When last we left our heroes, Felina the Cat and Rashida Gnomes were returning to The Dog & Duck Inn with a goblin prisoner named Farks while Brother Erno Viranen raced back to Tammilanti to resuscitate Pip the Mighty Squeak, who had been killed by the now-defeated Gari Truugsh. After a tense, but ultimately successful resurrection, Pip and Erno find rest for the evening at the Temple of Sjailo (pronounced SHY-low), and we turn our attention back to the ranger and rogue.
Returning to the Inn via the goblin tunnel, Felina and Rashida discover that their first captive—a goblin named Snigglet—has managed to escape his bonds. This prompts consideration of how to deal with their current prisoner. The decision is made to set him loose, but not before teaching him a lesson. With the help of a human who was staying at the inn with an elf and a dwarf companion, the villain is punted into the dark evening with a warning not to return, and then the two turn in for the night, which passes uneventfully.
As dawn breaks, we find a revived Pip feeling sore and hungry, but otherwise whole. It might have been easy for the halfling to go his own way with his freedom, but the brave barbarian is not about to let this mystery go unsolved without his help. After a blessing of security from the high priest of the temple for the recently resurrected Pip, he and Erno are en route back to The Dog & Duck on the back of the party’s new war dog mount, Lucky, a saddled Wolfhound they rescued from Gari’s goblin gang.
The pair find their feline friend and the noble gnome beginning the day with a breakfast of duck egg omelettes prepared by the surprisingly capable innkeeper, Hypsi Mattila (called “Tipsy” Hypsi by the locals, though never to his face). With the team assembled, they discuss their next move: Confronting Hypsi about “Maximus”. They decide it will be best to be subtle and begin to question him casually about how he came to run the inn and what business is like and all that. When the conversation seems to reach a dead end, however, the team turn to a more direct tact. Rashida subtly drops the name “Maximus”, and Hypsi’s face turns white as death.
Though the innkeeper denies all knowledge of the name and character, he seems obviously disturbed, and our heroes don’t let up. Cornered, resigned, Hypsi’s voice becomes urgent and quiet, and he invites the team to join him in his personal living quarters where he assures them things will be more private. The team is briefly nervous, but with their weapons in hand, they follow the gnome up to the second level of the inn and into the rooms reserved for the innkeeper.
As they enter, Hypsi recites an incantation and the team see a flash above the door they just entered. As the party begin to reach for their weapons, however, their host explains that the spell is a seal of security, ensuring that their conversation cannot be overheard by any prying ears. Then they begin to discuss Maximus, and Hypsi reveals what he knows.
The gang learn that Maximus is an ancient business partner of the Mattila family, who’ve owned and operated The Dog & Duck Inn for centuries. While Maximus’ name and presence are known, his true nature is a mystery to Hypsi, as whenever they interact, the former is always out-of-sight—whether by skill or magic. The gnome also reveals that he’s aware that Maximus has grown restless recently, and seems to be planning to cause some harm to the inn and possibly it’s keeper. The team produce the contract they found that details Maximus’ full intent to collect on the insurance after the inn is destroyed, and Hypsi responds with a pointed request.
“Will you help me?” The team are surprised, but it’s clear this man’s livelihood—indeed, his life—are in grave danger. They agree to help, and Hypsi shows his appreciation by offering to help them identify one of the enchanted items they found among Gari’s gang’s camp the previous day. The team deliberate whether to have him investigate the ring, the arrow, or the trident, but decide the trident may be the best option. The gnome takes the weapon and concentrates for a moment, and then reveals to them that they’ve found a “trident of fish command”. Pip takes the pointed device and they set off. Hypsi leads them back to the cellar where the goblin incursion was first discovered, but this time their host takes them around the rows of shelves that store the spirits sold at the inn. There in the farthest back corner, hidden from sight to most of the cellar and where none but Hypsi should normally have any reason to go, the team is met with the sight of a worn but well-crafted black stone staircase leading down to relative darkness.
They all cautiously descend.
At the bottom of the stairs sits a room, clearly ancient, but built to a standard of quality not seen in the common places. Hypsi explains that his father called this place “The Forgotten Sub-Basement”. The stonework is speckled black and gray marble or granite, but with the occasional glimmering white fleck or spindly vein. Sconces line the walls, a few of which still wink gently with an arcane blue-green glow. Pip recognizes the craftsmanship as being dwarvish in origin, although because of her privileged education, Rashida knows that the area around Tammilanti hasn’t been inhabited by dwarves for many, many centuries. The mystery of the age of this dungeon will have to wait, however, as there are more pressing matters at hand.
Hypsi indicates the far wall where there are two passages. The one on the looks to have remained unused for a long time, but Rashida’s honed ranger training pays off when she notices the faintest signs of relatively recent flight down the left-hand pathway. The innkeeper warns them of traps, apologizes that he can’t be more help, and excuses himself to return to his day-to-day business.
Cautiously, the group moves forward, Felina leading the way in search of danger. Beyond the threshold is an 30- or 40-foot square room with columns supporting a somewhat vaulted ceiling and an ancient statue of some Dwarf ruler or hero or god in the center. The far side of the room disappears into a mess of spiders’ webs so our adventurers stick to the near wall and most continue forward. Rashida wants to get a closer look at the far wall, where she can faintly see a door flanked by hallways that become entirely obscured with webs. But as she’s moving closer, her foot catches on an uneven stone and she falls forward, entangling her right hand in the sticky gossamer threads.
She struggles, stands, then draws a handaxe and begins to cut herself free. Before she can manage to do so, however, a faint skittering sound begins to crescendo all through the room as two swarms of spiders emerge from the webs! Pip helps cut Rashida free with his rapier, but the swarms move quickly. Soon Rashida is entirely covered with spiders, which begin to bite her wherever skin is exposed. Thinking quickly she causes a brief minor illusion of fire to appear, which is just enough to startle many of the spiders that have swarmed her, giving her just enough time to retreat some distance, but not before suffering significant wounds. There is some frantic experimentation at the best way to counter the fearless and hungry beasts—Felina, being a cat, tries to eat them—but soon Pip manages to pull a few torches from his pack and light them. Felina takes one and manages to burn up many of the spiders in one swarm. Pip waves his torch and manages to scare the other swarm to full retreat. More smashing and torching ensues, and soon the threat wanes, the few remaining spiders fleeing back into their webs.
Harrowed and bitten, Rashida takes a healing potion and the heroes set off again. They avoid a trap and find their way to a landing where another staircase leads down still further. A hallway off that landing leads to a door which Rashida tries to open. However, as the door’s latch-pull falls off in her hand the embarrassed ranger realizes that not everything stands up to time as well as stone. Pip, noticing, laughs.
Continuing down the stairs, the party happen on a desiccated skeletal corpse with many arrows lodged in bone and ancient rotting leather amor. A keen feline eye sees holes in the far wall 20 feet away and facing the stairway as well as another pressure plate trigger on the floor; It seems the ancient dwarves who built this were fans of pressure plates. The party avoid the trap, but the distraction causes the party to walk into the next hallway a bit clumsily. Two small, scaled, reptilian humanoids with aligator-like heads and powerful-looking tails snap their heads around and notice the party rounding the corner. These, Rashida announces, are kobolds. They’re no match for our fine band of heroes, however, as one ranger arrow puts down one of the kobolds, and the other falls to a rapier blow from the rogue.
Pausing only briefly to collect themselves, the gang continues on to the door. Pip gives a mighty kick and the door swings feely on its hinges, bouncing against the wall and begins to swing slowly back toward the shut position. Notwithstanding the awkward moment, our team charges in to find four more kobolds in a semi-circular room, 40′ in diameter. The room has doors at each end—one of which is the one they just breached—and a third door at the apex of the curved back wall. As the struggle begins and one kobold is put down, a flamboyant but disapproving voice rings out in the room, seemingly sourceless.
This, our heroes will soon learn, is the voice of Maximus.
Without a clear source, the disembodied voice will have to wait for the moment, and the team jump into action against the remaining kobolds in the room who are all surprised at such a bold assault. After seeing a second kobold is dispatched, however, Maximus is heard again. “This won’t do at all” he says. He proceeds to monologue about his intent to collect the insurance money from the destruction of The Dog & Duck and use it to relocate to Portsmouth, where the culture is so much more varied and the people are so much more interesting. But wait! There’s a pause in the monologue. Suddenly a cloud of intoxicating gas materializes, originating from a kind of shelf above the door on the curved wall. Engulfing Pip and Erno, this cloud’s stink causing both to wretch and finally vomit on the floor, leaving them temporarily stunned. However the attack does reveal the owner of the voice as a pudgy draconic creature, relatively small, with yellow-green scales, nearly-translucent veiny brown wings, and a fill of six sharp horns. Known as an alehouse drake, this creature is undoubtedly the Matilla family’s “business partner” of whom Hypsi spoke.
While Rashida and Felina turn their bows to the newly revealed foe, Pip and Erno struggle to regain their composure. The kobolds overcome their surprise as well and two more rush into the room after hearing the commotion. With nowhere to hide in the open room the tiny feline rogue is left exposed, an advantage Maximus cannot ignore. He strikes against her with a devastating bite, rendering the sneaky cat unconscious!
As the tension hightens, Erno and Pip shake the stink of the small dragon’s vile breath. Pip wields the trident to the undoing of another kobold as his anger boils to a barbaric rage, while Erno notices the dying feline on the floor and uses his last major healing spell restoring her to alertness.
Maximus continues to hide behind his magical invisibility, which confuses the fairly dim-witted kobolds into alternate bouts of aggression and retreat, but our heroes focus on the chartreuse drake and soon the creature recognizes the possibility of his own mortality, and begins a retreat of his own! With most of the kobolds cut down (only one escaped and even then only barely with his or her life) the team pursue the once-again invisible antagonist back down the hallway they came from. They toss and fire desperate attack after desperate attack, miraculously managing to connect with the unseen enemy with many of those attacks. Finally, a mighty javelin throw from Pip manages to catch Maximus with a strong blow to the head, rendering the diminutive dragon unconscious.
Our heroes take a quick breather to deliberate what is to be done with the bested foe. Erno, who believes in redemption for all as an acolyte of Sjailo, the Lady of Mercy, stabilizes Maximus. It seems the training priest’s skills with medicine are too keen, however. As the deliberations continue, Pip and Felina both notice the eye of the dragon open. Maximus is able to reach out and touch Rashida, discombobulating the ranger in an attempt to flee. But Felina and Pip spring to action, flinging another round of attacks. This time, it is too much for the dastardly drake, and he falls, slain.
As Rashida collects some of the blood from the dragon, Felina dislodges one of the horns of the frill, and Pip recovers a handful of gold from the villain’s claw, we leave the heroes there in the dungeon, contemplating when to continue to explore the many as-yet undiscovered sections of this forgotten dwarvish dungeon, as well as how best to go about recovering the body of this creature to prove the innocence of Hypsi, ’til now the main suspect in the eyes of the law.
What secrets await in these forgotten corridors? What new dangers beckon our now tried and proven band of fledgling adventurers in the wider world?
And will our heroes answer the call?