Though Balgron the Fat’s stinking corpse pollutes the air of the bedroom chamber, the secluded room serves as an ideal resting place, at least for a dungeon. A lockable door guards the front and a secret entrance provides a convenient escape route in case of trouble. Though worried about possible goblin incursions or more serious retribution for their systematic killing of the Keep’s goblin guard, the group acknowledges that Carff, having taken the most punishment through the course of the delve thus far, is in grave need of an extended rest to regain strength. They lock down the room and each member finds their own corner to lay their bedroll, quickly falling asleep after a long day’s journey to the Keep and a few tough fights. Though goblin voices can be heard at one point on the far side of the locked door, the night passes without incident.
The next morning, the group cautiously descends down the dark stairs behind the secret bedroom door to discover what was once a medium size room, but for the past few weeks has served as an excavation site for the goblins. To maintain order, Balgron convinced the loosely associated goblins under his charge that a special treasure lay buried beneath the floor of the eastern store room, thus preoccupying their off-duty time and keeping them nearby in case of trouble.
The room looks like a disaster area. Here and there, remnants of the original floor stand like short towers protruding from a depression. Narrow wooden planks connect the patches of original floor.
Three goblins quarrel every few minutes in between futile shoveling and picking. They have been here for almost two days straight, sleeping on the huge excavated pile of dirt instead of returning to the barracks, each unwilling to let another claim whatever treasure might be buried here. Two burly, four legged Guard Drakes lounge sleepily on the bottom level of the pit, ignoring the all-to-common bickering from the goblins.
Opening their surprise attack with a ranged barrage from Carff’s sling and Artemis’ eldritch blasts, the ‘Stoppers charge inward with purposeful intent. The guard drakes, though tough and thick-skinned, can do little against the combined martial prowess of Likot, Arjuhn, and Skitlezzz. The goblins however, now armed with their crossbows, prove deadly for the exposed Carff, and he finds himself gravely wounded once more. If the crossbow bolts weren’t enough, the poor elf also slipped while attempting to cross the thin wooden planks, falling ten feet landing with a dull thud on the hard dirt floor.
Not content to see their ally picked off by distant foes, Arjuhn and Skitlezzz grab a nearby ladder, wrench it from its loose moorings, and carry it over to the farthest tower, much to the chagrin of the two sharpshooters there. The goblins don’t last long against their combined strength.
The excavated room holds very little treasure, but since none was expected to begin with, the group is pleasantly surprised when they discover a dirt-covered holy relic: a symbol of battle emblazoned with the divine mark of Bahamut. Arjuhn is overjoyed and eagerly claims it for the glory of his god.
Turning back to face the hallway from which they came to the excavated room, the adventurers are presented with two stairways: a torch-lit staircase leading to a closed door back to the main entrance and pit-room, and another staircase to the south leading into total darkness. Artemis realizes and reminds the others that the lighted stairwell to the entrance was barred by their own hand when they first entered the dungeon, and that they if they want to return they’ll need to loop back through the goblin barracks. Intent to continue exploring, the ‘Stoppers turn to descend the dark staircase…
The finely worked stairs and flagstones of the dungeon give way to a wide, natural cavern. The ceiling drips with dozens of stalactites, and the floor rises unevenly with loose rocks and stalagmites. The rocks and debris become thicker to the east and west, and both directions offer only narrow paths of unobstructed terrain.
Looking through their gear for something that might illuminate the dangerous shadows of the cave, the group decides that a sunrod is called for. Skitlezzz takes a 1 foot long, gold tipped iron rod from his pack. He strikes it against the wall of the cave, igniting the sunrod with a flash of light that tapers to a steady brightness greater than that of a torch. The sudden rush of light reveals the cave’s residents: a dozen giant rats! The flash sends them scurrying into nearby crevices and up into the rocky ceiling.
Presented with a number of different pathways to explore the dense cave system, Arjuhn leads by keeping to the right-hand wall. Unfortunately for most of the group, especially Skitlezzz and Arjuhn, the tight spaces prove difficult to navigate. The low ceiling means that all, save the dwarf Likot and the goblin Splug, must hunch forward to stand in the cave without striking their head against the hanging stalactites and outcroppings.
The close quarters and shadowy environment are perfect for quick hit and run attacks from the giant rats, who feel threatened by these new intruders and their painfully bright light. Waiting until party members are isolated, the rats swoop in two or three at a time and viciously bite at the head and feet of any unlucky enough to fall behind or move too close to a nest. The group makes an effort to stick together, but the rats continue to pester them throughout the caves.
Moving down a narrow tunnel from the far right edge of the cave entrance, the ‘Stoppers come upon a small, mossy alcove. A bronze double-door stands closed in the rockface. These bronze doors are green with age and stained blue and purple with a thick layer of fungus. Scratched into the fungus in the Common script is this message:
“Stay Out. Really.”
Skitlezzz, knowledgeable in things natural, recognizes the fungus as a species that normally lives in more humid environments. He turns the mossy handle and the bronze doors slowly swing open with a muffled metallic sound.
Fungus-coated stairs lead down into a natural cavern. Much of the chamber is filled with a stagnant pool of brackish water. A patch of land rises from the foul water at the pool’s center. On this little island, bones, spilled coins, and other small objects are visible among the carpet of fungus.
Skitlezzz strides boldly into the room. Not noticing the ripples that stir in the calm water, he jumps into the fetid dark water without a second thought, swims quickly to the center and pulls himself up onto the small island. His disturbance does not go unnoticed, however, and just moments after he leaves the water it begins to churn and bubble.
The dank water suddenly disgorges a blob of blue slime. The amorphous mass pours forward, extruding long pseudopods that end in appendages of dripping goo.
Before Skitlezzz can react, a long slimy pseudopod extends from the body of the slime and swings violently, slapping him with a loud wet fwack and an acidic sting. The sheer size of the blue slime’s amorphous body means the creature can form multiple “arms”, swinging multiple times at any who venture near.
As the fighters hack and slash at the jelly-like substance they notice a growing tumor bubbling from the side of the slime. It grows and grows and grows, until it looks like it’s about to burst! With a loud gooey plop the bubble explodes in a shower of acidic slime that painfully eats away at the flesh of the adventurers.
Cutting off a pseudo-arm here, cleaving a jiggling mass there, the group slowly but surely weakens the blue slime. Eventually it slows and it no longer has the energy to extend its body and attack, slowly sinking back into the black waters. “Look out!” Likot yells, and suddenly the dying slime explodes in another spray of acidic slime! Fetid gasses rise from the dead “corpse” as it bubbles and sinks to the bottom of the pool. “Ugh,” Artemis covers her nose, “Let’s search for treasure and get out of here.”
Pushing around the bones of the slime’s victims the heroes discover a health potion and magical shield of protection. “Look here,” Carff holds up a wooden cylinder with three vellum sheets inside, “I think these were penned recently… “
One sheet contains the message: “Remember, don’t wet the nodule – unless Kalarel is not receptive to the offer. Then, wet it only from a distance, and then, turn and run. Water will bring the creature out of its dormancy, and it will consume anything it can reach.”
Another sheet contains a map that shows the location of Shadowfell Keep.
The last vellum sheet holds a letter written in the same hand as the previous message: “Greetings, Kalarel. I have recently learned of your activity in the area and have an offer for you. During your time in this region, if you should capture any humanoids, we are eager to buy them. We have duergar allies in Thunderspire in need of slave stock. If you are interested, send an envoy back to me. My messengers will show the way.” It is signed: “Chief Krand of the Bloodreavers”
Making their way out of the old cistern, the ‘Stoppers continue along the right wall and find that the tunnel brings them back around to the other side of the first cave chamber. As they approach a small clearing they are suddenly swarmed by the remaining rats! Darting in and out of the rubble, the rats prove dangerous for the weaker members of the party, notably Carff who is still wounded and fatigued from previous encounters, but overall are not a major threat for the group as a whole.
That is, until a Ochre Jelly slimily slithers through the cracks from an adjacent cave! Pouring through holes in the rock and forming a mass nearly as large as the blue slime and a rusty ochre in color, the undulating jelly accelerates toward the sound of battle, eager for a meal.
Proving not quite as tough as the blue slime, the jelly is quickly bloodied by the stalwart fighters. Their spirits are further bolstered when powerful overhand swing from Arjuhn’s battleaxe cleaves the jelly completely in two. The smile is wiped from their faces, however, when each of the two halves continues to move independently! With each half nearly as strong as the intact version, the group must redouble their efforts.
Finally silencing the ochre jelly and the remaining rats dead or hiding, the groups decides it would be best to get out of the shadowy cave. They climb back up the steps to the lighted Keep hallway and breathe a sigh of relief. Assessing their situation, the ‘Stoppers conclude that they have been through a lot of tough fighting here and need a proper safe rest back at Winterhaven. “Ah, it’ll be good to have a warm bed and hot food again,” Likot muses aloud.
As they make their way back around through the goblin barracks, Splug’s mood again turns somber at the sight of his fellow goblins lying dead throughout the halls that served as his home. Any remaining goblins seem to have fled the Keep since the slaughter the night before.
The party eventually makes it back to the main entrance and ascends the keep stairs to the welcoming sun-lit world above…