Sifting through the dog yard, we see the goblins are Thisteltop clan not Birdcrunchers, and with smashed skulls not bite marks…
As if on cue, the door they’re piled against shudders with a horrible piteous whine. Listening closer, it sounds like a horse (NS knowing goblin’s contempt for horses) no doubt half mad from torture. Athene opens the barred door and a great black destrier charges out in, exhausted, mauled and relieved to be free. I approach it, speaking gently and he calms at my touch. Collecting up a barrel for water I lead it outside and tether it in a safe alcove. Stripping the rotted barding I find a copper plate that names it Shadowmist.
Back with the others we pass through empty hallways (a putrid privy) and a stairwell leading down, until we’re back at the trophy room. There’s a wall of doors and I sense an evil host beyond, no doubt some sort of hall.
We decide to finish sweeping the surrounds before bursting in, starting with the second watchtower.
We sneak up the staircase and through a trapdoor, where two sentries play with a mismatched deck of cards. Alerted, they immediately start shrieking for attention. We make a rapid decision to withdraw and use the stairwell as a choke point against what could be dozens of enemies. Goblins indeed pour in from above and below but we’ve set up a perfect kill zone and before long the stairs are littered with green skinned corpses.
Expecting more, we hold, breathing heavy but the assault is over.
Only a few rooms remain including a store room, bunks and a charnel house of butchery that affronts the senses. I drag out and empty a barrel of bloody offal onto the crude stone floor to slow any flanking maneuvers… and we form up at the doors of what may even be a throne room…
Bows drawn and burst in.
It is indeed a grand hall with tall ceilings and ominous torchlight fit for a goblin Chieftain. Animal pelts, skulls and crude trophies line the walls while severed and scorched humanoid hands are nailed to the three central pillars like a grisly vine.
At the back, on a raised platform stands Warchief Ripnugget in all his savage finery. Either side of him a leering Warchanter and a huge saddled Lizard, tongue flicking.
In broken common and mocking tones he greets us as ‘The Heroes of Sandpoint’, flattering and cursing us at the same time.
He makes a transparent pretense of parlay, even accepting Athene’s command to lay down his weapon and attempts to broker a deal; Their freedom in exchange for information on his masters; Tstuto and *Nualia*…
Again we are faced with a tempting offer, but he is lying through his yellow teeth and what’s more, I can sense more of his kind lurking in the beams overhead, clinging to the nails with short bows drawn…
Calling out the Snipers positions I fire an arrow at Ripnugget, which flies wide.
A great curtain appears out of nowhere on the platform, the Warcaster disappearing behind.
Ripnugget leaps on his Gecko and charges Athene.
Mahd summons a sphere of fire, which rolls from pillar to pillar, goblins scrambling.
I crush one of the sneaks above like a bug, with my polearm.
Arrows fly back and fourth between Shae and the snipers.
Mahd’s rolling ball of fire slams into the curtain and… disappears…
Then we see it for what it is- an illusion! The phantasm dissolves revealing a furious Warchanter who orders the archers to fire on the wizard.
Mahd counters with an illusion of her own, mirrors of herself appearing everywhere and soaking the hail of arrows that fall around her.
We surround a still defiant, mounted Ripnugget, wielding blade and tooth.
Mahd looks at me and smiles with a word of magic and I feel that familiar rush as I double in size. Looking at down at the Goblin chief in his lair of horrors, I say a prayer to Iomadae smite him with all my fury.
The Warchanter tries a spell on me but I shake it off with a strange giggle. She tries to trick us with another illusion (the cries of reinforcements) but we won’t be fooled this time…
Shae leaps up and ends the Warchanter’s life.
The first crack appears in Ripnugget’s haughty demeanor and he kicks his mount’s flanks, bounding away.
We take chase, cornering him in the dog pen, clinging to the back wall, empty potion bottles below. As I lumber in, still a giant, he leaps off and charges Athene again.
Whatever he took he is stronger and meaner than before proving a match for Athene, Shae and I, lizard snapping, short sword swinging.
Athene is bleeding badly when they turn on me.
Her powers would tip the balance, perhaps she was ambushed?
I am close to death now, I can see the silhouette of a woman warrior in armour, sword and shield in hand… No, I have been here before and this is not my time…
I strike a mighty blow that unseats the chieftain and lays his gecko low.
As Ripnugget stands, Mahd comes trotting in calm as ever with a clanking sack…
We close in around him.
He is staggering, eyes vacant, I can taste victory… He defeat…
Mahd reaches out and blasts him with acid.
He screams and stumbles over the slimy corpse of his mount… dead.
As Athene and I steady ourselves, Mahd holds open a bag of loot, nonchalant and pronounces ‘Look what I found!?’