After our druid was slain, we finally pulled back from the mine, unfortunately not soon enough for Dormaggs. After some time and heated discussion (er... largely on my own part), we decided to try locating a different entrance to the south. We were successful, but quickly became lost as the mine tunnel branched and turned every which way. Fortunately Ghost is a skilled tracker so we had something to follow.
After wandering for a bit, we came across a group of goblins: the first of many to come. We surrounded them from two tunnels and quickly eliminated all but one, whom I charmed in order to gleam information about the humans and halfling we were seeking (humans were downstairs, he hadn't seen a halfling). The goblin led us through more of the maze-like mine, but only to the stairs down. Leaving him there, we continued downwards.
Soon we came to an area where the floor appeared to be swept clean. Unsure of what to make of this, Ghost tossed a rope forward. When nothing happened but a "thud", Ayman cast Detect Magic and discovered a flask floating in the hallway. Shocko, being Shocko, stepped forward into a stinging blob and was pulled out by Linora- it turns out it was a gelatinous cube that had swept the floor. Ayman and Ghost teamed up to melt it into a stinking pile of goo and another cube nearby was taken down with yet more flame, and we began our search again.
Ghost located more tracks and led the way- into a shallow pit, as it turned out. She climbed out without much harm and we followed her on. Next we came to a lit room with a table, benches, boarded-up walls to the left and right, and an assortment of goblins, hobgoblins, and a bugbear waiting for us in alcoves to either side of the door (I'd have preferred more tables instead). We killed this group of monsters, too, and this time it was the dying bugbear I charmed for information- we'd have to "go deep, very deep" to find those we sought. We dragged the ex-monsters into the alcoves and poked at the boarded areas to no avail; likely it was just more rock behind them.
Wandering on, we came across another room like this one, minus the monsters. This time one of the boarded areas housed a secret door and a very dead wizard holding a scroll and quill in his skeletal hands. Unsure if the scroll was harmful, we had the illiterate Shocko take a look at it. He found it to contain three-quarters of a page of writing in a script he didn't recognize- certainly not Common. Another scroll the dead man possessed was much the same, but figuring now was not the time to read something mysterious, Ghost stashed these away. Detecting Magic on the body showed us some glowing objects, which I removed: a ring, two potions, and an iron wand. After saying a quick prayer over the body, we continued on, ever downwards.
Soon Shocko discovered another body, this time propped up against a large iron chest, in a cavern that smelled of old fire. The box was locked, so we decided to leave it alone. Finding this area to be a dead end, we backtracked and went a different way at the fork in the corridor. Here we found a room with stairs that led down about five flights into an unlit chamber. Hearing echoes, we decided to head back up the stairs and rest instead of exploring further.
Rested, we continued on. Well, down, then on. We left the room at the foot of the stairs and found our way into another one, where a piece of the ceiling suddenly decided that it wanted to squash Ghost. We took it down with the help of my air elemental and Ayman's Enfeeblement spell, but I warned everyone to try to not pop it- this was the creature I'd been seeking to create a mischievous item. After retrieving its bladders (don't ask), Ghost led us to another door- which proceeded to grab her and talk of how it wanted to eat her. Clearly this was not Ghost's day. Ayman attempted to Grease it, but only ended up with a slippery floor. Figuring the door was at least slightly intelligent since it was still threatening our elf, I used my Rod of Beguiling to charm it into dropping her. This turned out to work better than I'd expected, and we were able to get some information from the door: more humans than our party had been past and killed goblins, but it didn't recall any halflings recently. The door kindly moved aside and we went the way it directed us. Who knew doors could be so friendly? (Okay, yes, it was a mimic, I know, but a door sounds so much more amusing.)
Through more of the mine we went, and found yet more goblins, as is to be expected in a goblin mine. Once again we took them out and I charmed one to serve as a guide. Most of the group scouted ahead, finding more goblins, hobgoblins and bugbears. Gribble, my new goblin friend, informed me that humans were being used as slaves in the big mines in the warrens and that he could take us there.
As we followed the goblin, Ghost quickly got rid of a slumbering goblin guard and stole his keys, then used them on a nearby door, behind which she found a box of silver coins. Traveling on again, Gribble led us to a creepy room with bones in a deep pit and a single column in the center. We found planks to place across to the pillar and, as we crossed to the other side, the bones began to rumble below. This faded as we quickly left the room, none of us wanting to stay to check it out further.
Into another chamber we went, this one lit by torches on pedestals around a pit- and an open wall all around the outside housing monsters, which took Ghost by surprise. More hobgoblins and goblins, more attacking, more monsters slain. Exiting the room via a door at the bottom of the pit (Ghost using her newfound keys), we continued on to what turned out to be a room with traps in the ceiling through which goblins would drop things down on whoever tried to cross. This Linora discovered by flying up through the ceiling in bat-form, irking a few of them in the process. Instructing my air elemental to go up through the ceiling, it chased the goblins out of their hiding place and down to us. Chasing them again with the elemental, they turned and ran off the direction we were heading.
More tunnels, more traveling, another staircase down. Gribble carefully led us where monsters weren't... until he stumbled into a room filled with lots of goblins. More fighting, but this time the goblins again got away. The room now cleared, Ghost and SwampFox scouted ahead and found a group of hobgoblins. Hearing their shouts, the rest of us ran in to help, and cleared this room, as well.
We rested, but not for long. Ayman had cast the image of a giant wyrm in the doorway to keep monsters away, but it had the opposite effect: instead of scaring them away, they came well-armed and aware of our presence. They shouted at us to come out and we came up with a quick plan; Ayman cast Invisibility on all but Ghost, who went out as a decoy. She claimed that her group had left her behind and, when they came in to search the room, we were able to invisibly avoid them. This plan was not perfect, however, and Ghost was taken away.
Sneaking out, Gribble told us that they were taking her to the king in a big room to fight Gralla, a big monster that eats goblins and had never been defeated, and that she would be kept in a small cell until then. He also told us that humans had been pushed into a "snackrificial" pit (clearly we lost something in the translation) by shamans and were never seen again. He led us, still invisible, through a huge chamber where slaves were mining, which contained a big pit with seating all around, and through a small tunnel to a small, musty room that he informed us was secret.
Here we were able to rest, plan, and, in my case, pray for guidance. Hermes granted me a detailed poem of what we should do to rescue Ghost and those we came to save, and, armed with that information and an idea of what to do, we set off to get Ghost back. Still under Ayman's invisibility, we followed Gribble back to the large room and downstairs to the arena, where we passed a huge thing being brought in. Hurrying into the arena, Ayman tossed Ghost her sword and we beat a hasty retreat back upstairs. Once in position, we proceeded to cause as much chaos as possible; I magicked one of the large fires into a screen of smoke, then used the air elemental to dispense the smoke in a wider area. Linora, SwampFox, and Shocko attacked wildly, while Ayman yelled out confusing phrases he'd learned from Gribble, then Greased the stairs, causing hundreds of goblins to fall into the pit with the monster, which turned out to be a troll. The troll thus occupied, Ghost and the two men captive with her (a wood elf we'd met earlier and one of Dorian's men) were able to leave the arena and aid the chaos.
Linora and Shocko reached the bugbear goblin king (what I mean is the goblin king was a bugbear, not that he was a bugbear goblin), but he escaped with his guards, casting a giant hand to block the tunnel. Here the party split up again; switching back to bat-form, Linora flew off to follow the king, while the rest of us regrouped to head back downstairs. Ayman turned into a wraith to open the gate for us, we set the nearby slaves free, and proceeded down.
Here we reached a tunnel with goblins in rooms to either end. I charmed the one group to go after the other, thus saving us the trouble, and we continued on until we reached a room with four bugbears- exactly what Hermes' rhyming advice had told us to look out for. We killed them and stole their keys, using those to open the door they were guarding. Once on the other side, Ghost locked the door behind us so we could rest and those who were injured could recover somewhat. Soon, though, two hobgoblins came into sight- but our pirate captain had been following them, and we made short work of the monsters.
Linora told us of what she'd discovered during her time as a bat: an underground lake, a fortress where the king was now housed, and a dragon. These, too, were what Hermes had somewhat cryptically alluded to. Following Linora, we continued, with Ayman marking walls with ink should any of us get lost, to a room with more hobgoblins. These were behind small windows, wielding pikes, and blocking the way through. Ayman had the rather amusing idea to cast a spell on himself, effectively making ten Aymans, and distracted the hobgoblins while the rest of us crawled through to the other side of the room, where we discovered crawl-holes which the monsters had used to get to the windows. Those strong enough tried to grab the pikes, but this wasn't successful. With no other way to keep the hobgoblins where they were, I again used my charm magic to tell them to stay there and not follow us, at least giving us some time to get away. I was also able to learn that they'd never seen any humans, we'd meet large monsters if we went the wrong way, the dungeons were through the warrens, and some things we already knew- that the king was powerful and could do magic and there was a dragon down there.
Here we discussed it again and decided that instead of traveling on to face the king and dragon, we'd backtrack to try to locate Dorian's group. Retracing our footsteps, we headed back to the room opposite where I'd set goblins against goblins and found a staircase down. Here we found a thick wooden door; Shocko attempted to pick the lock, but had to rely on SwampFox breaking it down with his axe. On the other side we found a torture chamber, much to our disgust and anger, and another door that had to be broken down. Following the tunnel on the other side of that door, we reached a room with cells. Shocko and SwampFox worked together to get the cell doors open and we freed a group of Dorian's men. The lieutenant in charge told us that he'd seen Dorian dragged past, but he wasn't here. Leaving SwampFox and Linora's dog to guard those who weren't in fighting shape, we continued through the next door Shocko opened.
In this room we found a bugbear; he sounded an alarm horn and five more came at us. Not wanting to waste time on another battle, I charmed the group of them into dropping their weapons and giving us their keys and horns, and we locked them into one of the large empty cells. They told us that Dorian had just been taken away a few minutes before to the pit- not good! I volunteered to stay behind to free the rest of the prisoners while the rest of the group hurried off to follow Dorian, and I sent my fox to retrieve SwampFox and the dog.
I later learned that bugbear and hobgoblin priests had been about to shove Dorian into a pit, but instead got pushed into the pit themselves after our party killed them (serves them right). They successfully rescued the paladin and retrieved Ghost's possessions from the high priest's room, then came back to the cell area where I'd since freed the prisoners: the rest of the Joven party, Katah's (the wood elf) companions, and our friend Homer, the halfling we'd been seeking. We'd also located the armory, so the once-prisoners were now armed. Ayman explained to me exactly what the monsters' holy symbol tattoos had looked like, and I knew them to be priests of the cult of Skiggaret, the bugbear god of fear. Ugh, evil priests. Here's to hoping my friends exterminated all of them, but evil priests are like rats- they spawn en masse right where you don't expect them to be.
So here we sit, resting and plotting for a plan to take on the dragon and king at the underground lake. At least we now have the benefit of numbers, so that's an advantage.
~Cyneric Conroy, Order of the Fleet Fox
May 22nd, 1st day of Darkmoon... ish. Honestly, at this point I have no idea of the date. Just for the hell of it, I'm calling it Tuesday.