Category LMOP

We could be heroes

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Aramil returned to their new found friends, having first cast Resist Poison on me.  I went up to the roof of the barracks and took up a watching position, while Elaina hid in the bushes on the far side of the square.

Garrett and Aramil were gone for quite a while, then returned with 6 masked and robed cultists, two of whom were carrying a chest.  They stopped in the middle of the square and Garrett then started improvising a song in honour of the dragon.  It sounded pretty awful to me, and the dragon obviously agreed as he didn’t make an appearance.  The leader of the cultists finally cracked and stopped Garrett, and started an invocation in a gutturally sibilant language that I think was draconic.  This was obviously more effective, as a fairly large green dragon appeared through the roof of the tower and flew down.  It circled over the barracks, and I hastily scrambled down the ladder, which was good because it then landed on the roof.  Fortunately the barracks were sturdily build and could take the strain.

The leader continued to talk in draconic and two of the acolytes opened the chest, revealing a rather small pile of gems.  It appears that the dragon though so as well, although we couldn’t be certain as none of us spoken draconic.  They conversed a little more, and then I heard it switch to common to talk to Garrett and Aramil.  It had correctly surmised that they didn’t speak draconic, because apparently the cult leader had just offered them to sweeten the sacrifice.  Garrett countered with some quite impressive brown-nosing, discovering that the dragon was called Venomfang.  He managed to persuade Venomfang that the cultists themselves should be punished for having offered such a feeble sacrifice.  Venomfang obviously agreed as he turned on them, killing all six in a particularly effective fashion.

Venomfang then turned to Garrett and Aramil who had been edging to the far side of the square, keeping a good distance between them.  Venomfang was obviously still not satisfied, as the demanded that I should come out from hiding, and we should all give him all of our wealth as well.  This didn’t seem like a great deal, so I shouted out to Elaina to get things started.  She rushed out and attacked Venomfang in the flank, missing with her first thrust but hitting with her second.   I shot it, and missed completely.  Things were starting badly.  Garrett cast Shatter, but it just shook it off.  Venomfang then raked at Elaina with a claw, missing, and breathed posion on Garrett, who went straight down.  Aramil cast resist poison on himself.  I shot again, and hit this time, driving an arrow deep into his flank.  Elaina slashed and missed again, and in return was badly savaged.  Aramil cast a bolt of energy which hit Venomfang full on, and I hit again with a might arrow that sank deep into a gap between his scales.  Elaina healed herself, and her blow glanced off his scales.  Venomfang struck her again though with his claws., pushing her to her knees.  Aramil rushed forward, and struck a blow with his mace.  I let lose a third might arrow that sank deep into his shoulder, and Venomfang took to the air, obviously finding us tougher going than he had expected.  Aramil swung again as he left, and missed, but Elaine struck him.  Aramil then targeted him with another bolt of energy, and I rushed out and hit him with another arrow.  Finally Elaina targeted  him with a Magic Missile spell and he fell, fatally wounded, from the sky.Suddenly remembering Garrett, who was about to breathe his last, Aramil dashed across and used an incantation to heal him and bring him away from death’s door.

Thus we killed the dragon Venomfang, and liberated the village of Thundertree.  Over the next few days we cleared it completely of the ash zombies and twig blights, so that people could come and once again settle in it.

And they all lived happily ever after…

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Thank you for not smoking

Having dealt with the menace of Black Spider we have some well earned sleep.  We then return to the cave with the crevasse and have a really good search, finally uncovering the skeleton of a dwarf miner with some very chunky looking gloves.  Aramil tries them on and finds that his strength is magically much increased, so he decides to keep them.

We then return to the cave with the Forge of Spells in it.  There is unfinished business with the wraith, who could be a tough opponent.  We decide therefore, since he spoke to us, and since reasoning with the mad beholder went so well, that we might try talking to him as well.  We open the door and he forms before our eyes as before.  This time, though, we ask him why his soul is restlessly stalking the material plane.  He ponders and gives us a long story about how he was the last of the defenders and the mightiest wizard here, but even he fell defending the Forge.  He is now trying to preserve all the magical items that remain and keep them safe.  If we are willing to get rid of the guardian of the forge, then he will reward us with coins from his treasure chest, for he has no use for them.  We tell him that we have dismissed the guardian, but he does not believe us until Garrett shows him his normal dagger, then goes and enchants it in the forge and returns to show us it is enchanted.  The wraith then allows us to take all the coins from his chest, but not the pipe.  We examine the chest, and there is indeed a hoard in there, as well as an old and well worn smoking-pipe, which we leave as instructed.  The wraith then offers us a chance to look through his shelves of tomes and scrolls if we give him something similar in return.  We offer the scroll of Augury (a spell of strictly limited utility) and have a look.  Unfortunately we find no scrolls of Wish or similar, but do find an intriguing old map stuffed into the flysheets of one old book.

We find little else in the caverns, and so decide to return with Tobler to Phandalin, where we receive a cordial welcome from Gudrun and Sildar.  No sign of Glasstaff anywhere – we shall have to cast our nets further afield.  Our plan to finish off the last Redbrands at the Sleepy Giant is forestalled by discovering that they have all scarpered, including the grumpy proprietress.

Fortified, we return to Thundertree to help out the druid as we promised.  We find him easily, and discover that nothing much has changed.  Aramil persuades us that rather than just heading straight for the tower, and the dragon, we should have a check of the rest of the village first.  We find that the route to both the tower and the rest of the village is blocked by a wall of webs anyway, so spend a merry couple of minutes slaughtering two giant spiders before continuing.  We find a village square with a statue to some minor hero, a fortified watch tower with some ash zombies in it, and then at the far end of the village, a barricaded house.  Garrett and Aramil knock on the door, with Elaina and myself covering them and hidden.  The house turns out to have 6 complete loonies living there, who appear to worship dragons and want to befriend this dragon.  They are very interested in Garrett and Aramil joining their cult.  A plan starts to form in my mind, that we could offer the dragon 6 willing victims if it agrees to leave the village and move elsewhere.  I am sure it would give the loonies the buzz of their lives to be actually eaten by the dragon.  Or maybe it would get it into their stupid heads that dragons are not cute and cuddly.  Either way, its a win for the forces of sanity.

Aramil slips out though, and we have a conflab on the plan.  They agree that the cultists could provide useful ablative cover, so Garrett and Aramil will offer to lead them to the dragon, given all their experience in dealing with dragons.  Meanwhile, he suggests that since the watchtower has arrow slits overlooking the tower, and has arrow slits, it would provide a good place for me to snipe at the dragon from.  I heartily concur, as studded leather has been shown in repeated tests to provide very little protecting against dragon breath.  We burst into the tower and start killing the ash zombies one at a time after Aramil has turned them all.  It turns out that they are heavy smokers and each time you hit them they try to share a little passive smoking with you in the hope that you will die of a lingering lung disease in 20 years time, so Elaina and I pull back and shoot them down while Aramil goes toe to toe with the forces of Big Tobacco.  We finish them off relatively quickly, and I start preparing my ambush point.

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The low view – obviously he skipped the poetry lectures

We search the rift to no avail. Garret is so unobservant he barely notices that there are rocks to be looked under.
Aeldrin sneaks off up another passage while the rest of us ponder on the meaning of existence.>He returns and reports that he’s found another cavern and a locked door. Behind the door he thinks is a dwarf, In the cavern is an elf and two large goblinoids. We wonder if it is yet another doppelganger, but still formulate a plan of attack. The first part of this plan being that Garret and Aramil return to the glowing brazier to recharge a few items.
This done, the rest of the plan follows – sneak up to the cave, smash the place up and kill everyone.
In actuality, it was somewhat different.
It seems that this is the real Black Spider as he went into a BBEG type speech about having to deal with us himself.
Garret missed with his crossbow and was promptly jumped by a giant spider which squirted him with webbing.
Elaina managed to cast Magic Missile and hit BS. Aeldrin followed up with a well placed arrow and BS looked shaken.
Aramil cast his Bane spell on BS and the two bugbears, then looked to defend Garret. The musical halfling spent most of this battle either escaping from webbing or being squirted with more. He did manage to critically spear a bugbear in the goolies which cheered him up no end.
Having been rocked by the attacks from Elaina and Aeldrin, Black Spider promptly disappeared, thinking that his four pet spiders would do the job for him. Despite Aeldrin’s inner fears, we eventually won out, although BS did make a decent attempt to escape. A Shocking Grasp momentarily disoriented Aeldrin enough for Black Spider to slip past down the corridor. However, an arrow between the shoulder blades did the job and the usurper of Wave Echo Cave was no more.
We got some decent loot and even found that the Staff of Spiders that Black Spider carried would enable Elaina to cast Web or Spider Climb multiple times per day. There was also a key which allowed us to rescue the third Rockseeker brother and we took a long rest in his cell.
Next day, we returned to the Rift. A night’s rest clearly sorted Garret out as he spotted a dwarven skeleton instantly, and found it was wearing some Gauntlets of Ogre Power. Aramil now sports these and feels confident he will be able to bash the shit out of anyone with his magical mace!!

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Unmasking the villain (again)

5th day of Mirkul (possibly)

Before we start the rest though, we decide to quickly go and check on the bugbears that we had tied up.  We discover that they have been freed – their ropes were cut – so obviously Black Spider or another of his henchmen (henchbears? henchbugs?) have been here.  We withdraw to the cavern with the glowing brazier and have our short rest.  We debate on whether to confront the wraith again, but decide that it looks a bit too scary for us, so decide to go and talk to the senile beholder again, and persuade it that we are the new owners of Wave Echo Cave, and all the wizards it used to serve are dead.

We enter the building and hear its familiar burbling voice in our heads.  Garrett starts speaking (or sub-vocalising to it).  He tells it that all of the wizards that it used to serve are long dead, having died in some great battle outside.  It looks quizzical (possibly, difficult to tell on a disembodied eye), and asks us to confirm this a few times.  Then it just suddenly vanishes.

We wait a while to see if it will reappear, before deciding that possibly it had been bound by the wizards and so is now free.  Garrett examines the brazier of green flame and mutters some exploratory incantations over it.  I go and look at the remaining workbenches and find a very fine looking brass headed mace and a breastplate with a dragon’s head on it.  Garrett extends his incantations to examine these items as well.  Aramil takes the mace, which is sacred to Lathanader and is called Lightbringer.  Elaina takes the breastplate, which was made for a hero of Neverwinter called Turgon and is called Dragonguard.  Usefully, it gives extra resistance to dragon’s breath.

It turns out that the flaming brazier will also make mundane items temporarily magical as well, so we dip our weapons and armour into it, and go hunting for Black Spider.  We return to the wave cavern and up the ledge to the far end.  We find a natural fissure where a stream once obviously flowed, but is now dry.  I scout ahead, and find a good sized chasm with a wide fissure across it.  There is the noise of rocks being moved, and I see two bugbears down at the bottom of the fissure, moving rocks around.  Ropes lead up to the floor on the far side, where a further bugbear is supervising them.  I wait and continue to observe, and see a drow is also there as well – this time this must be Black Spider.  We decide that trying to fight them across the fissure is not ideal, as they can easily flee if they start losing, so decide to find the other route into that cave.  We return through the bugbear room, then up the corridor and turn right.  Ahead we hear the noise of the bugbears, so know we are close.  I return to the forge room, and scout up the water channel, guessing that it should also come out into that cavern.  I am correct, and the ambush is set.

I start by shooting the drow, having previously magically marked his as my quarry.  Garrett leaps forward and casts a spectacularly useless shatter spell.  Aramil casts an invocation at the bugbear that freezes it in place, while Elaina slashes at the drow twice, but only hits it once.  The drow now draws a sword and attacks Elaina with little effect.  I shoot it again.  Garrett casts another incantation at the drow, and it drops to the floor.  Aramil hits the still frozen bugbear with his new mace.  Elaina rushes forward and cuts one of the ropes that a bugbear is climbing, causing it to tumble to the floor.  I shoot the other bugbear, and Garrett leaps forward and stabs it with his rapier.  It clutches its face in agony and falls from the rope, breaking its neck as it hits the cavern floor.  Aramil hits the frozen bugbear again, but his blow is deflected by its armour.  Elaina steps in and delivers the coup de grace, while I shoot the final bugbear at the bottom of the rift.

We examine the body of the drow to find that this one has also reverted to a doppleganger form like the last drow.  Was this really Black Spider?  Are all the Black Spiders dopplegangers?  Is there one Black Spider somewhere who is sending out all these duplicates?  Will we ever work out what is going on?


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They’re all dead, Dave

4th day of Mirkul (probably)

Our long rest passes surprisingly uneventfully and we prepare to fight the flaming skull and zombies in the forge chamber again (unless there is a different flaming skull behind this door, which is a prospect too worrying to consider).  We come up with a fairly cunning plan (well, a plan at least), and unbar the door.  There is a short corridor and T-junction beyond before it opens into the room beyond, which appears to be the same forge chamber.

I advance in and let off a shot at the skull, hitting it with an arrow.  It returns fire with two flame bolts, severely wounding me.  I realise that a second round of that sort of damage will kill me.  Elaina enters and starts hacking at the nearest zombies.  Garrett enters and uses his shatter enchantment on the skull.  The zombies flail around a bit and advance on us.  Aramil enters and presents his holy symbol – three of the zombies and the flaming skull retreat from him.  The zombies flee from the room but the flaming skull just backs into the far corner – it is obviously tied to this room.

Free from being attacked by the skull, I heal myself, and also get some healing from Aramil.  Garrett and Elaina start hacking at the remaining zombies – they are surprisingly resilient, but in the end we all pile in and manage to finish them off finally.  Then we heal up and consider the skull, which we know will soon be able to attack us again.  Garrett hits it with another shatter spell, and Elaina casts magic missile on it not once but twice, using her action surge.  The skull explodes into shards of bone and falls to the floor.  We have won, amazingly!  And without anyone dying.

We explore the room, but find nothing unusual.  I go east down the dried up water channel, since the booming noise is loudest from there.  It emerges on a narrow ledge in a large, flooded chamber.  Periodically a wave of water crashes against the cliff below the ledge, creating the booming sound.  The waters smell sulphurous and the air is warm and damp – possibly this connects to a volcano or hot spring of some kind, which might be causing the surges.  I follow the ledge to the right, and enter another tunnel that ends in a very large chamber containing a blackened building, and many skeletons.  The doors of the building are ajar and I peer in.  There is a weird glowing brazier within.  I back away and go down a corridor on the west wall, which I hope will rejoin the forge chamber.  It does, and I am reunited with the rest of the party.

We all now enter the large chamber and open the doors of the building within.  The interior is also smashed up – we reckon this might be the wreckage from the spell battle that we heard was the climax of the battle of Wave Echo Cave three hundred years ago.  The glowing brazier in the centre might be the Forge of Spells that we have heard tell of.  A strange floating sphere with a large central eye and four eyes on stalks rises behind it, and we feel a voice talking to us in our heads.  It seems friendly, and it explains that this is the Forge of Spells and that it is guarding it for the wizards who have just stepped out for a minute and will be back soon.  We describe Glasstaff to see if he is one of the wizards, but he doesn’t recognise the description.  I think that because the only way into this chamber is through the forge, and the skull has been guarding that entrance, possibly no one has been in here since the battle three hundred years ago.  In which case either this creature has a poor sense of time, or is completely insane.  The wizards who popped out a couple of minutes ago are almost certainly the skeletons in the chamber outside.

The guardian is friendly, but seems adamant that we can’t touch anything until the wizards return, so we decide not to ignore him, and explore the further reaches of the cavern.  We find that there is an upper step and another building, also blackened and damaged.  We prise open the door to this, and peer inside.  The floor is covered in dust, which rises up before our eyes to form a wraith that accuses us of coming to steal its treasure.  We retreat rapidly – two sets of undead in one day is too much for us.  We go further south in the cavern, and find that it opens into another, fungus filled cavern.  This is familiar to us from before.  We opt to have a short rest outside the building with the wraith.

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Chiswick! Fresh cartographers!

3rd day of Mirtul

Having celebrated our success at Cragmaw Castle (and the Greengrass festival) with much revelry at Phandolin, we ask Gundrun to tell us where Wave Echo Cave is, which he willingly does.  It turns out to be surprisingly close to Phandalin after all.  We find the cave entrance without difficulty and venture in.  We find an encampment in the first cave, and the recently dead body of a dwarf, who we assume is the third of the dwarven brothers.  His boots prove interesting (I don’t remember why the sudden interest in footwear) and Garrett takes them upon discovering that they make him more fleet of foot and generally bouncy.  At least he should now be able to keep up with us.

At the far end of the cave is a large sinkhole, with a rope tied, which we descend.  Below we find a widened part of a long fissure, which we explore.  There is a warren of small tunnels running off it, which seems to be the long abandoned mine workings.  We find a round room with many long dead dwarves and orcs, obviously a relic of the fall of the mines long ago.  Beyoind this room we find a vast, fungi filled cavern, which we decide not to explore.  To the south we find several rooms – one has a collapsed ceiling and more skeletons, except these ones animate and attack us.  In another chamber we find an iron strongbox which we are unable to open.

Further north, we find another chamber where we are attacked by 3 ghouls.  We manage to defeat them without loss and penetrate further into a confusing maze of galleries.  We find some stairs going upwards and ascend into a huge chamber where we are attacked by seven ghouls.  This time Elaina is briefly paralyzed by one of them, but again we defeat them.  The central section of the cavern is lower, and we descend some steps, to find a banqueting chamber, again strewn with ancient dead.  Venturing down a cavern to the north, we reach an ancient forge, with more bodies, and a floating, green glowing skull.  Garrett casts an illusion to distract it, and we attempt to rush across the chamber while it is distracted, but the dwarves in there rise and shamble towards us.  The glowing skull also attacks us, firing fiery beams from its eye-sockets.  We are badly mauled, and retreat rapidly to the large chamber again.  We try to take a rest there, but notice another of those strange ceiling worms from Cragmaw on the ceiling, so decide to move on.  We return to the chamber where we killed the 3 ghouls and rest briefly there, before continuing exploring.

After a long period getting lost in the warren, we find another door, behind which I head voices talking in goblin.  We burst in, to find 5 bugbears in there.  The fight is vicious, and we are badly wounded again, but manage to kill three of them.  Garrett sleeps another one, and the final one surrenders.  We notice that the far door is barricaded, and he tells us that it is because there are zombies and a glowing skull beyond.  He also tells us that they serve the Black Spider, and that he is laired somewhere nearby.  We decide that we need to have a long period of rest and recuperation if possible in this chamber.

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Once more, with feeling

30th day of Trasakh

Having finished searching the hobgoblin quarters, we return to the store room and then quietly open the door on the other side.  It opens out into a chapel of some sort.  Three goblin priests are praying at an altar draped in black cloth, while two more watch out of arrow slits in the wall.  There are two curtained doorways on the right hand side.

Wanting to prevent the goblins from fleeing and raising the alarm, I am first to enter and run to the far doorway before the goblins can react.  The others block the other doorway, and the combat is short and bloody.  We examine the altar, and see three golden sacramental vessels on it.  It looks like this is the defiled shrine to Oghma!  I strip the black and bloody cloth off the altar, and keep the sacred ornaments.

Going through the curtains, we enter a high and ornately carved ante-chapel.  There is a font with a pile of charcoal in it – searching though it reveals ???something???.  However, our searching is interrupted when a strange beaked snake drops from the ceiling where it had been hiding.  The fight against this is hard work, and my blows don’t seem to have much effect, but in the end some mighty blows from Elaina finish it off.

Stealthily opening the far door, we see it opens out into the small courtyard we had previously observed from the secret door entrance.  We can see a single goblin dozing in there but are concerned there might be many more, so decide to lure it into the chapel to kill it subtly.  Garrett casts an illusion of a beckoning goblin and I try to imitate its voice to ask it to come and help me.  It wakes and comes over to us; we shut the door behind it and I dispatch it with a single blow.  We hear another goblin voice from the courtyard asking where it is though, so entice another goblin in and dispatch that as well.

Entering the courtyard, we peer through the curtain into the guardpost for the secret back door beyond.  There are only two goblins in there, so Garrett and I leap in on them and dispatch them before they can raise the alarm.  We then proceed to the king’s quarters, where we listen and hear various voices.  We decide to burst in, and confront a bugbear, a hobgoblin and a goblin – not the start of a bad dwarven joke but instead obviously the latest set of leaders.  The fight is again bloody, but we are getting good at honing our tactics with these humanoids now, attacking their weaknesses, so we quickly kill them, but not before sustaining significant damage ourselves.  We finish the last of our healing spells and are contemplating a rest, when there is a loud knocking at the door, and some hobgoblins demanding to know what is going on.  Our attempts to stall them and dismiss them fail, and they burst into the room.  There are four of them, and once again there is a bloody fight.  At the end of it, I am forced to drink my last two healing potions to get myself back into fighting form again.

We proceed through the curtain we never investigated before and find a hobgoblin barrack rather than the kitchen we expected.  Beyond this we find the room that they had obviously been keeping the owl bear in – on a fragment of floor high up we find some treasure.

At this point we are weary and bloodied but anxious to finish emptying the castle.  We decide to try and intimidate the remaining goblins, so gather up the heads of the chiefs we have just killed and take them with us.  The next room is a kitchen/refectory with a handful of goblins – we brandish the heads and tell them to leave and never return if they want to survive.  All of them do apart from the cook, and we rapidly reduce him to julienne strips.

Leaving the kitchen, we see that the main hall and gate has a number of goblins fleeing the castle – we do a final sweep and then rest on our swords, our labours here seemingly finished.  And all in time for the Greengrass festival as well.

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Exactly – that’s the last thing they will be expecting

30th day of Tarsakh

We deliberate on our next approach as we hike back to the cave to rest.  We decide that the disguise plan was a good one, it was just that I stuffed it up by resorting to violence too quickly.  I resist the urge to respond to the criticism by resorting to violence, and agree that we will try the plan again this evening.  This time, though, we decide that we will try the main gate.  My thoughts are that trying the secret entrance for a fourth time is so obvious that there is no way they could be expecting it, but I get voted down.  We decide that we need more intel though, so decide to ambush a patrol and capture a goblin to interrogate.

After resting, we scout around for a patrol and soon find one with two hobgoblins and four goblins.  We leap into action, in a slightly haphazard manner.  My first arrow goes seriously awry, and Garrett’s incantation only sends two of the goblins into a slumber.  We start to get our act together though, and reasonably rapidly dispatch the hobgoblins and one of the goblins.  The last goblin scarpers before we can catch him, using an unusual turn of speed.

We tie up the last two goblins and start asking them questions.  They are surprisingly co-operative, although maybe seeing the two dead hobgoblins and knowing of our reputation helps them.  In return for some food and their freedom they tell us that there are still lots of goblins, but relatively few hobgoblins and bugbears, and that there is no new authority figure to replace the king.  Black Spider is continuing to send them orders, but they are just mercenaries working for him.  They tell us that the main gate is guarded by sentries, but tell us the password.  They also warn us that after the main door there is a pit trap straight ahead, but the door to the north leads to the hobgoblins, and the door to the south to the goblins.  Pleased with this information we give them the coppers that we found on their dead comrades and tell them that they are free, but that if their information is wrong, we will hunt them down and kill them.

Having resting during the day, we return to Cragmaw Castle in disguise and with Garrett disguised as a captive.  He casts minor illusion to help our faces appear more hobgoblin-like.  We approach the main gate and are challenged for the password.  I return the phrase the goblins gave us, and we are let in – so far so good.  There is a brief exchange with the gate guards about our patrol, which I answer in a guttural snarl and then we proceed through the north door.

Beyond the north door, we find a storage chamber with spoilt food, which is obviously still being eaten.  We also find some bloodied chainmail and a sword, which we think might be Sildar’s, so we take it.  There is a door in the west wall, which we open.  Beyond is a barracks with four hobgoblins.  I start a conversation, mindful of the feedback from the rest of the party over the last attempt, and we find that there are very few of the hobgoblins left, very few bugbears, and that the owlbear was their secret weapon, which they are most annoyed that was released early.  We try to withdraw, but they are keen that we leave Garrett there, which doesn’t seem like a good idea.  The conversation continues in a desultory fashion (although they do mention that Black Spider lives in a cave), until the minor illusion wears off.  We see a look of confusion cross the faces of the hobgoblins, so we attack.  The fight is bloody, but we are victorious, although not before both Elaina and I take serious wounds from the hobgoblins, who seem to be hitting with much more vigour than before – they seem to have been training which is giving them some sort of martial advantage.  When the fight is over, we notice a cage of crows by the arrowslit – we surmise that this might be how Black Spider is communicating with the hobgoblins.  Maybe we can release one and follow it to see where it goes?  If only we had someone with a flying familiar…

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Don’t even want to think about the biology of it…

28th day of Tarsakh

We set out once again for Cragmaw Castle, but this time we have a plan to try and sneak in disguised as hobgoblins, using the equipment from the ones we killed at the caves.

29th day of Tarsakh

We reach Cragmaw Castle again and approach the back door in the dark wearing our disguises, and pretending that Garrett is a captive.  We are not as silent as hoped in advancing and are challenged by a goblin sentry.  I attempt to bluff us in in goblin, but he insists that we must go in by the main gate.  In frustration I rip aside the curtain and attack him with my blades.  Unfortunately there is a second goblin who rushes out of the far door before we can stop him.  We kill the goblin and beat a hasty retreat, but are pursued from the castle.  We retreat through the forest westawards, but they are tracking us and we are not gaining on them.  Finally in desperation, we set up an ambush on the far side of a glade in the dark forest, climbing some trees.  Our pursuers enter the glade cautiously, obviously having sensed that we are no longer fleeing from us, as they never could have kept up with us if they had been this cautious crossing every glade.  They send in ten goblins to check the glade, and when they are half across, four hobgoblins and a bugbear also enter the glade.  Garrett casts faerie fire upon the bugbear, but it only affects two of the goblins and one of the hobgoblins.  Still the light from that is enough for us to start shooting as the goblins and bugbear race across the glade.  The hobgoblins stay back and start a surprisingly effective counter-fire against us.  I am somewhat wounded but we kill the bugbear and two of the hobgoblins with arrows, while Garrett’s spell casts most of the goblins into slumber.  The remaining two hobgoblins flee back to the castle.

We return to the castle, hoping that they will think that we have continued to flee, and investigate the postern gate.  I try to sneak up to it, but am obviously spotted and shot upon.  Even then, I am able to see that it is a stout iron door, and probably not an easy means in ingress for us.  We return around to the western side of the castle, and try to work out how to re-enter through the back door again.  As I sneak up again, I can hear deep grunts from inside, and quite commands and sounds of struggle.  As I try to work out what these are, the curtain is whipped open, and a great creature bounds forth, like a bear but with the head of an owl.  I sprint for the forest, but it is gaining on me, so I turn at the edge of the forest and engage it in combat with my blades.  The others join in as well, and we make relatively quick work of it, expending several spells to defeat it before it can disembowel one of us.

We drag its corpse into the forest and return to considering our options again.

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Guards, what guards?

24th day of Tarsakh

We take a short rest and repair the two dams in the caves in case we need to use the water traps again.  Then we set out for Cragmaw Castle.  We find a fairly well trodden track leading in the right direction and my fieldcraft skills tell me that this area has frequent goblin patrols.  We proceed to the edge of Neverwinter Woods, occasionally hiding from goblin patrols, and reach the edge of the woods by evening.

We camp discreetly, and have an uneventful night.

25th day of Trasakh

We awake and make our way quietly through the forest until we sight the crumbling towers of Cragmore Castle.  There is a great doorway opening onto a terrace at the top of a flight of stairs, but many arrow-slits overlook that, so I scout around the castle.  On the south side there is a postern gate, and on the north side, a section of wall between two towers has almost completely collapsed.  in the shadows at the base of the pile of rubble, my keen elven eyes spot that there is a sheet of cloth that has been painted to resemble rubble.  Obviously a secret means of entrance.  I fetch the others and we tether the mules to some nearby trees.

We cautiously enter through the sheet, expecting guards on the other side, but find a deserted area at the base of a collapsed tower.  There is another sheet-covered entrance on the far side, which opens into the bailey of the castle, and a door to the east.  We open the door, which shows a short passageway.  The is a further door to the east and a sheet-covered doorway to the south.  We listen at the door, and hear two voices conversing – one gruff, the other silky.  We decide to burst in and attack them, and prepare spells and weapons.

We burst into the room, which occupies most of the base of this tower.  There are a tall, old bugbear and a female drow arguing.  In the south corner is an unconscious dwarf, and lying on a bed to the north is a wolf.  They are surprised and so we launch an attack.  We guess that the female drow might be Black Spider – the name would fit what we know of Drow habits.  Aramil casts Guiding Bolt at her, which hits as she is not wearing much armour.  The damage is boosted by him using a second level slot on it, and using his bardic inspiration as well.  Elaina attacks the bugbear twice, but only hits once, for minimal damage.  Garrett casts Dissonant Whispers on the bugbear, who is affected – he obviously has low Wisdom.  I attack the drow and hit once.

Next turn we launch more attacks, including another Guiding Bolt and more Dissonant Whispers.  They fight back, but their attacks are mostly ineffective, and we continue to batter them with sword blows and as many spells as we can.  Finally the succumb to our onslaught, including the wolf.  We quickly search them – although the drow has changed shape as she died – she is now an eerily nondescript human – we suspect she may have been a doppleganger.  The unconscious dwarf turns out to be Gudrun, and so we heal him.  Regaining consciousness, he confirms that the bugbear was King Groll, but tells us the drow was just a messenger from Black Spider.  We decide that having rescued Gudrun, we will beat a swift retreat, leaving the goblins to wonder just what has happened.  As we are deciding that, there is a knock on the door, and a voice asking in Goblin whether the king would like his dinner now.  I muster my best gruff bugbear voice and say ‘Later’.  He seems satisfied and departs, so we decide to leave as quickly as possible as well.

Our exit from the castle is unobserved, but when we return to the mules, we find 4 hobgoblins and 2 wolves pawing at them.  We rush forwards to rescue them, and a tough fight, for me at least ensues.  I dispatch the hobgoblin and wolf fighting me, but suffer severe wounds in return which I use my new healing spell to cure.  Aramil and his hobgoblin ineffectually trade blows.  Garrett casts Dissonant Whispers on another goblin, who flees.  Elaina fights the hobgoblin leader and his wolf, who put up a brave fight.  The leader is finally killed, and his wolf and the hobgoblin who is sparring with Aramil flee.  We decide that we need to get out of here fast, so grab the mules and leave as quickly as possible.

27th day of Tarsakh

We return to Phandalin without incident and with Gudrun.  Sildar gives us much gold for killing the goblin king.  However I have not fulfilled my geas of cleansing the shrine of Oghma at Cragmaw Castle, so I, at least, must return.

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