We met at the usual secret location. I brought a crockpot of pulled pork. There was a rhubarb cake and ice-cream by Haagen & Co. and I seem to recall some chips and on and on… We went to town on food and munchies and soon returned to Phandalin.
We were only missing Lilia, who was yet again inexplicably absent, and Arcturas, who was on a pre-arranged absence to remember the passing of a good person and fine woman.
The group was still aching for the blood of one Glasstaff and after a quick rest, set out down the path to the Triboar Trail in hopes of intercepting the solitary fleeing conjurer. After establishing and maintaining an ambush for some time, the team decided they had missed the wizard – but there were some orc footprints on the Triboar Trail that were irresistible. They set off westward in pursuit.
Soon, the prints left the path and headed cross country south and westward toward Leilon. After a short and nervous night of rest out under the stars, our heroes pressed hard on the trail of the orcs, finally catching sight of ten dark figures far ahead crossing a dry meadow and heading into some trees along the edge of the Leilon Road. Our group debated for a while as to how to approach the situation and then charged. The orcs launched the first volley as our heroes drew into range – arrow after arrow hammered home from the edge of the woods as the melee experts moved forward. Finally some savage orcs broke from the tree line. Shields clashed against shields and steel against steel. At the fall of the first orc…Donuts!
The fight started to go badly. The numbers of orcs, their use of cover in the woods, and their effective use of bows… But Quellin stepped up with Sleep and the tide turned. Soon there were just a desperate pair of orcs, swinging their last blows, making their final mark and then moving on to face their maker. But the group spared the sleepers for interrogation. Their bitter fowl voices choked out angry hateful words. The first orc pressed too hard on the subject of his taste for halfling “womens and childrens”… and died. The second sought to survive a bit harder and revealed that he and his brethren were members of the “Many Arrows” clan. They came from their camp at Wyvern Tor. They follow their leader, Brughor Axe-Biter, in crimes of opportunity along the Triboar Trail and connected roads. Reluctantly, the group adhered to its promise and let the beast go free after the interrogation.
By this point, the remembrance of the good person and fine woman which Arcturas was attending had gone on far too long to be any sort of reasonable remembrance and we gave up hope of ever seeing Arcturas again.
The group decided to head back to Phandalin to check on town, make sure the Redbrands hadn’t appeared for revenge, and to check in with their contacts. After a warm night in the hay loft with Qelline Alderleaf, Carp’s mom, they set off overland toward the ruined town of Thundertree. Fearing for the safety of Goater’s cousin, Gundren, they sought to find the Druid Reidoth and thereby the location of Cragmaw Castle.
On arrival, the group cautiously began to explore Thundertree. In the first building on the left, Ash Zombies attacked – there was a near total SNAFU where character after character ran into the battle or attacked zombies adjacent to their comrades and many were affected by the choking wretched ash before the undead were defeated. Only Scrudley stayed out of the fray and busied himself killing little bush creatures, “salads” he called them, as they approached to investigate. It wasn’t long before Reidoth appeared and asked for restraint on the little leafy fellows.
And then Arcturas bombed up the driveway and into our presence. Things began to roll.
Reidoth told the characters they’d best get out of town – there’s a dragon nearby and a patch of dragon-cultists to boot. After some careful (invisible) investigating by Dickie – that’s just what the team did. They made their way off toward Cragmaw Castle.
At some point, Urien made butter coffee – which is super strong coffee, blended with organic unsalted butter. Coffee and butter. Blended. And then gulped down in steaming gulps, quickly, before it hardens in the cup. This basically had an effect like gasoline on our speed of play. Everything after that point was at 1.5X.
Outside Cragmaw Castle, the team reconnoitered the stony ruin. Dickie was sent in again. Invisibly, he slipped through the front door, narrowly avoided the deadfall trap in the foyer, and began to take account of the occupants. He had a few nervous moments as the goblin cook, Yegg, sensed his presence. Luckily the rough commotion and stench of the other goblins gave Dickie opportunity to hide again. It was some horrible tentacle mouthed snake thing that attacked from the rafters that came closest to actually connecting with Dickie. Finally, after moving through most of the castle, Dickie escaped through a concealed entrance on the north side and made his escape.
The group attacked. Again there was a bit of deliberation, but it was late and for lack of a better plan, the group opened up with a frontal assault on the gates. Quellin used that deadly sleep spell once again to great effect. With that one spell he slept all four gate attendants and the team came in through the front door and set to work. They had only butchered a couple of the sleeping goblins before they were noticed and goblins and hobgoblins attacked… then the real butchery began…
There was an epic segment where Goater leapt into a room to cut down some puny goblins, and Lhupo, the goblin mystic, stepped forward and went toe-to-toe with the dwarf. Goater scoffed. Lupho rolled max damage. Goater still scoffed – “whatever fucker.” Then Goater missed. Lhupo rolled natural 20. Goater began to bleed. Dickie came to help, Quellin came to help – still Lhupo stood and hacked again into Goater, now badly wounded. Finally, amidst roars of laughter, Lhupo fell. All agreed that Lhupo had made his mark.
Chopping and hacking, leaving nothing but blood and bodies in their wake, our heroes pressed on. Throwing back a curtain in one of the latter chambers they faced the dreaded owl-bear! Baranoff caught the brunt of the beasts wrath but bravely stood and faced the thing down while comrades all around added their blows. As the beast fell, none other than King Grol charged in. Finnegan and Dickie had moved further east and encountered a strange dark skinned woman, a drow.
Quellin nailed King Grol with a suggestion spell “you need to leave” and Grol turned to do so. In that moment, Scrudley nailed Grol from behind. The drow ran for a distant chamber. The team piled on Grol – who finally crumpled under the combined weight of murderous blows. Finnegan ran after the Drow – only to discover what appeared to be Dickie crouched low over a bound dwarf.
As others came running and before any could react, Dickie executed the dwarf, Gundren Rockseeker. Finnegan attacked! Then Dickie and others ran into the room. The creature got in a couple of severe blows before the combined wrath of our heroes brought him down.
The hour was late. Past 2 AM. People rose and stretched. Great deeds were recounted. A few scraps were absently consumed as King Grol’s lair was searched. Finnegan found Gundren’s map to Wave Echo Cave stashed beneath the Bugbear’s oily mattress.
When we gather again, we return to Cragmaw Castle. There’s looting to be done. Experience to be accounted for. Plans to be made. What is next?
You’ve heard rumor of a wizard hanging around Old Owl Well. There’s more of the Many Arrows orcs near Wyvern Tor, and there was that banshee or haunt near Conyberry… You promised Sister Garaele you’d help her with “Agatha.”
Not to mention Goater’s other cousins, Tharden and Nundro, Gundren’s brothers. Where are those dwarves and where or who is this malevolent influence known as The Black Spider? Is the map the key?