Silence Trumps Violence

Don’t get me wrong, I like the human bruisers and half-orc muscle as much as the next halfling, but there are times when a more delicate touch is called for. Doors are a case in point. Sure, a fighter can smash the door down in a couple tries; they can feel good about themselves, and it is an easy way to impress people. But smashing doors is also loud and usually draws the wrong kind of attention, attention that can lead to trouble. But for the sophisticated adventurer, a more practical and much safer route is to call in a person like me. I will dig around in my handy bag of tools, find the right sized pick, and, in a couple rounds, the lock will open and no one inside will be the wiser.

After the owlbear battle, the party needed some finesse. The paladin, ranger, and fighter had all taken some damage. The cleric healed up the ranger, and the dwarf had sipped some of his healing potion, but none of us was really looking forward to another fierce fight. Of course, as a thief, I am never looking forward to a fierce fight, but this time especially. Much like the owlbear’s cave, there were bones scattered around, but these bones looked picked over, as if one thing had done the killing and another thing had done the eating. Halflings have a special sense for danger, and right now that sense was tingling.

No character who knows me would consider me brave. I’ve picked some pretty high-end pockets in my time and robbed a few burgomeisters, but none of those were brave acts. They were acts brought about by the need for money; I like good food and warm ale, and neither of these articles come cheap. My decision to stop the party and explore the hallway on my own was another of these decisions, a decision based not on bravery¬† but on necessity. We needed to avoid damage, I am good at avoiding damage, so I gave the magic-user a brief explanation of my plan and slipped into the darkness.

After quietly moving about¬† a hundred yards, I stopped and listened. Beneath the usual sounds of caves–water dripping, the occasional stirge call–I heard shuffling and the click of chiton on stone. I slid back into the shadows and waited. My patience paid off, as it almost always does. After waiting a round, my infravision picked up a tentacled mass moving towards me. As the mass got closer, I could detect more of the details: the tentacles were attached to a giant head, the body had multiple segments, and this beastie was moving quickly.

It does not take a particularly high wisdom or intelligence roll to know a carrion crawler. If the paralysis-producing tentacles aren’t enough for identification, the slimy shell and the insectoid eyes should be. That and the crawler’s ability to climb walls or walk on the ceiling. The crawler clacked right by me, more intent on the source of the sounds at the mouth of the cave. The source of the sound: my companions. I had to do something and something quickly. Digging into my pockets, I grabbed some copper pieces that I had found on one of the dead kobolds and threw them. They hit the cavern floor with a loud crash; the crawler immediately changed course and scuttled towards the sound.

I got as close to the cave wall as possible and quickly moved back towards the party. I trusted that my hide in shadows and move silently skills would prevent the crawler from chasing after me. That trust was not misplaced. In a few rounds, I was back with the group, and I called them all over. It is not often that a halfling gets to tell the party what to do, especially a party that has a paladin and a cleric in it, but this was my time to shine. I hurriedly explained what I had seen. I less hurriedly explained how we could bypass this creature with our skins.

“First, everyone take off your boots. If you are wearing chain or plate armor, that comes off too. Don’t stare at me, I know what I am talking about.” The dwarf started to remove his chest plate; as soon as he started in, the rest followed. In the course of about three rounds, I was surrounded by a group of half-clad fighters and bootless clerics, magic-users, and assassins. “Now, throw your cloaks in this bag and put the equipment in on top of it. If we play our cards right, we will walk by that crawler, leaving him to peacefully dwell and for us to continue.” I handed the full bag to the barbarian, gave him a few words of advice [don’t drop it], and started down the path.

As we got closer to where the crawler was, I pulled out some more of the kobold copper and threw it as far as I could. The coins fell like metallic rain, and the carrion crawler, tentacles atwitter, sped towards the sound. Once the crawler started moving, so did we. It was fairly amazing how quietly a group can move when they need to. In no time, we had crossed the cavern floor and were on our way out of the cavern. As we walked through the passage leading to the next cave, I looked back. The crawler was still there, tentacles waving, as if telling us goodbye.

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