You’ve always been smaller than most, but perceiving life from the height of a cat’s eye is startling at first. With a glance over your feline shoulder at your companions, you begin bounding through the tall grass towards the kobold encampment.
This part of the camp is clearly not well organized. Huts of mud, sticks, and grass clump together without any semblance of order. Here and there, small cooking fires are already lit, and each kobold appears to be responsible for its own fire. Some are roasting small prairie animals, while others don’t seem to be able to wait, and are eating their meat raw. Meanwhile, others appear to be taking care of their equipment – sharpening swords, oiling leather armor, and washing clothes. The small dragon-like kobolds are a primitive race, but they’re not entirely unclean.
Here and there, pockets of the kobolds are chatting in their Yip Yip dialect of Draconic. Unable to understand what they’re saying, you quickly make your rounds in between their huts. It only takes you about five minutes of slinking about and peeking around corners to realize that whoever is in charge of this group clearly doesn’t trust the kobolds with anything important.
Do you move on to scout the second part of the camp (the Mercenaries), or do you continue to search the kobold camp? Move on.
It’s easy to slip into the mercenary’s camp from the kobold camp. There’s no distinct boundary, but everything becomes cleaner and more civilized. Instead of huts of mud and sticks, camping tents are arranged around dozens of fire pits. Humans, half-elves, even some gnomes and dwarves go about their business. From what you can tell, this is a group of at least semi-professionals, though they don’t seem to be very organized beyond that.
As you’re making your way around the camp looking for the villagers, you overhear a snippet of conversation in Common that makes you pause.
“So what do you think all this looting is about, anyway?” says a half-elf dressed in leather armor. “What could those two half-dragons and that witch possibly be doing with all of that coin?”
His companion, a human sitting on a rock sharpening his axe, looks up from his task. “Aw, hell if I know. The pay is good, better than jumping caravans on the trade routes. And if all I have to do is take orders from that blue barbarian, fine by me.”
“Yeah, but don’t you wonder what they’re going to do with all of it? Greenest was, what, the third town we’ve sacked this month? They must have a whole pile built up back there.”
“Fourth. But if I were you, I wouldn’t ask that too loudly. Folks who do have a strange way of disappearing. Remember Earic?” The other man nods his head. “He was asking too many questions, just like you are, and two of those creepers in the purple robes came and took him away. A new initiate into the ‘Cult of the Dragon’, they said.” He runs the sharpening stone over the blade of his axe with a shhhhhhrickt sound. “Never saw him again.”
The rest of their conversation turns to the mundane matters of camp life, and you slink away, continuing your circuit around the camp.
Tucked away in the northern part of the mercenary camp, you are surprised to find what must be the kidnapped villagers so easily. They’re currently laboring on something – a latrine pit, if you had to guess – and they look filthy, tired, and scared. There’s ten of them, of various ages of men and women, and they’re tied together with rope and watched over by four mercenary guards.
Only a few seconds after you arrive, an elderly woman collapses with a small cry. One of the mercenaries hurries over, cuts her bonds, and roughly stands her on her feet. “Knew you wouldn’t last long, guess I was right. Come on then, off with you,” and he half drags her in the direction of the upper third part of the camp.
Now that you’ve seen where the villagers are, what do you do next? Follow guard and woman.
Making a note of where the villagers are being kept in the camp, you attempt to discreetly follow behind the guard and his captive.
The pair weaves between tents, heading towards the rear of the camp. The woman doesn’t make much fuss, and the other mercenaries in the camp ignore them. It’s relatively easy for you to keep far enough back so that they don’t notice you following. By sticking mostly to the shadows, it’s easy to stay out of direct line of sight of the others, and you’re fairly confident nobody has gotten a good look at you.
After a minute or two, you’ve followed them to the boundary between the mercenary camp and the upper, more organized part of the camp. Here a short wooden fence separates the two areas, and the mercenary escorts the woman past two guards – these are dressed the same as the mysterious human you fought outside the Temple of Chauntea last night. Tall, dressed in black leather armor and black robes, with wide black masks mimicking a dragon, these foes are more solemn and appear more dangerous than the rest of the bunch in the middle camp. The two guards stop to question the man briefly and, satisfied with his answer, gesture them past.
Looking around, you notice that while the short wooden fence seems to run the whole length of the camp, you see a stack of crates that, if you get on top of, you could use them to jump over the wooden fence into the upper part of the camp. There doesn’t seem to be any other way to follow the mercenary and the old woman without running directly past the two black-clad guards.
What do you do? Jump on crates and follow.
You land softly in the upper part of the camp, and immediately notice the differences between it and the two lower sections. Here, tents are laid out in a more organized fashion – six dark purple tents around one smaller cookfire. Everything is laid out in neat geometric rows, in contrast to the haphazard arrangement of the mercenary camp and the organic disarray of the kobold encampment.
The other thing that catches your attention is the fact that there’s no readily apparent way to jump back over the fence the way you came.
Keeping the guard and the woman in your sight is made easier due to the new layout, but makes it slightly more difficult to stay hidden. Still, you are a cat, and it is near dark, and not many cultists seem to be up and about at the moment, so you are confident in your stealth.
Near the back of the camp, the rows of tents make way for another feature. A gap of about thirty feet separates the bulk of the tents from a few other, larger ones. Several more of the masked guards stand at the ready here, along with two drakes, which you recognize as those five foot long dragon-like lizards you fought in Greenest last night. Another thirty or so feet separate these tents from the sheer cliff behind them. The guard stops in the middle of the gap, so you stop as well, hidden in the shadows cast by one of the tents.
One of the guards leans inside a tent, and after a moment a woman emerges. She’s wearing ornate purple robes over some functional-looking chain mail, and the way in which she purposefully strides out to meet the pair immediately suggests someone of authority.
“Lady Mondath,” the guard greets her, nodding his head deferentially. “This one fell during -”
The woman raises her hand, cutting him off. “It’s not important.” She clasps her hands behind her back and quickly looks the old woman over, and nods. “We won’t get any more out of her. Let’s not waste any more resources keeping her around. Langdedrosa is inside tending to the rest of the drakes.” At the mention of the drakes, the woman collapses to her knees and lets out a cry of anguish. “Take her to him. At least we can use her there.”
The guard nods. “As you say, Lady Mondath. Come on then!” He tugs the woman to her feet, and leads her away, not towards the tents, but behind them, towards the cliff face, and disappears into the darkness.
The woman Mondath stands for a moment watching them go, then slowly turns around back towards you. She spends a moment scanning the tents – and for a brief moment panic ices through your veins as she seems to halt her gaze on your position – but she passes over you. Spinning on her heel, hands still clasped behind her back, she takes a few steps back towards her tent, and is met by a large black robed hooded figure.
Mondath spends a moment conversing with the creature, speaking in terse, hushed tones. At this distance, it’s difficult to make out exactly what they’re saying, but Mondath gestures over to her right occasionally. You can tell they’re arguing somewhat.
You look where she’s pointing, and if it wasn’t for that, you likely would have missed it: a half-elf man is chained to a post, almost just outside the light cast by the fires of the camp. He looks to be in bad shape based on the way he’s sitting with his legs splayed out in front of him, dirty, wounded, head slumped down on his chest.
Glancing back, you see Mondath has disappeared back into her tent, and the figure is talking with one of the guards. The figure pulls back the hood, revealing the face of a black dragonborn. He continues to speak to the guard, and from the words you can make out, it’s not in the Common tongue. The guard nods deferentially, and the dragonborn slips back inside another tent.