Last time, having found themselves in what appears to be the nest of the giant rats they have been encountering in their travels through the Sunless Citadel, the party encounters the largest of the rats they have seen so far. After eliminating the threat, Meepo mentions having seen the largest rat before, and surmises that she is the nest queen and mother to all the rats that reside in the Citadel. Amongs the refuse of the nest, they find four humanoid bodies, one of them a human ranger that Fenora identifies as Karakas, a ranger who traded furs and other goods in Oakhurst.
Exhausted, the party considers making camp for the evening. Meepo suggests returning to the room where they’d first met him and bar the door against intruders, making it safe to rest for the night. They agree and return to his camp. As they settle in, they discuss the situation, particularly in regards to the goblin invaders and how best to deal with them should they encounter them. Meepo posits that the goblins have been aiding someone he calls “the Outcast,” an unknown character mentioned previously by Yusdrayl. These concerns running through their minds, the party rests.
The following morning, after a somewhat rude awakening for Garl, the party departs their camp and heads back down the hall they traveled the previous day. They run into a small goblin patrol, which Gishkaa attempts to parley with, but the goblins immediately attack. They party quickly cuts through the enemy, leaving one alive to question. However, when they attempt to tie the creature up, the goblin wriggles free and attacks. Disgusted, Quinton slashes at the goblin, killing it instead.
Moving on into the next room, they find a door rigged with an alarm bell. Gishkaa removes the bell and pockets it, opening the door onto another hall, its floor littered with caltrops leading up to a crenelated barrier wall. Gishkaa and Fenora silently enter the room and carefully sweep the caltrops to the sides of the hall, making a small path down the center of the room.
Gishkaa grabs the edge of the makeshift wall and attempts to pull herself up. The filth on the floor, stains on the walls, shabby hides, and firepit attest to the years of use this room has seen at the hands of creatures unconcerned with hygiene. On the eastern side of the southern wall is a crudely mortared half-wall, complete with crenellations. As Gishkaa notes all these details, her gaze suddenly locks eyes with a pair of goblins in the northwestern corner. As the goblins look at her, she smiles in an unfriendly way, pulls out the bell from the door and rings it at them. The goblins leap to their feet in surprise, grapping their weapons. Gishkaa’s foot slips from the wall, tumbling her back toward the others.
Meepo: What happening?
A goblin appears at the wall, and narrowly avoids being decapitated by a wild swing of Gishkaa’s rapier. Gishkaa is not as lucky, as the goblin swings down with its rusty scimitar, slicing her arm with a critical blow. The other goblin fires and arrow blindly over the barrier, missing everyone by wide margins, then flees through a nearby door.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: He’s run for backup! Get up here!
Fenora and Quinton rush up to the barrier and leap over it, Quinton swinging down with his handaxe into the remaining goblin and killing it before it can defend itself. Civic, Garl, and Meepo join the rest of the party, where a furious Fenora kicks the open the door, causing it to fly open on its hinges and slam against the stone wall behind it.
Beyond the door, dozens of blunted and broken arrows lie on the cracked cobblestone floor, and a few protrude from three crudely sewn, human-sized targets hung along the center of the south wall. The northern third of the room is separated from the south by a crudely mortared and crenellated half-wall. A permanent camp of sorts lies north of the wall, complete with a fire ring and several small iron cook pots.
The party has mere seconds to take this all in as they dash around the corner, where they are confronted with a group of goblins, one of them the one from the previous room, all with shortbows trained in their direction direction. Almost smugly, Civic begins to wave a short wooden wand in intricate patterns as he hums a lullaby. Three of the four goblins fall to the floor, soft snores filling the sudden silence.
The remaining goblin kicks one of its companions awake, who in turn awakens the next and so on until the goblins are all back in the fight. However, it’s all for nothing, as the party quickly dispatches the creatures using spells and weapons.
Garl Auraspeaker: I’m getting real tired of these goblins. <turning> No offense.
Meepo: HA! Welcome to Meepo’s world.
Quinton Greymane: Let’s look around and see if they had anything of value.
They make a thorough search of the last two chambers, and the bodies of the fallen goblins. Each of the goblins carried a handful of silver pieces. One of the goblins carries a silver flask of what appears to be dwarven craft, filled with a foul smelling yet potent wine. Another goblin has a rusty metal key hanging from a leather cord around its bony neck.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat (checking the nearby door): This one is locked. How about the one down there?
Meepo: I check!
Meepo dashes enthusiastically down to the southern door, while Fenora inspects the northern door and finds it unlocked. Quinton stands by Gishkaa watching her progress.
Quinton Greymane (helpfully): Try the key in it?
Fenora Finnley: This one isn’t locked.
Meepo (pulling on the southern door’s handle): This door locked too!
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: Which should we go through first? Let me try the key here.
Gishkaa fits the key into the lock and turns it. CLICK! The door opens a couple inches.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat (pushing the door open): It worked!
Squalor reigns in this low-ceilinged room. A large iron spike is driven into the floor near the door, and a small iron cage is set farther back. Several sets of corroded manacles are connected to the walls, and some still bind a few crumbling skeletons. In the darkness some quiet moans and whimpers can be heard.
Quinton Greymane: Looks like their prison.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: Still has some skeleton guests. <hears> And they’re haunted!
Garl Auraspeaker (chuckles): Some live ones, too, from the sound of it.
Garl Auraspeaker heads into the room, activating his light spell as he enters with Gishkaa behind him, looking around at everything suspiciously. Fenora anxiously darts into the room behind Quinton, but stumbles over the threshold, falling into Quinton.
Fenora Finnley (looks down in shame): Sorry.
Quinton Greymane: Heh, it’s alright, you got some fancy footwork there. Sure it will come in handy soon enough.
Fenora Finnley smiles politely at Quinton
Garl’s light spell fills the area, revealing three kobolds that turn away from the light with a chorus of yelping cries. They are bound with a crude rope tied to the iron spike near the door. In the cage on the far wall sits a battered and bruised gnome, who eyes the party’s approach with fear and curiosity.
Meepo (from the door): What you see, false dragon?
Garl Auraspeaker: I see a kobold about to get a mace upside the head.
Garl Auraspeaker: Looks like a couple of kobolds in chains. They haven’t insulted me yet like every other kobold I’ve met.
Meepo: What?! Kobolds?! Let Meepo see!
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat (moving toward the cage): And a gnome.
Gishkaa tries to see if the key unlocks the cage, while Fenora tries to help in any way she can. Finding that the key does not fit into the lock, she gets to work on the lock with her lockpicks.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: Let’s get you out of here and get you something to eat and drink.
Gnome [in Goblin]: Thank you, I think?
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat [in Goblin]: You’re welcome. We’re not with the goblins here. They seem to have lost their way. Not exactly with the kobolds either, but they don’t seem ALL bad so far.
Gnome [in Goblin]: Do you speak Common, my dear? I do find the Goblin tongue rough on the throat.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: Yes we all speak common.
Gnome (smiles widely): Oh, that IS a relief.
As they converse, Gishkaa continues to work on the lock, mumbling all the while about “useless keys”, and soon manages to unlock the cage.
Gnome (helpfully): The goblins always hung the key on a hook near the… oh, never mind. Excellent work, dearie.
Quinton Greymane: Yes, didn’t catch most of that. Who are you?
Civic: How did you end up down here in a cage?
The gnome steps out of the cage, standing straight then arching his back in a stretch.
Gnome: Heavens that feels divine! Name’s Erky… Erky Timbers. And may I learn the names of my rescuers?
Civic (calling from behind Garl): My name is Civic!
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: I’m Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat.
Quinton Greymane: Well, nice ta meet ya, Erky. Name’s Quinton.
Fenora Finnley: Finora Finnley, it’s a pleasure.
Quinton Greymane: And back there is my friend, Garl.
Garl Auraspeaker looks over and waves
Erky Timbers (smiles at Fenora): The pleasure is all mine, I can assure you of that, my dear. Been cooped up in that damned cage for entirely too long, and even for a lil guy like me, not being able to stand straight was the absolute worst. Well, aside from being a prisoner of them goblins, of course.
Garl Auraspeaker: Of course.
Civic: How did you end up their prisoner?
Quinton Greymane: Indeed, a might curious about that myself.
Erky Timbers (grins up at Quinton): Aye, that ‘s a bit of a story, m’boy. Months past, I was on my way to seek my fortune and took the Old Road. My bad luck that the goblin bandits caught me; I’ve been here ever since. My deity’s blessings have kept me healthy; otherwise I’m sure I’d be dead from starvation and abuse.
Quinton Greymane: Sounds like a rough one
Erky Timbers: Aye, no lie. Yours is first friendly faces I’ve seen in over a month.
Civic: I’m surprised they kept you alive and decided to keep you around. Seems like you were quite fortunate.
Erky Timbers shrugs.
Quinton Greymane: A month? Well maybe you’ve seen the people we’re looking for. We’re looking for three humans, two men and a woman. One of the men would have been older than the other two.
Quinton Greymane gives a brief description of the kids.
Erky Timbers (looks surprised): Aye, I know who you mean. The goblins caught three human folk over a month ago, and they were held here with me for a while. They said their names were Talgen, Sharwyn, and Sir Braford. The goblins kept them in there only about a week, I think, before they removed them. Belak wanted them, and that’s the last I’ve hear about that.
Garl Auraspeaker: Looks like the kobold queen thing was right. They did go this way.
Erky Timbers: Wish I could tell you more, but haven’t heard anything about them since they were moved.
Quinton Greymane: Hmm, don’t sound good. But at least we know they came through here. That’s quite helpful.
Garl Auraspeaker: Who’s this Belak guy? Goblin king person?
Erky Timbers: I don’t know, exactly. I have heard the goblin talk about the Twilight Grove down below. A wicked old human called Belak—a spellcaster, I suspect—tends an enchanted garden and harvest fruit from something the goblins have been referring to as the Gulthias Tree, but they speak of it only in the most terrified of whispers. The enchanted fruit grows on the Gulthias Tree.
Civic: They’re afraid of the fruit?
Erky Timbers: The fruit, not likely. But by the reputation this Belak seems to have, I would surmise that they are scared of him.
Fenora Finnley (perks up hearing about the fruit from the Gulthias Tree): Have you heard anything else about the tree? Like where it might be?
Erky Timbers (looks at Fenora): As I said, the tree is in the Twilight Grove, below this level. At least, that I what I have gleaned from the snippets of conversation I hear when the goblins think I can’t hear or understand what they are saying.
Fenora Finnley (excited): So it is inside of the citadel? And just one level down from here?
Erky Timbers: As far as I understand it, yes.
Quinton Greymane: Must be some powerful fruit there.
Garl Auraspeaker: Eh, still prefer bacon.
Erky Timbers (looks at Quinton in surprise): You have not heard of the fruit??
Civic: I’ve heard something about a magical fruit, but I’m not sure what its properties are. One rumor I heard is that it increases flatus.
Quinton Greymane (ignoring Civic): Can’t say that I have.
Erky Timbers: Well, well, m’boy. ‘Tis an interesting story, the fruit. I know not what causes it to be so, but the tree produces fruit only twice a year. The fruit that is produced in the midsummer restores spirit and vigor to those who eat it. The fruit that comes in the middle of the winter steals the same. Belak allows the goblins to sell the fruit on the surface, but I know not why.
Fenora Finnley (anxiously): I think we should try to find this grove next.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat (nods in agreement): This Belak person sounds like someone who needs to be dealt with.
Garl Auraspeaker: Yep, probably going to have to kill him.
Erky Timbers: If you don’t mind me tagging along, I must admit that I have a mighty curiousness about this tree, and the fruit it produces. I can carry my weight.. to a degree. I can at least help keep you lot on your feet, maybe turn away undead hordes should we chance upon them.
Civic: I’d not turn away any help.
Quinton Greymane: I ain’t got a complaint.
Erky Timbers (smiles widely): Then I be your man… er, gnome. I’ll be stickin’ to the back, though, as I got no gear.
Garl Auraspeaker: Wait, we just met this guy. No offense, but what if he’s a goblin in disguise or something? Or an evil gnome that eats puppies?
Erky Timbers (whispers to Fenora): He always this paranoid?
In the corner, while everyone else has been talking, Meepo has been tending to the wounds on the bound kobolds, ignoring the rest of the room. Seeing that everyone is occupied chatting with Erky, Meepo snarls in annoyance.
Meepo: You done talk with funny short man yet? Maybe help Meepo?
Erky Timbers (looks over at Meepo in the corner): Hmm, you worry about me… but you travel with a kobold?
Garl Auraspeaker: The devil you know and all that.
Civic: What do you need help with Meepo?
Meepo: Help get friends out of here!
Kobold prisoner: No, no, Meepo! No free! Goblins promise give back to the People, if the People no attack and give tribute.
Meepo: Bah! All goblins lie! It all they know how to do!
Kobold prisoner looks past Meepo at Gishkaa.
Garl Auraspeaker: It’s true, can’t trust goblins. No offense, Gishkaa.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat rolls her eyes at Meepo, but shoots a hateful glare at the dragonborn.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat [in Goblin]: I can’t believe I gave you my pocket bacon.
Meepo (to the kobold prisoner): Not be stupid, Jup-jup! Meepo and Meepo friends set you free, take you home. No need tribute, then.
Jup-jup : But goblins block way. Jup-jup never get through alive.
The other kobolds nod in agreement at this statement.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: We killed all the goblins between here and your territory.
Jup-jup looks at Gishkaa.
Jup-jup [to Meepo, in Draconic]: She kills her own kind?
Civic [in Draconic]: She kills bad people. She tried to talk to them first, but they’re bad people.
Meepo (looking at Gishkaa with something akin to respect): Metal Man speak true. The goblin is fierce warrior, try to talk with goblins first, but they try kill her. She show no mercy after that. Do not fuck with her.
Quinton Greymane: Yeah, didn’t work out too well for them.
Jup-jup (considers, then nods): Jup-jup agree. Let us go, take us back to the People.
Meepo (looks at Gishkaa): Gishkaa, you help? Claws tied with rope, but feets bound with chain. Can you pick lock?
Meepo pulls out his dagger and begins working on the rope binding the kobolds’ hands, as Gishkaa pulls out her tools and sets to work on the kobolds’ chains. In short order, they have released to kobolds’ bindings. The three kobolds stand up, rubbing their wrists as they stamp some feeling back into their legs.
Jup-jup : Jup-jup thanks Meepo friends. So strange that you travel with Meepo, but we grateful you help.
Garl Auraspeaker: You’re welcome. Also tell your friends to stop calling me a false dragon.
Jup-jup (snickers): No listen to Meepo. He think he funny. He not, but he good kobold otherwise. That why he made dragon guardian, watch over the People’s dragon, Calcryx.
Meepo looks down at his feet.
Quinton Greymane: Bit of a sore subject there
Jup-jup (looks at Quinton curiously): What you mean?
Meepo: Never mind! Never mind!
Meepo shoots a glare at Quinton and bares his teeth in a snarl.
Erky Timbers clears his throat.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: We should probably keep moving.
Erky Timbers: Not to rush you lot, but while you may have cleared out some of the goblins in this area, I can assure you, there will be more. We may wish to leave… like, right now.
Meepo: Funny tiny man right. We go now!
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat (annoyed): That’s what I just said…
Jup-jup : Take us home, Meepo! Jup-jup can’t wait to play with Calcryx again. Jup-jup miss him so much!
Meepo pales as much as a kobold can.
Meepo: Okay, we go now. Come, come…
Meepo dashes out of the room, leading the way through the halls past the small goblin camps and barriers, all the way to the room with the potion-giving fountain. It takes roughly about 30 minutes to travel that distance with the weakened and bruised kobolds and Erky. Once you arrive at the fountain, Meepo stops and points to the south as he addresses his kin.
Meepo: Okay, Meepo need to leave you here, go with friends to finish… something. Just go through that door and thru hall, come to Meepo’s camp. Bar the door when you get there, keep goblins from getting in. Meepo return soon.
Garl Auraspeaker: Ha, he said we’re friends. Can’t take that back
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: He’s really come a long way to put his dislike of false dragons behind him.
Meepo glances at Garl and rolls his eyes.
Jup-jup : Jup-jup thank Meepo and Meepo friends. Goblins be mad we not prisoner no more, but Kyber can take them. Hope see Meepo soon.
The three injured kobolds slowly make their way thru the southern door and out of sight.
Meepo sighs heavily as he watches them walk away.
Meepo: Meepo feel bad. Should have told about Calcryx, but they only kobolds not mad at Meepo. They be mad now, tho.
Civic: They’ll move past that once we bring Calcryx back.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat [in Goblin]: Unless all we bring back is a corpse.
Civic (elbows Gishkaa): Be nice.
Quinton Greymane shakes his head
Erky Timbers (chuckles): Ready whenever you lot are.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat tries the rusty key in the other locked door, but finds that the key doesn’t fit the lock. “Of course it doesn’t work,” she grumbles, as she pulls out her lockpicks and starts picking the lock. After a couple of minutes, the locks opens with a CLICK! And the door opens a couple of inches. Beyond the door, the north and south walls of the chamber are stacked halfway to the ceiling with ill-made barrels, boxes, and crates. A clear path allows easy access between the west and east doors. Searching through the various barrels and crates in the room, they find little else but water, wine, and food, none of which is of good quality. Much of it smells slightly to completely off, and none of it is worth taking. They do, however, find five pints of oil, along with a few small barrels with labels written in a slopy Goblin script. Gishkaa translates the label aloud: “Elf Pudding.”
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat (sniffs at the barrels): Hmmm…
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat [in Goblin]: I wonder if this is any good…
Civic: Gishkaa, that’s gross. Put them back!
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: What?! I wouldn’t eat it..
Civic (explaining to the others): The barrels say “Elf Pudding.”
Erky Timbers: Oh my! That sounds… foul.
Garl Auraspeaker: Erghhh! Yeah, gross! Even I don’t think I’d eat anything out of here.
Civic: I doubt it’s made of elves, that’s probably some colloquial term for a type of spice. I think there is a ginger-like spice to the south that has flowers which sort of look like pointy ears.
Quinton Greymane: I can’t tell if he’s being serious.
Garl Auraspeaker (whispers): I think that’s his thing.
Gishkaa and Civic both take a flask of the oil, and Quinton takes the rest.