Dashki shouted that the gnolls came in peace and that we should hear what they had to say, but Vash and I had experiences that suggested that gnolls can never be trusted, and so we continued to attack.
Initially our plan seemd to be working, as the gnolls were slowed considerably by Vash’s magic and my arrows were dealing them damage. Unfortunately, my joy at this was short-lived, as Narg broke free of his restraints and charged me; his great axe whistling through the air with menace. I had just enough time to see two more of my arrows tear into his scab-covered flesh, before his rank scent assailed me, and his axe connected with my skull. Everything went grey and then black, as I fell unconscious.
I came too with the sounds of combat all around. Opening my eyes, I lay prone and bleeding at the feet of Narg and another gnoll, who were fighting desperately against my companions. I tried to rise, but dizziness took hold, and I decided that laying prone and waiting for an opportunity would be a better plan – after all it served no purpose in me jumping to my feet, only to be immediately clubbed unconscious again!
From what I could tell, the gnomes had decided that maybe Dashki and the gnolls weren’t friendly after all and were having some degree of success against our enemies. Dashki was staying out of combat and trying to mediate, until one of the gnolls let loose an arrow that hurt one of the gnomes. It was at this point that Dashki drew his scimitar and slashed viciously at the gnoll in question. Vash succumbed to his wounds, but with the death of Narg the battle swiftly turned in our favour, and the remaining two gnolls fled back in the direction of the fort. Khalid was able to use Vash’s wand to heal us, and attacked Dashki but failed to hurt him. Dashki, meanwhile, tried his best to explain himself, but his excuses fell on deaf ears as none of us felt that we could trust him any more. Realising that we were not willing to forgive him, he left, and we decided that taking the fort was more valuable a task than chasing him down. The gnomes were alone in our party in feeling that he had been mistreated and they jumped on a rock and called out to him as he left, asking him to “come back and visit us someday!”
Gathering our gear, and replenishing my supply of arrows from those carried by the gnolls, as well as searching the bodies for useful items (Vash took the Flind’s battle axe as it seemed surprisingly good quality), we headed to the fort to investigate.
On arrival, we were assaulted from the ramparts by the remaining gnolls, but between my arrows and a well-aimed fire bomb from Khalid, they were swiftly dispatched. More teeth for my necklace! In the courtyard was a well and fire pit, but Vash, Khalid and I decided we would press on, and upon entering the fort proper, we found a ground floor room and a staircase leading to the upper levels. The room was filled with the stench of death and decay, and strewn with foul bedding and other detritus. The walls were scrawled on with blood and Khalid informed us that the symbols, which were unintelligable to me, were assorted rites of Rovagug, the destroyer! These were definitely not written by the gnolls…
While Khalid translated the foul scripts, Vash and I discovered a secret door at the other end of the corridor, which led into a room with a staircase descending into darkness. As we were about to tell the rest of the party and investigate further, we heard Nini calling to us from outside. Concerned that she was in trouble, we rushed out into the courtyard, and she told us that she had been investigating the well when a voice had called out to her by name from below. Khalid peered over the edge, and turning to us said he could not see anything, just as there was a rush of wind from the well and a foul creature with leathery wings and pallid skin emerged from the opening, grabbing at him and biting into his neck. Khalid’s eyes became glazed and the creature easily dragged his paralyzed form back down the well.
Vash rushed back inside, sure that the staircase we had discovered led down to wherever the beast had taken our friend. Meanwhile Nini announced her intention to climb down the well after Khalid, and taking her rope, made to attach it to the well props. Overcome by her bravery and loyalty to her friends, before she could tie the rope off, I rushed forward, and trusting to the magic imbued in my ring, took her under my arm and leapt down the well.
We floated down and landed with a splash in the water below – the bottom of the well opened into a cavern and there was the creature, crouched over the still form of Khalid who was bleeding profusely from his wound. I attacked the beast while Nini tried to make her way around it, crawling between its legs while it was distracted! As the creature closed on me, Ding arrived on the back of Piranya, climbing down the wall of the well, and soon afterwards, Vash, Xuum and Sheba attacked from behind, having come down the interior stairs. Outnumbered and wounded, the creature spread its wings and fled upwards, disappearing from view in a few seconds.
Vash and I quickly ran to aid Khalid, while the gnomes, as ever, discussed how exciting life on the road has become, and started to plan their investigation of the underground complex that we had discovered.