Alert: Contains spoilers for the adventure “Scourge of the Slave Lords”
You kinda get used to waiting around in dungeons, so it wasn’t all that long relatively before Ezekiel emerged from the dark doorway and asked Heiron to come investigate a trapdoor that he couldn’t reach.
Fraught nerves suddenly relieved, we demanded of Ezekiel if it really took him that long to just notice a trapdoor.
Eventually, this is the story we dragged out of him:
He advanced into the abandoned apartment, eager to use the “exorcism” he had been given. The bone fragments we had noticed on the floor followed some dark brown smears into a short hall, where an oil pot sat ready to repel attackers in the gatehouse below…except now it was crusted with age. Stepping gingerly around it, Ezekiel entered the next room – beyond where we could easily hear him cry for help – where he spotted a skeletal hand lying on a table.
It seemed “associated” with a human skull and rib cage (one could hardly call it “connected” by now), but the thing did not react to his polite salutation.
Ezekiel continued through another door, into a hallway filled with arrow slits – with the disembodied flicker of torches lighting the far end in an eery glow. Approaching the light, he found a burnt-out torch…and noticed that his breath was starting to cloud in front of his face (though it wasn’t that cold in the rest of the structure). A strange moaning seemed to come from the walls around him, and the sounds of crickets and battle echoed, as though from a long way off.
In the next room, at last, Ezekiel saw a figure: like an emaciated man, with black holes where his eyes should have been. As the misty, translucent figure grimaced and gestured at him, Ezekiel sat down and began praying.
It must have worked, because the figure gave a sigh and disappeared, the strange sounds stopped, and the mysterious lights and mists vanished. Ezekiel glanced around the room at the broken furniture and dust…but that was all there was of interest, and he headed back to rejoin us.
That’s when he noticed the trapdoor in the ceiling of the archer hall – too high for him to reach, and with no ladder bolted to the wall (although he could see holes where the bolts had been). So he came and found us and told us to join him in investigating it.
Raven climbed up the wall to reach it, but it was locked or bolted on the other side. So while Agnar shook his sword at it threateningly, Heiron jumped and punched it open.
As Heiron pulled himself through, we heard harsh voices crying out. Raven scrambled up the wall to assist him as Heiron’s flametongue sword flashed in the dark space above us…and then Ezekiel insisted on hoisting me up. He might have warned me what he was up to before he grabbed my legs.
Raven helped pull me up through the trapdoor, and explained there were more hobgoblins (besides the freshly dead one beside us on the floor), and Heiron was chasing them. So I fumbled my sword out (had to stow my bow to climb up), and followed him.
We cut down a squad, then waited for the others to join us. When Ezekiel made it up (they finally started using one of the ropes of climbing), he helped Heiron smash down a door that led further on, and we explored the story. The room where we entered led into another room, stacked high with crates, and from there into a third room which was apparently the squad’s bedroom, since heavy curtains covered the arrow slits, and several cots stood around a charcoal fire. No torches anywhere – hobgoblins can see pretty well in the dark, after all.
Ezekiel was very concerned about the crates; he seemed convinced there was something evil behind or inside them, but all we found was a friendly cat, and some passable rations.
One final door led out of the bedroom out onto the top of the wall, where the last of the hobgoblins had retreated. Heiron and I put them out of their misery. Apparently they had a collapsible ladder that could reach all the way to the courtyard below, and let them bypass the creepy hallway below. Now that we have seized the lead curtain wall over the front gate, we will be able to see if any reinforcements come…although I don’t think anyone has had a chance to send for reinforcements (unless magically). Given all the towers of guards we have slaughtered lately, surely whoever is left will be on their guard.
Alarm or no alarm, it was getting late in the day – especially for people who had been fighting garrisons. Heiron had an arrow in his shoulder, Raven’s fingernails were kinda grey before Ezekiel touched him up, and the half-orc couldn’t raise one of his arms above his shoulder. So we decided to hunker down here (free food and cots, after all), and I piled all the bodies in the eastern room for cleanliness’ sake (Mikael told Lulu to “guard” that room, and I think she’s making a serious mess of my pile).
The only loose end to be settled right away was the halfling we rescued from fighting the badger, and then left to take care of himself in the kitchen. Lydia said she would take care of that – and vanished. A quarter of an hour later or so, she stepped out of the wall and said he was all settled in Homlette. I keep forgetting she can do that. She must feel herself getting better at Teleport with practice, since she didn’t take Raven with her in case she ended up somewhere she didn’t want to be.
We built up the coal fire, had some munchies, put ointment on Heiron’s wound, and settled down. But there was still a little more excitement. Raven and Heiron were just dropping off, and Usen had actually started snoring, when Ezekiel started running around the room and shouting and telling everyone to get up and get out. They were just falling asleep! Lydia and Mikael calmed him down and assured him that, yes, that’s what people do when they are dead on their feet and injured, while I checked the air-flow behind the curtains to satisfy myself the coal-fire wasn’t going to smoke us like sausages in our sleep. Seemed fine to me…I guess Ezekiel was more tired than he realized.
It did give me a chance to get the pebble from Usin that he got from the stuffed bear’s eye, since I remembered we have been wanting to examine it for magic. I may not be a magic user, but I have been around a lot of magic stuff in the past few years, and maybe growing closer to Ehlonna, I am starting to see things in a new light. While Lydia was reading her books, I meditated and concentrated…and decided that Usin’s stone, and Ezekiel’s mini anchor knicknack that he got from the blind leader’s chest, and the blind leader’s ring were all magical. Since Ichar was standing in the cook-fire while he fought, and apparently not bothered by it, we think it’s a ring of fire protection, and Ezekiel voted to give it to Heiron (once he wakes up, of course).
And now the three of us must perform the ancient and hallowed fighter tradition of playing Rock, Paper, Scissors to assign watches. (Lydia says if we cut her paper she’s fireballing the room.)
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