Thieves & Kings

Episode 17 - Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Synopsis : A tale in which our adventurers take a couple days to investigate rumors about a nearby bandit camp of Raider’s Roost, finding it to be a fortified stronghold held by the bandit lord Eirikk Ram and his followers. Examination of the site reveals a deep escape tunnel that leads to a lesser path of the Deep Way, and further exploration leads them to assault the goblin stronghold of the Pit of Chains, slaying its demonic lord and scattering the goblin tribe.

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25th of Uktar, TR 1049 : Green Dagger Farm.

Over an early morning meal at the mothalla, the group discusses their options, and they decide to act on rumors regarding the bandit camp known as Raider’s Roost, located west of Thornkeep, which “Scales” insisted was an important site among the bandits, and where their next most powerful “bandit lord” lived. Perhaps, it was surmised, he might know more about the mysterious Stag Lord.

The group saddled up their horses and set about making their way into and through Thornkeep, passing a small, late caravan of traders headed into town. Further passing through the western timber camp, filled with merry singing and wood-chopping, they reached the crossroads beneath Raider’s Roost, a series of rocky hills north of Hexwater Road, and west of the trail north to Darkmoon Manor.

The adventurers headed into the trees below the heights, leading their horses and finding it thick and snaggled with snow and thorny hedges, but eventually reached the cliffs south of the heights. “Ricochet” tracked some scattered foraging, but nothing too great in the snows below the camp, and located a fairly good place to hide the horses, while they headed around the cliffs to the east, quickly approaching the summit and the main trail to Darkmoon Trail.

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The place was revealed to be the ruins of an abandoned manor, fortified and converted into a small hold for the bandits. And someone was home. The western walls were lower and made of timber, while the taller eastern walls were higher and likely observed. They decided to slip around north of the summit among the easier slope and its woodlands, quickly making their way beyond the remnants of the manor’s pasture and fields, until they could approach through the ruins of some small farms to the western walls.

The group found crossing the 8’-high wooden palisade fairly easy, especially assisted by Kahli, and they were quickly inside the compound, and made their way through the debris of the yard to the door of the small great hall. Listening, they could hear scattered laughter and talk, but make nothing of exactly who or how many. Kahli broke the ice simply by opening the unbarred door, and revealing seven rough-looking foresters sitting around a large wooden table in the small hall on tree stumps. A pair of smoldering iron braziers were in the corners, and a narrow stair along the left wall headed up to the higher level. The small great tower behind them was stuffed with supplies and a ladder rose to the next couple levels.

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The bandits were both surprised caught flat-footed, unable to react (“WHOA! WHOA! WHOA!”), with all but one of them and the leader slain outright, and those two were badly wounded and quickly surrendered. The adventurers identified the leader as the one and only Eirkikk Ram, and he had proven a tough fighter, just not when caught unprepared for a counter-raid. Another trio of bandits tried to sneak over the walls near the stable, apparently having been in that out-building, but scorching rays and eldritch blasts later, two more were dead and the third surrendered (“WHOA! WHOA! WHOA!”). The survivor joined the other two.

They began interrogating the leader Ram about the Stag Lord, and he offered to let them know everything if they let him and his companions go free. Ricochet took the lead in the discussions, though Kahli seemed the least likely to let them survive, but Ricochet gave his word and the bandits seemed to trust this.

They claimed to have never met the actual Stag Lord, but they had met their agents a couple times since they had taken over this site some months ago. Each time, the agents of the Stag Lord, identified by their silver badge, and matching the descriptions of the two badge-holders the adventurers had previously slain, had come seeking fealty in their pillaging to the Stag Lord, but Ram had trusted in the defenses of his little fort enough that he and his were safe enough. They learned little else. The bandits, after some discussion on the matter, in which Kahli was the least supportive, and Ricochet the most vocal, were each given their boots and regular clothes, a sack of food from their own supplies and sent out the door. They quickly disappeared into the early-winter woods.

Searching the compound they found the stables empty, the other building to be a storehouse filled with typical supplies (provisions, ale, some blankets, torches and other essential goods), but otherwise fairly empty. The upper level of the great hall was stuffed with a dozen bedrolls, and a large trunk sealed by a common enough padlock (DC 15), found a fine masterwork longsword, a well-made pair of fur-lined winter boots, a potion, a pouch of assorted gemstones, a sack of gold coins and third filled with various coins of all sorts of origins. The supplies in the hall seemed the best of the lot, mostly sausages, cheese, dried fruit, three barrels of ale and a bundle of blankets.

Surmising there might be more hidden somewhere, the group thought about where a bandit might hide their special treasures, and “Sprout” identified the small great tower foundations. They began removing the barrels and other supplies stored there, piling them about the rest of the hall, and found one old barrel in the corner had sunken into the clay of the floor, and would not budge. Unable to figure out how to open it, “Shiv” used his Wand of Secrets to reveal it was indeed a secret door (or a trap), and Siusaidh “Sweet” Ironhand made short work of it, dismantling it to reveal a narrow 3’-wide shaft dropping 30’ into a small chamber below, accessed by ancient iron rungs.

Suspecting the worst, Scales quickly found the second rung heading down to be trapped, and disabled it by forcing one of his iron spikes under the rung to disable it somewhat, and telling the rest to avoid it. Below they found a small 10′×15′ cellar room of masonry, with a rough wooden table along one wall and a narrow 5’-wide rough passage hewn into one wall. On the table were twenty-five clay flasks of sweet wine, engraved with a purple-painted oval (no known vintage mark), and fourteen (14) silver trade bars (common coster marks : 5-lbs silver, 25 gp each). Below the table were a pair of fine Hepekerian nomad’s saddles embossed with silver and studded with many small turquoise gemstones (900 gp each). Kahli downed one of the flasks to determine if its was a magical potion, but only found it to be tasty, fine purple wine (one pint per flask, 5 gp each).

The adventurers retrieved some torches from the common supplies in the hold, and headed down the small 5’-wide tunnel, finding it head in roughly the same direction (they think), though having numerous curves and places where the raw stone had been carved and other places where it ran smooth and untouched. Travelling for nearly 500 paces, they entered another small chamber, this time a natural cave, 40’-long and about 15’-wide, with a narrower 3’-wide and 5’-high tunnel along the right-hand wall. This new passage travelled steeply down, with roughened floor to make the descent easier, for another 600 or so steps before entering a rough-hewn 10′×10′ chamber with no exits. Once more using the Wand of Secrets, they discovered a secret door directly opposite to the tunnel into the room.

Examining the site, Sprout found a clever slit in the wall above the suspected site, that opened the door by placing a dagger within and twisting slightly. The door ground open, pulling into the chamber slightly, and then rising into the ceiling, revealing its complex mechanical apparatus while open. Beyond lay a 20’-wide tunnel, flat and clear along its floor, rising perhaps 10’-15’ in a gentle arch above. The newest tunnel ran to both the right and left, off into the darkness, and a wagon could pass along it easily, without touching either side of the tunnel. They closed the passage behind them, ensuring there was a similar opening slit in the wall, and Kahli made a mark with charcoal on the wall of the tunnel opposite, to mark where it lay.

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Taking the right hand passage, they began walking, marvelling at the tunnel, some distance deep under the earth, and easily passed along. Strange purple lights lit the walls in places, and those with Darkvision could see a rainbow of rock formations all along their journey. The passage twisted and turned here and there, sometimes around a sinkhole along one side, sometimes across a narrow fissure with a cunningly carved arch. Debris had been carefully pushed against the sides of the passage, or filled pits and cracks in places, smoothing the floor, though no one could detect and general direction either up or down. After an hour of walking (in an unknown direction), the group quickly began to recognize they had possibly found some smaller branch of the Deep Way, the Underdark’s trade road. (“WHOA! WHOA! WHOA! Where are we going?”)

Taking stock of this new information, and having no idea where it might lead, the group agreed that they would return to the surface and take a nice long rest in the bandit fort they had recently cleared. Once rested after their long trips to the fort and now underground, they could return and explore this new discovery at their leisure. They turned around, and headed back to the site of the secret door, and began the long trek back to the surface. Once back at the fort, they retrieved their mounts in the hollow below the fort, and brought them, stuffing them into the crowded stables with a few measures of grain from the stores, and then settled themselves into the second level of the great hall, after securing the door.

26th of Uktar : During the night, the group heard something large snuffling about on the slate roof, but it soon lost interest and after a few circles above the fort, flew away. The night was otherwise uneventful, and they woke late, but dry and warm, and feasted on the supplies available. Shiv took the time to identify the boots as Boots of the Winterlands, and attuned to them, finding them a delight considering the season. The group then ensured the horses and outer doors were secure, and headed back down the hour-long trip into the Deep Way below them. They slipped through the secret door into the Deep Way, and returned back along the right-hand passage, once more sealing the door behind themselves.

The adventurers walked for about two hours, noticing how its twists and turns and sometimes carefully carved slopes led them without any distinctive features beyond the odd sinkhole or small bridge over a crack in the floor. Here and there a minor passage, most barely wide enough to crawl into, or a small cavern with stalactites and stalagmites cleared down its center could be found, but the trip was otherwise uneventful, and lacking in notable features. Suddenly, a 10’-wide, 10’-high passage delved sharply away from the main passage along the left wall. Beside it were piled a heap of various beasts (and humanoids!) skulls.

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Taking heart in this, they chose to take the smaller passage, and after shifting about some of the mostly filthy and moss-covered skulls, wandered down the new passage, leaving the minor passage of the Deep Way behind them. This route was a miniature version of the other, but less-travelled, and filthy. Mushrooms of an unhealthy appearance, and patches of debris were haphazardly left across the passage, hinting at it not being considered a part of the trade network. They travelled for several hours, having to stop on occasion to carefully cross small crevasses and pits.

After about three hours, they began to come across moldering skeletons and a few smaller piles of skulls, hinting that whatever lived here, had done so for generations, and the adventurers agreed the skull piles were likely marking their territory. Soon, chains of rough-hammered iron could be found, most 10’-long lengths of rusted metal that sometimes bore manacles, but were generally broken and rusted beyond value.

Suddenly, they came upon an entire forest of chains, most crusted in corroded iron, but some seemed newer, with manacles and even one or two sporting bodies of humanoids of some sort. Many of these newer ones still bore the sharp rough hammered spikes of iron that made the group realize whose lair they had just discovered… they were in the lower levels of the Pit of Chains, located a couple hours somewhere south of Thornkeep, in the northern Thistle-Tops.

The adventurers readied themselves and the filthy caves they followed showed the long generations of a goblin tribe’s habitation; most passages were horridly carved 5’-wide and 5’-high, debris, stone rubble, broken ironmongery and wood, old bones and in horrid condition. They soon came upon a branching of the passage; angling off to the right and left, or continuing straight. The adventurers continued to the right, and soon saw unsteady firelight ahead, and heard the yammering of goblins in their harsh tongue.

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The 20’-wide by 40’-long chamber was crudely carved, but most of the room’s debris had been pushed against the walls. A small fire of dried dung lay against the left wall, smoldering and filling the chamber with thick, acrid smoke. Something unidentifiable burned on a spearhead over the weak flames. Against the far wall were a crude stone table, and a stone cistern lay in the corner opposite the opening. A handful of goblins were in the center of the room, making crude stone javelins, and combat quickly ensued.

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One goblin in a crude iron chain shirt, wielding a rough 6’-long spiked iron chain, ran to the far corner and opened a secret door, yelling something beyond. He then joined his companions in the fight, before Sprout cast a Sleep spell on the center of the goblins knocking many unconscious, and allowing Ricochet and Sweet to leap forward and into the opening, finding an ogre looking around bewildered, grasping his club. He quickly joined the fight with a loud, ear-splitting roar.

In the sharp battle, “Shiv” used his assassin abilities to slaughter each goblin on the ground quickly, while Kahli and Scales fired their Eldritch Blasts and Flame Bolts, and all the enemies in the two rooms quickly fell under the adventurers blades and spells, though some of the goblin’s javelins found their marks, and the goblin leader’s ability to reach around allies was unique.

Examining the room, they heard distant drums suddenly burst out, hinting their presence was now known to the tribe as a whole. They quickly moved onwards, following the sound from which the drums were coming, and ignoring a couple of other passages, until they came to an opening to the right from which a flickering firelight could be seen. The passage here narrowed into slim 2’-wide slot, that could be better defended by the goblins if they were more prepared, but the Ricochet pushed into the room suddenly.

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Beyond were a couple dozen goblins stumbling about what must be a common room for the tribe. The 30’-wide by 40’-long chamber opened on the far side into a smaller chamber with three more passages branching out from it. A large opening on the left-hand wall spouted a smoking fire of foul-smelling dung and timber, that seemed to have some draw, lessening the smoke that should have been present. The room was strewn with heaps of bedding, small stone blocks that served as tables and chairs, and even wooden furnishings from human homes in evidence. The debris and filth of a goblin warren were rife in the chamber, forcing everyone to operate as though it were difficult terrain, to avoid damage. Both male and female were armed and several more “boss” goblins were present with their spiked chains.

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Green eldritch fire and flame bolts scattered into the room, along with a devastating Shatter, clearing the center of the room in a barrage of deadly shrapnel.

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The tribe surged forward and laid into the front ranks with stone clubs, iron chains and their companions laid-down a devastating series of javelin volleys, but another Sleep spell, and the adventurer’s sharp blades quickly cleared the front rank, to hear the remaining goblins cry out “Skarmag! Skarmag! Skarmag!”, as a large wolf-like creature loped into the chamber.

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The beast quickly closed through the remaining goblins, and in an inhuman voice cried out arcane words to the closest, toughest looking individual in the group, Sweet. She immediately turned and cried out WOAH! WOAH! WOAH!” This Skarmag guy is my friend, nobody hurt him!. Skarmag also uttered something in goblin to his followers, and they began diverting their attacks everywhere else.

Another volley of stone javelins thus quickly downed Shiv with brutal efficiency, knocking him unconscious, as the party began lobbing everything they had at Skarmag, but its thick, hairy hide seemed to resist most of their damage, except from spells and arcane-enhanced weapons, hinting at its demonic origins.

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Sweet struggled to try and revive Shiv, but was unable to staunch the blood from his numerous javelin wounds. The beast got off one more arcane spell, aimed at Scales, which made him falter as the beast Suggested he step back from this fight. As Scales stepped back from the fight, the beast then closed and savagely bit Scales on his torso, nearly downing him as well. The goblins continued their volleys of javelins, causing some minor wounds, but continuing to pressure the adventurers. Sprout spent his time using Elzid’s Ring to heal Ricochet, and bring Shiv from the brink of death, while the others concentrated on the beast in their midst.

RIcochet dropped his sword and using his longbow, managed to get in a savage shot that disrupted the beast Skarmag’s concentration, and shook his control over Scales. A savage series of spells from Kahli drew the beast’s attention, and Scales finally drew forth the Sword of Zog, shaking it before the beast’s eyes, recognizing they were likely fighting a Barghest, and stuck down the creature with a single mighty swing from the sword. Skarmag was dead.

The rest of the group, free to concentrate on the remaining goblins quickly slew most with ranged spells, or turned their blades on the remaining downed and unconscious goblins, with three remaining goblins, either grovelling on the ground, or, as one poor bastard didn’t see it coming, having recognized the blade strode forward to touch it. The group slaughtered every other goblin present, except for the last boss goblin, grovelling on the ground. The six goblin kits found cowering in one corner were slaughtered as well, with some regret from Kahli, and happy murder eyes from the rest of the group.

In the distance, the sounds of goblins yelling and screaming, and scattered fighting hinted that the tribe was in full retreat down its numerous tunnels and holes throughout the obviously large complex. The party managed to pull a few pounds of crude copper coins from the goblin corpses, but nothing else of note among the two dozen corpses in the room. Kahli set about hacking off the Barghet’s head with her magic axe, intending to take it as a trophy and proof of the defeat of the tribe.

Stripping the goblin boss of his weapons but letting him keep his armor and clothes, the group forced it to lead them to the leader’s chamber. He was piled with a crude sack filled with the coins, and forced to haul the demon’s head wrapped in a couple goblin blankets, as it and the body began to smolder and within minutes turned into a sticky pile of flesh and black hair, oozing away into nothing. Skarmag was gone. From its remains, they pulled a silver and gem-studded belt (worth 600 gp!), and a pouch holding a few platinum and gold coins.

Using his whip, Ricochet threatened to teach the goblin a lesson, unless he show them to the Barghest’s personal chambers. The creature grovelled for a bit, and them led them down one of the exit tunnels turning right down another one past an abandoned guard chamber, and into a large chamber filled with a mushroom garden and a half-rotten pile of barrels and boxes holding barely intact food and other goods. He led them across this to a narrow door, and then down a short corridor to another intersection, turning left up a sharply steep corridor with crude steps hacked into it. This led into a small guard chamber with a stone table and a rack of javelins, through a door and into a 20’-wide by 50’-long room crowded with furniture and junk of various origins.

A quick search revealed nothing. Using the Wand of Secrets one more time, they were attracted to a large iron box in one corner, filled with mangy flea-ridden pelts of various beasts. Unable to find any concealment, Ricochet used his “thieves tools” (crowbar) to pry apart the iron box, pulling a smaller wooden box from the wreckage of the base, holding a collection of coins of all types, a potion Kahli identified as a Potion of Healing, and an amythest (100 gps).

Shiv grabbed the potion, and drank it down, needing some healing, and promptly found that it was actually a Potion of Poison. He immediately keeled over once more and started to convulse, making his ave, but suffering a deadly dose of the poison, but before anyone could heal him, Kahli held them back, warning them it was a waste until he had suffered through the effects of the poison completely. One more quick convulsion, and he went quiet, and Kahli herself raised him back with a touch of her own healing. Shiv was conscious once more, but the action reminded the group they didn’t know if any more of their potions were poisoned or not… Ricochet took a chance and drank one of their other potions down, but it wasn’t poisoned.

The group heard distant goblin shouts and sharp fights, so they barricaded themselves into the Barghest’s chamber, and decided to take a short rest while the chaos continued. Despite some goblin drums once or twice, and what sounded like a sharp fight down the stairs, the hour passed without any event intruding on them.

The group, with the goblin whip-length ahead of them, led them back down the path they had taken to get to the Barghest’s chamber. They paused in the first guard room, with Scales to cast Detect Magic in the ogre’s nest-like cave beyond the room, and along with several sacks of various coins (and all of the copper were added to the goblin’s sack), they found a quiver with six remarkable-looking Magic Arrows and two leather scroll tubes holding a Scroll – Cure Wounds (1st Evocation) and a Scroll – Hold Person (2nd Enchantment). Taking these treasures, they retreated from the Pit of Chains, travelling back down the main tunnel for several hours until they came to the minor branch of the Deep Way they had become familiar with.

About an hour or so later, they came upon a small pitiful-looking band of eight goblins, wielding crude stone clubs and only their leader, a larger female, wielding a shortbow and an actual sword. The small clan looked on in fear as the adventurers approached, bowing and grovelling in best goblin fashion. Their blood-lust mostly sated by the recent combat, the adventurers informed the band they should not proceed down the tunnel where the skulls were piled, as it was dangerous, and left the goblins behind. The leader managed to croak out a “Vuhrond thanks you”, as the adventurers continued along the tunnel.

Several hours later, the adventurers reached their secret door and making certain they weren’t being observed, opened it and slipped through the door, and sealing it behind themselves, made their way up the long tunnels that led to the surface. The sun was low on the horizon, hinting at how they’d spent most of the day underground, sop they decided to stay another day in the bandit stronghold, restocking supplies from those left in the great hall, and checking on and watering the horses in the barn, who seemed crowded and uncomfortable. After a quick walk around the yard to get them some air and exercise and making certain they were curried, the group crowded them back inside for the night, and settled down for the night, splitting their salvaged coins, and talking about their next steps, before going to sleep under their usual watches.

27th of Uktar : Waking in the morning, the group decided to return back to Green Dagger and spend a couple days on personal tasks before the Moot at Caer Dragonscorn the evening of the 30th. They saddled their horses and dragging the goblin along on a rope they made quick time through the slushy trail of Hexwater Road, passing the timber camp some miles east, and then through Thornkeep, drawing a few odd glances from the locals as to their prisoner. They spent another hour on the rutted Old Forest Road, and then an hour after that, reached the placid isolation of Green Dagger Farm, located about six miles east of Thornkeep, high on the ridge over-looking the eaves of Echo Wood. They were home at last.

The rest of the day was spent on their weapons and repairing armor and clothing, restocking supplies from their own inventories and having a late meal with their farm families, relating their recent excursions against the bandits and the goblins of the Pit of Chains. Mikmek and his companions cast evil eyes on Korman, showing off their higher status as warriors to its slave status. The farmers (especially the children) listened in rapt attention to the tales, and eventually everyone went to sleep in their own quarters for the night.

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