Waking in the morning, everyone girds their armor and grabs their weapons and prepares for whatever foes my yet lurk in the dark Keep on the Shadowfell. Approaching another door, Snúgel opens it, after carefully ascertaining there are no traps, only to be shot square in the shoulder with a bolt by a goblin hiding behind a table.
Squeals of joy are mixed in with grunts of pain and Snúgel slams the door short. A quick but heated argument ensues about the best direction to take with this latest threat of more goblin foes. It is quickly decided to open the door and return fire at the goblins.
Unfortunately, the goblins proved adept at using the two tables in the room for cover to hide the direction of their shots; thus our heroes have more difficulty protecting their vital areas. A ranged combat ensues; with both sides giving and receiving damage, but the goblins definitely seem to be having the best of it, using the tables to hide themselves from return fire as well as to attack more effectively.
Less than half a minute of this occurs before Snúgel, almost as if guided by an unseen hand, boldly runs into the room, to stop the maddening game of hide and seek. Unfortunately, he is caught by two deadly bolts as he goes dashing in and hovers on the brink of falling unconscious from so much blood loss and exhaustion. It is then that he notices the Iron Maiden and Rack and the unpleasant realization crosses his mind that if he falls here it will not be a quick death that awaits him, but undoubtedly resuscitation followed by gruesome torture.
It is then that the peril grows even more dire, as one of the goblins runs over and slams the door and locks it; the rest of the party on one side and the injured halfling alone, in a room full of armed and dangerous goblins, along with a larger hobgoblin in leather armor, who grabs two iron pokers from a hot fire.
Sardonyx is able to quickly set to work on unlocking the door, allowing the remaining party to again engage the goblins in ranged combat, but the same goblin quickly runs over and slams and locks the door again.
It is at this point, with Snúgel facing certain death, that the pluckiness of this diminutive fellow, who boasts of genetic abnormalities, may actually be proven true. Summoning up reserves of courage, he shakes off his light-headedness and consumes a magical elixir that quickly mends together the worst of his wounds as well as stopping the bleeding.
To make matters worse for the goblins, Tira unlocks the door, in an amazing display of manual dexterity and this time the rest of the party come charging into the room, to make quick work of the goblins without their tables to hide behind. They are even able to take down the hobgoblin torturer, who futilely attempts to make impromptu brands on the scales of Aldhem with the hot pokers.
It is then discovered that another goblin yet exists, this one locked up in a prison cell. He hastily identifies himself as Splug and entreats the party to release him, promising guided tours, the location of a well-hidden fine bottle of wine as well as, if need be, serving as a porter.
Aldhelm, quickly suspicious, questions the reason for his incarceration. Splug attempts to weave a flimsy tale of wrongful accusations, but the paladin’s sense of truth quickly penetrates the falsehood and Splug is forced to reveal that he tricked the other goblins one too many times out of their ale rations and other deeds of minor mischief.
Taking no chances, even with a cadre of six well-armed and armored adventurers, Aldhelm orders the goblin to hold his wrists out to be securely bound. It is only after he has tied the small humanoid’s wrists and ankles together that he unlocks the cage door.
The goblin attempts to engage in conversation with promises of value to the party, but the Dragonborn quickly orders silence and throws the trussed up prisoner over his shoulder.
The party ventures further into the dungeon and comes to a set of stairs leading into utter darkness. Splug’s gag is momentarily removed so he can be questioned about this area. He claims ignorance, having been told to not venture into this part of the dungeon and was only too happy to oblige.
Observing his genuine fear, Aldhelm believes the shuddering goblin is telling the truth. However, being cut from a more bold cloth, the paladin carries the goblin down the stairs and quickly refastens his gag so as to not hear his protestations that they would benefit from a look-out, even a hog-tied look-out, at the top of the stairs.
Even though Erais breaks out a sunrod, to shine the glory of Aumanautor into the darkness, the utter void of light seems to only begrudgingly give way to the intruders. In fact, everyone feels a cold chill in the damp air, as if nothing has disturbed this area for many decades.
Traveling the corridors with caution, they come upon a mystic symbol engraved on the floor taking up an entire ten foot section of hallway. It appears to be a rough symbol of a humanoid in voluminous robes, with their arms ending in amorphous appendages, raised to a level with their head.
Splitting up, Skamos and Kerig tavel down another passageway, but discover another of the mystic symbols etched on the floor, effectively blocking off further progress without dealing with them in some fashion.
While Skamos consults with Kerig about the possibility of jumping over one of them, having determined that whatever arcane energy they contain is triggered by contact, Erais and Aldhelm have come to the same realization, but with a different solution.
Just as Skamos lands safely on the other side of one of the symbols, Aldhelm unties the captive goblin and tosses him none too gently onto the mystical symbol. Splug’s cry is drowned by the whispers, deafening and loud, which do not echo off the walls or floor of the hallway, but in each individual’s head; a psychic cry of sheer terror.
Most everyone is driven, running in the opposite direction, including Skamos, who crosses over another of the symbols. Aldhelm, who resisted the first wails of terror, is this time caught up with a supernatural fear and sprints off in the opposite direction. A veritable comedy of fright ensues, as another of the mystic symbols is crossed by more than one person’s haste and yet again the psychic alarm is rung.
By the time everyone has gathered their senses and shrugged off the magical fear, they find themselves outside of a room adjoining the hallway. Sardonyx decides to sneak ahead the rest of the group, and blindly feels his way into the darkened room.
His first sign of trouble is the cold, lifeless, but somehow standing body he bumps into. The first sign of trouble the rest of the group has is his keen wail of terror and pain. Erais is the next to enter to room, bringing his sunrod flooding into it, only to discover more than a dozen dead bodies. Yet, instead of lying about in a natural state as the deceased should properly do, these bodies have been animated by fell magic’s and lumber around as zombies!
Battle quickly ensues and Erais proves his worth, calling upon the light of Aumanautor, that blasts several of the foul creatures into no more than piles of rotted flesh and bones and forces the others away from the radiant light he calls forth, in the name of his faith.
A few bruises later and the party is starting to gather themselves, when they hear the cries of Splug, somewhat distant, nearly forgotten during the recent melee. Everyone runs off in the direction, back over the mystic symbols, which appear to have had their magic spent, only to find more foul zombies, one of which is eating off Splug’s left arm as he futilely struggles in its grasp.
Another melee takes place as more zombies come around the corner and even temporarily pin Skamos and Kerig down, nearly taking their lives before the duo are able to escape and assault them at range.
Splug, however, is not so fortunate. Erais, not close enough to blast any of the zombies with his holy radiance, decides the goblin, who has all but lost his arm at this point, would be better off dead and blasts him with holy power, and Splug’s brief but interesting journey is forever cut short in the blink of an eye.
Aldhelm chuckles at the “nasty sunburn” the dead goblin sustained but Skamos merely looks on in disgust. The rest of the zombies are soon dealt with and the party takes stock of their situation.
From the moment they opened the first door that morning, to have Snúgel unceremoniously attacked by waiting goblins, no doubt informed from the one that escaped the previous night, though they have seen no sign of him, to the treatment of the goblin prisoner and the battles with the undead, an almost unceasing discord has threatened to fraction the group’s already tenuous cohesiveness.
For the moment, it appears the constant disagreement and bickering has been reduced to a slow boil, but is this merely a conflagration of disparate personalities or have the companion’s psyches been invaded by the eerie, haunted purpose of the Keep on the Shadowfell!