Two days of hard riding left them at camp by the river at night. It was cold, but a fire would attract the wrong sorts. Odess, the moon, hid behind the clouds, and it was on Gustav's watch that something moved in the dark.
There was a splashing in the river. He could only see a dark shape, set against the dark of the river. It was large. This close to the bridge, it could be Ol' Nik, come collect his toll.
Gustav woke the others as quietly as he could, but by the time they were roused, whatever it was, was gone.
Trekking east along the southern bank of the river that morning, they found the ford. The hornet creatures were already up, busy doing whatever they did. The group crossed without incident, but this time, bows were trained on the far bank whenever someone crossed. They couldn't shake the feeling of being watched.
Across the river, they built a small fire, enough to dry a bit, and look at the newly acquired map. The "circle" was to the northeast. Uncharted territory. Hills were the common feature here. Lots of places to hide, and ambush. They moved a little slower than usual, constantly on the lookout for danger.
The hills grew steeper, and steeper, and more broken. Finally at the top of a bluff they found what they sought. It was a very unassuming spot, for a place of legend and fear. A circle of mortared stones, 3 feet high sat like a strange well, out in the middle of nowhere. Spikes, grapples and irons were rusting away in a circle all around. Many, it seems, had climbed into the well.
About twenty yards from the hole, the bluff abruptly ended. Far, far below the river made its way through the hills. A fall from here was surely fatal.
There was much debate on who should go first. The hole itself was tight for the Men of the group. All eyes finally ended up on Miss Adventure. She threw down the stale loaf of bread she had been chewing on, with an "All right."
A new iron spike was set, and a new rope lowered into the depths, with diminutive halfling attached. She went down, and down, until almost the entire fifty feet of rope was used. It was then Miss Adventure was able to see in the dark, the top most stair of winding spiral staircase. It was just in reach. Her toe could almost make touch it...
"It's okay!" she shouted, "I found some stairs!"
Those up above winched as her shout echoed up the well, and surely everywhere else in the depths.
Miss Adventure heard a hiss, then squeal below her. At the very bottom of the steps was a hole. A small creature held an arm up to protect itself from the few rays of sun filtering down. Beedy red eyes glared at the halfling. A goblin!