Harold deftly sidestepped away from the hobgoblin soldier’s clumsy flail attack. As the hobgoblin growled in frustration, the minotaur’s eyes were drawn to a blur of movement above his opponent’s head. For a split second, Harold’s brain couldn’t process what he was seeing, but then with a start he realized that his worst nightmare was coming true… a giant spider was leaping through the air, headed straight for him (Death from Above). Before he could bring his new halberd up to defend himself, the spider was on him. The monstrous spider knocked Harold prone and started to bite him. Even small, normal-sized spiders give Harold the heebie-jeebies, so it is to the minotaur’s credit that he somehow suppressed the urge to scream like a little girl even though a spider the size of a horse was sitting on his chest and biting him with large fangs that were dripping with venom.
* * * * *
At the end of the previous session of our Keep on the Shadowfell adventure, we had decided to chase Ninaran and backtrack toward the hobgoblin guard room. Our plan was to track down Ninaran and prevent her from warning Kalarel of our presence. We also wanted to go back and eliminate the hobgoblin guards we’d bypassed, thereby securing our rear before we passed through the cherub-doorway in the Chamber of Statues.
For our eighth session of KotS at Stonebridge Games, the usual cast of characters made up our adventuring party: Greth (githzerai hunter/seeker hybrid), Harold (minotaur fighter), Korlon (half-elf warlock), Sulader (goliath paladin of the Raven Queen), Tarionsus (tiefling warlord), and Tosdar Strudil (dwarf battle cleric).
”There Are Some Hobgoblins In There.”
Making our way back north toward the hobgoblin-guarded chambers, the tension in the air was so thick you could’ve cut it with a knife. Coming back into the room with the second well, we could hear nervous breathing down the as-yet-unexplored hallway to the east. There was also a doorway to the north that we hadn’t checked out. After Tosdar buffed the party by casting Shield of Faith (everyone gained a +2 power bonus to AC until the end of the encounter), Harold slowly opened one of the doors to the north and discovered that several hobgoblin grunts had barricaded themselves inside a small chamber. Before the grunts could react, Harold quickly shut the door. The minotaur turned to his companions and calmly said, “There are some hobgoblins in there.”
While Sulader and Korlon advanced down the hallway to the east and got tangled up with some grunts waiting in ambush, Harold had come up with a plan to take care of the hobgoblins he’d found in the barricaded room. When he’d opened the door, the grunts had seemed taken aback to see a minotaur holding a familiar halberd. The +1 Terror Halberd had, in fact, once belonged to the grunts’ commander, but Harold had picked it up from the dead hobgoblin after the battle outside the Chamber of Statues. Realizing that the halberd was not only a weapon, but also a symbol of rank, Harold decided to use it and try to convince the grunts that he was their new commander. So opening the door once again, Harold pushed the halberd into the room, waved it around, and yelled at the grunts in an authoritative voice, telling them to fall in and stand at attention. The minotaur rolled a nat 20 on the bluff check and, much to their surprise, the grunts suddenly had a new commander.
Harold sent his minions marching down the hall to the west, telling them to stay at the ready in the northern room where the spider cage was located. Meanwhile, Greth and Tar had moved down the corridor to the east in support of Korlon and Sulader. After quickly taking care of the grunts that had sprung the ambush, the heroes were now battling in the hallway with several tough hobgoblin soldiers and a couple of nasty, dual-scimitar wielding bladebearer hobgoblins. Just as he was about to join the battle in the corridor to the east, Harold noticed some movement back down the southern hallway. It was Ninaran and a hobgoblin emerging from a secret passage! The minotaur yelled a warning to his companions and Korlon came a runnin’. The warlock let fly with Winged Horde, but it missed.
In the brutal close quarters fighting in the eastern hallway, Tar leapt into the fray with a wild, whirling attack— but his movements were carefully calculated to distract nearby enemies and gave his allies a chance to move position (Steel Monsoon). Benefiting from the warlord’s successful attack and inspiring Tactical Presence, Greth and Sulader shifted 5 squares back toward the room with the second well. Sulader immediately charged down the southern hallway toward Ninaran and her warcaster escort. Korlon followed the goliath.
While Korlon and Sulader took on Ninaran and her escort, Harold charged into the midst of intense combat in the eastern hallway. The two bladebearers were still pressing Greth, so the minotaur goring charged one of them to take some pressure off the harried githzerai. Tosdar unleashed Wrathful Thunder and a terrible thunderclap smote the other bladebearer, dazing it. Taking advantage of the brief respite offered by his allies’ attacks, Greth retreated out of the corridor.
With Greth gone, the bladebearer hobgoblins turned their attention toward Tar. In a series of vicious attacks, they managed to cut the tiefling down. Seeing Tar go down under the flashing scimitars of the bladebearers, Tosdar and Harold maneuvered to protect their fallen comrade. Within one round, the dwarf and minotaur managed to end the fight in the eastern corridor, killing one of the bladebearers and capturing the other one. Tosdar moved quickly to heal the unconscious and dying tiefling. Following the corridor around to the right, Harold spied a hobgoblin grunt down the hallway. As the minotaur started to advance toward him, the grunt squealed in fright and dropped a sturdy portcullis across the hallway.
In the southern hallway, Greth had joined Korlon and Sulader but the three heroes had their hands full taking on Ninaran and the hobgoblin warcaster. Ninaran blasted Sulader with Decaying Ray and managed to slip away from the goliath, ordering the hobgoblin warcaster, “Take him! I need to warn Kalarel!” As she ran away to the south, the warcaster did some magicky stuff that cut the goliath down. As Sulader was failing his first death save, Korlon and Greth were busy with the warcaster. As Sulader was failing his second death save, Greth finally took out the surprisingly tenacious ‘caster. Wasting no time, Korlon pulled out a potion of healing and saved the unconscious and dying paladin.
When Greth and Sulader decided to chase after the fleeing figure of Ninaran, our DM took the two players out of the room for a while. When they eventually returned, their characters had a bound and unconscious Ninaran with them. Apparently, Greth and Ninaran had engaged in a long range archery duel and Greth came out on top. The githzerai and goliath had found a cystalline key on Ninaran that would take us through the cherub-doorway in the Chamber of Statues.
Greth and Sulader were able to rejoin the rest of us in ‘the portcullis room’ because Korlon had snuck through the secret passage and surprised the hobgoblin grunt that had lowered the barrier across the hallway. After dispatching the grunt, Korlon raised the portcullis and we took a short rest in ‘the portcullis room’.
Itsy Bitsy Spider
After stuffing Ninaran, bound and gagged, into a foot locker in the private quarters off ‘the portcullis room’, Harold and Sulader managed to muscle the massive oaken council table up against the door in order to seal the troublesome female elf inside the room. We also secured our bladebearer prisoner in another small chamber off the main room.
While that was going on, Greth had stealthed through the secret passage and spied on a number of hobgoblins as they were setting up an ambush for us when we left ‘the portcullis room’ and went back out toward the chamber with the second well. To break the ambush, we decided to split the party. One group (Greth, Sulader, and Tosdar) would go out through the secret passage and take the ambushers from behind while the second group (Harold, Korlon, and Tar) would charge out of ‘the portcullis room’ into the teeth of the ambush.
As Harold and Tar charged out of the eastern hallway and into the room with the second well, they came up against a couple of hastily constructed barricades manned by hobgoblin grunts and soldiers. While they battled at the barricades, backed up by Korlon, the other group of adventurers succeeded in surprising the hobgoblin ambushers gathered in the southern hallway. As the split party fought to break the ambush and gain the upper hand in the battle, a hobgoblin beastmaster arrived on the scene with his two “pets.” One of the monstrous spiders immediately bounded down the southern hallway and attacked Sulader, hitting the paladin and knocking him prone. The second spider leapt over the well and crit’d Tar, knocking the warlord prone and bloodying him.
In the confusing melee which followed the appearance of the spiders, the scene at the top of the post played out— much to Harold’s chagrin. To his credit, the minotaur did manage to overcome his crippling arachnophobia long enough to KIA the spider. Seeing the minotaur slay his “pet”, however, sent the beastmaster over the edge. With much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the burly hobgoblin charged Harold. With the help of a soldier ally, the distraught beastmaster managed to cut the bloodied minotaur down on the next-to-last round of combat.
After the conscious and upright members of the party dispatched the last of the hobgoblins, they healed the dying minotaur and then everyone made their way east and north to the chambers which made up the hobgoblin barracks. In this easily secured area, we took an extended rest in preparation for heading back to the cherub-doorway and delving deeper into the dungeons below the Keep on the Shadowfell.