Mere minutes after the oil-fueled conflagration died down in Tora Norrith’s lowermost level, the wary adventurers returned to plumb the dank, shadowy depths. A full-fledged thunderstorm lashed the hillside around the ruined castle, sending rainwater streaming in through the gaping holes in the tower’s floors and ceilings and helping to snuff out the flames.
The party spent the better part of an hour exploring the bottom level of the keep. The circular chamber was approximately 100 feet across, strewn with great boulders and heaps of stone masonry from the half-collapsed tower. The ruins of two great siege engines — bolt-throwing ballistae, by the looks of them — were found moldering in the dark. Nearby, Everitt found a simple iron lever mounted on the inside wall, and with effort he managed to operate the adjoining mechanism, causing a 15-foot-long wooden shutter to swing open. Outside, lightning flashed and the rain streamed in through the newly opened portal. The wooden shutter, it seemed, was intended to allow the ballistae to cover the approaches to the half-finished castle — but like so many things in Tora Norrith, their utility had been lost to the gnawing sands of time.
A shallow, slow-moving stream cut through the lowermost level of the tower, babbling quietly over the mossy rubble and disappearing into a small opening in the hillside. As the party moved to investigate it, Jalez stooped and retrieved a curious magical device, which would later prove to be a fabled scrying stone, intended to help translate the many different dialects used by the dwarves of The Vogales Peaks.
The party now faced a decision. Having expended precious resources during the exploration, they were now exhausted and in need of rest. It was nearing midnight, and rain still poured through the leaky keep. The adventurers decided to seek refuge in the corridors of the curtain wall itself.
As they moved to make camp in the dry, dusty upper corridor, Everitt and Kez wisely began crafting makeshift torches to replace the party’s dwindling supply. Jalez spent some time studying his new scrying stone in an attempt to decipher the Dwarven runes they’d spotted earlier. Prometheor moved to the collapsed opening of the curtain wall, where he could stay dry and still keep an eye on the surrounding wilderness.
Hours passed. Near the end of Prometheor’s watch, a flicker of movement atop the keep’s towering battlements caught his eye. A dark, sly shape appeared for a moment, then it was gone. But that was enough to put the paladin of Rhianna into full “purge” mode! Rousing his sleeping comrades, Prometheor drew his sword and moved to into the second level of the drum tower.
The party burst through the oaken door, and at precisely that moment, lightning flared across the stormy sky, illuminating the scene in the stone tower in striking detail. Two pallid, hunched humanoids were clambering down a length of rope that led up to the battlements atop the keep. They were clad in ramshackle armor and had rusty blades clenched tight in their teeth; their eyes glowed a dim red in the darkness. Goblins!
Prometheor moved quickly to attack, felling one of the foul creatures with a flurry of powerful sword blows. The second goblin reacted quickly, fleeing down the stairs that led to the lowest level of the keep. Everitt, in an attempt to head off the fleeing wretch, leapt down through one of the gaping holes in the floor. But he landed badly, stumbling to his knees, and was immediately set upon by two snarling tunnel wolves — voracious creatures bred and twisted by goblins to be long and lean, perfect for plying the trackless tunnels that make up goblin warrens.
Kez mustered his magic and cast a powerful spell on one of the wolves, temporarily gainings its animal trust. He then ordered it to attack its brother, and the two animals began fighting furiously in the darkness of the keep’s lowest level. Determined to catch the fleeing goblins, the four adventurers pursued their quarry through a dank, root-choked tunnel that led through the tower’s stout stone wall and deep into the hillside. The small creek flowed through the center of the cramped corridor, and the low ceilings meant that even the venerable Jalez Vul Duru had to crawl on his hands and knees through the passageway.
Eventually, though, the tunnel opened up into a large cavern. How large, exactly, was unknown; the darkness was total, and the party’s torches did little to penetrate the blackness. The small stream at their feet flowed into a large, shallow underground pool. As the group took their first tentative steps into the trackless cavern, a cacaphony of snarls arose. It sounded as though an entire swarm of goblins lurked just beyond their flickering torchlight!
Rather than retreat, the party moved deeper into the cavern, sloshing through knee-deep water and fighting off marauding goblins. Crossbow bolts fired from their unseen adversaries flew thick through the gloom. One lucky shot cut deep into Jalez’s shoulder, causing the wizard to fall insensate to the ground. This added burden did little to improve the party’s situation in the caverns. Huddling behind the cover offered by Prometheor’s broad shield, the four rogues desperately sought to plan out their next move. In the darkness, the goblins hissed and howled…