Having failed a stealthy descent down the stairs of the ancient keep, we found ourselves staring at a rather unsettled looking goblin staring back at us from across the room.
With inspiring reflexes, River immediately leaped into action, bounding towards the lone goblin, wanting to silence it before it had a chance to alert its comrades. Unfortunately, a large area of the floor turned out to be a cleverly disguised pit into which River disappear from view, only to reappear moments later, frantically batting away several ravenous rodents that had managed to cling to him.
With an evil cackle of amusement, the goblin rapped on the stone walls, sending out an alarm, to which several more goblins soon responded.
Before we knew it, we were once again in the heat of battle, though this time the numbers of enemies were not quite as severe and we had the advantage of cover due to several large pillars surrounding the pit. We also had the experience of lessons learned from our previous encounters.
While the goblins provided quite a challenge, given their reluctance to get close, the rat pack that emerged from the pit proved to be a surprisingly difficult menace, given the challenge of fighting a collection of tiny creatures that moved and attacked as a unit, as opposed to a singular foe. But between being scorched, shot, stabbed, and eventually shoved back into the pit from whence they came, the disease menace was silenced.
Soon, only one foe remained, who chose to flee rather than die like his comrades. Faced with the dilemma of either chasing the wounded goblin into the unknown or regrouping the party, River decided upon the later rather than risk being separated. With the group reformed, we pursued the goblin through the hallways. Seeing that the course the goblin was taking lead back to where they had started, Jak hoofed after it, finally putting the chase to an end.
With one hallway yet to be explored, we ventured to a room containing three doors, an iron door with a sliding viewport, a set of reinforced double doors, and what appeared to be a closet. Having had no chance to recover completely since the brutal battle under the split tower, our party was in bad shape and another battle would be truly pushing our luck. We could hear snoring come from the iron door and the double doors just screamed danger, so the closet door seemed the obvious choice.
Jak tentatively opened the door to find more crates. Exploring further, Jak discovered yet another goblin, though this one was asleep and much smaller that the rest, its only possession being a large bottle which it clutched like a mother holding its only child. Though the sleeping goblin would have been an easy kill, Jak saw no threat and thus could not bring himself to harm the helpless creature. Remembering the encounter with Yesper, Jak deferred to River to deal with the goblin.
This proved to be a good choice for soon, through River’s soothing tone and the sparkle of a few gold pieces, the little goblin, Ech, began telling much of what had been going on below the Ancient Keep, to which he seemed to want no part other than the treasure, of course.
Ech was also very helpful in giving us information as to what lay behind the doors we were reluctant to open. Behind the door with the slit was the prison. The double doors lead to the barracks which held around ten goblins. The double doors by the two beds we had discovered he called the “bad door” where human captives (we presume the caravan crew) were taken. Through the last set of doors was the digging room, where treasure was being dug up, though we suspect that Sergozn may have another more specific goal in mind.
With a magical movement of his hand, Chro silently slid back the security slit in the prison door, behind which we could see three figures around a table, two goblins and a much larger hobgoblin, obviously the source of the snoring. The mugs of ale seen on the table would explain why they did not hear the battle down the hallway. While we wanted to make contact with the human captive Ech said still remained in the jail, we decided to let sleeping goblins lie, given ten other goblins may be in the next room.
Ech also mentioned the existence of some sort of explosive devices at the dig site that would definitely give us that advantage in a fight, so we headed off in that direction. But we were once again reminded of our current condition and the need to rest before engaging in another battle against unknown enemies. Ech proved useful again, showing us a hidden passage that leads to Sergozn’s chambers and eventually to the barracks.
While we were reasonably sure, due to Ech’s description of Sergozn’s movements, that his chambers would be empty, Chro wisely suggested we rest in the hidden passage itself, which while being much less comfortable, provided much more security.
As we prepared to sleep, Ech skittered away, cleverly dragging the bodies of the dead goblin’s into the rat pit. While we get the feeling that the little goblin is not telling us everything, this went a long way towards earning the red band Chro had provided for him, unofficial as it was.
With this we settled in for a much needed rest.