27th Day, 12th Month (Dance’s End) of 526 AF

OOC: Thanks again to Shimmin.

Vana decided to install her beetle in the Temple of the Smith (providing dramatic lighting for a side-shrine) until she reached a sufficient mastery of the Smith’s mysteries to command it. Oswyn shut his up in one of the cells at the top of the dungeon, hoping to eventually train it as a guard-dog. Vaclav devoted his to science, investigating it for some time and converting it into interesting components. He wrotes a paper revealing that fire beetle “livers” are highly noxious to mice, but not to prairie dogs.

The party decided they needed to further investigate the goings-on under the palace, and decided to head back down into the dungeon, this time accompanied by Scabbard. Vana suggested that they investigate the door which had necromantic runes inscribed on its arch, as the party was at full strength and close to an exit. Vaclav asked her to check it carefully, “in case there are any nefarious spells laid upon it in lacquered evil!” Vana raised an eyebrow at this.

Scabbard began checking the door for traps. As the party watched, him at work, Vana heard the distant sound of approaching feet. A patrol!

A very quick conference followed. Vaclav quickly summoned an Unseen Servant, and sent it to wave around one of the fire beetle glands the party had harvested, hoping to lure the guards into a trap whilst the party prepared to spring out behind them. A band of fifteen or so goblins advanced along the corridor into the room, and the party thanked the Gods they noticed the patrol’s approach in time. The goblins bore rusty weapons, crude shields, weapons made from table legs and so on. Noticing the glow of the gland being carried by the Unseen Servant, they stopped for a hushed discussion, with plenty of pushing and shoving, before eventually heading into the room. Several rushed to guard the various exits, while the remaining nine skulked towards the odd, bobbing light. They began waving weapons at it cautiously, hoping to catch the floating object. As they gathered, Vaclav looks around for agreement, then sprang forth and incanted a spell. Five goblins fell into slumper, and as the remaining ten looked around in consternation, the party burst out of the stairwell where they were hiding.

The party got the drop on the goblins, who proved tougher than they appeared, but Vaclav mades a stellar crossbow shot to pick one off at long range and the others took down a couple quickly. Astonishingly, the goblins’ morale held and they scurried in to surround the party. In the dim light, the small creatures were slippery opponents, and neither group could make much of a mark for some time, but eventually Scabbard’s crossbow found its mark and the goblins lost their nerve, scurrying off into the shadows. Scabbard chased after one, and Oswyn rushed after him, leaving the others to handle the sleeping goblins.

Unfortunately, they were unable to catch the goblin before it burst through a marked door into a chamber full of enormous fungi. The strange mushrooms quivered revoltingly, and burst into violent howls. Oswyn tossed a javelin after the goblin but it flew wide and hit a shrieker instead of the goblin, allowing the goblin to rush through another door out of sight. Meanwhile, more footsteps began pounding away in the north-eastern corridor. Alarmed, the party pulled back towards the staircase. Scabbard peered around the corner, and saw a large group of goblins appear and begin examining the bodies. The goblins cast fearful glances towards the staircase and made warding signs that (Vana later explained) were intended to fend off the more dangerous supernatural beings that tend to share goblin territories.

The party considered whether they could take down the goblins but didn’t think of anything further they could do to improve the odds. “Should’ve brought me beetle,” lamented Oswyn.

Eventually the party decided on surprise: screaming Dwarven war cries, they burst forth towards the goblins, who fled in utter panic. To the party’s surprise, the goblins took cover behind a wizened, elderly goblin who actually addresses the party in Common – bad Common, but Common nevertheless. He addressed them as demons from the Outer World, and begged them to in his capacity as a worshipper of the King Below to cease the violence the party had wrought upon the goblins, banish a “spectre” which had supposedly been haunting the goblins, and stop inflicting various other perceived ills.

“What has brought your foul people so close to the lands of men?” asked the party.

“Forgive me, oh Demon, we do not know these Men of whom you speak, these giants clad in metal. We come here only because we were driven forth by terrible tribes; the orcs who hunt us for food, the Pale Ones who use all manner of magic and trickery against us; the King Below has cast us out of his sight.”

“Tell us of this King.”

“Oh, at least ten or twenty generations ago, the King brought us here to serve him. We were brought here from the strange outer realm from which your people come, as he travelled further down, burrowing towards a paradise where we could serve him forever. But the ways of these people are strange; he named us as…” (after some time, they realise he is struggling to manage the strange word “incompetent”) “…and cast us out… we were enslaved by the Pale Ones who blamed us for being brought here, though it was the King who brought them here. Then those of us who escaped were set upon by the savage orcs, who once served the King before they abandoned. Finally we came here, to regions abandoned by the King before he discarded them, as insufficiently holy for his requirements. It is said by our people that the realms of the orcs, the Pale Ones and of course, the King himself are as alien and different from this realm, as this is from the outer realm itself.”

“And what is the name of your tribe?”

“We still call ourselves that which we were called to this holy place to be. We still dream of the day when the King will forgive us, and call us back to serve him. We remain the Servants of Lorok.”

As the party parleyed with this strange shaman, the other goblins slunk slowly away, to get as far from the party as possible.

“Tell us of this place you call your home.”

“There is little to say…. the way up to the sacred portal, of course, and the holy chasm where our offerings are laid. But of late there has been this strange sound, this singing, which strikes terror into the hearts of all who hear it. Some say it is the spirit of a goblin hero, who strives still to finish his final quest. Others that it is a demon, sent here to torment us, perhaps by the Pale Ones.”

“And what is through there?” Vana gestured towards the sealed door with necromantic signs.

“It is sealed with signs we do not understand.” But the goblin – Grat the Speaker – revealed that there is another door nearby, marked by the King, which they do not dare to enter. He turned around to ask one of his fellow goblins to show the party the way, only to realise (to his dismay) that they had all abandoned him. After a moment, Grat shuffled onward towards the door. Once open, the party discovered an antechamber with double doors marked with Lorok’s coat of arms.

Pausing before we enter, Vaclav turned to Grat.

“Grat the Speaker, though we hail from the world above, you have served us well and we shall not punish you. But you must bow to my puissant magics, that we may know you serve us faithfully.” The goblin cowered obediently, while Vaclav intoned impressively and waved his arms dramatically, placing a charm upon him.

“Yes, yes… I see it now! My forefathers and grandfathers toiled and slaved for the King Below, but what has he ever done for us? But you, you are the true gods, and I will serve you to the ends of the earth!”

“…this wasn’t, you know, unethical, was it?” muttered Vaclav, doubtfully.

Behind the inner doors, Vana sensed magic pulsing; as she turned to inform the others, she also sensed magic lingering behind the necromantic doors, something sickly and unclean.

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