Entering an open cave on the peaked mountain, the party ventures deeper. The natural caverns twist and branch, until they come to a short, small set of excavated tunnelways: obviously the handiwork of humanoids. Judging from the size, however, they were not very large. Some of the party had to stoop to avoid hitting their heads. As they made their way forward, it quickly split into several tunnels, wich in turn branced off. Selecting one, they found it twisted, turned, split, and looped around, until they became completely turned around.
Zrill stopped the party. “Hold on, this is just a maze. I’ll find the way through…” Seeming to concentrate, some patches of shadow coalesced around, seeming to form many tiny floating eyes, which then split up and flew down the tunnelways. After a half hour, a fraction returned to the elf, who seemed to commune with them. “They’re showing me what they found. I assume the others were destroyed somehow, so we don’t even want to follow their paths. Got it.” The wizard led the way, turning this way and that, having seen the way forward now, until some branches collected to a main tunnel.
As some moved on ahead, they spied a small creature at the end of the hall. Like a dog standing upright, but with sharp, scaly protusions, and holding a little spear: a kobold. It seemed to notice them too, barking something in surprise, and running around the corner. The party ran for it, when a momentary “click” was heard before a gout of flames shot out from the wall, followed by another tell-tale catch. “More traps. I have another spell to find them…” Zrill announced, waving his hands and mumbling in various arcane incantations. He stepped forward, hands lightly probing the wall near the flame jet, until he seemed to find a crack in the wall. Pulling a probe from his sleeve, he poked around until something seemed to catch. “It’s deactivate now. But there’s surely more…”
Turning the corner, the kobold was seen running down another hallway, seemingly without harm. The party followed, but large scythes swept out, ready to take off the heads of those much taller than the kobold. Zrill busied himself deactivating it while others continued their chase. The kobold had a good lead now, and was turning another corner as they just entered the hall. Varele ran forward, but suddenly dropped out of sight down a pit. The others found her ten feet down, her armor ripped a bit from the many spikes protruding from the walls, but otherwise unharmed. Sighing, she morphed into a bat to fly out, and the party took their turns leaping over the trap.
The final turn came to what appeared to be a barracks, or living quarters for the kobolds, if one could consider it habitable. Small alcoves with dirty piles of grasses, furs, and soiled patches of fabric lined the wider hall of the communal living area. The passageway continued down the left, with a large room on the right. Zeffernious looked inside, which had some chests and armor racks, as well as coins, mostly copper, covering the floor. Moving in to investigate, the floor suddenly crackled, the smell of ozone filling the air, as the copper conducted the flowing current to Zeffernious. He was shocked for several moments before he managed to pull himself away, his feet singed. Abandoning the “treasure” room, the party took the passage, hoping to catch their quarry to question it, or at least prevent it from summoning more creatures. Rounding the long bend of a tunnel, however, they came across an unusual sight.
The tunnel suddenly gaped open into a huge chamber. Even with their torches, the party could barely see the outer walls, and nothing of the ceiling. What they couldn’t see, however, they could definitely hear: dozens, if not a hundred tinny voices, screaming, calling, or more commonly, chanting in Draconic. Those who understoon heard “Strong-tooth! Strong-tooth! Strong-tooth!” apparently a name or title of some sort. It probably referred to the lone kobold standing at the far end of the chamber-arena. Obviously not the kobold they were chasing, this one, while still dwarfishly short, was strongly built, to an odd degree, wearing a breastplate covered in blue scales, and carrying a black-scaled shield and a wicked-looking spear, made of metal, instead of the usual sharpened wood stake, or bone or stone-tipped pole. He stamped his spearbutt with the chants, the bones, claws, and teeth tied to the spearhead clattering. A small golden circlet rested on his head, and a fine cloak rested on his back, obvious symbols of his exalted status in the kobold community. While kobolds are cowardly creatures, even en masse, this burly little warrior screamed an obvious challege against the party, to the delight of the unseen crowds above.
Noticing a placard at their entrance, the cleric Rin examined it more closely to find an explanation. All he read however was a crude insult to his mother, as the sign exploded in his face, nearly catching those around him. The kobolds all cackled madly at this “first strike” against the foreign aggressors, and “Strong-tooth” accepted the adulation. Varele could take no more, and with a snarl, rushed forward to crush the little lizard in one blow. Halfway across the room, however, she became entangled in some sort of snare just as a gas exploded all around her. There came another roar from the crowd, even though the gas had no effect on her undead physiology. The other party members came more carefully around the room, wary of more traps that seemed to fill this entire mountain, even in the middle of the kobold theater. As Zrill hugged the wall, a flashbang erupted, sending him reeling back. Though Strong-tooth alone challenged the party, the audience felt the desire to participate as well, with flasks of fire and acid raining down around the party’s heads.
Strong-tooth and the party exchanged thrusts and blows, which was all the more impressive from their lone, diminutive opponent. Rin, however, summoned a shadow to attack him more obliquely. With the undead spirit sapping his strength, Strong-tooth retreated through a small hole in the arena perimeter, the shadow chasing behind. After a moment, the kobold reappeared from another hole, launching a fireball at the party before himself unfurling tiny wings and flying up! With the shadow greatly depleating his unnatural strength, the kobold was soon brought down, however, to the chagrin of the howling audience. Not finished yet, the party summoned their own servants, and wolves appeared on the balconies to run down and dispatch the suddenly fleeing crowds. Party members alternatively flew and climbed up, the only other exit being the tunnel they came through.
In the higher balconies, the party found more tunnels leading into the mountain. Questioning a random kobold, it jabbered that they could find “the master” further down the tunnelways. Nearly reaching their goal, the party ran forward. Unfortunately, the kobolds were not finished with their traps. After tripping some sort of hidden trigger, the party first felt, then heard a distand rumbling. After a moment, it seemed to grow in volume from behind: the tunnel was collapsing. Sprinting forward, the party avoided being crushed and trapped, but the way back was cut off. Forward however, was a bright red glow, the end of whatever tunnel they were in. Varele was the first to the end, but before she could come to grips with what was before her, she first found the tripwire under her feet. This flipped her forward and down into the source of the light: a massive lake of lava. Engulfed in the burning liquid rock, the vampire’s skin sizzled and lit, still flaming and dripping as she hauled herself from the lake. Other members of the party narrowly avoided a similar fate as they took in the sight.