A clean but barren infirmary was found, allowing the adventurers to stock up on mundane healing supplies as well as a hobgoblin “medicine stick” (an item which initial experimentation deemed non-magical). Moving west they encountered an empty guard post that seemed to contain the much-sought after back door to the Redoubt, followed by a bare prison cell further south. Near the gaol, the passage made an abrupt turn to end at a blank wall. Their suspicions raised, the party began to search for hidden doors.
Mock discovered that the wall did indeed pivot and opened the secret door cautiously. Beyond was a disused bedchamber, its hundred-plus years-old furniture rickety and dust-laden. Faded broadsheets advertising pit fights and the brutal warriors who earned their living on the sands adorned the walls. A chest stood near the secret entrance, and it was to this container that Krunk turned his attentions (and 10’ pole).
As the berserker prodded and pushed at the chest’s lid, the rest of the party watched in horror as two gloomy forms stepped from the flickering shadows to attack. These creatures were black as pitch and devoid of features, looking like horrible silhouettes with evil intentions. The pair converged on Krunk, but he was able to retreat without injury. Waren and Aieglos brought up their holy symbols and attempted to drive the creature away from the party, but their efforts had no effect. Had their gods abandoned them in their time of need?
Mock strode to the front of the line, wielding Froghammer in his grasp. With a grunt, he shredded the first shadow to ethereal ribbons with the enchanted blade, sundering its incorporeal form and sending it back to whatever foulness birthed it. The rest of the band’s attacks proved to be less effective against the remaining shadow, passing through its form without effect.
As the party retreated back through the secret door, the shadow touched Mock and the half-orc barbarian felt his strength begin to desert him as a chill settled into his bones. Krunk slammed the portal shut in the creature’s featureless ebony face and Anwar read quickly from a prepared scroll, sealing the door with his magicks to prevent the creature from opening it and following the party’s retreat. As the enchantment limned the door, the party breathed a collective sigh of relief.
That’s when the shadow stepped THROUGH the sealed door and continued it attacks!
Mock took another blow, weakening him yet again, but despite the chill, he has able to bring his sword up before him. As the rest of the party moved further away from the melee, Mock slashed twice. Like a mist before the wind, the shadow’s form flickered and dissipated. The party was victorious!
But they had locked themselves out of the room for an hour and a half.
Vowing to return, the party head back to the east, tentatively making their way through the “discotheque” and heading south through an empty guard post. The corridor before them contained a trio of doors, each of which they carefully breached. One was an armory, another a storeroom, while the third was Commander Kura’s own quarters.
The commander’s chamber held a table littered with maps, battle plans, and communiqués. Amongst these was a pair of letters. One was from the hobgoblin warlord and would-be emperor Zoka, who regretfully told the commander of Stonehell’s hobgoblins that the promised reinforcements would not be arriving do to unforeseen circumstances. Apparently, the hobgoblins’ weapon supplier, an unnamed human, has allowed the latest shipment to fall into the hands of raiders. Zoka had summoned the human agent to the “Citadel of Iron Might and Furious Devotion” on the “18th day of Bile and Horn” to explain himself and to discuss how to correct this situation. Zoka hinted that the human would survive his audience, but that Kura should explore the feasibility of removing human agents from the hobgoblins’ supply chain and replacing them with more trustworthy (a.k.a. hobgoblin) allies.
The second letter was from the aforementioned human agent, identified solely as “J”, explaining that the weapon shipment had been lost when an outside factor raided the agents who were responsible for delivering the arms to the hobgoblins. The weapons were deemed unrecoverable, as they were now likely in the possession of either these unnamed raider or their superiors. “J” revealed he would be meeting with Warlord Zoka to improve security and indicated that he would meet with Commander Kura on their “usual neutral ground” in the days after the audience. The dates in this letter again referred to the month of Bile and Horn.
Aieglos, with his command of the hobgoblin tongue was able to deduce that the month of Blood and Horn was a period on the goblin calendar that roughly coincided with the current month of The Bloom. The day numerations were not identical, so there was some uncertainty as to when the 18th day fell, but the party suspects with some careful planning, they may be able to assault the hobgoblin fortress on Hob’s Hill so as to catch the human traitor as well. More research would have to be undertaken when the returned to town. The party laid claim to their first map of the northeastern region of the Kinan-M’Nath from amongst the commander’s paper as well—a resource that will assist them greatly in the weeks to come.
All this intelligence paled in comparison to the contents of the strongbox that was found beneath the commander’s large campaign bed. With a twist of one of the looted keys, the party laid eyes on a sizeable sum of treasure—six thousand gold marks and a few pieces of jewelry to be exact. Triumphant and gleeful, the party laden themselves with booty and headed out of the room.
A brief peek to the south revealed the elite hobgoblins’ barracks and an east-bound passage that showed signs of someone or something breaking through the corridor’s stone walls. A cursory glance was all the party had time for, as their calculations indicated that Anwar’s hold portal spell was about to expire. The party hurried back the way they came, returning to the secret door just as the magic faded away.
In the pit fighter’s room, the chest that Krunk had been examining when the shadows attacked proved to be a disappointment, but a dusty tapestry occluded richer fare. In niches hidden behind the hanging fabric lay three massive chests. After nearly falling victim to one of the chest’s traps, the party was astounded to find more coinage than they had ever seen in their lives. Mixed amongst the silver, electrum, and gold were a few glass vials and ornamental pieces of jewelry. The party began unloading every spare piece of equipment they carried so as to be able to haul the treasure up to the surface. It took some doing, but, much like the old “fox, chicken, and chicken feed” conundrum, with some effort and calculations, the party could get every last coin out of the dungeon. Of course, only Warren and Aieglos would have a weapon in hand and the party’s progress would be at a snail’s pace, but it could be done.
The party left the Redoubt, straining under the great weight but joyous, and headed towards the surface. As they reached the landing between the second and first levels, they paused to plan. They knew that there had been a group of bugbears lounging just outside the scene of the party-induced kobold massacre for some time. Each foray down to the second level, the bugbears let them pass without incident, merely smiling a little too much and snickering whenever the party left with another dead companion. The adventurers suspected that they wouldn’t get past the bugbears so easily this time, not with such an obvious fortune in their hands. The party began debating on how to approach this problem, sending Krunk with torch up to the first level to see if the bugbears were still at their posts. The barbarian poked his head up over the stairs, his torch burning brightly in the dungeon gloom, and saw two bugbears eyeing him with interest from the room beyond. The berserker quickly turned and descended back down the stairs.
The party began to debate—loudly—amongst themselves as to the best course of action. It was finally decided that they would send three of the fighters ahead without treasure to try and launch a surprise attack on the bugbears, hoping to dispatch them quickly before gathering up the treasure and limping quickly to the surface. Aieglos, Mock, and Hoover ascended the stairs…but found that the bugbears had vanished. Shit.
The trio returned and the party decided to risk running (crawling, actually) the gauntlet. With sacks in hand and backpacks near leaking, the party reached the first level and made a beeline for the surface, expecting an attack at any time. They had made good progress when they reached the portcullis they needed to bypass before having a straight shot back to the H Room.
“Well, well, well,” a gruff voice chuckled from the darkness as the party reached the lowered gate blocking their way. “What have we here?”
Stepping out of the gloom behind them was a quartet of bugbears backed up by five kobolds bearing javelins. It was an obvious stick-up job so the party discarded parley after a brief attempt and drew their weapons. The bugbears and kobolds launched themselves at the party.
As the two forces locked in combat, one of the bugbears and the kobolds ran south down the T-intersection near the portcullis. It was obvious that they intended to cut off the party’s retreat to the surface. And although this division of forces left the party facing only three bugbears, the giant goblinoids’ first attack struck down Hoover, sending the ranger into unconsciousness and rapidly approaching death. Krunk, Waren, and Mock ran to the back of the party to hold off the bugbears, leaving scrawny Anwar to handle lifting the portcullis. Aieglos sent arrows flying at the bugbear in the rear rank. The party honestly believed that they had met their doom in Stonehell.
The fighters and bugbears clashed at the rear, with wounds taken on both side. Anwar struggled to raise the gate, failing once before his feeble body, strengthened by adrenaline and fear, lifted the iron bars above his head. He stood there, his legs trembling under the weight, and gave serious thought to abandoning his comrades to their fate. Aieglos began shoving bags of treasure under the gate as quickly as he could.
At the rear of the party, the adventurers slowly began to gain the upper hand. Finally, thanks to the “Chop While They Drop” rule and really lousy bugbear hit points, the party dispatched the last of their assailants and quickly gathered up their belongings. A healing potion was poured down Hoover’s throat to get him ambulatory. As they dashed through the portcullis and turned north, a flurry of javelins came flying out of the gloom to their south. The kobolds had flanked them and now stood on the far side of a pit trap hurling their tiny missiles. A few struck home, but thanks to the scaly dog-men’s abysmal strength, only minor damage was inflicted. The party threw all caution to the wind and ran blindly towards where they secreted their ladder, hoping to get out of the dungeon before a wandering monster check indicated they met something on their flight to safety.
Finding their ladder where they left it, the party finally reached the Pit of Sheer Annoyance and began to slowly cross it. From the heavens above, some not-quite-benign deity started laughing maniacally and reached into his celestial miniatures case.
Mock and Waren had reached the far side of the pit when the sound of moaning and the stench of rotting flesh assailed them. Mock’s infravision detected nothing and the party’s lantern was on the far side of the pit, leaving the duo in darkness. When the party finally got a torch lit and handed it across the covered trap, the barbarian and cleric found themselves about to be over-shambled by seven zombies!
Waren was able to send three of the loathsome things fleeing before his god’s might, leaving Mock to dispatch the remainder with the help of Krunk, who had dashed across the pit. All the while, the rest of the party continued hauling loaded sacks across their increasingly-worn ladder. As the last zombie fell, the party struggled up the stairs and into the fresh air and fading light of late afternoon. Wearily and slowly, they headed back to town, cringing each time a die was rolled to check for wandering monsters. But Chance was with them and they reached the town of Blackpool after sundown on the 19th day of The Bloom.
Thus ended the first game session of 2011. I sense a spending spree on the horizon…