Session date: Monday, August 17, 2015
Game date: Saturday, June 8, 208
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 4025/4400
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 10, xp 4838/5000
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 10, xp 4838/5000
Gaspar, Fighter 1, hp 3, xp 712/2000
Another short roster, but the players were eager to continue exploring the northern reaches of the second level. Down through the Temple of Hedonism the party went, towards the area they had left off in at the end of the last session. Instead of continuing to the north, they turned east down a long common hall that they had previously passed by.
A short ways along this hall they found a pair of doors on the left wall. Pictorial signs hung next to them, the first depicting a pair of steaming kettles and the second showing several rolled scrolls. In the first room they found the remains of what appeared to have once been a snack shop. Rusty old kettles and cauldrons stood at the back of the shop, and shelves and counters filled the front. The front counter had a locked drawer that no one in the party was equipped to open, so Gulleck took the direct approach and pried it open with a crowbar. Inside was a strange metal cone, somewhat like a small trumpet horn. They vaguely remembered finding one of these before, but nobody could remember where. Eventually, someone got the idea to put it to their ear while asking someone else to speak to them. They were startled to discover the cone converted the words to an unfamiliar language, though Gulleck thought perhaps it sounded like the Ancient Idalian spoken by the statues in the town square and the skeleton statue in the Temple of the Dead. Meanwhile, Caryatid was investigating the cauldrons in the back of the shop, and found one with a false bottom. Gulleck's crowbar hooked and pulled out the bottom, and they were pleased to see hundreds of silver coins, neatly stacked in the cauldron. Gulleck filled a large sack with coins and Gaspar filled his backpack.
The door to the shop next door was extremely stubborn and Gulleck and Gaspar pounded on it repeatedly before it would open. All the noise echoing through the halls drew forth four goblins from farther down the hall to the east. They were giggling and snickering as they watched the PCs bashing on the door. "Shhhh! You'll wake something awful!"
Gulleck exchanged some curt words with the goblins and went back to working on the door. The goblins watched with amusement and cheered when he finally got the door open. Inside was another abandoned shop, a newstand full of rotting and faded papers. None seemed to be salvageable, but beneath a heavy canvas tarp in the back of shop the PCs found a large wooden check, secured with a large padlock. Again, Gulleck's crowbar was put to good use, and the padlock was snapped off. Quietly cursing the decision to go without their thief retainer, Ylil, today, the decision was made to have Gulleck carefully open the chest. There was a loud TWANG, and a crossbow bolt embedded itself in the wall behind Gulleck. This sent the goblins into paroxysms of laughter. Gulleck peeked inside to find hundreds of silver and gold coins within. He calmly closed the lid and declared, "Nothin' in there!" to the goblins.
The goblins narrowed their eyes and became more serious. They guessed the score, and made an offer to the party. "Well, now. There are four of you and four of us. I think that means we should split that treasure evenly." They sat themselves down in the doorway and refused to move.
Gulleck and Caryatid laughed outright, but the goblins would not be deterred. In the end, the goblins made a curious threat: split the treasure with them, or they would sing at the top of their lungs and see who or what showed up to investigate the sound. "Fine, go ahead," said Gulleck. "Teach it to me and I'll join in." The goblins started singing a strange, yodelling song, which echoed down the corridor. Gulleck attempted to pick up the chorus and join in. I think he was hoping for something that hates goblins to show up, but when I rolled on the wandering monster table, the thing that did show up was... four more goblins!
"This is not exactly how I hoped this would go," reflected Gulleck. The new goblins seemed less interested in playing games with the party. "There's eight of us, and only four of you. How about you just give us that treasure?" They drew swords and prepared to charge into the room to fight for it. Caryatid drew forth the ever-useful wand of fear, and with a flick of the wrist released its magic upon the malevolent creatures. All but one goblin failed their saving throws and fled, and the one remaining one abruptly failed its morale check and scrambled frantically after his fleeing companions. The terrified screams of the goblins echoes along the hall, eventually fading away.
It now became an issue that the party only possessed one sack, the one Gulleck had filled with coins. They filled their backpacks with gold and silver, but the chest still remained over half full when they had done so. They made the uncomfortable decision to leave the rest of the silver here, return to the Rusty Lantern with what they could carry, and hopefully return for the rest later. (D&D is in many ways a game about logistics and trade-offs, so this kind of situation is important not to just hand-wave away. The players were forced to make a difficult decision here, in part due to the fact that they neglected to bring enough carrying capacity for a bulky haul like this.)
As they left the shop to return home, the drums started up, echoing through the corridors of the dungeon, the drums that indicated that the orcs were conducting some foul frenzied ritual in the desecrated temple near the Temple of Hedonism. And indeed, on their way back to the exit, the party encountered a group of orcs on their way to the ceremony.
"Hey, whatcha got in that sack?" asked one of the orcs of Gulleck.
"Goblins!" bluffed Gulleck.
"Er... live goblins?"
"They were alive."
The orc grunted. "We could have used live goblins for the ceremony."
Another orc hastened his fellow along, and they turned the corner and headed away towards the pounding drumbeat.
They crept by the orcs' temple, where amid the drums and the gutteral yelping they thought they heard a panicked clucking of chickens. This wasn't enough to entice them into a battle with the orcs, and they crept quietly onwards. And then the wandering monster table came up with my beloved dungeon-wide "Other" entry, exactly as it did in this very stretch of hallway where they met the Queen of Nightmares!
Much like that incident, the party became aware of a large entourage coming their way. Tinny trumpets bleated out, and a goblin voice called, "Make way! Make way and pay tribute to his pre-eminance, his magnificence, his extravagance, the Goblin Prince!" The PCs flattened themselves against the walls and willed the entourage to pass by. There were over a dozen goblins, a half dozen of the tall goblins (sometimes called hobgoblins), and a pair of the tall lanky hairy monsters with their eerie staring eyes. Among the entourage of goblins strode a jolly and rotund goblin in ridiculous finery. Although he had the same pallid gray skin and strange features of all goblins, he looked for all the world like a fat spoiled schoolboy.
"Oh, greetings to my subjects!" he called to the adventurers. "I see you have come to pay me tribute! How kind of you to bring such a full sack of gifts!" He pointed to the sack of coins Gulleck carried over his shoulder. Gulleck attempted to hand over a bottle of wine instead. This was happily accepted by the prince, but he would not be put off. Nor would the magical earpiece serve as a substitute. One of the very tall hairy goblins loomed over Gulleck intimidatingly. "His Highness is ready to receive your tribute!" it hooted in its bizarre hollow voice.
"Oh, fine," grumbled Gulleck, realizing that at least the bag only contained silver coins.
"Excellent!" chirped the Goblin Prince. "Enjoy your stay in my domain!"
And the entourage struck up the bleating of trumpets and marched off into the dark, past the pounding drums of the orcs.
Annoyed at losing their coins but relieved to have escaped the goblin entourage, they swiftly made their way back upstairs and up to the Rusty Lantern. After taking a few hours to visit some of the shops near the tavern and buy a few more sacks, they returned to the dungeon to collect the rest of the coins and continue their explorations.
Luckily, the chest of coins had not been disturbed in their absence, and the PCs were able to distribute the remaining silver pieces among the four party members. Then they explored further along the hallway, and found a door that led to an old apartment. They found a living room full of musty old furniture. On a stand was a broken harp and an intact lute. There were shelves full of faded and mildewed papers. Most were unreadable, but they did find a scroll full of small punched-out holes. It was labelled, "An Air of Prosperity", just as the one they had found all chewed-up in the hydraulic organ in the Temple of Music.
Beyond the living room, they found a grand hall with a long dining table. The walls were painted with spooky portraits, whose eyes seemed to follow the PCs as they moved through the room. Beyond this hall, they found a bedroom with a tattered velvet canopy bed, and a pair of wardrobes. One wardrobe contained just a few moth-eaten cloaks, but the other was surprisingly full of coats and robes, such that the back of the wardrobe could not be seen.
The players were immediately suspicious of this! Gulleck ventured into the wardrobe at the end of a rope, and found that the coats and robes continued far deeper than one could possibly expect from this wardrobe. After about 15', he found another pair of wooden doors, like the inside of the wardrobe doors. Light glimmered behind the crack in the doors.
Gulleck returned to the bedroom and conferred with the party. They tied one end of the rope to the bed and then entered the wardrobe together. Pushing the doors open at the other end, they saw an empty, dusty room with bleached wooden floorboards. Late afternoon light streamed in from an open window, and dust motes hung in the light. From the window came the faint cry of gulls. Thoroughly weirded out, the party emerged from a plain wooden wardrobe against one wall, the only furniture in this room. Crossing the room to the window, they looked out and discovered themselves to be on the third floor of a house in what looked to be the neighborhood of The Steps, the old and rundown district that lay across the river from the city of Idalium. They could see the harbor to the south, and to the left they could see the city. It was approaching twilight, and the air above the city was already starting to haze over with smoke from its many chimneys.
The four adventurers crept out of the room, and entered a hall where doors led to other rooms, and creaky wooden stairs led down two flights to the entrance of the house. The front door and windows were boarded over with planks. Gulleck's crowbar came in handy again as he tore the planks off the front door, and the party carefully stepped out into a desolate side street on the hillside to the west of the city. There were only a few houses here, and they were similarly boarded up and decrepit. The two Caryatids and Gaspar waited at the house, while Gulleck crept down the street to investigate. He emerged onto a larger street, and was relieved to see other inhabitants going about their business. They gave peculiar looks at his plate armor, shield, and battle axe, and he hurried back up the side street. (I think for a moment there he was concerned they have traveled in time or to some alternate reality!)
Pleased at finding another entrance/exit to the dungeon, they re-entered the house, made an effort at nailing the planks over the door again, and went back upstairs to the wardrobe. When they passed through it, they were relieved again to find that they returned to the same bedroom in the dungeon that they had left from.
They left this set of rooms, and moved further along the hall. An ornately carved archway led north to a heavy wooden door. Above the arch was inscribed, "Quake, mere mortals, as you enter the realm of the great Frobnitzim." The door led to a once-elegant sitting room. A fire burned without noise or heat in a fireplace without a chimney. Doors led in all four directions.
To the west, they found a large room with a circle and triangle inlaid in brass on the floor. Braziers stood at the points of the triangle and the four cardinal directions on the circle. The braziers contained burnt remnants of various spices and herbs. The "newer" Caryatid took a great interest in this, and collected samples of the substances in the braziers for later investigation.
To the north of the sitting room, they found a bedroom with a large bed without legs, floating incongruously in mid-air. They made a great deal of noise trying to open the door to this room, though, and were startled by five tall goblins who strolled up behind them. One of the goblins was Margleton, who they had met many weeks ago in the Temple of Hedonism.
"Shush now! The homes of wizards still hold many dangers. There is a saying in our realm: Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger. This may hold true even for long-departed wizards."
The party conversed amicably with the goblins, and were invited to their palace. "Oh, you must come and feast with us! We would simply love to have you for dinner."
"What sort of food do you serve?" asked Gulleck nervously.
"Oh, the most wonderful foods, the likes you have never seen. Fruits of such ripeness and beauty! Once you have tasted them, you will never want to leave! You will want to stay with us, and dine with us forever and ever! Oh, but I am being too forward. Come to the palace, and see for yourself!"
"Now there's somewhere I don't think I ever want to go," mused Gulleck after the goblins had departed with a flourish. The party, too, decided it was time to depart. They returned to the Rusty Lantern with vague ideas about buying or renting the abandoned house in The Steps, to have a quick entrance or escape route from the dungeon. And perhaps it might be a worthwhile investment, as the party returned to the Rusty Lantern just as the guards were making preparations to seal the trapdoor for the night.