Will we...or won't we?
He who hesitates...
Session 13, the Hill
Caasi walked into the dim light of the tavern, her eyes taking a moment to adjust. She muttered to herself constantly now, ever since her left arm had been restored. Such close contact with the Immortals had left an indelible mark upon her soul. Across the common room stood the unmistakable silhouette of Endithas Wolfram, the big man looming over his slender elven companion, Kane. As Caasi moved across the room towards the pair, they turned and approached her. Her smile faltered as they walked past her…
“Wait… where are you going?”
“The Hill!” Kane said, barely above a whisper, as if that explained everything.
Caasi frowned at them, momentarily confused, “But… shouldn’t we…? I mean, don’t you think… well, what about a plan?”
“Plan? With our might, there is only one plan: kill the King!” Endithas spat on the floor, as if to emphasize his point.
Heaving a heavy sigh, Caasi followed her companions out into the early morning sun; she was no longer muttering, but still cast her voice low, “I have a baaad feeling about this…”
7th to 10th of Fyrmont, AC 999
Characters: Caasi (Cleric 2), Fodora (Caasi’s Henchman), Endithas Wolfram (Fighter 2), Erasmus (Endithas’ Henchman), Kane (Elven Ranger 2), Gareth Ironhand (Kane’s Henchman, Vaultguard 2), and 1 Wardog and 3 Hunting Dogs belonging to Kane
Mortal Wounds: None
Deaths: 1 Hunting Dog was butchered by Goblin smiths
As had become fairly standard practice now, the group crossed the River and headed straight for the Witches’ cottage, spending the night so as to avoid arriving at the Monastery at sundown. The Sisters were happy to see them, particularly Endithas, and the night passed in pleasant distraction.
Heading out in the morning, they crossed the remains of the Hobgoblin encampment, and discovered a small party of Neanderthals digging through the remains. Simple gestures of friendship quickly established that no harm or threat was intended, and the party moved on, leaving the Neanderthals to their task.
Sometime before noon, the party crossed the dead clearing, and headed up the trail towards the Ruined Monastery. As they drew closer, the scent of burning became apparent, and Kane spotted trails of smoke above the trees. The elf was sent to scout ahead, and, climbing a tree, Kane could see dozens of Hobgoblins in organised groups moving about several fires in the courtyard of the Monastery. Never before had the party seen any significant activity on the surface, and with dozens of the humanoids on open ground, this was clearly more than the six party members could easily handle!
Kane withdrew to report back to the others, and the players then engaged in a nearly two hour discussion of what to do! Plans were made and discarded, with the debate sometimes growing heated in the drive to reach a conclusion. In the end, a consensus was reached: the party would prepare an ambush on the trail, draw out the Hobgoblins, then inflict maximum casualties before fleeing back to the fort to warn the garrison.
The rest of the in-game day was spent digging and concealing a pit (which wouldn’t pass casual inspection, but might be missed in the heat of pursuit), laying military oil (in the pit and before it on the Monastery side), and preparing a spiked barricade 50’ back from the pit. As night was falling, and the Hobgoblins would have the advantage after dark, the party hunkered down to spend the long, cold, dark hours of the night camped around their crude fortifications. Taking watch in pairs, the night passed uneventfully, and in the morning, Kane once again snuck within sight of the courtyard. The Hobgoblins had dispersed somewhat, but there were still at least several dozen milling about, performing some kind of unidentifiable tasks.
Kane once again withdrew back to the group, and another heated argument erupted as the party once again debated a course of action. Eventually it was decided that they would abandon their ambush, and would instead circle around to the eastern side of the Monastery and attempt to enter by stealth, as they had done so many times before. Only Endithas had serious misgivings, as he feared the party could be cut off from the trail to the west of the Monastery, or even trapped in the dungeon below, making their withdrawal much more difficult. In the end, he was overruled, and he grudgingly agreed to the plan.
Circling much wider around the ruins in the opposite direction to their usual approach, the party slipped over the wall into the peaceful courtyard unchallenged. A quick check for tracks revealed none at the secret entrance, although a new barricade had been erected on the inside of the visible door to the courtyard. Entering through the secret door and again checking for tracks revealed no evidence that the Hobgoblins or Goblins knew of the secret back entrance. The group passed through the guardroom, and headed into the dungeon below.
Reaching the bottom of the stairs, the party headed left, and immediately caught sight of firelight and the sound of hammering from the forge they had previously rescued Gareth from. A heavy, guttural voice barked orders in a tongue none could understand. Creeping forward, they spied Goblins manning the forges, overseen by a vicious Bugbear. After a whispered discussion, Kane leapt out, dropping several Goblins by surprise. The rest of the party charged the room, and Kane unleashed his hounds as the Bugbear lashed at the elf’s bow with a cruelly barbed whip. The archer narrowly managed to avoid being disarmed, and as the dogs and Henchmen attacked the Goblins, Endithas traded blows with the Bugbear. The goblinoids were quickly slain, with the only casualty being one of the Hunting Dogs, sliced to pieces by a screaming Goblin. The Belgarath’s skill at husbanding animals was sorely missed as the poor creature expired from its wounds.
The bodies were quickly hidden in Gareth’s former cell off the forge-room, and the group doubled-back the way they had come, and then on through a series of secret corridors to the chapel. Here they explored a small, secret chamber containing a ladder leading through a hole in the floor they had discovered when they first explored the chapel. Caasi clambered to the bottom of the ladder, then through a low tunnel that led to a cage. An unidentifiable piece of rotting meat was the only thing in the cage, but there was also a chimney leading upwards above the cage. This, it was soon determined, connected with the idol to He Who Shall Not Be Named in the chapel, with the cage the apparent source of the giant flies that had left Waevryn’s face permanently scarred. The mystery of the ladder solved, the party headed out through the double-doors to continue their exploration.
Across the corridor from the chapel were a series of three doors, and though the party could hear sounds behind two of them, all were locked, and inaccessible without a thief or the cacophony of an axe. Moving south towards the area a Goblin captive had previously told them the Hobgoblin King was located in, the party paused at a guardroom door where they had been flanked by, and killed, a dark priest; from the room beyond came the sound of many voices, and the group decided to avoid the guards in favour of further exploration.
Moving east, the party pushed through the first door they found. Inside a nearly empty room, two bodies lay on the floor, broken weapons and gear scattered about. One of the two was heavily armoured, the other in light leather, but both had obviously died violent deaths. Worse still, both showed signs of mutilation that suggested they had been chewed. The corpses were checked for items of value, and while Endithas refused the dead man’s plate mail, Erasmus was more than happy to put up with the smell. A quiver and a well-made bow were also taken.
As the bodies were looted, Kane searched the room for secret doors, and to his surprise, stumbled over an object none could see. Baffled by the phenomenon, the party took several minutes to determine that there was a third corpse in the room, but one that remained invisible. The party began stripping the dead woman, breaking limbs to do so, hoping a magical garment was the source of the invisibility. While they were so preoccupied, a secret door that Kane had missed opened behind them...
...and through the hidden entrance charged the hideous Thoul that had been snacking on the bodies! In an instant, it had crossed the gap to Endithas, and slashed the big man with its claws. Endithas dropped like a stone to the floor, paralyzed! The creature then lunged at Kane, who managed to get a single arrow off before narrowly avoiding its talons. The hounds and Gareth then leapt to the defence of their master, and tore the creature limb from limb, the battle over mere moments after it had begun. As the party waited for Endithas to recover, the sickening realisation dawned that the foul creature’s wounds were closing, its body knitting itself back together.
“Burn it with fire!” shouted Kane, and a liberal application of torches left the charred remains inert.
The group finished examining the room, then returned to the problem of the invisible body. Much of its clothing had now been removed, and was visible, but the corpse itself still could not be seen. In a moment of inspiration, Kane felt his way to the corpse’s hands, and discovered a ring. As the ring was removed, the half-naked body abruptly appeared, and the elven archer slipped the ring on his own finger. To the others’ shock, Kane vanished from sight, only reappearing when he removed the ring. The elf immediately donned the ring again, but this time remained entirely visible.
“The magic must work but once a day…” he said, dejectedly. (The player, optimiser that he is, has since read the rulebook, and figured out that it works once per Turn.)
Once Endithas had finally recovered from his paralysis, the group moved through the secret door into the chamber beyond. The room they discovered was a charnel house, the floor littered with bones of every description. Many were smashed, or cracked open, the Thoul seeking the marrow at their centre. Nothing more value was found, and as the party sifted through the grisly remains, the sound of voices came through a door across from the secret entrance the party had used. From what seemed to be a corridor beyond, the sound of arguing Goblins could be heard passing, and as the voices receded the party leapt through portal into the corridor behind them!
Before the Goblins even knew they were under attack, Kane had slain four of the five with arrows to the back. The fifth, realising death had come, shrieked in fear and bolted down the corridor. Kane and Endithas charged after him, but a few strides took them beyond the light of their torches. The Goblin unhampered by darkness, sped away from the party down the corridor. Kane snatched a torch from his dwarven retainer, and sprinted after the fleeing Goblin, the rest of the party mere moments behind. The party knew of only one exit from the dungeon to the surface, and if the Goblin warned the army encamped above, the party would be doomed!
As Kane sprinted after the fleeing humanoid, he could hear he was gaining on it. Suddenly, the sound of its running stopped! Worried it would slip away, he hurled his torch ahead, casting just enough illumination to make out the Goblin’s form standing by a door. In one smooth motion the archer knocked and fired an arrow on the run, but the fateful shot missed, and the Goblin pounded on the door before which it stood. The elf drew another arrow as the rest of the party approached, but before he could fire, the door opened, and the Goblin darted inside! The party ran forward, but the door slammed shut behind their quarry.
Gareth and Endithas hurled themselves against the door, but the heavy portal would not budge. As they frantically checked their map, they realised this was the guardroom they had passed earlier. That meant there was another exit from the room, opening on to a corridor that led back to the dungeon’s exit…
In panic, Kane shouted for them to drop what they didn’t need and run! Equipment was discarded, and Gareth, slowest of all, gave up all but his warhammer and armour, as the party now ran for their very lives. The sprint to the nearest junction seemed to take an eternity, and their breath came in great, whooping gasps; they reached the junction, pausing to listen, only to see a troupe of Hobgoblins come running round the nearest corner.
With a shouted cry the Hobgoblins charged the party, spears levelled to impale them. Endithas and Caasi stood firm in the corridor, and as they received the Hobgoblins attack, a bloody mêlée broke out.
“Back around! Circle behind them and prevent their escape!” shouted Kane, sending the party’s Henchman running back to the barricaded door, before turning to stab past his companions with his spear. The wave of Hobgoblins broke against the wall of steel death that blocked the corridor, and slowly, inexorably, they were cut to pieces.
The Henchmen finally managed to batter the guardroom door aside, and came running up the adjoining corridor behind the Hobgoblins, just as the last of their number was slain. It immediately became clear that neither side of the party had found the Goblin that had alerted the guards, and the group decided a full retreat was in order. The party hustled back to the surface, slipping out their secret entrance, before hopping over the ruined wall and sprinting for the trees. As the party circled wide of the Monastery, a commotion went up in the distance. The Hobgoblin army on the surface had been warned! Fearing pursuit, the group made the best time they could back across the Hill to the river, signalling the far side, then waiting anxiously to be picked up. Only when Boris’ boats passed beyond bowshot of the shore did the group finally relax; they had escaped! Warning would be carried to Ivana, and the garrison of Guido’s Fort would be made ready…