Starvale Adventures: A Prelude to Darkness – Chapter 7

After traversing the swampy bog for the better part of an hour, they finally come to the end of the trail. It leads directly into the mouth of a cave in the side of a hill rising from the bog. Brush and other low vegetation allows them to easily hide and observe the entrance from a distance.  Hajima can see a Goblin talking to a human-sized figure dressed in a heavy cloak that obscures its face. Creeping closer on his belly, he manages to get within earshot of the pair.

The Goblin is speaking in the Common Tongue, “Only one raiding group return. They bring prisoners. Other raiding groups return soon. No more snake coin people found.”

The human nods and says, “Excellent. Tell Gorrunk that my friends and I will pay lots of coin and give lots of gifts for all of the dragon artifacts you can find. I’ll give a bonus if you kill any other humans who you find near your home.” The goblin nods and enters the cave, while the cloaked figure whispers a word and simply vanishes.

Hajima moves back to the others who are still concealed in the foliage of the bog and reports what he has just seen and heard. “The mysterious individual has escaped us, but we now have confirmation that the captive farmers are in this location. It seems these goblins are well-organized and we have been following only one of their raiding parties. Our duty is clear. We must shut this operation down.”

“You say they are to seek dragon artifacts?” Tuskor muses. “What if we claim to have one and are looking to buy the prisoners as slaves?”

Hajima ponders for a moment. “I fail to see the connection between local farmers and dragon artifacts. Why are the Goblins doing this? It makes no sense. Local farmers have no access to, or knowledge of, dragon artifacts. This seems more like a slave trade operation that is also being used to locate these artifacts. Perhaps once we secure the compound and free the prisoners, we can then question one of the Goblin or Hobgoblin leaders for more information.”

“We may want to consider the possibility that those other troops may return at any moment.” Vellk replies, “It might be a good idea to set up a trap or at least some kind of warning signal.   A string of bells or the like.”

“The dwarf has a point, and it’s not the first time we’ve peddled false wares.”  Lanaver muses, turning to the big warrior.  “I just wish I had grabbed some trap kits, dammit we’ll just have to improvise.”

“A warning signal would be helpful, indeed. We will be infiltrating the compound and don’t want any other Goblin raiders flanking us. Perhaps Sebastian can use his alarm spell on the entrance to the cave? That should alert him if anyone follows us later.”

“Indeed, and time is of the essence. However we do not want to put the prisoners at risk” Tuskor thinks a moment. “Perhaps a distraction while the stealthier members of our group locate the missing villagers? Luring out many as possible?”

“So who wants to come with me, or am I doing this solo?”  Lanaver asks,  “If they’re hurt we’ll need to mend the wounded so they don’t slow our retreat…” He trails off in thought while looking the group over.

“The residents of this region will never be safe as long as these creatures are allowed to den up here.”  Hajima says, “We must rescue these poor farmers and whoever else they’ve managed to kidnap.” He shoulders his massive crossbow and continues to watch the opening of the trail and the entrance to the cave for any change in the comings and goings of those inside.

Sebastian speaks from military experience. “We are going to need cover. Goblins don’t have sharpshooter like we do. I seem to recall there was some scuttlebutt about a clan of gobbers called the ‘Foul Water Clan’ that moved in here a couple months back.  Filled a power vacuum left by a young dragon that was slain.”

“Perhaps the death of this dragon is the reason the Cult of the Dragon is interested in the area.”  Vellk says, scratching his chin, “I can’t think of too many reasons humans would take up with filth like Goblins otherwise.”

Rowan listens to all this information with a solemn face. “I will go inside. I can do a bit of healing, if my powers are not used in other ways, and I’m small and find it easy to hide. She looks at her comrades and smiles a grim smile. “They may outnumber us, but without their powerful friend, I think they might just find us a bit much to handle.”

Tuskor looks to the cave entrance and then turns to Hajima. “Does it seem as though any of these foul Goblins are at the entrance at the moment?”  He asks, knowing that Hajima has been keeping a look out. “Perhaps Rowan could first check the entrance is clear, with the crossbow users ready to fire should she be spotted”

“Then, if all seems clear the group could move up and set some kind of trap in the entrance, should any Goblins return or to delay pursuers should we need to escape quickly”

“I think I’d be better suited to sneak up and lay a trap,” Lanaver interjected, “I’m not quite as tiny as she, but I’m as sneaky and far more devious.”

“Of course” Concedes Tuskor. “Is the coast clear?”

Rowan looks to her adopted brother and says, “You can do this, brother!” and briefly touches his hand. A tingle of magic passes between them, almost an electric shock of power.

Lanaver plots out his path and cautiously moves from cover to cover, trying to use the terrain and what bit of shade the morning light provides to his advantage

Hajima keeps the cave entrance and the surrounding area clearly in his sights as he covers Lanaver’s approach with his heavy crossbow. He readies a bolt to shoot the first goblin or hobgoblin that spots Lanaver. His dark clothing seems to blend into the shadows where he stands beneath a rock outcropping and his stillness makes it difficult to see him, even for the companions who know where he is.

“Once that trap is laid maybe someone should climb on top of the cave to get a better look around the area or Tuskor-Dwarven druid can you speak with a bird and have it scout for us?” Sebastian thinks for a moment. “I can alarm the entrance but I will have to be within 30 feet.”

With the current tension in the air, Vellk tries to keep his armor and metal bits quiet. “I’m ready when you are he whispers.”

“Apologies master wizard, but though I can speak with animals, it requires an element of preparation.”  Tuskor says,  “Unfortunately I did not spend time enough this morning communing with nature in that way to use such an ability.”

“I understand the dilemma Tuskor, choosing one’s powers can be the bane of wizards as well.”  Sebastian says with a sigh, “We were rushed into this excursion and had no chance to properly prepare.”

Hajima turns to Lanaver and hands him some of the crossbow spare parts. “You are welcome to these, my friend. If it proves too difficult for us to effectively trap the entrance, then we will have to do our best regardless. Time is of the essence. Those raiders will return eventually and who knows what is now befalling those farmers. Let us best set what trap we can and then push on swiftly and cautiously deeper into this complex to rescue them.”

Lanaver approaches on cat feet and although he hears some soft, guttural mumbling coming from behind the eastern wall where the passageway turns south, he doesn’t encounter any of the enemy. Lanaver also sees that small holes riddle the wall, allowing for viewing up the passage by creatures behind the wall. There are piles of rubble large enough to allow characters to hide as they move up the passage.

Using pieces of the dismantled crossbow, some string and a few cleverly situated stones, Lanaver set the trap, outside the entrance to the cave.  Anyone carelessly entering or exiting would cause a small avalanche upon hitting the trip line.

Lanaver signals for the group to move up. As his friends approach, he inspects the east wall and attempts to peer through the holes.  If there is danger, he wants to find it before it finds them.  Through the holes, he spies three Goblin guards engaged in a quiet game of cards instead of keeping watch.

Rowan moves quietly up to the entrance with her friends, using the boulders to stay out of sight of the holes, all the while listening and watching for danger.  Hajima follows on her heels, crossbow at the ready if enemies appear. He moves from cover position to cover position, avoiding the eye holes as well.

Lanaver stops Sebastian and Rowan in their tracks. He points out a crude goblin rock trap on the floor just after the entrance to the lair. After being shown the trigger, a stick seemingly innocuously wedged against the wall, they are able to sneak around it.  Sebastian nods a thank you to Lanaver, and he dexterously steps past the trap, his dagger in one hand and his crystal capped wand in the other.

Rowan whispers as quietly as possible. “Let us take the guards as quickly and quietly as we can, while they are still unaware of us.”

Tuskor’s voice is a low rumble that doesn’t carry beyond a few feet. “If I see a group of them together I may be able to restrain them using the forces of nature in the earth beneath them – which might make it easier for you to pick them off from range before we close on them.”

Lanaver turns back from the corner, “There are three of them, drinking and gambling when they should be on watch.” He draws a throwing dagger and at a nod, you all explode into surprising action Tuskor outstretches his arms and weaves a spell. Strange root-like tendrils sprout up from cracks in the rocks, looking like blind cave worms as they wrap around a pair of the Goblins in a vice-like grip.

Hajima rounds the corner, taking a knee and firing a bolt at the largest of the three goblins. The bolt takes him fatally in the throat, dropping him. Rowan bursts into a sprint and covers the ground quickly to her foe. She stabs the surprised goblin through the chest, nearly felling him as Lanaver’s thrown dagger finishes the job, taking him in the forehead.

Vellk creeps up, as quietly as his armor will allow and silently finishes the final goblin guard before alarm can be called. Sebastian waits with spells ready as a brief moment of tension passes.  When no sounds of running feet or shouts of alarm sound, they realize they are thus far undetected.

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