Authors: Archer, Cambion Black and GM
Even with all the corpses around them, the dungeon still felt alive.
That life was ebbing away from Hal, choking on his own blood, spraying it on to the flagstone floor he lay on. He felt cold. Almost as cold as the stone.
Hax rolled over from where he had fallen and placed his hand on Hal’s chest, urgently channeling spiritual magics into him stemming the tide. Hal’s eyes opened. Hax sat upright and cleared the watery slime from Hal. Even after the gelatinous cube was burst, its acidic remnants still slowly burned the flesh. The priest then applied his medical art to his friend, stemming the loss.
John stood guard over the two, Hax’s magic shining from the soldier’s polearm axe blade. John’s eyes saw well enough though through the gloom, spotting a large pair of wooden doors a short way off along the corridor.
In a few minutes, Hal was back on his feet and Hax had packed away his supplies. They moved up the corridor, John taking the lead.
Opening the doors just a bit, he peered in, almost immediately shutting it after spotting a blue gas haunting the room. They decided, first, to backtrack and check the other, yet unexplored, corridor.
Back they went, past their battles with undead knights, the gelatinous cube and a bird of paradise whose steel fan tail could slice armour. Halfway to the staircase by which they had descended from the fortress above, they paused to inspect the alcove that preservation had previously not allowed chance to review. The carvings hid a recess. A doorway. Figuring its mechanism, they opened it, discovering beyond sarcophagi and coffins, a crypt area for the castle knights.
Hax moved forward cautiously and investigated the resting places. A mysterious floating glowing orb, illuminating the room from above its centre, caught Hal’s attention. John kept a watchful eye on both the room and the corridor during the search.
Behind a sarcophagus in the far left corner, Hax found another hidden recess, inspecting it closely. Hal meanwhile studied the orb, recalling its runes indicated it was a protective magical ward, though necromantic in nature. They surmised that Voz, the archaeologist from town, had triggered the ward, causing the undead knights to rise. Opening some of the coffins, the three companions found them empty, further confirming the theory.
Moving the corner sarcophagus aside, they opened up the wall section to reveal a tunnel, leading to a storage room and from there a further tunnel beyond. John noticed two pairs of footprints ventured out of the tunnel and into the dust at the edge of the crypt. Someone else, other than Voz, had been through here.
Closing up the tunnel, to return to later, they headed back to their previous plan and found two kobolds along the unexplored path, guarding cages set into alcoves. From a distance they could glimpse goblins pressed against the bars. The missing tribe.
The three attacked quickly, killing one guard before they could raise an alarm. The second surrendered.
Freeing the goblins, they gave the surviving kobold the task of escorting and guiding the goblins to safety. The promise of staying alive and possibly a place in the goblin tribe was enough persuasion for the kobold’s pride and cowardly nature. He explained he had been bullied and poorly treated in a group called the ‘cult of cinders’, from which the kobold was pleased to be free.
The goblins explained that their leader, Halba, was locked up in the torture room with several others of their kin. This was the room filled with blue gas.
Now all cells are open they investigate them.
((GM: The team find one little cell with spoons like someone was trying to dig their way out (the kobold could have admitted this was him and his friend).
Cell after cell yields only filthy rags so the team press on as time is of the essence. They miss the cell, close by where the gas is seeping from under the door, with the pile of blades and metal that belong to the strange magpie-like peacock creatures that would have yielded some expensive loot, a metal key and a weapon to return to an owner.))
Turning back to the double-doors, John soaked a handkerchief in water and wrapped it around his mouth. Venturing into the room, he found the gas smelt horrible at first but its effects were dimmed by the cloth, rendering the gas completely ineffective.
The fumes, originating from a boiling cauldron near the centre of the room, appeared to be a sleep-gas.
The toxic wisps hung eerily, clouding the chamber. The stone floor was splashed with blood. Torture devices lay scattered around the room.
Dangling just next to the cauldron was a cage with a goblin, beaten and bleeding. John surmised this was the missing Halba.
Coming back out for a moment, John asked Hax to join him in the room, to see if he could pick the lock on the hanging cage.
Putting a handkerchief to his mouth, Hax too moved in. When attempting the lock, with John guarding him, it felt cold, stubborn, well made; it would not release. They would need the key. The goblin began to wake.
John saw a door across the way. He realised this was the first door he had tried earlier and turned back from at the smell of gas. Looking back to the cage and the unsuccessful efforts to free the goblin, John approached and smashed the lock with the haft of his guisarme.
As the iron cage door swung open, the goblin inside slumped and fell on top of Hax.
Lifting Halba to her feet, they moved back into the corridor and to her waiting tribe. Hax and Hal, along with the spared kobold, accompanied the goblins to the stairs up, while John guarded the retreat.
The goblins became excited by the mention of the worg pups the team had found in the fortress.
((GM: Goblins love goblin dogs and the worgs look so similar that the knock on effect of leaving the puppies alive is the goblins adopt them.))
((The team had not crossed the upper courtyard and found Alex in his original placement, fighting demons over the pentagram. Therefore, as specified in the Adventure Path, he is to be found in the lower dungeons. The inhabitants of the dungeon move freely so Alek started off in the store room, but had moved to make a further exploration of the complex, hiding in an old cell when he hears the unknown team moving down the stairs. The heirloom ring he seeks is buried deeper in the cave system.))
John hears sounds from near the chamber. Hal has gone up to the fortress with the goblins. Hax stands on the stairs looking back to John. Telling him to stay with the goblins, John runs back to find a young man in Hellknight armour, battling one of the undead knights.
Casting a glance back at John’s approach the young man shouts, “Well. Are you going to help me, or what?”