In the Prison Mines of Isger the Lictor of the Hellknight Order of the Brand has found a creative and entertaining method of disposing of troublesome inmates. Six of his worst troublemakers are given a simple choice, bet their lives in a race against a lone Hellknight across the twisted Plane of Shadows. Of course the race is fixed, the Hellknight is mounted and the prisoners bound in pairs by geased shackles must haul crates of lead glamoured to look like gold.
However the Chain gang had a few tricks up their sleeves and a little luck on their side! Before the race is even begun the quick fingered gnome Dafter managed to filch a Wand from one of his captors before stepping through the Shadow Gap. Cayden, one of the two fiendtouched cons wastes no time in navigating the Gloom’s imposing badlands and leads the Chain gang through the treacherous arroyos of Shadestone and Bonescrub. Their first hostile encounter is with the strange bounding twig-like creatures known as Tumble Weirds. Backtracking the Weirds leads them to a traveller who’s luck didn’t hold against the bloodthirsty plants. Scrounging the dead man’s gear however wins them a few potions, a finely crafed shortbow, and several arrows one of which bears an enchantment!
Their first days travel led them deeper into the hills following winding box canyons and hugging ridglines that dropped into darkness. At one point finding the path wiped out by landslide the tracker Cayden leads his companions on a crawl through a pit of vipers which he finds invulnerable to his field craft. Using her sorcerous talents Mreelana uses the lids from their precious cargo as a plow allowing the group to tumble and scramble past the umbral serpents and their poisoned tipped fangs! Fully engaged now in the labyrinth of the Wastes the Chaingang soon hear the shrill sing-song taunts of a trio of wretched goblins playing pinata with the twitching animated corpse of a hanged man!
“Sticks on bones makes it groan, swinging from the tree it moans. Swing and sway man decay, with it’s bones Goblins Play!”
The insane singing inspires the addled actor Lazarus to call out and entreat the cruel imps calling himself the Lord of the Mountain showing them the Fools gold he carried and promising a bar for safe passage past them. The greedy goblins balk at just one and sing out, “Give and Live, Take and Break. Goblin Shiv and Longshank Ache! You no Lord, stupid gourd. Only Witch may rule this Waste!!!” They accentuate the point with a poisoned cacti needle to Lazarus’ face. Two crazed goblins dance around the flailing zombie as the third in the tree branches spits tainted darts into the Chain gang. Rushing the goblins in pairs the rogues move to find flanks and the casters hurl gobs of acid and supernatural fear among the goblins! The sing song leader succumbs to the fear and snatching a gold bar flees up the canyon. Making short work of the remaining goblins and ending the unnatural misery of the hanged man the Chain gang find the zombie was some sort of masked entertainer judging by the clothing and gear found buried at the foot of the gnarled tree he hung himself from. A set of masterwork thieves tools, a wickedly serrated sabre, and some more potions add to their supplies.
Shortly after leaving the Chain gang make camp leaving Mreelana an alchemist by trade to identify the potions, poisons, and alchemical goodies liberated in their travels. The two tielfings speak among themselves being the only ones in the group to resist the compulsion of their bonds and attempt to convince the others to remove their chains unsuccessfully. Kalib, the warlock also tries to convince the others that their gold is worthless having detected the illusory dweomers on them. The actor Lazarus who saw through the ruse from the says nothing finding the deception and intrigue exciting. Still not trusting each other fully the pairs split the watches among the non spellcasters and spend a fitfull night of sleep on the hard ground.
As the second day of travel opened the weather seemed to take a turn for the worse and a fierce thunderstorm hit the wastes. Cayden immediately realized the danger of traversing the canyons during a downpour and urged his companions to scale to walls to higher ground. For some of the Chain gang finding draughts of spider walking moved them quickly above the raging flood waters. The thieving tengu Plek, the actor Lazarus, and the charlatan gnome Dafter were not as fortunate. The waters swept through the canyons plucking them from the walls and dashing them on the rocks. Only being chained to the powerful Cayden saved Plek from a final bird bath! However the dark frothing waters swept Dafter and Lazarus away from the rest of the Chain gang.
As the storm waters rise throughout the canyons Cayden must blaze a trail forward heedless of the lost duo and their crate of gold. Hours of climbing higher and higher into the hills to avoid the ominous flood waters Cayden and the remainder of the Chain gang stumble across the muddy tracks of a goblin band dragging heavy litters. The tracks run up a narrow cliffside to a small dank cave with a few sentries. Approaching in darkness, their everburning torches hidden away the Chain gang rushes forward into the cave only to find the goblins ready for them. In the first frantic moments of the raid the goblin pickets manage to sound carved whistles awakening an ancient guardian from it’s torpor… a toothless bat the size of a pony scampers into the cave from a narrow cleft in the wall. Plek and Cayden press the beast before it can enter the room proper and take wing suffering vicious crushing bites from the venerable Dire Bat. The goblins try to rally with the entrance of their guardian but as it’s put down they fall and cower before the spells and weapons of the intruders.
Searching the cave after the scrum the Chain gang find a greasy dire skunk pelt and a few minor healing draughts. Eerie cave paintings in phosphorescent colors show hulking wriggling beasts emerging from a great crack in the earth besieging a black city of twisted towers with dark dancers defending it. Several of the dancers nearest the beasts are stooped and bent with a green squiggle above their heads. The paintings continue into the narrow cleft in the wall leading to a natural stair delving deeper beneath the hill. Meanwhile in a deep cavern the half-elf Lazarus and the gnome Dafter awaken bound to stout poles their sodden clothes and gear stripped from them. Groggy and weakened the pair hear a shrill chant coming from a wizened goblin shaman and a hideous womanly form dancing wildly around them. Greasy white hair and oozing black pockmarked skin hang grotesquely from the gyrating crone. As they fade in and out of consciousness they are hoisted out of the low mud domed shamans sweat lodge and posted in the plaza of the goblin warren.
Creeping up the narrow stair the Chain gang can hear the goblin shamans ululating interrogation of their lost companions. Again they rush into the plaza drawing the goblin warriors towards the stair. Using the rush as a distraction Dafter slips the feeble bonds of the pole he’s tied to and disarms the surprised shaman of his club. Plek and Cayden swarm the tiny defenders with crushing mace blows and slashing dagger and thrusting beak. As more goblin warriors climb down into the plaza from the mud pueblos the unarmed shaman retreats to the rear of the plaza dangerously close to a yawning chasm. Seeing a juicy target stuttering out a charm of slumber and having learned to move together the warlock Kalib and Alchemist Mreelana rush at the shaman bowling him head over heels into the black pit killing the prayer on his cracked lips. As the gang frees him Lazarus tells them their Gold is within the domed structure behind him. They quickly drop in finding a trove of herbal poultices and alchemical goodies, as well as clay tablets written in alien sigils and a stone idol with a great jeweled eye. After quickly looting the sweat lodge the Chain gang moved unhindered through the cowering goblin villagers to the top of the wide chasm where a thick rope runs across the chasm to a lower cave where more goblins wait peppering the longshanks with poison needles and ready to hack the line. Seeing no way to fight their way across while shackled the tielfings convince Plek, a fledgling locksmith to use the thieves tools to pick the locks. Once freed and under the cover fire of Plek’s bow and Mreelana’s acid darts the warlock zips down the line followed by the tracker clearing the goblins from the vulnerable line and allowing their companions to follow. Clearing the lower caves the Chain gang escape the goblin cave system and emerge on the other side of the arroyos of anguish where they make a hasty camp and tend to their wounds.
The bulk of the third day of travel goes by quietly as they crossed a narrow salt flat. Eventually the Chain gang runs across a slow shallow creek and follow it until they reach an abandoned ranch house. From afar two pin points of light shine from the upper floor windows. crossing the creek the party approaches the ranch finding it ringed by a dilapidated barbed wire fence. A wide gate way stands open a wood plank sign swinging from the lintel. Spelled out in Elven script only Plek can make out the language which says Jawbone Creek Ranch. Crossing the threshold Lazarus is attacked by skeletons that rise from the tall scrub around the sagging house. Once the undead are dispatched the Chain gang explores the house finding not only a severed human arm with a glowing tattoo, but several minor Haunts including an exploding candle, fresh fruit with seeds of teeth and flesh of blood, and collapsing stairwell filled with webs. Behind the house several graves look to be freshly disturbed and the trail of a wheel barrel and booted humanoid tracks lead off and away. None of the Chain gang wish to stay in the haunted ranch and they push on to camp further along the wheel barrel track.