Sunless Pathfinder

Session 7
The Outcast

Erky offered medical treatment for the injured, which Zorp was only too happy to accept. The adventurers dispatched three skeletons in the nearby eastern octagonal chamber, then turned their attention to the southwest exit from the northmost octagon.

The door opened to reveal a hall to the south that emptied into a larger chamber to the west after twenty feet. Dragon-carved granite blocks tiled the walls and ceiling, though many were crumbled and broken, creating stony debris on the floor.

A huge marble statue of a rearing dragon still stood in the curve of the western wall. The eye sockets of the dragon were empty, but a red glow lingered there, providing reddish light throughout the chamber. The effulgence cast an inky shadow behind the statue’s wide wings

A crumbling 5-foot-diameter circular redstone tile was inset in the floor in front of the rearing dragon carving. Runes were carved around the circular tile’s inner edge. A wooden door exited to the north.

Zorp was in the lead and reported to the others in a low voice. “Creepy dragon statue in there. Sal?”

The wizard moved up beside the goblin and examined the statue from the hall. “This seems like a red dragon. It also seems magical. Same with the tile on the ground.”

Zorp backs up about ten feet as Trin entered the room to look for traps. A few moments later, she reported all clear.

“Seems very odd to have a tile in front of a statue of a dragon.”

“Any idea what it does?” Grunt asked of the enchanted features.

“That statue, it has any writing on it?” asked Zorp.

“There are runes on the tile.”

“What they say?”

“They say goblins should come over here and stand on the tile,” Grunt said sarcastically.

“That is correct,” Sal deadpanned.

“No, that sound like Kobold trap,” said Zorp, eyeing the door. “We moving on?”

“It says ‘Let the power flow through me,’” said Sal.

“Hmm… That could be good or bad,” said Grunt.

“Red dragons are usually powerful, so it is like a gift?”

“It work like the last one?” asked Zorp.

The wizard shrugged and nodded. “It seems like the thing with all the other statues you say the words and the magic works. I think we should test it from a safe distance.”

“Sal if you think you should try it,” said Grunt. “I’ll be right here, buddy … to … you know … watch.”

Sal nodded and returned to the edge of the hallway. Then he turned toward the statue and said, “Ea serpenta rau kaluva nyawisti.”

Nothing happened.

“Huh.”

“Are you dead yet?” Trin called from the gallery, two rooms away. Everyone ignored her.

“Maybe I need to be standing on the tile,” said the wizard. He walked over too it, but no sooner had he stepped upon the tile than the statue’s shadow moved, rising up to reveal a vaguely humanoid shape with burning red points of light where its eyes should be. It advanced on Sal and reached inside his chest, tearing out a chunk of ephemera. The wizard gasped, weakened by the violation.

Grunt swiftly came to Sal’s defense, striking at the incorporeal attacker, but he barely registered any resistance as his war flail passed through the entity. Zorp advanced next, but he felt his dogslicer pass right through the shadow. Noting this, he dropped the blade and shook free of his shield, reaching for his horsechopper.

The wizard took a step away and lashed out at the shadow with his magic, which advanced on him and stole more of his essence. Trin came around the corner having only just heard the commotion from where she had retreated. Unfortunately, her arrow passed right through the apparition much like Zorp’s weapon had. The warriors had little better luck against the creature as they continued to press their attack. Sal retreated into the hall and fired off his force bolt, which seemed to impact the shadow just fine. Alas, he had only the one.

“Um, this thing only seems to feel the magics,” said Zorp.

Erky’s divine lance burned away at the shadow, and he said, “Well, keep it off us and we’ll kill it!”

The shadow whirled on Grunt but the dworc evaded. Trin pulled out the nearly forgotten magical dagger the party had found in the tomb of the dragonpriest. She stepped into the flank that Sal had abandoned, but she was unable to strike the shadow.

Sal next threw a ball of fire at the shadow but missed. Stopping to consider for a moment, the wizard said, “This is a Shadeling, an alien creature that feeds on dreams.” A moment later, Erky’s spell brought the “shadeling” down.

“Ooook… that wasn’t the effect of the statue, right?” said Grunt. “You never said the words on the tile.”

“It was not,” agreed Sal, as Erky treated his injuries. He could do nothing for the feeling of weakness the wizard experienced from the shadow’s touch. Perhaps time would resolve it.

After the cleric’s ministrations, everyone took up their previous positions and Sal stood atop the redstone tile and repeated, “Ea serpenta rau kaluva nyawisti.” A puff of spectral flame harmlessly enveloped him, and after a moment the tile stopped glowing.

“Brave man,” said Grunt. “Good on ya. Now what happened?”

“He got glowy,” said Zorp.

“I feel smarter,” said Sal. “A little bit.”

“Smarter is good,” said Zorp. The goblin did a quick search of the room now that the carrot and stick within had apparently been dealt with. He found a small hoard hidden behind a loose rock in the wall behind the statue. Then the party went through the door to the north.

Leaning and completely fallen stone bookshelves filled the next chamber, though a clear path connected wooden doors on opposite walls. The litter of torn and burnt pages, bindings, and scrolls formed disordered piles in the corners. “Who was mad enough to do this?” said Sal, sounding sad.

The adventurers searched the chamber. Grunt found a bronze bull pendant in good repair. As he looked at it, the eyes glowed briefly. “Heyyyy! Look at this,” he said, showing everyone the item. “I saw its eyes glow for a sec.”

“Found some weird magic oil,” Sal commented from another corner.

“If we got a minute, I can check them,” said Trin. Everyone agreed, and a minute later she said, “No idea.” Grunt shrugged and pocketed the cordless pendant.

The far door opened onto damp and crumbled steps that descended sharply to the east. They proceeded down, passed underneath the northernmost octagonal chamber then ascended a matching set of stairs that turned down a long southern hall. There were two doors on the east wall near the far end, and the first was locked.

Trin spent a few tense seconds attempting to unlock it with her lockpicks without breaking them before giving up. “Maybe we go look for a key?” suggested Zorp.

The next door opened to reveal four goblins sorting twig and root piles on the floor of a sagging chamber, with the collapsed southern wall opening on a vast cavern. Pustules of luminescent fungus on the rough walls and high roof loomed over a twilight grove of sickly briars, bushes, saplings, and other woody plants. Ruined walls and hollow towers protruded from the briars like islands in the sea.

The goblins were dispatched, but not without blood. Afterward the dworc grunted and lay down on the floor. Erky made the wings of Desna over his heart and cast a heal spell to restore his companions’ vitality. Alas, the healing energy from the goddess of dreams was not abundant.

“Hey, look. One of my scabs healed.”

“Desna weeps,” Erky sighed. “She must nae feel ye need more luck than that.”

After some discussion, Erky spent two more spells healing the worst of Grunt’s injuries, then the party considered the hole in the southern wall. Beyond, they noted the higher, less crumbled walls in the southern recesses of the large cavern, over which the tip of a gargantuan tree was visible, nearly two hundred feet distant.

“Here’s the tree,” said Grunt. “So the druid is likely there too.”

“Let me sneak forward a bit,” said Trin.

Pale, spindly briars coated with tiny barbs pressed close as the gnome scouted forward, trying to avoid notice. The violet light above cast nauseating shadows on the earthen floor, creating the illusion of movement among the branches, though no wind blew there. She’d made it perhaps forty feet before one of the briars reached out to take a swipe at her. The twig blight’s claws scraped up against her leather armor. She jerked back, quick drew her rapier, and attacked back.

Zorp noticed and said, “Oi, looks like Trin making not-friend.”

Erky gestured the rogue back toward the goblins’ room, readying to cast a spell if a target presented itself. Zorp moved up to protect Trin and readied his horsechopper to strike, as well. “It’s over here!” he warned the others, when he struck the twig blight that had chased Trin northward.

Several more plant monsters were forthcoming, and despite the adventurers’ eventual victory, the poisonous scratches left them ragged and bleeding. They retreated for a few hours so Erky could treat their wounds with bandages, medicine, and magic. Feeling sufficiently patched up, they decided to press forward and confront the master of the citadel.

A courtyard wall of heavy stones created a half-walled clearing among the briars. Several varieties of plants grew around the perimeter, including a few suspicious-looking saplings, but their importance paled before that which stood at the courtyard’s center. Beneath the venomous fungal light grew a singular tree of evil. Its blackened, twisted limbs reached upward, like a skeletal hand clawing its way from the earth. Human figures stood near the tree: a woman and two men. A three-foot-long tree frog squatted next to one of the men.

“They have a tree frog,” said Sal.

As the party gathered behind one of the walls relative to the heinous tree, a voice called out. “I was beginning to wonder if you had changed your minds and decided to flee after all.”

“Who you is?” said Zorp.

“I am Belak, called the Outcast. The druidic society expelled me, the fools. And why? Because I dared to expand nature’s reach in ways their puny minds couldn’t grasp. I don’t care. I have found what I long sought, embodied in the Gulthias Tree.”

“We only want the ones taken from the town. You have them here?”

“They were the first two ‘supplicants.’ The Gulthias Tree has ‘accepted’ them, and they are mine to control, just like the twig blights. You can’t save them.”

While the goblin kept the druid busy talking, Grunt had pulled out his oil of potency and applied it to his weapon. “Challenge accepted,” growled the dworc, rushing out from behind the wall to advance on what must have been Sir Braford. The man’s gaze was vacant, and his skin had a wooden look to it, like he had somehow grown tree bark. He struck the man-plant hard, though he was careful to make sure the blow would not be lethal. Braford dropped in an instant.

Trin moved next, drawing her bow and loosing a couple of arrows at the druid. One of them struck the man, and she called out, “Let them go, and we’ll let you live!"

Belak the Outcast sneered in response and uttered harsh syllables in an ancient tongue. The briars and moss along the wall where most of the party still crouched erupted, wrapping around Erky and Zorp and holding them in place. The cleric panicked and flailed about, failing to escape the grasping plants. Sal rushed south along the wall, taking cover behind the curve of the cavern wall and struck the giant frog with a force bolt. Zorp failed to strike a twig blight that came out of the western darkness to engage him.

Next Sharwyn Hucrele, her wooden flesh similar to that of Sir Braford, unleashed a barrage of magic missile that all flew to strike Grunt full in the chest. The dworc winced, but pressed forward to engage the druid. His magically enhanced war flail came down hard twice and made an end of the self-appointed caretaker of the Gulthias Tree.

Zorp fought against the twig blight, while Sal and Trin stayed at the perimeter and took shots at targets of opportunity. Erky broke free of his entanglement and made his way south along the eastern courtyard walls.

Grunt turned his attention next to Sharwyn, but owing to his desire to spare her life, he couldn’t land a meaningful blow against the ‘Accepted’ wizardess. She unleashed another trio of magic missiles into the dworc for his trouble, and he staggered back a step. Zorp escaped the enchanted plants and abandoned the melee with the twig blight to come to Grunt’s aid. His disabling blow came down at the perfect angle to knock Sharwyn senseless and the adventurers breathed a sigh of relief. The rest was cleanup.

Sal’s fire spell impacted the insidious Gulthias Tree, which hissed and popped with a sick oily sap. The adventurers stayed below long enough to make sure the vile plant was truly destroyed.

Belak had a key in his pouch that unlocked the doors near the Twilight Grove. Rough wooden shelves, filled with a scattering of tomes and scrolls, lined the north and east walls, and a rough-hewn desk stood in the center of the chamber. Sal gathered the writings that seemed most relevant.

* * *

Getting the afflicted adventurers back to the surface was a trial unto itself, but the Grunt and Zorp managed it with a little help from the others. The party brought Sharwyn and Sir Braford to the shrine in Oakhurst to confer with the priestess there. Unfortunately, she had no notion of how the victims might be restored from whatever had befallen them at Belak’s hands.

* * *

Trin reported to Madame Hucrele about the fate of her children and collected the reward for retrieving the signet rings. Though Sharwyn had technically been returned “alive,” her mother withheld the additional money she had offered, contingent upon a cure being found.

* * *

“So, we no get paid for bringing girl home?” said Zorp, seated at their table in the Ol’ Boar’s taproom.

“Not unless we can fix her,” said Trin.

“According to Belak’s journal, the Gulthias Tree was the source of the magical healing apples,” said Sal from the bar. “Maybe one of those could reverse the curse. Too bad the last one was sold to some duergar from the north.”

“Does it say where exactly?” asked Grunt.

“Not really. Some old dwarven ruin near Blasingdell.”

Grunt pulled out the strange glass whistle they had found. It was inscribed with the Dwarven word Azangund, which rougly translated to “Night Caller” in the Common tongue. It apparently possessed necromantic magic, but of greater interest to the dworc was the material from which the whistle had been forged. Unless he missed his guess it was nephelium, which he had only heard stories about.

He cast his thoughts back to his youth and stories of the legendary dwarven smith Durgeddin the Black and his forge within lost Khundrukar.

“Well,” said Grunt with a grin. “I have a theory about that.”


Adventures

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Session 6
Bugbears

Erky attempted to treat his companions’ injuries, but it didn’t go well. Rather than risk losing one or more of their member in the unknown dungeon below, the party decided to spend the rest of the day resting and descend in the morning. Before they left, Zorp searched the collection of junk piled up against the southern wall of Goblintown. He reported finding two small statues and a usable chainmail shirt sized for a human, which the party decided to stash in their kobold bolt hole.

* * *

At the bottom of the eight-foot vine-riddled shaft, they came into a very large chamber dimly lit by the same violet luminescent fungus, which clung to the walls and ceiling. The air was damp, chilly, and redolent with the odors of loam and decay. A layer of earth, mixed with rotting vegetation and the remains of cave animals, covered the floor of the wide cavern. Several varieties of mushroom and fungus grew on the detritus, as well as a few saplings. Two gaunt, cloaked figures busily shoveled well-turned earth into a rusted wheelbarrow, paying the intruders no mind.

The adventurers noted two doors, one on the east wall and one on the south, and a collapsed section of the northern wall as potential exits. They chose the southern door first, following it down perhaps fifty feet before it changed. The tunnel was interrupted by some past geologic violence that had rent the earth. The tunnel continued past the rift, though it had shifted ten feet to the west.

“Which way do you guys want to go?” Trin asked her companions.

“We are looking for an evil druid,” said Grunt. “I’d imagine he’s back with the vegetation … and the undead.” Except for Zorp who wanted to continue down the broken hall, the others agreed or were impartial. The party turned around and headed to the hole in the northern wall of the large entry chamber.

The rough cavern’s floor was stained as if regularly drenched in blood. Luminescent fungus revealed the eastern niche, which held a matted-hair-and-fur pallet, a wide wooden board on which a variety of crude but deadly weapons were affixed, and a greatcoat of patchy black fur hung on a slender pole. To the edge of the niche were two large nests made of fur and refuse. Two giant rats watched the adventurers from the nests but don’t seem inclined to get up.

A hairy bugbear rolled off of the pallet and groggily got to its feet. It wore a helmet fashioned with deer antlers atop its head. “Oh, company. Great. Who are you lot, then?”

“No one of consequence,” said Trin.

“We come for small humans,” said Zorp. “You have seen them?”

“Humans?” He scratched his ass. “Uhh … I don’t think so? But I go off hunting in the deeps sometimes, so maybe I missed ’em?”

“Ok, so they no is here. We gots it.”

“What about a weird plant magic man?” asked Sal.

“Oh, sure. Him. East through that door.” The bugbear pointed through the hole in the wall. “Man, what a weirdo.”

“He does weird stuff? Like what?” asked Zorp.

The bugbear nodded to the goblin companionably. “Experiments. Gross ones.” He ambled over to one of the giant rats and scratched it on the head. “Those poor rats.”

“Is there anything else in there with him?” asked Trin.

“I don’t go over there. Too freaky for me.”

“So, what you know about the skeleton things in this room here.” Zorp gestured behind him.

“More freaky experiment stuff. He raised ’em up to be gardeners. What even is that?”

“Are the things in the room behind us his?” asked Trin.

“Things?”

“The plant things”.

“Huh. Probably. Maybe from that tree thing he’s supposed to be guarding. Or whatever.”

“So basically,” said Sal, “what I know is that the magic man says words that make green things move and do things like us. The white guys are dead people who are brought make to life without the hair holders.”

The bugbear looked blankly at Sal. “You’re a trip, man.”

It glanced at the faces among the adventurers as though taking them in for the first time. “You guy mercenaries or something? Durnn hiring out?”

Then it squinted at Zorp. “You one of Durrn’s? I don’t think we’ve met.”

“I am Zorp.”

“Zorp? That ain’t a Dubuluk name. Who are you guys, anyway?”

“Me not with Goblin tribe up above,” said Zorp.

The bugbear frowned. "That right?

“You is not work for them, right?”

“I’m a friend of the tribe. Awful lot of gnomes. And, hang on. Is the trippy guy an elf?”

“I am,” said Sal.

“Durnn just let you come down here?”

“Durnn, said it ok,” Zorp lied unconvincingly.

“Man, you guys killed Durnn. Didn’t you.” It wasn’t a question.

“We had aggressive negotiations,” said Trin.

“We didn’t kill Durnn. We killed his whole tribe. You sure you want to pull a weapon?”

The bugbear sighed heavily, reaching for a blade from the rack. “I wish you hadn’t done that.”

Sal led things off, trying to zap the bugbear and one of the rats, but they both evaded the spell. In response, the giant rat next to the bugbear rushed the elf and savaged him with its filthy maw. “Nice one, Grip!” crowed the bugbear. "Eat that elf!’

Zorp’s second swipe ended the rat threatening Sal, and the bugbear wailed, “Grip! No!!!"
“Grip! No!!!” wails the bugbear.

“Me not want to fight, but you make it no choice,” said Zorp.

Sal said, “You fought valiantly, Grip.” Then, to the bugbear he added, “You have trained these rats well.”

Trin advanced and her second stab injured the bugbear, but Grunt couldn’t capitalize on the flank. For his failure, he was chewed up by the other giant rat. “Yes! Good work, Fang!” said the bugbear before wheeling on Trin and stabbing her back with a jagged dagger.

Erky stepped up beside Sal and patched up the worst of his bites. The elf nodded his thanks then formed a ball of fire in his hand and flung it at the bugbear, burning its chest. “That’s one hot bear,” said Sal. The flames distracted the bugbear enough that Trin’s second stab went through its heart. Grunt finished off the other rat.

“Good night, mates,” said Sal.

Zorp took the bugbear hunter’s antler crown and affixed it to his own helmet, quickly but sturdily.

“That’s quite a horny hat you have there, Zorp,” said Grunt.

“Anybody want the coat?” asked Sal. “Would be disrespectful not to carry on his honor of taking care of rats.” All he received were blank looks from his companions. “Guess not,” he said, taking the hairy coat. It did not smell good.

After Erky had patched up those who could be, the adventurers approached the east door that the bugbear hunter had indicated. Beyond it, two rows of dragon-carved marble columns lined the central length of the hall, though most were completely smothered in luminescent fungus. The cobbled floor was cracked and stained with much use, and it held many small wooden tables. Table contents included mortars and pestles, bowls filled with crushed leaves, chopped fungus stalks, and other plant specimens. The many doors leading off the hall were all partly open, and sounds were audible from beyond them.

Grunt crept forward to peek into the nearest door to the north. Sixteen small pallets woven of matted hair and fur covered the floor, one of which was occupied by a sleeping goblin. He crossed the room and ended its life, but the loud crunch of a goblin skull being cracked by his war flail alerted the occupants of other rooms.

The adventurers seized the initiative, Grunt rushing through the southern door opposite the goblin sleeping quarters. There, he found a crude mashing, straining, and cask station with two goblins standing barefoot in the mashing-tun, squashing potato-like roots into pulp. A dirty straining bin stood nearby, as well as five two-gallon casks of the end product. Before the goblins could react, the dworc killed one of them.

Zorp joined Grunt in the gin joint, but the carnage was too distracting for him to aim his strike properly.
Sal flung a ball of fire at the goblin, but it ducked. Fortunately for everyone in the room, the flames did not strike any of the liquor. Grunt finished off the other goblin a moment later.

Back in the hall, Erky pulled his borrowed dagger and readied to cast a spell on anything coming out of one of the other doors. Trin followed suit with her bow, hidden in the corner of the goblin sleeping quarters near the door. Erky’s spell took out the first goblin to come from the middle-north door. Unfortunately, Trin’s arrow missed the commando that emerged from the middle-south room, and it advances on Sal, threatening the wizard with a horsechopper.

Zorp came out of the hooch-mill and tried to kill a goblin threatening Erky with a dogslicer, but the wily creature evaded his thrusts. “That was an odd dance for nothing,” commented Sal. “But I thank you for not using me as a shield.”

“Yes, that move not reel good sometime,” said Zorp.

Erky likewise couldn’t hit the goblin, though he stabbed at it three times with the dagger. Trin’s first arrow hit the goblin warrior, but her second missed. Fortunately, Grunt then exploded out of the booze room and past Sal to murder the goblin warrior.

Angry and desperate, the goblin commando struck Sal down with two swipes of its horsechopper then looked up at Zorp, who said, “Now you gots to die, sorry.” He was true to his word, ending the final goblin enemy’s life. “You gotta help the Sal!”

Erky restored the elf to consciousness with a spell, and Sal said, “Thank you very much. Blinked out for a little bit.”

Once more, the cleric set about treating wounds while others explored the remaining rooms leading off of the hall. On the table in the middle-south room they found a giant rat, which was strapped spread-eagled onto a wooden bench. The wretched creature was clearly in terrible pain, suffering from horrible tumors that looked vaguely woody and fruitlike.

“Oh you poor soul,” said Sal, untying the rat in an attempt to ease some of its pain. Zorp took a more direct approach and put the rat out of its misery with a borrowed horsechopper. The elf bowed his head respectfully. “Rest in peace, mate.”

The middle-north door opened into a repair room: dirty armor with cord, iron needles, leather patches, and other crude implements of tailoring littered a pair of workbenches. The southeast room stood empty, and the caved-in back wall led to a natural rift in the earth, which seemed to line up with the one that had broken the southern hall that they had abandoned earlier. The northeast room had extra weapon stores, including five battered dogslicers and thirty arrows. The adventurers helped themselves to the latter.

“No druid here,” said Sal. “That’s odd.”

Trin considered the only other exit they’d found: a door on the eastern wall of the weapons room. It opened into a ten-foot-square throughway that opened into a wide gallery running north to south. Nodules of luminescent fungus hung from the ceiling and walls, and grew in clumps upon the flagged floor. The vaguely nauseous light illuminated portions of grand bas-relief carvings on the stone walls that were not covered with the self-same fungus. The carvings all consisted of dragons in various stages of raining fire down upon terrified humans, elves, dwarves, and other people. Soil and compost covered half of the chamber’s floor, which allowed a variety of wan grasses to grow. A bench containing simple gardening implements stood along the west wall. The bugbear standing in front of the bench glanced north as the door opens.

“We here for the fruit,” said Zorp.

“Wrong season for that,” said the bugbear, looking meaningfully at the goblin’s pilfered antler crown. “I doubt Balsag parted with that gawdy thing willingly. Time to die."

Only one of Trin’s first three arrows struck the distant bugbear. It remained focused on Zorp, advancing and lobbing a javelin that fell just short of the goblin. Sal entered the hall and tried to blast the bugbear with a sudden jet of water, but his aim was off. Grunt came barreling out of the side room and charged the hulking goblinoid, taking it by surprise and smashing hard into its chest with his war flail. Zorp casually joined the dworc and finished the bugbear off.

Three doors exited the gallery, north, east, and south. They opened the east door first, revealing an octagonal chamber murky with luminescent mist. Nodules of glowing fungus dotted both the stone walls and ceiling, as well as the caps of toadstools and mushrooms, small polyps, puffballs, lichens, and less identifiable growths. The humid air reeked with rot, and several of the growths in this chamber appeared scorched and dead.

“There’s nothing here,” taking a few steps inside. No sooner had she said that than a fiery worm erupted from the floor.

Erky struck the creature with his divine lance, but it didn’t flinch. It’s not evil,” he said. “Just … you know … angry?"

Zorp entered and struck the fire snake heavily, then fended off its attempts to maul/burn him. Trin finished the creature off. Sal casually entered the room and took a look at the fallen beast. “This is a thoqqua. Its skin can melt solid rock. It looks for minerals to eat while burrowing. Doesn’t like being disturbed.”

“I’ll say,” said Erky.

“Is the skin valuable?” Grunt wanted to know.

“Not to my knowledge,” said Sal.

“Do they have hordes?” Zorp asked as he poked around with his horsechopper.

“From what we have seen from this one, probably not.”

“If it eats minerals, there might be something valuable in its stomach,” suggested Erky.

“That a good point,” said Sal. A moment later, Trin gutted the corpse. Inside the stomach they found two sapphire clusters. Trin handed the gems to Grunt, who was carrying most of the loot the party had found in the citadel.

In another octagon chamber to the south, two goblins gathered special fungus varieties. Erky hit one of them with a divine lance, and Zorp engaged it in melee. For his trouble, he was struck heavily by the enemy’s horsechopper. Grunt charged the other goblin and killed it in two strikes, but Trin’s arrows missed the surviving goblin. Sal’s lightning weakened it enough for Zorp’s next strike to finish it off.

To the north was another gallery similar in layout to the southern half. They passed a door on the east to one in the north wall. It opened into yet another octagonal chamber occupied by another bugbear gardener. It was no less aggressive than its companion had been at the evidence of the slain hunter sitting atop Zorp’s head, and it dodged Sal’s spells to come rain hell on Trin with a scythe. She circled it to gain the flank with Grunt and struck back. The dworc got in a solid hit, as well. Erky’s attack prayer missed, but Zorp’s attack was enough to end the fight.

The adventurers caught their collective breath, and considered the nearest two paths: the door to the east they had passed in the northern half of the gallery, and the door nestled in the southwest wall of the bugbear’s octagon chamber.


Adventures

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Session 5
Goblintown

The adventurers rested fitfully after their assault on the Citadel goblins and subsequent retreat. The next morning, however, they felt much refreshed. They made it to the smoky hall before running afoul of goblin sentries, but Trin made swift work of the first two, and Zorp followed in Grunt’s wake to eliminate a third that was posted by the far west door. As the spellcasters cautiously entered the hazy corridor, Trin opened the door to the south revealing a goblin with a horsechopper.

A door on the north wall opened to reveal another such goblin, who strode out, dodged a couple of spells, and advanced on Sal. The goblin in Trin’s room sliced her twice. Zorp stabbed Trin’s goblin once, another goblin came out the west-most door on the north wall. Zorp struck him and fended off the counterattack. Erky’s spell ended one of the goblins, and Trin’s stab finished off the one in the south room. Grunt charged the last goblin and crushed its head.

A little light scouting revealed halls to the north and the south, and the adventurers chose the latter. Trin nearly fell into a pit trap before Grunt mentioned that he thought the southern path might lead back to kobold territory, so the party regrouped in the smoky hall. The dworc suggested the drag the goblin bodies into the southern guard room and it was done. Trin looted the corpses of coin, and when her companions were ready, she opened the western door.

What may once have been a cathedral was now a goblin lair, thick with the filth of years of goblin life. Scores of wall and floor-mounted sconces filled with violet-glowing fungi provided illumination. In the sickening light, evidence of dozens of goblins going about their daily business was everywhere. The southern wall was home to a heaping pile of assorted items, including wagon wheels, broken armor and rusted arms, chests, small statues, antique furniture, and artwork. The stash did not seem to be particularly well cared for.

A hobgoblin warrior stood near the center of the northern half of the room, glancing between a door on the north wall and the door the party had opened. He turned and barked in Goblin, “They are here.” A goblin standing in a curved wall to the northwest repeated the message, adding the word: “Boss.” Sal and Zorp translated for the others.

Zorp entered the chamber to stand beside Trin. “Why you no attack? What you playing at big goblin?”

“Why you come here?” said the hobgoblin in hesitant Common.

“Where are the kids?” said Trin.

“What kids?”

“Group of adventurers. Came here a while ago.”

“Don’t know what you mean,” said the hobgoblin, sounding sincere.

Zorp switched to the Goblin tongue. “We are looking for several humans that might have come through here recently. Four of them, in fact. Is there any chance you might have seen them pass this way?”

“No,” said the hobgoblin, seeming a little more at ease. “You speak for your group?”

“We have it on good authority that that several of our ‘friends,’ including a seasoned huntsman and two younger travelers, were prisoners of the goblins in this region for a time. Surely you could help us find our ‘friends,’ then we could get out of your hair?”

“Can’t help you. You slaughtered many Durbuluk warriors. Durnn will demand your heads.”

While Zorp spoke with the hobgoblin, Erky glanced over his shoulder at the nearest door to the north in the hall. “Something comes,” he said. Trin nodded back to him and drew her rapier, and the hobgoblin tensed.

“If it is to be battle, may it be an honorable encounter,” said Zorp. “Prepare yourself for the afterlife, my friend.”

The hobgoblin sneered. “Die unmourned, scum. To the slaughter!”

From the northeast chamber, a voice bellowed out in Common, “Bring me their hearts!”

Zorp muttered to his companions in Common. “We attacks them. No want talk nice. Bad friends. These goblins of Durbuluk, leader name Durnn.”

A hobgoblin opened the door Erky had pointed out and was struck by Grunt. It growled, stepped back and readied its shield. Another hobgoblin came out of the boss’s room and shot Zorp with a shortbow. Zorp approached the hobgoblin speaker, who sidestepped his horsechopper. Then the taller warrior stepped inside Zorp’s reach, drew blood and raised its shield.

Trin’s first arrow took the hobgoblin fighting Zorp in the shoulder, but it evaded her other two arrows. The goblin in the back shot back at the rogue, tagging her with two of its three arrows. Erky aimed a divine lance at the hobgoblin in the hall, but it sidestepped the spell. Then Sal produced a ball of fire and threw it at the hobgoblin. “Batter up,” he quipped as it flew. The spell burned the hobgoblin, who hissed in pain. “Strike,” the wizard added.

“Must be an elvish thing,” said Trin.

“Just give me a sec,” said Grunt, moving into the hall with the hobgoblin. The dworc got inside the goblinoid’s defenses and ended it.

“He is OUT,” said Sal.

The door on the north wall of the large chamber opened, revealing a goblin in a sack cloth robe with a stick. “Burgg has fallen!” she shrieked in Goblin.

“What?! Durnn kill you himself!” came the boss’s voice. Trin and Zorp saw, and Grunt heard the hobgoblin leader’s heavy footsteps coming down the hallway toward the dworc. Zorp called out behind him, “They coming around other side!!”

The hobgoblin archer moved to provide cover for the shrieking goblin, and fired two more arrows past Zorp, and his next two strikes dropped the hobgoblin he had engaged. “Fossk down, too!” cried the goblin woman, as Zorp retreated to the smoky hall with the spellcasters.

“Grunt!! They coming you way!” he called down the open hallway ahead of him.

Sal entered the hall behind Grunt catching a glimpse of Durnn around a dogleg in the corridor. The wizard evoked a cantrip, and the hobgoblin leader was struck by lightning. Durnn merely grunted and Sal said, “We got a tough Fruit Loop."

Grunt engaged Durnn but was unable to get past the hobgoblin’s defenses. The hobgoblin leered at him and said, “My turn, scum.” He scored a hit on the dworc then raised his shield. Zorp came up beside Grunt to join the fight against Durnn. He managed to slash the hobgoblin with his horsechopper, though Durnn got his shield in front of it. Then Zorp saw a weird, sickly sapling-creature shambling down the hall toward him. He struck it as it closed with him, but then it scratched him back, poison burning the wound.

Trin stood her ground in Goblintown, shooting the goblin archer to death then taking an arrow from the hobgoblin archer. Erky boldly strode into the chamber and cast a spell on the hobgoblin archer and the shrieking goblin. Whatever he intended apparently failed, and the cleric swore. “Desna weeps.” Trin fired her last two arrows into the hobgoblin, then dropped the shortbow and retrieved her rapier from the floor where she’d dropped it. The hobgoblin abandoned its shortbow and readied itself for melee combat.

Back in the north hall, Sal burned the twig monster down. “Zorp says thank you!!” the goblin cried.

“Reminds me of home. No prob, mate,” said Sal.

Then the goblin in the robe chanted something, and Durnn’s wounds begin to stitch themselves back up. Grunt, Durnn, and Zorp traded feints, but weren’t able to get past one another’s defenses.

Trin stabbed the hobgoblin with a rapier strike, which it mitigated with a shield block.

Sal advanced, and Durnn struck the wizard as he casts a spell intended to electrocute the metal-clad hobgoblin. The goblin caster retreated to the northwest chamber, then lobbed a bit of detritus at Zorp’s head with telekinesis. It caught him completely off guard and struck him so hard he fell senseless to the stone floor.

Taking advantage of Durnn’s overconfidence at seeing Zorp fall, Grunt brought his war flail down HARD. Durnn managed to get his guard up at the last second, but the dworc’s weapon shattered the wooden shield and drove through, anyway. Durnn staggered under the blow then snarled and struck back at Grunt. He tossed a clumsy blow at Sal, as well, but the wizard leaned back from it.

The hobgoblin facing Trin feinted once and struck her down with its follow-up strike. She fell and it nodded, retreating to the hall to support Durnn. Erky revived the rogue with a heal spell, and she lurched to her feet to follow the surprised hobgoblin.

Sal took a cautious step away from the melee and leveled a magic missile at each of the hobgoblins in the hall. Unfortunately, each barely clung to consciousness in the wake of the spell. The goblin caster healed Durnn again with her magic, but it was not enough to save the hobgoblin leader from Grunt. The dworc’s backhand slash took down the other hobgoblin, as well.

Erky rushed into the hall and seeing Zorp unconscious on the floor, revived him as he had Trin. The rogue, meanwhile, had chased the goblin caster into the northwest chamber.

A circular shaft pierced the floor of the 40-foot-diameter domed tower. Dim violet light shined out of the shaft, revealing the sickly white and gray vines coating the shaft’s walls. The light from the shaft was supplemented by four lit wall torches set equidistant around the periphery of the chamber. A crudely fashioned throne of stone sat against the curve of the northwestern wall. A large iron chest served as the throne’s footstool, and a wide stone pot squatted next to the throne.

Trin took all this in in a moment and then pressed the attack on the goblin. Sal followed her, striking the enemy spellcaster with a force bolt. She struck him back with a telekinetic projectile, then retreated beside the throne. It was not far enough to save her from Grunt’s charge. He collapsed in the stone chair after she fell.

“That wasn’t a piece of piss,” said Sal.

“Everyone up and breathing?” Erky called from the hall.

“Surprisingly,” said Grunt.

The cleric entered the throne chamber and looked at the pit. “Was that the entire tribe? Or are the rest … down there?”

“Not sure,” said Trin, examining the locked chest.

“No idea,” said Grunt. “There could be more in the other rooms too.”

The dworc looked over at the elf. “Sal! You’re a wierd dude, you know that? I don’t have any idea what you are saying sometimes. But you blow stuff up, so you’re ok in my book.”

Sal offered Grunt a sheet of paper that had many different phrases on it along with their meanings.

“Uh … You know I can’t read, right?” said Grunt. Sal looked at him blankly. “Just kidding,” said the dworc.

Sal nodded, then shrugged, sat, and leaned up against the wall. “I am going to take a kip.”

While Trin dealt with the trapped and locked chest, Zorp looted the bodies of the fallen goblin and hobgoblin warriors. He frowned at the signet ring jammed on Durnn’s pinky finger, because he recognized the Hucrele symbol upon it. He recovered it from the body and showed it to the others. At least one of the Hucrele children had probably not survived their encounter with the Durbuluk tribe.


Adventures

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Session 4
The Ranger

Atop the shrine were an everburning candle, a potion of some sort, and an enchanted whistle made of what appeared to be very hard glass. Trin picked the whistle up and examined it. “There’s writing. It says ‘Night Caller’ in Dwarven.” The party searched the rest of the room but didn’t find anything else of value or interest.

They returned to the fountain chamber and turned their attention to the passageway that led north. The hallway contained six doors, all slightly ajar, and the adventurers advanced as one. Passing the first two, they appeared to open into small cells.

Perhaps halfway down the hall, Zorp readied his horsechopper and whispered “We maybe have NOT friends. Ready for it.”

Soon after, giant rats emerged from two of the cells and one savaged Trin, who fell to the stones. Another tried to get Grunt, but Zorp’s quick reflexes took it out before that could happen. A third rat joined the scrum, but it didn’t take long for the adventurers to finish the vermin off. After the last rat was dead. Zorp searched through the rats’ nests and found a couple dozen silver pieces the beasts had collected.

Erky stabilized Trin with a spell, then set about treating her wounds. After ten minutes of fruitless effort, the cleric sighed. “I can use a spell, but it’s the last healing magic I have for the day.”

“Do it,” said Grunt. Erky nodded and cast his spell.

In the meantime, Sal had been inspecting the chamber beyond the hall. The cobblestone floor contained two trapdoors that had been blocked open by iron spikes. It was obvious that if the tops of the trapdoors were flush with the floor, they would be difficult to spot. The north wall held a dry fountain carved with the bas-relief of a dragon. The elf squatted down beside the fountain and looked more closely.

“It seems that this says ‘Let there be death.’ It also seems like it has some necromancy magic on it,” he said to his companions.

“Let there be death?” said Grunt. “Hard Pass.”

“Agreed,” said Sal, though his expression was thoughtful as his gaze remained on the fountain.

“But once again. Why would anyone put a poisoned/cursed/whatever in their keep on purpose?” said Grunt.

Sal shrugged. “To keep people out?”

“People build walls and battlements to keep people out. Not cursed fountains in their hallway.”

Erky shrugged. “You’re not wrong. What was the last one’s curse?”

“It wasn’t a curse,” Grunt admitted. “It let me breathe fire for a while. Which came in handy against the goblins.”

“Um. Okay, I can see why they would want that in their keep.”

“It also needed some positive energy to open that door near the fountain,” said Sal.

Erky nodded. “Of course, the cold door seemed like a mausoleum.”

On the south side of the room, Zorp and Trin examined the open pits. “Do you think these traps sprung recently?” asked the goblin.

Trin shrugged. “Hard to tell. Could be a month, could be year. I would assume it was the kids that did it.” She looked over at the fountain where the others were debating the motives of draconic cultists. “I have a bad feeling about this,” she said, pointing at the fountain.

“Oh?” said Erky.

“Yeah.”

“Anyone want to mess with it?” said Grunt. “We know how to at least activate it.”

“Let me take a look at it, first.” After a moment she said, “I think this one is trapped.” She produced some tools and set to work. When she was done, she nodded and stood back up.

“Safe now?” asked Erky.

“As safe as I can make it.”

“Good enough, then.”

“I’m ready to move on if everyone else is,” said Grunt.

“Yeah, let’s get moving and leave this thing alone,” said Trin.

She approached the west wall, edging around the open pit there, and opened the door. The stench of rotting meat suffused the air of the room beyond, raising the gnome’s gorge. The smell arose from much-chewed carcasses of several cave rats, smaller vermin, and some suspiciously humanoid-looking bodies. The cadavers lay upon a floor of filth, old bones, hair, and fur that combined to make a particularly large and vile nest. The northern wall was smashed, opening on rubble-strewn darkness.

Trin took a cautious step into the room, and a giant rat exploded from where it was hiding in the filthy nest and bit her deeply! Grunt immediately slew the beast, but a second popped up from Trin’s other side and bit the rogue again! A third, horribly bloated rat that measured perhaps six feet long stood up right in front of the gnome and opened its fanged maw wide. Trin made a tactical retreat as Zorp advanced with his horsechopper to threaten the vermin. Erky moved up and cast bless to aid the two warriors.

Sal lobbed a fire cantrip into the nests, but missed his target. Grunt struck the bloated rat a glancing blow, and then was overwhelmed by rat fury. The bloated rat jumped on top of Grunt’s unconscious body to get to Zorp, but it was rebuffed by his prodding polearm. The remaining smaller rat was struck by Sal’s lightning, and the goblin made an end of the bloated rat. “Take the small one out!” cried Zorp.

Erky stabilized Grunt with a spell then took a cautious step away from the doorway. The remaining rat ravenously tried to murder Zorp, but the canny goblin had used the opportunity provided by Erky’s retreat to reposition. He skewered the rat as it approached him, and it stopped moving.

The party dragged Grunt out of the filthy nest and made him as comfortable as possible. Trin searched the chamber and called out. “Zorp, I found some stuff.” The goblin helped her retrieve the loot she had found.

After nearly an hour, Grunt was stable enough for Erky to attempt treating his wounds. Ten minutes later, his injuries neatly bandaged, the dworc looked and felt much better. “What you do? Grunt look just fine now. You use magics?” said Zorp.

“Nay. Good ol’ fashioned ‘rub some dirt on it,’” said Erky.

The gnome then attempted to treat Zorp’s remaining injuries. It became clear that his efforts had not been successful when the goblin said, “No, no, no. Do for Zorp the Grunt-way.”

Erky winced. “Sorry, Zorp. I dinnae know how to treat goblins. I’ll get it. You know. Hopefully.”

After the medical efforts were complete, the party went through the things taken from the rats’ nest. which included the belongings of the former ranger Karakas: they found a gold ring engraved with that name on one of the fresher humanoid corpses.

“Guess Karakas fell here,” said Erky. “Poor bugger.”

“Looks that way,” said Grunt. “I’d like that shortbow. Could use a ranged weapon. I’m sure he’d appreciate me using his bow to save … or recover the others.” Erky nodded.

“I was going to wait until everyone was safe and in a safe place,” said Sal, drawing everyone’s attention. “If you all would go in to one of the chambers back there. Don’t want ya mates getting hurt.”

Erky quirked an eyebrow. “What do you mean, Sal?”

“I was going to see what this word does on the fountain.”

“H’okay,” said Grunt, heading for the hallway. “Thanks for warning. And nice knowing you.” Zorp and Trin followed him out.

Erky hadn’t moved. “Er, sets off a trap, Trin said.”

“Okay, GO AHEAD!” came Zorp’s voice from one of the cells.

“How about no?” said the cleric.

Sal shrugged. “Well, the other fountain did something good, so.”

Erky stared at the elf for a long moment. “Well, it’s your funeral,” he finally said, leaving the way the others had.

When he was alone with the fountain, the wizard intoned, “Naihuine.”

Nothing happened.

“Nothing happened,” the others heard Sal say.

“Huh. Okay, guess those traps already no working,” said Zorp.

“Maybe it just hasn’t happened YET,” Grunt called back.

“Good,” said Erky, shaking his head and turning south.

“Is he dead yet?” Trin asked as Erky passed her.

“No. I guess you did your work well.”

The party gathered in front of the door with the bell trap, and Trin opened it up. Predictably, the bell rang and a goblin behind the makeshift crenellation yelped. The adventurers saw the guard tense to flee and sprang into action. Grunt was faster than the goblin, preventing its escape by killing it, but he could hear Goblin voices from around the corners chattering, likely in response to the sentry’s cry.

Grunt turned back to his companions and put a finger to his lips to indicate silence. The others moved forward to join him in the goblin guard post/camp. Zorp and Sal could hear the Goblin voices talking about standing their ground while someone else went for help. Grunt advanced first, and as he rounded the corner, the adventurers who understood the language heard:

“Oh, shit! Is that a dwarf?”

“I think it’s an orc!”

Zorp followed the dworc and when the guards saw him, one said, “Now, who is THIS guy?”

“Race traitor!” cried the other.

“Maybe you no attack us and then you live?” growled Zorp.

“You invaders murdered the last guys!”

“Durnn hear of this!”

While the goblins bantered, the other adventurers moved forward, though Trin cautiously stayed around the corner to avoid presenting her body as a target. The goblin guards were slain quickly, and the adventurers crossed the crenellation to occupy the next guard post, glancing through the open door to the west.

“Well those battlers weren’t so bad,” said Sal.

“More coming?” asked Erky.

“Don’t know, to dark to tell.”

Grunt once more led, crossing into the storage chamber and posting up at the doorway. “Four more, coming at us,” he called out.

Zorp charged past the dworc and killed one of the enemy goblins. “They got ’em bows,” he reported. “All three of ’em.”

As if to reinforce his point, two of the goblins stepped back and one shot Zorp with an arrow. Sal moved up and cast a light cantrip, illuminating the goblins in the smoky hall. Erky came up behind the elf and dropped another goblin with divine lance.

Zorp took two more arrows before Grunt could move up and take another goblin down. Trin scooped up a fallen goblin’s shortbow and moved up to take a shot, but her aim was off. The remaining goblin stepped around the pillar, dropped its bow, and drew its dogslicer. It managed to dodge Zorp’s thrust in the haze, but it couldn’t get to him around the pillar while also it dodging lightning from Sal. It fell to Grunt’s next attack, and the smoky hall fell suspiciously quiet.

The adventurers exchanged a glance, then scooped up bows and arrows and retreated back to the first goblin guard camp. Zorp filled the narrow hallway approaching the door with caltrops, and the party slumped against the walls, hoping to catch some rest before pressing forward.

Unfortunately, they only got about twenty minutes before Grunt said, “They’re just on the other side of the door.”

Zorp nodded. “Someone is coming. We attack?”

“Let’s do it.” Trin readied a bow, while the casters readied spells. When they were all ready, Grunt threw open the door.

They saw a goblin attempting to clear the caltrops from the hall, and it looked up with a very frightened expression. Then a second goblin moved into view, with a horsechopper slung across its back and a shortbow in hand. It fired an arrow at Grunt, which missed, then retreated back around the corner. Two more such goblin commandos attempted this move, before Sal’s spell took out the goblin clearing caltrops and Grunt closed the door.

“New ideas?” asked the dworc.

“Maybe we should retreat to kobold territory,” said Erky.

The others exchanged glances then nodded.


Adventures

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Session 3
The Dragonpriest

The adventurers returned from speaking with Yusdrayl, having acquired the key to the dragon door where Trin had first broken her lockpicks. Meepo thanked them all for helping restore him to the tribe’s good graces. “Meepo want offer friends reward, too." He gestured at the four small jade figurines on the bench that served as an altar near Calcryx’s cage.

“What are these?” asked Zorp.

“They kobold carved. Tribute to dragons.”

“Thanks, Meepo,” said Grunt, taking one and tossing it into his pack.

Zorp also took a statuette. “See Meepo, I tell you we be friends.”

“You say. Me no believe, but here we be,” said Meepo.

Trin and Sal also took a figurine, the elf bowing formally. He uttered something in Draconic, and Meepo smiled. Then Sal turned to his companions and said, “Back to the surface, mates? Or we campin’ down here somewhere?”

“Down here,” said Trin.

“Yep,” agreed Grunt. “One or two rooms over is fine by me.”

“Might as well camp down here,” said Zorp. “Going to be back for the wee humans anyway."

“Wee humans?” said Erky, sounding bemused. “Practically adults, they was.”

“Honestly I doubt they are still alive,” said Grunt. “Our job is to find out for sure, but I’m not going to rush into danger in our current condition.”

“I hear ya,” said Sal. “We get paid for signet rings, anyway. Poor sods.”

Grunt nodded. “We should set a guard, just in case. I’ll take last watch.”

Sal looks thoughtful for a bit as everyone settles in. “Weren’t there four adventurers? Erky, did you say you were imprisoned with three?”

“Aye, that’s so,” said the gnome.

“So, where’d the fourth go?”

“Perhaps other one already was eaten?” suggested Zorp.

“By what? Rats?”

“Or other things. There be dragons!”

“Guess the goblin tribals coulda killed him and took the others prisona.” Sal shrugged.

“What did the Lady say about her children’s companions?” asked Grunt.

“A knight? Sir Braford, maybe? A range-ah?”

“And which one did you see Erky?” said Grunt.

" Braford and the Hucreles was with us in jail.”

“Okay. Missing the ranger then.”

Sal smirked. “Missing range-ah. Funny.”

“We find out tomorrow,” concluded Zorp.

In the morning, there were sounds of metalworking from a couple doors over. Apparently, the kobolds had started work repairing Calcryx’s cage. Erky attempted to treat everyone’s wounds, though he was less successful dealing with Zorp’s injuries. “I’ll keep my finger on the magic healing button,” he assured the others. “Just in case."

“Appreciated,” said Grunt.

They decided to go straight to the dragon door to test out the key they’d received from Yusdrayl. Trin put the key in the dragon’s mouth and it turned with a satisfying click. As the door opened, a hissing noise and a puff of dust around the door indicated that the chamber had been sealed for a long time. The dust of ages, long undisturbed, covered every surface in the large gallery. Another stone door was roughly centered in the west wall, almost directly across from the one in the east wall.

Three alcoves were on the north wall, and one was located in the south wall. Each alcove contained a dust-covered stone pedestal with a fist-sized crystalline globe upon it. Although the globes in the northern alcoves lay cracked and dark, the globe in the southern alcove glowed with a soft blue light. Faint tinkling notes sprang forth from it.

“That thing glowy,” said Zorp, pointing.

While Trin moved to examine the broken orbs, Grunt approached the glowing one, careful not to touch anything. However, when he stepped beside it, the music increased in volume. The effect was apparently a magical deterrent, since Zorp and Trin rushed out of the room and back toward the entrance to the fortress to get away from it.

Grunt looked at Sal and Erky. “Any idea how to shut this thing off magically before I just smash it?"

“Nah. Just smash it,” said the wizard. Grunt managed to chip the globe with his war flail, but that only increased the intensity of the music, and all five adventurers found themselves exchanging awkward and slightly embarrassed glances. After a minute or so, the fear faded, but they could hear the music faintly from the gallery.

The adventurers thought to try plugging their ears against the magical music, and once they had done this, they returned to the chamber beyond the dragon door. Only Sal was overwhelmed on the second attempt.

“Gunt, we attack same time, maybe break it more easy?” said Zorp. The dworc nodded and the warriors approached the globe. Raising their weapons high, they struck at the same moment, shattering the globe and silencing its music forever.

A minute later, Sal felt comfortable enough to rejoin the others. “Welcome back,” said Grunt.

Trin opened the door on the west wall to find a 20-foot-long corridor leading to another closed stone door. She moved forward, noting that the air was stale in the narrow passageway. Unfortunately, as she reached the midpoint, she felt a pressure plate that she hadn’t noticed shift beneath her. An arrow flew from a wall socket and sank deep into her side. Despite this development, the gnome staggered forward, and opened the far door.

“Uh…. Trin?” said Grunt. "Erky, that magic button is needed.

“Is the hallway still trapped?” asked the cleric.

“Not if you follow the path I took,” said Trin, clearly lying.

“The path you took got you shot,” said Grunt.

“Well, if ye’re gonna lie ta me, ye can keep bleeding,” Erky said cheerfuly.

Trin winced in pain, then focused up and took an honest look at the trap while the others watched on. After a pregnant pause, Grunt asked, “So… is it safe?”

“Looks like it only had the one arrow,” said Trin.

“Good to know," said the dworc. Erky, still grinning, gestured for Grunt to lead the way. The warrior did so without hesitation, and made it to the next chamber unpierced. The others followed behind him, and Erky cast a spell to heal some of Trin’s arrow wound.

Dust filled the hall like a layer of gray snow. In the rounded northern end of the chamber, they saw a 10-foot-tall sculpture of a coiled dragon carved from red-veined white marble. As Trin drew near the dragon statue, its mouth opened and it spoke. “We come at night without being fetched. We disappear by day without being stolen."

“Eh?” said Grunt. Trin shrugged.

“Is it a riddle?” said Erky.

“Sounds like it,” said the rogue. Sal nodded in agreement.

“What do you all think it is?” said Grunt.

“I’m guessing stars,” said Trin. A moment later, a secret door on the west wall opened.

“Yeah,” said Sal. “That.”

“Very nice!” said Grunt.

Dust cloaked the 20-foot-wide hall beyond the secret door. Three narrow alcoves lined both the north and south wall. Each alcove held a humanoid figure carved of red-veined white marble, resembling a tall elf in plate mail. The only exception was the southwest alcove, which stood empty. The far end of the hall opened via a stone arch into a wide room, from which greenish light trickled. A dark pit was situated before the western archway.

Alert for danger, the adventurers entered the hall and took a look around. Trin stopped near the far end and said, “Someone was here, but it was a long time ago." She pointed out where the dust was disturbed by obscure tracks. “It looks like the tracks start in the center of the empty alcove, then go into the pit.”

“They lead INTO the pit?” said Grunt. “That’s interesting.”

“Huh,” said Erky.

Zorp checked the empty alcove for secret doors but found none. The adventurers then turned their attention to the pit, which was about 10 feet deep and filled with spikes. The walls of the pit were rough, and they offered handholds to experienced climbers. The pit stretched 20 feet north to south, encompassing the entire width of the hall, and it was 10 feet wide east to west. In the center of the room beyond the pit lay a massive marble sarcophagus, easily 9 feet long.

“That jump not nothing, and fall would be bad,” said Zorp.

“Why don’t we just climb down and then back up?” said Grunt.

“Maybe someone jump over and put rope on that sarcophagus thing for others. Make jump easier, in case they come up short.”

The goblin fished a grappling hook out of his pack and attached it to a rope. Then he took aim and let it fly over the pit and into the next chamber. With a grin, he pulled it tight, securing the hook on the far side of the sarcophagus. Without further preamble, Zorp leaped across the pit. His feet hit the far wall, but he grabbed hold of the rope he had secured and pulled himself up to the far side of the pit.

“Zorp make it!” he declared, even as a tiny flying creature appeared above him. It looked basically humanoid with pustulent green skin, spiky horns and bat-like wings! Its hands and feet were long and slender, with very long digits tipped with claws, which aimed for the goblin’s face!

“Ah! Maybe you all come over now?!” said Zorp.

Erky squinted at the winged creature then shouted, “Quasit! Cold iron would be best!” He followed this proclamation with a prayer, and his divine lance pierced the fiend with sizzling holy energy.

“What I ever do to you little flying demon?” said Zorp as the quasit scratched him twice. The result was apparently unsatisfactory because the fiend hissed and flew up and above the adventurers in the hall. Zorp punched it on its way out, and took a small amount of satisfaction at the bruise that formed. The goblin then pulled a dart and lobbed the missile, but it fell short of its target. Trin advanced and threw her dagger up and into the quasit’s flesh.

Then Sal glanced upward and nonchalantly unleashed a barrage of magic missiles into the fiend. It fell out of the air and hit the stone floor unmoving. Erky nudged the quasit with a boot. “I think that did it,” said the cleric.

The wizard blew on his fingers with a faint smile. “Now, should we see what’s up with the secret door behind that statue?” He pointed at the middle alcove on the south wall.

“You tell Zorp this NOW?” complained the goblin.

Sal shrugged. “You looked like you were having fun.”

“Okay, that’s much easier,” said Grunt.

Trin figured out the mechanism and opened the secret door Sal had spotted. Dust coated a tiny chamber beyond, obscuring words inscribed on the southern wall. Sal squinted over Trin’s head and said, “Can’t see through the dust.” The rogue stepped aside to allow the wizard to get a better look.

Sal dusted the wall off with a sleeve and after a moment translated the Draconic writing. “A dragonpriest entombed alive for transgressions of the Law still retains the honor of his position. Huh.”

“So the guy they buried alive is still a Dragonpriest,” said Grunt. Okay."

Trin found a hidden trap door in the floor of the secret room. It opened to a narrow 3-foot square tunnel that connected to a trap door in the room with the sarcophagus where Zorp waited.

Violet-hued marble tiles covered the floor and walls, though all were cracked or broken, revealing roughhewn stone beneath. Wall sconces were attached at each corner, but only one still bore a torch, and it burned with a tiny, greenish light. The stone of the sarcophagus in the room’s center possessed heavy carvings with dragon imagery, and the head of the sarcophagus resembled a dragon’s head. Rusting metal clasps firmly locked down the lid of the sarcophagus.

While Trin examined the sarcophagus for traps, Sal scanned the room for magic. “Green light is enchanted," he commented casually. Zorp retrieved the everburning torch.

“Does anyone know anything about these… Dragonpriests?” Grunt wanted to know.

“I assume they revered dragons as gods,” said Sal. “Yusdrayl didn’t say much about them except this one was put here by Ashah-dalon.”

“Oh, yeah. She did say that. I just had no idea who Ashardalon is.”

“A dragon, maybe.”

“Sounds like a name a dragon would have,” said Trin. Erky chuckled.

“So, we breakin’ inta this sarcophagus or leavin’ empty handed?” said Sal.

“Breaking in,” said Grunt. “Definitely.”

“Ah, good. Good.”

Trin gestured that it seemed to be trap-free, and Grunt borrowed Zorp’s crowbar to pry the rusted clasps and get the heavy lid open. There was a flash of green light when the sarcophagus was opened. As they blinked away the afterimage, they saw a figure sitting up in the stone coffin. His body appeared shrunken but elongated, and his flesh was a rubbery, putrid gray-green. His hair was long, thick, and ropy, his hands clawed, and his feet three-toed. Incongruously, the creature wore rotted finery, still-sparkling jewelry, and rings adorned with tiny silver dragons.

The awakened dragonpriest narrowed its eyes at the intruders, and they reached for their weapons. It struggled to land a meaningful hit for the first several seconds of combat, but the adventurers noted its wounds seemed to be healing on their own, and very quickly. Then Erky had a realization. “Oh! It’s a troll! It regenerates unless you burn it with fire!”

Trin’s stabbing rapier got the troll’s attention, its teeth and claws opening vicious wounds that overwhelmed her. She slumped to the stone floor, even as it turned its attention on Grunt. The warrior continued to rebuff the filthy claws. Zorp’s horsechopper tore a big enough wound to render the troll unconscious. Grunt continued wailing on the troll’s head with his war flail, racing against its regeneration. Then Sal walked up, evoked flame in his hands, and placed it gently on the troll’s chest. The flesh sizzled violently, and the dragonpriest shuddered once before its breathing stopped. In death, the troll’s corpse transformed into that of an elf, upon which the finery made more sense.

Erky stabilized Trin with a spell, then started treating her wounds. Sal took a seat in a corner to meditate, while Grunt and Zorp pulled the dragonpriest’s body out of the sarcophagus to get to the riches beneath. About the time that the rogue regained consciousness, the warriors had laid out the wealth in the stone coffin. In addition to the jewelry it had worn, the troll-elf had possessed a magical dagger, a spell scroll, an enchanted jade cat, and a vial of some sort of magical oil. They spent another ten minutes, but were unable to determine the nature of the items’ enchantments.

“Okay,” said Grunt. “Back to the mission now. Shall we return to Goblin territory?”

Erky shrugged, looking at Trin’s wounds. “Up to you, Pinkie.”

“Yeah,” she said. “But let’s get a bit more rest first. Back to the room we slept."

Erky nodded. “Maybe continue this after lunch?”

“I like that idea,” said Grunt.

“Sounds like a plan,” agreed Trin.

Lunch was had, wounds were treated, and the adventurers considered continuing the quest to find the missing Hucreles. While everyone is munchig’ on rations, Grunt took the opportunity to fill Erky in on the Cold Door to get his thoughts.

“Could try expending healing into the door,” said the cleric. “It might work, at the cost of healing.” Then another thought occurred. “Maybe if I burst, it’ll affect our wounded and the door, too. All theoretical, but at least it wouldn’t be a total loss.” Erky shrugged.

Grunt nodded. “Makes me curious. But also makes me nervous. The cold feeling especially. I say we try it. We’re here. Might as well search everywhere.”

Zorp shrugged. “Okay."

The adventurers judiciously confirmed that there were no kobolds other than Meeop in Calcryx’s chamber before Zorp passed through. There was no sense in testing their relationship with the tribe. Once they were back in the fountain chamber, Erky took up a position in the center of the room. He prayed to Desna and healing energy washed over everyone. The Cold Door glowed ghostly blue and swung open silently. The cleric smiled, and Trin led the way inside.

Five dusty sarcophagi stood on end in the silent chamber past the Cold Door, three on the north wall and two on the south. The carved stone sarcophagi each resembled a noble elf-like humanoid in ceremonial robes. An obsidian shrine carved with dragons was set in the center of the west wall, on which a single candle yet burned.

“No bad baddies?” asked Zorp, eyes alert.

Trin approached the altar to get a closer look at its contents. Next to the candle were two items: a small whistle and a potion flask. Trin looked at the items without touching them until Sal said, “Magic on the altar. Like. On top of. Maybe the stuff there.” The rogue picked up the flask, and four of the five sarcophagi burst open, their skeletal occupants brandishing curved swords menacingly. The fight was brief and the adventurers’ injuries minimal. In short order, the last bones clattered to the floor and the room fell silent.

Zorp chuckled. “Horseslicer also skeleton slicer too.”


Adventures

View
Session 2
The Soldier

“What that?” asked Meepo, distracting everyone from the northern hall. He was pointing at the base of the fountain.

“You find shiny something?” asked Zorp.

“Not shiny, no.”

Grunt squinted, indicating that the base of fountain was etched with runes. “Sal, can you read this?” he asked.

After some consideration, the wizard said, “Draconic. It seems the translation would be ‘let there be fire.’”

“No see fire,” said Meepo. “See scribbles.”

“Good one, Meepo,” said Zorp, still trying to make nice. “Meepo good finder. Good job Meepo, you helping.”

“Me am?”

“Yeah, find small things, low to ground. Big people not see that stuff.”

“Too tall for own good,” agreed Meepo.

“I could make fire with a spell,” said Sal.

“You can??” said Meepo, amazed.

“Yes, I am magic man!”

Zorp nodded. “Yes, Sal, do the magic fire.” Grunt agreed.

The wizard made a strange gesture with his fingers and uttered some seemingly nonsense syllables. A small ball of flame appeared in his hand and he held it close to the fountain in various places, but there was no reaction. The adventurers conducted a few more experiments to follow up, but the fountain was resistant to giving up its secrets.

The goblin stood near the fountain and proclaimed boldly, “Let there be … FIRE!”

Nothing happened.

Then Sal said the same thing in Draconic: “Nainarya.”

Reddish liquid began to well from the dragon’s mouth, slowly gathering before dripping into the basin. Perhaps a vial’s worth of the liquid mingled with the water Grunt had poured from his drinking skin.

“Someone drink it,” said Sal.

“No thank you,” said Meepo.

“You drunk,” agreed the goblin. “Zorp no drink magic fountain water.”

Sal said, “It seems magical.”

Trin dipped a ration into the red liquid, absorbing a small amount. Then she took a bite, and reported that it burned her mouth a little.

“Whoever built this couldn’t have intended to poison themselves,” said Grunt. He scooped the liquid up in his hand and drank it down. The half-orc coughed a bit and smoke came out of his mouth.

“Oooh, you breathe fire, maybe?” suggested Zorp. “Not on me!” he added quickly.

Grunt grinned at that. Then he walked over to the cold door and belches loudly. Fire poured out of his mouth. “That’s good stuff!” he said.

Satisfied with having solved the riddle of the fountain, the adventurers headed north. Trin led them up to the first door to the west. It was similarly dark and empty, playing host to little more than debris. Another door exited to the north, and she approached it, holding up a hand. She pulled out her tools and tinkered with something at the edge of the door for a moment. Then everyone in the room heard a bell tinkling from behind the door.

“Well, shit,” she said.

“Open door. It go time NOW!” said Zorp, readying his horsechopper.

The door opened on a ten-foot-wide hall, partially blocked about twenty feet down by a roughly mortared 3-foot-high wall, complete with crenellations. A pair of goblin heads in the chamber past the hall peeked over the top, shortbows swaying in anticipation.

Following his own order, Zorp rushed into the hall and immediately ran afoul of caltrops, wincing in pain. He aborted his charge and stood beside Trin near the door. He growled, retrieved a dart from his bandolier, and let fly at one of the goblins. Despite the distance and the cover provided by the half-wall, his missile found its target and the creature’s head started bleeding profusely. “You back DOWN!” yelled Zorp.

“You die!” the creature called back in Goblin. Its arrow caught Zorp in the shoulder. Sal advanced from the back of the room with a crossbow in hand. His shot deflected off the half-wall, but the elf seemed nonplussed.

Grunt rushed forward next, leaping OVER the caltrop-strewn hall to land atop the goblins’ wall. Then he made an end of the wounded goblin. The other dropped its bow and tried to flee through a door on the southern wall to the west. Grunt’s flail cut that plan short.

“Ow, Zorp bleeding own blood,” complained the goblin, sitting down and holding his foot. Trin methodically began to clear the hall of caltrops, collecting them. She handed them to Zorp, who tucked them away in small sacks for later use.

“Anyone else proficient in healing?” Grunt asked, wincing at the goblin’s injuries. “I was trained for field dressing in the army, but if someone else has more experience then maybe they should help Zorp.” Sal offered, but Trin made the attempt. The elf shook his head as she botched the effort and hurt the goblin even more.

“We find goblins. You fight,” he said to Zorp, slightly amazed. “They really no friend. Huh.”

“No all goblin like each other. Some of them really bad guys,” said Zorp.

After looting several dozen copper coins from the bodies, Trin led the party through the next door and into another narrow hall that opened up into a larger room to the west. Dozens of arrows lay on the cracked cobblestone floor, though a few actually protruded from three crudely sewn human-sized targets hung along the center of the south wall. There was a door in the west wall. She tried to report what she saw, but apparently was overheard. A voice called out in Goblin.

“Grunt, do you want to take care of it?” she asked.

The dworc nodded and stepped into the room to confront the goblin. The northern third of the room was separated from the south by a crudely mortared and crenellated half-wall similar to the one they’d just encountered. “Four,” he said, referring to the number of goblins perched behind the wall.

Trin swore and rounded the corner, drawing a dagger and scoring a minor wound on one of the goblins. Sal followed on her heels, sending an arc of lightning at the injured one and another beside it, but neither creature dropped. Grunt repeated his crenellation jump trick, if a bit less impressively. Once he had his balance, he released the fiery dragon breath from the fountain potion. All three were reduced to scorched ruin. Zorp came next, vaulting the crenellation and bracing himself against the far north wall. With a wild cry, he brought his horsechopper down through the remaining enemy goblin. Blood flew everywhere.

“You should have backed up,” he said to the corpse.

A permanent camp lay north of the wall, complete with a fire ring and several small iron cook pots. The adventurers set about looting the camp and its former inhabitants. In addition to more copper pieces, which the goblins had apparently been gambling with over some bone dice, one goblin possessed a silver flask of dwarven make. It was filled with vile goblin liqueur, which Sal was only too happy to sample. Another had a black iron key.

“So, do we continue through these doors or go back?” asked Trin.

“You’ve gotten us this far. Lead the way,” said Grunt.

Trin opened the door on the north to an open hallway. Two more doors exit the hall, one to the north and the other farther to the west. Leaving the north hall, she moved next to the northern of the two western doors. The north and south walls of the chamber beyond were stacked halfway to the ceiling with ill-made barrels, boxes, and crates. A clear path allowed easy access between the west and east doors. A quick search informed the adventurers that the chamber was used to store brackish water, putrid jerky, five pints of oil, and several barrels with Goblin writing on the sides.

“Zorp can you read this?” asked Trin.

“This says they got pudding from elfs,” he said.

Returning once more to the target range, Trin used the iron key to unlock the southern door on the west wall. Squalor reigned in the long, low dungeon beyond. Several sets of corroded manacles were connected to the walls, which were occupied by the occasional crumbling skeleton and three kobolds. Farther back, a battered gnome languished inside a rusted iron cage, which was small even for his frame.

“Ach, relax lads,” said the gnome, apparently to the kobolds. “It’s not another torture session.” The reptilian humanoids showed no sign of having understood him.

“What’s your name?” asked Trin, crossing the room and reaching for her thieves’ tools.

“Desna smiles, lass. Ye’re a site for sore eyes. Erky Timbers, at yer service. So to speak.”

“Name’s Trin. Let’s get you out of that cage.”

“Don’t mind if you do!”

“Meepo. You have allies,” said Grunt.

“Methinks they speak dragon language,” said Zorp.

“Dreep!” said Meepo, moving to help the kobolds free. Sal helped him. In short order, the trio were headed back to their own territory.

Trin struggled with the lock on the cage for some time before finally snapping her pick off in it. “Er. No worries?” said Erky uncertainly.

“Maybe I can help,” said Zorp, brandishing a crowbar.

“Not one ta look a gift goblin in the mouth. Thankee, sir.”

While he worked on forcing the lock open with brute strength, Sal borrowed Grunt’s repair kit to try fixing the broken lockpick. Again. Eventually the gnome was free of his cage and he stood and stretched stiff muscles.

“How did you end up in the cage?” asked Trin.

“Funny story. True story,” said Erky. “A year past, I was on my way to seek my fortune and took the Old Road shortcut. My bad luck that the goblin bandits caught me; I’ve been here ever since. My curing spells have kept me healthy; otherwise I’m sure I’d be dead from starvation and abuse.”

“Spells?” said Zorp.

“Aye, laddie. Bit o’ cleric in me yet.”

“Do you have spell for feet?” Zorp showed Erky his injuries.

“Eesh. Ye seem ta need one, suren. Let’s see what ol’ Erky can do fer ye.” The gnome rubbed his hands, traced butterfly wings over his heart, then reached down to touch Zorp’s feet with a glowing hand. At his touch, most of Zorp’s injuries knitted themselves up. “No’ bad fer a man out of practice.”

WOW! Zorp’s feet MUCH better. Almost not even feel stabbing pain of death-dice.”

“Thank you for that,” said Grunt.

Erky nodded. “Aye, lad. Ye set me free, ‘tis the least I can do. What brings ye lads down here, not tha’ I’m complainin’.”

“Lady lost her kids, thinks they came down to this bad place,” said Zorp. “We look for them, so she not be sad.” After a beat he added, “And for money."

“Oh, aye? Shared the cell with three humans caught over a month ago. They said their names were Talgen, Sharwyn, and Sir Braford. The goblins kept them in here only about a week before they removed them. Belak wanted them, and that’s the last I’ve heard about that.”

“Belak?”

“I’ve heard the goblins talk about the Twilight Grove down below. There an evil druid called Belak tends an enchanted garden and harvests the enchanted fruit from something the goblins call the Gulthias Tree, but only in the most terrified of whispers. The enchanted fruit grows on the Gulthias Tree.”

“Aw, how druid going to be evil.” Zorp shook his head sadly.

“Sad, right? Ye hate tae see it.”

“Belak no have Giving Tree when he boy.”

“Hah! Giving Tree!”

“No understand why humans want evil fruit from tricksy goblins anyway.”

“From what I heard, the midsummer fruit restores spirit and vigor to those who eat it. There’s also a pale midwinter fruit that steals the same. Belak allows the goblins to sell the fruit on the surface, but I don’t know why.”

Erky noticed Meepo then. “Ye’ve a kobold in yer number, too? Progressive lot, ye are.”

“Speaking of, have you seen a dragon lately?” asked Grunt. “We are also looking for one of those … for the kobolds. It’s a whole thing.”

“A dragon? Nae. ‘Course, I been in here all this time. They don’t exactly let me out for exercise.”

“What will you do from here?” asked Grunt. “We could use someone of your ability and help you to get revenge.”

“Well, the bastards took me starknife. I’d like it back. Desna would no appreciate it if I just let it go.”

“Desna is who?” asked Zorp.

“Lady Luck. The goddess,” said Erky, his tone filled with pride. “And sure, I’d be happy ta join ye lads!"

“Ah, yeah, no make goddess mad. That seem not good.”

“Right ye are.”

“We find Calcryx now?” asked the kobold.

“Yes Meepo,” said Grunt.

“We go find evil druid man now?”

“Yes, I wish to see what kinds of magic this tree has,” said Sal.

“At yer leisure,” said Erky.

Past the food stores, several torches mounted in crude wall sconces burned fitfully in this chamber, filling the air with a haze that blurred sight. A double row of marble columns carved with entwining dragons marched the length of the hall. While Trin made a scouting circuit, the others waited with the provisions.

Grunt pointed to one of the barrels. “Erky, there’s pudding if you are hungry.”

“It ‘elf pudding’, so probably yummy,” said Zorp.

“Er. Pass. Thanks,” said the cleric.

Sal sampled the pudding. “Tastes fine to me.”

“Why’d YE eat elf pudding?” Erky asked. “Ye’re an elf.”

“There are many types of pudding. I gotta taste any kinds I can find.”

“But … it’s made of elf, yeah? Does that nae … bother ye?”

Grunt’s eyes opened wide at that.

“Uh not the pudding I have had. What kind of pudding you talking about?”

“I mean. But yer man Zorp there said it was … You know what? Never mind.” Erky shook his head, hoping to all the gods that “elf pudding” isn’t literal.

“He usually has it with a nice Chianti,” said Trin, returning the smoky hall. “There’s something on the other side of the first door to the north. Shall we see who’s inside?” The others nodded and followed her.

She managed to unlock the door without too much trouble and opened it up. Mounted and stuffed animal heads adorned the walls of the chamber. The mounting job was sloppy, and the assortment of heads included cattle, rats, and other not particularly impressive specimens. However, a few grislier trophies shared the wall with the animals, including a couple of kobold visages.

Smashed and broken cabinets and small tables littered the periphery of the room, mute victims of some sort of rampage. A rusted iron spike stood askew in the center of the room, trailing a broken chain. Thin patches of ice coated sections of the walls, floor, and debris.

As Trin stepped inside, a white scaly head poked out from under the table and roared a challenge! She stepped back out into the hall and said, “There’s a dragon in there.”

“Calcryx!” cried Meepo, rushing into the room, arms wide. “Come, Calcryx!”

“Er, so, that’s HIS dragon, then?” asked Erky.

“MEEPO!” cried a voice from inside the room. Then came a harsh word that sounded like ”Naihuine!”

“That’s not good,” said Sal.

Calcryx charged up to stand directly in front of the kobold and exhaled freezing air that knocked out Meepo and deeply chilled everyone else. Grunt moved into the room and knocked the dragon hard with his war flail, aiming to subdue rather than kill. Zorp followed the dworc’s lead, smacking Calcryx with the flat of his horsechopper. A ray of ice flew from Sal’s hand, but it missed the dragon and struck the far wall, freezing a small patch of stone.

The dragon reared on Grunt, biting his arm deeply. The pain rendered him senseless, and with one threat neutralized, the dragon turned on Zorp. The goblin smacked Calcryx while the wyrmling was in motion, but fell under the dragon’s claws a moment later.

“Oh, bollocks,” said Erky.

Sal sent a pair of magic missiles streaking into Calcryx’s head and Trin jumped on the dragon’s back, bringing the hilt of her rapier down on the base of his skull. Wyrmling and gnome slumped to the ground. Erky’s magic revived everyone while Trin trussed the dragon up, just in case it regained consciousness.

“Okay,” said the cleric. “We’ve knocked the dragon out. Everyone is stable. What are we doing now?”

“Kobolds said we get reward if we bring dragon back… Also they no attack us while we try to find missing kids.”

“All right.”

The adventurers and their allies managed to drag the dragon back to the chamber where they’d first met Meepo and put him back in the cage. The hole in the bars was going to be a problem, but one for the future. Meepo once more suggested that Zorp stay behind, and the goblin grudgingly decided to do that. Erky stayed with him, offering sympathy and encouragement.

Once the others stood before Yusdrayl at the kobold throne, Meepo was beaming. “Meepo and friends back with Calcryx!”

“Really?” said Yusdrayl, sounding genuinely surprised. “Well done.”

“We also managed to rescue some of your people,” said Trin.

“Yes, we saw three returned. You have our thanks.”

“So when saving Calcryx, it attacked us. Have any reason why this happened?” asked Sal.

Yusdrayl considered Sal’s words for a moment. “Was Meepo in the lead?”

“Yes,” said Trin.

“He’s not a very good dragonkeeper…”

Meepo hung his head. “It true.”

“Forgets to feed him sometimes. Tells bad jokes. You get the idea,” said Yusdrayl.

Trin nodded and Sal said, “So, if Meepo can’t take care of him, who will?”

“Meepo will do better!” insisted the kobold.

“Maybe you can have someone help Meepo,” said Trin.

Yusdrayl arched a scaly brow. “Meepo will be … retrained. And replaced if he does not improve.”

“Well, you have delivered on your part of the bargain, so as agreed, you are to be rewarded. You may have any one item from our altar.”

“Why only one item when this beast tried to kill one of your men and us? Seems like a very small reward for a big delivery.”

“Because that is my offer,” said Yusdrayl, her tone turning a little chilly.

Trin looked at Grunt. “The key?”

Yusdrayl inclined her head. “Very well. You may have the key and whatever lies beyond the dragon door it is supposed to unlock. Does that satisfy you?” she asked Sal.

“That’s fine,” said the wizard. “But what is beyond the dragon door?”

“We do not know for sure, but our lore tells us that a dragonpriest was entombed there by Dread Ashardalon. He would have been buried with whatever riches he earned in life.” Yusdrayl shrugged. “Likely.” She retrieved the key and passed it to a guard, who in turn handed it to Trin.

“Thank you,” said the gnome. Sal echoed the sentiment.

“I have one other request, but it’s a small one, chief,” said Grunt. Yusdrayl gestured with a claw for him to continue. “We took injuries today. Me especially. We’d like to camp just outside your domain for the night. Would that be ok with you?”

“Certainly.”

“Then I think our business is done.”


Adventures

View
Session 1
The Negotiator

Since abandoning her life of crime, Trin had found herself between jobs. Freelancing security work being off-and-on, the gnome decided to head out to the frontier town of Oakhurst where the cost of living was said to be lower. She was gratified to find a notice at the local watering hole and went inside to ask about it.

A pale elf was bellied up to the bar, sipping whisky and seemingly minding his own business. Seated at a table nearby, two green-skinned men armored in chain mail conversed: a goblin speaking Broken Common to a stocky dwarf with tusks protruding from his lower lip. A couple of apparent farmhands rounded out the patrons of the Ol’ Boar Inn’s taproom.

Trin approached the bar, set a couple of copper coins upon it, then asked for a drink and information. “Who posted the notice outside about the missing Hucrele kids?”

The grizzled old barkeep accepted the coins, slid a mug filled with cool ale over to her, and nodded toward the goblin’s table. “Fella calling himself ‘Grunt.’ The big one, not the loud one.”

“Thanks,” replied the gnome, taking her drink and approaching the two green men to introduce herself. The goblin was called Zorp (not Ook – he seemed insistent on this point), and he had already agreed to help Grunt with the task he had posted about. Trin took a seat and asked for more details. Grunt obliged.

The head of a local merchant family, Madam Kerowyn Hucrele, had put the word out that she needed help. Her teenage children had been missing for about a month, last known to be heading a short way out of town to explore some nearby ruins. They were in the company of two men who were not from Oakhurst: a paladin called Sir Braford and a ranger known as Karakas.

Zorp said, “Me ask if kids go steal apple. She say no.”

“Apple?” Trin prompted.

Grunt nodded, explaining that he’d heard from Garon – the barkeep – that the goblin tribe infesting the nearby ruins (called the Sunless Citadel, though no one knows why) ransoms a single piece of magical fruit to the highest bidder in Oakhurst once every midsummer. They’ve been doing this for the last twelve years.

“Zorp think kids go muck with goblin tribe, find trouble,” said the goblin.

“I see. Are three enough, or are we waiting for more?”

“We’re four, if the elf is still coming,” said Grunt. Then over Trin’s shoulder he called, “What of it, Sal? Sober enough to travel?”

“I’m not as think as you drunk I am,” deadpanned the elf without looking back.

Grunt grinned. “We’re ready.

* * *

The overgrown Old Road wound through rocky downs, near stands of old-growth oak, and past a few abandoned farm shacks. The lonely road was empty of all travelers except for the four adventurers for the seven-mile journey to the site of the Sunless Citadel. Around mid-afternoon the Old Road passed to the east of a narrow ravine.

At the road’s closest approach to the cleft, several broken pillars jutted from the earth where the ravine widened and opened into something more akin to a deep, but narrow, canyon. Two of the pillars stood straight, but most of them leaned against the sloped earth. Others were broken, and several had apparently fallen into the darkness-shrouded depths. A few similar pillars were visible on the opposite side of the ravine.

Standing next to the ravine, they noted a sturdy knotted rope tied to one of the leaning pillars. The rope hung down into the darkness below, and judging by its condition, it couldn’t have been tied there any longer than a few weeks before. They also saw older and weathered hand- and footholds carved into the cliff face.

The pillars were generally worn and broken, and graffiti in the Dwarven alphabet covered most of them. Sal indicated that though the script was Dwarven, the words were Goblin. The inscriptions were mostly warnings and threats against potential trespassers.

“What, like we slap mama if you come here?” asked Zorp.

“Actually, yes,” said the elf. “That’s one of them, almost exactly.”

The adventurers looked around, noting that the area in and around the pillars had hosted countless small campfires, some as recent as a month ago. Someone had gone to some effort to hide evidence of the camps’ presence.

“That’s disturbing,” said Grunt. “Large groups of something have been staying here recently.” No one disagreed.

Looking down into the ravine, Zorp noted the ruins of some structure in the bottom, which was over a hundred feet below. Trin led the way, climbing the knotted rope using the wall to brace herself. Once she had shown them how it was done, the others followed her down to a sandy ledge that overlooked a subterranean gulf of darkness to the west. The ledge was wide but rough, covered by sand, rocky debris, and the bones of small animals. A roughly hewn stairwell zigged and zagged down the side of the ledge, descending into darkness.

Once the adventurers had their bearings, they also noted a trio of giant rats lurking in the debris to the west. Sal stepped forward boldly, pronouncing a series of incomprehensible syllables and gesturing with his fingers pointed forward in a fan-like arrangement, thumbs touching. A cone of fire blazed forth from the elf, burning two of the rats to death in an instant and singeing the third. Zorp’s horsechopper put the burning rat out of its misery.

“Good snack for later, maybe,” said Zorp, hiding the corpses in the debris.

The “stairs” were not particularly well made descending through three switchbacks on the way down, each of which opens onto a small landing. When they reached the second landing, a fortress top emerged from the darkness at the edge of sight. The subterranean citadel, though impressive, seemed long forgotten, if the lightless windows, cracked crenellations, and leaning towers were any indication. All was quiet, though a cold breeze blew up from below, bringing with it the scent of dust and a faint trace of rot.

The narrow stairs emptied into a small courtyard, apparently the top of what was once a crenellated battlement. The buried citadel had sunk so far into the earth that the battlement was now level with the surrounding cavern floor. The floor stretched away to the north and south, apparently composed of a layer of treacherous, crumbled masonry, which reached to an unknown depth. To the west loomed the surviving structure of what must be the Sunless Citadel. A tower stood on the west side of the courtyard.

Trin held up a hand of warning to her companions. “There’s a trapdoor. Let me see if I can disable it.” She set to work, and a few moments later she nodded, indicating a ten-foot-square section of the otherwise stone floor in front of the door to the tower. “It should support our weight now. Individually.”

Inside the tower, the circular area was cobbled with cracked granite, upon which sprawled four goblins, all apparently slain in combat. One stood with its back against the western wall, the killing spear still skewering it and holding it upright. Two wooden doors in addition to the one they’d entered led off from the tower to the northwest and the southwest. Above, a hollow tower of loose masonry reached thirty feet, but the intervening floors and stairs were gone, except for a couple of crumbled ledges.

Zorp stood in the center of the tower, staring straight up at the ceiling far above. Meanwhile, Trin searched the area for hidden doors, concealed hazards, or anything else of note. Sal claimed he was trying to detect any magical auras in the tower, and Grunt examined the bodies with a forensic eye. The goblin corpses were about a month dead, though rats had gnawed at them. The bodies had been looted of any valuables, though each goblin possessed a rusty short sword.

“I’m guessing the kids killed these,” said the dworc. “Typical adventurer fashion – they’ve been looted. They’ve been dead for at least a few weeks.”

Noting nothing else of interest in the tower, the adventurers passed through the southwest door. The masonry walls of the twenty-foot wide hall beyond were in poor repair. The far end was especially bad, having completely collapsed, filling the southern section with rubble. The western wall was in much better shape than the other walls, and it held a stone door with a rearing dragon carved in relief upon it. The door contained a single keyhole, which was situated in the rearing dragon’s open mouth.

Trin and Zorp headed to the southern half of the room, whereupon Trin came under attack by another giant rat! She evaded the animal’s gnashing teeth long enough for her companions to aid in her defense. Lightning arced from Sal’s hands toward each rat, though each creature leaped out of the way.

Grunt advanced and crushed the nearer rat’s back with his heavy war flail, and Zorp wounded the other with his horsechopper. Trin pulled a dagger to throw, but her blade struck the wall behind the rat. The injured rat leaped at Grunt, biting the dworc’s ankles but it was distracted enough by its injuries for Sal’s lightning to finish it off.

“Oh, no, you are dead,” said the wizard to the rats, absently petting a winged snake that rested on his shoulders. Grunt cocked an eye at the elf’s pet. “Something wrong, buddy?” asked Sal.

“Haven’t seen a flying snake before,” said Grunt.

“Fair enough. His name is Denjānūdoru. He won’t hurt you.”

“Is he … natural? Or has he been magicked?”

“He gains abilities every day, so he has been magicked.”

“Huh. Ok.”

Trin examined the stone door for a moment before attempting to get it open with her tools. She snapped her lockpicks off in the attempt and cursed under her breath. “I could try to fix that for you, if you don’t mind waiting a few minutes,” said Grunt. “I’m not the best at repairs, but I could try, anyway.”

“If you have a repair kit, I’ll do it,” offered Sal. Trin agreed, and the elf borrowed Grunt’s tools. Ten minutes later, he returned the gnome’s picks to her fully restored.

“This lock may be beyond my skill,” she said.

“Maybe there’s a key here somewhere,” said Grunt.

They returned to the tower, then exited the northwest door to find themselves in a narrow hall with three more doors. The ones to the north and west were wooden, and the one to the south was stone with relief carvings that portrayed a dragon-like fish swimming in an aquatic setting. Sal sketched the image on the door into a journal, while Trin listened at the doors. Hearing nothing she opened the north door to find a ruined chamber standing empty of all but a litter of rocky debris. It had no other exits.

Steeling herself for the effort, she applied her repaired tools to the locked stone door to the south. A few moments later, she was gratified when it opened. Beyond was a fifteen-foot-square chamber hewn from stone. It contained an upright keg fashioned of rusted iron. Similarly rusted pipes lea from the keg into the floor.

The adventurers offered conjecture about the nature off the keg for a few moments before Trin pried the wide metallic bung from the keg’s top. A winged, blue-skinned creature with more-or less humanoid features sprang from within and glared at the intruders! Trin recognized it as a mephit, a minor elemental creature drawn from the one of the basic components of creation it was shaped from – water, in this case. Sal apparently recognized the mephit as well, casually mentioning that the creature was resistant to both acid and fire.

Trin pulled her rapier and tried to skewer the elemental, but it evaded her thrusts. She slid into the corner, willing one of her companions to take the opposite flank with a meaningful juke of her head. The mephit breathed a cone of acidic vapor straight into Grunt’s face, burning him terribly. Then it took a swipe at the gnome, who parried its claws.

Zorp came around the corner and swung his horsechopper down hard, opening a massive wound on the mephit’s torso. Sal leaned around the corner, failing to strike it with lightning, but then following up his spell with a force bolt that bruised the elemental further. Staggered by his wounds, Grunt failed to strike the mephit, but he slunk into the flank for Trin. The gnome’s next blade stroke took the mephit’s throat. She found a pair of tiny sapphires in the bottom of the keg and showed them to her companions.

With the creature slain, Grunt looked down at his wounds. “Sal do you mind if I borrow your healing kit? I’m bleeding still.”

The elf shrugged. “Sure, bud.” He handed it over.

The dworc spent several minutes in the hall tending to his injuries, quietly noting that the rat bite from earlier was likely infected. He said nothing to the others as he passed the kit back to Sal. “Thanks. Should be good for now.”

Sal shrugged again. “Eh, you’re welcome, mate.”

Through the door the west they found a large and irregularly shaped crumbling chamber. A large pit in the chamber’s center showed evidence of a recent bonfire. A metallic cage in the center of the southern wall contained a gaping hole and stood empty. A small wooden bench draped with green cloth stood before the cage, and upon it sat several small objects. A bedroll lay near the wooden bench, from which the sound of whimpering was plainly audible. The trembling kobold did not react to the adventurers opening the door and entering the chamber.

Crudely executed symbols and glyphs, scribed in bright green dye, decorated the chamber walls. Sal noted that the symbols on the walls were crude versions of Draconic, which read, “Here There Be Dragons.” He translated for his companions, and his voice drew the kobold’s attention away from its own misery. “Who- Who are you?” it said in Draconic.

The elf bowed and replied in the same language, “Why are you here?”

The kobold blinked in confusion, which only increased when Trin asked if it spoke Common. Its agitation increased when Zorp asked, “Why you sad?” and it seemed to notice that he was a goblin. “Is scared,” continued the goblin. “Why little dragon scared?”

Sal tried to reassure the kobold. “Don’t worry about him. He is a friend.”

“You’re friends with a goblin?!” said the kobold.

“Trin, you talk. I go,” said Zorp. Sal watched the goblin head back into the hallway, and a moment later he followed suit. Grunt leaned against the wall near the door to the hall, realizing that negotiation was probably going to take a while.

“I’m Trin,” said the gnome, trying to start over.

“Trin,” repeated the kobold. “What you do here?” it asked, blessedly in Common.

“We’re looking for someone.”

The kobold’s lip quivered for a moment before it burst into tears again. “Meepo lose someone too!”

“What happened?”

“We lost our dragon. Wretched goblins stole Calcryx, our dragon!” He sniffled. “You friend goblin?”

“Associate.”

“What?”

“He’s helping us look for someone. We could help find your dragon.”

“HE STEAL DRAGON!”

“How did they steal the dragon?”

Meepo struggled to keep up with Trin ignoring his accusations. “They come! Break cage! Steal!” The kobold looked down at its scaly feet. “Meepo had to pee…”

“How many days has it been since they stole the dragon?”

“Ask your goblin friend. Ass-horsey-it.” Meepo pointed accusingly at the open door leading to the hallway.

“Small dragon still sad and racist?” Zorp called from the hall. “Can we do this hard way now?”

“Go ’way, goblin! You steal dragon!”

Zorp returned to the chamber, followed by Sal. “You talk now, no like you think I bad.” The goblin lowered his horsechopper at the kobold.

“What?” said Meepo, scrambling for a pathetic-looking spear.

“You drop weapon and talk to pink one,” said Zorp.

Meepo deflated, the spear clattering to the ground. “Fine. All know goblins take what want anyway.”

Satisfied, Zorp stepped back to let Trin continue. The gnome took the cue and asked, “How long ago did the goblin tribe here take the dragon?”

The kobold shrugged, looking uncertain. "Days? Weeks? Yusdrayl knows. She leader. Good at time. Meepo not so good.”

“Maybe we could try to get your dragon back, if your leader could tell us anything about the people we’re looking for.”

Meepo scratched his scaly head. “Could work. You talk Yusdrayl.” He paused, looking at Zorp. “But don’t think goblin should go. Since theft, tribe really no like goblins. They may kill.” The idea seems to please him for a moment before he remembers how scary the goblin a few feet away is.

Zorp raises a grimy eyebrow at the kobold. “I like living. You go small dragon find what need to stop this.”

Sal looks at Zorp with a very confused look, and Meepo shared the elf’s expression. “What that MEAN?”

“Mean no want keep talking. Want do something.”

“Let’s go see their leader,” said Trin. “Which way do we go?”

Meepo pointed at the hallway exiting to the west. “Go straight ‘til can’t. Turn right. Go straight again ‘til can’t. Yusdrayl on left.”

As Trin, Grunt, and Sal left the chamber, they overheard Zorp trying to strike up a conversation with Meepo about race relations. “Small Dragon, you know some Goblins not bad, right?”

“Psh. Not what I seen,” retorted the kobold.

“What you name little dragon?”

“Meepo,” said the kobold grudgingly.

“Maybe you let other small dragons know we not bad?”

The conversation faded behind them as they came to a T-intersection: the hallway continued forward and another hall opened to their right. Down this right branch, Trin’s light fell upon another kobold, more heavily armed and armored than Meepo. She mentioned as much to her companions, as two kobolds moved to block the far end of the hall. After a brief exchange with the guards, the gnome managed to convince them that the adventurers should be taken to their leader.

“Very well,” said the guard. “You speak Yusdrayl and she decide.” It gestured the group toward itself.

“Lead the way,” said Trin.

A double row of relief-carved marble columns depicting entwining dragons marched the length of the hall that approached the kobold leader. At the end, a short throne stood near the west wall, constructed of fallen bits of masonry stacked against an old altar. A small, horned figure in red-dyed robes sat on the throne, and a force of four kobold warriors guarded her. The altar’s top contained a variety of small items, while the portion of the altar that served as the throne’s back featured a carving of a rearing dragon. A metallic key was held firmly in the rearing dragon’s open mouth.

Trin quirked an eyebrow at the key, guessing that it would open the door that had broken her lockpicks earlier. "Hello,” she said.

“Hello, pink-hair,” replied the robed kobold. “What are you doing here?”

“Meepo told us you lost your dragon.”

“Did he.” It was not a question. After a pregnant pause, Yusdrayl continued. “How does that concern you?”

“Yes, we are looking for someone, we think they may have been taken along with your dragon.”

“Okay. Why have you come to me?”

“We would like passage through your domain. In return we can help you get your dragon back.”

“I see.” Yusdrayl looked thoughtful for a moment, like she was weighing things in her mind. “Perhaps a month back, four humans came through. They fought the goblins. They have not returned.”

“The humans are the ones we are looking for.”

Yusdrayl inclined her head. “As Meepo said, the putrid goblins stole our dragon. If you return the dragon to us, I will reward you. You can search for both the dragon and those you seek by heading through the door in the northeast corner of the chamber with the broken dragon cage.” Almost as an afterthough, she added, “Meepo will accompany you, if you will have him.”

“Thank you,” said Trin. Yusdrayl gestured at her guards, who relaxed and moved aside to allow the three adventurers to leave.

When they returned to the chamber where Meepo and Zorp waited, the pair seemed slightly less adversarial than before. “You’re coming with us,” Trin said to the kobold without preamble.

“I what now?”

“Yusdrayl said to take you with us.”

Meepo looked suspicious. “Yusdrayl say?”

“Yes, you can go ask.”

“We be friends, Meepo,” said Zorp. “Come, I protect you.”

“Guess it chance to redeem Meepo,” said the kobold uncertainly. “Plus, need make sure Zorplin no steal dragon for self. Just in case. Okay.”

“I was almost hoping things went poorly there,” said Grunt. “Did you see that key on the throne?”

“I did,” said Trin.

“Maybe still can come back for it later,” Zorp said to Grunt in a low voice while Meepo gathered his things.

“Hm?” said the kobold, looking up.

“Tell us when we get to goblin territory,” said Grunt. The kobold shrugged and nodded uncertainly.

“This be fun, Meepo,” said Zorp. “You see.”

They followed Yusdrayl’s directions through a door that opened into a hallway that doglegged to the east. They passed through a dark, empty chamber home only to rat droppings, crumbled flagstone, and nameless stains, then came to a room with slightly more interesting features. Dust and odd bits of stony debris and rubble lay scattered on the floor, and an ornate fountain was built into the eastern wall. Though cracked, stained, and dry, the fountain’s carving of a diving dragon retained its beauty. A relief-carved stone door stood on the western wall.

Sal examined the fountain thoughtfully then sat down to sketch it in his journal. Grunt watched the hallway to the north while Trin examined the stone door. The relief-carvings on the door showed skeletal dragons, and she felt palpable coldness emanating from it. “This door feels cold.”

“There’s something up with this fountain,” said Sal. “It’s enchanted. Alteration magic, but I don’t see how it works.” Grunt approached the fountain and poured some water into it from his waterskin. It could no longer said to be dry, but nothing else changed. The dworc shrugged.

“What that writing?” The kobold pointed above the stone door.

The others followed the kobold’s gaze. Grunt shrugged. “No idea.”

Sal frowned. “Draconic again. Tana Aman Heka Men. ‘Channel good, open the way,’” he translated.

Meepo shrugged. “That gobbledygook.”

“I say we ignore it,” advised Trin.

“Maybe we no mess with magic fountain or cold door,” suggested Zorp. "There is a hallway.”

The adventurers looked north, where several slightly-open doors waited in the dark.


Adventures

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