Morning dawns in Hillsboro and our heroes awaken to find the inn’s tavern utterly empty. Spotting commotion in the street they venture outside to find villagers laden with cloth and tent poles; following this procession leads the party toward the edge of town, where a small group of tents have been erected with many more on the way. Owing to the massive influx of refugees from the slave camp from which nearly a hundred souls were liberated the previous night, the residents of the tiny town of Hillsboro have been making every attempt to provide adequate care for the former slaves that had swarmed their streets.
With their previous goal in mind of seeking out adventure, the party sends the bard to gather more information about the abandoned mines they heard rumor of before. She learns from one villager the (very general) location of a secret entrance to this place, another warns her that the area has likely since been taken over by goblin raiders, and a third starts going on about some kind of magical axe hidden in the depths of the pits in question. With this newfound knowledge, the party sets off for a ravine where – in addition to being conveniently within walking distance – the secret entrance to their next adventure is waiting for them to find it. After dispatching a pair of goblins stationed in the boughs of a massive tree on the edge of the ravine, they learn that the one villager’s warning of goblins had complete grounds in truth; from that point on the party begins to exercise great caution and tries to come up with the best way to climb down to a bridge spanning the width of the chasm below.
And then after some pointless running around and deliberating, in an utterly anticlimatic way the party decides to check the massive tree in which the (now dead) goblin sentries had been hiding, and lo! Upon closer inspection there is discovered to be a hidden passageway in the tree’s trunk, revealing a staircase leading down into darkness.
Upon the party’s descent into the pit, with a couple Light spells to guide them, they almost immediately are engaged in combat. A goblin spots them on the stairs and is promptly put to sleep by the wizard XX the Mystic, the halfling gives a great battle cry and rages the rest of the way down the stairs into the room below, and carnage ensues in all directions. From one side of the stairs, the gnome Xander pins a goblin on the other side of the room to the wall on the left with an expertly aimed crossbow bolt, and the bard does the same with an enemy near the wall on the right. However the real moment of glory came on the part of Hoagie the halfling, who meanwhile had rushed into the next room, cleaved the nearest goblin first in half from right to left, and then into quarters from the top down.
After a decision to leave the sleeping goblin alive on account of it being dishonorable to outright kill a helpless foe, the rest of the party joins Hoagie in the next room – the entrance of which is decorated with an ornate and frightening head of a demon – and all are surprised to see daylight filtering in from the door at the opposite end of this smaller area. They see the bridge before them now, reaching across the ravine to another door at the opposite end. With some hesitation due to the look of the bridge, which turned out to be sturdier than it looked, the party enters the cave on the other side of the chasm and proceeds cautiously down a dark spiral stairway, the gnome leading the group.
Most of the way down the spiraling staircase, the adventurers run into yet another group of goblins and find the way forward blocked as the enemies begin rushing up the steps to meet them in combat. Mystic and Blue, at the back of the line, hear scraping footsteps coming from above, and while Leon, Hoagie, and the gnome begin dealing with the threat at the bottom-most steps of the stairs, Mystic is struck in the shoulder by a bolt shot from somewhere above, and it becomes clear at once that the group will be surrounded and trapped on the stairs. The chaos increases as goblins appear behind Mystic, the halflingleaps down into the room below and – though fairly exhausted from the beatdown he gave the goblins a few rooms earlier – continues to put out an impressive fight, and magic missiles and crossbow bolts shoot about the room amid the swings and blows of melee combat. Soon our heroes prove to be far too much for the seven or eight goblins, and by the end of the fight some are unconscious and the others are very dead.
Having finally earned the chance to look around the room properly, the party notices that they are in what amounts to a barracks, with several beds set up in rows along the floor. In one corner of the room is an unmarked, barred door. After several hours of rest (and a short fight due to the unconscious goblins coming to, surprise surprise, though they all had been tied securely to bedposts and were not much of a threat) the party decides to find out what lays beyond this mysterious barred door.
Upon opening the door the party hears nothing at first and sees very little out of the ordinary. They stand at the entrance of a shaft descending fifty feet or so into darkness with a narrow staircase that spirals gradually downward along the edge of this shaft. The party proceeds cautiously down this stair while a strange sort of sucking noise nears them from farther below, and finally the source of this sound comes into view, at which point every member of the party is frozen to the spot with horror.
Oozing its way up the walls of the shaft is a great, disgusting, putrescent mound of what can only be described as shifting flesh. Eyeballs and appendages grow out from the horrible creature’s surface randomly, extending outwards briefly before sucking back in with a sickening noise. The two wizards are so stricken with terror that they burst into tears from fear, and the other adventurers decide with little hesitation that the only viable option at this point is to run like hell back up the stairs, into the barracks, and bar the door behind them.
After their nerves finally return to normal, the party wonders if the creature in the shaft below was not some horribly failed experiment made by the wizards that are rumored to have once lived in this place. No one particularly wants to go back in there and find out for sure.
The adventurers backtrack a bit and continue through a passage in another room’s ceiling which they had noticed but bypassed before, and enter a new area above. They find a goblin seated in a crude throne in the center of this new room. The gnome, being fluent in the goblins’ language, manages to immediately piss off this goblin king due to threatening to take his treasure, but before anything terribly bad happens the wizard Mysticputs the king to sleep. He’s pretty good at this tactic. The bardthen notices a secret door in the wall to their left and, after they kill the goblin king for good measure, the party enters a passageway that dips down a bit towards a hole that drops into another room.
They peer down into what appears to be a storage room, the floor lined with barrels filled mostly with ruined and unusable arrows. What is peculiar about this room, however, and also makes the party somewhat wary about jumping down into it, is a lifesize crystal statue of an elf standing towards the far wall, holding a spear and facing the rest of the room as though guarding it. The bardmentions having heard a song, once, about ancient storehouses being protected by powerful living statues. The wizard Mystic attempts to move the statue’s spear through telekinesis, and wakes it up, much to the frustration of most of the party
Seeing no other solution at this point but to engage the now moving crystal elf statue in combat, the adventurers do just that. Hoagieand Leonrush to hack at the statue which, though the two men are putting all their might behind every blow of axe and sword, appears to damage the statue only slightly. Crossbow bolts from the bard, gnome, and clerichave a similar effect – or lack thereof – but the statue begins to chip in places. And now that the party has all jumped down into this room, those not directly engaged in melee with the statue are able to spot a set of stairs leading into another room a short ways below them; Mysticand the cleric Agathaprogress down into this area to see if there might be something there to help them defeat the crystal elf, the fight with which becomes more dire as the gnome is nearly killed after moving close to it to cast a spell. Mysticand Agathafind two armed skeletons guarding the second room in the same way the statue had appeared to be guarding the first, and begin to fight them as well.
Finally, with a glorious and earth-shattering blow, the halfling Hoagieshatters the crystal statue to glittering miniscule pieces with a great swing of his axe, just as the wizard and cleric finish off the skeletons below, who each drop greatswords that glow as brightly as torches. The party makes off with a great deal of weapons looted from the two storerooms, and in pulling a lever to reveal a hidden doorway which leads them into one of the rooms they had cleared before, they finally return above ground and into the daylight.
Weary and battle-worn but feeling accomplished, the party returns to Hillsboro to find that the small group of tents that had been set up on the town’s outskirts the previous morning has now grown into a veritable city. The horizon is a sea of white canvas and the camp appears very well organized. As the adventurers pass through this tent city they are met with cheers here and there from the youngest of the slaves they had freed from the camp and learn that these efforts to provide for all the refugees are led by two villagers, Thomasand Maria, who appear to be at odds over what to do ultimately about the scores of people now living in tents on the outskirts of their village. The party realizes that they may be expected to provide some input one way or another and provide some council on these matters, but choosing sides between the two camp leaders is not a decision they should take lightly…