Wave after wave of goblins fell to Gideon’s staff and Maur’s sword.
With the battle raging in the hallway, Ian hastily unlocked the door at the end of the side passage, and entered. It was a bedroom. Finely appointed, with a pair of bear skin rugs and a large canopied bed. A large mirror was on a wall to the side of the bed, while on another wall a life-size painting of a pale skinned female elf, with long white hair and similarly colored robes. There were no exits from the room, so Ian turned and left.
Gideon called out to the halfling to find a way out, as he killed another goblin with his quarterstaff. He and the dwarf were pressing the attack, slowly advancing down the hallway as each wave fell before them, but still the goblins kept coming.
Entering another side door, Ian came into a dark and foreboding room. The walls were lined with heavy black velvet drapes, an ornate stone chair sat in the middle, dimly lit by a low burning brazier. A thin blue mist hung heavily in the air. Again, noting no exits, Ian immediately returned back to the hallway.
“Come on, lad!. Either find us a way out of this mess, or a way to attack them from the rear,” Maur yelled as Ian came up to the last door in the hallway. Feruch, still guarding the closed portcullis, heard the growling and howling from the darkness beyond intensify. “Yes, it’s wolves,” he thought, as he pulled back closer to Gideon and Maur to defend them from the beasts attack, should the portcullis open.
Ian picked the lock on the final door, but instead of it opening easily, it was still held fast, as if something on the opposite side was propped against it. With a hard shove, the door screeched open.
A worktable crashed to the floor as Ian shoved the door open. A man, wearing a stained apron, stood beside a bubbling cauldron near a fireplace. He waved a meat clever defensively, as he backed away from the halfling. Casting a quick glance about, Ian realized he was in a kitchen. A door was on the far wall. Sensing little threat form the cook, Ian quickly passed him by and rushed through the opposite door. Feruch then entered the kitchen, causing the cook to shrink back further into the corner of the room.
Ian charged into the mess hall as a squad of six goblins burst through the door on the far side of the room. Without hesitation they ran towards the halfling, leaping onto and scampering around the long tables, intent upon murdering the halfling standing in their way. Ian moved into a corner of the room, protecting himself from the goblins attempting to surround him.
Feruch then entered the room, immediately being mobbed by half the goblins. They forced him into an opposite corner from Ian, cutting them off from aiding each other.
The battle raged in the hallway, with Gideon and Maur slowly pressing forward against the mass of Goblins. The grating of metal against stone behind them indicated the falling of the portcullis that was holding the wolves at bay.
Three massive dire wolves lunged from the portcullis, charging towards the party. Maur, spun about as they drew near, rushing towards them. A few swift jabs and thrusts with his bastard sword ended their assault. He turned to rejoin Gideon who was easily holding his own against the rampaging goblins.
Gideon and Maur fought their way to the end of the hallway, as the last goblin fell to their blows. They found themselves in a large room with several doorways leading off in all directions. Three to the north, one to the east and a fifth to the south. Catching their breath, bruised and bloodied from their ordeal, they saw Ian and Feruch emerge from the south door. A half dozen goblins lay dead about the mess hall behind them.
One of the doors to the north hung open, obviously leading to the barracks that once housed the many goblins they had just defeated. Gideon tried another of the doors to the north, only to find that it lead to a filthy goblin latrine. The group then turned their interest to the third door leading north.
This door led to a backwards “L”- shaped hallway lined with doors. Entering the first door, it appeared to be an unused bed chamber. The door opposite the hallway was locked. Ian quickly picked it and the party rushed in.
An elderly robed man, armed with a dagger stood in the middle of what was clearly a private sleeping chamber. The far wall was lined with books. A worktable with several ongoing alchemical experiments was in the corner. The man, clearly not accustomed for battle, offered no resistance to the group, and introduced himself as Fyndax. He explained he was an alchemist who had been hired to serve as an assistant and aid to Markessa in her experiments. he described her as a tall, pale, almost white-skinned elf, with long white hair.
Ian and Gideon both realized that it was likely her bedroom they had found earlier.
Fyndax went on to explain that she was using slaves to experiment on, seeking to enhance natural human abilities to make them stronger, smarter, more powerful. This would make them more valuable on the slave market. Fyndax begged for his life, as Gideon bashed his head in with his staff. “Anyone who kidnaps innocents, experiments upon them, enslaves and murders them, deserves no less than death,” he said coldly.
Ian searched the room, deciding to store many of the alchemical books in a chest to haul back home later.
In the next room, down the hall, the party found a pair of bugbear guards, quickly killing them, but not before one could call out an alarm. The party braced for another wave of attacks, but none came.
Opposite this room, another locked door. As Ian put away his picks, Gideon rushed in. A simple bed chamber, with a small bookshelf and a table filled with numerous scrolls and ledgers. Hiding behind the bed, but not escaping notice was a small man, dressing in fine clothing. Gideon ordered him to rise and began questioning him.
He explained he was Kyvin Trist, a scribe who kept the books and ledgers of the slaving operation beneath the Bottleworks. He was responsible for paying the guards, logging the slaves who came in and left, as well as those who died, were sold, or traded. Gideon seized the many scrolls, notes and ledgers, shoving them into his pack. As he did so, he noticed a small silver whistle fall from one of the shelves. “What is this?” he demanded.
“It was given to me by Blackthorne,” Trist said, sheepishly, “But you can have it, if you want.”
“Whose that?” Gideon asked.
“He’s the Captain of the Guard, here.” Trist said quickly, “His rooms are just down the hall.”
“Where is Markessa?” Gideon asked, shoving the silver whistle into his pack, along with the remainder of the scrolls and notes.
“She is usually in her lab, nearby,” Trist said, “I can lead you there, if you spare me!”
“You will lead us there, regardless,” Gideon said bluntly, shoving Trist towards the door. “We will decide on the rest later.”
Trist led the part back to the room with numerous doors. He then pointed towards the door on the east wall. “There is her lab,” he said, shaken.
GIdeon shoved Trist to the corner of the room, “I guess I’ll go first,” he said to the others, “There isn’t time to search for traps,” he added, before mumbling almost to himself, “I hope I don’t get a lightning bolt to the face.”
As Gideon rushed in, Ian, made sure Trist wouldn’t be able to come to Markessa’s aid in the coming battle. He seized upon the scribe, slitting his throat. “No less than death,” Ian muttered as he cleaned the blood from his short sword, echoing Gideon’s words.
“You must be the ones causing all this trouble,” Markessa said coldly, stepping back from a large wooden worktable, as Gideon entered her lab. She was slightly taller than Gideon, appearing just as she had been depicted in the painting they came across earlier, but far more cruel and merciless than could ever be depicted by brush or pigment.
“We are,” said Gideon, leveling his eyes towards her, as the rest of the party entered the room.
“The alarm you’ve raised gave me plenty of time to prepare for you,” she eyed the group callously, stepping away from the table, slowly making her way to the center of her vast laboratory. The party saw movement above them as several goblin archers took positions on a catwalk that circled around the lab. Two sets of stairs nearby led to this catwalk. Gideon climbed up, slowly, readying his staff.
Feruch moved towards Markess, sword drawn, only to see another goblin emerge from the shadowy chamber to intervene.
Maur, now armed with his bow, nocked an arrow as he moved into position to open fire on the elven wizardress.
Ian moved to the opposite stairway from Gideon, but remained at the bottom, prepared to rush up to attack the goblin archers, or charge into the main lab, as needed.
“It will make no difference,” Gideon said, slowly climbing the stairs, but not taking his eyes from Markess. “You will tell us everything we want to know, just before I kill you,”
“I wonder…what will you tell me just before I kill all of you?” Markessa asked with a foreboding malevolence. Her words were punctuated by a loud grating noise from the back of the lab, as a pair of portcullises raised quickly. Two massive bear-shaped creatures, eight feet in height, emerged from their cages. Their mouths were sharp owl-like beaks, their claws black talons that clicked loudly on the stone floor. Their glowing red eyes hinted at bestial madness. They charged towards Feruch and Maur.
“Nothing!” Gideon yelled defiantly, rushing to the top of the stairs. He immediately confronted a goblin archer. With a swift sweep of his staff, he drove the goblin down, knocking him from the catwalk. The goblin landed, with a satisfying crunch, on the floor below. Battle was joined!