Hugenin: A cleric of St.Cuthbert, stern, humourless, and plate-clad- played by Pete.
Kenta: A wily thief and confidence-trickster, in black leather (of course)- played by Graham.
Lynx: A green-robed, animal-training Magic-User from the Gnarley Forest- played by Anastasia.
Vlam son of Drom: A dwarf, orphaned at birth, Free-City local- played by Mick.
After some debate, the party of adventurers began to move quietly across the broad expanse of Zagyg's Bridge. As they went, the dusk deepened around them. Neither Luna or Celene had come aloft in the heavens, and soon only the glimmer on the clouds would light their way. There was just enough light to make out the quality of the work which had gone into the rope-bridge spanning the broken gap of the stone bridge. Whoever had made this spared no effort- holes were drilled into the stonework, and new, strong rope and timbers seemed to have been used. The party felt somewhat relieved. Still, as they crossed the gap single file, the raucous, drunken cries of goblins could still be heard ahead.
They gathered at the far side of the bridge, where a dim flickering light from a goblin fire somewhere allowed them to see into the arched passage between the two gatehouses. There they saw goblins moving to and fro, swaggering drunkenly and shoving and grabbing at one another- oblivious to the party watching them. Vlam was able to overhear some goblinish words- "Stone lady, get us more rats!" A scraping, sound was heard from out of sight to one side.
After some whispered discussion, the dwarf decided he would attempt to parlay with the seemingly merry goblins- apparently a lifetime spent amongst humans had repressed some of his racial urges. He stepped forward and announced himself, somewhat sternly but with no real threat. Two goblins stopped in their tracks, stared drunkenly at him. Then one of them pointed and said in goblinish-"Look! A stupid fat dwarf!" The other snickered and giggled. The dwarf blushed with humiliation.
An angry demand that they surrender only made them laugh harder. As more inebriated goblins stuck their heads out to look bleary-eyed at the dwarf, Vlam cursed and hefted his axes. "Attack!" he shouted. The first goblin went down, his snickering silenced.
Hugenin came in to bring his stout cudgel to bear on the goblins, while Kenta fired his bow at another in the doorway. Vlam swung again and missed. Lynx bravely rushed in and tried to clobber a goblin with her staff, but failed. The goblins struggled to deal with the sudden outburst of violence- those near at hand had no weapons. One swung the brandy bottle he held without effect. Another leapt on the magic-user, biting her viciously on the arm. Another stepped out and shouted in goblinish- Vlam understood: "Stone lady, help! Defend goblins!"
As the melee continued, more goblins began to emerge from both guardhouses- some had rusty shortswords, others short spears, and another carried, once more, an empty brandy bottle. The fight went back and forth. Vlam came to Lynx's aid, and slew the goblin which had bitten her, and she wisely retreated to safety, lighting her lantern to aid the party in the gathering gloom. Kenta slung his bow and drew his sword, while Hugenin staved in the brains of one of the snickering, drunken goblins with his bronzewood cudgel. Some of the goblin's blows began to tell on the party- Vlam being slashed with a rusted sword and Hugenin jabbed with a spear. Suddenly a scraping sound, as of stone moving against stone, was heard, and the dwarf, peering a long moment into the darkness beyond the archway of the northern gatehouse, called out a warning- "Fall back! A statue walks!"
The party attempted a cautious withdrawal- this effort, as it happened, was not hampered by the goblins, who snickered and guffawed and withdrew themselves. More goblins came from within the southern gatehouse, bearing javelins, which they distributed to their companions. The scraping noise sounded again, and the party looked on in horror as a marble figure emerged into the lantern-light. Carved with exquisite skill in the form of a comely young maiden, the marble figure stepped in halting strides into the light, then turned towards the party. In one bloody stone hand, she clutched the crushed form of a huge rat, its innards and eyeballs bulging out and falling onto the cobbles at her feet. The adventurers, seeing this, ran onto the bridge, the javelins of the goblins clattering at their heels as they went.
To their relief, the stone figure moved to the spot just below the ancient raised portcullis, then halted. The stone hands gestured, as though reaching for the retreating figures, then were still. The goblins called out in dismay and frustration.
Determined to take advantage of the fact that, apparently, the animated statue could not leave the gatehouse, the party advanced once more to a point just beyond her reach. An exchange of missiles began- the goblins hurled javelins, Lynx threw stones with her sling, Kenta fired arrows. One of the goblins advanced stamping and cursing: "Stone lady, attack them!" But having groped pointlessly towards the adventurers for some moments, the stone woman turned, and with grating steps moved into the shadows at the north of the archway. She stepped onto a plinth, and raised her arms upwards to a fixed position on the capstone. The scraping sounds ceased, and she was still.
Vlam hurled one of his axes, which struck the closest goblin and killed him. Vlam called out in Goblinish: "Stone woman- I have slain the goblin leader, now I rightly command you. Attack the goblins!" The stone figure was still. Running out of javelins, the goblins desperately charged the party. A brief, violent struggle ensued, but now it seemed that fortune had chosen to favour only the adventurers. Several more of the goblins fell beneath axe, cudgel, and the sword of the thief, and the others, seeing which way the wind had turned, fled cursing to the west, and were lost in the shadows of Castle Greyhawk's great, silent courtyard.
The group congratulated themselves on having secured the Gatehouse, Lynx having tended to their wounds with balms and poultices, they made a cautious exploration. The figure of the statue was still and silent. The plinth upon which she stood bore an ornate inscription in the common tongue- The Handmaiden. They looked at her dubiously. She resembled a simple, beautiful sculpture, and nothing more, although one of her hands was still soaked in gore.
Hugenin the cleric and Lynx the mage explored the southern wing of the gatehouse. There they found a large chamber, the floor lined with filthy rags and skins. A stairwell, filled almost to the brim with rubble, was to the southeast. Empty brandy bottles were scattered about. In another corner, a scattered heap of rat bones lay beside a foul mound of goblin dung. Dagger-scratched graffiti could be seen here and there. To the south an archway gave onto a kind of broad open platform beneath the castles curtain wall. A low crenelated barricade lined the platform's edge. The whole area overlooked the canyon to the east, and the bridge.
Vlam and Kenta found a similar situation in the northern gatehouse, although the stairs there seemed to have been excavated sometime recently, to judge by the pile of soil and rubble nearby. Kenta, a torch held aloft, cautiously searched the newly cleared stairs. He found that they gave upon a partly excavated cellar. Several crates, apparently uncovered during the excavation, had been opened- this was the source of the brandy the goblins had been drinking. Two crates were empty, one was nearly full- nine bottles in all. Kenta looked in awe at the labels. The brandy was several hundred years old, and of exceptional quality.
Indeed, upstairs, Vlam, having carefully wiped off a mostly full bottle on his tunic, was sampling the brandy- never had he tasted it's like. He continued drinking, making himself comfortable on the rubble pile, as the party began taking parchment rubbings from the graffiti on the walls. Most of this was in the main entry-tunnel- apparently it was something of a tradition for adventurers to make a mark here. Some of the graffiti was ribald or humorous, such the one, signed "the Fox" beside the statue: "If only she were flesh!" Others were melancholy, in memory of comrades who had fallen in the dungeons below.
Having taken what they had come for, the adventurers decided it was best to return to the city, not wanting to spend the night at Castle Greyhawk. With some difficulty they managed to take the brandy away from Vlam, who was by now quite drunk, and, carrying the other nine bottles and several dozen electrum pieces they had gathered from the corpses of the goblins, they headed back across the bridge and into the night.
The party made their way by moonlight, stumbling over roots and loose cobbles here and there, hampered by the bleary drunkenness of their companion. Several hours later they were on the last approach towards the city, moving down out of the hills. For some time they had felt that something was following them- Kenta stayed behind to watch as the others hurried on. He saw a tall, lank humanoid figure step lithely from the shadows on the trail above; the creature was eight feet tall, stark black from head to foot. It crouched to sniff at the trail, then moved again into the trees opposite. Kenta moved quickly down to the others. "Run!" he whispered harshly. Vlam declared drunkenly- "I'll go and get the bugger!", and the party pointed towards the Free City and said "He went that way!" Then they all ran for their lives.
As they approached the walls and turned down towards the Shacks, Kenta looked back, and saw the thing loping now after them on all fours, at a terrifying speed. Desperately he ran, and finally met the others in the torchlit alleys of the shanty town. Looking back, they saw the thing stop. It gave one mournful cry then disappeared into the darkness. The Wharf Gate being closed for the night, they made their way to Cargo Gate. Having offered a bottle of brandy as tax, the party were home free.
All in all, it had been a very successful foray. They found a merchant to trade with- Kenta having sung the praises of Mad Zagyg's own brandy stocks, and got 250gp per bottle. Listrimmus Wainwright was likewise thrilled with the rubbings, and having paid them the promised 50gp reward, offered to pay 5gp for any new inscription they obtained from the Castle. What a haul!