The party returns to Lance Rock and finds the rooms they already explored have been cleaned up, the remains of the zombies and skeletons are no longer lying about. There are tracks outside which indicate several small barefooted and clawed humanoids (kobolds) have recently entered the caves, along with a slightly larger set of booted feet (about the size and shape of Ivonne – another dwarf perhaps?) The booted tracks also leave the cave heading back in the direction of the road.
The rogues sneak past where they left off before, entering a long room partially bisected by a waist-high shelf which has been flattened into a work bench of sorts. Closer to the entry tunnel are large baskets sitting atop flat rocks and full of body parts. A single cloaked figure works at one of the baskets, its back to them. By its slow and jerky motions, they deduce it’s a zombie.
Further in, standing just in front of the work bench are a group of 8 kobold zombies. Behind these are 4 skeletons wielding bows, and behind them is a single human man with a mustache and goatee dressed in black. He carries a bone wand and appears to be mumbling to himself, or maybe to his undead servants.
The party decides to try to lure the undead out into the tunnel and back to the previous room where they could fight with tactical advantage. They attack the kobolds and begin to fall back, taking some shots from a volley of arrows the skeletons arc over the advancing zombie horde. The necromancer orders the undead to hold position, and the zombies stop at the entrance to the tunnel, refusing to pursue the party. The solitary human zombie is ordered back to serve as a bodyguard for the necromancer.
Due to the tunnel’s curvature, line of sight is an issue, and the party decides to fall back and regroup after sustaining some damage and dropping a couple of the kobold zombies. The new plan is to bumrush the room, focusing fire on the skeletons before taking out the slower and weaker zombies.
This works well, but the necromancer has one more surprise waiting. When Ivan takes cover behind one of the baskets of body parts, five crawling claws leap forth, pummeling, scratching, and choking him. The necromancer flees deeper into the caves through a tunnel at the north end of the room, and they can hear his insane rambling echo out of it.
“The crawling chaos ignores me now – why?”
“The Eye is the secret. The Dark Spiral.”
After they mop up the remaining undead, they set off to pursue the necromancer, finding the tunnel splitting into two eastbound passages, both apparently ending up the same place in his lair. A softly glowing globe of crystal stands in the center of the room, held in the palms of hands attached to several rotting arms which have been stacked together into a grizzly pyramid. Above this, a magical sigil shimmers in the air, looking like an inverted, stepped pyramid with a cat’s vertical pupil in its center. Is this “the eye”?
The necromancer opens up with his wand again at their approach, before misty stepping past the party as they close in on him, and then fleeing back toward the entrance. Grimmer uses his cunning action to dash twice down the other tunnel and is waiting when the necromancer emerges, his hand cloaked with dark, negative energy. Grimmer’s short swords lash out, and the necromancer falls before he can use his vampiric touch on the goblin.
The party loots the place, gaining a bit of coin and a few gems, but more importantly, the necromancer’s wand of magic missiles which is claimed by Zephyr, and the glowing crystal (a driftglobe) which Ivan carries.
They return to town to rest, catch up with NPCs, and then head out north along the Long Road the next day, heading toward the hillside tomb where Minny’s granddaughter Pell saw a ghost.
Before they reach the turn-off to the path leading to the tomb, they come across a riderless horse in bit and bridle, covered in blood descending a hillside pathway leading up to a farmstead on the west side of the road. A hand-carved sign reads “Leatherbelt Equinery”. Blaxx calms down the horse while the others ascend the hillside using trees and bushes for cover, spotting a handful of goblin sentries at the top of the hill, near a small house and larger barn/stable structure.
They attack the goblins, bringing down two quickly while the others call out for assistance. A large fenced-in pasture lies behind the stable, and in it, a large group of goblins with four hobgoblins have set up a makeshift camp. Horses lie slaughtered, their meat smoking over a large cooking fire. The house’s door stands ajar with blood trails leading from it.
A huge running battle is fought, with Ivonne anchoring the party on one side of the stable at the gate leading out of the pasture, while Ivan gets swarmed and nearly overrun on the other side between the stable and house. London and Zephyr take pot shots at the goblins around Ivan, but are forced to retreat as a pair of hobgoblins join the melee, bringing Ivan down. The hobgoblins start dragging his unconscious form back toward the cook fire, while Blaxx drops an entangle spell, restraining most of the goblins on that side.
The goblins’ chieftain and the other hobgoblins charge Ivonne and their superior numbers are beginning to tell, forcing the rest of the party to take a defensive position in the stable. London climbs to the hay loft, and goes sniper out the open window at the restrained goblins, while calls of “burn them out” are made. Several of the goblins break for the fire pit in the field to grab burning logs, but this division of their forces is enough to allow the party to break out. Zephyr uses her levitate ability to get on the barn’s roof, sniping the hobgoblins with crossbow and spell, while a healed Ivonne leads the charge back into the fray, Grimmer behind.
The burning log-carrying goblins are dropped at range, Ivan rescued, and the last of the goblins surrenders.
Upon interrogation, the party finds out these goblins were ousted from their warm caves in a nearby ravine to the northwest, at the edge of the Desarin hills. Several other small humanoid tribes live in other caves in the same ravine, but all are being pressed out, or pressed into service by a group calling themselves the Crawling Chaos. These evil humans are led by a masked knight in plate armor and his two lieutenants, a dwarven priest of some dark deity, and a cruel female elven spellcaster.
The Crawling Chaos has already wiped out a group of kobolds who lived across the ravine from the goblins, and when the goblins witnessed the kobolds reanimated as zombies, they decided it was time to find a new home. The hobgoblins with them were deserters from another neighboring tribe in the caves, and had been bullying the goblins’ boss ever since they left. The prisoner blamed the slaughter at the farm on the hobgoblins, who wanted to stock up on meat and provisions here before finding a more permanent home somewhere in the hills to the east.
The party returns to town to rest, planning to turn the goblin prisoner over to the constable, despite his offer to lead them to these caves.