Saturday, April 9, 2011

Watchfires & Thrones Session #41

The band made it back the evil priest’s hidden quarters without encountering any opposition. The Citadel seemed quiet—perhaps too much so. Once they closed the secret door behind them, the party collapsed to the floor, exhausted. It had been a long and draining day. Mars and Korlack tucked themselves in for a long sleep so they could recover their spells while the rest of the band divided up a watch schedule.

Grumble was on alert first and towards the end of his vigil he heard the sounds of hobgoblin voices from seemingly on the other side of the priest’s western wall. For a brief moment, he heard what sounded like a voice speaking Common, but it was abruptly cut off. The voices faded as quickly as they had appeared, and the dwarven wrestler woke Lyrax to take his shift.

The human archer sat quietly in the dim room, his eyes and ears sharp to catch the sound of any approaching danger. His watchfulness was rewarded at the middle of his shift when he heard a “click” come from the western wall of the room. A section of wall swung open on concealed hinges to reveal a pair of very surprised hobgoblins coming to fetch their priest. A party of hardened adventurers was not what they expected!

Before they could raise a hue and cry, Lyrax nocked an arrow and fired. His first shot rammed its way through the lead hobgoblin’s right eye, slaying it on the spot. The fighting man immediately nocked a second missile and sent it into the remaining hobgoblin’s heart, dropping him to the ground with the clatter of splint mail. His actions failed to awaken his exhausted companions. Dragging the two dead hobgoblins into the room, he shut the secret door and barricaded it with their corpses.

An hour later, Baragkus awoke to take his shift and was surprised to find the room a bit more crowded than it was when he went to sleep. Lyrax filled him in on the events that took place during his watch and then settled down to catch some rest in the corner by the room’s only visible door.

Baragkus leaned against his great sword and proceeded to count the minutes until it was time to wake the rest of the band and get back to slaying hobgoblins. The gods, perhaps sensing his impatience, were kind enough to send another band of hobgoblins, this time accompanied by a pair of goblins, to the priest’s quarters. The previous duo had been dispatched to fetch the evil cleric and someone was beginning to wonder what happened to them.

The door to the room swung open and Baragkus charged towards the opening portal, catching the two hobgoblins off guard. The opening door thumped into Lyrax, jostling him awake and he looked up to see Baragkus swinging a sword right above him. Wiping the sleep from his eyes, he too caught sight of the hobgoblins and shoved the door fiercely back at the orange-skinned intruders.

Baragkus wounded his first foe and Lyrax’s shove sent the second off balance. From behind the hobgoblins, one of their goblin lackeys hurled a knife into the fray, but missed. It clattered to the floor, awakening Cullen, who sprang to his feet and readied his short bow.

The melee in the doorway continued, but the noise was insufficient to wake most of the party. Mars looked up for a moment before turning over and drawing his blanket over his head. Korlack snored away. Grumble nuzzled closer to Cleopos, dreaming of hairy, short women. Cullen and the goblin continued to exchange missiles and the thief finally dropped his target.

At this time, Baragkus slew his own foe and Lyrax climbed to his feet and drew his sword, backing up the burly warrior. The remaining goblin stepped up to close the gap and was swiftly dispatched, leaving only the second hobgoblin. That poor soul barely had time to consider retreat before it too collapsed in its death throes in a pool of blood. Baragkus and Lyrax dragged the corpses into the increasingly crowded room, mopped up the blood in the hall as best they could, and waited out the last remaining hour of the “night’s” watch.

The rest of the band woke up shortly thereafter and wine was drunk, spells prepared, prayers said, and weapons readied. Once set, the band departed the room through the newly revealed secret door and found themselves in the temple they had recently stumbled upon. Their map indicated that unopened door stood waiting in the hall outside and the party vacated the fane to continue their search for the hobgoblin command.

Out in the hall they found the first door locked, but Cullen was able to pick the simple security measure. Behind the door lay a dining hall, gloomy and empty. Half the party had ventured into it when the sound of a door opening at the room’s dark southern end was heard. This was immediately followed by a yelp of surprise, the dropping of crockery, and the sound of the door slamming shut. Goblin servants, the party surmised.

A moment later, Gareth shouted, “Dere makin’ a ruun for it!” and pointed down the hallway. A second door had opened south of the party’s position and a quartet of goblin servants were running down the corridor. Gareth, torch in hand and murder in his eyes, took off after them and the rest of the party swiftly followed.

The four goblins reached a third door and began shouting for aid. The door swung open and they vanished inside with the party hot on their heels. Mars and Gareth reached the door first and saw that the chamber beyond held four hobgoblin guards in addition to the goblin servants. The two clashed in the doorway with the first pair of hobgoblin guards while the rest of the group fell into position behind the cleric and dwarf, readying missile weapons or moving to strike around the two combatants.

The party’s missiles quickly dropped the goblins, but the two remaining hobgoblins flipped a pair of tables over and took cover behind their thick oaken tops. Gareth took a near fatal blow and was forced to retreat, allowing Grumble to move forward and press his own attack. Moments later, Mars and Grumble had cleared the doorway and the party slowly edged into the room, eyes peeled and weapons ready.

Fisk and Baragkus were the first to catch sight of the two remaining hobgoblins crawling across the floor behind their impromptu barricades, making their way towards a door on the opposite end of the room. They fired and killed one of the slinking guards, but the second reached the door and rushed through it with the party close behind. The door opened into another north-south corridor and their quarry turned south, reaching another closed door just a short distance from the guard room. As the hobgoblin threw open the door and tried to escape, he was cut down and the party stood triumphant yet again. Plus, they now suspected that their ultimate goal, the hobgoblin warlord and his inner circle, lay to the south in the direction of the guard’s flight.

The party collected themselves and continued along to the south. The corridor split and they took the southern fork before finding themselves in a long east-west corridor. Two side passages split off from the main corridor. The northern one ended in a single door, one held shut by a wooden wedge kicked under the portal, and the southern one terminated in two doors on either side of the hall. The wedged door seemed the more interesting and, after making sure it was quiet beyond and untrapped, the party burst into the room ready for anything.

Anything except of a pair of gagged prisoners tied to two chairs, that is.

The party freed the duo, a human freebooter named Marlowe Freemann and an elf named Kejair. The two had been hired by one of the local homesteads to determine where the spate of current attacks against the frontier forts had come from. The two arrived on Hob’s Hill to find that the knoll was alive with hobgoblin patrols. Someone had stirred up the hornets’ nest and they were themselves captured by one of the search parties. They were dragged back to the Citadel and question by the hobgoblin warlord before being stowed away in this room while the hobgoblins awaited the Citadel’s evil priest to come and assist their questioning. But, for some reason, the sinister minister never showed up…

Passing out weapons to the armored but unarmed adventurers, the party learned that the warlord’s throne room lay just down the hall and that he was there holding court with a half-dozen or so other hobgoblins. A rough sketch was made and the party, now two members stronger, left the room and headed back to the main corridor.

Fearing a rush of reinforcements at their back during their assault, the party turned down the southern passage to see what lay in those rooms. Both turned out to be barracks, but only one was currently occupied. A six-count of sleeping hobgoblins lay in the bunks of the manned quarters and they were quietly dispatched with knives across their throats. With that bloody work finished, the party headed to the hobgoblin court and, plan prepared, threw open the room’s massive double doors to rain holy hell down on the unsuspecting occupants within.

The party rushed in to confront a quartet of hobgoblins who stood around a fire pit in the center of the cross-shaped room. At the opposite end, atop a great stone and wood throne, sat a hulking, scarred specimen of hobgoblinkind that could only be Warlord Zoka; a pair of brawny bodyguards flanked his throne, spears clenched in calluses hands.

Baragkus, Grumble, and Kejair charged up to face the quartet of hobgoblins while Korlack and Mars intoned magic words to drop incapacitating enchantments upon the hobgoblins. Mars successfully held Warlord Zoka as he sprung to his feet and pointed at the intruders; Korlack’s sleep spell put three of the hobgoblins—and the elf, Kejair—into supernatural slumber.

One of the Warlord’s bodyguards raced into the fray and another pair of hobgoblins appeared from the southern wing of the room where they had been drinking draughts of fearsomely bad rot gut from a large keg. The other bodyguard stood his ground to defend his motionless commander.

Lyrax and Fisk began sending flight after flight of arrows towards the Warlord, many of which struck home with bloody thuds. Gareth, nearly incapacitated from his wounds, and Korlack, now spell-less, waited in the hall outside, shouting encouragement to their companions. Marlowe and Cullen slinked into the room, looking to position themselves for the best sneak attack.

The bodyguard kicked one of the sleeping hobgoblins awake as he reached the battle and the other two charged in to clash with the two fighting men and the spider priest. Blows were exchanged with ferocity and accuracy, and the floor was soon awash with blood hobgoblin, dwarf, and human. Marlowe approached the inert commander and was blocked by the second bodyguard—and he soon found himself in trouble! The bodyguard was more than a match for the highwayman, and only by sacrificing his shield did he survive a blow that would have surely slain him. Baragkus and Grumble both downed their foes and rushed to their new comrade’s assistance. Mars held his ground, keeping the remaining hobgoblin from slaying the sleeping Kejair, while Cullen, off in one corner, began lobbing shafts at the hobgoblin commander as well. Soon, Warlord Zoka looked like a porcupine, but still refused to fall (I wonder why?)

The combined forces of Baragkus and Grumble were enough to drop the second bodyguard, saving Marlowe, and Mars downed his own foe immediately thereafter. When the last of the remaining hobgoblins fell, the party approached Zoka with the intent to dispatch or capture him. They then learned that he was very dead, having been slain by an arrow sometime ago, but unable to collapse due to Mars’ magical hold. Victory! The Hobgoblin Menace was no more!

The party searched the room, finding both the Warlord’s and the bodyguards’ chambers attached to the throne room. Coin was located, a necklace looted, and a curious crimson ring adorned the Warlord’s finger. Yet, something was missing.

A renewed and more intensive search finally uncovered a secret treasure vault containing two very trapped chests. The Warlord’s key easily bypassed their protections, however, and a bevy of coins and several muddy brown and gray potion bottles were found within them. The party encumbered themselves with this loot and started back towards the surface, looking forward to the trip back to Blackpool with word of their victory.

It was about that time when the floor opened up underneath Baragkus, Grumble, Marlowe, and Lyrax, sending them tumbling down a concealed chute in the corridor outside the throne room. Mars and Kejair teetered on the edge of the precipice before them for a moment before the elf went tumbling after the foursome. Mars, his own plunge arrested by Korlack, looked first at the mage, Cullen, Gareth, Fisk, and Cleopos, and then down at the long, dark, sloping chute in front of them…

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