Chapter 38

Eventually, someone came to wake them up to prepare for the operation.  They were fed a warm meal before they departed and, under cover of dark, the four stealthily made their way to the giant stone walls.  The moonlight was sufficient for their travels.  It would be useless for any finer mechanical work of disarming traps, but that was what the lanterns they had were for.

“The gates look bashed open,” whispered Dhavak. “Possibly wrenched off their hinges, but I would need more light to determine that.”

The four walked slowly inside, watching for the slightest thing out of the ordinary.  The doors to the rooms just past the main gate looked to be ripped off their hinges.

“Ogres?” asked Ba-shar quietly.

“Maybe” replied Martell.

They continued across the courtyard and up a flight of stairs to the entrance of the main hall.  .  They were about to walk up when Oren motioned to stop. He pointed down to a tripwire across the ground.  He leaned down and looked across to see if he could view any more wires.  Seeing none, he motioned them to go over the wire and they continued to their goal.

Further down the path, Ba-shar put his foot down on one of the stones and felt it sink into the ground.  This caused him to stop dead in his tracks.  The trio looked around to see what may be triggered if he lifted his foot off.  A task near impossible in the dark.

“My suggestion is for us all to move away from him, he can roll back.  We have no idea where whatever is triggered will be released from,” commented Martell.

“I agree,” said Ba-shar.  He rolled back and they waited for something to happen.

They waited, holding still for a couple minutes before preparing to move on.  Perhaps it was not a trap or maybe it no longer functioned.  Either way, it was time to make their way to the doors.  Martell, having learned from the last time she was at one of the keeps scanned the courtyard for any statues.  She smiled to herself after seeing none.  Oren was busy examining the door.  He was looking for any type of seal over the entry.

“The two of you do this often?” asked Dhavak

“We were at Erridda when it was opened to free Lady Nattan.  Experience is just making for extra caution is all.  They set up all sorts of traps in these forts.  There may even be wards against creatures, keeping them in or out of this place.”  Oren replied.

“Thanks for the warning.” Dhavak retorted.

Oren found nothing amiss on the door or any seals in place.  He proceeded to push gently on the handle.  It gave way as the door swung inward with relative ease.  The room was dark and colder than outside.  Oren lit his lantern illuminating the room and giving them a better idea of their surroundings.

He saw glimpses of several wooden columns.  There were pristine tapestries along the walls with heraldic symbols he had never seen before on one of them.  Another depicted a story of some kind, but nothing he could make out.  The four made their way past the threshold looking up to see a ceiling that went up to the second floor.

The rest of the room was not as pristine as the tapestries.  There was furniture strewn about as if some fight may have occurred. There were tables turned on their side, some with burn marks others with arrows lodged in the side.  There were two doorways off the main room along with a spiral stairway going both up and down in the corner.

The doorway in one direction was missing the door while the other one was closed and still in good shape.  The group went over to the stairs and investigated for any indication of use.  Not to any surprise, there was no indication. Based on the last stronghold they had entered, Oren and Martell voted for investigating downward.

They made it single file down what was probably two floors based on how long the stairwell was.  The stairs opened up to a room half the size the one above.  They cast the lantern light around.  It revealed they were in a kitchen. There were several ovens and stoves down here with ventilation leading upward.  There was a door at the far end of the room, slightly ajar.  They searched the room and found a few old, sealed bottles of wine.  Oren, Ba-shar and Dhavak each took one and stored it in their bags for later.

They continued to be on the lookout for additional traps, still weary of the courtyard.  Oren took the lead to open the door while the other three stood back.  As he pulled the door open he saw a flicker of light down the hallway.  It was something moving away from them, best he could tell.  The hallway itself was wide enough for them to go down two across, maybe three if it were really needed. Shining a light down the wall, the area was definitely meant to be traversed by servants as the wall were rather bare except for a few places where a lantern or candle may have been placed.

The four of them continued on still in single file; along the way there were a few doors branching off.  Most of the doors were still closed and intact.  There were a couple that had been damaged and one or two that were left open.  Based on the open doors, these must have been stores for food and other goods in the keep.

As they proceeded down the hall, they started catching up to whoever had the light.  It sounded like two or three people ahead, whoever they were. They decided to close in on the group and at least see who they were pursuing.  Picking up the pace they got close enough to see three goblins walking down the hall with a torch.  They appeared to be checking doors, looking inside ones that opened up and passing on locked ones.

The goblins would look inside, mumble to each other and then close the door.  They were indifferent to the amount of the noise made and seemed to be bickering about something as they went along their business.   The four of them could easily have overtaken them as the goblins looked unarmed.  They held back trying to figure out what they were up to or if more were ahead.  Based on the lighting there was no indication of others ahead.

They continued on like this for another little bit before one of the goblins turned back and saw them.  He shouted something and the three turned to run.  Dhavak, quick on his crossbow took a shot at one.  The bolt flew well and hit the goblin in the leg, bringing it to the ground.  He tried to reload to get another off, but by then they had turned a corner out of sight. He released the second shot, finishing off the one he had grounded.

The party went over to the goblin’s corpse to look for anything useful.  A quick search found nothing, unfortunately.  They looked in the room they had left open.  Inside was a giant egg, about the size of a goblin.  It rested on a bed of straw or hay and other fibers.  Martell put her ear up to the side of it.  She could hear something inside, moving around.

“We will need to report this back.  After we take care of Casapan, we should clean these creatures out of here. The last thing the Vales need is several of these.” She said calmly.  “My guess is it is a wyvern, but who knows.”

“Why not take care of this one now?” asked Ba-shar.

“Time,” replied Oren. “Unless you know how long it would take to kill it.  I have no idea how aware and able bodied these things are when they are broken out.”

“Alright, but if we have to fight it before leaving here, I am holding you accountable to the decision.”  Ba-shar grinned.

They pulled the goblin body into the room and closed the door. The four proceeded down the hall, a little less concerned about quiet since some goblins knew they were here.  The hallway started to widen as they went further along.  They realized the walls were less brick and more stone, perhaps an indication they were going back into the mountain itself.

They got to a point where they started to see a light up ahead.   The way it acted led them to think it was mounted in place.  As they moved slightly closer they could hear voices, it was nothing any of them could make out.  It was here that Martell ordered the group to halt.

“Let’s go back up.  I think we have enough reconnaissance to return to the commanders with.” She said.

“That sounds like a wise plan.”  Dhavak said.  “I have no plan of going up four of us against who know how many goblins and possibly wyverns.”

The four turned and high tailed it out of the area.  They made quicker progress, not checking the rooms along the way back.  Oren and Ba-shar took turns glancing back to make sure they were not being pursued at the moment.  When they got to the stairwell, the adrenaline started to wear off.  The group took a moment to catch their breath before going to climb stairs.  Ba-shar would take the lead and Martell would cover the rear with Oren next to her for support if needed.

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