This is part of the ongoing narrative of our D&D campaign, which is graciously being run by Proud Lion, a fantastic comic shop in Cheltenham. Their RPG Encounters nights are a lot of fun, and give me some entertaining material to work with.
[Before reading, please be aware that there may be spoilers ahead for the D&D campaign books. Equally, our stories are fluid, so things may not follow the books too directly]
As the path through the rent walls narrowed, the companions were forced to squeeze through single file, Jester leading the way. The rogue was most able to nip through the claustrophobic conditions, and was first to find the room that the rift opened into. This was a rather small and empty cell, with only a door of note.
The group gratefully clambered out of the broken wall, and the gnome gasped a great breath as he was finally released from the chasm. Motioning for them to be quiet, Jester lay his ear against the door and, hearing nothing, slowly turned the doorknob and drew the door back into the room.
The others looked on, ready to hit anything charging through, but the hallway outside was mercifully empty of adversaries. They traipsed into the hall to find another two lines of dragon-carved columns, where Enna whispered, “As above, so below.”
The columns down here served more as support for unnatural-looking, luminescent fungi than the ceiling, stained and cracked in the places that the fungus did not cover. Small wooden tables were spread across the room, with a large variety of mortar and pestles, plant life and miscellaneous equipment. Leaves and compost seemed in rare abundance for an underground location.
Of more immediate interest to the dungeoneers were the variety of doors leading from this room, as all (save the human-sighted paladin) could see that there were three doors along the north and south of the hall. They had just opened the south-east door, and were at the blunt end of the room, whereas the west end tapered to a seventh door.
Retreating into the relative safe zone of the south-east room, Enna took charge, warning the party of the dangers of barging into any of the rooms. From what they could surmise, it would make sense for the north and south doors to open to similar cell-like rooms, whereas the west door was obviously to another corridor.
“Can we please think carefully about this, guys?” Enna asked, just before Jester was about to open his mouth with what was likely to be a somewhat silly strategy. “Why don’t we all take a door and listen to it?”
When no one could think of a valid objection to the cleric’s idea, each took careful steps out to the doors they had been assigned. Luna helped Levan to the western door, before taking place on a table in the centre of the hall, where she could fire into any of the rooms. Burian crept to the north-west, Drenk to the north-middle, Enna to the north-east, whilst Knott traversed some tables to get to the south-west and Jester took the south-middle door. On Luna’s mark, the group crouched to listen through the doors.
The dwarf druid could only hear muffled snores behind his door, but Drenk could catch a variety of tinkering noises, tapping notes and few cranks in motion, leaving him a little perplexed, and worried that some form of torture could be being carried out in there. Enna and Levan could both make out nothing from their doors, but Jester could overhear a few goblin voices arguing. Most confusingly, Knott perceived a rhythmic squelching from behind his door, and he was very confused when he re-joined the group.
“I really want to know what is going behind my door. Did any of the rest of you hear squelches?” the fighter asked, but was met by equally baffled looks as no one could hazard a guess at what was contained inside.
“This looks like it was once a prison,” Drenk remarked, bringing the conversation back to the matter at hand, “I think someone could be using it as such again. Thought I heard some kind of apparatus in mine.”
“Ah don’t know about tha’, but my door seems to have some heavy sleepers behind it. Probably be a good idea to catch them while they’re off guard, gag ‘em or somethin’.” Burian contributed, and after quickly going through the others’ information, they returned to this plan.
“Ooo, we could be like the Nazgûl in Bree,” Jester remarked, sharing a look with Luna, who seemed the only one to understand the reference, “It’s from another of the magical plays the troupe would perform back home, The Felon-Ship of the Rings.”
“Now, why do I know that name?” Drenk puzzled to himself as the group quietly approached the north-west door. Tapping his fingers on his maul, he was struggling to remember the play as Jester and Luna approached the door, weapons in hand. The rogue opened the door silently, and swept into the room with an ominous billow from his dark cloak.
The room had something like sixteen pallets scattered around, and two side-by-side seemed to be occupied, holding three goblins between them. As Luna took position directly over the head of one bed, Drenk suddenly recalled the scene they were referring to and rushed past the dawdling group to get to her.
Swinging her sword round, she started to plunge the sword towards the body of the largest sleeping goblin, but her strike was disrupted by Drenk throwing his weight into the ranger. At the same time, Jester let fly with two of his knife and struck the other two dead in their sleep.
Disturbed from his rest by the noises around him, the father goblin woke to find his mate and son dead in his bed, with adventurers gathered around him. Realising the futility of any attack, he just started crying, mourning the loss of his family. One of the figure leant down next to him, pulling its daggers from their bodies.
As he looked at the tall, pointy eared killer of his child, the murderer took out his guardsman brother’s prize kobold-skin wallet, skipped through his sketches of the extended family until settling on one of the three of them. The father buried his head in his arms and emptied his soul through his tears.
“We don’t want to leave any orphans…so…” Luna broke off, looking down at the pitiful, disgusting sight of the sobbing goblin, then lopped its head off when Drenk released her. The half-orc watchman and the gnome stared aghast at the casual ease with which Jester and Luna had murdered these civilians, and Enna whispered a sodden prayer for their safety in the goblin afterlife.
Retreating from the room, since the goblins had no items of worth, the shocked silence of the party was disrupted by Knott’s insistent chatter, “I need to know what’s behind that door guys, what on else could be making such squelching noises?”
“I don’t know, Knott, but maybe it could be some kind of wine press? We found some awful goblin wine a while back didn’t we? Maybe this is where it’s coming from?” Jester hypothesised, nonchalantly ignoring the daggers stared at him by half the group.
Knott and Jester took position either side of the south-west door, then Knott slowly reached out to open it a little. He pushed the door open, and the squelching stopped suddenly as a huge vat was revealed. To everyone’s surprise, there were two goblins stood inside a great mashing-tub, feet hovering mid-squish, their grimy toes a rotten purple with the liquid they were releasing.
The mashing-tub seemed to be full of fungi, roots and dead plants, half-pulped, while a dirty strainer lay ready to be used in the “purification” process. There were even two large barrels daubed with the goblin symbols for “wine” in the corner of the room.
“Oh my, Jester, you were right?!” Knott breathed as he slowly shut the door again, and the group heard the squelching noises start up again.
Sensing Enna’s angry infuriation with the rogue, Burian took her to one side, and took to examining the tables and contents of the hallway, while the rest of the group formed up beside another door. He noticed that many of the herbs and plants around looked a little malnourished, but given a little more time he might be able to gather some useful ingredients from these tables.
As the druid started playing with plants, Drenk opened the south-middle door, revealing the source of the argumentative goblin voices. Three goblins were arrayed around a table in a crowded room littered with vials of solutions and unguents, and strapped down to the table was a giant rat. Unlike the ones they had killed before, this rat looked heavily diseased, and the goblins seemed to be poking at it, as it lay spread-eagled.
The goblins looked at the intruders, looked at the rat, then back at the intruders.
“Who are you?”