Well-rested, and newly trained, Novak set out on the ferry to lead his merry band of treasure-seekers back into the forest. He chose a different path this time, climbing a tall hill that offered a view of lower country beyond. From that vantage, they spotted a glade and perhaps a building of remarkable size. They headed down the hill towards the glade.
Presently, they came upon a statue of a demonic figure, perhaps 15 feet tall. The elf climbed up to inspect the hollow eyes and concluded they once held gems. While perched on the statue, the elf spotted a cave. They all filed into it, expecting treasure within.
The simple cave opened to a large chamber featuring a mound of guano. Unusually large bats, larger than the ordinary giant variety, descended to attack. The ranger ran screaming from the chamber, as is his nature. Novak cut down three bats in less than a minute. Soon they were all dead, even the one that followed the ranger through the caves. The mage was badly hurt, taking vicious bat bite to the lower back, but he came to after some time.
Next, they squeezed through a side passage where piercers dropped from above, causing no harm. In this area they found the bones of a long dead adventurer. The mage plucked a magic dagger from the ruined belongings.
On they marched across the glad until they saw a path leading up to the building they’d seen and another set of structures on the opposite side of the glade. They ventured into this new area to discover a graveyard where several graves seemed recently disturbed. Novak and the cleric lit a torch and beg investigating an open crypt when ghouls emerged from the brush. A battle ensued.
The ghouls were cut down without much trouble, except for the cleric and the mage being paralyzed for a time. Just as the ranger killed the last ghoul, a stranger appeared. He called himself Steron or Bob. Novak paid little heed to names. He was a warrior with a nice sword who said he knew Tienarth’s Raiders.
With night rapidly approaching, they huddled in a crypt with no campfire, eating cold rations. During watch, they spied comings and goings of humanoids they assumed where hobgoblins, though none came near the graveyard. The other provided a theory that fear kept them away. Novak had no use for theories.
In the morning, they ransacked another crypt that appeared to be the treasure horde of the ghouls. In all they counted 500 gp, 1500 sp, 400 ep, 3000 cp, a jeweled bowl worth perhaps 900 gp and a matching goblet worth as much as 800 gp. All this they divided into two sacks held by Novak and the cleric. The weight of each sack being about 250 pounds, they stuck them in a stone sarcophagus and pushed the lid over it.
Next, they sent the elf up the hill to scout the buildings on the hill. He came back with a story about the fabled monastery surrounded by a crumbling wall. With the walls were a garden, a larger building, a building with columns, a pool and an L-shaped building. They all stepped through a ruined section of the wall to investigate latter building which appeared as a stable.
Investigating the interior, they soon stumbled on four hobgoblins playing a dice game. The ranger offered to join them. It was not clear if he meant in the playing of the game or in some other capacity. The hobgoblins laughed and suggested they’d eat him. Suddenly, the mage cast a sleep spell that incapacitated all four of them. Soon they were tied up and struck across the face to awaken them.
Novak began an interrogation. The hobgoblin was either stupider than Novak or playing at ignorance. Novak held an arrow point to the hobgoblin’s eye as he pressed for information. They learned of the garden being nice but mostly uninteresting to hobgoblins. Of the building with the columns, the hobgoblins warned of fearsome evil. And the largest building, they said, held a vast army ruled by their king, whose plan was an attack on the Malcolmsfort.
At this news, the party thought soberly of next steps, for surely their goal would be to ruin the plans of the hobgoblin army.