Building repairs were due to take several days, so we organised the watch to include a regular survey of the movements in and around the village of Kelmarane. Combined with Vash’s use of some impressive magical powers, the ken of which was beyond my simple knowledge, we determined that there was little organisation to the movements of gnolls within the village. Vash did see some sort of demon-like creature bearing a large axe, which was cause for concern and we decided it would be good if a closer inspection of the village was in order.
Once we had rested and had a meal, Vash and I left for Kelmarane, cloaked in darkness and accompanied by the ever-present howls from the village and the answering howls from Pale Mountain.
Approaching the village from the South, we observed a series of escarpments with a road leading into the centre of the village. I scaled the first 20’ escarp and attached a rope to a stout but stunted tree on the first terrace, allowing Vash an easy route up to join me. While he was climbing up, I observed a group of four gnolls heading down the main thoroughfare that looped up to a large domed structure in the centre of the village. Once they had passed, untying the rope, I climbed the next 30’ up to the road and used another tree to help Vash climb up too.
Approaching the first set of buildings, we discovered signs of a single occupant from several weeks past in one of the larger buildings. While in there, I saw the gnoll patrol returning back up the road. We left the building once they had passed and headed back down the road in the direction from which they had come, to investigate the ruins that were there. I left Vash in the cover of some low scrub while I crept forward to investigate amongst the ruined buildings. I immediately noticed a group of 4 gnolls who were deep in discussion.
Overhearing that they were on high alert because of the activity at the ruined monastery, we decided to head back to camp to report what we had discovered.
En route, we heard a scream, which sounded remarkably akin to that of a gnome in trouble. Running forward with Vash and Xuum, I saw a fang-filled depression in the ground from which some tentacles were emerging. A dust-digger! Nini was being drawn into it’s maw, and Piranya was trying hard to extract her by pulling on a rope, that was until he disappeared. This did not bode well for Nini! Dashki seemed to be observing, but once the gnomes got into trouble, he drew his scimitar and leapt to their aid. I will admit to having little liking for the man, but this act of selflessness has made a positive impression.
Khalid and some guards soon arrived on the other side of the creature, while Ding hurled himself into the creature’s mouth clutching something large and round. I was firing arrow after arrow into the creature, when there was a loud explosion and the dust-digger was reduced to a pulped and charred mass of flesh. The gnomes were ejected at high speed from the remains of it’s mouth at the time of the explosion, and Dashki seemed unpeturbed by the ichor with which he was now drenched, and continued to rant and scream at the creature while hacking at it with his scimitar.
Khalid approached Nini, while I headed to Ding. At this point the guards expressed the intention to “finish them off”, which concerned me greatly. Khalid Announced loudly that Nini was dead, but I noticed a couple of subtle hand movements and a look in his eye when he glanced my way that suggested that there was more to the situation than met the eye. I quickly confirmed the same about Ding, even though I had already determined that while unconscious, he was still breathing and alive. Khalid used this deception to send the guards back to Almah with news of the gnomes’ death, while we calmed Dashi with the truth as he was consumed with grief at the thought of the death of his “only friends”…
We briefly discussed the situation – Khalid informed us that there had been an altercation at the Monastery which had resulted in the gnomes fleeing the place, and Almah had sent him after them to “take care of them”. While I do not wish to believe the worst of our employer, I must admit that the evidence was damning. I suggested that Vash tended to the gnomes somewhere secure, while Khlaid and I headed back to camp and spoke with Almah to determine her intentions and whether or not there might have been a misunderstanding…