They had only been on the move for ten minutes before Baragkus began to stir and the party welcomed the brawny swordsman’s presence amongst their fighting-capable ranks once again. Mere moments after his revival, Kaldar distinctly heard motion coming from the trail that led back to the oh-so-recently fled hobgoblin citadel. With a slash of his hand, the party disappeared into the forest verge and hunkered down behind whatever cover they could find.
It was near impossible to see in the gloom, but the Society got the impression that a group of unidentified creatures was moving down the center of the clearing, headed for the same trail they were bound for. Although impossible to tell numbers or identities, the moon shed enough light for the party to guess that the patrol was composed of a half-score of creatures of two distinct types, one larger than the other. The party stood stock still in the woods and waited for these beings to pass.
Once the unidentified beings has moved along, the party carefully emerged from the woods after allowing the patrol plenty of time to develop a comfortable lead. Their plan was to try and reach the cave where they had spent the previous night, recoup, heal, and memorize spells before determining their best course of action. Slinking through the night, quiet and alert, the party reached the trail head an hour after the patrol had passed them by. It took another two or three hours to follow the path back to the cliff waterfall they had descended to reach their current location.
The band reached the cliff without incident, but were distressed to find that the ropes they had left behind to assist their climb had vanished, likely carried off by the creatures they were following. Fisk looked around at the soft, damp ground and was able to locate several tracks in the area. These footprints were a mix of large and small feet, and based on their experiences at the citadel, the party concluded that they had been preceded by a group of hobgoblins and goblins.
The party checked their packs and discovered they had enough rope to climb the cliff, but no means to attach it to the top. After some discussion, Mars produced a vial of silver-blue liquid, a gift that had been given to him by his order upon induction into the first circle of mysteries of the church of Mog. Wrapping the end of the rope about his waist, he gulped down the potion and began to scale the rocky cliff face with the skill of a spider. As he ascended, Korlack and Fisk discovered a small trail leading away from the base of the waterfall and off into the woods. Marred by goblinoid tracks, it appeared as if the patrol had ventured this way rather than take the long climb up. They made note of the trail’s location and rejoined the party in time to witness Mars clamber cautiously over the top of the cliff.
After solving the problem of the rope sticking to his hands, Mars let down the hemp line and the party climbed up the cliff with swift care. Regrouped once again, the Society headed across the stream and down the path that would take them to the cave. A brief encounter with aged skeletons rife with moss and vine growth was quickly settled by the power of Mog’s divine presence and the party reached the cave clearing an hour or so later.
They had just reached the middle of the clearing en route to the shelter of the cave when a small band of goblins emerged from the woods, ready for battle. Led by a wolf-riding commander, the patrol rushed towards the party, bared blades in hand. As they crossed the meadow, the party unleashed a hail of missiles at the worg, injuring it greatly and giving the beast pause. While its rider tried to regain control, the other three infantry goblins also lost heart. With a yipe, the wolf threw off its burden and fled for the woods. Now dismounted, the goblin leader tried to rally his troops into continuing the charge, but was cut down by an arrow. This was the first missile fired in a astonishingly accurate volley by man-at-arms, Fisk, who promptly dispatched three of the goblins before his bowstring, grown hot by rapid fire, broke under his fingers. The last goblin turned to run, but was cut down before taking more than three steps towards the woods.
The party headed to the cave, leaving the goblin corpses as a warning to any who might come that way—a decision that would cause trouble for them soon. At the cave mouth, there were more signs of hobgoblins and goblins, but the tracks entered and then departed, making it appear that the patrol had searched the cave, found it empty, and move on to continue their search elsewhere. The party entered and took up position once again near the dirty pool of water within.
The party rested and awoke without incident several hours later. Healing spells were cast, wine was consumed, and Korlack prepared his sleep spell. Feeling better but not yet completely recovered, the party decided that they would remain one more night in the cave in hope of reaching optimum fighting capacity. Once they were again at full strength, they planned to return to the citadel and complete their mission.
Several hours later, the party’s rest was interrupted by a hobgoblin patrol. The orange-skinned goblins had discovered their dead, green-skinned kin in the clearing and promptly decided to search the cave. Kaldar heard the patrol enter the cave and the party had little trouble defeating them, although Grumble, as is his wont, was reinjured in the skirmish.
The party returned to the small side cave they were resting in and Mars decided to choke the entrance to that grotto with his web spell. After being thoroughly disappointed with the result (he had envisioned a larger area of effect that then 10’ cube the spell produced), the party settled down to wait once again.
Barely two more hours had passed when ANOTHER hobgoblin patrol, now missing their comrades and finding their tracks and dead goblins in the clearing, decided to (guess what) investigate the cave! The party heard them enter and waited for them behind their wall of webs.
“What in the six hells' that?” one hobgoblin trooper wondered upon seeing the web.
“I don’t know, but there’s someone behind it! Grotus, go tell the camp we found our fugitives!” another soldier replied as a third headed out of the cave.
Seeing their plan was less effective than they had hoped, the party set their own web alight and prepared to meet the hobgoblins in battle. Running out of the burning webs, the Society quickly cut down the four soldiers inside the cave before rushing out to try and stop the one headed towards camp.
As they emerged from their rocky shelter, they discovered that night had fallen and they could barely make out the silhouette of the hobgoblin fleeing towards the trees. The band gave pursuit, but the solider quickly outdistanced them, and when the party failed to reach the hobgoblin camp he was supposedly headed towards after several minutes of pursuit, they decided to turn their attentions elsewhere.
Although still not completely healed, the party decided to make one final foray into the citadel, hoping that hobgoblin patrols would be occupied searching the hill for them as they snuck back to the high command’s lair. Wasting no time, they marched in darkness back down the trail to the waterfall. Arriving at the cataract without encountering any patrols, they swiftly descended to the lower trail and headed straight back to the Citadel of Iron Might and Furious Devotion.
Chance was once again their bitch and the band arrived back at the ancient monastery without trouble. They breached the front doors straightaway and retraced their steps back to the barracks they had recently fled. Grumble kicked in the door without delay and the seven hobgoblins guards inside were caught unawares. Kaldar threw a slumber enchantment over the entire cadre of guards and they all fell asleep before they could respond to the party’ sudden entrance. All in all, a much different resolution than their first time entering the barracks.
The party slit several throats but took one hobgoblin prisoner. There was some difficulty in making themselves understood, but Kaldar suddenly remembered he spoke fluent hobgoblin and took over the interrogation of the captive (my bad!). The party learned that only twenty or thirty hobgoblins remained on the hill, although the captive warned (maybe lying) that there were “dozen of ogres” about too. The party, having acquired this intelligence, debated on what to do with their captive. Bringing him along would mean that someone would have to constantly watch him and the threat of him alerting the rest of the garrison was a very real possibility. They were likewise loath to leave him behind. Kaldar suggested that he would take the captive out to the overgrown garden and keep him there. If the party didn’t return in 24 hours, he would head back to the river and Fort Wolf’s Head and try to raise reinforcements or a rescue mission. The party agreed and Kaldar exited the scene, thus taking him off my hands until his player returns to the game from a leave of absence.
The band found the stairs to the lower level behind a locked door in the barracks and descended quickly, looking to strike hard and fast. Several options for travel met them at the bottom of the steps and they found themselves outside a busy smithy before they ventured too far from the entrance.
Inside, lit by the massive forges against the far wall, were four hobgoblins and a large bugbear overseer. Two of the hobgoblins stood watch over the room, their backs turned away from the entrance, while the other two worked steel into spearheads and sword blades. In the far corner of the room, a dirty, unkempt dwarf, his foot restrained by a ball and chain, worked at another anvil: A prisoner in need of rescue!
The party’s arrows cut down the two distracted guards and the fighting men charged into the room immediately thereafter to confront the remaining goblinoids. Seeing his captors distracted, the dwarf threw his hammer at the bugbear’s head, creasing its skull as Baragkus engaged him in battle. Mars challenged one of the remaining hobgoblins and Grumble raced towards the other. Korlack and Cleopos kept watch down the halls outside.
The bugbears, although formidable, was no match for Baragkus, and even Mars Markus took down his own foe in short order. As Grumble distracted his own opponent, the dwarf captive picked up another hammer and bashed the guard’s helmet with a mighty blow, sending the hobgoblin staggering. Another blow dropped him to the ground, stone cold dead. The party was again victorious without suffering wounds in return!
The dwarf prisoner looked at his rescuers with a broad grin. “Boy, ar yoo a sight fur soor ees!” he said with joy, and the party began to converse with their newfound friend…
Next we’re doing something different, but recaps will resume in a week or two. See you then!