Session 47: An Unknown Threat And A Third Loss

With Philip in the lead, the group dashed towards the goblin cave mouth, as the stranger quickly disappeared into the darkness within, dragged by the spear and rope.

Vernim cast light on a stone, and they entered the cave together, cautiously. Philip and Jess were in the lead, with Third and Prynhawn behind them.

Inside the cave, they saw the cloaked man lying in a heap of leaves and twigs in front of the false door at the end of the dead-end corridor ahead. The spear was still sticking out of him, and the rope was still connected to it, and strewn all around the corridors. The portcullis that had previously trapped them in the corridor was partially lowered, leaving six feet of clearance.

Valeria noticed that some of the rope extended down the west corridor, beyond their vision, and back. Fearing another trap, Philip stepped on both strands of rope, while Prynhawn pulled on the rope to drag the speared body out from the corridor.

As soon as Prynhawn began to pull, Valeria noticed movement to the west, as a small figure disappeared around the nearest corner, heading south. Before they could decide what to do, torch light appeared from around the same corner, which they knew was a dead-end.

They headed toward the figure, with Philip and Prynhawn now in the lead. Turning the corner to the south, they saw a pile of leaves, twigs, and other debris in the next corner, twenty feet ahead. As they approached the southern corner, a torch came swirling from around the corner, landing in the pile of leaves. They heard a crash from around the corner, as the clearly oil-soaked leaves went up in the flames.

The portcullis blocking this corridor fell, diving the group. Jess and Brother Martin barely managed to jump back, avoiding its heavy, iron spikes. The portcullis stopped three feet from the ground, apparently jammed by something.

The corridor was quickly filling with smoke. Jess discovered that a spear shaft had been jammed into the grooves on the corridor walls, blocking the portcullis from hitting the floor. The rogue grabbed one of Third’s extra shortswords from her back and jammed it into the other groove in the wall to ensure the gate wouldn’t fall closed. Philip led his three companions under the portcullis. Valeria removed the spear shaft and grabbed the sword, and the portcullis crashed to the floor behind them.

Together, the entire group exited the goblin cave, and Valeria returned the sword to Third.

Once the smoke had dissipated, they reentered the cave, and headed all the way to the west, traversing the corridors past the room with the sandbox. They went through the secret door and up the stairs, heading south.

Returning east, they found that the doors with the skulls on the exterior had been re-barred from the inside.

They went further east, into the unexplored corridor. After turning south, it quickly turned east again, and branched off further east and also to the south.

They took the southern corridor, which twisted left and right before opening up into what appeared to be a wizard’s workshop, if not a particularly nice wizard. Mortars and pestles, flasks filled with strange liquids, alembics and retorts for distillation, and a plethora of strange devices used for unknown purposes shared space on the tables with scalpels, bone saws, and other tools of dissection. A partially disassembled skeleton was laying on one table, its pieces neatly laid out like the parts of some intricate puzzle. A spirit lamp burned under one of the retorts and a candle flickered from a small side table scattered with sheets of paper. Two skeletons stood, silent and motionless, in a niche on the right side of the entrance.

Brother Martin drew his holy symbol and faced the motionless skeletons, wary of any sudden animation. Third stood by the entrance, also keeping an eye on the robed skeletons.

Valeria and Dubricus examined the papers, looking for anything matching the signature or symbol of Tarlech. When they did not find anything similar, Dubricus put the papers in his pack for further examination later. He said they looked like they might have some value to the right people.

Jess examined the contents of the table, and decided that it looked like it must hold value, but did not think they could disassemble the fragile contraptions without damaging it.

Philip smashed one of the skeletons to pieces while Vernim and Brother Martin did the same to the other. The skeletons never raised a bone in response.

Vernim, Yanliz, and some others searched the room for secret doors, but found none.

Before they left, they destroyed the contents on the table.

They went back up the twisting corridor and turned into the unexplored corridor to the west.

The long corridor was mostly straight west, with a couple of turns to the south. It eventually opened up into a clearly unwholesome place with manacles hanging from the walls, several of which held the bodies of large humanoids. They could not tell exactly what race the corpses belonged to, since they had been stripped of their skin and flesh, exposing the bone beneath. They could see that broken bones had been carefully splinted and other structural damage repaired as much as possible. The whole had then been daubed with some brownish coating, no doubt from the bubbling vat in the near corner. A noxious organic smell rose from the thick boiling liquid.

As expected from their map, there was a door at the opposite end of the chamber.

Valeria examined the best way to extinguish the fire under the boiling vat, when a large skeleton lunged from within the boiling vat and grabbed her. Everyone was surprised as the skeleton began to pull her into the vat.

Third lunged at the skeleton, but her pike bounced off its unusually hard bones. Philip swung his staff, smashing the skeleton's skull against the nearby wall. Valeria pulled herself free as the headless skeleton body collapsed back into the vat.

"This necromancer is clearly determined to create some incredibly horrible abominations!" Vernim declared.

Third stuck her pike into the vat and stirred until they were satisfied that it contained no other dangers. Then she used her pike to scatter the fire under the vat.

Vernim noticed that there was an empty set of manacles hanging from the wall.

"They must have held the one in the vat," Valeria concluded.

The group reversed their course and eventually returned to the chamber opposite the door. Prynhawn and Third cleared away the furniture blocking the door. Prynhawn opened the door and they confirmed that it led to the torture chamber they had just explored.

They returned to the speared body they had left outside the false door. While Prynhawn was pulling the body, Yanliz pulled the ropes in from the western corridor and discovered that they were two separate ropes, and that one of them led to the crevice in the false door corridor, where it was tied to a six foot spear shaft holding this portcullis up. Clearly this was meant to trap them in the false door portcullis.

Prynhawn pulled the body from the pile of leave and twigs at the end of the corridor and examined what at first appeared to be a bald man with dead-white skin dressed in formal robes, with its sleeves tied so that its arms were crossed over his chest, displaying elongated claws at the ends of his fingers. But they quickly realized that this was a wax and paper mâché figure, and was doused in oil.

Leaving the body in the corridor, they removed the spear shaft, dropping the portcullis, and Jess collected all the rope.

Returning to the western portcullis they had lowered, blocking the coffin trap corridor, Prynhawn and Third lifted it, and they propped it up with the six foot spear shaft.

Yanliz stood watch outside the portcullis as the others ventured toward the coffin. Turning the corner, they saw a small barrel filled with stones lying on its side in front of the coffin. Some of the stones had spilled out of the barrel into the corridor.

"I have an idea," Dubricus announced. "Why doesn't Jess search the coffin for traps?"

"I will help her!" Vernim offered, and they searched.

They did not find any traps on the coffin, but Vernim discovered that the area in front of the coffin, where the barrel was laying, was a pressure plate. They agreed that it probably triggered the portcullis.

Prynhawn opened the coffin, and inside they saw the body of Harkul, the goblin king.
On the inside of the lid was scratched some foreign writing. Lawrence recognized it as Draconic and read it aloud: "RETURN GOLD DRAGON EGG OR DIE NEXT"
They searched Harkul's body, even removing it from the coffin and confirmed that Harkul was still dead, and only appeared to have the wounds they had inflicted.

Valeria pointed out that whoever was threatening them had not actually killed Harkul.

Even after moving the coffin, they found no sign of anyone else in the corridor or how anyone could have escaped.

With the indication that the egg was that of a gold dragon, their concern for the dragon egg, and the risks of carrying with them in the caves was renewed and debated about what they should do with it. They were afraid of it falling into the wrong hands, if they should fall, or of it being destroyed or causing destruction if it were to hatch within the keep, or of it being stolen if they should trust it with anyone else. They considered storing it in the bank with Mouse, with Abercrombie, in Dubricus or Brother Martin's apartment, or even the castellan.

"Can we really trust Mouse?" Vernim challenged.

"Yes, I do," Valeria replied. "When I think about it logically, I trust him on many levels. I trust him to not let it be stolen. I trust him to not tell anyone about it. I don't know what I don't trust him about."

"Fine. You're the party leader, Valeria." Vernim conceded. "You do what you want."

"Yes, I am!" Valeria confirmed.

Jess suggested that someone from the group remain back in the keep with the egg, and Vernim volunteered, saying that it would give him a chance to visit Opal and her family, but Prynhawn insisted that Vernim was critical to the group.

Vernim suggested that the necromancer might want the dragon egg to turn the dragon into a dracolich, adding, "A dracolich would be the ultimate abomination!"

Prynhawn was skeptical that it was the necromancer that carved the writing on the coffin lid.

Philip agreed, suggesting that it could also have been the kobolds.

Ultimately they decided to continue on in the caves.

They returned to the room where they had fought the Skeltar and the Zombire to explore the secret door Vernim had found.

Examining the secret door, they could not find any mechanism to open it. Prynhawn tried prying it open with a hammer and piton, but the crack was too slim for the piton and the stone would not chip. They considered using Jess' tools, but decided they would just break. Philip tried hammering the piton as well, but had the same result, as did Vernim with his warhammer. He tried hammering the stone next to the secret door, and scratched some a bit, but they determined it would take too long to dig under the secret door. They considered coming back with a pickax the next time they return from the keep.

They abandoned the secret door and decided to deal with the giant-speaking creature beyond the mud pit.

Yanliz suggested they search for secret doors in the goblin guard chamber adjacent to the creature's cave.

Valeria and Vernim moved aside the keg and searched the wall. Vernim found a door and they figured out how to open it.

They covered their light source and Prynhawn slid the secret door open and peeked inside. The sound of stentorian snoring emanated from the damp cave. He saw a foul nest of sticks, furs, rags, and mosses that held a large creature with warty green, clay smeared skin. Suddenly the loud snores ceased and it uncurled itself, stretched, and yawned, revealing a large, fang-filled mouth. It blinked sleepily then curled back up again, hiding its head in its arms so that only a long pointy nose stuck out. The area around the creature was littered with hundreds of bones.
Prynhawn carefully closed the door and they developed their strategy to confront the creature.

"I have an idea!" Dubricus declared. "Why don't we all sneak in and attack it at once?"

Prynhawn pointed out that it would most likely wake up, given that it almost did and the floor was strewn with bones.

"I think we should send Philip, Prynhawn, and Third in to attack it," Valeria eventually suggested, "while everyone else hits it with ranged attacks from out here."

 Philip added that they could run out after they attack.

Philip, Prynhawn, and Third moved into position as stealthily as they could, without waking the creature. With the creature prone, Philip smashed its head hard with his staff. The creature screamed as Prynhawn slashed his sword across the creature, and Third lunged forward with her pike. As the creature rose to almost ten feet, Third's pike went wide and past the creature, bringing her within its reach. Philip weaved his way out of the room before the creature could respond, but it clawed at Prynhawn and Third as they withdrew, dragging sharp claws harmlessly across their armor. Valeria tried to hit the creature with an eldritch blast, but could not get a clean shot in the narrow opening of the secret door as her companions ran back through it. Lawrence seared its flesh with two out of three scorching rays. Yanliz also missed, but Jess hit it with an arrow, and Dubricus barely hit it with a fire bolt. Flailing its arms, it reached for Philip, but could not grab hold of the nimble halfling. It turned and retreated to the mud pit. Philip swatted it with his staff in the rear as it fled.

Lawrence and Yanliz ran around towards the exit to block its exit from the cave. Philip, Prynhawn, and Third moved into the cave. Cautious of the mud pit, Philip and Prynhawn moved to the north wall in hope of spotting the creature and watched the cave exit. Third maneuvered to the south side of the entrance to the mud pit and stabbed her pike around the corner. The creature knocked Third's pike aside and raked through her chainmail with its claws. It yanked Third towards it maw and bit into her face, neck, and shoulder. Third screamed before going limp and being tossed into the mud pit, where she sank into the depths.

"It killed Third!" Philip yelled as he smashed it with his staff, and kicked at its leg, before rolling back. Prynhawn swung his sword at the creature, but almost slipped on the muddy floor, and had to use his sword to avoid falling into the mud again. Valeria moved into the room, and Jess followed, screaming, "No!" Brother Martin moved in, but there was no one to heal. The creature swung its claws at Prynhawn, raking them against his shield, and lunged at the paladin, gnashing its fangs at the air in front of his face. Prynhawn felt its rank breath as it turned and dove into the mud pit, and was gone.

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