A Narrow Escape from the Dwarven Catacombs
The town lay ahead of the four road weary adventurers, each on their way past this tiny God-forsaken gathering of farmers (which was at one time a prosperous town, linking trade and diplomacy between the Dwarves and the Humans) with fewer than eighty small shanties. The group passed by what at one point would have been a large neighbourhood, and now it could only be recognized as a wheat field with its rows of sparsely sprouted growth, apparently even the very earth itself had forgotten its once important nature.
The first amongst the small band who had just met upon the common road toward was a young –well young for a grey elf at least- female wizard with a snooty air about her. Dressed in fine clothing and carrying herself with grace and poise she stood out among the crowd, as one who was truly out of place in a forgotten hole in the ground as this one. The next in line was a human Paladin sworn to heal and maintain health and life wherever possible. He stood tall dressed in finery over top of his heavy armour and exuding dignity and honour with every step, he took it upon himself to protect all those within his care. Why Ilmater brought him together amongst this group he did not know, but there was always some purpose, what that might be he hoped to find out soon.
Hanging a little back came Helarik the half elven Ranger, adept and skilled meandered perusing and assessing those ahead. The paladin he knew would be on some noble journey or quest, that he had trained for since a fathers-fathers-father had survived such and such, or had sworn the fealty of the families first born for eternity blabbity-blah-blah…. He had to give him credit though he had a way with words, you start out thinking he is a zealous nutcase for some old bygone faith, by the time you’re done he has you seeing things from a whole new perspective. Struggling to keep up with Helarik and the group was Kneezmat Gnubkick, his legs didn’t struggle for lack of strength only length of stride. Being so small only made him strive even harder, even many “tall folk” lacked his physical resilience and strength. He would prove that to them should the chance arise, be it ferocity and courage –or foolishness many would say- he had that in spades. Back home they used to say “Kneezmat, he traded all of his height for courage” often to the response of “Yeah and at the same time the gods traded out his brain for muscles too”!
The town approached even closer now as they shared light and shallow chatter, a muffled din rose ahead as they reached the outskirts of this dishevelled town. In the torchlight they could see the flickering shapes and forms of the peasantry being attacked by small humanoid forms. Kneezmat struggling to make out the shapes behind the group caught a glimpse and recognized the shape of “Goblins!” He screamed with ferocity, and began to rush to battle. This time his short legs would delay him from being the first to battle, as the long strides and purposeful movement of the humans and elves would carry them ahead at a pace he could not match easily.
Zeiller charged ahead shield in hand but sword undrawn, the oath he swore to mend the broken and wounded called him with great speed. He deftly moved around to the wounded humans ignoring the combat still going on to tend and save those on the brink of death. Helarik strode forward enough to get into close range with his bow and loose a pair of arrows, one striking his target and grazing him in the dimly lit area while the other went askew and lodged into the dirt nearby. Jessamine drew out her kukri blade and charged forward to confront the goblins and distract them from the townsfolk, a quick strike and she cleaved deeply into the foremost goblins shoulder and down deeply causing it to crumple at her feet.
Seeing the new targets the goblins turned their attention to the motley crew, to re-focus their assault as the newcomers would make a much more dangerous defence of the area. Two began to converge on the elven wizard who jumped ahead of everyone exposing herself to grave danger, the first goblin coming in quickly to confront her causing her to parry his strike and defending her position. The second came quickly to aid the first, and with her attention focused on the first he snatched the opportunity to drive his filth covered short sword deeply into her thigh. Kneezmat raced to get to the front of battle and managed to confront the second goblin, removing his sole focus from the wizard for the moment. Helarik continued firing arrows at the ones out of melee range in hopes of cutting their numbers down to a more manageable figure felling those he could, while Zeiller continued tending the wounded townsfolk as best he could.
Seeing her new ally at her side Jessamine used her magic to create a pit beneath the feet of the two goblins in front of her, trapping the two goblins within its confines. Kneezmat threw his axe which smashed the hilt and broke at his feet in front of the pit, while Helarik took out the last two goblins at range, opening up the path for Zeiller to get to the two remaining peasants who were in desperate need of his aid. Helarik rushed over to the aid of Jessamine and Kneezmat, to mop up the two remaining filthy vermin in the pit before they could climb out and wreak any more havoc.
The group standing over the bodies of the fallen beasts were approached by a sheepish newly minted sheriff, with his head bowed low and speaking in hushed tones hardly above a whisper, yet still with a mild tone of excitement –likely that as adventurers that the group would manage the burden before him- “Would you come with me, to talk to the mayor?”
The group quietly nodded but said nothing, however they proceeded to look at the hole in the ground and toss the body of one of the slain enemies down as a message to those below, and piling the remainder around the circumference of the maw to place an exclamation point to the effect. Then turning to the inexperienced plebe as if to say, now we are ready to go and speak to this mayor of yours. Following the very recently deputized guardsman they began attempting to postulate, as to what reason the goblins had to come to the surface and what to do about such.
They came to the Mayors manor, hardly more than an average house itself and were led in by the young man, who quietly moved aside and out of the door to allow the party to enter the room fully. The Mayor quickly welcomed the group in and did not engage in small talk as would be normal of an elected official, in fact very little of the man seemed very official. He did not have fancy clothes or a large waist of one who lives well off of those under his authority.
He addressed the group quickly “So I am told we have been attacked by a group of goblins”, and he looked towards the door with the reluctant defender of the village who nodded. “I don’t know how we defended ourselves so well, our reserve must have…” he cut short the comment when he looked at towards the door again and his shoulders sank as well as his face. “Oh I see, it seems that our town guard have fallen so lax in the years that we needed to rely on the help of outsiders to save our lives.”
He began to prepare to speak again when Kneezmat chimed in. “A replacement of my axe would be a start to payment if that is the what you are looking for.” The mayor nodded saying nothing.
“I can offer very little to be honest, but what I can provide for you would be a job that I can’t pay much for, but what I can say is you can have anything you find down there. You see we think the catacombs beneath town must be where these goblins must be coming from. Our old captain of the guard took the only other key to look through them and hasn’t come back, that is why we have young Ralon here in his position until we find him again.” With that he went to a cabinet and pulled out a small oil soaked cloth and un-wrapped it, inside sat a key in good shape but very, very old.
With little hesitation the ranger plucked the key from his hand, “We will look into this, but to do this we must be fully equipped, how about his axe?” Dimhill’s official again glanced toward the door and nodded at Ralon, who spoke up himself.
“Let’s go get you that axe, and I’ll show you the way to the old catacombs”, with that he led the party to the guard’s quarters –if you could even call them that- and opened the door. Inside was only a smattering of chain mail shirts and a handful of weapons, many of which showed an age that the town itself should bear. Off in a box of tools to the side sat a hand axe similar to the one he lost, ironic that the only tools of use in the guard house were not ones of martial manner. With the matter settled he brought the group to the hovel that housed the door to the catacombs.
The key turned in the rusty lock and with a solid clack the bolt slid into the mechanism, allowing the steel door to open with only a slight creak (a testament to its dwarven quality) only needing a little oil to silence its cries. The small newly founded party began the journey to the darkness below, down a hallway covered with dust and at its base no sign of any movement for almost a half millennia, curious how something can find itself forgotten such as this for so long a time.
The stone stairs descended into the earth and came to a narrow hallway that stretched for some fifty or sixty feet, while an old portcullis sat just off to the western wall just south of the stairs. Its layout would assume that the hallway would be some sort of pictograpghs or runic writing of significance, however the only markings were that of shapes and forms, nothing more. As there was no pulley or mechanism of which to lift the heavy grate the party searched about themselves and their surroundings to find a way through. The elf began to search at the very end of the hallway only to find a small hidden door that she could pass through into a small hidden room. Inside she found a small piece of stonework that she could manipulate and as she did so the portcullis began to raise.
The room old and the beautiful dwarven masonry covered with a number of centuries worth of dust, tapestries here exposed to humidity allowed from rainstorms through the open grate entrance door and the open spaces of the portcullis made their mark and ravaged the fine tapestries that once lined the walls of this common room. Little time to admire the work of time against the frailties of the contents of the room, the group were ambushed by a number of large spiders looking for prey larger than that of mice and rodent kind. The group unprepared for the masse onslaught managed to dispatch the arachnids, but the exposure to large amounts of debilitating venom and the resistance they faced so quickly caused the group to rethink the strategy and return to the surface to see if they could find any more to join them in this delve.