Goblins have far too many unpleasant gods.
It was early in Trickster when we set out from the Fort to continue our exploration of the southlands. We had been traveling a few days when we came across signs of goblin habitation – crude trails in the woods, marks on trees, the usual sort of thing. It didn’t take us long to track down the caves that they were inhabiting. They had a single sentry visible from the edge of the woods, but the tracks indicated that there were quite a few others nearby.
We moved in quickly and engaged the guard – he called out a pair of combat-trained giant beatles as reinforcements, but didn’t live very long after that. The beatles were, in turn, reinforced by a few more goblins from within the cave, but we were able to keep them bottled up so that only a few of them could attack us at a time. The combat with the guards was short and brutal. We stepped back into the woods to catch our breath and watch for any returning patrols or other signs of life.
After a few minutes rest, we decided to proceed cautiously into the caves. Fungdark took the lead, reinforced with a few protective prayers to aid his scouting mission. He snuck around a few bends in the tunnels then returned. Down one short corridor was a wall with signs of recent excavation. Down the other was a deeper, heavily defended cave. He caught sight of several goblin defenders and had noted their position before returning. Despite being on high alert from our earlier attack, they failed to find Fungdark, and we were ready to take advantage of that.
Keller conjured a ball of flame that rolled down the passage and into the crowd of guards. We marched in after it, Dragda and I in the lead, backed up by Fungdark’s shortbow and Gnomish battle chant. Keller continued to bowl through the defenders with the flaming sphere, scattering them and preventing them from forming a solid defensive line. Unfortunately, from deeper within the cave, the leader of the goblins let loose with a magic missile volley that slammed into Keller, hurting him badly.
I broke off from melee and fell back to heal Keller and pass him a shield infusion. The flaming sphere flickered out and the goblins began to form up around their leader. Still, Dragda and Fungdark were taking a heavy toll on the guards, and there were only a half dozen or so left by the time we were able to rejoin them. The goblin leader tried a second volley of missiles on Keller, but they fizzled out when they hit the shield.
The goblins had fallen back into a large cavern. Filthy bedrolls and debris indicated that it was their main living quarters. Over on one side of the room were the remains of an ancient goblin altar that I vaguely recognized as being associated with decay and slime. At this point the goblin guards had surrounded their leader, using their bodies to try to shield him from Dragda and Fungdark. I tossed an explosive flask into the middle of their formation, inflicting a solid hit on the leader and blistering all of the guards.
It was around this point when the back wall of the cave collapsed and a wave of ooze rolled into the cavern.
The goblin leader seemed pleased at first, but quickly realized that whatever this was, it wasn’t under his control. The ooze overwhelmed two of the wounded goblin guards almost immediately, and the others found themselves trapped between us and the slime. Things quickly turned into a three-way fight between us, the goblins, and the slime. Chunks of slime were breaking off from the main body as the goblins slashed away, dividing the creature from a glutenous whole into a small army of blobs. I started a more liberal application of my alchemist bombs, tossing one in whenever I could find an opportunity to catch three or four targets in the same blast. Such opportunities were plentiful, and I burned through my supplies fairly quickly, inflicting damage on goblin and ooze alike. Keller was low on large area spells, but his volleys of missiles were highly effective against the oozes. Fungdark found that his arrows did very little to them, so he concentrated on the goblins, as did Dragda.
The combat was fierce. Dragda took a couple of wounds from the goblins and the ooze’s acids, but nothing serious. Between us all, we managed to eliminate the cave’s living inhabitants fairly quickly. And as soon as we poked our heads into the newly revealed depths of the cavern we encountered a cohort of undead inhabitants.
A cluster of tombs on the outskirts of the cave creaked open and a good half-dozen zombie goblins came shambling out. Nearby on the left, a croaking voice began to order them around in some debased undead language. At this point we were low on spells, wounded, and in totally unscouted territory. We needed a more strategic position, so we fell back to the narrowest part of the cavern.
Once there, Dragda and I were able to hold a choke-point. Only two of the creatures could approach us at a time. We set to work with axe and morningstar, chopping and crushing the attackers. Keller took a couple of opportunistic shots with his crossbow while Fungdark played a jaunty undead-crushing tune. The creatures didn’t last long, but in the distance, Dragda’s dark-adjusted eyes were able to make out a ragged, rotten shape retreating back into the newly opened cavern. Whatever it was, it had the wit to not follow us into our slapdash – but effective – fortification. We needed to recuperate before facing it.
We returned to the surface for a quick breath of fresh air. When we had recovered, we made a cautious return to the cave. I called light into a pebble and slung it into the new cavern, revealing more coffins – fortunately uninhabited by undead – and an alcove where furtive movement gave away the position of the leader of the undead attackers. Unaware of what we might be facing, we moved to surround the alcove, approaching it from multiple angles. What we found turned out to be a goblinoid ghoul of some description. Cornered by the four of us, it tried to put up a fight but was quickly crushed.
With the immediate threat dealt with, we were able to make a more careful exploration of the newly expanded cave. Keller and Fungdark began to debate the origin of the coffins and the meaning of the carvings on them. According to Keller, they’re the product of an ancient goblin civilization. According to Fungdark, the words ‘civilization’ and ‘goblin’ are contradictory. Dragda and I decided not to get involved in the debate and explored the rest of the cave.
Most of the cave was plain, natural stone, slightly etched by the acids of the ooze that had lived here. In the farthest end, however, was a carefully constructed stone wall. We called the others over. Keller’s knowledge of engineering wasn’t able to place the construction style with any major race he was familiar with. Rather than annoy Fungdark by speculating that it may be of goblin origin, we agreed that it was from a “hitherto unknown race” of builders.
We scavenged some of the crude tools from the excavation site that Fungdark had scouted earlier and set to work on the wall, eventually dislodging enough stone that we could enter the room beyond. Inside, we found an undisturbed treasure chamber, thick dust on the floor speaking to how long it had been since anyone had entered the room. Keller turned his attention to spotting any enchantments in the room and quickly identified some objects that we set aside for later investigation.
On the outskirts of the chamber were a quartet of paintings depicting a goblin chieftain performing standard acts of goblinish chieftainship – oppressing slaves, tricking humans, looting, pillaging, and so on. Dragda went over to investigate them more closely, accidentally triggering some sort of ancient anti-theft enchantment and flooding the room with fire. Keller and Fungdark were on the fringes of the explosion and were unharmed. Dragda was only mildly singed. I was pretty badly scorched. We took a break to patch ourselves up before we continued on our way.