After extricating Gyna’s bulk from the crevice, the rest of us managed to pass through, emerging into some sort of dimly lit storeroom. Crates and barrels were piled high in the room, with barely enough space for all six of us to fit. Also located in the room was a rather large chest. Perhaps we had been stuck underground for too long, as rather than take stock of our situation, and try to assess how we stumbled across a subterranean dwelling such as this, my companions were taken over with greed and immediately started divulging and dividing the chest’s contents. It seemed odd that they were so enthralled with a pile of women’s clothes and a few robes, that they would stop our scientific exploration to have a fashion show. But I soon impressed upon them that perhaps now was not the best time to be playing with the bib and tucker. We press on out of the storeroom into what we soon discovered was a large underground fort, inhabited by some less than savoury types. We needed to find the young boy Eustace and make haste out of this dank and musty place.
Püff led us out into the hall and towards the soft sounds of a child’s mewling. Across the way were a set of cells. Püff burst into the cells hefting a new found warhammer; Vavara followed clutching a holy symbol; and Berrian robes (all purloined from the aforementioned chest), which proved embarrassing when we met the previous owners. In the prison was a ruddy dwarf manacled to a wall, along with two elven lasses in a cell, and our boy Eustace. I will have to study more on the rearing of dragonborn children because clearly, the methods that Püff tried to use on the poor human boy did not elicit the desired results. It seemed like Püff was trying her very best to scare the sweet Bahamuts out of the boy. With Eustace wailing loudly, thankfully Luthien stepped in to use a more gentle touch, soothing the boy before his captors returned to investigate all the caterwauling.
I am not sure what transpired in the past lives of some of my companions to make them so suspicious, but Vavara and Berrian were loath to release the goodman dwarf from his bondage (I did notice Berrian was quick to free the two comely elven lasses, and even quicker to accept their thanks). After some tense negotiation, they released the dwarf, and begrudgingly returned his belongings to him. The dwarf, Yukon Cornelius by name, had been kidnapped some time ago while prospecting in the hills near this brigand redoubt. The elves had been waylaid while on the road. Whilst incarcerated, Yukon had overheard some vital information and advised that there were some boats on a subterranean river the brigands used to smuggle their wares. He also mentioned that they themselves were going to be sold off as well. I thought it best that we should exit the fort as soon as possible, and so we decided to make our way down to the docks.
It was a shame that we could not tarry a while in the keep, as it seemed to be rich in history (I found later that is was indeed built centuries ago by a fabled free company who operated in this locale). But alas, knowing my companions, they surely would rather engage in fisticuffs with the inhabitants than a spirited intellectual discourse! We moved down further into the keep, encountering a large causeway spanning the river of which Yukon spoke earlier. The path across looked treacherous, polished and slick from years of exposure to the rivers torrent below. While Gyna was her usual self and blustered across the causeway (shockingly agile for one of such girth) Berrian had an excellent notion of using his newly acquired rope to get us all safely across the river. On the other side, we stumble into the quarters and mess hall of the brigands. And while Berrian and Gyna moved in onto some sleeping brigands to introduce them to their particular brand of violence, I led the more tender-hearted folk into the mess to shield them from that scene. While we waited, Vavara took a particular interest in some tapestry that hung in the room (exciting to see, I have a few excellent textile history books she may be interested in upon our return to the Tumbeldown). With a bit of poking around, she discovered a small chamber with a chest full of gold behind the tapestry (fortunate for me, as the rewards I had originally promised seemed to be few and far between these days).
We soon came across the dock area Yukon had spoken about. My colleagues tried their best to sneak their way into the large cavern to perchance slip past the guards and be away down the river to freedom, but as is usually the case, subtlety is not their strong suit. As we were now discovered, we had to make it past our foes, before reinforcements arrived. Berrian, however, decided to do a little exploring of his own. He opened a door to what he thought was a stairwell (hoping to outflank our enemies) but instead discovered a goblin doing, uh, his, er, business, in the privy. He grabbed the goblin bodily and stuffed the poor bugger down onto its own excretory formulations.
The ensuing fight with the banditry was all manner of heroic deeds (or so I am told, I was busy protecting the women and children, a thankless job apparently). Vavs and Lutes created a multitude of luminous appurtenance. Walls of light burst from the ground, arrows of lightning streaking across the room, confounding the brigands at every turn. Püff, while ensnared by a brigand’s net still barked commands, inspiring Gyna on to great deeds. And even Berrian, after his rendezvous with some goblin undercarriage, managed to get the drop on a rather vile wolf-like shifter, all while dodging the rain of crossbow bolts from high above. The brigands were dispatched, and we decided that it was time to get into the boats and down the river. And none too soon either, as when we pushed away from the dock, the bulk of the brigand forces arrived onto the scene.
The rushing river quickly took hold of our boats and we careened through the dark passages. Rapids and eddies threw us this way and that, water splashing over the hulls threatening to sink us. After what seem like an eternity of haystacks and rocky outcroppings threatening us at every turn, the river slowed to a point at which we could observe the cavern around us. Luminescent mushrooms adorned the walls. I couldn’t have been prouder at that moment, as my comrades steered their boats over and grabbed many samples of the fungi, surely to be studied later. Our brief respite came to an end as the river narrowed and the current picked up speed once again. A calm came over us, as the sound of the river faded and seemed distant. But it was only for the fact that we were headed right towards a waterfall. Had we missed the brigand’s portage? Who was paddling this thing? Well too late now, we had no choice but to grip the gunwales and pray to whomever it is you prayed. When I came to I observed that we had washed up on some unknown beach on the side of the river. It looked like we had all survived, but as to where we were, well that was another matter entirely.