De’Wayne opened the rotten door slowly, revealing a brackish pool with a small island in its center, about ten feet from the shore. This was apparently the “cistern” referred to in Balgron‘s journal. On the little island were scattered many odds and ends, some coins, weapons, and most notably, a shield bearing the same device as the one Nuvok had acquired from the orcs who ambushed the party near Fallcrest: an eye with a vertical line through it. Stonegraves detected something moving in the water, and from the filthy conditions, he surmised that it was most likely a crustacean or some sort of slime. De’Wayne took this news in stride, stood by the shore pondering for a moment, and before his dwarven comrade could say, “What do you think you’re doing?” the knight plunged his sword into the dark water to investigate.
With a great splash, and a sound like a dull hiss, a giant crawfish erupted from the still water and clamped one of its great claws around De’Wayne. The rest of the party took up offensive positions, and began pounding the creature, or pelting it with spells and arrows. The beast, however, squeezed De’Wayne in its claws, causing the knight to fall unconscious, then dropped him from its grasp to focus on the remaining threats. Nuvok managed to revive the knight, and for the rest of the battle, the party played it safe, attempting to stay out of the monster’s reach. It was finally the little goblin Splug, his bonds by this time removed, who felled the beast with one of his javelins (after four or five others of his missiles had bounded uselessly off the thing’s carapace).
Althaea, who had fey stepped out to the little island during the encounter in order to get the drop on the monster, now rummaged through the pile of rubbish in its center. In it, she discovered a powerfully enchanted hand axe, which Stonegraves claimed, as well as a wooden message cylinder containing the following two messages:
Greetings Erzoun. I have an offer for you. I am in need of slave stock here in Thunderspire, and thought your operation in Winterhaven might answer my needs. You seem ever so much more practical than Samminel, after all. In any event, if you see fit to start taking prisoners, I am eager to purchase them from you.
of the Severed Eyes
Break the capsule if Erzoun is not receptive to our offer, and then run. The creature will emerge from its dormancy and devour anything in its reach. Beware its claws. It is slow-moving, but has a strong grip.
The party now quietly returned to the maze of tunnels sealed with the arcane alarm runes. Althaea teleported across the first one, and Stone jumped across it. De’Wayne tried next, and almost made it across, but his heel just dragged across a rune-inscribed tile. The rune emitted a high-pitched shriek, and a wave of magical fear descended over the party. Most resisted, but both Althaea and Splug bolted towards the stairs; they ran ten yards before they calmed and slowed to a stop. Brandis meanwhile whipped together a magical disc (courtesy of the arch wizard Tenser), and offered to begin ferrying the others across the tiles. "Why didn’t you do that earlier? De’Wayne asked.
Brandis deadpanned: “I wanted to see what would happen.”
After ferrying their way across a few more trapped tiles, the party emerged into a small room, the only notable feature of which was a staircase leading farther down. The flicker of flames was visible from down below. Althaea attempted to sneak down, but dislodged a rock which clattered down into the chamber below. A hobgoblin peered around the corner, and shouted, “Intruders!”
Their surprise attack ruined, the party rushed down the stairs and hoped for the best. The room was occupied by a few hobgoblins and humans, whose raven masks hung from around their necks. From rooms off to the east and west, more humans and hobgoblins poured in. One of the humans called out, “Sic Darla on ’em!” and two hobgoblins started northward into a farther chamber. There, they began undoing latches on a heavy cage, in which there reclined a large, surly horned drake, which appeared somewhat the worse for wear.
As the enemies charged in, Brandis disrupted them with an illusory pit. Althaea meanwhile pestered the hobgoblins who were trying to open Darla’s cage with arrows. Stone, Nuvok, and De’Wayne handled the melee combatants, and the party managed to dispose of all of the guards before anyone was able to bring the drake into the fight.
Concerned for the beast, Stone approached cautiously. He saw evidence of injury, from where the drake had bashed its shoulders against the bars of its too small cage. He spoke soothingly to the drake, and after a few moments, it allowed him to stroke its neck. Stone summoned Brandis to aid him with the cage, and ordered the others to make themselves scarce in one of the guards’ bedrooms. The wizard and the ranger undid the straps on Darla’s cage, and lifted it. The beast growled, just for a moment, before remembering that it was in no danger. Brandis’ dragooning familiar, Winston, chirruped, and brushed Darla with a wing, leading her in the direction of the stairs upward. Sensing freedom for the first time in a long time, Darla took the hint, and lumbered silently up the stairs.
When we reconvene, it will be 1200 Flocktime, 588.