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"Well, those caves might not be as empty as they now seem. For one, outlaws might have made hideouts of them. Or even wild creatures such as wolves or bears. It is still quite early so we should start exploring however, I don't think we should split this time. Can anyone of you heal wounds like I can? If not, splitting is a ad idea. It might take us more time to search the barrows that way but it will be safer.
Dismounting, you tie your horses to some gnarled trees and enter the field of barrows on foot from the south.
There are almost two score mounds to explore, spread out over about 20 acres, but you had checked out many of them before, so you limit your search to the unexplored barrows (mostly to the south and east). Still, none seem to have any obvious openings.
You wander between the overgrown mounds (each one about 100 ft in diameter and 20 ft high), occasionally climbing up and over their low peaks, finding little but swampy grasses and scraggly shrubs. Occasionally you startle a small lizard or water snake, otherwise all is quiet.
It is getting close to midday when everyone decides to take a break for a light lunch. Fizahn climbs up to the top of a mound to look around as he munches on some jerky.
He is surprised to find that the party is not alone among the barrows. A man on horseback looks levelly back at Fizahn from the shade of Taern's oak tree (a couple hundred yards away to the north). The man is sturdily-built and goateed with shoulder length dark brown hair. A dark green cloak only partially covers shiny, black leather armor. A large, round wooden shield is slung on his back.
The human, quickly alert to Fizahn's arrival, slips quickly down from his horse. Eyeing Fizahn cautiously, he shifts, ever so slightly, into a defensive stance, though, his hand never moves towards the thin-hilted scimitar at his hip.
*A low, rumbling growl seems to emenate from behind the tree.*
The man, still cautiously watching Fizahn, crouches low to the ground, reaches behind the tree, and pulls back a medium sized, black and grey badger. He pulls the badger close to his face, still eyeing Fizahn, and appears to whisper something to the badger. He then sets the badger down, which scampers off into the surrounding bog, grunting with each bounding stride.
The human, eyes finally searching the area behind Fizahn, raises his arms slightly from his sides, elbows bent, and palms up. Slowly, cautiously, he approaches Fizahn.
Well met, traveller. If you intend me no harm, I bring none to you. While his eyes tend to linger on Fizahn, he still seems wary, and cautious.
*The human visibly relaxes somewhat, his grim visage adopting a more friendly look.*
I had come to this area after learning that a dragon had taken up residence in these old warrens. While it was young, it could have been quite damaging to this area and the surrounding villages. I returned after an initial examination of the area to find that not only was the dragon was gone, but a large and old tree had grown from the ground outside the dragon's lair in only a few days. No only is it's apparent age and speed of growth interesting, but it also seems to radiate a strong aura of magic.
*The human's casual stance stiffens slightly at a noise from the underbrush. He relaxes and smirks slightly as the badger comes bounding out of the brush, grunting along with his stride. The badger stops next to the human, sniffing the air in the direction of Fizahn. the human crouches down and scratches the badger under the chin*
The human says, It is ok, Aholoh, I don't think they mean to harm us, as he scratches the badger. As I have given you my reasoning, perhaps you could enlighten me to why you and sees the remainder of the party beyond Fizahn, your friends have come to this place?
"I am Elthan Moonshade. Well met, friend."
Taern likewise introduces herself.
Elthan quickly outlines how the party had tracked the dragon to the forgotten barrows and surprised it in its lair. He also relates how the dragon was buried beneath Taern's feather token. (Taern smiles at this.) He omits any mention of Oden Homm.
Elthan's eyes narrow suddenly as he looks over Graevic's shoulder.
"I see, however, that you are not travelling alone..."
Following his gaze, you see two reptilian humanoids standing at the edge of a copse just outside the field of barrows. They are several hundred yards away and appear to be watching you with interest.
Pleased to meet you all. My name is Graevic, and this pointing to the badger is Aholoh. I am pleased to know that the dragon is no longer a danger to the surrounding lands. It is good that you have removed it's taint from the area so that the healing might begin. At Elthan's comment, Graevic turns, instantly on guard, though, making no outward sign of attacking. Seeing the reptilian humanoids, he loudly whispers, They are not my travelling companions.
* Graevic takes several slow, cautious steps towards the reptilian men and begins speaking in a smooth, flowing language *
[OOC: Graevic speaks in Slyvan: "Greetings to you, strangers."]
The two reptilians don't seem to respond to Graevic's sylvan, but when Elthan calls out in draconic, they look at each other, then turn and vanish into the brush. You catch a glimpse of their tails as they disappear.
The two creatures were so far away that there is really no chance for any pursuit. It seems unlikely that the two of them could pose much of a threat, but it makes you uneasy to know that you might be being watched...
*Taern unslings her axe from her back, hefting it's great weight easily, keeping a somewhat cheery demeanor while scanning the brush for signs of danger. She takes a few soft steps forward. Oblivious to the intimidating picture she paints, she calls out*
Little lizards! We won't hurt you, unless you hurt us. How about we just talk about what's in these here mound-things?
*Taern watches the spot where they dissappeared sharply, stepping back and adressing her companions*
What do we do if they're planning an ambush? One or two might not be a problem, but a tribe or clan of those lizard-things could be deadly. Do we charge?
May the trees grant me strength in the battle, if there is one. But if I know things that live in swamps, there probably will be one.
*Taern gives Graevic another look and a wink, as if to say simple, nothing to worry about. Keeping her voice low, she mutters to him*
I dont know if you're much good at battle, but I could sure use another companion at my back while in the heat of things. Those spellcasters are awfully weak, and it gets lonely battling things with a dwarf, despite his strength.
*Taern stands poised, waiting for a command, scanning the area for any sign of an ambush*
"Eh, the elf will be fine. Back to your trainer, was he part of the Ebonhammers of the Drake Mountains? Or of the Grendel Hills? I heard that both were lost a century ago due to the large goblin invasion by Graz'Sle."
Linda was meditating all the time the others were meeting with the stranger. Though not oblivious to his appearance she did not wish to speak for the time being. When she ends her meditation she moves towards the stranger and the rest of the party and speaks to him in common:
"My name is Linda. I am a witch that was the last addition to the party just before we went against the dragon. I am pleased to meet you sir."
She offers her hand for a handshake then realises Taern has just fallen into the mound. She scrambles to the hole, picks up a stone and speaks a few words in draconic. The stone shines in a bright white light. Linda throws the stone into the hole allowing Taern to see down there.
"I think this will help you see better in the dark"
*Grunting, Taern hoists herself up, and glances around. She calls up to the others*
Hey, there's four doors down here! Maybe this is the dragon's secret treasure room!
*Taern starts eagerly forward, then stops*
Oh... uhh... I suppose you guys need a way down too.
*Taern spends a moment in intense thought, before digging around in her mostly unharmed (?) pack. Grinning at her ingenious plan, she pulls forth a grappling hook and rope*
Hey, so..uhh... someone should catch this or find something to hook it onto.
*Not realizing how much easier it would be to simply drop a rope from the top, she hurls the grappling hook high into the air with a grunt. After the rope is fastned, she looks with interest at the rock that Linda threw down, pocketing it with a cheery 'Thanks'*
I bet there are piles of gold and jewels beyond those doors! The others need to hurry up and get down here so we can take our reward!
"Durahk hailed from The Stormhorns, near the edge of the marsh of Tun. I believe the others were his cousins." smiling even broader, "He wasn't one to speak of the past". His smile fades to sadness, "He lost his life in the High Forest, where he had gone to retire. He was...a good father, adopted or not."
*Looks relieved that Taern is ok, and perhaps content to change the subject. He snatches up Taern's grapling hook and secures it to a nearby tree.*
"Shall we take a look?"
*Graevic whisper's something to his horse, which seems content to relax in the area, then grabs Aholoh with one hand, the rope with the other, and rappels down the rope to the bottom of the mound.*
Each member of the party climbs down the rope (20 ft) into the old crypt.
This central room is round, 30 ft in diameter, with a domed ceiling (now broken obviously). The mortared stone floor is bare, except for the debris (stones, grass and dirt) from Taern's unorthodox entrance. Light filters in from above (perhaps for the first time in many centuries).
There are four 5 ft x 5 ft doorways, one at each cardinal point. Two are sealed with square stone blocks with a single iron ring set in the center. Two openings (the one facing east and the one facing north) are empty. *
Next to the east opening is a 5 ft x 5 ft x 5 ft stone cube. On one side of the cube is a single iron ring.
The stone frames of three of the openings (north, south, and west) are inscribed with the same kind of alien script the party encountered on the iron plaque in the barrow to the north. The text is much shorter, however, likely names or simple epitaphs. The fourth frame (east) is unadorned.
The air is damp and musty. There are no signs that this crypt has been disturbed any time recently.
The low 10 ft passage opens into another round chamber. The stone block "door" had been pushed into the room to allow passage, and sits just 5 feet from the opening. This room is slightly smaller (25 ft in diameter) than the main chamber, but it also has a domed ceiling.
There is a small ledge (6 inches wide) about 15 ft above the ground. Eight small stone statues (each perhaps 12 inches high) sit on the ledge, equally spaced along the circular ledge. The statues look like tiny imps or miniature gargoyles. They have been carved to look like they are laughing.
In the center of the room is a stone sarcophagus, unadorned by any carvings. There are 4 skeletons lying on the floor around the sarcophagus. Their rotted leather armor and corroded weapons suggest that they have lain here undisturbed for a very, very long time.
Linda the White
Linda climbs down the rope with some dificulty-she is not much used in such physical tasks. At Taern's remark and Thokk's moving into the room she says
"Hold on everyone. This is no treasure chamber-the dragon's at least. It is a burial chamber-most probably unopened for centuries. You see the script here? It is almost the same as the one we saw beneath that iron seal. Three adventurers ventured in the old catacobs and have not been heard from since-remember? I'd bet everything this is their final resting place. However, something troubles me. There are four passages here-three of them marked and one unmarked. The adventurers were only 3. Where does the fourth passage lead if this is their tomb then? And who and why buried them here? And who opened up the passages later without disturbing the barrow from outside? I suggest caution in here. We don't know what might be lurking in the dark. Taern, take out that light stone and shed its light in the dark so we can all see, will you?"
After these words, Linda will move cautiously along with the rest of the group.