The party holed up in the room with the prison cell, bringing the horses in as well. Cromartie moved the braziers in from the throne room and they dispersed most of the chill. Wounds were bound, rations doled out, and watches were set. The night passed peacefully enough, at some point the rain and wind died down outside as well.
The next morning, Martin cast Detect Magic on the items they’d found. Unsurprisingly, the small vial contained a magical potion, and the shield also was enchanted. Pavel decided to carry it for the time being to see how powerful it was.
After some discussion, it was decided to explore the area beyond the hollow bridge before quitting the goblin warren. Cromartie removed the door on the near side and laid it over the hole in the floor of the bridge. Pavel rigged it with a rope, so that it could be pulled off the gap from the tunnel entrance, potentially cutting off any pursuit. Roger moved across and opened the door, revealing a medium-sized chamber with some wooden beds and a table. It was neater than the other areas of the lair. Almost immediately, there was a rustling sound and several large weasel-like creatures came out of a hole in a tree trunk and eyed the thief curiously. Roger beat a retreat and shut the door.
The group then moved into the room together. Again, the creatures appeared, eying the party for a few moments. Cromartie loosed and arrow at one, wounding it badly. The other animals quickly became agitated and charged the group, with several more coming out the hole. Each was a long as man’s arm and snake-fast. Roger shot one more before Martin cast his Sleep spell. It knocked out all the weasels, but put Fyodor and Pavel into a magic slumber, too!
After the cleric and warrior were woken up, Cromartie crushed the skulls of the weasels, debating about their pelts and flavor in stew. The beds were bare straw-tick with no blankets and the furniture was all human-sized. There was also another door in the room. It was sturdier-looking than the others, and locked.
Roger attempted to pick the lock unsuccessfully. Fyodor used “method B” and applied a crowbar to the jamb. As he swung the door open, the torchlight revealed three hobgoblins standing directly in front of the door wearing studded leather armor and with longswords at their belts. One of them grabbed at Fyodor, catching his arm. The warrior jerked away, but not before seeing the unnaturally long clawlike nails on the creature’s hands and feeling a slight numbing sensation where they had scraped his skin. He dealt a powerful blow to his foe, but it wasn’t enough to drop it.
Pavel believed them to be unnatural undead and attempted to turn them, but with no luck. The rest of the group quickly moved out of the room with Roger dropping the torch onto a mattress. Fyodor and Pavel were close behind, slamming the door shut and crossing the bridge. The creatures did not seem to wish to follow and the door stayed shut.
Roger snuck up and opened the door again to see what was happening. The fire was out and the room was dark. One of the creatures was waiting by the door and tried to grab the thief, but he was too fast for it. Cromartie fired a flaming arrow but missed, striking the door. Roger retreated and the creature slammed the door shut.
The group decided to take a different tack. Roger climbed up through the ramshackle roof, shimmied across the top of the hollow stone log bridge, and tried to set the roof of the creatures’ chamber on fire with a torch and some oil. Unfortunately, the wood and brush were too damp, and all he produced was smoke. When he returned to his comrades, Cromartie suggested pulling back the layers, like a thatch roof, to get at the drier tinder. Roger agreed and climbed the roof again, taking his axe with him to help.
As he was preparing to hack his way into the lower strata, an arm shot up through the hole and grabbed at his leg. The claws sunk into his calf and he felt an icy numbness spread through his body. As he fell nerveless to the roof, the creature shouldered his way partway up and grabbed him, pulling him down inside.
The group heard the crashing noises and assumed them to be Roger hacking at the roof, but Cromartie’s keen hunter’s ears heard the muffled thud of a body hitting the floor behind the doorway (NOT up above). Believing Roger had fallen, the group charged the room. Roger was lying paralyzed half on the foot of a cot with one of the creatures standing over him. In the half-light from the hole in the roof, the group could see the other two approaching from the corners of the room.
The one by Roger had a rent in his armor from Fyodor’s sword stroke, but there was no sign of a wound underneath. Martin the wizard declared that these were a legendary creature known as “thouls”: a vile crossbreed of hobgoblin stock. They possessed both the paralyzing touch of a ghoul and the regenerative capabilities of trolls!
The fighting was thick for several moments. Cromartie laid about with the late elf Allele’s greatsword but failed to land a telling blow. Pavel used his healing magic on Roger to neutralize the paralyzing effect of the thoul’s claw.
Fyodor bulled in with Trollcutter and nearly cut one of the beasts in half. There was no sign of it healing. Apparently its ability to regenerate would not return it to life. Roger revived enough to draw his dagger—his axe was missing—and took up a defensive stance. Pavel moved up to fight the one near Roger and struck with his flail. Fyodor hit at it as well, but was caught by a swipe from its claw and fell to the paralysis himself! Martin did his best with his darts and Cromartie landed a solid blow with his sword against the third thoul. Another dart from Martin put it down.
Letting Fyodor recover naturally from the paralysis, Cromartie and Pavel dragged the thouls to the hole in the bridge and dropped them into the piranha-infested waters. The group then explored the inner chamber. It was another bedchamber, with a single bed and a table with chair; this chamber appeared to be used, unlike the other one. Roger found a hidden panel in the side of a stone tree trunk, but discerned a booby trap attached to it, designed to drop a large stone branch from the ceiling onto most of the room. Trying his best to neutralize it while the others waited outside the room, he accidentally set it off. Fortunately, as he was aware of the trap he dove into a corner and avoided the worst of the deadfall, suffering only minor bruising.
Behind the panel was a hollow space with a small chest inside. It was padlocked, but Fyodor made short work of that with his crowbar. The chest contained a quantity of gold coins, a quiver with five arrows, and a velvet pouch. Inside the pouch were five gems of good quality. Cromartie made a quick survey for any other tracks that might have been from the departing goblins and their prisoners, but if there had been any, the storm had wiped them out.
Taking their gains, the group made a quick search for any clues, finally deciding they should pack up and head for Sukiskyn to regroup, deliver the old woman to safety, and see of they could learn anything about “Xitaqa.” All any of them could determine was that it was an OLD Traladaran word or name.
After packing up the pelts and treasure, they led the horses carefully over the bridge and rode north out of the petrified forest. The day was warmer and drier with the occasional glimpse of sunlight through the trees. The group made good time before making camp. Cromartie and Gregor reckoned that they could turn west in the morning to head straight for Sukiskyn. They estimated, with luck, they might arrive tomorrow or the next day.