After a relatively quiet night (certainly for Sergi, who slept through his turn on watch), with just a couple disturbances when the rain stopped and when a family of badgers rustled through the edge of the clearing, the group gets up and going further along the road.
About an hour and a half later, they meet an old man with a mule. He is wearing shabby leather clothing and looks dirty, particularly his knees, and there are picks and shovels strapped to the mule along with his pack. When greeted, he responds courteously, though he doesn’t give any name saying “A’body kens The Old One”. He does name his mule, Dobbin. Under questioning, he says he’s just down from the mountains on his way to Threshold for more provisions (Sergi tried to buy stores off him, but he didn’t have any to sell), and often sees goblins and orcs, inlcuding the big chiefs but doesn’t get up close. He gives a bit more info about the castle, being surprised they don’t know the history and saying it was built by Valentin Ironwolf, who lived there until the attack.
The party bids him good day (after William offends him by offering him money in return for the information – “information is free”) and head on along the road. As predicted, another 2-3 hours brings them to a side track through the forest, and up on the hill they can see a castle. Sergi heads up the road, strumming away on his lute as usual, until William spots a crossbow bolt sticking into a tree by the side of the track and bodily rugby tackles him off the road into the side. He then calls up the others cautiously.
They look at the bolt and realise it’s been there a while, so they move on, but they decide to go through the woods instead of up the track. There they meet a bear eating honey from a bees nest it has attacked; they retreat quietly and leave it to its own devices.
Eventually they reach the castle and scout round it, getting an idea of the size. The castle front (with the entrance) faces south east, and the outside is a bit wider than it is deep. Although the walls are sturdy, the mortar is starting to crumble. There is a watchtower in the east corner with arrow slits in lower floors and barred windows in upper floors, and a keep in the west corner with a higher section which looks unfinished.
They approach the gate. The main gates are down, but it appears a group has been out fairly recently (since the rain stopped) and not come back. After peering into the courtyard, they venture in, and see piles of wooden boards and tumbledown wooden buildings in the north corner. Sergi goes over and tries jumping on a bit; he is fortunate to be able to jump clear when it collapses beneath him.
There is a door into the watchtower and a door into the keep, and tracks going between these doors and between the gate and both doors. They go over to the watchtower door, and after a short bit of discussion, Sergi get impatient and bashes the door with his mace. They suddenly realise there were sounds from behind the door when it all goes silent. William tries calling out to them and gets a very suspicious, cagey response. He is trying to sweet-talk them, when Sergi mimics the sound of a goblin (badly) and runs off – his thinking being they could pretend to be being attacked and need help; however William doesn’t get this and instead apologises for him.
That’s the end of any conversation with the people inside. They refuse to say anything more.
The group look at the door, and realise it looks pretty solid and won’t open, so they decide to try the other building instead. This brings them into an entrance chamber full of leaf litter, with several doors and passages off. Sergi’s character casts light on his lute, and then on a dagger which can be thrown into the rooms to illuminate them without requiring anyone to actually go in with the light. They explore several rooms in off the south-west corridor; the ones on the left all seem to have been living quarters a while ago, but have long since been trashed, and they just contain damaged furniture and drapes. One room has some damaged books; looking at the contents they seem to have been on castle administration. It also has the word “Help” written on the wall in blood. Another has graffiti scratched on the wall, though it’s in a language no-one can read. Sergei climbs on Bear’s back to peer out of the high-up window in one room; he sees a bit of movement higher up the tower but not much detail and the door is still shut.
Having done with the doors on the left, they go into a room on the right. The smashed furniture here seems to all be piled in a corner. As they’re starting to enter, a large mangy rat appears coming down the corridor behind and attacks. It gets a bite into Sergi before getting speared by a dagger from William and frazzled by a fire bolt from Reed. Sergi binds up his wound and they continue into the room.
A large snake shoots out from the pile of smashed furniture and attacks, followed by another, smaller snake. It attackes William, and bites him on the knee; he feels a hot sensation creeping up his leg and starts to feel a bit unwell (though not so much he can’t fight). Another, smaller snake also pops out and bites Sergi, with similar effect. They dispatch the first snake and damage the second so badly it dives back for cover again. Flushed with success, Sergi strides over to the pile of furniture and smashes on it with his mace. This drives out another smaller snake, which attacks but misses so badly it skids all the way across the room into the opposite corner. As they turn to try to attack it, the one which had been damaged also comes out and attacks Sergi and hits, though it doesn’t seem to manage to get poison into him this time. Reed tries out magic missile for the first time, hitting the first snake twice and the second snake once. A little bit more conflict sees the snakes dispatched, though at the cost of another bite for Sergi.
It’s getting dark, so they retreat across the corridor to the first room they explored and set up camp and bind wounds. Sergi does some healing of himself and William.
And there we leave it. Sergi gets voted the 20XP bonus for advancing the story in the most interesting way (albeit not really to the party’s advantage).