fter defeating the goblin raid the night before, the party gathered early in the morning to track the war band back to where they came from. Talvon, wearing resplendent chain mail and swords instead of the usual bartender apron, joined the adventurers along with the two Farreach soldiers and my student. Ellamin, though he wasn’t joining them, passed out some spare healing and neutralize poison potions he had that might prove useful on the journey. Prepared and eager, the party mounted up and followed the obvious trail the goblins had left.
After several hours of tracking it became obvious that the party was heading towards The Defile, and after another hour they indeed found themselves on the edge of the great swamp. The horses would be useless once they entered, so my student, who had no desire to journey further, courageously agreed to take the mounts back to the inn.
The horses now safely on their way, the party checked their gear and stepped into the murky darkness. Progress was slow, and by the time the sun had passed midday they had advanced only a few miles. Talvon’s tracking skill was put to the test, but with several dead ends and frequent backtracking, he was able to stay on the trail.
Dangerous creatures shadowed them on every move, and mysterious ripples in the water kept the party on guard. One of the Farreach soldiers was bitten by a snake, and the party was attacked by a large crocodile, but otherwise the adventurers continued through The Defile without further incident.
Dusk was approaching when a clearing was spotted ahead. The ground rose up out of the swamp and a large cliff face could be seen through the mist. Creeping to the edge of the treeline, the party saw lush, deep grass sloping up to a large outcropping. Set within the rock wall was a pair of massive stone doors, artfully carved with runes and intricate patterns. A pile of rocks to the left of the door was evidence that a landslide had occurred some time ago. The rockfall had broken the hinges on one of the doors, and it lay slanted and partially opened.
In front of the door, arguing loudly, stood a massive orc and a half dozen goblins. The orc, obviously the leader of the band, was angrily ordering the goblins to enter the complex, cursing the rest of his army who had apparently ran off the previous day. The goblins, for their part, seemed unwilling to obey the orc, who was getting increasingly agitated.
The adventurers attacked from the treeline, showering the goblins with arrows and sling bullets. The first few goblins fell under the onslaught, and the party, led by the dwarven monk, charged from the trees and attacked! The goblins fell easily, but the orc proved more difficult. Wielding two swords, the brute waded in swinging viciously. In the end, shear numbers defeated him and he died on the grassy field, the killing blow handed to him by no less than the wizard!
The party bound their wounds, consumed some healing potions, and splinted the cleric’s leg, having been broken by a terrible blow from the orc. Thus restored, everyone steeled their nerves and crawled through the narrow opening into the cavern beyond.
The cavern turned out to be a finished chamber, with worked stone walls and tiled floors. A great pillar dominated the center of the room, and large webs covered the walls and floors. Everyone prepared for the worst, and as expected four large spiders emerged from the webs and attacked. The party defeated the spiders, but not without injuries. One of the soldiers was poisoned and needed to use a potion, and both the cleric and wizard had used up all their spells.
With the spider threat gone, the room was inspected further. Three more doors like the one they had entered were set into the three other walls. Each had identical carvings, though the monk noticed that the runes each faintly glowed with a different color. There were a few fresh goblin corpses, wrapped in spider silk, spread around the room. In one corner was an old skeleton, hidden within some webs, slumped against the wall with a yellow, crystalline rod across it’s lap. The large column in the center of the room was iron. Worked into the surface of the column was a seething mass of tentacles, with many faces, their mouths open and screaming in terror, trapped within their grip.
It was agreed that the party needed rest, and they secured the front entrance and got what rest they could. The night passed uneventfully, the few creatures that wandered outside past the main doors being uninterested in the occupants.
Once awake, the adventurers further inspected the column. They discovered that it was not resting solidly on the floor and could be slightly turned. The mouths of the faces were actually holes that went deep into the column. After further experimentation, they learned that inserting the yellow rod into a specific hole unlocked the column, and as they slowly turned it a grinding could be heard and the yellow door to their left slowly swung open.
Inside was a small altar, with two floor standing braziers on either side. A small pedestal, about three feet tall and with the same carvings as the large column, stood in the middle of the room. In one corner was another old skeleton, it’s robes similar to the one in the main chamber. Placed on the altar was a staff with a large, blue crystal attached to the top. Further inspection revealed a hole in the top of the pedestal, which was the perfect size for the blue staff. When the braziers were lit, and the staff placed into the pedestal, a blue beam of light shot from the staff and struck the large column in the main room.
Rotating the large column allowed the light to enter one mouth, where it shot out another in a different direction and struck the blue door. As before, the doors ground slowly open revealing a new passage beyond.
Once in the room, the party observed a row of skeletons, silent and still, and centered in the room another pedestal similar to the one in the altar room. On top of this pedestal sat a golden, jeweled chalice. A clear liquid half filled the cup, and as the players watched a small drop fell from a crack in the ceiling to splash in the chalice.
The rogue advanced to the cup, and with a glance and a smile back at the rest of the party lifted it from the pedestal. Immediately the skeleton guardians animated and attacked! With an outstanding effort by the cleric at turning them, the party quickly mopped up the cowering enemies.
Further inspection revealed a secret door at the back of the chamber. Beyond the door was a hallway, completely blocked by a massive cave-in. Half buried beneath the boulders was yet another skeleton, arm outstretched and grasping another staff, this one with a green crystal attached to the top.
The adventurers returned to the altar room, swapped the blue staff for the green one, and once again rotated the large column so the green beam entered the column and shot out, striking and opening the last door in the main chamber.
Beyond the door was a small room, with hooks on one wall and a rotting bench beneath them. Moldy, tattered robes hung from several of the hooks, identical to the robes worn by the skeletons with the staves. Two doors on opposite sides of the room were the only other items of interest.
Opening one of the doors revealed a small antechamber. Against the far wall was a stack of chests, with gold and silver coins scattered on them and around the floor. Assuming the worst, the rogue inspected the floor in front of her for traps, and successfully discovered a cleverly hidden spiked pit. She confidently strode past it, only to stumble into a second trap she had missed. Only her quick reflexes saved her from falling in, and she received only a minor injury. The chests turned out to be empty, a decoy to catch the unwary and the greedy, though the coins scattered about were real enough.
The other door opened into a large room, with varied floor tiles spread out in a uniform pattern. The rogue easily determined that the floor was riddled with pressure plates, so many that it would be impossible to step on the floor without triggering them. With no other alternative, she gingerly stepped out on one of the tiles.
The tile depressed, and a popping sound was heard as some powder dropped out through a hole in the ceiling. Once in the air, the powder ignited and showered the rogue with flame, continuing to the floor where it spread out to the adjacent tiles. Thinking she had discerned a pattern, the rogue decided to jump to another tile, skipping one in the process. Unfortunately the tile depressed, and she was rewarded with yet another shower of flame.
After further inspection it was discovered that some of the tiles were subtly different, such that they formed a zig-zag pattern across the room. Following this pattern the party advanced safely across the room to a blank wall. A quick search revealed a secret door, and it was opened.
From within the small room beyond, a large hulking creature bellowed and charged! The party retreated back across the floor, grateful that the traps seemed to have been disabled. The hulk stooped low, squeezing through the door, and attacked. The creature was massive, standing nearly eight feet tall and weighing hundreds of pounds. Scars and wounds criss-crossed his body such that it looked like he was stitched together from numerous creatures. Though huge and heavily muscled, the creature moved slowly and weakly, and after surrounding it the party eventually whittled it down till it was destroyed.
With this room now secured, the party prepared to advance deeper into the complex, unsure what they would find next or how far they had yet to go.