Tristan had stopped on the roadside and hitched the horses to a tree. He led the party into the woods, whereupon they arrived at the cave entrance. A large rock jutted out of the ground, leaning over a yawning, inky blackness. Out of the blackness came two things: hard packed earth, evidence of traffic, and a foul stench.
Tristan motioned to the entrance, “they’re in there, I’ll wait here for you to return. Remember to bring evidence of the Goblin leader’s death, or there’ll be no payment.” With that, he found himself a dry log to sit on, pulled out a book, and proceeded to ignore them. Seeing no reason to delay, the party stepped into the cave.
Once they traveled down a few feet they came upon a large chamber, some eighty feet by forty. In the darkness their eyes adjusted, drawing from the light of two campfires and numerous torches to see. There were weapon racks with crude metal swords and stone spears, some sort of pit about ten feet across, and another opening of some kind at the back. From where they were it was impossible to see where the hole in the back wall led to. Around the campfires were six goblins, three little ones around the nearer fire, and three larger, brutish ones around the one further in. In the very back near the hole were two goblins with short bows, sharpshooters. Despite their efforts to sneak up on them, one of the little ones turned from the fire and spotted them. And so it began.
The fight was brief, but exhilarating for the party. Each fighter was slow but sure in their method. Ashar marked the goblins with stares of darkness, compelling them to try and fight him with his broadsword. Balthazar swung his frozen blade, skewering his green skinned foes, black blood flicking off the tip as it sung through the air. Drel’s arrows served him well, taking out both of the sharpshooters with ease. Iltani used his psychic power to teleport two of the goblins high over the pit, dropping them to their apparent doom. Aelar, preferring the dexterity of fighting weaponless, used his fists and feet to land flurries of blows on the green raiders two or three at a time. As the goblins lay dead around them, black blood splattered on the floor, each fighter patched themselves up and looked around. The smell of goblin flesh was rank, and their living habits only added to the smell. None of the weapons in the room were worth taking, and the bodies carried nothing of value. Suddenly, a cry was heard.
“Guxn! Mnag! Help!”
One of Iltani’s teleported goblins had managed to survive the fall into the pit, but had broken both legs in the process. Unable to climb out of his prison, he pleaded vainly for help from his dead clansmen. Seeing the faces of his foes staring down at him, the goblin fell silent, knowing his end was near. The party thought this an opportune time to gather information, and tried to converse with the goblin. It soon became obvious that the wretched creature could barely understand Aelar’s eloquent words, so Drel and Balthazar tried an alternate approach.
Balthazar stared down at the goblin, his fiery gaze upon it. The goblin sat transfixed, as Balthazar spoke.
“You die, pain hurt bad, break finger toes, cut eyes nose tongue. Why fight people, fight in road, attack? Talk or die bad, very bad.” Drel pantomimed as Balthazar spoke, and the goblin seemed to grasp the situation.
“Goblin boss come.” He began in a hissing, gravel-filled voice.
“Boss come bring beasts.” He shuddered.
“Bad beasts, big beasts, boss bring beasts. Boss angry beast kill goblins. Boss hurt goblins stay boss.” The goblin quivered in fear,
“kill goblin, kill this goblin, no tell boss, boss get angry beast kill this goblin.”
From this the group worked out that a dangerous and cunning goblin had come by their cave with terrifying beasts. He had used the beasts to intimidate the clan into submission, quelling insubordination with torture or death, a death so terrifying that the goblin begged for whatever end they could conjure instead.
Taking pity on the poor wretch, the group agreed to let it go. They lifted it out of the pit and walked it to the cave entrance.
“Is this the goblin leader then?” Tristan had been startled from his reading and looked uneasy at the sight of the goblin, though he tried not to show it.
“Doesn’t look like much,” he added.
“This goblin gave us information about a goblin leader and some beasts of his, which we think are deeper in the cave,” said Aelar.
“We’ve taken pity on him and are letting him go for his trouble.”
“But that’s not…” Tristan began.
“Never mind what it is or it isn’t, both his legs are broken and killing him now would be to act without honour. For his help he’s earned another chance at life, albeit a small one, but it is no longer for us to decide his fate.”
Aelar looked resolutely at Tristan, proud of the words he’d spoken. The others nodded in affirmation. Tristan stared at the group, almost in disbelief. He’d grown to hate the goblins, and had no sense of the code of honour among fighting men or the like. He tried to retain a sense of authority as he spoke.
“Well, I suppose he’s no threat anyway with those broken legs,” he remarked with an offhanded air.
“I will allow you to let it go.”
With that, he sat down and returned to his book. Balthazar and Drel explained to the goblin that it needed return to the wildlands it came from if it wanted to live. Not needing to be told twice, the creature began dragging its way East, and soon disappeared into the undergrowth.
The party returned to the cave to resume their quest.
Bugbears and Krenshars
After a quick look around to confirm there was nothing else of interest in the cave, the party went to the hole at the back. It was roughly cut in the rock, tall enough for a man to pass through, Iltani and Ashar had to stoop to protect their heads. The path led around a sharp bend and deeper into the earth. The air was stale and moist, exacerbating the rot of the goblins; though it only served to make the party more eager to test their mettle again. So great was their enthusiasm, they rushed headlong into the cave’s main chamber. There they met a much more formidable match than before.
There was a dais, atop which was a throne and chest. Seated on the throne was the goblin leader. Uglier and more intimidating than the rest, it could be seen from its clothes that it had arrived more recently. Flanking the leader were two bugbears, brutish, hobgoblin-like creatures covered in thick fur, clearly acting as bodyguards. There were doorways on both adjacent walls, the left one leading to another chamber, the right one boarded up. Various goblins, about six in all, were going about their goblin business, staying clear of the back of the chamber. There were scariest things of all. With goblin bones and blood stains on the floor, bars set in the wall could be made out, forming the front of two cages. Each cage held a krenshar, a cat-like creature, ferocious beasts that could peel back the flesh on their faces to show dripping fangs in total detail, howling and screeching to terrorize their prey.
This fight was not so simple. Having rushed in, the party had no surprise advantage, they hadn’t even prepared to fight yet. The leader barked orders in the goblin tongue, and the monsters rushed at them. One of the bugbears produced a set of keys and made for the krenshars. Seeing this, Drel set his focus on stopping him before he could reach the cage. Everyone laid into the goblins with zeal, though it soon became apparent that they were outmatched. In the fray Balthazar was knocked unconscious, and Aelar was very bloodied. Just as things were looking hopeless, the leader took a hit amidst the mayhem. The leader, even though he was barely hurt, pulled from his belt a vial and drank it, healing himself.
Seeing the effect of the potion, Aelar mustered all of his strength and leapt toward the leader. In one fluid motion he rushed the leader, swiped the remaining healing potions, drank one himself, and administered another to Balthazar. At this point Drel had managed to kill the first bugbear, but not before one of the cages was opened. Teeth met throat as the krenshar tore the bugbear’s life away. The smell of blood had incensed the beast, and the brute was beyond command. As it turned to rush the group, Iltani summoned his greatest power.
Focusing all of his physical and mental energy, he bound one of the bugbears with a thought, turning it into a living missile. As the rest of the group continued fighting Iltani sent the brute careening through other opponents, inflicting pain with brutal force, and knocking the colliding foes prone. When the bugbear finally broke free of the psion’s mental grip, it was killed by the krenshar. No longer distracted by flying bugbears, the beast then prepared to lunge at Ashar. Thinking quickly, Drel attempted to commune with the beast, in a desperate attempt to divert its attention to the passageway on the left, filling with the sound of approaching goblins. Using his ranger experience he managed to get the word “GOBLIN” through, and pointed furtively to the left entrance. With a flash of excitement in its eyes the creature charged out of sight. Seizing the opportunity, the party quickly barricaded the entrance as the shrieking of dying goblins echoed from inside. With his bodyguards and support gone, the leader fell quickly, and the battle was over. Some more healing potions were found in the chest and, the cries of death having ceased, the party agreed that the task they had set out to accomplish was finished.
They returned to Tristan with the leader’s head. Looking a little green himself at the grisly sight and the black stains on the fighters, Tristan nodded in acknowledgement and took them back to the Gate. The group headed to the barracks, and reported everything that had happened to Bryne. Bryne was pleased to hear that the clan was dispatched, but was still worried that something might come from the barricaded corridor the group had seen in the main chamber. He offered the group another two hundred gold pieces each to confirm that there was nothing else to cause trouble in the cave.