We defeated our enemies at the Spire, and gathered supplies from the dead for use by the living. We thought it wise to dispose of the bodies, so we piled them up to burn them at the Spire’s base. There was a need for guards to ensure that the flames did not spread to the surrounding forest, so I, Nathaniel, and the old Watchman volunteered. Someone approached the Spire from the forest, and I fired an arrow to drive them off. With such small numbers, we could not afford to take a chance with any strangers approaching.
As evening approached, we heard the sounds of a large beast in the forest. Likely, the beast was drawn by the scent of burning meat. On seeing the size of it, I panicked and began to run back to the safety of Temple Rise. Nathaniel followed, and we made it back to town alive. Shortly thereafter followed the Watchman, who had stayed behind at the Spire to frighten the beast off with his crossbow. I am ashamed of my fear.
After rest and some discussion with Hiraishin-sama, Sorscha and I decided to return to the goblin caves, where the message from the Drow woman was found. We debated bringing Xar’eth along, but decided that using stealth was our best option, and Sorscha and myself were the two best suited to that task. We skirted around the Ruins of Lochaid, noting that there was a large band of mercenaries at the southern edge of town as we did so. We managed to remain quiet enough to get to the forest unseen. As we left, we heard shouts from the south as if the brigands had heard us, but we made haste toward Three Cedars.
Sorscha talked with the councilmen of Three Cedars, and they exchanged news of current events. The people of the town have not been bothered by goblins since the group cleared the cave. Maybe this means that the way will be clear…
We feasted and a stayed the night at Three Cedars. In the morning, Sorscha and I headed for the goblin caves. On our way, we found a traveler’s wagon, and middle-aged woman outside hanging clothes and cooking food. From a good distance off, and hiding in the shadows, we discussed whether we should approach this woman, or attempt to go around her unseen. As we whispered, she called out to us and bid us to come join her, and we decided that we could not sneak by unseen after all.
We approached, and the woman offered us some roasted rabbit and potatoes. She asked us to sit down and spend 30 minutes to talk with her. Sorscha and I shared suspicious looks, and denied her request. We started to continue on, but she stopped us again, threw some of the food into a sack, and bade us to take the food with us. Again, we declined, and as we walked away, I heard a pounding coming from inside the wagon. A little further on, I glanced back and found the woman glaring after us. I feel that our mistrust was well placed.
The Cave Entrance
With the light of the morning sun at our backs, we climbed the stairs to the cave’s main entrance. From a distance off, we saw the glass-eyed stare of dead goblins on watch at either of the cave’s open alcoves. They did not appear to see us, so we climbed back down the stairs to scout out the river entrance.
Walking into the river entrance of the cave, it was too dark for me to see, but I heard something slithering in the darkness and a splashing in the water. Sorscha informed me that there were six goblin zombies by the lift, and that she feared the slithering thing may be something called an Aboleth. As we attempted a quiet retreat, a monster erupted from the water blocking the cave entrance in front of us. It was a large insect, with tentacles on its face, and it smelled of death. Sorscha stood between me and the beast, and readied herself for battle. As the foul thing approached, she hit it hard with her fists, and it went limp as if stunned. I took the opportunity to fire an arrow at its head, and Sorscha finished it off with a flurry of blows to its body.
With the monster disposed of, we decided to attempt to take out the goblin zombies. Sorscha crossed the river and circled around behind them, as I lit two torches and threw them to opposite sides of the cave so I could see. Sorscha came up behind the group and hit one of the zombies hard enough to knock it to the ground, and I stood off to the other side and prepared to fire on the group. When none of the zombies moved, we paused to assess the situation. Sorscha walked over, and informed me that she had seen such a thing before. These goblins appeared to be under the effects of a simple spell known to her as Scarerigor, which from a distance gave all the appearances of animated undead, but did not actually go so far as to make the corpses move or attack. She also mentioned that this was commonly paired with an alarm spell, so I suggested that we go through one of the side alcoves by the front door. If these corpses were alarmed, whoever made them likely knew we were down here.
Inside the Caves
With some difficulty (for me), we made our way into the right-hand alcove and past the scare-rigored goblin. As I stepped into the cave, the light from my torch was caught by a network of quartz and other materials in the rock of the cave walls, and patterns of light and shadow caused me to swoon and lose my sense of direction. When I recovered, Sorcha was gone, and I continued through the caves with a slight sense of dizziness and nausea.
I approached the center of the cave, where a stream of water fell into a whirlpool that likely fed the waterfall at the Lift entrance. Mist filled the room, reflecting the light from my torch back into my eyes, and making it difficult to see. Through the haze to my right, I saw the form of Sorscha standing in the mist. At that moment, a loud voice, apparently in the Drow tongue, reverberated off the walls of the cave and bombarded my ears. I looked toward another opening in the cave wall, and saw a serpentine figure in the mist, flanked by the forms of what looked like two decrepit, elderly humans.
I moved up to get nearer to the serpentine figure. Moving closer, I could see that the creature was a kobold. I dropped my torch in a spot where it would provide illumination, and turned invisible as I walked up to get into position to take a shot at it. As I did so, I noticed many shapes moving in the dimness of the cave around me. Tentacles writhed in the pool in the middle of the room, a scaled wing descended from the ceiling, and otherworldly sounds assaulted my mind. I got my wits about me enough to draw my bow, and fired at the kobold, but the shot deflected and struck one of the humans in the head with a popping sound, followed by a gurgling hiss, as if my arrow had punctured an over-sized water skin.
Sorscha approached the kobold and grabbed it, attempting to throw it into the cave wall; the creature did not move. The forms of the decrepit humans shifted, and the skin began to rend from their bones as masses of tentacles popped out from their skulls and backs. It took all of my will to stop from running out of the cavern screaming at that moment. As the horrors burst from their human shells, I looked behind me to see a dragon of some kind approaching, and taunting me in my native language.
Sorscha appeared to see something beyond the kobold, and charged into the next room for an attack. I took a hard look at the creature and noticed a shimmer in its appearance, and the illusion melted away. Not wanting to think of my chances for survival alone in this room, I charged in after her, rolling as I ran between the tentacled horrors so that their attacks swung wildly in the air above me. Luckily, the light from my torch carried over into this room through one of the quartz windows in the cave wall, and I was able to see the drow that Sorscha was fighting. As I finished my charge, I used my energy to turn invisible once more, dropped my bow, drew my short sword, and slashed the drow across the chest. Sorscha followed up with a round-house kick to the stomach, and an uppercut that caused the drow to bite off her own tongue as her neck snapped.
Quickly, we looted the body and took anything we might need. I looked behind us, expecting the illusions of tentacled horrors and dragons to melt away. They did not oblige…