Session 13: Ghouls, More Ghouls, and a Friendly Face

After inspecting the cracked skull and ensuring the immediate threat was over, the group took inventory of their singed belongings and considered their next steps.

Everyone's clothing and gear showed signs of having been caught in the fireball. Lee and Albrecht's gear was mostly destroyed, leaving them practically naked.

Turenim bandaged everyone's wounds, and the group decided to rest in the smelter's cavern where they fought the flaming skull. Lee cast alarm on the immediate area. Lee examined the five ways in and out of the chamber. Pippin suggested they follow the channel cut into the floor. Moula investigated the waterwheel, but found nothing helpful.

About 40 minutes into their rest, the group heard shuffling coming from the south-east. Everyone gathered their arms as three ghouls entered the chamber.

Lee cast hunter's mark on one of the ghouls, drew his bow, but the bowstring snapped having been damaged from the flames. Albrecht shouted vicious mockery at the closest ghoul, only causing it to rush up and claw at him, raking his flesh and causing his muscles to seize up, paralyzing him. Pippin ran around to flank the enemy and stabbed one with both of his short swords. The ghoul turned to attack him, but Pippin dashed out of range before he could be reached. The third ghoul clawed at Moula, raking her flesh and causing her muscles to seize up, paralyzing her. Atilius hit the one that attacked Albrecht with a fire bolt. Julious used his beast shape to turn into a wolf and ran over to the ghoul attacking Pippin, avoiding that ghoul's counter attack. Turenim touched Pippin with cure wounds and cast healing word on Albrecht.

Lee slashed the lead ghoul with talon, dodging its return attack. Albrecht managed to free his muscles from the paralyzation and stabbed through the ghoul with his rapier and psychic blade, dropping it. Pippin dashed in and slashed at a ghoul, tearing its rotted insides out. Moula freed her locked muscles and smashed the last ghoul twice with her staff. Atilius hit the last ghoul with a fire bolt, dropping it.

After defeating the ghouls, the group argued about what to do next. They still wanted to rest. Eventually they went down the south-east corridor into the east ledge of the great cavern. Atilius lent Lee his crossbow. Lee cast alarm and they began to eat around the table, and rest, again.

After about thirty minutes, Lee heard the familiar sound of ghouls approaching from the dark below to the west. Lee stealthily moved back to the corridor they came from. Albrecht hid behind the table. Seven ghouls stepped into Turenim's light. Pippin dashed through the corridor, into the dark, and dropped into the channel in the smelter's cavern. Moula hid behind the table with Albrecht. Atilius and Julious, still in wolf form, moved into the corridor with Lee. Turenim tries to hide his light and follows them, but his light still shows through his robes.

Lee used his bow to feel his way to the channel. Albrecht snuck from behind the table to the corridor. Albrecht, Lee, and Pippin saw a light rise from the north-west corner of the room and see the flaming skull hover towards the ceiling of the cavern. Pippin ran down the channel through the east tunnel. Moula snuck into the corridor.

Lee and Albrecht jumped into the channel, the latter stumbling at the bottom, and ran after Pippin. Moula dashed over and into the channel and caught up with them. Atilius used his keen sense to cast web on the stairs, catching four of them in the sticky strands, and blocking their way up to the escarpment. Turenim shielded his light and made his way in the dark to the channel's edge and leaped down, and past through the tunnel to the east.

The rhythmic booming heard throughout the mines was much louder ahead of them. They all saw the tunnel fill with light as the flaming skull prepared a fireball. Pippin took off at a sprint and almost immediately crashed into a wall, and turned and dashed and again crashed into a wall. Lee also crashed into a wall. Then the flames engulfed them.

Atilius, watching from the corridor, saw the flaming skull cast his fireball at his companions in the channel. Assuming they were toast, he decided to go the other way, in the dark. Using his keen sense he ran to the southern part of the ledge and cast misty step, slamming into the wall of the corridor to the south of the great cavern, on the other side of the ghouls. Julious, as a wolf, ran after Atilius, leaping over the ghouls. Once in the corridor, Julious led Atilius through the dark.

Atilius asked Julius to lead them back to the entrance of the cavern. They made their way through the tunnels in the dark until Atilius was struck but a large wet slime that fell on him, and engulfed him. Julious, as a wolf, managed to jump clear of the jelly.

The jelly secreted its acidic juices onto Atilius, burning him. Atilius, using his keen sense, cast misty step and appeared further down the corridor, free of the jelly.

Eventually, they made their way to the bottom of the pit below the entrance to the cave. When feeling around, however, they discovered that the ropes were gone. Discouraged, Julious turned back into his true form and suggested they go back and try to find their companions. In agreement, Julious cast produce flame, shedding some light in the area, and they went towards the old entrance in order to avoid the jelly.

As they were headed north towards the great cavern they saw a light coming from the ruined storeroom, which abruptly went out. Julious knocked on the door.

***

Meanwhile, Albrecht, badly burned, looked around in the dark at his fallen companions. Only Lee was still moving. Lee felt around on the floor until he found a nearby wall. Albrecht cast healing word on Turenim and Pippin, reviving them both.

Turenim lit up the area with his light stone and cast cure wounds on Moula, reviving her.

The found themselves near a narrow ledge overlooking a large cavern that housed a surging, seething body of water. At regular intervals, a fresh surge of water funneled into this chamber and slammed against the wall just over an arm's length below the ledge, and then dropped down about ten feet. Now all of their flammable gear was destroyed.

The group moved east where they found rough steps up carved into a natural stone tunnel. At the top of the steps the walls opened up into another large cavern, this one with glittering minerals in the ceiling that reflected the light creating the impression of a starry night sky. They saw dozens of skeletons—many crushed under fallen debris—scattered across the floor. The cavern was divided by an escarpment, into which a flight of stairs had been cut. Passages led out of this area to the north, south, and west. On each level they saw freestanding structures contained in the starry cavern. Both structures had battered and blackened masonry walls, their double doors cracked and scorched.

Passing down the stairs to the lower escarpment to the south, the group found a tunnel leading south. Continuing through the tunnel, the walls soon opened up into another cavern with dense carpets of weird fungi covering large sections of the floor. The growth included puffballs a foot across, weird shelf fungus growing on stalagmites, and large stalks and caps a good five feet tall. Some of the puffballs glowed with an eerie green phosphorescence.

They turned and headed back north. Approaching the western tunnel leading back to the smelter's cavern with the flaming skull, they ran through the corridor and the cavern towards the corridor leading back to the great cavern where they fled from the ghouls. As they passed through the smelter's cavern, the flaming skull hovered towards them and shot a fire ray at Turenim, but Turenim managed to avoid it. Then the flaming skull shot another fire ray at Turenim, and he managed to avoid that one as well.

Back in the great cavern, they found webs covering the entirety of the stairs down, but no ghouls in sight. Pippin, Lee, and Moula jumped down the ten-foot precipice. Turenim tried to lower himself down, but fell, bruising himself on the stone floor. Then Turenim cast guidance on Albrecht who then jumped down.

Lee heard the familiar sounds of ghouls coming from the darkness to the west, and so they all quickly headed south towards the cave entrance. As they passed the passage to the ruined storeroom they heard a familiar voice.

"Turi!" They saw Snowg hiding in a room outside the storeroom.

"Snowg!" Turenim responded. "What are you doing here? Do you know the way out?"

"All I know is this jelly thing tried to attack me, and then I found this room and it seemed safe."

"Jelly thing?" they asked.

"I don't know how to describe it," Snowg replied. "It was big and it fell from the ceiling and tried to smother me. I thought I was going to die. But I got away and I ran and I wanted to try to find you, but I was afraid and I found this room and I've been here ever since."

The group retreated into the storeroom. Pippin had a drink of his dwarven brandy and passed it around.

Some in the group became suspicious of Snowg's coincidental appearance and asked him why he didn't try to leave.

"I tried to leave," Snowg explained. "But when I tried to climb up the rope there were bugbears up there, and when I tried to climb up the rope they took the rope."

"Where did they go?" Pippin asked.

"I don't know," Snowg replied. "They were up there. There were a whole bunch of them. Like at least twelve of them, maybe more, but I could only see twelve of them from where I was. Where have you been?"

While they were talking, Lee heard footsteps coming from the corridor. Then they heard a knock on the door. They opened it and saw Julious standing outside, who waved Atilius to join him.

Lee, still suspicious, returned to questioning Snowg. "So Snowg, when was the last time we saw you? It's been a while."

"What do you mean 'when was the last time you saw me?'" Snowg responded, incredulously.

"I'm old!" Lee replied. "I have Alzheimer's."

"You left me in the castle." Snowg replied.

"How many people were in the castle? What happened to them? What happened in the castle?" Lee persisted.

"We were attacked!" Snowg replied.

"Attacked by who?" Lee asked.

"By hobgoblins." Snowg answered.

"Hobgoblins? And then you ran to the cave? What happened to the others?" Lee continued.

"I was the only one who survived!" Snowg squealed.

"They died? Oh, that's convenient." quipped Pippin.

"What did you do when you got here? What happened when you tried to leave? How did you get past the ooze?"

"There's undead all over this place!" Snowg pleaded. "I tried to get out of here. I wanted to find you, but I was afraid - I tried to leave, but then the bugbears were there, and I couldn't. Then I was wandering around and I didn't know what to do - and then the ooze attacked me and I ran and then I found this place and I've been hiding here ever since. And, and all the rest of the goblins are dead. I'm the king of nobody!"

"You're a king in our hearts." Lee finally offered.

"I'm really glad I found you." Snowg replied.

"And we're really glad we found you, Snowg." Lee said, with a hint of sarcasm that seemed to be missed by the goblin. "Of all people. In this cave. Alone."

"You guys look pretty bad. What happened to you? What happened to your clothes?" Snowg finally asked. "What happened to everyone?"

"Fireball." They answered.

"Fireball?" Snowg sighed, and sagged to the floor, exasperated.

The conversation continued as the group finished their rest, undisturbed.

After much debate, the group eventually decided to head north, back to the great cavern. Turenim renewed his light stone, and cast light on Atilius' ring.

As soon as they entered the great cavern they saw ten ghouls advancing towards them. They backed up into the corridor with Moula and Albrecht in the lead to hold the line.

Pippin threw a fire bolt at the lead goblin on the right, burning its dead flesh. Lee fired his crossbow at the same ghoul, hitting it square in the face. Atilius threw a fire bolt at the same ghoul, just skimming its shoulder. Julious cast produce flame and hit the same ghoul, and it fell to the floor in smoldering.

The lead ghoul on the left ripped its claws into Albrecht, and the one of the right did the same to Moula. Albrecht retaliated, but could not land a meaningful shot with his rapier. Moula swung her staff at the second ghoul on the right, hitting in the head, then kicked it back and stuck her staff through its skull, dropping it with a single flurry of blows.

Pippin deftly rolled through the crowd and stabbed the lead ghoul on the left with both of his short swords, and rolled back behind Albrecht. Turenim cast toll of the dead on the same ghoul, but it had no effect. Lee shot his crossbow into the same ghoul's chest. Atilius threw a fire bolt and the same ghoul's face, and it went down. Julious cast continual flame, but his throw went wide and into the wall.

The ghoul behind it sunk his claws into Albrecht, and the ghoul in the right did the same to Moula. Albrecht slashed with his rapier, ripping into the second ghoul on the left. Moula retaliated against the third ghoul on the right, smacking it hard with her staff. Turenim cast toll of the dead on the second ghoul on the left, draining its energy. Snowg cheered the group on, shouting "You guys are doing great! Keep it up!"

Pippin tried to move up again, but couldn't get through Moula and Albrecht. Lee fired his crossbow at the second ghoul on the left, sinking his bolt into its gut, and dropping it. Atilius hit the third ghoul on the right with a fire bolt. Julious threw his continual flame at the same ghoul, skimming it. That ghoul lunged at Moula and bit her. The ghoul next to it on the left raked its claws into Albrecht.

Albrecht inspired Moula with his bardic inspiration, shouting "We're the only thing that stands between our friends and certain death. We have to hold this line!" Then he slashed into the third ghoul on the left. Moula, inspired, smashed her staff into the third ghoul on the right, crushing its skull. Turenim cast toll of the dead on the third ghoul on the left, but it had no effect. Snowg chided Turenim to do something.

Pippin dived into the front of the fray and stabbed at the same ghoul, tearing it apart. Lee fired his crossbow at the nearest ghoul; however, it hit Moula in the back, and she fell. Atilius threw a fire bolt at the ghouls, but hit Albrecht in the back, burning him enough that he fell to the ground. Julious moved up and cast cure wounds on Moula, reviving her, but the fourth ghoul on the right ripped into Julious in response. The ghoul on the left swung at Pippin, but could not catch the child. Moula got up and, kicked the fourth ghoul on the right, and smashed it with her staff. Turenim cast cure wounds on Albrecht and healing word on Moula.

Pippin stabbed his short swords into the fourth ghoul on the left. Lee fired his bow at the same ghoul, but the arrow hit Pippin in the back. Atilius threw his fire bolt at the fourth ghoul on the right, and hit in the face, dropping it. Julious threw his continual flame, but missed. Pippin, distracted by the bolt in his back, was raked by the ghoul in front him. Albrecht got up, cast healing word on himself, and yelled at the ghouls "My companions have done more damage than you could ever do!" but it seemed to have no effect. Moula smashed the last ghoul on the right in the head with her staff. Turenim cast toll of the dead on the same ghoul, but it had no effect.

Pippin stabbed at the ghoul he already wounded, finishing it, and rolled behind Albrecht. Lee cast hunter's mark on the ghoul Moula had staggered and hit it with his crossbow, dropping it. Julious threw his continual flame at the last ghoul, but missed. The last ghoul sunk his claws into Albrecht, causing his muscles to seize up, paralyzing him. Moula turned and swung at the last ghoul, barely hitting it with her staff and a clumsy kick. Turenim cast toll of the dead on the last ghoul, draining its energy. Pippin rolled to the front and stabbed at the last ghoul, finishing it.

Pippin began cutting the heads off the ghouls.

Albrecht freed his muscles.

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