When we last left off, the party had just finished bringing down the Flesh Golem and two of the four Splinter Brothers. They decide to search the place for any clues, splitting up to save time. While this works in theory, in practice it actually takes just as long, if not even longer, because as DM I can only describe one thing going on at a time, so I end up either going back and forth or ignoring one group in favor of the other. Freyja and Pilgrim elect to check out the meat lockers and storage rooms (which the party is aware is zombie-infested thanks to Cleo's reconnaissance) while Azryn, Oizo, and Cleo inspect the offices and cattle holding pens.
The cattle holding pens are guarded by a small group of goblins, ostensibly hired by the Splinter Brothers to protect the cattle from thieves. Cleo comes up with the idea of walking into the room in the form of a cow, causing a distraction, and allowing the rest of the party to take them by surprise. I make her roll a Bluff check as she enters the room. What I don't tell her is that this is almost guaranteed to fail because A) she's entering all by herself and B) she's entering through the hallway door instead of the exterior door, both of which are very unusual. These goblins aren't geniuses, but they're not that dense. So she walks into the room in cow-form, the Goblins see through her ruse, and attack. She drops several area burst attacks while Azryn and Oizo rush in to aid her, but she still takes several solid hits from the surrounding goblins. The fight is still very one sided, and the goblins go down within just a couple rounds.
The fight occurring on the other side of the complex is more of challenge. Freyja and Pilgrim adopt a sensible strategy to take on the zombies in the meat locker. Pilgrim will stand just in front of the doorway and hold back the zombies in the bottleneck so that he only has to fight one at a time, while Freyja fires into the room at range with Magic Missiles. The plan works for a short time, but after dropping one or two zombies, Pilgrim finds himself grabbed and pulled into the freezer, where he is completely surrounded and beaten down. He fights to get out, but with eight zombies attacking at once, all of whom have Combat Advantage by flanking him, it doesn't take long for him to be bashed into unconsciousness.
Freyja, now alone, is staring down just over half a dozen zombies who are coming through the door at her. The rest of the players argue that they should be allowed to come to Freyja's aid, but I make the point that both encounters are occurring simultaneously, so they have to wait for the same number of turns to elapse (three) and then they have to actually travel the distance from their current position to Freyja and Pilgrim, which takes at least one turn at a full run. This is all assuming that the rest of the party has a good reason to rush over, such as Freyja screaming for help as a free action...
*nudge Freyja's player*
Freyja screams for help as a free action and throws down an Icy Terrain spell to slow down the zombies. They resist it successfully and begin to surround her. Ironically, earlier in the campaign when the party was at the Blacksmith shop, Freyja had purchased a longsword. Her player felt that she might be able to make use of it in such a situation, since her Eladrin background gives her a weapon proficiency. The rest of the group talked her out of it, calling it a waste of money and arguing that she would likely never be in such a situation as a ranged spell caster, so she sold it back later (at full price, since the weapon had never even been used). Thus, Freyja was smacked around for a turn until the rest of the party showed up to help. Pilgrim, rolling a 20 on his next Death Saving Throw, actually spends a healing surge and gets back to his feet to help out. The zombies don't put up much of a fight against the united party and soon fall.
There's still the entire lower level to search, so the party takes a moment to rest and spend healing surges. There are three possible routes to the basement: Stairs, cargo elevator, and the exterior cattle ramp. The group chooses the stairs, proceeding stealthily. I ask everyone to make Stealth and Perception rolls, while I do the same with my next encounter. The party rolls low on Stealth and high on Perception, as do I. Thus, as the party is sneaking down the hall, they hear the hushed speech and muffled footsteps of an ambush in waiting. However, they are similarly overheard by the ambushers, so as the fight begins there is no advantage to either side. Don Splinter attacks along with a group of goblins on the killing floor, where cattle are brought to be killed, bled, and skinned for processing. Don is a mage, and as the goblins engage the party in melee combat he hangs back and throws down burst attacks to weaken the party. Pilgrim, as he often does, rushes the most threatening opponent in the room and attempts to take him out quick. Don falls back around the corner and attempts to maintain distance attacks, but is soon felled while the rest of the party mops up the goblins.
The killing floor leads into a wide open space, containing a refuse furnace and a pair of green slime pits, used to dissolve any remaining animal waste product that can't be put to use. As the party enters, they are attacked by the final Splinter Brother, Ralph, who is overseeing a small group of goblins. Ralph is the muscle of the family business, and comes to bear with armor and a heavy flail. While the rest of the party engages the goblins (who are wielding spears at melee and javelins for range), Pilgrim rushes at Ralph...and is immediately hit with a Smashing Strike attack that slides him one square. As luck would have it, Pilgrim happened to be standing at the edge of the slime pit, so he is knocked right in. The slime is corrosive and does 1d6 damage for every round he remains in it. Any of the goblins not currently engaged in melee combat take the cue from their leader and start throwing javelins into the pit. When the party gets their turn, Oizo uses his Githyanki racial ability to telekinetically pull Pilgrim out of the pit onto solid ground. He still has to spend a move action to wipe the slime off himself, but he's out of immediate danger. Azryn steps up the plate and takes on Ralph, managing to beat him back with several encounter attacks that hit for massive damage. Soon he and the goblins go down and the party is victorious.
There's still another series of hallways and rooms to search, so the party splits up and takes one of two possible paths. This time it goes fairly simply, no encounters to be found. Azryn and Oizo head one way and find a kitchen, a trophy room filled with mounted heads from various species, and a storage room filled with corpses. I ask them both for Perception checks, they fail, so they don't discover anything else. A large trunk in the corner contains personal effects from the victims, including a Heavy War Pick of Oaths Fulfilled that would suit Pilgrim nicely. Meanwhile Cleo, Freyja, and Pilgrim find a room containing a large-scale map of the city detailing some sort of battle plan, as well as coded notes for a powerful Necromancy spell. In the next room they find a holding cell full of starved, weakened prisoners. The party elects not to free them for now, because they haven't finished clearing the area. The final room in the corner remains to be searched, and a Perception check alerts the party to the sounds of deep, rhythmic chanting.
The party sets up at both of the entry doors for a surprise attack, bursting in to find a Kobold Necromancer at work, accompanied by a small pack of zombies and gravehounds. Nearby is a collapsed hole in the floor and a large empty chest, similar to the one found in Ulric's basement. The necromancer immediately sends his minions at the party while Pilgrim does the usual boss rush. In this particular case, he runs in, lands his encounter power, then spends his Action Point to use another encounter power, doing massive damage. The rest of the party chooses to ignore their immediate opponents in favor of focusing all their attacks on the Necromancer, and actually manages to kill it before it even gets a turn to fight. This pisses me off IMMENSELY, because it had the ability to summon Skeleton bodyguards and heal itself, and would have actually made this an interesting fight. I really need to think of a way to make it so that the party can't just rush the strongest enemy in the room and take it out instantly. Maybe my monsters are too weak? I'll have to workshop it later.
With the necromancer down, the zombies pose little threat. The gravehounds do a fair amount of damage, working as a pair to flank Pilgrim and bite him relentlessly. The remaining zombies mob Azryn and Oizo as they stand back to back, while Cleo and Freyja provide support at range. The encounter is wrapped up and the party has earned enough XP to gain another level. With the area cleared out, the party frees the captive villagers and searches the storage room. A closer examination reveals that one of the corpses is recognizable, despite being in the midst of decay from being dead for at least a week. It's Ulric, the wizard responsible for Jamie's murder and the same man currently imprisoned at the Guard Garrison.
With that, the session comes to an end. Next time the party gets to level up and investigate the mystery of the two Ulrics.