Crown of the Dead [D&D v.3.5] – Part 19

This adventure was Friday August 14, 2015. Only E.G. and C.H. were present.

The stone tower is a surprise and a mystery to the party. Set back from the edge of the forest, its mossy green-grey blocks are just barely visible through a screen of dense evergreen trees. None of the residents of Riddley’s Crown ever mentioned this place or anywhere like it. At most, the only mention of the forest was to stay away from it.

Half-Orc Ranger Xorn examines the down-slope of the low hill from which the party regards the woods and its hidden watchtower. Plainly visible are Small-sized humanoid footprints. These hasty and careless tracks were left by the goblin prisoner Xorn’s group captured then let go after pointless interrogation. Its path leads across a dry riverbed and into the forest.

Xorn and Gnome Barbarian Wee Jack decide to scout ahead and assess the threat. The rest of the party will wait on the lee slope of the hill, out of sight from the fort.

Up close, the forest is a forbidding place. At its border grow thick pines and low, thorny shrubs. Beyond, a heavy canopy of green shades the bare trunks and sparse forest floor to a dim twilight. Weapons out, Wee Jack and Xorn quietly step through the slimy rocks and weeds of the riverbed which divides the woods from the plains, running east to west. Ranger Xorn eyes the lay of the creek bed and guesses that, somewhere in the hills to the east, something has dammed the flow.

A narrow path sneaks into the woods. The two adventurers Listen but hear nothing aside from the wind in the pines, miles of them stretching off into the unknown to the north. The goblin prints are easier to follow on this dirt trail. They lead fifty or sixty feet in, where the trail opens into a bare-dirt clearing beside the tower.

The tower itself is constructed of rough stone, perhaps thirty feet in diameter and twice that in height. Crenellations crown the structure. Lightless arrow-loops in the wall suggest three floors above the ground level. A covered entranceway at the near base of the tower shadows an intact, closed wooden door.

Wee Jack and Xorn shelter behind trees and observe. Spot checks find their goblin’s path blending into goblin-prints of many others in the clearing. Arrows and crossbow bolts bristle in the ground in a half-circle around the tower. Defenders have shot at something, probably Undead. Wee Jack sees none within ten feet of the tower base, suggesting a minimum firing angle. Xorn notices a parchment note on the wood door.

A Listen check returns only natural forest sounds, absent any animal noise. The two party members leave cover and cautiously make their way to the front entrance. They notice that the multitude of goblin prints, some as old as two weeks, do not lead to the door. Instead, they curve around the tower, either to the left or to the right, heading to or coming from something on the other side.

Only two or three sets of prints actually approach the main entrance, and these lead to the door and then away without going in. No tracks come out from inside. Xorn succeeds on a Spot check; the door has not been opened in quite a long time.

The parchment on the door is tacked up at Small-creature height. Wee Jack, just recently trained in reading proper Common, has difficulty with the words. Xorn reads it to him :

The Gnome and half-Orc already suspected the tower was home to goblins. They don’t know how many, but they have a growing suspicion that the majority are idiots.

The front entrance is a bust; they’ll try around back. Wee Jack and Xorn follow the tracks going right. These end up meeting the tracks that went left around the tower and fanning out into the forest. Away from the clearing, the ground is mossy and thick with pine needles. But the adventurers can still follow the goblins’ route as it leads in a wide arc into the woods then back around to a place forty feet from the tower. Then it stops. At the base of a tree, Xorn Spots an unusual dark patch. It is the corner of a pitch-black hole, where a camouflaged trap-door was improperly set back in place.

Pulling the cover aside, the adventurers find a vertical shaft with a crude wooden ladder leading down to water at the bottom. In the water is a goblin body – their former captive and helpful trailblazer. The goblin, impaled on spikes, is quite dead. The Ranger checks the ladder’s rungs and sees that some are greased as a trap for the unwary. Its newest victim must have forgotten.

A few feet above the water, a horizontal shaft opens in the direction of the tower. Neither Xorn nor Wee Jack intend to enter this way. The tower’s roof would be the best route of entry. Stepping back from the hole, the Gnome sees an easy climbing route up the tower’s rough exterior. Suddenly, crossbow bolts zip past them, fired from the upper arrow-loops. Wee Jack and Xorn dash for safety at the base of the tower.

From their safe position, a Listen check has Xorn and Wee Jack hear something. The Gnome cannot understand the language but the Ranger can – it is Goblesh. An annoyed goblin hollers out that the trespassers should have read the sign on the front door. Xorn, in Goblesh, invites them to come down and read it to him. The goblin replies with a string of insults.

Then Xorn switches to Orckish and, in something of a bluff, demands to know why the goblins are here. The goblins don’t immediately reply; they are finding someone who can speak Orckish. Wee Jack points up. Xorn nods. The ascent will be simple for skilled climber Wee Jack, but Xorn must climb slowly.

The conversation resumes when the adventurers are halfway up. A polyglot goblin, in Orckish, asks for the half-Orc’s last statement to be repeated. Xorn repeats his demand to know why the goblins are here. The goblin hesitates to say too much, but Xorn easily tricks the simpleton into giving up sketchy details about a mission to spy on a ‘city’ for a ‘Big Boss’.

By this time Xorn is right outside the arrow-loop. The goblin suddenly realizes that the “Orc’s” voice is closer than it should be. The Orc-speaker shouts for battle stations, alerting the lower floors to an invasion.

The Gnome and the Ranger find the roof of the tower unoccupied. A weathered wooden hatch locks them out. Barbarian Wee Jack, a skilled lumberjack, never met an axe-proof wooden door. Four chops and the Gnome has the hatch in splinters. A fixed ladder leads down into the shadows. Both Wee Jack and the Ranger can see well in low-light; they barely hesitate before descending.

Five goblins, a defense party not dissimilar to the scouts fought on the plains, await them. The Barbarian goes into a rage and starts killing; the Ranger wisely stays out of his way and does his own wet-work at the minimum safe distance. In less than a minute, Wee Jack and Xorn have established a safe ingress point over the lifeless bodies of the defenders.
A shout comes from below. The sound of heavily armored goblins comes up the curved staircase, growing louder by the second. Xorn and Wee Jack have cause for concern.

It is now early afternoon on the 27th day of March, by the local calendar.

(end of Part 19)




About d20horizons

D&D player.
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