Today’s session picks up just a couple of moments after our last one ended with our defeat of Ripnugget at the Thistletop Goblin Lair. We don’t stay in the throne room for long, instead setting off into the rest of the main floor in search of goblin foes and interesting loot. At first, we find only some goblin dogs that we relatively easily eliminate. Eventually, however, we come to a courtyard with a door that is barricaded with a mishmash of nailed boards. We’re concerned at the sight of the dead goblin corpses by the door, but Aella investigates and pries open the door to find a poor, malnourished, and abused stallion.
Her heart melting, Aella quickly gains the animal’s trust with a trail ration and soothing demeanor. She leads her new equestrian friend out into the courtyard to graze. Shortly after, our Shoanti-member also uncovers a stash of caged bunnies that she frees and sets in the courtyard after naming one Felix. Aella is on cloud nine for the time being.
After a little more exploration, we realize that the only way to press forward is to head downstairs into the dark. Eric boldly leads the way into a dark and cavernous conference room. We quickly identify plans for two separate goblin attacks on Sandpoint. One is the one that started our adventure, while the other is the ominous massive invasion we’ve heard could be coming. Before we have too long to contemplate these plans, we stumble upon a spell-casting woman in the next room who is in no mood to chat.
Wallace is slow on the uptake, but Eric and Aella rush past him to engage the woman before she can take us out. Zazz uses a great deal of foresight in predicting where the woman’s help will be coming from after she screams. When a group of goblins are poised to dash into the fight from the door behind us, he unleashes a web spell that traps most of the goblins. Not happy about this sticky situation, an unarmored bugbear sets the web on fire from behind. While his goblin allies roast, Eric and Aella kill the spell-casting woman, who uses her dying breath to call out the name of Tsuto (aka the suicide-by-pants fellow).
The group steps forward to face the bugbear, who is joined by a mercenary brandishing a bastard sword. The tight quarters in the hallway make it difficult for our group to fight strategically, Wallace often having to reach his longspear around allies and Zazz unable to utilize his deadlest spells. The group fights valiantly, but the mercenary overwhelms the mighty Aella with his sword and knocks her unconscious. Luckily, Eric is able to finish off the bugbear soon after so that he and Wallace can flank the mercenary and whittle down his health. The mercenary finally surrenders, casting aside his weapons.
Wallace heals Aella back to consciousness while Eric tightly binds the mercenary’s hands. Not in a pleasant mood after the rough fight, Aella does her best Dark Knight impression again as she slams the mercenary onto the stone table in the bigger room and begins to interrogate him. We don’t learn much, other than the fact that the mercenary is working for Nualia and that she is down even further below ground here. With the interrogation complete, both Eric and Wallace move in to execute the enemy. Eric shows greater initiative and kills him first.
After quickly looting the bodies, the tired crew presses on, finding plenty of hallways and doors that could turn around even the most experienced dungeon crawler. The paths eventually lead to the den of a strange and unfriendly tentacled monster. While this fight isn’t a breeze and Aella gets stung in the middle, we manage to kill the beast and wind up little worse for wear. Things grow more gruesome shortly afterward when Eric finds a room that contains goblin infants. Closing the door behind him so that he doesn’t risk the rest of the group’s disapproval, he snaps the infants’ necks in the name of Torag. Aella is suspicious of what happened behind the closed door, but the group presses on regardless.
With our exploration of this first basement floor almost complete, however, we wander into a much graver circumstance. We happen to waltz into a large room with a large statue of Lamashtu. The room is also populated by two demon dogs who look as though they’d like to eat us. Eric boldly leads the way into the room to defeat the dogs. Their howls terrify Aella, who takes off running for the happiest place she knows in this fortress. Zazz holds out a little longer, but is soon also overcome by panic. While Wallace remains resolute, the dogs inflict a significant amount of damage on the cleric with their teeth and claws. Recognizing that this isn’t a fight we can win on our last legs, Eric bellows at Wallace to flee.
The two manage to escape the room, the demon dogs not pursuing past the door. Everyone returns together in the courtyard with the horse and the bunnies (which may or may not be multiplying as we explore). Realizing that we are all exhausted, we uneasily decide to find a spot to bed down for the night. We barricade ourselves in the room behind Ripnugget’s throne room. We all take turns keeping watch, but not much happens until Aella’s turn. She hears a scraping sound outside the door, and quietly wakes the rest of us. We are still not fully rested, however, and decide to continue to sleep unless the scraping turns into a worse sound.
When everyone wakes up, the scraping noise has stopped. However, it has been replaced by the familiar sound of goblin singing. Eric, knowing it’s time to do Torag proud, throws open the door and immediately triggers a trap as a scimitar previously balanced on top of the door comes down and whacks him. Wallace dashed out into the throne room, seeing all the goblins that almost caught him on the other side of the bridge. The cleric decides to take vengeance on the druid that almost took him out, but his path trips another trap that nails him with two javelins and takes most of his health in one fell swoop.
A mess of fighting ensues. The MVP of the fight is Zazz, who uses his web spell again to trap over half of the goblins on the other side of the room. Wallace has to keep healing himself (and his druid foe) to keep himself from dying. Eric and Aella make goblin paste out of many of the other minions, while Wallace finally takes out the druid’s fiery cougar companion. This really pisses the druid off, and he focuses all his attacks on Wallace until the cleric is knocked out of the fight. This leaves him open to attacks from Aella and Eric, and the paladin finishes him off. Eric heals Wallace, and everyone regroups in time for Zazz to set fire to his web while the goblins are still stuck. Many of them burn to death, and Aella quickly polishes off any stragglers.
With the first fight of the day won, we head back downstairs. This time, we mentally and magically prepare ourselves better for our rematch with the demon dogs. Dashing inside, we find the dogs much like before. And as before, the howl of the dogs drives Aella into a blinding panic that sends her flying from the room. Eric calls upon the might of Torag and obliterates one dog in a single smite. Zazz manages to catch the other with an arrow, and Wallace finishes him off. Once we have properly explored this Lamashtu room (and reunited with Aella), we head down a previously secret staircase into an even deeper layer of Thistletop.
Downstairs, we find a creepy cavern with a slanted floor and with vandalized statues lining the walls. Eric narrowly avoids a nasty portcullis trap that the rest of us manage to vault across without incident. We hear someone casting a spell in the room to the north, and we decide to run guns blazing rather than buffing ahead of time again.
Inside, we find a woman who may have once been quite beautiful with her silvery hair and eyes. Now, however, those eyes are full to the brim with hatred and one of her arms ends in a gristly claw. We have found Nualia, who decides quickly that we need to die. She can inflict serious damage in every shot, and Wallace steps forward to parry her blows after Eric takes a big hit. Aella, facing her fears from before, takes on another demon dog and manages to bring the hellish beast down. Wallace holds Nualia off until everyone else can step up to continue the assault. Aella is the one who finally knocks the woman unconscious. After a brief agreement that Nualia is unlikely to tell us anything of use in an interrogation, we behead the evil woman.
Afterward, we look around the room and review sections of Nualia’s journal. We confirm that she set the fire that killed Father Tobin and learn more about the secrets in her past that led to her rage. After some quick healing, we continue our exploration of this level, pressing on to the south. This leads us to more statues. Wallace vaguely identifies the main statue as a representation of Runelord Karzoug, though he blanks on who exactly this is. We have little time for further inquiry, as Zazz notices a trio of shadows approaching. He hastily recommends that we run, and he and Aella make it away completely unscathed. The other two are not so lucky. Wallace has some of his strength sapped as he runs, but even he gets off easy compared to Eric. The paladin barely manages to stagger away as the shadows drain his strength.
Knowing those foes are beyond our capabilities right now, we leave this second basement behind and make our way back up to the main level. We gather up Aella’s new horse friend and each carry crates of the bunnies (who have definitely reproduced since we first set them free). We realize that the goblins were even more clever with the rope bridge than we thought, keeping another rope anchored below the original bridge. We cross over, nobody falling in this time, and carefully make our way through the thistles until we emerge on the other side. We find our other horses and set off for Sandpoint.
Our arrival is met at the gate by our good friend Jimmy. After a brief chat, we make our way to the Cathedral to discuss our quest with Father Zantus. He is disturbed by what Nualia became and about the shadows we left behind, but is proud of us for surviving and taking out some of the looming goblin threat. Once we’re finished speaking with him, Aella takes her horse to the stables and learns that he is Shadowmist. With his original owner killed in the first goblin attack, Aella is now his owner. She sells back the original horse given to her by Aldern Foxglove.
There’s more loot to be sold, and more information to be gathered. We have won a critical battle against the goblins, but much trouble remains. With one portion of our quest complete, we believe the next section awaits us in our next session of Rise of the Runelords.