It was quite the collection of misfits that answered Gundren Brawnanvil's advert: "Adventurer's required, enquire within", posted on the door of the Rusty Horseshoe in Neverwinter. Gundren had found something big and it was going to make his fortune. But he needed help. First, get the required supplies to Phandalin. If they can manage that without too much trouble, then we'll see what else they can do…
Our heroes had been driving their wagon of provisions south a couple of days before turning inland towards their destination, the backwater mining town of Phandalin. Gundren had gone on ahead with his companion Sid Happenstance. He would meet the adventurers in Phandalin. Most of the journey had passed uneventfully, and the adventurers were taking the time to get to know each other. A day's journey or so from their destination, the heroes found their path blocked by two horses laying slain in the middle of the road. Ulfgar Brawnanvil – barbarian Dwarf and cousin of Gundren – immediately identified the horses as those belonging to Gundren and Sid. He jumped off the wagon and charged up to the horses to investigate, followed closely by Akuri with Masala Beans, the Gnomish bard. Sensing a potential trap, the remaining adventurers looked on, the rogue Horcraft readying his bow.
As they reached the slumped horses, an arrow wooshed overhead, with another embedding itself in Ulfgar's arm. At the same moment, two Goblin's emerged from the trees on either side of the road, charging at the dwarf and the gnome, shortswords held high. An ambush! One of the goblins took an arrow from Horcraft's bow but continued his advance. Professor Ephelion, the Elven Wizard, quickly dispatched the two goblins with a magic missile, before retiring to the back of the wagon muttering something about polishing his crystal balls.
One of the party – a mysterious hippy warrior known only as Swift the Innocent – divined that there were two more of the creatures hidden in the woods. Arrow still sticking out of his arm, Ulfgar quickly dispatched one, while Swift took a moment to gaze lovingly into the eyes of the other. With a gentle smile on his face he whispered in the ear of the terrified remaining goblin.
"All this is for the good of the Universe", he said, before decapitating the monster with his
The heroes discerned that two humanoid bodies had been dragged away from here into the trees. They quickly uncovered a trail leading some distance towards the mouth of a cave…
Simsim lazed with his friend Grog the Lesser by their watch post near the mouth of the cave. They were meant to be on lookout, but no one ever came up here except other goblins. So they were taking it easy, practically falling asleep. Although the bright outdoor light was distressing to their senses, it was good to be away from Klarg's incessant bullying.
Their dozing was interrupted by the some terrible distant sound, a kind of droning of dissonant low notes, getting louder. Creeping through the thicket Simsim saw a group approaching, along with the source of the sound: a tiny 3-foot Gnome, blowing away on a bag of sticks. Simsim fired off his bow and caught the Gnome in the arm, ducking quickly behind cover.
Moments later he heard a terrifying roar from the South. Both he and Grog turned to look. Suddenly there was an intense pain in his back and stomach. He looked down to see a sharp spike of metal appearing from inside his belly. He looked to the left to see his friend, still standing but with his throat freshly cut and blood starting to flow. He fell to the ground. Looking up, he saw a grinning hooded half-elf standing over him. It was the last thing he saw.
A quick conversation between Akuri and a squirrel meant that news of our heroes arrival was spreading quickly amongst the critters of the local woodland. The party proceeded into the dark, dank cave, with Ulfgar leading the way. Rounding a corner, they came across three hungry looking wolves tied to a clump of stalagmites in the centre of a small cavern. Distracting the wolves with meat taken from the dead horses, our heroes were able to get across to the far side of the cavern where a fissure in the wall warranted further investigation. Closer scrutiny revealed a chimney leading some 30 feet up. Ulfgar again took the lead, using his rope to nimbly ascend the chimney, despite the muffled voices coming from above.
Ulfgar peaked over the top of the chimney into the room above, spying a large hairy muscle-bound bugbear, 2 goblins and a wolf. At that moment a cry of "What do you see up there?" from below caused all eyes to turn towards Ulfgar. The game was afoot!
Descending the chimney rapidly, Ulfgar ducked out of the way of Professor Ephelion's sleep spell which took out the two goblins. Thinking fast, Akuri cast a visual illusion over the top of the entrance to the chimney, confounding the wolf, and summoning the bugbear over to investigate.
"This is but an illusion! But it cannot fool KLARG!!"
Meanwhile, Swift the Innocent had ascended the chimney, hiding just below the illusiory floor created by Akuri. As Klarg dipped his hand and then his head through the illusion, he came face to face with Swift. An overhand strike from Klarg's brutal morningstar smashed into Swift's chain-mail coif, knocking the Nature Warrior out instantly and sending him tumbling down the vertical passage. He lay on the ground at the bottom of the chimney, blood pouring from his head, unconcious and at the edge of death.
Meanwhile, Horcraft was attempting to leave the cave with wolves back the way they came, perhaps to attempt some sort of grand flanking maneuver on Klarg. But as he attempted to bypass the hungry wolves, one of them leapt at him, pulling their restraining bolt free. The wolves were loose!
The wolf leapt at Horcraft, knocking him over before savaging him with vicious bites. Seeing his companion under such an attack, Ulfgar leapt into a rage! Moving with a dancer's grace all about the small cavern, the all-but-naked Dwarf swung his enormous greataxe with ease, slicing clean through the first wolf. It could have been his imagination but he was sure he could hear a rousing battletune echoing all around him, filling his muscles with renewed strength and his actions with renewed spirit. Ulfgar was unstoppable, cutting down a second wolf, and then the third. The lower cavern was clear.
Dazed from the wolves' assault, a disorientated Horcraft ran for cover, straight towards a javelin hurled down the chimney from Klarg. He too fell to the floor, unconcious and barely clinging to life.
Klarg and one of his minions descended the chimney looking to finish off the heroes. But he was met with a frothing Ulfgar still in the throes of his rage. Ulfgar laid into Klarg with his greataxe, while Ephelion riddled him with magical piercing darts. The bugbear was reeling. Just as Klarg was starting to doubt his ability to make it through this battle, Akuri let loose a string of vicious mockery. So damning and droll were his words, that the bugbear was left a quivering wreck on the floor, his mind broken.
The party took some time to stabilise injured comrades, and to regain their strength. Ulfgar investigated the upper cavern, making quick work of a remaining goblin and Klarg's pet wolf Ripper. He found a large number of crates with a blue lion symbol painted on the sides. Ulfgar threw one of the crates down the shaft where it broke open, revealing weapons and armour of all sorts inside. The party took the opportunity to trade up. It was odd to see Ulfgar in his new half-plate armour – until now he had been wearing only a loin cloth…
The party questioned the mentally shattered Klarg, learning that the order to capture Gundren had come in a couple of days ago from the chieftain of the Cragmaw Goblins, a King Grol. He in turn had received the order from someone or something called the Black Spider. Gundren had been taken to Cragmaw Castle, but his colleague Sid Happenstance was here in the caves, being guarded by someone named Yeemik. Klarg showed the heroes the rough location of Cragmaw Castle on the map and offerd to lead them there in return for his freedom, and the promise of a fresh beginning with his beloved Ripper. Mentally and physically exhausted however, Klarg fell when attempting to ascend the chimney to the upper cavern. The fall was the final straw for the bugbear, who now lay dead on the ground.
Now in the upper cavern, Ephelion and Ulfgar spotted a lone goblin attempting to slink off unnoticed. Without thinking and against the Professor's protests, Ulfgar charged after him, followed closely by Ephelion. They crossed a bridge and rounded a corner, straight into a room full of goblins getting to their feet and drawing their weapons.
Giving the room a quick look over, the pair noticed a raised platform at the far end. There was a goblin there stood over the prone form of Gundren's companion Sid Happenstance!
Repeating their past teamwork, Ephelion cast sleep on the nearby gobbos while Ulfgar laid into the rest of them with his axe. Quickly sensing that the battle was turning against him, the head goblin – calling himself Yeemik – called for a truce. He would turn Sid over to the heroes if they killed Klarg for him, making Yeemik the de facto head of the goblins in the cave!
Exchanging a furtive glance, the two adventurers agreed and left the room, running right into the rest of the party. Explaining the situation quickly, the team made their way back to Klarg's corpse. After 15 minutes or so watching Akuri trying to saw off the head of the deceased bugbear, Ulfgar lost patience and did the deed with a quick swing of his greataxe.
Akuri quickly turned his performance skills to disguising himself as a goblin. The party returned to Yeemik with the head of Klarg. The delighted goblin was so busy celebrating that he didn't think twice at inviting the new goblin recruit to his side. However the tricksy creature was not honouring his side of the deal, and was demanding huge sums of gold in return for Sid's return!
Growing weary of the chatty goblin's incessant screeching, the Professor launched a ray of frost at him. Taking the Professor's cue, the still-disguised Akuri stuck his rapier through Yeemik's skull.
Sensing the cave complex was now clear, the party took some time to rest, regaining their energy and nursing Sid back to consciousness. But what did Sid know about Gundren's location? Why did the goblins have explicit orders to waylay Gundren? Who or what was the Black Spider? Find out on future editions of Dungeons and Dragqueens!