Without a prisoner to guide them to the hideout, the party now had to rely on the skills of their ranger. Even though the ground was hard and the dirt was scattered, Bufkin was able to slowly track the goblins progress for several hours. The trail indeed led them north, into a more wild and rocky landscape where green things ceased and rocks grew in their place. As evening came, the party heard footsteps approaching behind them. Quickly, they climbed a rocky slope to a landing over the road where they witnessed a column of goblins marching in the direction they had been heading. Eager to not let another opportunity pass, Bufkin descended from his hiding place and followed the band of goblins for a short while until they reached a clearing, unremarkable, with the exception of a large opening to a cave into which the goblins disappeared.
After ensuring that the goblin activity had ceased for the time, Bufkin returned to the other two and led them to the entrance he had discovered. Unfortunately, when the party tried to follow the goblins in the entrance they encountered an invisible barrier preventing their advance. Frustrated but not dissuaded, our adventurers began searching for a way in when they happened upon some old dwarven artifacts. Knowing nothing about dwarves, Bufkin was at a complete loss. Although more competent than Bufkin in these matters, Galdor was likewise unable to discern the dwarven script. It was only when Toviah cast comprehend languages that he was able to read a basic riddle in dwarven inferring that the solution would be the password to get past the barrier. After some head banging and linguistic back flips, the right word was finally achieved and our three adventurers descended into the goblin dungeon.
Inside, lit by torches, was what remained of an old dwarven ruin that had been repurposed by the goblins. As our company advanced, they were met by pockets of surprised, albeit malicious, goblins who did not welcome our trio into their home warmly. Although most of the pestilence was rid of without incidence, the group was perhaps not as carful as they should have been and they allowed several goblins to escape further into the dungeon and as a result, raise the alarm.
Thus it came to be that our trio eventually ended up on one side of a narrow bridge, while a hastily fortified group of goblins defended the other side. The stone bridge spanned a dark chasm of unknown depth, while the bordering walls of the surrounding chamber were far and inaccessible, leaving the adventurers with the only option of crossing, or retreating out of the cave and away from their goal. With the arrival of the intruders the goblins began releasing arrows, an act of aggression that excited Bufkin and caused him to leap onto the bride with the hopes of crossing quickly and putting an end to the goblin insult. Unfortunately, the gnome learned the hard lesson that he is far from invincible and was quickly overwhelmed by arrows. Down and bleeding, Toviah cast obscuring mist on the bridge blocking their movements from the goblins, and he and Galdor were able to bring the brash gnome back to the landing and prevent his untimely demise.
Given their predicament and not willing to leave while they still could fight, the group decided to use the mist to mask their crossing. Once on the other side, Toviah would cast a spell of darkness and the group would go over the makeshift barriers and dispatch the goblins in close combat. As they crossed the goblins continued to volley arrows into the mist at random, but with little success. At the other side, Toviah cast his spell of darkness and the goblins were thrown into a panic. Eager to capitalize on the opportunity, Galdor bounded over the barrier and into the darkness… and was quickly overwhelmed. Down and bleeding, Galdor had fallen behind the barrier, inaccessible to his companions. With time running short, Bufkin attempted to throw his voice and imitate a goblin in order to lure the rest of the creatures away from Galdor’s body. Only somewhat effective, a few goblins were able to find the door on the back wall and escape the darkness, while others milled around in the darkness terrified. After several failed attempts to lasso Galdor’s limp body and drag it back through the darkness, Toviah decided to jump the barrier and carry it over himself. Always the athlete, Toviah fell on his face and got disoriented. Eventually he was able to find his way to Galdor, stabilizing him just in the nick of time, and tossing him body over the barrier to Bufkin. Once everyone had been attended to and was prepared, Toviah lifted the spell and the group bounded over the barrier (successfully this time) to dispatch the remaining goblins.
Beaten up with their supply of healing potions/spells nearly exhausted, the adventurers took stock of their situation. It seemed that whatever remained of the goblins had fled deeper into the dungeon in their fear. Following the only route left available to them, the trio happened upon a stair that would lead them down to the second level. This posed a bit of a quandary for our adventurers as they were loathe to retreat after everything they had gone through, but were in no viable position to handle much more fighting until they had regained some strength. After a long discussion, they decided to leave the dungeon and rest for a few hours and return with the new day (one option considered was to sleep in the dungeon itself, perhaps to more interesting ends, but that was dismissed for safety reasons).
Outside they found the sun setting, so they returned once again to their rocky ledge and slept in shifts. That night during Toviah’s watch, a black cloaked figure appeared on the road beneath them heading in the direction of the cave. Quickly and quietly he woke Bufkin who set off in stealthy pursuit. After following for a short distance, Bufkin turned a corner only to find emptiness. The figure had disappeared in the night and no amount of effort could find his trail. Disappointed, Bufkin returned to the others and, after telling them what happened, finished the night in ease.
The next day the group set off just before sunrise. Carefully passing through the entrance just as dawn was breaking, the adventurers were met by an extremely loud…silence. Darkness. Nothing. Lighting a few torches, they retracted their steps through the dungeon to the bridge. Feeling that some trap was lying in wait, they summoned their courage and plunged down the stairs to the second level. More nothing. They combed the area of any sign of life or previous inhabitation, but it was as if the ruins were just that: ruins. Finally, they reached a central room with a locked door. Ripping the door off the hinges, they stepped in the room and were met with evil. A gnome had been sacrificed in the center of a blood ritual, the dark magic hung in the air. This evil was not something any of them had encountered before. Try as they might no sense could be made from the inscriptions and no purpose could be discerned. Seeing that nothing could be done for the gnome they left.
The party plunged deeper into the cave, desperate for some answers. After some time their path ended in a ledge of a wide underground opening. Far below them they could hear the sound of water rushing. In an effort to see more, Toviah case a light spell on a torch and dropped it off the ledge. It came to rest on a small landing next to an underground river. Judging the distance to be too great for Bufkin to climb, but not too great for their rope (when tied together), they decided to lower Galdor down as his abilities would protect him from most minor falls. At the bottom, Galdor reported that the landing appeared to serve as some sort of dock. Since the three men did not believe the goblins to have left through the front of the cave, they must have left by boat sometime in the night. Unfortunately, the trio did not think to pack a boat with them that meant that for the time being, their detective work had come to an end.