Session date: Monday, August 8, 2016
Game date: Saturday, February 1, 209
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 10093/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11726/20000
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3429/4000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 1, hp 6, xp 119/1500
A smaller roster than on recent evenings, with just the "dynamic duo" of Gulleck and Caryatid and their retainers. The adventurers consulted with a tailor in the neighborhood near the Rusty Lantern tavern, to duplicate the embroidered togas that allowed safe passage through the Temple of Hedonism (including a miniature toga for Caryatid's pet monkey Marcel), and then entered the dungeon with no particular goal in mind this evening.
They encountered a handful of random wandering monsters that they either avoided or that posed no threat to them. This included the ominous sight of a pair of the "Weeping Angels" last seen to have mysteriously vanished from the courtyard of the Temple of Death. Gulleck opened the door to the Temple of Hedonism and there they were in the vestibule. The stone statues of angels stood incongruously in the narrow hall, seemingly stopped in midstride. Everyone played along and backed into the temple without taking their eyes off the statues, and certainly, no one dared to blink!
Down on the second level, the group visited the lair of the orcs to see how they had responded to the theft of their gong and depletion of their forces. Unusually, no orcs stood guarding the entrance to their lair. On the floor lay a crude clay bowl containing a few coppers, below a sign painted on a scrap of wood that read, "LEEV TOLE" with an arrow pointing to the bowl.
The adventurers laughed roundly at the orcs' cowardice and continued on their merry way. In one room they stumbled on a half dozen of the young urchins who seemed to live in the dungeon. Though usually friendly with the adventurers, they jumped in surprise as the party entered the room and nearly fell over themselves trying to run away. Gulleck calmed them down and asked why they were so nervous. It turned out that one of their number, a girl named Vicki, had been kidnapped by the goblins, and the rest of the urchins were feeling particularly vulnerable and on edge. Gulleck and Caryatid promised to help find Vicki and bring her back if possible, and said they would leave a note for the urchins in the Temple of Hedonism. (Kind of a funny place to leave messages for children, if you ask me!)
Further along in the dungeon, they passed a pair of swinging saloon doors (yes, just like in the Old West), behind which came the incongruous sound of singing and laughing in weird, high-pitched voices. Inside, the party found a half dozens goblins partying in the old tavern room: dancing on the bar, guzzling wine from an ancient cask, playing cards around a table. They were friendly and eagerly invited the adventurers to join them. Gulleck offered them a bottle of wine from his backpack and they became friendlier still. The adventurers made small talk with the impish creatures, and then carefully broached the subject of the missing child. The goblins grinned conspiratorially. "Oh, she's come to live with us in our palace. She's come of her own free will and we would never hurt a hair on her head!"
The adventurers asked the goblins for directions to the palace, which the goblins were very happy to give them. Through the caves, east of the rope bridge. The adventurers were welcomed to visit the palace and meet the Goblin King. They could join him for a feast and partake of the goblin's delicious food, the likes of which was unrivalled for flavor. In fact, the goblins assured them, once they had tasted of the food, the goblins were confident they would want to come back again and again for more.
That did nothing to reassure the players! And off they went, following the goblins' directions to the palace of the Goblin King.
In the caves to the east, south of the dodgy rope bridge that spans a chasm, the adventurers followed a winding passage that ended in a small cave chamber that gave way to polished flagstones and an incongruous pair of ornate double doors. Gulleck knocked cautiously on the doors, and craned his neck to look up at the huge, hulking goblins that opened the doors from the other side. Inside the doors was a small guardroom in which four of the looming, hairy creatures were stationed, peering down at the adventurers with their baleful, bulging eyes.
"What business do you have in the Palace of the Goblin King?" one of the guards asked, in the eerie, hooting voice common to these creatures.
"We've come to seek an audience with the Goblin King. We were invited!"
"You must leave your weapons here. They will be returned to you when you leave the palace."
Nobody was happy about this (they have a very uneasy "friendly terms" thing going on with the goblins, which has only become even less easy with the new implications about the children), but they eventually figured that they had come here just to make inquiries, not to attack the goblins in their own lair. They handed over their obvious weapons, though Caryatid made a point to conceal her magical wands.
After being left to wait for some time, the party was escorted by a pair of the looming goblins into the hallways of the palace. The floors were tiled with black and white squares similar to that of the Goblin Market, slightly off-kilter and crooked in an unsettling way. The walls likewise seemed just ever-so-slightly out of square, producing a disorienting feeling when contrasted with the opulence of the hallways, lined with torch sconces, tapestries, and other decorations. Occasionally, they passed hallway junctions that were marked with curious pieces of furniture: a writing desk, a large stuffed ostrich, a tall fish tank containing strange ocean denizens...
The goblins led the party on a bizarre, circuitous route, and the players (and characters) were frantically trying to sketch out a map in case they needed to make a quick retracing of their steps. They turned a corner and suddenly the map made no sense at all. According to it, they should have turned back against another hallway where there was a solid wall, but now the hall stretched out in front of them!
"What? Whaaat?! Whaaaaat!" sputtered Gulleck's player, as the map became increasingly nonsensical. Eventually, the players tossed up their hands in despair and declared that Marcel (Caryatid's monkey) had been doing the mapping as they walked (and doing a poor job of it). They were led through the disorienting hallways and eventually through a corridor whose walls were lined with various flags and pennants, and then passed through a pair of doors into a great hall where goblins and hobgoblins were engaged in a raucous feast. Platters of sublimely beautiful fruit and meats sat on the table, and goblins were devouring the food with relish. Energetic music came from a corner, where a small band of goblins played unfamiliar instruments. There were goblins laying on a table below large barrels and kegs of wine and beer, letting the liquid pour directly into their mouths. As the adventurers surveyed the alarming sight before them, they made eye contact with a pair of hobgoblins seated at the head table, and recognized their "friends" Margleton and Clabberpus. The hobgoblins smiled and nodded to them in greeting across the room.
The adventurers were ushered to seats near the head table, and they sat looking nervously at the preternaturally delicious-looking food laid in front of them, whispering to each other not to eat it. Suddenly, a door behind the head table was thrown open, and a tall, striking hobgoblin strutted in. He wore a resplendent doublet, tight leather pants, and a felt top hat, which he swept from his head and tossed into the crowd. His features were bold and angular, almost elfin but with the same sort of feral danger present in all of the goblins. Imagine a cross between David Bowie's Goblin King in "Labyrinth" and Tim Curry's Dr. Frank in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".
"Welcome to the Palace of the Goblin King!" he called to the adventurers. He spoke in an exaggeratedly posh accent. "How d'you do? I see you've met my... right-hand men," he said with a curl of his lips, wrapping his arms around Margleton and Clabberpus as he sank into his throne at the center of the head table. "And to what do I owe the extreme pleasure of your company?" And without giving them a chance to respond, he continued, "Ohhh, have you come to join us and stay here with us? Oh, do say you have, it would be positively ducky! We could feast together, and you could stay here forever and forever and ever..." His smile grew wider and more predatory as he spoke.
"Uh... thanks for the offer, but I'm afraid we can't accept right now," stammered Gulleck. "Actually, uh, Your Majesty, we've come to ask about some children."
"Yes? What children would those be?"
"Well, we've been given to understand that some children have perhaps come to live here, and we wanted to find out if everything was all right."
"Oh, those children!" smiled the Goblin King. "Oh yes, everything's fine. They're here of their own free will, you must understand. Nobody comes here except by their own free choice. We would never coerce anyone, especially not children."
"All the same," said Gulleck, "perhaps we could see the children?"
"I don't see why not," said the Goblin King amiably. He murmured instructions to a goblin servant, who hurried from the feast hall. "Now while we wait, please, enjoy your meal. I'm sure it will be the most delicious repast you have had in oh, ever so long. In fact, I'm positive that once you taste our food, you'll want to stay here and have it any time you like... So please, tuck in!" The adventurers made various excuses, or moved the food around on their plate. Some of them surreptitiously tucked away some food in a belt pouch for further investigation back in Idalium.
After a few minutes, the goblin servant returned with four children. They looked well fed and uninjured, having traded their urchin rags for the more brightly-colored rags of the goblins. Vicki was there, whom the other urchins had been searching for, as well as Jo, Dorothy, and a boy named Jamie. Vicki told Gulleck not to worry about them, that they were happy to be safe in the Goblin Palace. "We don't have to hide and scavenge for food any more. We're all grown up now." She told them that she trusted the Goblin King and that they wanted to stay in the palace. The other three children nodded and expressed agreement.
"Well, I really think you should reconsider," said Gulleck, but he was unable to muster a convincing argument that life with the goblins was worse than the hard knock life of a dungeon urchin.
"Are you satisfied that no harm has come to them?" asked the Goblin King jovially. "You see, they're happy here!"
Having ascertained the situation of the lost urchins, the adventurers politely disengaged themselves from the feast. The Goblin King was disappointed to see them go, but graciously waved for a party of guards to escort them back to the entrance. "Oh well, feel free to stop by any time you like. Although, best to make an appointment for an audience. I'm such a busy man, you know."
The guards led them back through the back door, through unfamiliar corridors that followed no logical path, and eventually they emerged at the guardroom where they had entered. They made an appointment to see the Goblin King for early next Saturday, and then collected their weapons and headed back to the surface. They were troubled by their discovery, and deeply suspicious of the sparkling and shining fruit tucked away in their packs...