Hunting the Hobgoblin King
Assault on Precin-I mean, the Ruined Monastery!
Session 7, The Hill
“It seems we are alone…” Belgarath said speaking to Kane, the only other full party-member present.
Belgarath and Kane stood in the common room of the Lion’s Den, considering their options… the group had returned yesterday from their previous foray, and felt they had struck a serious blow against the humanoids. The lair of the Goblins on The Hill had been destroyed in a conflagration of flame, with many of their number falling to the arrows of the party’s mercenaries. The group had withdrawn before they could be counter-attacked, and hadn’t suffered a single casualty, or even any injuries. While all had agreed to make another foray immediately, only the two of them had arrived to make the trip. Even Kalasandr, who had seemed hellbent on hunting down the Hobgoblin King, had not arrived. If they were to cross the river this day, they would need to leave soon.
After a few moments, Belgarath spoke, “We assault the Monastery!” his mien was firm, brooking no argument. Kane offered none, his steady gaze locked on the mage, though he spoke not a word. Belgarath’s loyal man, Mearl, stood at his shoulder, and broke the awkward silence, “Will Ivana’s guardsmen be accompanying us?”
“Yes!” Belgarath said, thinking of the gold that had been spent on the mercenaries, and how many animals he would have to husband to cover another month…the men were employed for another fortnight, at least, “…we haven’t the numbers, otherwise,” he finished.
Kane silently nodded his acceptance, then finally spoke from beneath the hood of his cloak, “At last we will reveal ourselves to the Hobgoblins. At last we will have our revenge!”
Belgarath wondered, and not for the first time, what drove this weird, laconic elf. Why couldn’t he just be happy with a little profit, like regular folk?
12th of Klarmont, AC 999
Characters: Belgarath (Mage 1), Mearl (Belgarath’s henchman), Argus and Cerberus (Belgarath’s wardogs), Kane (Elven Ranger 1), 3 hunting dogs and 1 unnamed wardog (belonging to Kane), 5 Heavy Infantry and 7 Bowmen employed as Mercenaries by the party for a term of 1 month, and, slightly later, Kalasandr (Thief 2).
Mortal Wounds: 1 Bowman lost an eye down a Giant Rat’s gullet, another was slashed across the eyes, and an Infantryman suffered several sucking chest wounds at the point of a Hobgoblin’s sword; Mearl was smashed flat by an Ogre, and suffered damage to his hips and back, which now ache incessantly.
The trip across The Hill to the Ruined Monastery was uneventful, with the large group arriving past mid-day. Belgarath’s owl familiar, Stikini, scouted the site from the air, informing her master that a number of small humanoids, presumably Goblins, were guarding the breaches in the remains of the low wall that surrounded the monastery grounds. None of the humanoids were visible from where the party stood on the edge of the dead forest, suggesting they hoped to ambush the group.
The party began scouting around the perimeter of the ruined wall, trying to remain out of sight amongst the trees. As they passed around to the western side of the Monastery, they saw there was a previously unnoticed breach. The hole appeared to be not just through the outer wall, but the wall of the buildings in the north-west corner of the grounds. They had not previously explored these, and Stikini was again sent forward as a scout. She returned to report that all she had seen was a tasty looking, if rather large, rat, perched upon the rubble near the opening.
Kane crept forward and slipped through the breach. The room beyond was the ruined remains of a large kitchen. A scuttling and squeaking commotion drew the elven ranger’s attention back to the opening, and he found himself faced with a rat the size of a small dog. The vermin stood on its haunches and hissed at him, before the elf unceremoniously slashed its throat with his dagger. Assuming the large, nest-like mound of debris near the hole meant that there were more rats about, Kane withdrew back to the treeline.
Rations were plundered, and a wheel of cheese was tossed into the rubble near the breach in the wall. The party didn’t have to wait long before half-a-dozen of the enormous rats came to investigate the pungent smell. Several of them hissed and nipped at each other, trying to drive each other away from the delicious-smelling prize. A volley of arrows and bolts from the party made short work of the rats, and their bodies were hidden in the brush out of sight of the walls. The group then advanced through the crumbling hole into the Monastery.
Judge’s note: I hemmed and hawed for some time about this, but in the end I decided the mercenaries would accompany the party into the surface buildings of the Ruined Monastery (not that different from clearing buildings or plundering a city) with a little cajoling, but their Morale would be reduced. Under no circumstances would they accompany the party below ground.
As the group examined the detritus in the room, more rats burst from their nest and attacked the intruders in their lair. The fight was a close-fought affair, with a Bowman being borne down under several rats. By the time the last of the huge rodents were killed and pulled off the poor man, one of his eyes was missing, swallowed down one of the rats gullets.
In the meantime, outside the building, Kalasandr spotted the bodies of huge rats, pierced by arrows, amongst the trees. He had pursued the party, not more than an hour behind them, all the way to the Monastery. Seeing the fletching of his companions’ arrows, he slipped across the open ground between the dead trees and the monastery walls, then cautiously picked his way over the rubble and through the breach in the wall…
The party was startled to see a human climb through the hole in the wall, but, to their relief, immediately recognized the man as one of their own.
“Better late than never, I suppose…” Belgarath admonished him.
“Yes. And now we find the Hobgoblin King and destroy him!” Kalasandr said, puffing slightly. He was out of breath, having run to catch the others. It was a bit unusual for the rogue to be so hellbent on a fight, but they had been hunting the lair of the Hobgoblin King across The Hill for weeks.
Turning to Belgarath, Kane asked, “Are you going to go through that?” referring to the pile of rotten garbage and cucumber-sized rat droppings that appeared to be the nest of the Giant Rats.
“What?!” said Belgarath, horrified.
“You shoved your hands in bat dung… what is the difference?” Kane retorted. The mage turned decidedly green, so Kane performed the foul deed, discovering a handful of coins, gems, and a beautifully crafted arrow.
Kane then pressed his ear to the only door leading from the room and heard nothing. Kalasandr followed suit with no more success than the elf. They tried the door, only to find it stuck. One of the infantrymen threw his shoulder into it, and the door whipped open with a loud “boom!” as it struck the wall at the end of its travel.
“I wonder if anyone heard that…” Kane asked without a hint of sarcasm.
The party moved into the darkened room beyond, lighting torches and a lantern. The room contained ancient tables and benches, all now covered in a thick layer of mold. The ceiling here had clearly begun to leak long ago, and plaster had crumbled from the ceiling and littered the floor.
While the water might have been the source of the ordinary-seeming mold, everyone studiously avoided touching the stuff, and moved to a door in the northern end of the room. After hearing nothing, the party attempted to open the door, and discovered it was both stuck, and opened in the opposite direction, meaning it couldn’t be battered open.
A scheme involving ropes under the door was quickly devised, and the door hauled open, although it was slower and no less noisy than simply hacking through the door with an axe. The room beyond was circumscribed by wall shelves, and Belgarath virtually stumbled over the others in his haste to search the shelves for forgotten lore. Unfortunately, the ceiling here had also leaked, and whatever wealth of books the former library had once held crumbled to dirt beneath his fingers. Kalasandr moved past the hyperventilating mage to search the far end of the room while Kane listened at the only other door, hearing running water.
“Hunh. What’s this?” Kalasandr asked from the far end of the room, holding an ornate, ivory scroll case aloft.
“What?!” Belgarath nearly shouted, the crumbling remains of ancient books sifting through his fingers. The despair in his expression was impossible to miss.
The case was opened and passed around for examination, with neither the thief nor the mage able to identify the writing. Kalasandr pocketed the case as they turned to the only apparent exit from the library. Opening the door carefully, they discovered an open air courtyard, with a fountain and pool the source of the sound of running water. The last rays of the sun dimly lit the sky, and a gentle breeze rustled the leaves of a handful of ancient birch trees overhanging the pool. A quick search revealed no other exits, and nothing extraordinary about the fountain or the pool. As they stood by the door discussing their next move, the sharp, elven eyes of Kane noted a thin, rectangular gap in the stonework next to the only door. After poking and prodding about, a pivoting secret door was discovered, with a darkened hall beyond.
Closing the secret door, the party decided to rest in the courtyard, as one entrance was secret, and the other led to now-empty rooms. They kept watch and burned no fire, and the night passed uneventfully. Gathering themselves the next morning, the party made ready to head through the secret door.
A short way beyond the darkened doorway, a door stood on the right. A quick listen revealed voices speaking a dark tongue that Kane knew all to well from the Dymrak: Hobgoblins! Kalasandr quickly scouted along the passage, which branched ahead, and found no other immediate threats. The group set for battle, with a plan to draw the Hobgoblins out of the room into the arrows and flaming oil of the party. They readied two battle lines, one at the nearby T-junction, the other near the secret entrance to the hallway. A lantern was on the floor outside the door from which the voices came.
When all was ready, Kalasandr pounded on the door with the hilt of his sword, then sprinted back to join the others. A Hobgoblin opened the door, and with a shout behind to his compatriots, warily approached the lantern sitting on the floor… as the party sprung their ambush! Arrows and bolts flew from the darkness, with the first Hobgoblin to exit the room badly injured. Goblins and Hobgoblins began pouring from the guardroom, turning to defend themselves from their attackers. A savage mêlée ensued, the Hobgoblins cutting down one of the Infantry, and screeching Goblins dragging down one of the Bowmen. Flaming oil was used to block the guardroom door, spreading out the humanoid attackers. Kane’s hideously accurate archery once again began to take its toll, as the recently reequipped Mearl proved nearly untouchable to the humanoids’ weapons. The Goblins managed to fell another Bowman before being skewered on the point of Mearl’s spear, and the last of the foul Goblins died defending the guardroom (with a Morale check of 12!).
The battle over, the party took stock of the wounded, discovering one Bowman blinded in one eye and in poor shape from a head wound, but the other merely in shock. The Infantryman was more seriously injured, unable to walk, and with a punctured lung that rendered him useless. The Mercenaries were demoralized, and took convincing to keep them from leaving for the dubious safety beyond the Monastery’s walls. The guardroom was searched, yielding a few coins and two keys held by the largest Hobgoblin, a champion of his kind, along with a door leading to the landing of a staircase descending deep beneath the earth. It became clear that none of the Mercenaries would have any part of descending into the unknown, and it was decided that clearing the surface buildings of enemies while they still had the Mercenaries’ support was the best course of action. Before leaving the guardroom, the handle of the door to the stairs was trapped, a sharpened burr filed into the handle by Kalasandr, and laced with the centipede poison Belgarath had extracted.
Moving more cautiously now, the party headed back to the nearby T-junction, discovering another secret entrance, this one leading into the enormous chamber supported by pillars carved in the shape of Orcus that they had found their way into after torching the Goblins’ lair in the courtyard. Finding it empty, they returned to the T-junction and took the other branch, passing a corridor to the left before arriving at a dead end. A search for secret doors yielded nothing, and the group doubled back to the corridor they had passed. This ended in a pair of doors, and Kalasandr and Kane could hear raucous, deep voices in an inhuman tongue on the other side of the one at the end of the hall.
Once again the party prepared an ambush at another nearby T-junction, military oil spread in the corridor between them and the door. Kalasandr bravely cracked the door and peeked inside. Occupying the room were two of the largest, ugliest Ogres to inhabit The Hill, oblivious to Kalasandr’s eavesdropping. Gaining his courage, the thief drew his bow and fired a shot at the nearest Ogre! He cursed as he realised he had missed, the arrow shattering against the far wall. The Ogres looked up from their drinking and arguing, but, seeing nothing, returned to their gambling. Once again, Kalasandr quietly pushed the door just wide enough to fire an arrow, again missing! This time the Ogres stood from their revelry, searching for the source of the cracking noise. As the larger of the two lifted the broken remains of Kalasandr’s arrow, the thief attempted a final shot, burying an arrow in the back of the smaller Ogre!
Roaring in pain to his companion, the Ogre turned in time to see Kalasandr ducking out of the door. The hall behind the thief shook as the two beasts charged after him – straight into the missile fire of the party and their Mercenaries. The first Ogre was felled by the party’s concentrated attacks and flaming oil, but the second, larger brute charged up the corridor. The wardogs were loosed against the thing, as Mearl moved forward to hold the hallway. He managed to stab the beast with his spear, but then, howling in rage at the dogs’ attacks, the mighty Ogre brought his club down on Mearl’s head, smashing Belgarath’s loyal manservant flat with a single blow! The brutal attack was its last, as the wardogs lunged in and bore the beast down beneath their slavering jaws.
With the Ogres dead, the relieved party quickly searched the room, discovering a stash of coins, and an old, flea-infested sack they tossed aside. It was then that they heard noises from the only other door. Bracing for further battle, the party unbarred and opened the door, only to discover four unarmed and primitive hominids. It was quickly ascertained that no language was shared between the party and these beings, and a few tense moments were spent creating inventive gestures and pantomime before it was decided they were friend, or at least not hostile. The Neanderthals were grateful for their release from their Ogre captors, and left with the party.
The remaining room near this end of the buildings was searched and found empty, so the party headed back to the far side of the complex to the unexplored branch of the first T-junction they had come to after entering via the secret door. They moved along the corridor to the end, assuming (incorrectly) that all the doors on their left led to the outside (they had previously noted multiple doors in the exterior southern wall of the main monastery buildings). The door at the end of the corridor was locked, and the party discovered it opened with the key they had taken from Hobgoblin champion killed in the guardroom. The room beyond was unexpected, both in its contents and shape. Filled with supplies, including food, weapons, and armour, and extending past where the party believed the outside of the monastery to be. The supplies were enough for an army, and they looted what they thought were the most valuable items, and equipped the Neanderthals with leather armour and spears.
Re-locking the storeroom behind them (and leaving the supplies to the Hobgoblin army), they began checking the remaining doors in the corridor, knowing from the dimensions of the storeroom they did not lead to the outside.
The first of these was stuck, and, when battered open, led to an unused chamber. The second led to a shrine to Orcus, and the entire party felt immediately uncomfortable upon entering the room, with air temperature noticeably colder than the hallway. The dogs began to whine and pace, with the Mercenaries and Neanderthals become restive and unwilling to wait in the chamber. A massive statue to He Who Shall Not Be Named dominated the room, with a shallow trough the size of body built in to the floor before it. Old stains marked the floor of the trough, and the party waited in uneasy silence as Kalasandr climbed the statue and removed the large amethyst gems set into its eye sockets. A collective sigh of relief echoed through the chamber when the thief prised the gems free without incident, and the entire group moved back to the hallway.
With no apparent areas missed on their map, the party finally decided to retreat from the Monastery, and made their way to the home of the elderly sisters. The rescued Neanderthals headed off through the far end of the clearing, presumably to rejoin their own kind. The party spent the night, healing and resting, and in the morning received Rosalinda’s aid in identifying the nature the shield they had taken from the Hobgoblin champion: an enchanted, round, wooden shield +1 emblazoned with the symbol of the Callarii elves. Saying their goodbyes to the sisters, they made the uneventful trip back across the river to Guido’s Fort…