Skarg scowls and looks down at his fingers, muttering. "Skarg remembers seeing more than one pack. Maybe seven or nine. Or eight. Not sure."
"And what are they guarding?"
"How should Skarg know? Swamp walkers do what they want!"
"And the other hut, the one up by the edge of the lake," Ohwatoo gestures toward the northwest structure. "Who lives in that, and where are they now?"
The kobold scowls. "Stinker lizards use that place when they come up to lake. No one lives there. Don't like stinky lizards. I think they kill and eat Berkit." With a gleam in his eye, he adds, "You powerful humans. Maybe you kill stinky lizards?"
"Perhaps, perhaps. Now, how many of these creatures are there?"
Skarg shrugs. "All stinky lizards look the same. Maybe ten, maybe more. No like smelly lizards."
"Do you have maps of the tunnels below? Or of this area? Have you been below?"
Skarg shakes his head. "No go into tunnels. It is a dangerous place." He looks puzzled for a moment, then adds, "What are 'maps'?"
"Maps are drawings, pictures that show where places and things are. They look like this." The wizard pulls out the party's map of the area. "Where is your tribe."
Skarg stares at the map then looks up at Ohwatoo. "Maps don't make sense. Tribe that way," he points north-northwest (more or less). "It far. Many days away."
"And are there more of your tribe here? Maybe down in the tunnels?"
The kobold shakes his head. "No. That a bad place. Only Skarg's pack here. Other packs not of Skarg's tribe. Bad."
"Yellow eyes. Live somewhere near here. Go into tunnels." His voice drops to a whisper. "They say a demon live down there. A demon yellow eyes worship." He seems agitated.
"A demon? Have you seen this creature? What does it look like."
Skarg becomes increasingly agitated, eyes darting he says, "Never saw it. Just heard it have big claws and many legs. Come at night, from below or from the lake. Kill all it sees. I keep my pack safe, we all hide in the hut at night. Close up door and stay still and quiet."
"And the gnolls, how many of them are here and where are they from?"
With a shrug, Skarg says, "Many gnolls around here. Mostly that way." He points west. "They come and go all the time. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow. Skarg has never seen their camp, but heard gnolls talking once. They said it was in old place, like here, but littler."
"What other creatures have you seen here?"
Skarg shrugs again. "Big lizards come here sometimes. Bear came and killed a gnoll once." He licks his fangs. "Bear taste good. Gnoll does not. Other creatures, Skarg has not seen."
Ohwatoo opens his mouth to ask another question, then shuts it, realizing he has nothing else to ask. The others shake their heads too. Raúguey drags Skarg back over to his packmates and keeps watch. "I don't think they can tell us much more. What now?" asks Ohwatoo.
"Send them packing, disarmed," says Maro. "And make sure they don't follow us when we leave. Speaking of leaving..." He looks around, "What now?"
"I think we should head down, find a place to hole up down below, and keep going tomorrow," says Raúguey.
Dagmarten shakes his head, and Maro answers, "I think we're too beat up for that, and there aren't many safe places below. Especially since we don't know what's taken up residence down there. Could be more of these swamp walkers or who knows what else. Before we decide though, let's get rid of our 'friends'." Maro approaches the cluster of cowed kobolds and tosses the scanty coins found in their hut onto a nearby boulder. "You have spoken truly Skarg, and we honor our agreement. Take your coin and go back to your tribe. Do not come back here. If we see you again, we will know that you cannot be trusted, and we won't be merciful." He gestures to Raúguey and Mordikarr and the pair backs off a few paces, lowering weapons. The kobolds look back and forth a few times, then scrabble up the coins, back away from the group, and then turn to run, heading west along the lake's shore.
Morikarr and Ingvild follow them to the edge of the ruin, then Ingvild says, "We should check the north hut, just in case." He and Mordikarr head that way, while everyone else prepares for departure. The pair comes back pretty quickly. "Nothing," says Ingvild. "Just a few cracked bones and smelly sleeping pallets.
"Did you look at the other stairwell?" asks Rawon.
Ingvild nods and says, "There's water flowing down the stairs. Last time we were in there it was a couple feet deep. I don't like to think what it's like now."
"We don't have to worry about that, let's move out." Dagmarten points east. "We need to put some distance behind us before nightfall."
The party sets out, heading east, but quickly bends their course southeast to avoid vast pools of stagnant lake water. Behind them, the smouldering hut still sends a column of black smoke into the low gray clouds. They march as quickly as possible, but the mud and water slow the pace and it takes two hours to get out of the swamp around the lake. Once among the trees they quicken the pace. Nightfall finds the group somewhere just south of Blackpool Spire, and they set up a cold camp in a small clearing surrounded by undergrowth, the best cover available. Before setting the night's watches, Durego distributes the second batch of kettle broth to Ohwatoo, Mordikarr and Maro. [Ohwatoo and Mordikarr fully healed, Maro healed 2]. Saurabh uses his last healing spell on Raúguey [4 healed].
[March 30] The night passes without incident, and the next morning the clerics use their healing magic to restore wounded comrades. [All healing spells expended, everyone is fully cured]. Several party members want to head back to the Maze, but the majority wants to hole up and wait the day out and go in full-strength early tomorrow. Everyone spends a dismal day sitting around in the mud while rain continues to fall from the roiled clouds overhead.
[March 31] After another incident-free night, the party is up before the sun and headed back to the Maze. Rawon suggests the group heads straight west, past the Maze on the south side, then turn northeast to confuse the trail. The others agree. The rest has done everyone some good and the group makes good time despite the miserable rain that continues to fall. It's still fairly early when the party reaches the turning point, south-southwest of the Maze on the edge of the really swampy ground.