Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won’t you stop and remember me
"Boch! Jeroen Boch!" hissed Troyas as quietly as he could. "Get back here, you’re too close to the opening. They’ll see you."
I backed away from the gap in the mountain. Bairdyn had gone quietly into the passage and returned to let us know that a guard station was just at the bottom of a short flight of stairs where a pair of goblins and pair of hobgoblins were keeping an eye on the entrance. We were discussing the plan for attacking them hoping to get them as much by surprise as we could. I still wasn’t sure what I was doing with these obviously prepared adventurers.
On the tail of an brief autumn rain on the evening of the third day after the assault of Brindol, the heroes who fended off the assault–Bhenedict, the rhymer dwarf; Jimmy, the Acolyte of Bahaumet; and Bairdyn Barleycorn, rogue of the river people–arrived at the ruins of Rivenroar Castle with their new partners.
Jeroen Boch, a man with a splintered past and haunting dreams of being a vetran of some forgotten war, now farming outside the walls of Brindol had his livelihood destroyed by Sinruth and his band of Hobgoblin as they fled Brindol with their bounty of treasures and prisoners and was especially motivated to join them. Jeroen had watched helpless to act as the Hobgoblins dragged his friend, the cook Mirtala away as one of their captives. Seeing Mirtala, one of Jeroen’s few close personal friends, frantic and pleading with Hobgoblins had driven Jeroen over the edge and awakened a fierce loyalty within him along with the stirrings of battles, long past and forgotten with the cobweb of his shattered memory. So much so that the heroes of Brindol found that their sometimes enigmatic friend from the Antler & Thistle would not be left behind.
And the final member of their party, none other than Brindol Council Member, Eoffram Troyas. He who had sponsored the expedition in the first place. To their surprise Eoffram decided to lead the mission personally. He had lost his family in the war of the Red Hand, the original battle against the goblins that had nearly destroyed Brindol ten years past. He too had suffered recently as Sinruth and his bandits had destroyed much of his livelihood with their attacks on the trade caravans.
Together they set themselves upon this quest to rescue the seven prisoners, and to recover the treasures taken from their ‘Hall of Great Valor,’ relics of the ‘Red Hand’ invasion.
The journey from Brindol had been arduous if uneventful. There had been no path or significant trail, just an old map taken from a Hobgoblin prisoner, directions and localities known to Eoffram, and Jimmy’s sharp perceptions to guide the party along the goblins’ trail. The goblins had been rushed and dragging prisoners and the trail was still fresh enough to follow; thankfully, they had left before any significant rain had fallen.
They had found the castle in ruins … no surface structure appeared whole or sound. There was no sign of guards or any other inhabitants. From the outside the ruins appeared deserted, abandoned and dead to the world. After tying up and hiding their mule and cart, the party searched cautiously as night quickly approached promising further rains and a long cold mountain night and then just as darkness set in Jimmy noticed flickering shadows in the dance of a troubling light below within the bowels of the castle ruins. Following the dancing light the party found an egress, an open dark stair cutting deep and straight down a tunnel beneath the ruins.
Bairdyn volunteered to investigate, “Friends, hold here and stay back. I will search out this tunnel and see what lies beyond. Mayhap we can yet take these scoundrels by surprise.” Agreeing the party moved back as the halfling quietly padded down the stair. Below he found two flail-wielding hobgoblins standing ready in the center of a dank chamber. Braziers flanked double doors on the north wall. At either side of these doors stood a goblin, the goblins armed with crossbows.
With great steely nerves Bairdyn crawled back up the stair to warn the party, leaving the goblins unaware of his intrusion. Armed with this knowledge the party charged the goblins led by Jeroen. Taking the goblins by surprise initially, the goblins were quick to react and the hobgoblins swiftly took positions to hold the party at bay, while the goblins fired their crossbows and one of them kicked open the door at his side. Bhenedict beat upon the hobgoblin and together with Jeroen turned the tide of the battle allowing Bairdyn to taken a position of advantage behind the hobgoblins while Jimmy and Eoffram dealt with the goblins. Jimmy rushed forward wielding the halberd he had taken from the shrine in Brindol swinging down at the first goblin but noticing too late, faint grooves worn into the floor beneath the braziers as they began to slide forward towards the south wall; seconds later a gout of flame exploded from the west brazier to the east brazier burning Jimmy were he stood and singeing Jeroen. Eoffram replied with his own eldritch blast roasting the second goblin in a burst of flame. Jimmy shut the door preventing any escape and halting the braziers’ side as together the friends dispatched the guarding goblins. Examining the chamber after the battle they found inscriptions carved on plaques upon the doors. The west door’s plaque reading, “To Von Urstadt”; the north door’s read, “To Rivenroar Family”; and the east door displayed, “To Von Jallach." It was thus clear that they were indeed with the catacombs of the castle.
Jeroen thought, "What am I, a farmer, doing in a dungeon with armed guards and who knows what else? I barely wielded this blade well enough to keep my self from getting killed, but certainly not as well as the professionals that I find myself in the company of. When I had swung the sword, there seemed to be a hint of energy that would travel from my hand into the blade, but it never amounted to anything. Hopefully I can get a better handle on this power that I hope resides in the sword that appeared in my hands on the ride in."
After catching our breaths we went through the west doors, an iron bound door with latch but no lock. We heard mumbling sounds from down the twisting hall. We tried to quictly proceed down the damp flagstone floor. Again here, light danced from torches at the northern end of the hall but in caution Bhenedict too lights his torch. Peeking around a corner Bairdyn notes that the hall runs about twenty more feet to the north before opening into another chamber.
We encountered a group of angry hobgoblins are in the middle of an L-shaped room. Around the periphery of the room were bedrolls, sacks, and a roasting rack near a brazier.
As we approached the room we were attacked by one of the hobgoblin soldier and his crew of four hobgoblin grunts. Wielding a flail the hobgoblin soldier lands blow after heavy blow upon the defending Jeroen who buys time for the others as they attack the hobgoblins when suddenly the north door opens as two goblin sharpshooters join the hobgoblins leveling hand-held crossbows at the party and sticking Jimmy and Bairdyn with their sharp-eyed attack. Jeroen had tried to rush into the room to keep the party from being bottlenecked in the hallway, but the hobgoblin leader cut him off and tangled him up in his flail, preventing him from passing to get into the room. As such Jeroen found myself the center of the assault. While the soldier pinned Jeroen down the other hobgoblins surrounded him and began swinging their swords. He deflected most of their blows with his sword but the party could see that he was being worn down by the barrage. Bhenedict quickly took a position of defense and helped to draw their attacks and force the hobgoblins to shift their attention to the pair of defenders, thus allowing Jeroen and Bhenedict to take advantage of their distraction and more effectively defend each other.
Throughout the melee Jeroen hold his position never giving an inch as the others acted in concert bringing down the hobgoblins in a pitched battle. Were it not for the encouragement and prayers of Jimmy, surely Jeroen would have fallen. Eventually the goblins seek to flee but they are too late and together Jimmy, Eoffram and Bairdyn bring them down. In the aftermath of the battle they examine the north hallway stretching into the darkness noting jagged holes cut into the floor running the width of the hall and extending about ten feet. A rope hangs from the ceiling above the hole and extends down into the pit beneath. Quickly Jimmy pulls the rope from the pit.
Turning from the hallway, back again in the chamber Bhenedict notes a narrow fissure in the ceiling above the roasting rack, which allows smoke to travel outside the chamber and says, “I say we keep traveling westward at this door. Are ye with me?” With the agreement of the party, he carefully opens the west door.
Beyond the door they find a similar hall to the one that had led them to this goblin warren. An L-shaped hall travel less than ten feet before it turns to the north traveling another ten or twenty feet. Beyond that was a darkened triangle-shaped chamber now lit by Benedict’s torch and a strange illumination coming from a picture in the middle of the room, the flickering image of a sinister castle in the middle of a swamp.
As the party examined the glowing picture a slimy creature slithers through the center of the image and roiled forward quickly lashing out at the dwarf landing a heavy blow. Yelling out a retreat the party fled back to the warren chamber but as they arrive two ghostly figures take form from the thin air howling out with rage and hate-filled distain at the party angered over the heroe’s intrusion into the Von Urstadt burial vaults. So powerful is their hatred that Jeroen, Jimmy and Bairdyn are knocked off their feet in the wake of the spectre’s assault but Eoffram who had led the retreat had already moved past into the north hallway jumping across the pit. Regaining their feet the party attacked the spectres using every means at their disposal. The heroes were slowly loosing ground and confidence until Jimmy raised his holy symbol and smote the spectres using his faith as his lance forcing the retreat of the foul undead. Thankfully the slime creature from the picture chamber had not pursued the dwarf beyond that chamber. The spectres, now frozen due to the power of Jimmy’s prayer, were readily dispatched back to the netherworld from which they had come. Sensing victory Eoffram again leaped across the pit to rejoin the party but lacking the running start, and without out the added strength of fear at his back he fell short slipping at the edge of the hole tumbling deep with the pit below landing with a thud in what sounded like a large damp chamber, and Eoffram knew immediately that he was not alone!