When last we left our intrepid heroes they had been confronted by Reidroth the Druid. The old man warned of them of a mighty dragon that roamed this area, and of mysterious cultist who seemed interested in said dragon. Out of curiosity the group confronted the cultists. After briefly interrogating their leader, the group slaughtered the cultists, and stole their clothes. Knowing themselves to be unfit to fight a dragon the crew set out to resume their main quest, but something deep down inside told them…they’d be back.
It had been nearly a month since Carlo, Atlas, Cinnamon, and at the time, Elephant and Jaden had set out from Neverwinter to seek adventure and fortune in Phandalin. At first the long journeys along the meandering back trails of Fâerun were tortuous for the three of them, but now they were beginning to enjoy them. They were starting to feel like real adventurers. Yet, they still didn’t have the requisite “loot for days.” Needless to say, this was beginning to cause some tension within the group.
“So why exactly did we raid that town again?” asked Atlas
“We didn’t raid anything,” replied Carlos, “A raid implies we stole people’s possessions. We were there to scavenge abandoned goods, and we went there because a maiden informed us that there would be many goods worth scavenging.”
“Well that wench lied! That place was damn ghost town!” he screamed, “When we get back there I’m gonna cut her head off!”
Cinnamon poked his head out from behind the two and said, “If were killing people do you think I could have her bone marrow? I could use it to make a nice healing salve.”
Carlos interjected, “No! Were not killing anyone. Ok? She didn’t lie to us, we found a nice vase that’s probably with a good bit of gold.”
Atlas scoffed, “yeah, some vase.”
“Besides, we met that druid who told us where the castle is. That’s part of our quest remember? Slider told us that place might have clues that will lead us to the Lost Mine. You see how important that is don’t you?”
Unbeknownst to the group, their argument had awoken a nearby nest of stirges. Now if you don’t know what a stirge is you should count yourself lucky. Their big nasty flying creatures that drain the blood straight out of their victims. Imagine a mosquito except they’re 3 feet tall, they have massive talons, and for some reason they’re bright pink.
As the group continued to argue about killing maidens and turning their bones into “a nice salve” the Stirges slowly crept up on them. If not for all the yelling they probably would have heard the incessant buzzing emanating from behind them.
Suddenly Cinnamon let out a piercing moan. He became limp and fell from his horse. Turning to see what had happened Carlos and Atlas were confronted by three Stirges, with a fourth one lodged in Cinnamon’s back. Carlos quickly jumped from his horse and slashed the stirge in Cinnamon’s back. Still on his horse Atlas loosed two arrows, each striking a stirge dead. Carlos yanked the proboscis out of Cinnamon’s back, and using it as a sort of dagger, smashed it right into the final stirge’s stupid face. The beast fell to the ground dead.
“Thank you for that,” said Cinnamon trying his best to sit up.
Carlos scuttled over to Cinnamon and leaned him against a nearby tree, “Think nothing of it. Can you stand?”
“I’ll be fine, I’ll just use my healing hands.”
Cinnamon then proceeded to rub himself for about 5 minutes, during which time Carlos and Atlas stood on the opposite side of the trail and did their best not to look. When he was done Cinnamon stood up, and climbed on his horse. The trio then road a ways before making camp for the night.
A few days later they arrived in Phandalin. Wearily, they made their way to the Stonehill Inn to hopefully get some rest. There they found none other than Elephant, high as a kite, still trying to hit on Trilena the bar maiden. After yet another stern rejection he turned to see the trio stumble in the door. His face immediately lit up.
“AYYY! LOOK WHO IT IS! MY THREE FAVORITE HUMANOID ADVENTURERS!” Except he’s super high at this point so it sounded my like, “hip, looth cho baderpaderp! is badeeble faposhite ominom ado;df;alsdkfjasd;l.”
Carlos looked at him disappointedly. “Elephant, where did you go? We spent the last week and a half on the other side of Neverwinter wood! You know we really could have used your help.”
Elephant tried to stand up but stumbled and almost fell and hit his head.
Atlas turned to Carlos, “You sure about that?”
After pulling himself up Elephant said, “Look, I’m just your humble neighborhood elephant. and an elephant’s got to do what an elephants got to do. I can’t be held down man, I gotta be free to flow with the wind. Elephants are nomadic we wander and we stroll. You can’t tie an elephant down and expect him to be in one place. I gotta stretch my giant feet, and walk where ever they take me.”
Carlos had had enough of this. It was a long day and the only thing he wanted in the whole world was to go upstairs and go to sleep. “Ok, dude whatever. We figured out where Cragmaw Castle is, and we’re going to hit it up tomorrow. You’re welcome to come, but you gotta sober up, I’m not dragging your ass up and down the Triboar Trail.”
The next morning Carlos, Atlas and Cinnamon woke up and went downstairs to get some breakfast. There they found Elephant standing alone in the corner, his head hung low, and all of his things tied up real tight in a little backpack. It was cute, the guy really felt bad about letting the group down. After breakfast the four of them went into town to buy a horse for elephant and after another stop to top off on supplies they headed out west along the Triboar Trail.
They traveled the rest of the day until nightfall. The next morning they woke to find that Elephant had already made breakfast. It was a meal of goopey eggs and uncooked roots, but it was clear that he was trying. After breakfast they resumed their trek. After traveling for 2 hours they stopped again. The four of them dismounted and circled up to talk.
Carlos brought out the map, “The druid said the path to the castle should be right around here. Everyone look around, it could be hidden.”
And so they began searching up and down the trail. Climbing up hills and walking through bushes. Atlas climbed a tree hoping to get a better view, but all he could see was leaves. Eventually Cinnamon stumbled upon a very strange looking shrub. Pulling it back he found a heavily wooded trail descending deep into the darkness of the woods north of the trail. wasting no time the crew grabbed their horses and headed in. Initially the trail was so narrow, and the shrubbery so thick they had to walk their horses through, but eventually the brush gave way, and path became easy to follow, and so the resumed their journey on horseback.
After riding for some time they came upon a large opening. In the center of the clearing was a hill, and atop the hill stood a small castle, the Cragmaw Castle to be specific.
“That’s it?” said Atlas
“This is where the map says. That’s got to be it,” replied Carlos.
“It’s a pile of rubble!”
“I mean…most of the structure seems mostly in tact. It looks like most of the damage is concentrated on the upper floors. Besides, I don’t think goblins are too discerning when it comes to hideouts.”
“Fine, but I AM NOT scavenging through another ghost town. There had better be some damn loot!”
“And some bones for my healing salve!” chimed in Cinnamon.
“Yeah, and some bones for our healing salves,” said Atlas looking back at Cinnamon quizzically.
“I don’t know where you guys are getting all this from, I feel like you weren’t this up and arms last time? In any event if this really is the goblin lair then there’s bound to be tons of loot. They’ve sacked an awful lot of caravans.”
Atlas seemed satisfied with that answer, so the group moved on to scouting the premises. Carlos and Atlas divided the duty. Carlos circled around to the north, while Atlas took the south. Sticking to the treeline, they made note of major features and possible entrances until they met on the far side. On the west side they spotted a large staircase leading towards a large wooden door, clearly the main entrance. The door itself appeared tattered and on the verge of collapsing under its own weight. On either side of the door stood a large tower lined with arrow slits. To the South stood another entrance, this one much smaller. Again it was guarded by arrow slits. The eastside offered nothing but open terrain guarded by still more arrow slits.
At first the North side of the castle seemed like more of the same. A number of large towers fused together to form a wall, all in varying states of ruin, but something didn’t quite seem right. Doing his best Sherlock Holmes impression Carlos paused for some time examining each and every nook and cranny for possible clues. After successfully rolling for investigation he noticed a small worn path leading across the clearing to a crumbling portion of the wall.
Excitedly, Carlos motioned for the other three to join him. There was a bit of confusion over some of the hand signals, but eventually they all met up where the path met the tree line.
“Do you guys see this trail? I think it’s a clue!” said Carlos.
Elephant followed the trail with his eyes until he saw it descend into the castle, “Yeah, I think that’s an entrance.”
“What really?” replied Carlos.
“Yeah, there’s a hole, like, right there,” said Elephant, pointing to a small goblin-sized hole in the northern wall.
“It doesn’t look like there are any arrow slits there,” added Atlas.
It quickly became apparent that this was exactly what they were looking for: a secret, unguarded entrance.
They quickly made their way down the path to the secret entrance. Going inside they found themselves in the base especially ruined tower. A number of old and rotted barrels lined the few portions of the wall that hadn’t totally collapsed. It was dark in the room, but with the light from outside they could make out a door to the east, and a canvas flap covering a passage to the south. Atlas immediately walked over to one of the barrels and began opening it with a dagger. Upon opening the barrel he know he had made a huge mistake. The foul stench of rotting meat filled the room, making it difficult to breathe. After a little silent slap fest, Atlas hurriedly tried to slam the top back on the barrel. In all the commotion they missed a loud thud coming from the south, that would probably become relevant again later.
Eventually Atlas did manage to put the top back on in a manner that, at the very least muffled the wretched stench of meat. With the meat fiasco over, they took a little time to scout the area. Cinnamon noticed light emanating from beneath the eastern door. He leaned against the door and listened for movement. He heard a number of voices, unfortunately he couldn’t make out what they were saying. Erring on the side of safety they decided to head down the south passage.
They found themselves in a rectangular room this time. Two doors stood on either side of them to the east and west, and another canvas flap covered another passage to the south. There were no barrels in this room, but the group had learned their lesson anyways so it was a moot point. Cinnamon again noticed light coming from the door to the east. Peering through a keyhole he spotted two hobgoblins having a chat. Meanwhile, Elephant peered through the westerly door and saw nothing but darkness.
Neither options were particularly promising. On the one hand, hobgoblins are pretty mean. But on the other, who knows what kind of boss battle could be hiding in the dark. Soon their discussion evolved into full blown bickering. Eventually the noise was so loud it disturbed the hobgoblins talking in the other room. As they group was arguing, one of the hobgoblins opened the door.
“Oi, Groll is that you? You bet- wha? Who are-“, but before he could finish his sentence Atlas fired an arrow. Unfortunately the arrow missed, but Carlos charged him, stabbing him straight through his hobheart. Before the other hobgoblin could react he was swarmed by Elephant and Cinnamon. It wasn’t pretty, but they managed to kill the hobgoblins, miraculously without alerting anyone else.
Atlas pulled out his dagger and knelt down before the fallen hobgoblins.
“What are you doing?” asked Carlos.
“Cutting their heads off, what does it look like?”
And everyone backed away from him.
They shoved the corpses into a corner and got back to exploring. Although there were additional passages in the room to the east, they decided to clear the room to the west first. To a normal human the room looks pitch-black, but Atlas and Cinnamon had the advantage of Darkvision. Atlas began describing the room out-loud to the others.
“The room is rectangular, it looks like some kind of shrine maybe. There’s some statues and junk. There’s a door to the west, and it looks like there’s another room to the north.”
“Any creatures, or goblins we sho-“ but before Carlos could finish his sentence a dark hulking creature jumped down on top of him. It wrapped its scale body around Carlos, biting him in the shoulder.
Will our adventurers survive this encounter? Or will they be killed by the mysterious creature! Find out next time on Dorngeons and Dorgans!