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]
“Who are you, big people?” a shocked goblin asked, looking in bewilderment at the group whp had charged into the testing room. A screech from the tied down rat brought the goblins’ eyes down again, as they were eager not to miss any new growths in the beast.
“What have you done to that rat?” Knott quavered in his query, as he noticed the large tumours dotted over the body of the rat.
“It’s an ex-speri-ment,” a goblin replied, before being shot a look from the others, but continued still, “the boss told us to do it. We can’t miss a thing, we can’t, we can’t.”
As he looked up, it seemed to Jester and Luna that a new pustule popped forth from the rat’s fur, and the goblins completely ignored the protuberance. The third goblin spoke up, this one a little larger and better-clothed than its companions, to ask again, “Who are you? What are you doing interrupting our speri-ment?”
“We’ve been sent down here by your goblin queen,” Drenk started before being immediately cut off by a goblin.
“There is no goblin queen. Only Chief Durnn, and no goblin could kill him!” The goblin cowered a little as he said the hobgoblin’s name.
“Well, there is now, the shaman killed the big hobgoblin, but we helped a…” Drenk attempted to continue before being squealed over by the smallest goblin.
“Eee! But, but, a shaman can’t have killed him, and anyway, a shaman can’t be king.” The goblins were now even more perplexed, missing new growths on the goblin.
“Our friend helped with the killing…” Drenk attempted, before sighing as the goblins carried on without him.
“Hey, it doesn’t matter what happens up there anyway!” one said.
“Oi, why not? Of course, it matters.”
“We don’t work for them no more, Belak’s boss now.” The smartest goblin was saying to the others.
“Oh, I see what you’re saying, good thinking!”
“Yeah, that’s why I’m in charge of the ex-speri-ment, innit.” The smallest goblin puffed his chest out, inflating his ego a little further.
As the high-pitched goblin-speak grew louder, Jester quickly drew bored of their noise and drew his knife in a quick motion. He threw the knife fairly poorly, trying to fit between Drenk’s armour and arm, and it clattered off the table beside the rat harmlessly.
The goblin chatter died down rapidly, until one worked up the courage to say “what the hell? You could have killed one of us! Or ruined the speri-ment!”
“What’s with the rat?” Luna spoke loudly, glinting light off her arrowhead to attract their attention and force their silence.
“It…it’s the current speri-ment…Belak tried to make this rat better!” one of the goblins stammered, before it was elbowed by another.
“We…we…we just gotta keep this thing alive…as long as possible” it continued, prodding the sometimes-snarling, sometimes-mewling rodent. As it poked, the rat suddenly screeched then fell still and silent, and the goblin looked up to see Luna’s arrow now protruding from the beast’s exposed chest.
“Well. Now the ex-speri-ment’s ruined. Great.” the largest of the goblins complained, but didn’t really look too bothered by the rodent’s death. Still, he grabbed a cudgel from beneath the table and ran at Luna, hoping to whack her one.
The elven ranger neatly sidestepped the charge, knocking another arrow to her bowstring. As the goblin piled into some shelves she swung her bow up to put the arrowhead to the goblin’s neck, breathed out and released the arrow.
Now pinned to the wall by its throat, the goblin jerked on the arrow and died squealing. The rest of the group looked on in various degrees of bewilderment, disgust and annoyance, while the other goblins cowered into the corner.
Joining in on the wanton murder, Jester despatched one of the other goblins with a thrown knife, and gestured at the last laboratory assistant with another. The last one scrabbled around in the shelves behind itself, looking over its shoulder regularly as Jester and Luna closed in.
“Wh…wh…why are you doing this?!?” the goblin cried as it desperately searched for something defend itself with. Turning back round with terror in its eyes, the goblin held a crystal flask up in front of its face, and gibbered, “this…this is what we gave it! Take it…it’s yours! If…if…if you drink it, you’ll get stronger…we think…”
Jester stayed his hand, and passed the concoction back to Levan, who held it carefully to show the others. A vile fluid sloshed inside the vial, with a filmy look to it, the oils within shifting between browns and greens. The paladin kept a firm grasp on the bottle, as who could fathom what would happen if he dropped it.
Growing bored of the delaying tactics, Jester drew his rapier and slashed down at the goblin, but he missed as the creature flinched away. The goblin started bawling, and the companions could just hear “we… we were going to start human testing soon…we just need someone to drink it! Then come back in…in like a week…”
Sick of the snivelling, Luna stole Jester’s chance for a kill with an arrow through the goblin’s head, then turned and stalked out of the room. Shocked at both the horrifying experiments going on down here and the disturbing revelations about some of the elven members of the group, the group wandered out into the hallway.
While further murder was being carried out, Enna and Burian had been investigating the quiet room to the north-east. The cleric gently eased the door open, and the druid poked his quarterstaff through the gap.
When no sounds came from the room, they felt more confident in opening the door further, and were greeted by a welcome sight. No enemies faced them, but a selection of weapons on some rickety, old racks lay ready for their perusal.
Bent and blunted scimitars, like those Logan had used, took up most of the space on the racks, but there were a few bows lying around the room. These looked to be in surprisingly good condition, with relatively few goblin-stains and reasonable string tension, so Burian grabbed one and slipped it over his broad shoulders.
Enna didn’t bother with the weapons, but pointed out a few quivers filled with arrows to the dwarf. For some reason she couldn’t fathom, he declined to take any arrows for his new bow, but she soon forgot his strange behaviour as she found a door out the back of the armoury.
In fact, Burian had more been thinking of trading the bow when they got back to town, as he didn’t have much use for the boring pig-stickers, which were often used by elves. A proper dwarven crossbow appealed to him more, as he could get some real power behind them, but those wouldn’t just be found lying around.
As Enna walked back to tell Burian of the back door, she noticed Levan coming through the other door, calling to Burian.
“Master druid, I think we have found something that might need your expertise,” the paladin explained, “some goblins were doing experiments on the rats down here, and they wanted a volunteer to drink this potion. They…aren’t able to tell us anymore.”
“Oh aye? And you want me to…what? Drink it?” the druid asked, his tone deadpan and dry, “Ah ain’t doing that, but I’ll have a look at it.”
He brought the glass flask up to his eye and considered the murky liquid, but he couldn’t detect anything magical about the elixir. Taking a sniff revealed nothing interesting either, but Burian was reluctant to let anything from this flask past his lips.
Pocketing the decorative flask, as it must be worth at least five gold pieces, the dwarf made his way into the laboratory, passing Drenk chiding both Jester and Luna. As he entered, he saw the revolting abomination on the table and retched, grabbing hold of the rigid doorframe.
Recovering a little, he inspected the rat’s body, looking the absurd tumours growing from its body. The swelling masses appeared to be more wooden than flesh, and had sprouted all over the rodent’s body.
“Hmmm…these look a little like those bloody twiglets from earlier. What is this Belak bloke doin’? ‘E ain’t no good druid anymore.” Burian noted, pricking his finger on something a little like a spine. Backing away, he closed the door to the macabre room and re-joining the group.
After raiding the armoury room, most of the crew now had a goblin-stolen bow on their back, but only a few of them had arrows. Luna had managed to grab a full quiver, adding a second quiver to her back, but she begrudgingly passed their gnome ally a handful to keep him going. Jester grabbed the few arrows littered around, so most of the group was left wanting.
Before looking out through the armoury door, Levan led the party back to the room where Drenk had heard clanking noises within. Motioning for the party to be ready, the good paladin slowly opened the door, pushing his way in. No sooner than he had seen the two goblins in the room, he had to duck rapidly as two arrows flew past his ears. Jester and Luna darted grins to each other as two goblins fell down dead over the piles of armour they were fixing.
“Seriously?! You didn’t even give me time to duck?” he swivelled back to them, stalking angrily past them as the door swung open. Inside were several tables, adorned with tools and broken armour, now overflowing with thin goblin blood.
Drenk managed to extract a rough chainmail shirt quickly, and passed it off to the gnome. The acolyte slowly put the armour on, disgusted with its origins, but realising how much he desperately needed the protection.
“I’m so, so sorry…” Enna whispered to him, after sidling up to his short form.
“Why are you still here?!” The gnome asked in complete bewilderment, “think of your soul!”
“I’m praying so hard. Believe me, this lot need all the higher protection they can get.” A single tear rolled down Enna’s cheek as she considered the hand she had been dealt.
Returning to the armoury door in a strange mix of moods, Jester and Luna disappeared into the shadows to escape the group’s notice. The rogue pointed at the wine-vat door, looked at the ranger, and shrugged his shoulders. The ranger looked back at him with a glint in her eye, shrugged in return, and they headed off, weapons in hand…