Thus the villain Yuathyub made his exit, leaving the tired party in a state of satisfied exhaustion. They had just hacked, arrowed and firebombed their way through what seemed like the worst this underworld had to offer: a diverse menagerie of foul beasts, devious traps and devolved humanoids. One realm of threats and puzzles now lay deciphered and subdued, and the party members had the strangest feeling that some unknown power had just granted them a boon. *Ding!
But there was a sense of unease too. Where had Yuathyub really gone? Had he seen the turning of the tide and fled for good, or did he merely go to some unseen redoubt in the lower levels to wait patiently alongside a host of allies?
Whatever the case, the way to go was down, as it had always been.
The party briefly got their affairs in order. As usual, the skulks didn’t have much except their standard unsound weaponry and smelly clothes. There was the matter of the “pulverizer” though. This thing was a real gem: clearly capable of tunneling through solid rock and probably able to wail pretty hard on a “soft” target (preferably one who did not know how to speak gnomish). Benadrad promptly challenged Theo to pick a nearby door lock in less time than it took for the pulverizer to pulverize a hole through the wall.
In this case, it turned out that the pulverizer’s pneumatic fist outstripped Theo’s skill with the lockpick, and the crew piled in through the breach. Jokingly, or as what passes as such from a half-orc, Logahn remarked that perhaps they no longer required the goblin’s services.
The little room turned out to be an office in a state of extreme disrepair, but not completely devoid of useful items. There was another lettered key in the desk to add to the party’s growing collection.
Many doors still stood unopened on this level, but the hour was growing late and the more the adventurers saw of this dungeon, the more keenly they felt for the plight of the poor orphans stuck down in the abyss. At least that is what they should have been thinking, but who really knows. It had been a while since any of them had seen the light of day. It was also possible Keygen was now the sanest of the lot of them! The remainder of the day would surely take them deeper into the darkness rather than up towards the light of civility.
Towards the lift they marched.
A few rooms away from the point of descent, they encountered some oddities. On the floor was a dead skulk that had not fallen by the party’s weapons. No one really cared – but in the next room, they stumbled upon a sick contraption that may or may not have been the reason the skulk wasn’t feeling so well. It was a mimic.
“Hungry! ah blahblah (etc)” issued forth from the thing’s metal chompers in the debased Undercommon tongue. The adventurers looked wearily at one another, but their attention perked up because lo and behold, there was a familiar looking rat sitting on top of the mimic’s wooden dome. Upon seeing this, Keygen went absolutely apeshit. Unphased, Bernadrad resolved to blow up the mimic by offering it an alchemists’ fire snack. Being a mimic that was very interested in snacks, this dubious stratagem had some chance of succeeding but luck was not in their favor and the bomb misfired, enraging rather than destroying the odd creature.
A lot of things proceeded to happen at once. First, theodocious decided to put his body on the line for Keygen’s rat, and tumbled fluidly across the room in order to snatch it out of harm’s way. He was then met by a stout punch from one of the mimic’s beefy pseudopods. But Theo had the rat! Keygen approved of this.
It looked like it might be fightin’ time, but the adventurers wisely held off the attack, correctly sensing some reluctance on the part of the mimic to really throw down. Sure enough, they were able to talk the creature down without much trouble, making some vague promises to bring it some gourmet food.
Now came an awkward moment: Keygen wanted to leave. After rubbing his face all over his gross rodent companion, he stated that he was done helping the party. Truth be told, the group had come to almost like the capering little guy for his quiet company and occasional colorspray emissions, but now it was clear that his cowardly tendencies would have to be dealt with. Celestine did so sternly. She reminded him that not so long ago, he had been an accomplice to a terrible crime and that although his recent deeds were tipping the balance positively, he was still a long ways from redemption. Keygen shuddered at the dangers sure to come, but in the end either his fear of the adventurers or his guilt got the better of him and he again promised loyalty to the party for a little while longer.
They descended noisily down the lift.
Glad that the ancient machinery had not given out on the trip down, the group piled out of the elevator to find themselves in a stranger, blacker environment than the level above.
It soon became clear that a party of hobgoblins had laid claim to this layer of the dungeon. Introductions were made when some one in the group opened a door to find a few of these nasties relaxing behind it, having a nice daydream and not at all expecting to see an unfamiliar face. Caught flatfooted then! Theo immediately took this opportunity to shove his rapier into the nearest one, and then helped the party finish the rest.
This marked an improvement over the old status quo in terms of “Hand of justice” door opening outcomes. Hallways and darkness met the adventurers as they walked on in silence.
Now the party had certainly faced horrors in the first level of the Undercity. Every feature of the darkness swirled in the adventurers’ respective imaginations to take the forms of Grells and skulks along with every other monster they had fought. These however were only the monsters they knew…
It is doubtful that any of them could sense the danger as they entered a particular tall, stony chamber. They did notice something further inside the room, but alarm was not raised and they decided to take a closer look.
Though adorned with crystals, the object in the room did not offer up its splendor as trinkets for the explorers to pluck. Instead, it was happy to start bludgeoning them with its long, stony arms. Celestine uttered a simple but effective blessing: everybody now felt a little bit more awesome. Together with Logahn, Celestine charged against the monster (which Theo, that venerable dungeoneer, indicated to be a stone Golum).
Swords on rock do not make a pleasant sound, but away the team hacked, shot and lobbed. Then, horrid sounds from around the corner made it clear that their weapons were about to have something more fleshy to sink into. What little light there was gave shadow to a monstrous, nightmarish form: an ogre had joined the battle.
It may have only had one head but boy was it huge. The Golum was clearly on its last legs now, but it was no longer the main attraction. Logahn, the stalwart enforcer, rushed to meet the foe and slashed its vulnerable belly, spraying a bit of awful gore on the cold stone (although not as much as he would have liked). The ogre was about to start having some fun, his idea of which was over the next few minutes alternatively cleaving Celestine and Logahn within inches of their lives. The priests did however waylay the ogre long enough for the diminuitive party-members to strike many blows. Bernadrad unleashed his signature hail of fire while Keygen and Theo contributed their steel towards bringing about the creature’s surely well deserved end.
Ogre down! What was once a terrible, hulking demon was now a pile of quivering rat-and/or-skulk meat. Of course Logahn and Celestine were not far from being in that same condition. Where it struck, the thing’s humongous axe had sank deep into the fighters’ flesh. The adventurers however cared little about the pain of their injuries because they had just defeated by far the most beastly opponent they had ever faced! Healing potions could make the hurt go away, but the glory of this victory would surely never fade!
And yet they who slay a beast like that, deep in the bowels of the earth, gain a bloody, awful glory indeed. Who could ever forget the howling, or the dim light of the ogre’s doom-promising eyes? All musings aside, Celestine was not done with this particular ogre, and she set about snatching its nutsack for a fetish item, or more charitably in terms of her standing with Sarenrae, just a bag (the ogre did have a fairly large and quite leathery nutsack). Everybody else watched, and was in general OK with this.
The party passed into the next room, which was apparently devoted to housing rotten corpses and piles of shit. Maybe this was where the ogre had once upon a time sat around munching dead bodies and pooping them out: a vicious cycle for all those involved. But no more … the party even found some treasure that had been buried in the dung and Theo had no qualms about digging it out. It was a huge box of coins and gems. They decided to leave it in place: it seemed unlikely that anyone would come to disturb so foul a hoard.
They walked on. The tension was thickening but the next room held no threat: it was occupied only by some tables and a large statue of a dwarf. Still, the party was careful and jumpy because the prophetic message had mentioned that they might encounter a “half dwarf” (although the dwarf before them seemed to legitimately just be a statue and there was nothing “half-ish” about it). As often happens with goblins, Theo’s sense of wariness dissolved completely when he realized that the dwarf statue’s eyes were gleaming like little jewels. Up he climbed until he could be seen clinging to the thing’s stern face, at which point he began chipping at its eyes. But crap! The eyes were stuck in there really well, as if the builder had anticipated that it one day would have to passively resist the molestation of a thief.
“Here, use this goo-gone!” cried Benadrad, and tossed up the Universal Solvent to the frustrated Theo. Theo spread it around the base of the jewel, and was able to pop it right out. Everyone was happy about this turn of events: even Logahn and Celestine – whose austerity normally made them less preoccupied with looting every possible thing in the environment – knew that the more resources they had, the better their chances of defeating the dark intelligence that was marshaling its the legions against the light of civilization.
Past the now-blind dwarf they went, flush with treasure.
The corridors wound about for a bit, but before long they reached a hallway that looked just suspicious enough to warrant a slower pace. Theo went ahead and discovered that sure enough, someone had laid a devious trap at their end of the hallway – but they should have taken more time in hiding it. Theo deftly rendered the snare useless and beckoned for the others to come forward. The party sauntered confidently down the hallway.
As they half expected, a welcome party had been prepared. A pair of hobgoblins archers entered and took positions at the far end of the hallway.
Logahn and Celestine grinned at one another in anticipation of cutting these two guys into pieces. Celestine was quickest to react though, and ran headlong towards the aggressors, feeling that satisfying urge of battle once again. But she was to be denied! A few steps from landing her curved blade into a squishy hobgoblin part, the floor blew out under her very feet. Losing velocity and swinging now only at air, she fell into a pit ironically identical to the one Theo had so knowingly foiled at the start of the hallway. As a counterpoint to this comedy, one of the skulk archers made a fool of himself attempting to activate this other impotent trap!
With their snares gone and spent, the trained hobgoblin duo executed steps two and three of their plan: call for help; then shoot.
[KNOCK KNOCK ON DOOR] “We need reinforcements!” Of course these were famous last words.
The other goblin though shot his longbow and dextrously lodged an arrow in Logahn’s torso at quite a high velocity. Of course at this point, the good guys immediately started sending their own potshots down the hallway, a few of which found their mark.
There was another problem: the reinforcements. Two by two, they were rushing into the hallway through a side door on the left, which put them in front of the collapsed section that separated the adventurers from the archers at the far end (and in which Celestine lay fallen in a frustrated daze). Benadrad immediately knew what he had to do though: it was time to subject the appropriate chokepoint to a hail of bomb shrapnel. Anticipating this, Logahn and Theo ran forth to contain the approaching hit squad from deploying into the main hallway section that the adventurers occupied. Thus the strategies were chosen, and then the consequences played out. On the near side, the hobgoblins were getting in a few blows against the “meat wall” but were withering under a flurry of steel and more importantly gobs of exploding projectiles being hurled by a certain grinning goblin. And on the far side, another drama played itself out: while one of the hobgoblins was trading shots with Keygen, the other strode up to the edge of the pit where Celestine had fallen in an attempt to finish her off. This second hobgoblin thought he had the drop on the poor priestess – but what ended up happening is that Celestine blasted a crossbow bolt through his face the second he came into view. No “I have high the ground, Anakin!” here – the bolt cleanly turned the hobgoblins brain and face into mush before he could make the easy shot. One does wonder about the cold intelligence motivating the fiend however: he would rather shoot the defenseless warrior in the pit than keep up the strategic offensive. Probably what your average hobgoblin would do though!
Thus one of the archers faded from life. More of his ilk still were pouring through the side door.
The adventurers concluded this bloody episode with a finale of booms and swings, littering the connecting hallway with hobgoblin entrails and splatters.
Shaken, but not stirred, the party wiped the blood from their eyes and face-masks and surveyed their handiwork.
Day 3 part 5