After much debate, and the very real threat of Barrick’s battleaxe, Splug agreed to be bound to Felsmon, and to lead the party to a hidden crypt in the keep. With the defeat of the torture chamber guards, each of the adventurers felt energized and could feel new powers flowing through them. Healed, and ready to test their newly found skills and powers the group decided to explore the rest of the keep.
Silently, the party crept out of the torture chamber, pausing only to close the door leading to the goblin barracks. Splug led the brave adventurers past the entrance to the keep, skirting the now obvious rat pit in the middle of the decrepit foyer. On the opposite side of the entry chamber a stone stairway ran down and away. The stairway was lacking any upkeep, but then with goblins occupying the keep, the stalwart warriors were not surprised. What was surprising was the 10-foot wide chasm spanning the stairway, preventing any forward motion.
“Look, over there,” Skamos pointed to the floor on the other side of the gap. Peering into the darkness Z’alden recognized the shape, “It’s a wooden ladder, probably used to bridge the gap.” “But,” Felsmon pointed out, “It is over there and we are over here.” Tira smiled; she was aware that her training had finally manifested itself in the form of a power and she was eager to attempt her first real teleportation. With the rest of the group watching, Tira closed her eyes and concentrated. Her form shimmered briefly then suddenly she was standing on the far side of the pit. Quickly she moved the ladder to bridge the gap and motioned for the party members to cross. One by one the members of the rag tag band of adventurers roped up and tried to nimbly cross the old ladder. Skamos and Felsmon crossed without incident, but poor little Splug slipped and fell between two rungs. If not for the rope the little goblin would have become an experiment in gravity. Barrick pulled Splug back to the ladder and the sobered goblin crawled his way along the remainder of the makeshift bridge. Barrick was the last to cross, but the sweat from the scared Splug has greased a rung, Barrick slipped and pendulumed into the far wall. Unhurt, the party reassembled, pulled the ladder back and continued down the stairs.
Hearing some noise from a room at the bottom of the stairs, Splug explained, “That is the treasure dump.” Skamos deftly peered around the corner into the room and reported back, “It looks like a mining area, there are three goblins digging and what appears to be two large dogs, but dogs with scaly hides. The room consists of a sunken floor, and a few large pillars, about 15 feet above ground, each accessible by ladders or planks set up as walkways.” Tira spoke up, “I think we should take them.” Z’alden agreed, “We do not want any goblins left to be able to sneak up behind us later.” Discussing their options, the team decided to rush in, pull the two accessible planks, and then pick off the creatures one by one.
Barrick and Felsmon charged into the room and grabbed the planks. As expected, the goblins were surprised by the rushed attack, but the guard drakes, as they were, were not so easily ambushed. Having picked up on Barrick’s sweaty dwarf scent, the dog beings were on the move as the party entered the room. Luckily for the intrepid explorers, the drakes were both on the lower level and Tira and Skamos were each able to fire off a magical bolt before the dogs could reach the ramp leading to the party. Now fully aware of the intruders, the goblins dropped their rusty pick axes and each pulled retrieved and loaded a crossbow. “Blast!” muttered Barrick, “I hate crossbows.” Not more than a few seconds after muttering those fateful words did a crossbow bolt snake across the room, finding its way through a crack in Barrick’s armour, piercing his arm. A bit stunned, Barrick then retreated to pull out the bolt and keep an eye on Splug whilst the others readied themselves for a quick and easy battle.
Felsmon moved in front of Tira to take the brunt of the charge of the first dog-drake-thing bounding up the wooden ramp. “It’s just a scaly mangy mutt,” Felsmon uttered stepping forward, marking the beast and swinging his sword. As if in response to the insult, the drake lunged forward and bit through the knee joint in Felsmon’s armour, inflicting a deep bloody wound.
Realizing the battle was not going to be the simple target shooting practice they had anticipated, a new strategy was quickly formed; Skamos, Z’alden and Tira moved back toward the entrance of the room, taking cover behind the walls of the hallway. Barrick released the rope that was holding Splug, and charged the remaining drake, inflicting a deep would and simultaneously pushing it off the pillar. He then dropped a plank bridge back into place and charged across to try and interfere with the crossbow of one of the goblins. Z’alden returned fire with his crossbow, and soon bolts and magic missiles were flying back and forth across the room. Felsmon dispatched the beast at the top of the ramp and marked the second fell creature as his next target.
When reduced to one, the final goblin, all hope lost and being chased down by Barrick wielding plank bridges, tried unsuccessfully to hold off the attackers from atop a rock pillar on the far side of the room. With his demise, the room fell silent, save for the heavy breathing of the standing fighters.
The group quickly searched the room, the ‘treasure dump,’ as Splug had referred to it, but it appeared that naught but a few gold pieces was to be found. Z’alden, however, was fortunate to spy a filthy, scum-covered symbol of Bahamut. Cleaning it off, he could feel divine power radiating from it, and put it on his chest as his new holy symbol. A holy artifact was not exactly the pile of gold that Splug had implied. Turning on the little goblin, the truth was quickly wrung out, “When I said, ‘dump’, I meant dump.” “Throw him into the stairway chasm,” Tira suggested to her companions, but Barrick pointed out that Splug could have left during the battle, but stayed with the group. Tira and Skamos still did not trust the goblin runt, but the remainder of the party convinced them to allow Splug to continue with the group, unfettered, and even equipped with a worn and nicked short sword.
Leaving the corpse-laden so-called treasure room, Splug informed the party that the next leg of their quest led through a closed door. Skamos easily opened the door and examined the interior of the room, with less sound than the beat of a dragon’s heart. Behind the door a rough hallway continued for a ways, then abruptly narrowed and became strewn with rubble. Peering into the narrow darkness, Skamos reported a pool of water off to one side of the ruined passageway. Fearing the worst, the hardy gang tied themselves together and attempted to pass the leaking pool as stealthily as possible. The wall on the other side of the pool appeared to be solid rock, but Splug claimed to be able to open a secret door in the wall. Whilst Splug was busy working on the hidden lock, Z’alden noticed bubbles starting to form in the pool. “Hurry up!” he cautioned the clumsy goblin. Even as Splug doubled his efforts, the bubbles in the pool doubled. “Got it!” Splug gleefully chortled as a slab of rock slid to one side. The party quickly moved to pass through the door, with scant thought to what lay beyond. Without warning a glowing blue tentacle breached the surface of the now roiling pool. Skamos tried to blast it, but to no avail. Several more tentacles broke the surface and strained for the party as they struggled to push through the narrow doorway. One tentacle whipped and a jelly like substance splattered onto Felsmon, burning any exposed skin. With a dive, Felsmon and Z’alden leapt through the doorway, and Barrick helped slide the door shut moments before a tentacle could reach through.
The small chamber was empty and the party was again able to catch their breath before continuing through the only option available to them, a second rough rock door on the far side of the little room. This second door opened into what appeared to be a crypt, and even though a layer of dust on the floor indicated that no one had passed by in quite some time, two braziers were burning brightly on the corners of the sarcophagus in the center of the room.
Z’alden read aloud the inscription on the wall, “Here lies Sir Keegan, …” Before he could continue, the lid of the coffin exploded upwards, sending spall throughout the room. A ghostly form stirred and a skeletal paladin rose slowly to an upright position, appearing to stand between the braziers. “I hate spirits,” muttered Barrick. The apparition spoke in a voice that sounded of dry bones clattering, “I am Sir Keegan, I have been charged with protecting this keep, and repelling all those who seek the entrance to elsewhere.”
Turning his bony form toward Z’alden, Sir Keegan continued, “Who are you, and why are you here?” Z’alden stepped forward boldly and answered truthfully, “I am a faithful servant of Bahamut, we are not to open the rift, but to attempt to seal it, preventing the spill of evil from one realm into ours.” The shadow of Sir Keegan seemed pleased with that answer. Thinking they had earned safe passage through the room Skamos started moving toward the double doors at the other end of the room. Sir Keegan quickly turned to face Skamos, “And why are you here, are you also a servant of Bahamut?”
One by one Sir Keegan questioned each member of the party, with the single exception of Splug. Each party member did their best to answer truthfully, all except for Tira; rather than admitting her motives for the quest leaned more for the blood and treasure than for any higher good, she concocted a story about her grandfather once working in the keep. Sir Keegan laughed at her attempt, “Ha! I know every person that ever worked here. You lie.” But, strangely, he did not question Tira further. Z’alden said, “Can you offer us any aid in our quest to seal the rift?” Sir Keegan, looking forlorn, nodded, called Felsmon forward, and said, ” I can only offer a few small gifts.” He reached across the tomb and handed his sword, Aecris, to Felsmon. Felmson could sense the sword had magical powers, adding to his own considerable abilities. Returning his gaze to Z’alden, Sir Keegan spoke one more time, “Go. Go forward and do what you can to stop the flow of evil. In the next room you will find several statues of Bahamut, take them with haste. Go.” Question as the party would, no more would the specter of Sir Keegan speak.
Passing through the doors, two small altars to Bahamut flanked the party, immediately followed by ten non-moving skeletal figures lining the walls. “I hate skeletons,” muttered Barrick. Z’alden and Felsmon knelt and searched the two alters. Z’alden quickly found a hidden chamber, containing three small statues of Bahamut. Despite Z’alden’s instructions, Felsmon could not locate the hidden catch to open the other compartment. Z’alden moved and quickly retrieved three more statuettes. Sensing some use for the statuettes, the party divided them, one per person, including one for Splug. Z’alden stepped forward into the room, holding the statue high in front of him. Two skeletons on the wall animated and stepped forward, but did not attack. Cautiously the other party members followed Z’alden’s example and walked slowly through the center of the room. The skeletons all came to life, and closed in behind the adventurers, but made no attempt at attack or hinder.
Barrick used his dagger to lift the lock bar on the other side of the double door; the party quickly passed through and locked the door behind them, keeping the skeleton crew on the other side. “Whew, out of danger,” Skamos said. “Not quite, my good wizard,” Tira said, pointing into the room in which they had just entered. Five flesh dripping zombies stood against the wall. To one side the room exited into a hallway, but instead of the rough stone tiled flooring found throughout most of the rest of the keep, glowing crimson symbols covered a 10’x10’ area of the hall. Immediately past the pulsing runes was a large bloodstain, next to a set of massive double doors, followed by another 10’ patch of glowing crimson markings.
Like the skeletons in the previous room, the zombies were motionless. Hoping for the best, the party asked Splug to walk across the glowing floor. Splug shrugged and calmly strode across the tiles. Anxiously the group watched the zombies, and tried to sense any disturbances in the air, but nothing stirred. Confidently Skamos stepped onto the glowing rune, but the instant his foot contacted the floor a groaning sound, like many voices all calling out in the darkness, came not only from the zombies in the room, but from down the hall, past the other runed tiles.
“I hate zombies,” Barrick muttered, fearing the worst for another fight with the undead. But the zombies turned out to be much easier than expected. Z’alden gleefully called out his undead spell, and radiant energy from other spells quickly dispatched not only the five zombies in the room, but the five amassing down the hallway.
Alone again, the group stood facing the heavy double doors. They looked from one another, until Skamos said, “Let’s do this.” Nodding, Barrick and Felsmon tried to open the door, but could not get the massive timbers to budge. No physical attempts were able to open the door; in the end Z’alden decided to use his Knock scroll. Setting out the needed ingredients, he read from the scroll, then dropped a powder into a small metal bowl of liquid. Energy leapt from the concoction, infusing the door; the door swung open, and a cold wind blew across the party.
A wide stairway descended past the doors, turning downward in a large spiral. Cautiously the group dropped down to the lower level of the keep, coming at last to another set of doors. Listening at the door, a few voices could be heard on the other side.
The party silently paused, each member ensuring they had all appropriate powers and weapons at the ready…