Two days after the first Bonding, the party sets out. As always when this close to The Parade, the weather is fair and travel goes quickly. Glyra leads the group to an ancient forest, overgrown with brush and tangles, where a group of dryads being tormented by a band of kobolds have sought the party’s help. The path that the dryads told her of is “clear’ enough for the horses to be walked, but riding is out of the question. After walking for roughly an hour, you come to a clearing.
“Greetings!” A voice greets you from above. A young dryad with skin that strongly resembles the bark of a birch tree hangs from a tree by vines. Even an astute observer would have difficulty determining where the vines ended and her hair began. She makes no attempt to reach the ground, and speaks to you upside down. “I am Sera. You must be the ones that Glendra spoke of. Are you here to stop those nasty kobolds?” Glyra nods, and her face lights up. “Oh thank you! Their attacks grow worse every time. They are simply no fun at all!” The vines appear to pull her upward, and after a moment she disappears into the treetops above.
The party enters the clearing, an area with a circumference of roughly 30 meters lightly spotted with trees with a brook that feeds into a pool near a large oak tree. Tall grasses sway lazily in the sunlight afforded by the clearing, a stark relenting of the almost oppressive shade of the rest of the forest. Unsure what to do, the party takes in the surroundings, waiting for some sign from the dryads.
“Welcome,” A voice suddenly pierces the silence. Three dryads stand next to the party, their appearance so sudden that Lady Dahlia shrieks and leaps to hop into Karl’s arms. Unfortunately, Karl, startled by Dahlia’s shrieks, has the same thought, and the two collide mid-air. Two of the dryads giggle, and the third, the speaker, smiles a wide, mischievous smile. After Karl and Lady Dahlia untangle and recompose themselves, she, an older dryad with green skin and a badly burnt left arm, resumes her welcome. “Thank you for coming, Glyra. I knew you would not fail us. I am pleased that you have brought so many fine warriors to defend our peaceful grove.”
To the others she introduces herself as Glendra, the eldest of the four dryads, though how old she might be is a complete mystery. The two dryads with her are Dinda and Fren. Sera is no where to be seen. Glendra explains that the kobolds, then numbering 14, stumbled onto the grove about a month ago. The dryads laid low, thinking they would move on after a day. When it became clear that they had designs of setting up a permanent camp, the dryads drove them out, but they returned the next day in greater numbers. Again, the dryads drove them off, but they keep returning every few days. The dryads can avoid them for the most part, using their tricks and their magic, and causing enough bedlam amongst the kobolds to demoralize them enough to disband and run away. Each time, however, becomes more and more difficult, as the kobolds are learning to avoid their tricks.
The fight has also become more of a feud, as the kobolds seem to be less interested capturing the grove as they are in doing harm to the dryads. They know of the dryads’ love and respect of nature, and they have begun despoiling it: setting fires, damaging trees, etc. As they learn to deal with the dryads, they are also becoming more dangerous to them. During the last raid, one of the kobolds managed to set fire to Glendra, greatly burning her arm. The says it will fully heal in time, but the dryads are growing concerned for their lives. There are far too many kobolds for them to take on in a straight fight. Thus, Glendra traveled to The Parade, seeking help, and having found Glyra, they’ve besought her and you to help them to defend their home and to rid themselves of this threat once and for all.
Glendra says it will likely be a few more days until the kobolds return, but she cannot be certain. The creatures are nothing if not chaotic. As there is no way to tell when the next attack will come, you will have to wait in the grove until it does. In the meantime, and in return for your help, the dryads have offered to teach some of their secrets to the party.
After Glendra finishes explaining the situation, Adakias steps forward with a question. “Has there been any change in the grove that might explain why the kobolds were drawn to this area?”
“No,” Fren answers. “This place has remained much the same as we found it, roughly 60 seasons ago.” There is a hint of pride in her voice as she speaks.
“What is it that you desire from the Kobold situation?” Rico asks. “Would you be happy if they just moved somewhere else? Would you be willing to stand with us if we try to negotiate this peacefully”
“Cerainly,” Glendra says. “We have no love of violence. We only wish to defend our home. The kobolds are free to do as they please and live where they like, as long as they leave us in peace and do not threaten the forest. Sadly, this seems unlikely from what I have learned of these creatures.”
“First things first,” Raivik says, “the kobolds aren’t expecting our merry little band to be here, so we have the element of surprise, which is good. But we need to know a little more about our foe if we are to be of any help.”
“Of course. We shall provide any information that you require,” Glendra says.
“Roughly how many kobolds were there in the last attack?” Raivik asks.
“At least a full score,” Fren answers.
“Did they have any magic users or ranged weaponry? If so, how many? And do they appear to be well armed? Of course, I ask all of this assuming any attempt at diplomacy has failed,” Raivik says in a sarcastic and belittling tone.
“They’ve used no magic,” Glendra says. “Some carry short bows and most carry slings, though they prefer to use their daggers and spears. We have no use for weapons and armor, at least not those familiar to you or the kobolds, so I cannot tell you how well armed they are. I can tell you that they are scavengers, so it is unlikely that they carry well crafted implements.”
“Can you tell where these kobolds are coming from?” Jora asks. “Perhaps one of our number can observe their camp, unseen. It’s always best to know one’s enemy as much as possible before doing battle.”
“They have set up no camp,” Dinda says. “They do not come from a consistent direction when they come, and they flee in all directions. As far as we can tell they do not congregate. How they manage to organize for the raids is a mystery to us.”
“Did the kobolds ahve some sort of leader? Someone among them that seems to have their ear? Convincing a horde of kobolds of anything is a daunting task, but convincing one…” Jora says, smiling wickedly.
“They do seem to follow orders,” Fren says, “though if those orders come from the same kobold each night, and which kobold that might be, is far beyond our perception. We do not speak their language, and chaos follows the beasts wherever they go.”
“Do they attack during the day or at night?” Raivik asks.
“Both,” Glendra says. “There is little consistency in their actions.”
With no further questions, the group settles into the grove. It is as beautiful as it is serine, it is of little wonder why the dryads are so loath to give it up. Instruction with the dryads begins that night. Dinda shares her knowledge of the wilderness with Jora, Karl, and Raivik, whild Glendra teaches Adakias, Dahlia, and Glyra how to better seek and forage. Fren teaches Aelric to see what others might not, while Sera gives Rico a demonstration on tumbling about. After the evening’s instruction is over, the dryad bids the party a good evening and melt into the scenery. A watch is posted, but the night passes with little event.
The dryads appear shortly before dawn. They’ve prepared a breakfast for the party consisting of berries, apples, and a cold oatmeal with a spice they reveal to be ground tree bark. Lemon and a light tree sap are added to bowls of water from the stream, making a refreshing beverage. It proves to be a nice meal, for being entirely raw and made from the forest. A rotation of four guards is posted, each party member spending two hours on watch and two hours off, either learning from the dryads or enjoying the grove.
Jora spenders her time playing music on her flute as she and Raivik exchange stories with the dryads. After spending the morning playing in the stream with Sera, Karl sets up a target box where he and Aelric practice archery and throwing daggers together. Lady Dahlia spends her time studying a large tome, and Rico strolls about, enjoying nature and keeping a vigilant eye out for trouble. In the evening, Glyra brings in a deer. The dryads request that it be cooked elsewhere, they do not like fire, and they provide a salad of forest greens, raspberries, and chewy roots.
Another uneventful evening passes, and lessons in the morning are just concluding, when Adakias cries out in pain. An arrow has struck him directly in the chest, lodging itself deep in his chain shirt. A second arrow buries itself deep in a log a scant meter from Dahlia’s head. Arrows and draconic battle cries pierce the air from all directions. The kobolds have arrived.
As the kobolds begin to advance in on the grove, Jora takes up a position near the large oak and calls out “Pay attention to the way they move and see if you can figure out which one is giving the orders! If we can pinpoint a leader we can end this more quickly!” She then begins playing an upbeat melody on her flute. One of the kobolds has reached Adakias, thrusting a spear at him, which he easily avoids. Another kobold rushes up and fires a rock from a sling, striking Adakias in the temple. From a high branch in a tree, Glyra fires an arrow that takes a kobold from behind, killing it instantly.
Rico moves agilely forward, unafraid, and ready to defend himself. As he approaches he states, “Whoever can speak their language, please translate!” Once he is facing the nearest kobold, he continues, “Please friends let’s not fight, it will not end well for either party. Tell us what it is you keep returning here for and perhaps we can find a solution that works for all involved.” As he comes to a stop in front of the closest kobold, he reaches forward and lightly pushes against its chest, changing to a defensive stance.
Raivik fires an arrow at a kobold, taking it through the eye. It falls to the ground, moaning softly. Raivik then hops to another branch of the oak tree he is hiding in. Another kobold enters the grove, hitting Adakias in the arm with a rock from its sling. Sera comes bounding out of the bushes, tumbling and skipping to one of the advancing kobolds. It raises a spear at her, and at the last possible second, she flips backwards, catching it in the jaw with her foot as she vaults into the limbs of a nearby tree.
Karl leaps from one bank of the pool to another, drawing his bow. He fires an arrow that sails between two kobolds and exclaims, “Jora, I will cover you!” Two more kobolds swarm Adakias, one thrusting a spear that he parries, the other slamming a stone into his forehead with a sling. Two of the kobolds have noticed Glyra in her tree. One begins climbing it, the other fires a stone that strikes her painfully in the kneecap.
Aelric hurls a dagger at an unsuspecting kobold. The blade sinks into its neck, issuing a loud thud with a sickening crunch. The kobold, in turn, issues a loud rasp, with a spray of blood. It falls over, after a moment, and all life fades from its eyes. Aelric then jumps down from the tree and draws his rapier. A nearby kobold slashes at him with a dagger, but he parries the blow.
Glendra fades from view, reappearing near the kobolds that Aelric and Rico are fighting. She throws her hands up in the air and hums softly. Vines and branches from the nearby trees reach down and entangle three of the kobolds and Aelric. One of them manages enough freedom to fire his sling and Aelric, but the rock flies wide to the right.
Adakias cleaves the nearest of the kobolds swarming him in two, shouting, “It seems these kobolds aren’t willing to talk, but they sure like flinging rocks at me! Not very endearing!” Lady Dahila charges to the nearest (living) kobold to him, slashing it with her dagger, saying “Adakias, there is no reasoning with vermin. We must exterminate them. Ick!”
Seeing her take his comrade with an arrow, one of the kobolds levels his own bow at Glyra, firing an arrow that lodges itself into her thigh of her already wounded leg. Dinda produces a longbow of her own. She draws it back, as if to fire at a kobold wading through the stream, but at the last moment seems to change her mind. Reaching out, she touches a nearby tree, and vanishes from view. Reappearing on the other side with a sad look upon her face, she looses her shaft at a kobold outside of the grove, ending its life instantly.
One of the kobolds that managed to avoid entanglement swings a dagger at Glendra, but it misses. One of the tangled kobolds hits her with a rock from its sling, though it doesn’t appear to have hurt her greatly. The other untangled kobold slashes at Aelric, but he parries its dagger away.
Jora lowers her flute and assesses kobolds within sight, searching for their leader. “This battle is already lost,” she suggests to the most likely candidate, “Take what remains of your people and find another spot. The Dryads here have powerful friends, and will not be driven from their homes.” The kobold takes no notice of her, though whether it cannot hear her, doesn’t understand her, or simply dos not care, is unclear. Glyra takes a show at him, but she misses by a large margin.
Rico punches the kobold nearest to him in the gut. It doubles over, the wind, and all fight, knocked from it. Raivik nimbly hops through the branches of the oak tree to fire an arrow at a kobold near Adakias. It winces in pain as the arrow sticks into his side.
Sera sings a short melody in a high register, and a tree branch reaches down to club a nearby kobold in the head. The kobold looks about, but is clearly unsure about what happened. Karl charges a kobold near Adakias, slicing it open from hit to shoulder. Aelric dispatches another kobold with a thrust of his rapier. Glendra swings a fist at a nearby kobold, but it ducks out of the way, attempting a counter attack, which Glendra gracefully dodges.
Fren closes her eyes, and a sapling near Adakias reaches out to give him a comforting embrace. Bolstered, he slays the nearest kobold and shouts “Has anyone noticed if there’s any coordination to this attack or who could be coordinating it?” Lady Dahlia swings at a nearby kobold. It parries her dagger, offering a failed attack of its own as another kobold rushes up to jab her with a spear, which she cleanly dodges.
Glyra takes a sling bullet to the face, nearly falling from her tree. Another fires an arrow that lodges itself into one of the tree’s branches.
A kobold tries to sneak its way to assault Adakias from behind. Karl reacts quickly with an upward slash of his ranseur. The kobold dodges, but Karl’s brings his weapon down, taking its head cleanly off. Another kobold makes its way through the tangling vines to attack Aelric, its short sword scoring a light hit to his right arm.
Another Kobold attempts to attack Adakias from the rear. It, too, meets its end at Karl’s ranseur. Glyra takes a third arrow, the latest catching her in the left shoulder. A third kobold attempts to get past Karl. Catching a blade through the eye, it slumps to rest on the bodies of its comrades. Another kobold wades through the sea of grasping vines to put a dagger in Aelric’s side.
Jora begins an incantation, uttering a few arcane mumbles, but after a moment she loses her patiences and yells “Get your ass out here, now!” For an instant nothing appears to happen, but then a celestial badger unfolds from nothingness. It casts its eyes about with an indignant “Harumph!”, sizing up[ the situation, and dashes over to slam its head into one of the kobolds shooting at Glyra. Taking advantage of the distraction, Glyra climbs further up in her tree and casts a spell to heal some of her wounds. Sera chants along side her to aid her with the spell.
While dispatching a kobold, Adakias yells “Thanks for the help, but it seems as if Glyra is in need of your help now.” Raivik leaps down from his tree, landing nimbly and running to aid Glyra. Karl impales another kobold, yelling “Back off, you vermin!” Rico deftly moved through the tangle of vines as it attempts to hold him back. He strikes out at a kobold with a series of quick blows that incapacitate it.
Aelric slashes a kobold. It parries his blade, but Glendra jabs at it, her thorn-like fingers impaling it below the jaw. It dies rasping. The stream is very shallow, yet somehow Fren dives into it, emerging farther down to bludgeon a kobold, climbing from its bank, to death. Lady Dahlia steps back, and hurls a dagger at a kobold coming through the trees. The blade catches it squarely in the eye, and it falls to the ground, motionless.
Their numbers thoroughly depleted, the remaining kobolds flee from the grove. Jora’s celestial badger, Hubert, chases after one, returning moments later to relieve his celestial bladder on Glyra’s tree.
The Dryads offer their thanks to you in ridding their home of the kobold menace. They say you may stay as long as you wish as you recover from the battle and plan your next move. The three kobolds that survived the battle prove to be too deceptive and too cooperative for anything to be gained from interrogation. For now, they remain tied to a tree, until a consensus may be reached as to what to do with them. In the time being, Hubert clearly has his own plans for the kobolds, taking several large gulps as he settles down for a nap near their tree, a knowing smirk on his furry little face.