as much as possible in confined quarters. Our strength lies in the size of our party."
"If there's a trap, it will catch the whole group. But you're right, I'll stick to rear guard." Bodewin never really thought about venturing into a cave system before and is glad some of the others have.
Cirdan nods in agreement with Gwynth's suggestion, while standing quiet and preparing himself for combat. He wields his sword and looks on it to see if it is as sharp as the last time he held it. After that he takes some practice swings in the air to if all is okay.
"Well, I hope everyone has a free hand to cover their nose with," quips Bollas in a hushed voice. "Shall we enter the cave Gwynth?"
Salinor looks around at his fellow companions to gauge their feelings regarding entering this cave. "We appear to have lost our motivation. Shall we enter the cave as one to determine if the ogre's hoard is unguarded, or not?"
Gwynth looks around nervously and says, "Alright everyone, let's go in, ready?"
"Yeah, let's go in." Bodewin sounds almost cheerful, choking down a rising fear. Some of those bones resembled human ones.
Cirdan says, "shall we enter in the same order as we planed for the other cave?"
Salinor speaks up, "Yes, I believe that is the best plan of action. Let us be brave." With that Salinor grips his shield and spear tightly as the party moves into the cave mouth.
Sarlox notches an arrow and starts to walk after the others, all the while grinning wolfishly." If any of you cheapos is afraid, this is the right moment to turn back," he says in what he hopes is a non worried tone. To prove his point he kicks a few bones that litter the ground as he walks along.
Bodewin looks at Sarlox, but isn't impressed. Returning his attention to keeping his bowstring dry despite sweat forming in the palms of his hands, to keep his mind from more frightful things, the halfling follows the others inside.
The light from the outside world filters through the forest canopy to dimly illuminate the cavern. The cavern is natural and about 20' deep by 20' wide at the widest point. There is an opening to your left as you walk in.
The cave has the smell of rotting meat mixed with dung. In the far corner lies a large furry form. It is not moving.
Gwynth looks around the dark dank cave and says in a whisper, "Perhaps we should take care of that bear over there first, and then how about checking out that passage to the left?"
Cirdan nods in agreement with Gwynth.
Salinor grips his spear, ready to hurl it at the creature lying on the floor.
"If we don't bother the bear, it shouldn't bother us. They're pretty dangerous when aroused." Bodewin's whisper comes from a point far nearer than rear guard. Peeking around, the halfling archer returns to his position, holding his nose. "Perhaps it's dead."
Pedrov and Ghordon approach the fury hulk in the cave and prod it with their weapons. It gives off no noise and they quickly discover it to be nothing more then a very smelly bearskin covering a pile of dirt and leaves.
"Let's move on. There's nothing here." Bodewin's voice sounds even squeakier with his nose held tight. ~I hope it doesn't smell like this inside.~
"Perhaps we should search the cave before moving on," says Salinor. Let's scour the floor as well as look for any secret passages."
Gwynth takes a quick look around the cave and says, "I see nothing of importance here so far, but have a quick look about and then let's move on."
Other then the bearskin nothing of value is found in the cave. Upon passing through into the adjoining cavern however things begin to look a bit more interesting.
This cavern is smaller then the other and no light filters in. Ghordon takes a moment to light his lantern before he realizes he has neither flint nor steel to light it with. "Argh! I knew I forgot something when we left the keep," moans Ghordon! Bollas comes over and lays out his tinderbox and a torch beside it. "Do not worry Ghordon, I have mine." He proceeds to light his torch and Ghordon's lantern.
"Thanks for the light" remarks Ghordon.
With the first of lights afire the party begins to see this small chamber take shape. It is about 15' in diameter at the greatest and close to 20' high in the center. The floor is covered in sand and it looks to have been recently ransacked.
There are several sacks strewn about the floor and many pieces of cloth. In the far southern corner is a large pile of bones and dung that does not appear to have been searched. There are several skulls of various creatures upon the floor as well as an old firepit. One of the walls bears crude images of humanoid heads and scratch marks below each one.
Salinor offers, "Perhaps we should prod through the pile of refuse to see if anything lays beneath. Whatever foul creature that resided here may have used it as a hiding place
Sarlox stumps his foot nervously, annoyed by the delay. "We got to get moving. I don't see how one bearskin can excite you all so much. "Seeing that no one is looking out for the attack from the cave, he moves over to guard until the bearskin excitement is over.
Salinor notices Sarlox's impatience and says, "Calm yourself Sarlox. Many a piece of treasure has been overlooked by those in haste. Spending a few minutes searching an area before moving on is prudent."
Gwynth looks at the rest of her party and makes a suggestion, "I agree we do not want to overlook any treasure, but let's get moving. Check out this area, grab what you can and let's get going."
Salinor moves towards the pile of refuse in the corner of the cavern and begins prodding it with his spear.
Sarlox begins to whine but after a look from Pedrov and Salinor he quiets down.
At first not much more then bones and trash are uncovered but as Salinor reaches the bottom of the pile he uncovers several arrows, a small glass bottle and a short, yet very thick bone.
Cirdan says, "Okay lets move on"
Pedrov moves in for a closer look and says, "It does not seem to be trapped." He kneels down to pick up the glass bottle and stands back up to inspect it and states "Nice work Salinor, who wants what?"
Salinor inspects the suspicious "bone" to see if it has a removable end. He states, "I have heard of scrolls being hidden in such devices before."
"Have we explored this whole cave? If so we should probably move on to the next cave now, but we should remember this empty cave in case we need a place to take refuge." explains Pedrov as he brushes off the dung covered vial and puts it away. He turns to Gwynth bows low and says "Please lead on fearless one."
Salinor looks about, "Well, now it is time to make a decision, Gwynth. Shall we venture into the goblin cave to exact vengeance for you fallen comrades or search a new cave?"
Jimbob says, "It seems we could sneak on the goblins, since we know they are there and they are probably not aware of our presence right now. But they don't seem very interesting to me, though they are only goblins. Why don't we go somewhere else?"
"I think we should deal with the goblins first. This party is newly formed and needs to be tested in battle. Better against 'only goblins', than against stronger opponents." Bodewin blushes when people turn to see where the noise came from, but doesn't back down.
"I agree with him," says Sarlox "mighty heroes," this last said with obvious sarcasm. "We came here to venture, and try to free (and loot) the Caves of Chaos, not to slay a nearby dragon, if you think you are up to it. What does our leader say?
Gwynth looks at her companions and says, "I think it might be interesting to check around in the trees to see if there are any caves there. We can always check on the goblins again later."
Cirdan says " I agree with Gwynth on this if so many people have been slain in the Goblin cave, It would be wise to search the other caves first to get some experience in cave fighting and venturing"
"I have to disagree with your reasoning Cirdan. It seems the problem with the last party was that they did not follow through. I assume the rotting ogre outside once lived here. The party slain it and did not come to claim the treasure so it was ransacked by others. Me thinks the last party probably killed many enemies in goblins' cave. Now here we are ready to attack them while they are weakened, but instead we move to the next unexplored cave to face new foes? I can tell the party is eager for a fight, for even the midget's words grow bolder by the minute so let us not delay any further with words. Again, I will follow Gwynth the Survivor's final decision, so please decide which cave," says Pedrov.
"We know the goblins are armed with bows now, so if you who will be out front are willing to catch a few arrows, we can go after the goblins first. I, for one am eager to find new adventure, let's venture on," decided Gwynth.