10th day of Lamashan, 4712 AR:
Galadriel searched her backpack for an appropriate wine glass for the occasion. But alas, this was a rare instance in which the alchemist was unprepared. Sanguinia, not a stranger to improvisation, sipped the wine they had found in the Catacombs from a wooden cup, as they relaxed on the back porch of their new home looking out over the Sandpoint Beach. The sun shone down on the party in the bright, clear morning.
Jaden closed one eye as he trained his longbow on his crude drawing of a goblin on the porch step.
“Watch where you point that thing!” yelled Skaroband. She turned her body so that the sun could reach her neglected spots. Courage, the eldest among them, sat on the corner of the porch in his breastplate, maintaining his vigil looking at the dock.
“Ah! I see one of the halflings now!” he yelled, pointing toward the Fatman’s Feedbag. A halfling had his arm in a sling and looked up at the morning sunshine.
“Maybe Garinn will forgive us after all?” asked Sanguinia.
“Even if he does, I doubt we’ll ever see him again,” quipped Skaroband. The others chuckled.
“Aww, give him a break,” said Jaden. “After all, this is a time to relax. We did nearly get killed yesterday.”
“Again!” said Sanguinia, shuddering at the thought of wrestling a cold zombie at the bottom of a pit. “Whenever I see a hole now, I jump away.”
Courage continued looking toward the dock. Skaroband looked at him knowingly and propped herself up on an elbow.
“Feeling guilty now, eh?” said Skaroband. “Is this about how we used some of Garinn’s money on the new house?”
Courage turned to her.
“So it doesn’t bother you that we might have MURDERED several innocent people last night?”
“Oh,” Skaroband said. “That.”
The day before…
The previous day, in the ancient tunnels of the Catacombs of Wrath, the party, after having obtained several items in a strange spherical room in which they floated in the air, explored one last remaining passage: a narrow stairway leading upward and ending in a closed door.
Skaroband signaled to the rest of the party to remain silent and get ready for action. She unsheathed her dagger and burst open the door.
Beyond was a round room with a circular pool that was lined with skulls on spikes. From Skaroband’s left, a hideous, demonic head with wings tried to bite her!
After Skaroband cut it with her dagger, the thing emitted an ear-piercing scream! The party was taken aback, Sanguinia freezing in place. Courage ran up the stairwell and entered the room, joining the battle.
The sounds of melee echoed all the way back toward the hallway outside the spherical chamber, where Galadriel was busy organizing her items neatly into her backpack. Jaden ran back to her, and, knowing nothing would convince her out of her task, helped her finish it before leading her back to the battle.
By the time they reached the party, the battle was already won. The demon, a vargouille, lay still and lifeless on the ground. It had left an open bite wound on Courage’s arm, which festered and turned green. He channeled healing energy onto the area, closing the wound.
All that lay beyond was another spiral stairway blocked by rubble, only this one was leading up. Once again, they heard the sound of baying hounds beneath their feet. Courage took a pickaxe and hammered away at the stone floor, digging a hole several feet deep. However, the sounds did not appear any closer and it was not clear how long he would have to keep digging. They decided to return to the surface.
Putting on a Show
The party stepped out of the Kaijitsu Glassworks Factory, which was closed until further notice. Outside, a man leaned against a nearby building, whistling and flipping a coin. He threw it toward Skaroband.
Skaroband caught it.
“Oh. It’s you again,” she said.
“Nice to see you, too,” the man said. This was one of the two men Skaroband had met in the Fatman’s Feedbag. The man walked toward them. Courage tried to cover up his paladin credentials.
“No need to pretend. I know what you are, Courage,” the man said. “I have a proposition for all of you. In order to continue extending his services to Skaroband and Sanguinia, the Boss has a job that needs doing. The Boss needs to know he can trust you.”
“What is it?” asked Jaden.
“You see, there are thieves, and then there are thieves. Even among us, there are those who are so debased and evil that many of us would be better off without. There is this illusionist, you see, who heads a crew of goblin pirates. She is based in Riddleport, and they are a lowly bunch. They’re not above murder for its own sake, and lately they killed one of our own here in Sandpoint. They just picked up a shipment from Magnimar and are stopping here in Sandpoint on their way back.”
“Uh huh,” said Skaroband.
“They will dock into port, deliver their goods, and most likely buy a case of liquor and get drunk. We need you to destroy their ship under cover of night. With the crew still on it.”
Courage was worried.
“Wait, so you mean –”
“– This illusionist has deceived and killed a number of people in order to increase her profit. And she will murder others if she is not dealt with.”
Courage kept quiet.
“Failure means the Boss will stop extending his services,” the thief continued. “Their ship is called The Welcome Wench, and it will be here this afternoon. Don’t get thrown off by their appearance — their captain casts enchantments on her crew to disguise them as halflings, and quite well I might add. Once the job is done, I will seek you out and you will be rewarded.”
The party agreed. While waiting on the docks for the ship to arrive, Courage, resplendent in his breastplate and accompanied by Sanguinia, Galadriel, and a raggedly-dressed Skaroband, performed a grand tragedy about a fallen king before a group of onlookers.
During the play, a ship with the the words The Welcome Wench arrived at the harbor and dropped anchor. Jaden, who had been standing near their impromptu play, hid behind some nearby cargo. Some people who looked like halflings stepped off the ship, struggling with barrels that were as large as they were. They lifted them onto the dock and started carrying them to the shore. Skaroband approached them, assuming the role of a beggar.
“Alms for the poor?”
“Be off with ye! We don’t give nuthin to you and your kind!”
The supposed halflings brought the barrels into The Fatman’s Feedbag. Skaroband hid away in a dark alley and changed clothes so as to appear like a common citizen. Several minutes later, the halflings left the tavern bearing a large crate of liquor back to the ship. She stiffened up and approached.
“I am an undercover officer serving the Sandpoint authorities, and I must examine your cargo,” Skaroband said.
“Why? We have registered with the harbormaster and paid his fee!”
“We have reports that your cargo is in violation of our regulations,” Skaroband said. “I must see your papers.”
The apparent halflings looked nervous.
“Our captain has ‘em.”
One of the halflings led Skaroband to the captain’s cabin on the ship’s deck. He knocked on the door.
“Eh… Cap’n? There is an officer from Sandpoint who wants to talk to you.”
From behind the door, a gruff voice bellowed, “I’ll have no business with them! Send him away!”
“The officer is right here. She insists on speaking with you and seeing our papers.”
“Bah! Let her in.”
The halfling opened the door. Skaroband’s keen senses were accosted by an overwhelming stench wafting from the doorway. When she peered into the gloom, she saw a horribly obese man sitting behind a table. She entered the cabin.
“I am from the Sandpoint authorities and must examine your papers and your cargo.”
“Well go back and tell them to—-!” He looked at her clothing. “Wait… who is this?”
“I am an undercover officer.”
“Bah! No, you are not! I don’t know who you are or what you’re up to, little lady, but for your own sake you better leave my ship right now.”
Skaroband left the ship and rejoined her fellow actors on the dock. Sanguinia ran up to her in excitement.
“Look!” Sanguinia said, holding up a purse.
“How much did they give us?”
“Oh never mind that, I took this from one of the onlookers!”
They looked inside the purse together. Inside were some silver pieces and a half-finished doll the stranger had been knitting for her child. Skaroband and Sanguinia frowned.
“We’ll keep the coins,” Sanguinia said. “But I think I’ll sneak the rest back to her.”
Courage, oblivious to all this, ended a dramatic monologue, pretended to fall on his bastard sword, and died in a dramatic fashion. The crowd applauded, throwing in copper and silver pieces. The party gathered the money and then huddled together. Skaroband decided to enter the Fatman’s Feedbag to investigate what the ship’s crew were trading there.
Skaroband walked into the bar, sat on a stool and ordered a drink, inquiring about the halflings. The bartender pointed at a nearby table, saying they had left the barrels with the two men sitting there. Skaroband walked over to one of them and slapped him on the back.
“Hey, buddy! How are you?”
The man shifted.
“I don’t know who you are. You best be goin’ now.”
The other man, with a flick of his eyes, directed two men to come forward and escort Skaroband out of the tavern. Skaroband lumbered out.
“Aww! Buddy! What happened? I thought we were friends…”
The party came up with another plan: Skaroband and Courage would enter the tavern and get into a fight, accidentally fall on one of the men at the table and start a bar brawl!
The plan proceeded swimmingly, and a general drunken chaos ensued. In the middle of the confusion, Skaroband took aside one of the barrels and opened it — inside, there was a large amount of mundane-looking herbs. She took some of them and sneaked out, just as Sheriff Hemlock walked in with his guards. Courage displayed his paladin credentials and joined the Sheriff in establishing order!
One of the men who had been sitting at the table, appeared unruffled and stood to the side.
“Jubrayl!” the Sheriff said. “Once again you look completely unsuspicious — an obvious sign if I ever saw one. One day you’ll meet your undoing.”
Jubrayl stood respectfully with his hands joined.
“Yes, milord,” Jubrayl said with a smile.
After the Sheriff left, the party looked at the herbs. Galadriel examined them and saw nothing remarkable—saying simply that they were the ingredients to common potions. She wondered if there was any connection her mentor, the herbalist and alchemist Alliver Podiker?
A mystery… one to be solved another day. As the sun fell, they proceeded with meeting the Boss’s request. The supposed halflings were in the process of passing out on the deck of their ship after their afternoon of drunken revelry. Under cover of darkness, the party sneaked up onto the dock. Courage removed his armor and helped Galadriel swim under the boat. Galadriel placed the bomb so that it would blow open the hull. After a loud BOOM, the two returned to the water’s surface and were helped out of the water by their companions.
From a distance, they observed the boat as it sank into the water. The supposed halflings woke up and began panicking and screaming. They went into the ship’s cabin and started to drag out their over-sized captain.
Skaroband turned to Jaden.
“That doesn’t sound like their screaming in Goblin.”
“They’re not,” Jaden said.
“It sounds a lot like Halfling,” Galadriel said.
They all looked at each other, each with the same thought.
Within seconds, they had scattered and disappeared into the night.
The next day, they returned to the dock and saw that the ship had sunk beneath the waters. Courage had a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
“Maybe some of the halflings survived,” Courage said.
“I’m not about to go around asking questions,” Skaroband said.
“Right,” Sanguinia said. “For now let’s act like nothing ever happened.”
The party agreed. They discussed how, with the money they won from the Catacombs they could now buy a house. They surveyed possible places in Sandpoint. Ameiko Kaijitsu, now the owner of Kaijitsu Manor and its surrounding land, was unwilling to let them build on her land for free despite their friendship.
Besides, they thought that it would be better to buy a ready-made house. They settled on a house that looked out over the Sandpoint Beach and conveniently kept watch over the ships as they arrived at the docks.
Before buying the house, Courage knocked on Garinn’s room at the Rusty Dragon to ask if they could use his share of the gold. The members of the party had each been spread out in three different rooms — Garinn was rooming with his eidolon Brutus.
“Uh… HOLD ON!” Garinn said. After a lot of shuffling, he opened the door a crack.
“Well, me and the other were talking and—“
“So you mean it’s not URGENT and LIFE-THREATENING!?” Garinn said. “Now is a bad time!”
Garinn shut the door in Courage’s face.
Back to the Present…
On the back porch of their new house, Courage breathed a sigh of relief to see that at least one of the halflings had survived. Jaden and Courage turned to examining Tsuto Kaijitsu’s journal. It mentioned Bruthazmus, a bugbear who lived in the Nettlewood they had first heard about from Shalelu Andosana. Courage and Galadriel left for the town library to do some research on bugbears and goblins.
Skaroband examined the map she had bought of the Sandpoint Hinterlands.
“There’s the Nettlewood,” she said. “And there is Thistletop right next to it. That’s where Tsuto mentioned ‘his love’ had burned her father’s remains, and something powerful was in the ‘lower chambers.’”
“And that’s the island where Shalelu told me the goblins have their strongest lair,” Jaden said.
“I think we’ve found our next destination,” Skaroband said.
After Galadriel and Courage returned, they shared their idea and agreed to head out. They packed their belongings and retrieved the horses Aldern Foxglove had bought them for the boar hunt a week ago. Skaroband’s horse was black with white patches, and Courage’s horse was dark brown. Sanguinia bought a new horse with a splendid black coat. Galadriel’s horse was bright pink.
Into the Woods
Following the map, they walked past the Sandpoint Cathedral and left town through its northern gate. They set off toward the east toward the Thistletop River. The trip was uneventful and made shorter by their steeds. Less than an hour later, they reached the river and followed it as it ran northwards toward the sea. As they rode, they approached an imposing forest of thick brambles rising above them.
Just then, Galadriel noticed some movement among the thorny bushes! As she warned the party, a hail of arrows flew toward them! The party charged up closer to the bushes, dismounted, and attacked the goblins in their hiding places. Only Jaden stayed back, picking goblins off with his longbow.
After knocking several of the goblins unconscious, the last remaining two goblins panicked and tried to flee back into the woods. They were about to warn their entire tribe. Skaroband, Sanguinia, and Jaden aimed their weapons and knocked them to the ground just in time!
They searched the bodies, killing all of them except for two. Skaroband grinned as she took the remaining goblins and strapped her “Merry Midgets” to her back. Courage put various dismembered body parts on her shield and magical longsword as a grim warning to other goblins.
They walked gingerly into the thorny wood, all the while staying close to the Thistletop River. Within an hour, Jaden discovered a regularly-used goblin trail. They followed it, climbing higher and higher up the hill. The path curved to the left and then headed back down. Here, Jaden found a spot where many of the goblins’ tracks turned into what seemed like solid bushes, and found a cleverly-hidden thistle door. When they opened it, they saw a tunnel into the foliage that was so low that they had to squat in order to enter.
”Too bad we don’t have our halfling,” Courage grumbled.
They stayed low, following the maze of dim tunnels the goblins had constructed out of the gnarled shrubs. The thick growths above their heads kept out much of the daylight. As they explored silently, they heard the sound of waves ahead of them and towards the west. They came upon a large clearing that was lit by tiny slivers of light through openings in the branches above, which rose high enough for them all to stand.
In the middle of this chamber, a shaft descended many feet down to a sun-lit, water-filled cave. Curious, Skaroband unstrapped one of her “Merry Midgets” and plunked it down into the water.
The goblin awoke from its torpor and suddenly panicked, screaming and desperately trying to climb up the shaft. It slipped and fell back into the water, only to be met by a large beast that let out an ear-splitting roar. Its large, many-toothed maw swallowed the goblin whole.
The party continued exploring the strange cave-like passages. Courage turned a corner to see four goblin dogs charging toward him! The party ran forward and engaged the beasts. They soon realized that the dogs were tethered to posts, and they could back away beyond the range of the dogs’ leashes and pick them off with arrows. But as they did so, a cougar suddenly appeared from another tunnel and lunged toward Courage, trying to bite him!
Sanguinia was bitten by a goblin dog and fell to the ground, unconscious. Their advantage of stealth now gone, Galadriel tossed a bomb into the fray. The cougar proved to be a furious opponent, a blur of teeth and claws. Jaden stood in the back, shooting arrows into the midst and deftly avoiding hitting his companions.
Then another goblin appeared, wielding a blade of flame. This new goblin had fire in its other hand and tossed a fiery arc that hit Courage solidly in the chest!
Even after Jaden and Galadriel healed Sanguinia, she walked forward and was immediately met with a goblin dog bite to her throat. She fell to the ground again, close to death!
Jaden and Galadriel barely managed to finish off the cougar. Meanwhile, Courage was locked in melee with the goblin spellcaster! Courage found a new surge of resolve and uttered a prayer to Sarenrae that helped bind her wounds. Skaroband was able to use her ninja skill to vanish twice and land two sharp surprise blows on the goblin! The goblin fell!
Those members of the party who were still conscious collapsed to the ground as one, exhausted by the desperate battle. Galadriel’s healing wand would see much use today.
The fighting had very likely alerted the goblins to their presence. And the party still had not yet laid eyes on the goblins’ island fortress…
XP at the end of the session: