The party made haste along the road leading south from Oakreach. They had been on the road for no longer than about an hour when they heard hoofbeats approaching rapidly from behind. Orimine moved off to the side of the road, but Helenas and Brother Otto decided to make no efforts to clear the way. As the riders came into view, Orimine and Otto recognised the robes of the cultists from Tarid Gorn’s residence. As one rider beat a path in front of them and the other two moved into position behind, it was clear that they were in no mood for talk.
Otto charged the rider in front as he dismounted, landing a solid blow. The cultists made an effort to strike back, but Orimine’s eldritch blast made short work of the one coming from behind. Their leader called on the power of his dark masters, locking Otto in place at the mercy of the cultist he had struck. Fortunately, Helenas’s vicious mockery was enough to break his will and he succumbed to the wounds Otto had inflicted on him. The party turned their attention to the leader and soon after Orimine’s finished him off with a mighty blast of lightning that picked him up and flung him to the ground, electricity still coursing over his body. AS the party moved toward him, he used his dying breath to promise them retribution for their “betrayal” of Ar’kle-mens.
The party pressed on for a bit longer before setting up camp for some much-needed rest. As Orimine slept, the Winter Queen reached out to her in person for the first time, telling her in her dreams that she was to be granted new powers and in return, a task would be presented to her before the morning. Sure enough, when her watch came around, a sprite flew into the campsite and approached her.
The sprite introduced himself as Lukin and told Orimine he had come to offer her his services in return for her aid. A local band of goblins calling themselves the Gutrippers had gone from being a mild nuisance to being a dangerous threat to the forests of the region recently. Lukin believed they had unearthed some kind of dark power that had twisted them and their bat companions and was being unleashed on the forest in their nighttime excursions above ground.
When the party awoke, Orimine put the proposal to the group. Helenas was initially reluctant and more than a little mistrustful of the fey creature who had placed this quest before them, but Orimine reasoned with her that this was a blight that demanded their attention. Lukin had also added that there may be something here worth looking into in light of their recent adventures.
Eventually, the party headed off for Gutripper Hollow, Lukin leading the way to a sickly looking tree. At its foot was a burrow. Brother Otto, always keen to find adventure, led the way in with little hesitation. The tunnel led down for a few hundred yards before the group detected the draft of a more open cave ahead of them. Sending Lukin ahead to scout, they learnt that there appeared to be two goblins standing guard and a swarm of bats in the back of the room. They attempted a stealthy entrance, but Helenas was unable to control her compulsive humming and Otto was a little overzealous in his efforts to quiet her. The goblins called out to each other in their own language and readied themselves for the intruders.
As battle was joined the goblins did their best to spread out and make use of the space to hamper their enemies. The bats swarmed forward, revealing a third goblin with a strangely glowing staff who called down what seemed like a twisted kind of divine magic on the party. One of the goblins produced and then swallowed a strange rock-like object, appearing to heal itself, but causing some kind of temporary incapacitation. Despite the third goblin’s curses, the party emerged triumphant. They inspected the staff and a few more of the glowing stones, which at a closer look were actually formed of a strange, slick metal. Deciding to hold on to a couple in Orimine’s small chest, they patched themselves up and prepared to move on into the den.
Marching further down into the tunnels, the group came to a crossroads. Once again, Lukin did some scouting for them, Orimine watching through his eyes. Though he could not go all the way for fear of breaking his link with the tiefling, he was able to get far enough to report some details about each tunnel. The tunnel to the stank of goblin cooking and garbage and appeared to have a fire burning just out of eyeshot. The tunnel to the right was pitch black, but if one listened carefully, they could hear the flapping of many wings. The central tunnel was illuminated by a dim glow that seemed to come from the same kind of metallic stones the goblins in the first room were carrying. The party suspected the room to the right must contain more bats, which they were not eager to fight, but, thinking that cutting off reinforcements would be a good idea, they decided to at least clear the left tunnel before proceeding to the central tunnel, where they suspected the source of the corruption lurked.
This time, the group was more successful in making a quiet approach. They managed to move into a cavern with a cooking fire and a large table in it unnoticed by the lone goblin that was chopping at meat on the table, his back to the entrance. Taking advantage of his lack of awareness, the group launched their attack. As they did so, the goblin turned, revealing a massively oversized lower jaw with what could almost be described as mandibles protruding from it. He barked out something in goblin and the trash pile to the left of the entrance reared up with a life of its own!
Otto kept the goblin busy in a duel of shortsword, fist, cleaver and horrible gaping maw while Orimine and Helenas turned their attention on the trash creature. Orimine unleashed a mighty witch bolt on it, but to her dismay, the lightning did not damage the creature at all, instead splitting it into two smaller but equally deadly creatures. Despite this setback, the party were able to finish off the foul creatures and retreated back to the less unpleasant first cavern to once again patch up their wounds.
Finally, the group headed on down the central tunnel to the seeming seat of the corruption. When they reached the last room, they were greeted by the sight of a foul formerly-goblin creature seated on a throne of sorts, its armour melted into its body and corpulent flesh hanging off it. To the right of the cavern a pool exuding a sort of dark light lay and at its edge five goblins stared blankly into the depths.
The “goblin” on the throne noticed the group’s entrance despite their efforts to stay silent and screamed something that could have been goblin or maybe just the sounds of her mutated anguish and as she did so the five goblins fell face first into the pool. The goblin queen waddled forward towards them and was met by Helenas’s mockery, Otto’s charge and Orimine’s eldritch blast, downed before she had a chance to fight back, but then something monstrous emerged from the pool. A hideous amalgamation of the goblins who had fallen into the pool it was all mouths and eyes on a horrible mass of green flesh. The constant mindless gibbering of the mouths planted the seeds of madness in the heads of those around it and the very ground blow it was instantly putrified into a sort of sludge.
The goblin mass moved on Otto, but his defences were strong and he was able to avoid its attacks. However, the group were not so lucky when it spat out a gobble that exploded in blinding light. Only Lukin, flying above at the top of the cave was able to shield his eyes in time. Orimine took advantage of her new companion’s sight to get him to shoot the creature, poisoning it with his fey arrows. Otto kept it engaged and Helenas called forth an illusory version of the goblin queen that assaulted the aberration, fooling it sufficiently that it actually tried to attack the illusion instead of Otto. Eventually shaking the blindness, the party gathered their strength and were able to put the beast down.
Gazing into the pool with the kobold’s monocle, Orimine was able to view a tiny pinprick glow with dark purple tendrils of light reaching out of it in the depths. It appeared they had discovered another portal, though, it appeared, not an active one. The group decided to seal the tunnels, bringing their powers to bare on collapsing the tunnel with the stones and staff left inside.