Unconquered Kingdoms

Ch 1. Bloody Ogres! Part 6

“Anyone still interested in checking out under the bridge before we rest? I’d be happy to climb down the rope and see what’s there.” Nitram looked around questioningly. ”It shouldn’t take too long.” Hopefully

Aeron replied, ”Maybe you can lower Blend over the bridge. We need to keep the bows above to give cover fire if he gets into trouble.” Aeron then quoted from a slightly damaged parchment as he handed Blend the silk rope. ”Did you want to sign a copy of the standard adventurer agreement before we lower you over the side. It covers all the basics. ‘In case of attack, every effort will be made to come to your aid. If slain, a reasonable effort will be made to recover the body. In the event of an untimely death, attempts will be made to acquire resurrection services. If not available, attempts will be made to raise dead and if that is not available attempt will be made to reincarnate. Dead party member’s possessions will be used to pay for said services.’”

Blend answered Aeron’s inquiry with his standard reply, in that he completely ignored him and said nothing. He took the rope and motioned for Nitram to follow him and proceeded to the bridge.

Nitram went with Blend to the bridge. ”Do you want to lower me down?”

As Blend and Nitram left the observatory area and moved back out to the bridge, the fetid odor of the swamp like area down in the crevice became more pronounced, stifling even, for a moment or two after the fresh air of the ghost’s rooms. It was also darker than the well-lit area they had just left.

Jharron chuckled at the exchange between Aeron and Blend and shook his head. He followed the trio toward the bridge to provide cover fire in case of an issue. Nitram looked around the juncture of the bridge and crevice wall for a place to tie the rope off as well as make a successful descent to the bottom. The best place to tie off the rope seemed be around the large cross beam that supported the bridge.

Nitram looked at Blend with a slight smirk, ”You want to let Jharron lower me down?” Nitram reached for one end of the rope to tie around his chest, ”Or should we tie it off so everyone’s hands are free?”

Aeron commented, ”We could tie the rope off to Blend and Jharron. We’ll lower Blend off one side of the bridge and if he gets into trouble, Jharron can jump off the other side of the bridge to pull Blend up.”

”I don’t think your rope is long enough for that,” Nitram replied dismissively. He put on his gloves and tied the rope around his chest, under his arms. He handed the slack to Jharron to lower him down, saying, ”Let’s do this, people!”

Aeron handed the everburning torch to Nitram and took a position on the western side of the bridge. He had a knocked arrow standing in over watch. Jharron lowered Nitram down into the darkness under the bridge. As he was lowered, Nitram looked around with the light from the everburning torch. Once Nitram was lowered the entire 50 feet, he touched down with a squelching sound into a foot of water and mud. Nitram was nearest to the eastern wall of the crevice, and the far side was about 40 to 45 feet away. In the light of the torch he could see clearly the area surrounding him. The smell of the swampy area was pretty foul, but not overpowering.

Various clumps of vegetation such as ferns, and scraggly bunches of waist high grass filled the area, with the exception of the narrow flowing stream in the center of the crevice, flowing sluggishly northward. Nitram could see the goblin style helmet that the group had spied from the bridge. It looked like it had been half dissolved by acid or something. The crevice looked like it widened as it went southward. Some of the vegetation reminded Nitram of the cave behind the goblin encampment, and to some extent, the water had the same oily greenish red sheen in scattered spots. Nitram looks around under the bridge and it the immediate area for any signs of the creature’s lair.

After looking around the bridge and immediate vicinity, it didn’t appear the creature had what could be considered a lair. The mud and muck did remind Nitram of the color of the creature’s flesh. The goblin helmet being the only solid item that Nitram could find, he began working his way north. The ground and mud was mostly level, but every so often he would sink to his knee in a low spot. Wading along the stream, Nitram traveled for about 30 feet and saw no sign of change ahead, nor any signs of anything interesting. Perhaps a little farther, or perhaps not? From their vantage point, the rest of the party could see the globe of torchlight around Nitram illuminating his travel through the muck and marsh. Nothing else seemed to move.

“Seems awfully quiet down there. If he travels much further, our ability to assist in an emergency is going to be hampered very badly unless more folks climb down.” Jharron commented as he continued to hold the rope, prepared to quickly pull Nitram up if the situation warranted it.

Perhaps a little farther Nitram thought. He slogged through the swampy morass for another 30 feet. Ahead of him, perhaps another 30 feet of distance the crevice narrowed and appeared to end. The small stream disappeared down into a small 2 foot wide hole, from which the sound of running water could be heard. Nitram turned back and proceeded southward of the bridge, for about 60 feet. Other than a gradual widening of the crevice, he saw nothing of interest, and the swampy marsh showed no signs of ending. Nitram returned to the bridge and said, ”I didn’t see anything down here. Does anyone have any suggestions before I come up?”

Hearing no objections, Nitram readied himself as Jharron began pulling him back up. After helping Nitram over the edge, Shylent was seen holding her hand in front of her nose as she backed away from Nitram. The party returned to the first floor of the observatory, and used the spare time to clean up, oil their weapons, and rest, as they saw fit. They established a standard watch, but were undisturbed through the night, the ogre and his crew obviously being deterred by the ghost, and potentially assuming they had been eaten by the shoggoth.

22 Jules, 508 PE (Year of Storms)
6:00 am, Sunday

The ghostly priestess re-appeared with the morning and floated near the center of the room looking irritated. Nitram did the best he could to ‘clean up’ but wasn’t trying to impress anyone, just remove anything (like an obnoxious smell) that might prevent him from gaining the element of surprise. He turned to the ghost, ”High Priestess, do you have a map of the grounds or could you tell us the best way to get to the meteor without being noticed?”

She floated over towards the bookshelves and the remnants of her library. She eventually slowly pointed to a scroll case that may not have been as deteriorated as the rest of the documents. “The ogre and his minions are in the southernmost area of the temple, with the corrupted meteor” she whispered.

Aeron studied the map and commented to Rashemon’s Raiders, ”Nitram, I think that underground river you discovered could take us right to the meteor. We may be able to smuggle the mirrors in through that way and take the ogre by surprise. At the very least, we should think about sending Blend into the river to surprise them from the rear as we attack from the front. Whatever we decide, we must move quickly…we have to be in place as the sun rises to the highest point in the sky above the temple.” Aeron looked over his spellbook and erased critical runes on the floor warding, so the ghostly high priestess was released from her magical entrapment in the observatory wing of the temple. That ghost may prove a useful ally in the next few hours…and if we die horrifically, my ghost won’t be trapped next to that corrupting meteor.

I must be losing my mind if I’m having the same thoughts as the wizard, thought Nitram. The ghostly figure watched Aeron closely as he removed various runes and symbols, but spoke not a word.

Jharron’s considerations were the same. ”It looks as though there is really no other entrance to where the ogre is at unless we can climb back up to the broken pathways. I agree we need to be moving if we are going to get there in time to perform the ritual,” He said as he checked his gear, ensuring he was ready to move.

Aeron stacked the mirrors in his waterproof tent canvas, inflated two empty water skins with air and wrapped them together in the tent material and tied it closed with the guidelines. He then ushered to Nitram, ”Now that you are all cleaned climb back down the rope and I will lower you the mirrors. They should float now and stay relatively clean. We will need to be careful and quiet moving under the bridges. Perhaps Blend should lead the way and scout ahead.”

After Aeron lowered the securely wrapped mirrors down to Nitram, the rest of the party made their way down the rope and into the murky swamp area. Once settled down into the marsh, mud and shin high plants and moss, everyone set off southward in standard party order, with Blend taking the lead. Occasionally, cracks in the caverns ceiling would let in little rays of light, but for the most part the area was unlit, other than any illumination the party carried. The party travelled around 150 – 200 feet south, through the smelly mud and plants. The farther south they went the less stream there was and the more mud and marsh. The group passed the hallway that Blend had first looked out into the ravine, but it was too high on the western wall for anyone to see it. After another 50 feet, the party saw what looked like a hallway had once spanned the ravine, about 50 feet above their heads. In the middle of this span was a crumbled and fallen out section around 10 feet wide. In front of the group was the rocks and debris from the collapse of that hallway.

Just past the fallen debris (which was about 5 feet high) another 30 feet ahead on either side of the ravine was the openings of another hallway, this one merely a foot above the swampy muck the group was trying to silently creep through. Blend came back to the group and informed them that there was no enemies immediately within the openings on either side.. He also thought he had heard chanting coming from the eastern hallway.

“Chanting is probably the beginnings of the effort to harness the power.” Jharron surmised. ”We need to get into position quickly. I vote if we are going to split up we do it here. Otherwise, let’s get a move on and get that meteor destroyed.” Jharron moved to head toward the entrance prior to the muck, headed toward the meteor room, according to the map. At the entrance to the hallway heading east, Jharron paused. He could see about 20 feet from the entrance, then the hallway (which looked similar to all the other hallways they had seen) turned southeast around a slight corner. Even to Jharron’s casual eye numerous muddy foot prints, likely goblinoids, could be seen on the stone floor. Just on the edge of hearing, Jharron picked up a low repetitive chanting from somewhere down the hallway.

“Slight modification to the plan, Aeron strategized. ”Elvish archers and Shylent will follow this hallway southeast. Jharron and Blend take the mirrors and slog down the river to the next hallway and take it due east. We’ll draw their fire and you should be able to flank whatever forces are in these tunnels.” Aeron tied the packaged mirror guidelines into shoulder straps for Jharron helping him slide his arms into the shoulder straps like a backpack, and then motioned for Jharron and Blend to continue down the fetid river toward the meteor and the last temple hallway east. Before they separated, Aeron chanted a few arcane passages from his tome motioning at each of them in turn with a copper wire. The group could feel their ability to whisper magically to each other renewed. He then rubbing a pinch of soot into the palm of his hand and Jharron and Blend where bathed in murky shadows making them difficult to see in the dimly lit passageways. Finally, he whispered a few arcane words over his robes and they were momentarily bathed in a blue soothing light.

Blend added, “I can take the waterlogged passage and attack from the rear while the rest of you come in from the other direction. Since we can communicate by whisper, if we need to coordinate attacks, or change plans, we can if needed without too much trouble.”

Nitram looked at Blend, “Is this one of those times you work better alone? Do you think having a longbow down that passage might give you a little more support, or were you planning to fire your little bow from the shadows somewhere? There may not be shadows close enough to get more than one shot. I just think you should take someone else with you, but that’s your call…maybe the wizard.” Nitram wasn’t able to suppress a grin, but he didn’t try very hard.

Aeron replied to Nitram, ”Jharron and Blend are especially well qualified for the flanking maneuver and the shadows I cast on them will last less than half an hour…so they must hurry.”

“You really think so?” Jharron asked. “Last I checked, my ability to hide in the shadows and strike an opponent unaware was about as good as yours, Aeron. I don’t mind going with Blend but I will be following behind him so he can hide better.” Jharron moved to follow the murky water and mud forward to the site of the meteor with his quarterstaff leading the way.

Looking for clarification, Nitram asked, “Is this where we want to split up? According to the map, we could follow the passageway to the south and Blend could come up the stream into the room with the meteor. Unless we think they are performing the ritual in the large square room to the northeast of the meteor. Thoughts?”

From where Jharron was standing, there was still the faint sound of chanting, mostly goblin like voices. But the voice leading the chanting was a little louder and deeper. The sounds, which included…’drums?’, could be heard down the hallway around the corner but although the party knew the layout from the ghost’s map there was no way to determine which large area the ritual was being conducted in. The arcane individuals in the group were fairly certain that the ritual would have to include the meteor. It would be the only way the ritual would make sense, in their expert opinion.

Nitram took the initiative, “I suggest for now we split up just to provide some cover for the first hallway. Jharron and I should go south through the muck and the mire to the next hallway. The longbows will give plenty of cover fire down the long hallways. Then, we meet at the intersection of the two hallways. Blend can then scout to the east/northeast to see if we need to clear the large room. If we do, we can split up again and hit it from both sides. The only issue with that is whoever goes to the southern side will go near the meteor room. Also, if they are in the large room, we would have to catch them by surprise or else it should be fairly easy for them to hold the two doors, especially if they can reinforce either one from inside the room.” Nitram paused to see if everyone way following his plan. “If we don’t need to clear the big room, we can split up and attack the meteor room from the hallway and the watery crevice – in which case Blend might have better luck from the water.”

Blend nodded his agreement with Nitram’s plan. Aeron smiled and motioned for the flanking team to trudge forward through the river of muck, The half human is starting to think like an elf.

Jharron and Nitram headed south as through the thickening muck and mire. As they headed off the party could hear them moving a lot more clearly than they would like. But overall fairly quiet considering the terrain. When the pair reached the other hallway, it was near total darkness causing some concern for Jharron. As the pair peeked eastward down the hallway they saw nothing but a deepening darkness, but the sound of chanting was considerably louder. The remaining members of the adventuring group headed cautiously into the first eastern hallway and gradually headed southeast. Blend scouted ahead of the main group and paused at the bend where the hallway turned completely south, using the angle of the wall to hide himself from anything that may be further down the hallway.

“This should be fun…ready, Jharron?” Nitram waited for the druid and then set off into the crap.

Blend peeked around the corner and looked down the hallway. Just past the intersection he made out the figures of three goblins standing guard. He pulled back around the corner out of sight. Hood’s balls, he thought. This isn’t going to work. ”Everyone freeze,” he whispered. ”Goblin sentries south of the intersection. No way can we sneak any closer this way. We should regroup and discuss options. Shroud those light sources lest they see them. Nitram, Jharron…double back toward the rest of the group.” Blend motioned for the rest of the party to move back the way they came by.

Jharron stared into the darkness and tried to make out any shapes. ”Damn, its dark. Nitram, I can’t see squat.” Jharron used his quarterstaff as a blind man’s cane and continued to follow Nitram. I hope Nitram provides some sign that something is up there. All I got is my sense of hearing and touch.

Aeron received Blend’s warning via the Message spell. Those following Blend down the hallway were located at the southeastern turn north of Blend’s position, safely out of sight of anything further down the hall. Shylent covered the backs of the divine and arcane casters as they waited for the results of Blend’s scouting.

Aeron whispered to Blend and Daelin, ”I will put them to sleep, but my chance of getting all of them is only fifty one percent…so you and Daelin need to be ready to kill any that resist my magic.” Aeron then peaked around the corner, whispered some arcane words and blew a pinch of sand in the direction of the goblin sentries.

Upon hearing the Blend’s warning and direction to double back, Jharron slowly turned around, ”Headed back to where we split up. Nitram was ahead of me in the tunnel.”

“Impulsive elf,” Blend swore under his breath. Still, not much else could be done. As Aeron’s spell went off, Blend rounded the corner and prepared to put an arrow in the eye of any goblin still standing.

“You’ve got to be kidding! Jharron! The elf started something. I’m going forward to engage.” Nitram began running towards the intersection, dropping his bow once on a paved surface and drawing his scimitar. He whispered to the other party, “Aeron, Blend. Which way are the goblins moving? I am running to the intersection to stop them from warning the others.” I can’t believe he squandered our surprise like that. We could have lured them past the intersection or something more coordinated. Nitram pushed those thoughts out of his head, intending to address them later. He focused on what needed to be done, and prepared himself to do it.

The goblin sentries were befuddled by the swirling sand that appeared out of nowhere, and soon all three rubbed their eyes and succumbed to Aeron’s spell, and slipped to the ground with quiet thumps. Blend moved farther down the hall and covered the goblins with his bow, ready for them or anything else to move. Jharron heard Nitram’s exclamation about Aeron starting something and paused in his steps back to the party just in time to see Nitram disappear into the darkness of the hallway. Nitram ran steadily down the darkening hallway until he reached the area he thought was the intersection. Blackness obscured his vision. From his right he heard the faint sounds of breathing.

Upon seeing Nitram run out in front of him, something dawned upon Blend. ”Aeron, tell Jharron to gets down this hallway quickly. That bugbear assassin is still out there and he can’t see a thing!” Blend whispered harshly to the elf. ”Also, tell everyone to regroup at the intersection. Keep the light low.” Blend continued to proceed down the hallway cautiously until he met up with Nitram, finishing off the sleeping goblins when he arrived.

Upon seeing Nitram move forward, Jharron changed direction and followed him. Jharron grabbed a rock a prepared to light his way if necessary. He moved up against the wall toward the noise of what was going on, keeping his ears alert as he moved forward while continuing to use his quarterstaff to provide sight to his sense of feel. Wonderful, I just hope the light gets better or its going to be a surprise to all when I light up this area. ”Aeron, let everyone know I am going to light up the area if I need to so I can see to fight. I don’t want to surprise our own, but it may provide an opening if we are engaged and know it’s coming.”

Okay, this is beginning to get a little ridiculous, Nitram thought to himself. I can’t see a thing. This may have not been the best idea. Nitram slowly backed the way he had come. And whispered to Aeron, “Aeron, tell Jharron to light a torch near the entrance to the passageway so we can get a little light here. I’m assuming you got all of them since I wasn’t attacked when I got to the intersection.” We need to minimize where we put the light so we are casting shadows in the direction of our travel or outlining ourselves.

Aeron relayed that the goblin sentries were asleep and then he advised that Jharron was about to light up the river hallway. As Blend advanced, he realized Nitram was no longer at the intersection where the sleeping goblins were laid out. Blend did what needed to be done to ensure the goblins didn’t wake up. After slowly backing down the hallway in the direction he had approached, Nitram began to hear the sounds of movement behind him. While picking his way forward with his staff, Jharron heard the sounds of movement in front of him.

As Aeron attempted to interrogate the lifeless goblin sentries he whispered to Blend, ”Maybe, Nitram should scout ahead of the group until we encounter better lighting.”

Jharron stopped moving at the sound of movement coming from up ahead. He grasped his quarterstaff and whispered “Nitram, is that you?”

Nitram whispered towards the passageway Jharron and he had taken, “Jharron, I’m coming back. We need some light.” As Nitram approached the intersection of the hallway and the mucky stream, he began to use the small amount of light available to look for his bow. I wonder if the druid went back to the group? Nitram thought and decided to look up the streambed to see if Jharron could be found.

Aeron’s keen elvish senses picked up disgruntled mumbling from somewhere behind him and to the north. This deep into the darkness away from the dimly lit crevice, even he couldn’t see who was grumbling. But he suspected it was Shylent, since some of the words had the same flavor as the infamous “perfume” incident.

There was no hearing Nitram’s reply to his hail, Jharron cast Light upon the stone he had been carrying and prepared to welcome Nitram. After the stone was slid across the hallway, Jharron could see the figure of Nitram blinking at him in the sudden light. There was “normal” light illuminating the area around Jharron and Nitram, and dim light reached as far as the intersection where the remainder of party was gathered. With the spread of the light into the area, Aeron saw that the goblin sentries would not be answering any questions, and that Shylent was standing with her hands on her hips glaring at him.

Jharron picked up the stone and headed to the intersection where the rest of the party was located. ”So are we ready to go ahead with a little light. I suggest we light a torch as this light will go out in a few minutes.”

Aeron turned to face Shylent still holding the collar of the dead goblin. ”This is exactly as it looks.” Aeron then searched the goblins for anything of interest or value.

22 Jules, 508 PE (Year of Storms)
6:45 am, Sunday

These “surviving” goblins of the ogre expedition seemed to have done well by themselves for loot. Other than their standard gear (leather armor, small shields, short spears, and short swords) there had the following extra loot;

50 old silver pieces, 60 old gold pieces.
Silver and Bronze rope necklace (1)
Polished Amber ball (1)
2 Goblin Grenados.
Ancient Vial of Oil (1)
Masterwork Serrated Dagger (1)

From the location of the intersection, where the party had gathered to reassess their strategy, it had become apparent that the chanting and the slow drum beating were coming from the southern passageway. The southern passage appeared endless from this viewpoint. Looking eastward with the illumination provided by Jharron’s light, it could be seen that the corridor extended thirty feet into an area where rubble and debris had fallen from the ceiling. It then turned north east and continued into darkness.

Once Nitram collected his bow and returned to the intersection with Jharron he spoke up, ”I think we need to clear the large room to the east. There is no light down here and I know I’m having trouble seeing anything so I can only imagine how hard it is for the humans. I suggest we put a light source to the west and I will attempt to clear the passageway and room. I can whisper back if I need the light moved closer. Does anyone have a better idea?”

”I do. Everyone stay here. I’ll go check out the room to the east.” With that, Blend started to slink away into the darkness.

Aeron made a quick arcane motion with a pinch of soot and tapped Blends shoulder, “Take the shadows with you.”

Aeron called for Shylent to bring the everburning torch closer so he could examine the silver and bronze rope necklace, polished amber ball, ancient vial of oil, and masterwork serrated dagger. He seemed to be looking for glyphs and markings that would indicate if any of the items were imbued with magical energy and to identify their purpose.

Blend returned fairly quickly. ”Two more goblin sentries ahead guarding a barred double door.”

”If we continue forward with the light, it will make the sentries aware of our presence,” Jharron thought out loud, then asked, ”Do the elves wish to take out the sentries and then call the rest of us forward? Blend could probably remove the threat quickly and quietly as well.” Jharron laid the rock along the edge of the hall and put his back to the light.

Blend answered, ”I could perhaps kill them both before the alarm is sounded. The hallway is curved enough to allow an approach that gets you very close, provided you are silent enough. Another idea is to simply attack them outright. They are guarding a very solid metal door. One, I would imagine, blocks enough sound, provided we are quick enough. There are only two of them, and they cannot get past all of us. The door is barred and looks to be difficult to open, so chances are they cannot get away that direction easily as well.” Blend looked expectantly at the rest of the group for an answer.

Aeron motioned towards Jharron’s glowing rock. ”Perhaps Blend could kill them with the light rock. They would never see it coming. Alternatively, I could make it sound like they are being summoned from inside the door and they could open it for us, then we could kill them. It’s easier then opening the door ourselves.”

Shylent stepped just past the dead goblins and gazed dubiously as far as she could see into the southern passage. ”Hallway bends up,” she stated. She cocked an ear as if listening and then spat on the ground. ”Don’t like goblin drums.” She then looked around as if expecting attack from any direction and stood slightly behind Aeron as he inspected the items and loot. A breeze from the eastern passage brought the smell of the muck and morass wafting into the intersection where the party was gathered.

”Simple is better,” Blend concluded. ”Nitram and I will kill the goblins, taking them by surprise. We should not leave them at our backs. We will sneak up to the bend and assault them before they know we are there. Two or three arrows should be enough. Take the light rock and keep it shrouded. Hold onto my shoulder until we are in position. I will attack first while you toss the light rock, blinding them. Then finish them off with however many arrows are necessary. The rest of you secure the intersection until we return. Let’s go.”

Aeron replied, ”Blend, you are right it will take two arrows to kill each goblin, so take two archers for each target, and someone to toss the enspelled rock. Simultaneous attack is important so the goblin guards don’t raise the alarm. You and Jharron should attack the one on the left while Daelin and Nitram kill the one on the right. Shylent can toss the rock while I provide unsolicited advice.”

Blend retorted, ”No. The rest do not possess the necessary skills to get close enough unnoticed. One arrow is enough for me and Nitram to kill a goblin. If we need more than we will use more before they are able to sound the alarm. In any case, the distance and the drumming should keep the rest from hearing their cries for help.”

Daelin and Shylent looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.

”So, who is throwing the rock?” asked Nitram.

”You are…as soon as I fire the first arrow,” Blend answered.

After exchanging glances with Shylent, Daelin readied an arrow on the off chance his aid was needed. Gods be good, he thought to himself.

Aeron summarized the plan, ”So the plan is Nitram will throw the light rock and Blend will kill both goblins with one arrow before they raise the alarm. This plan has a solid sixty four percent chance of success. That was better than my last plan. Even so, Nitram I recommend delivering the light rock with emphasis at the second goblin guard.”

Jharron looked at Aeron and shook his head. ”Nitram, I suggest you prepare to fire an arrow at the second guard quickly following launching the rock. It is Blend’s and your plan, though, so do what you feel is correct. I trust we will be hearing the call to come forward shortly after ya’ll round the corner. I am sure glad you can see better than me in this darkness. By the way Aeron, did you think I was going to just sit here and wait in the dark by myself? If so, you are nuts. I can throw the rock and, given some light, I have proven to be fairly effective in battle.” As Blend and Nitram disappeared into the dark, Jharron readied himself to move forward at the slightest hint of any problems arising up the corridor.

”Jharron, if you are in need of a light source I would be happy to provide one for you,” Daelin whispered.

”Okay, let’s go.” Nitram said as he took the rock and put it in his pocket to hide the light. He followed Blend until the light from the torch could no longer help him see. He put his hand on Blend’s shoulder and followed him to the attack site. ”Let me know which one you shoot,”Nitram said to Blend before they got there.

Blend and Nitram moved thirty feet down the hallway and edged into the darkness past the torch light. For Nitram, there was still dim illumination for another twenty feet and then the darkness would begin to close in.

”We will be close enough to where it really won’t matter where the stone lands. I am going for the goblin on the right. You take the one on the left,” Blend whispered.

Aeron whispered to Jharron, Daelin and Shylent as he absentmindedly examined the orb, ”Jharron, I recommended that you and Blend kill one goblin and Nitram and Daelin kill the other goblin. It was Blend’s plan to sneak forward and try to attack with fewer forces. Blend has only a 13% chance of killing both goblins before they raise the alarm. With Nitram helping him, the chance of success goes up to 25%. So the signal for us to move forward is likely to be a goblin screaming for reinforcements. When that happens, Blend and Nitram will have to hold the far bend in the tunnel and we will leave the everburning torch at this intersection and have to hold the bend 25 feet east to keep the goblins from swarming in behind us. But who knows, Blend and Nitram may get lucky.”

Blend and Nitram moved quietly through the darkness. Nitram did amazingly well at moving silently while holding on to Blend’s shoulder for guidance. The goblins remained blissfully unaware of the duo’s approach, the left goblin was rubbing his belly like he was hungry, while the other goblin seemed almost capable of falling asleep standing up. Blend paused, then moved out from underneath Nitram’s hand and fired his shortbow at the goblin on his left. When Nitram heard the twang of the bow he pulled the light stone out of his pocket and flung it down the hall.

In the soft glow emanated by the thrown stone, Nitram clearly saw the goblin on the left still had slowly started to slump over with an arrow in his chest. The sleepy goblin was cringing and rubbing his eyes trying to figure out what was going on when Blend’s second arrow hit that one in nearly the same spot. Nitram lowered his bow.

Aeron whispered to Nitram, ”Is the passage way secure?” Once given the all-clear from Nitram, Aeron walked forward to Blend’s location and presented him with the serrated dagger, ”This dagger is of the finest quality it seems well suited to you.” Aeron tossed the amber orb to Daelin. ”What do you think this could be? It seems to be some type of protection magic, but it’s exact purpose and method of command escapes me. The flask of oil in the last goblin’s pocket is oil of sharpness. We can dip 15 arrows into the oil and it will make them bite through the toughest ogre hide.”

Blend walked over to the two downed goblins and retrieved any of his arrows that had not broken while searching the goblins for anything interesting. He then examined the door for anything interesting or out of the ordinary. After that, he paused to listen at the door to see if he could hear anything from the other side.

Nitram gave the all clear to the rest of the party. What a nice walk – glad I was here to hold Blend’s shoulder. I love “rock lit” walks in underground passageways almost as much as strolls along the beach, Nitram thought to himself as he followed Blend, searching the goblins and listening at the door. How can a human see in pitch blackness?

The goblins had been guarding a ten foot wide double door of metal. The double doors were closed and barred with the bar on the side facing the group. Ancient padlocks secured the bar to iron bars welded to the metal doors. It was apparent the door was secured from this side. Around the edge and lintel of the door there was spidery silver writing, with an arcane look to it. It didn’t match the lettering of the wards you saw holding in the ghost, those were primitive in nature and these are much more precise and cultured.

Jharron moved forward upon hearing the all clear from Nitram. Guess they were more proficient than Aeron gave them credit. Not a sound and now the path is clear.

Aeron examined the silver writing around the barred iron door. He seemed careful not to touch the door as he deciphered the script.

”Nothing but pocket change on these goblins,” Blend mentioned to Nitram. ”Thanks for the backup. Wasn’t sure if I could get both of them fast enough.” Blend took the dagger from Aeron and gave it a once over, checking the weight and balance before seemingly making it disappear on his person. Good backup blade, he thought to himself. ”Can you tell us anything about this door? Unless it is important, I say leave it locked and we can come back to it later.”

”I can give you the answers you seek when we camp, or sooner if it is required,” Daelin offered. With that, Daelin put his arrow back in its quiver, his bow across his back, and the orb in a pouch. ”Has anyone but me considered why the locks on this door are on this side, not the other?”

Shylent remained somber, and maintained a guard facing the direction away from the door. Not realizing anyone was watching, she picked up some of the chalky rubble from the floor and proceeded to absentmindedly draw lines and patterns on her cheeks.

Aeron completed his analysis of the door runes and addressed the group, ”Daelin is correct. These glyphs are designed to contain something very malevolent. Do not touch the door and let’s head to the southernmost chamber to make a final confrontation of the Ogre’s band. We’ll take on the front door while Blend and Nitram make their way through the river of muck to maneuver behind them. I’ll signal the simultaneous attack through our magical communications.”

”I agree,” Nitram added. ”We should leave this door barred. Before we split up, I think Blend should make sure the main passageway is clear to the meteor room. Then, we can divide the group and attack from both sides.”

Blend nodded his agreement and made his way back to the intersection where he turned south and began to creep down the hallway into the shadows. The party re-gathered in the area of the intersection where the three dead goblins lay. Shylent moved to the passageway leading to the west and set up guard there. She seemed to be keeping an eye on Aeron. Jharron began to feel that insistent headache as the rhythm of the goblin drum beats started reverberating with the chanting and his heartbeat. The illness of the earth was definitely increasing in this area. Aeron and Daelin also felt a sort of “static electricity,” like the pressure one would feel before a large thunderstorm.

22 Jules, 508 PE (Year of Storms)
7:15 am, Sunday

Blend made his way back to the intersection where the group awaited. ”One more sentry taken care of, however, the door to the ritual room is barred from the other side. Slipping a blade through to lift the brace, or breaking it down are the only options I can think of. Neither of which will go unnoticed. Suggestions?”

Nitram asked, ”Should we check the entry from the water? Maybe it will give us a better opportunity to enter the room unnoticed. If we check it out, we should leave someone here to make sure the lack of guard remains unknown…or we can take the body with us. We have some time for recon before we need to make a decision.”

”I don’t think leaving someone behind is a good idea,” Blend answered. ”There is still that bugbear assassin lurking about. The sounds from the ritual room lead me to believe that they are focused on whatever it is they are doing in there and not that worried about checking on their sentries.”

Aeron interjected, ”The ceremony seems to be reaching a critical point. If we don’t think we can get into the barred entrance without losing the element of surprise, let’s make our way through the river of muck to attack from behind. Timing is critical, the sun will be in the correct position to destroy the meteor in a little over four hours. We must disrupt the goblin ceremony, so the goblins cannot complete their ritual before our window to destroy the meteor opens.” Aeron moved his hands in the pattern of the shadow spell cloaking the group in shadows.

Jharron added “I agree we need to move. Let’s head through the mud and muck and see what we can do. Looks like the element of surprise may have to come from them being engrossed in the ceremony.”

Blend turned and started down the hallway towards the chasm. ”Follow me…”

The dim lighting of the chasm area seemed almost as bright as daylight after the party’s time in the darkened hallways. Lots of shadows abounded, but cracks in the ceiling allowed for the occasional stray beam of sunlight to shine down to the level of the swampy muck and vegetation.

Still toting the mirrors and their other gear, the party headed southward from the hallway after stepping down into the ankle and calf deep water and mud. They traveled about 100 feet into ever increasingly thick mud and vegetation, about halfway to where the map showed the crevice they assumed led into the meteor room. From this point on the swamp and mud began to slow their movements and cause them to exert themselves to move forward. Continuing onward, they eventually came to the entrance of the crack in the eastern wall. Water was trickling out of the small rocky opening, and one of the stray sunbeams actually illuminated the opening, although the passage soon faded into darkness beyond that. Jharron paused and looked intently around the area.

As the party investigated the crack, they saw that initially at least it was about 10-15 feet wide, and inclined upward at a 22.5 degree angle. The ceiling of the crevice however was only 4 feet high. It seemed that they might have to crawl. The interior of the passage was slick with water and a gray slime, with patches of green and red moss like vegetation. It was slippery, but easy enough to climb, as long as one used both hands and feet to assist. Combat in the passage could prove tricky and result in a tumble. The small crevice in the eastern wall did act as a natural funnel for sound, and the chanting could easily be heard, along with the staccato rhythm of the goblin drums.

Aeron waited for Blend, Shylent, and Jharron to move forward through the muck and then he fell in line with Jharron whispering to him, ”There is a fair chance that this battle could go badly. Before your soul returns to Gaia, know that there is still time to convert to Corellon Larethian. Let me know if you are ready to make this faith journey.” As the group congregated at the bottom of the crack Aeron whispered to Blend, ”I have a grappling hook and pulley. If you can free climb up to the opening, perhaps you can set this grappling hook and string the rope through the pulley. That will allow Shylent to pulley each of us to the top of the crevice.”

Jharron ignored Aeron’s attempt at conversion and focused on the moss. Looking at the all the party members Jharron said, “Stay away from the colored moss. The liquid is doing strange things to the living organisms of the area. Much like at the goblin encampment where the horse was something entirely unnatural. I believe the chanting up ahead is mixing blood magic into the natural environment and nature is reacting in different ways. Some becomes so healthy that it doesn’t seem like anything can harm it and other areas are becoming diseased and………changing”

After perusing the map (someone had added the crevice after the fact) the party noted that it was about 120 to 150 feet from their location to the opening into the “ritual” room. It was impossible to tell whether the incline was constant or whether the passage leveled out somewhat along the way. However, Aeron’s knowledge of engineering and Nitram’s dungeon experience led them to conclude that it couldn’t possibly continue climbing at that angle the entire length of the passage, unless the end was located overlooking the roof of the room; which made no sense if one took into account the flowing water.

Blend took note of Jharron’s warnings. He made sure everything on his person was secure and in the proper place. ”Give me a bit of space and then follow me,” he said before climbing into the hole.

Aeron handed Blend the grappling hook and rope as Blend made his ascent into the crevice, ”Set this line when you reach the top. The rest of us cannot climb like a spider up such surfaces.”

Blend found that he could crawl quite easily on his hands and knees, and move from side to side as needed. There was water and slime flowing down the crevice and there was no way to avoid getting wet, although he did manage to heed Jharron’s warnings for the most part.

Shylent started to climb up after Blend but then she stopped and looked at the magical torch Aeron had tasked her to carry. She turned towards Aeron and frowned. Blend climbed the slight incline for about 60 feet, and then it pretty much leveled off. The roof however had dropped to about three feet on average; the rest of the way would be crawling on their belly it would seem. Ahead about another 60 feet Blend could see the glow of an opening, from which light, and the sounds of chanting and drums were emanating.

Aeron took the magical torch from Shylent, as he grumbled under his breath, ”I’ll take that, your primitive intellect wouldn’t understand alloys and compositions and things with… molecular structures.”
Aeron then slid the everburning torch into his belt where he stored spell components. That should keep it relatively secure on the climb up the crevice.

Blend continued to crawl forward toward the light and noise, getting as close as he felt he could without drawing notice.

The wet and muddy climb was total darkness up to the leveling off point that Blend had reached. From that point on the light was dim, nearly opaque for the humans. After the leveling off point, the crevice was wide enough for the party to proceed side by side, although barely. Blend crawled ahead up to the edge of the opening to see what could be seen of the room beyond. Directly in front of him, he saw a 40 wide and 20 across pool of the grayish mud that has been seen everywhere in the marsh and along the little stream. A 2 foot raised platform lay just beyond the pool, and was where the goblins and the drums were currently performing the ritual. Ornate stone pillars line either side of what had once been a large hall designed for worship and rituals for the temple of Sentara. Prominently displayed at the far end of the room (about 60 feet away from Blend) a large ornate dais held a large grayish green boulder that glowed with a warm oily ambiance that reminded Blend of the ring that he had destroyed. Cracks in the meteor drained a glistening gray green substance slowly down the side of the dais and into a crack in the floor. That crack eventually deposited this vile sludge into the pool of mud.

In front of the meteor was the goblin shaman, leading the goblins in ritual. On either side of him lay dead or dying goblins, whose blood apparently was gathered by the shaman and poured onto the meteor. Blend noticed a large pile of dead goblins to his left, at the edge of the dais. Suddenly a movement beyond the meteor caught Blend’s eye, and the rumbling voice of the ogre resumed the guttural chanting you had heard previously. Behind the meteor the ogre waved his large spear in rhythm to the goblin drums, almost as if enticing the greenish glow of the meteor out of its center and onto the spear’s tip. Several portions of the meteor were chipped and cracked, and rough stone lay piled with green gemstones to the right side of the doorway in the north wall.

Vegetation and vines lined the walls and the ceiling, but the pool and the center of the room were clear of any plant life. Small cracks in the ceiling revealed the outside sky and the room were well lit throughout from the sun beams dotting the floor in various places. The three goblins closest to Blend’s observation post were the ones beating on crude drums. The pool of mud in front of him looked to be perhaps only a foot deep. With an inch of water gathered in pools on its surface here and there.

Blend whispered through the magical link created by Aeron. ”I am going to sneak in to allow the rest of you to gather at the opening. My first target will be the shaman. Aeron, is there anything you can do to thin the fodder? Everyone else should concentrate on the ogre. Please relay to the rest of the group.”

Daelin called on the favor of the gods to bless his companions. ”If the gods grant us our will and it is what is best, the shaman will die first,” Daelin whispered as he knocked an arrow.

Aeron commented on Daelin’s blessing, ”You shouldn’t speak so ill of Jharron. Personally, I think Shylent will fall first, but we should focus on the task at hand. I’ll make it sound like we are breaking through the barred door and then thin the ranks with a sleep spell to even the numbers. Use the temple tiara’s to summon forth creatures to delay the ogre from closing while we get into position behind the cesspool. Everyone else should focus arrows on the goblin shaman, attack on Blend’s signal.”

Aeron made several arcane motions reinforcing their communication spell, the shadows on Blend, and channeling magical energy into his quiver and bow. Once all was in preparation, he turned his attention on the northern door and began to cast a spell.

Nitram moved to the edge of the tunnel before stepping into the mud and waited for Blend to fire. He peeked around the corner to survey the area and saw a haunting sight. Is that a ghost? It can’t be…but that spear and the one eye. So familiar. It must be the same one. A memory of his mentor, Gardain, impaled on that spear filled Nitram’s mind. At the far end of the room stood a one-eyed ogre. Nitram’s mind flooded with the horrific memory of their last encounter…Nitram left for dead and his mentor not as lucky. He focused all his emotions – fear, hatred, vengeance – on destroying the creature. His vision seemed to narrow into a tunnel with the ogre on the other end. His breathing, which had sped up at the sight of his enemy, slowed and steadied. Nitram watched Blend sneak into the mud, readying an arrow and waiting for the attack to begin. As Blend releases his arrow, Nitram raises his bow and targets the ogre’s one good eye before releasing.

Blend slid out of the low roofed opening and continued his slide slowly down into the mud and water of the stagnant pool. Using the raised edge of the tiled platform as cover, he stealthily moved into position from which to fire at the goblin shaman, whom he could see was brandishing a bloody knife made of green crystal. All of the rest of the goblins had their backs to the approaching party and were unable to notice or foresee their imminent demise.
Blend calculated that Aeron had finished his preparations, or he at least better had. He aimed his bow at the shaman, waiting for Aeron’s distraction.

The sound of pounding and battering began to come from the door set in the northern side of the chamber. Nitram slid out of the crevice with Aeron close behind him, and set up to fire his weapon at the ogre. The goblin shaman cried out a warning, his eyes bugging out in alarm just as Blend’s arrow traveled towards him. The arrow shaved a hair off the side of the goblin’s head, but failed to do any measurable damage, and he looked around bewilderedly Nitram’s focus was only on the ogre, and not the fact that his entrance had alerted the goblins. His arrow sped straight towards the ogre’s head, who vainly tried to dodge out of the way. The arrow hit cleanly in the vicinity of the ogre’s remaining eye. Whether the ogre had truly lost his eye remained to be “seen”.

The two northernmost goblins looked towards the door and began to bend down to pick up their short spears. The two southernmost goblins began to do the same. The three goblins in the center continued to beat their drums in a dazed like state. Once the two goblins near the door had their spears, they rushed forward to take up positions blocking the door.

Hood’s balls! Blend cursed to himself as his arrow missed its mark. He drew again and fired at the goblin shaman a second time. The he sprinted forward dropping his bow and drawing his blade as he made a beeline toward the shaman. Drawing upon hidden reserves, he slashed out with the curved blade, targeting the shaman’s throat. Surrounded by enemies, Blend realized he would be surrounded and sorely pressed in moments. Focusing his will, he vanished from sight.

Blend’s second arrow stuck firmly with a sickening thud into the goblin shaman’s right shoulder. His swift movement took the goblin beating the drum completely by surprise, causing him to skip a beat. The ogre bellowed in rage at the disruption. Blend took the goblin shaman off guard with his sudden appearance, and swung his blade at the goblin, somehow missing the staggering creature. The goblin shaman was doubly confused as he looked around for his attacker and couldn’t find Blend anywhere in the vicinity. The two goblins from the south moved towards the doorway, to assist their brethren, until the shaman pointed in the direction Blend had come from and at the rest of the party.

Jharron saw that Nitram was focused on the ogre and Blend seemed to have all he could do with the shaman. Jharron thought, As much as I don’t want to use this tiara, the pure disregard for the natural way of things is abhorrent and needs removed. With that, Jharron reached into his pouch and pulled the tiara out, placed it on his head and began to harness the powers of nature to bring forth friends to fight by his side.

Jharron knew that the full power of the regalia would be needed for this appeal to the forces of nature, and he also focused on the power of the golden bracelets. A fresh wind began to swirl out past the pool of mud and the faint howling of wolves began to resound within the chamber. Faint ghostly canine forms began to solidify at the edge of the tiled platform, and three great gray wolves appeared, and with a snarl leaped into the fray. The lead wolf ravaged the side of the goblin in front of him, causing the creature to jab back futilely with its spear. The next wolf began a dance of death with the spear holding goblin in front of him, but was unable to get a solid bite. The third wolf leaped at one of the drummers, tearing a great gash in its side and severely bloodying it, causing it to stop drumming and shake its head as if coming out of a daze.

Shylent drew her sword and moved determinedly around the muck and over the pile of dead goblins, attempting to close off any goblin advance.

That was for Gardain. Nitram mechanically pulled out another arrow, drew his bow and fired at the ogre again. Under his breath, Nitram said, ”You will not leave here alive, ogre.”

Nitram’s follow-on arrow sliced along the side of the ogre’s chest, causing it to chuckle amusedly at the slight pain. “I smell a familiar stench,” the ogre rumbled. Blindly groping forward, as blood flowed down the side of its face, the ogre held it’s spear out to the side while reaching into the meteor with its free hand.

Green radiance and a sickly warmth blasted out from the center of the stone, and then began to flow down the crack in the floor to the pool of mud. The mud gained a greenish cast and began to swirl slightly, as if there were eddies caused by something moving under the surface.

The severely wounded goblin stabbed at the wolf in front of him in desperation, the spear point sinking deep into the wolf’s side as it yelped. Oddly, the lone goblin on the south side of the crack continued beating the staccato rhythm on its drum, as did the one directly across from him, both oblivious to the wolves and their surroundings.

Daelin, realizing he didn’t have a clean shot to the shaman darted his way around his companions and into the muck, never losing sight of his target. Once he reached his destination he let loose his prepared arrow. Hopefully the gods would like to judge this one themselves, he thought to himself.

Aeron commented to those around him, ”We must spread out or risk being caught in the shaman’s spell blast.” Aeron then sidestepped to the edge of the cesspool and magically whispered to Shylent, ”I’ll clear the goblins…attack the shaman.” He slowly chanted and blew a pinch of dust in the direction of the north door.

Daelin used the edge between the muck and the wall to head towards his intended destination. As he entered the pool he realized the muck was hampering his efforts more than he thought it would. Getting as far as he could, he fired at the shaman, missing to the right and hitting the edge of the dais.

The swirling dust and wind confused the goblins near the door, and four of them started staggering and then fell asleep, slumping to the floor. The goblin shaman, still looking around for Blend, moved carefully to his southeast, and began chanting a spell. A mist began to spill out from the goblin’s skin, and soon shrouded the area, obscuring him from sight.

Blend, saw exactly where the goblin shaman had moved to and stepped forward in pursuit. When the shaman came into view, despite all the mist, Blend attempted to gut the shaman with his blade. Blend’s assessment of the shaman’s location was uncannily precise. The goblin was preparing some type of spell with the green crystal dagger when Blend appeared right next to him and struck at him. Blend’s blade curved an arc through the air and sliced through the shaman’s throat, causing him to spurt blood all over the area as he crumbled to the floor.

Jharron saw the mist rise and the wolves outnumbered. He began to charge across the mud but was impeded and had to slow down. He did manage to get through the mud and close to the wolves. Jharron whispered to the wolves “I am here behind you and will assist where I can”

Aeron whispered to Jharron, ”Jharron, I will cast a wind spell upon you. Then advance forward, so the breeze blows the mist into the fire…What in the nine hells!?” Aeron was shocked by the sudden rise of the mud ogre from the cesspool in front of him. He shook himself from his stupor, and drew forth a wickedly sharp elven blade. The swords surface was mirror smooth and glinted in a beam of sunlight, like it had never been used even once in combat. Aeron raised the heavy curved blade above his head in a maneuver Nitram recognized immediately as a classic reach defense taught to every elven child old enough to lift a sword. Maintaining the awkward defensive stance, Aeron slowly shuffled along the cesspool edge behind Daelin, whispering to everyone. ”Jharron, send in the dogs while we back away from this cesspool.”

As Jharron whispered, his upraised hand caused a pale glow to flicker around the brow of the closest wolf. The wolves in the mist were still engaged with their foes, and Jharron could hear growls and the snapping of jaws, and dim shadows moving to and fro.

Shylent was not inclined to enter the mist, so she stepped forward and put the nearest goblin permanently out of the fight.

From the viewpoint of Aeron, Nitram, and Daelin, several odd things were occurring within and near the gray mist. With each death cry that they heard, there was a green pulse of light flickering around and through the mist, but centered on the location of the meteor. Also they could hear the ominous chuckle of the ogre and the smacking of its lips as each pulse of sickly green light occurred.

The green glow from the ogre’s earlier action, swirling in the eddies of mud and muck, slowly gathered itself up into the form of a large gray ogre like form made of mud, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Nitram’s nemesis.

Nitram fired another arrow at the mud ogre, slung his bow over his shoulder and drew his scimitar. Grasping it in both hands, he prepared to meet the ogre. Hopefully, I’ll be able to flank him if he gets any closer.

Realizing he had lost the advantage of range, Daelin dropped his bow. Drawing his longsword and a dagger, he repositioned himself to effectively combat the ogre and swung his sword in a deadly arc.

Nitram raised his bow at the large creature in front of him, not realizing the great reach the creature and its mud “club” had. Before he could release his arrow, the ogre loomed over towards him and swung, crushing him along the side of the chest. Nitram’s arrow still managed to prick the ogre’s hide. he saw a green glimmer of fire in both of the mud ogre’s eyes, and the spark of an uncanny, hateful, intelligence.

Having swung its club at Nitram, the ogre continued the swing towards Aeron, with a dull “whooshing” sound as it came towards him. Dripping mud, the club swung wide, missing him completely.

Daelin took a cautious step forwards toward the ogre, cutting at the large creature as he did. Daelin barely managed to slice through the tough hide of the creature, drawing a muddy ichor like blood from the thin wound.

Aeron moved guardedly farther southward, into a position behind Daelin. He could hear goblins in the mist as they continued their relentless beating of the drums, causing concussive eddies of force to echo within the chamber.

Suddenly there was a large shout that echoed throughout the chamber. Uncharacteristically it was Shylent, who yelled “BUGBEAR!”

Blend heard Shylent cry out, obviously under duress. The others may have forgotten about the bugbear, but Blend had not. He was beginning to wonder when he would turn up and now he had. Blend crept through the mist toward the sound of Shylent’s cry, waiting for the bugbear to come into view and when he did…his blade would taste of the creature’s blood.

Blend’s first cautious steps revealed nothing. It wasn’t until he began to reach the edge of the obscuring mist that he could make out Shylent’s figure directly ahead of him. And standing next to her with blood on his short sword, was a vicious looking bugbear, with a long flowing dark gray and tan cloak. Blend maneuvered into position and struck, surprising the lethal looking bugbear, and bloodying him with one blow. Blend could tell that catching the bugbear off guard had given him the edge he needed, the next strike would have to be more accurate.

Jharron saw the mud creature emerge, heard Shylent’s warning and absorbed the chaos of what was happening. Fire is used to heat and crack mud, let’s see how nature responds to my call for fire. He reached within the depths of the rock surrounding him to harness the natural powers present and produced fire to stop the mud creature.

The ogre’s club attack versus Nitram left Jharron reasonably sure that he could cast his spell in close proximity to the otherwise dangerous creature. A wreath of flame surrounded his hand and he struck at the mud ogre. The flame seared into the creature’s hide, and it turned its baleful green gaze upon Jharron. The wolves gathered near him, and gave forth a resounding howl before they faded away.

Blend’s viscous attack versus the bugbear left the creature vulnerable to Shylent’s longsword. She swung in a wide overhead arc at the vile beast, carving a gash across its chest. As the bugbear fell to the ground, she pouted, then sighed, nodding her thanks to Blend.

In a position to overlook the battle, Aeron noticed a looming shadow around thirty feet away that strode along the edge of the mists. Blood no longer streaming from its single eye, the ogre sorcerer waved the spear with the glowing green tip and pointed at Aeron. A wave of unreasonable terror flooded Aeron, and he momentarily considered fleeing, but strengthened his resolve and shook off the effects of the ogre’s spell. The drum beating continued.

Nitram darted forward and attacked the mud ogre hoping to finish him off. His scimitar sliced clean through the mud ogre, cutting him from shoulder to hip into two pieces. The half of the ogre with the legs dissolved quickly into nothingness. The part with the head held onto its uncanny green gleam of intelligence a moment longer, before it too dissolved back into the muck. For a moment, Nitram seemed to see his own face in the swirls and eddies in the mud, but the surface of the pool gradually grew still.

From over his shoulder, Daelin heard the heavy stride of the ogre sorcerer approaching. Each step seemed to pulse the air with power, almost in time to the drumming.

Daelin turned and saw the ogre approaching. Considering his options, he threw his dagger at the approaching shaman, drew another, and prepared himself to meet this oncoming monster.

Still shaking from the supernatural terror, Aeron dropped his curved elven blade in the muck next to Daelin. Perhaps he can use it better than I. He drew his intricately carved longbow with his left hand and concentrated to retrieve a spell from his memory. It was a spell he had used many times in the laboratories of Rashemon’s Tower when lesser apprentice’s alchemical concoctions had gone awry. With his right hand Aeron retrieved a tiny oriental fan covered in silver sigils. Aeron chanted “Expiro ventus!” and motioned with the diminutive fan in the direction of the ogre. A soft breeze billowed forth in front of Daelin gently rolling back the obscuring mist from the hulking creature. Aeron shuffled back along the cave wall to the crevice entrance taunting the ogre as he went, ”Better cover your good eye ogre, there are many arrows still about!”

Daelin’s dagger flew straight and true through the murky air, hit the ogre dead center of its chest, and then bounced off its tough skin harmlessly.

Aeron’s spell had great effect, it cleared the air around the ogre and fully exposed the hulking monstrosity. The rest of the obscuring mist continued to shroud the area in gloom. Within that gloom there were presumably still goblins, as the drums continued their erratic and otherworldly rhythm. The effect of Aeron’s taunting was noticeable, causing the ogre to rumble with rage, almost appearing uncertain whether to crush Aeron or Nitram.

Nice of the wizard to taunt the ogre and then hide behind me. I can’t believe he dropped his sword. I guess it’s not that surprising, Nitram thought as he readied himself for the ogre’s advance.

Blend moved through the mist cautiously, waiting for the ogre to come into view, finally leaping from the mists and attacking the ogre’s flank with his blade. He then focused and vanished from sight. Blend appeared to have benefited from the goblin shaman’s mist much more than the shaman had been able to. Such was life. Blend moved with his usual grace through the fog, passing both of the remaining goblin drummers on his way. Both of the goblins continued to beat their drums, apparently “transfixed” in place.

As Blend leaped from the shadows the ogre chuckled and casually jabbed in Blend’s direction. Blend managed to twist in the air and evade the spear tip as it came towards him. Once Blend closed in on the ogre, he danced around the slender pillar and sliced at the ogre with his deadly blade, drawing a thin line of blood on its thigh.

Jharron saw Aeron back up and draw his bow, and Nitram preparing to receive an attack. Based on seeing Nitram’s reaction earlier to the ogre, Jharron figured the ogre was on the other side of the mist. Not knowing where Blend was, and seeing three of the party ready to receive the attacking ogre, Jharron moved toward Shylent’s last known position. Jharron skirted the edge of the mist, and caught up to Shylent just as she was moved forward, stepping over the bodies of a goblin and a bugbear. She nodded to Jharron, signaling him to watch their back as she “took care of” another sleeping goblin. Jharron noticed that Shylent had wisely moved far enough that she could see around the edge of the mist to the east. She glanced back and gave him a thumb’s up.

“Fool, Vizeroth will crush you!” The ogre bellowed as it stepped forward towards the puny figure in its way. Swinging the large spear like a club, the ogre smacked Daelin across the side of the head, knocking him down. Fortunately for Daelin, the muck was not as deep here, and he landed face up.

Nitram grimaced as the ogre laid Daelin out with one blow. ”Good luck Aeron,” Nitram said as he seemingly fled into the mist Not the best decision. Nitram suppressed his negative thoughts and focused on killing his enemy. Springing out of the mist, Nitram slashed at the ogre, putting all his strength into a wicked two-handed blow and hoping to catch the ogre off guard.

Luckily for Nitram, crushing Daelin and swiping at Blend had preoccupied the ogre, and he was unable to take advantage of Nitram moving around within his reach. Nitram’s swing as he leaped out of the edge of the mist dealt a grievous blow to the ogre. The ogre staggered, injured by the bloody wound gaping from its side. Green fire flickered from the wound, and the ogre’s flesh seemed to crawl.

Dazed, Daelin regained his bearings and weighed his options. Should he retreat a bit, or risk healing himself so close to the monster who upended his world? Not realizing the majority of the party was no longer behind him, he thought to himself, I chose to stand between the others and this monster. Silently hoping The Pantheon was listening, Daelin called upon the magic within the silver bracelet for healing.

Someone was listening as Daelin channeled the power of the silver bracelet. He felt the magic healing his wounds and filling his slack limbs with vigor. The incessant drumming had begun to be madding, and the beat resembled the pulsating of a large heart.

”Jharron, Shylent, kill the drummers!” Nitram called. How can I inflict more damage on that damn creature? Maybe this will help, he thought as he drew his shortsword with his off-hand.

Aeron sidestepped around the north bank of the cesspool, stopping short of the pile of sacrificed goblin bodies. He continued to taunt the ogre as he moved around the edge of the fetid mud, ”You’re looking weak, One-eye…and so goes your magic. I’ll bet you don’t have enough blood left to cast your crude hedge magic. Unless you can prove me wrong oh pale one!” Aeron felt the magic coursing through his bow as he leveled an arrow at the hulking ogre and released his shot to punctuate his challenge.

Aeron leveled a pretty effective taunt which also benefited from the massive hit with his arrow. Infuriated, the ogre pointed at Aeron, “You next after small ranger!”

Still invisible, Blend slipped south through the columns and crept up to the ogre as he was directing his attention toward the wizard. Ducking low, he viciously slashed at the ogre’s hamstring, hoping to cut deep enough the severally cripple the beast. Blend flickered into view and the ogre attempted to dodge but didn’t have enough time before the blade stuck into its leg. A faintly worried look crossed the ogre’s brow, before it gritted its tusks and proceeded to continue the battle. The blood dripping from various wounds on the ogre, that at first had been as bright red as anyone’s, started to have a darker red/greenish tint to it.

Jharron heard Nitram and moved into the mist. He hoped the goblins were still where he last remembered them being or it would be tough to find them. The closest goblin should be just south of me, he thought. Jharron moved a little left and slid down to attack the creature. Jharron managed to locate one of the drooling, erratically drumming goblins. The dazed goblin was a sitting duck, and Jharron easily whacked it firmly across the head, slaying it with a sickening crunch.

Shylent grumbled and followed Jharron into the mist, keeping him within sight at all times.

The gravely injured ogre chuckled menacingly, using its free hand to wipe some of its own sickly green/red blood onto the green glowing tip of its spear, and then jabbing it straight at Nitram’s heart. Nitram almost evaded the deadly spear thrust, but it still struck him in the shoulder, puncturing his armor. Sickly green light and oily warmth flickered along the shaft and some of the ogre’s wounds seemed to close.

Nitram sliced at the ogre with his scimitar and stabbed with the shortsword. Nitram’s scimitar drew a straight gash across the chest of the ogre that began weeping blood. His stab with the shortsword failed to connect as the ogre leaned out of the way. The battle did appear to be reaching its final stages, as the anger and enmity between the two long sworn foes culminated in a fierce battle with no quarter given by either party.

Daelin saw the intensity of the combat reflected in Nitram’s eyes and knew it was either the ogre or him.

Aeron contemplated skewering the ogre with another arrow, but settled on a more subtle approach. The creature’s stunted intellect and crude arcane training will not protect it from this simple ruse. Aeron produced a small ball of wool from his belt pouch and called forth a short incantation in the direction of the ogre. Aeron probed the creatures mind building on its rage to confuse its actions. ”One eye, your pawns are dead! What to do? Surrender or be destroyed!”

Not wanting the ogre striking any of his companions, Daelin swung his longsword with what he hoped would be a killing blow. Daelin struggled with his longsword in an attempt to destroy the vile creature before him. The ogre’s combat with Nitram, and the to and fro of battle made this a difficult task, and he missed completely.

Aeron cast his spell upon the mind of the ogre, for a moment he thought he could feel the rage building to overwhelm the creature into confusion, but the magic of his spell was not enough to breach the ogre’s mystical defenses. It shook its head momentarily and pointed with a nod in Aeron’s direction, as if saying your turn is next.

The goblin shaman’s mist began to thin ever so slightly.

Blend noticed the ogre briefly glance over at Aeron and that was all the opening he needed. His inner reserves were almost depleted, but he still had enough focus for another maneuver or two. Concentrating, he vanished from sight. When the ogre refocused his attention toward him and Nitram, he wouldn’t see the tip of Blend’s blade streaking towards his throat.

The ogre turned back towards Nitram and was struck by Blend’s blade. It grasped it’s throat and began a slow fall back between Daelin and the cavern wall, landing in the muck with a sodden splash and a resounding thump. The last goblin drummer continued his beat.

Jharron moved forward in the direction of the drumming and struck the drummer with his quarterstaff. The drooling goblin drummer, with a slight green tint to his eyes, was an easy target. Jharron struck him with the staff of the elder druid and literally snapped the creature’s neck, killing it. In a bizarre turn of events the goblin kept drumming for a couple of seconds until Shylent leaned past Jharron and hacked off the creature’s arms with her longsword. The goblin body fell over, lifeless, and the erratic and disturbing drumming was finally over.

”Nice finish, Blend,” Nitram said. He looked at both Blend and Daelin, ”When he stabbed me, I think he used my health to heal some of his wounds. His spear started glowing and my shoulder felt unnatural. Let’s finish off the goblins and figure out if it was him or the spear.” Nitram’s body seemed to relax slightly as his mind was filled with relief at the ogre’s demise.

Blend kicked the spear away from the ogre, stood next to the fell creature’s head and drove his blade into the ogre’s eye and into its brain. ”Just to be sure,” he said, looking up at Nitram as he pulled the blade free and swung it out to the side, clearing it of any detritus, before wiping it clean on the ogre’s meager clothing.

Nice, thought Nitram as he nodded, ”Just to be sure.”



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