This is part of the ongoing narrative of our D&D campaign, which is graciously being run by Proud Lion, a fantastic comic shop in Cheltenham. Their RPG Encounters nights are a lot of fun, and give me some entertaining material to work with.
Tales of the Yawning Portal:
With no small amount of trepidation, the companions headed into the goblin caves, their keen darkvision negating any sight advantage the goblins may have. No goblins were left in this section of the cave, so they could head to the back of the entrance unhindered. The cave mouth tapered to a roughly-hewn corridor, bending to the right, and Jester led the party carefully around the bend.
“What’s that?” Enna whispered, having heard a low breathing sound echoing along the walls of the cave. Her concern was mirrored in the rest of the party, none having a good answer for her. Burian looked at her in confusion, having missed the sound entirely.
“Keep quiet, I think I see something in the wall.” the rogue responded, as his careful eyesight had picked up several small holes in the rock on the left-hand side of the bend. Praying to himself, he sidled closed to the holes and risked a glance inside the gap. Through the variety of holes, he could see two goblins skittering about, not seeming to pay any attention to the corridor they were meant to be guarding.
As the rest of the party drew closer down the debris-filled corridor, they watched Jester try and aim his bow into the side of the wall, before giving up and motioning that they should try to pass this area without alerting the guards.
The Roundtree/Rowntree brothers paid little heed to his warning, instead appraising the holes’ craftmanship. Kalashnikov noted that, indeed, they were not natural, as he broadcast to the party through his warlock ability to speak directly into their minds.
<Definitely cut by the little buggers. Shoddy work, could do much better dart-holes myself, and have done…> his voice rang out into their heads, each recipient recoiling a little from the unmerited intrusion. <Ooo, but look at that boulder brother! Cut it down a little and wouldn’t it look mighty fine as a headstone for MY brewery?>
The party moved onwards, but Burian couldn’t resist a retort under his breath, “Pfff. Not if I grab it first.”
This response was enough to rouse the goblins and alert them to his presence, and Burian sound found himself with a barbed dart in his arm for his indiscretion. “Little blighters…” He hurried across the corridor, coming to the opening of the next room in the cave system, and taking the party out of range of the darts.
Seeing that there was a new room ahead, the party prepared themselves for the possibility of battle, readying their weapons. Enna said a low prayer to her god while Burian cast his first cantrip of the expedition upon his weapon, Shillelagh, and his quarterstaff seemed to visibly strengthen in his hands, bolstered by natural magic.
Thoroughly unimpressed by his own sneaking ability, after the triumphs of the swampland, Burian marched himself towards the entrance to the next cave and taking little heed of his path.
“Wait! Stop right there!” Jester cried in as loud a voice as he dared, as he had just spied the thin wire of some kind of trap. Burian froze in place, just about to push straight down onto the tripwire, and dearly hoped that his ally would be able to disarm the trap before he tripped it. Jester grabbed his toolkit from his bag, and after a minute or so of playing with the wire, he managed to disarm the trap.
“Phew, me leg was getting a little wobbly ther…urgh!” Burian’s relief was ruined as Jester pushed him back as a large boulder fell from the ceiling onto where he had just been standing. <Hmmm, you can have that last boulder brother. This one has…providence…>
After Burian dusted himself off, the party delved into the next cave, this one again without any goblins, although it had a lot of bedrolls and rags strewn around the floor. This was clearly a goblin resting area, and smelled of the unwashed masses that lived in it. Stifling a gag at the smell, Drenk suggested that the crew search the room for anything of note, especially as there didn’t seem to be any exit from this room other than the entrance they came in by.
Large pelts, cut raggedly from assorted animals draped around the walls, and while the rest of the party had begun tossing through blankets, Kalashnikov started gathering up the pelts. His stocky dwarven frame was soon engulfed by the furs, looking less like person and more as an animated ball of fur, as he eagerly overdressed.
In the process of removing the last pelt he unwittingly revealed the doorway from the room, a short side-corridor leading to another room, and it was through this that Kalashnikov found himself confronted by the sight of goblins.
<To me, my
Roused from their search, the party approached the corridor before the goblins were alerted by the fur-ball dwarf, and they saw that this new room was littered with bones and items of clothing, while at the back were some large cages, more than enough to hold the Moss Farm’s inhabitants. There were no prisoners there now, but the guards were made up of 4 goblins and 2 big wolves, whose superb sense of smell had noticed the new scents wafting in.
As soon as Burian looked into the room, he knew what he had to do, to obey his druidic principles and preserve the natural life in the room. Without hesitation he cast a spell of Animal Friendship on one wolf, and called out to the group, “Don’t hurt the wolf on the left! He’s my new friend, Francois!”
Kalashnikov and Jester looked at him with bewilderment, before one arrow embedded itself in the warlock’s new furs and another grazed the rogue’s side. The goblins had produced bows, while the non-pacified wolf raised its hackles and let loose a low growl. The newly named Francois didn’t follow his compatriots, but leisurely sat down and panted while watching the fight erupt.
Not wanting to risk another arrow, Jester dived into the room, upturned a clearly-stolen table and hid behind the sturdy frame, while Enna moved into the room chanting to Eldath and cast Sacred Flame on the aggressive canine. A wave of flame burst from her fingertips and flowed over the wolf, but at most it seemed only lightly singed by her attack. Burian, seeing that the second wolf would not be so easily pacified, strode into the fray, cast Shillelagh on his staff again, and swung at one of the goblins. However, he completely missed, his quarterstaff rebounding from a heavy connection with the cave floor.
“Seriously guys? You missed everyone?” a powerful voice complains as finally Drenk strode into the melee, his powerful body bringing his maul to bear, and crushing a goblin underneath his first strike. Kalashnikov, reeling a little from the arrow that lightly pierced him, recovered and brought his power to bear, casting a bolt of Edritch Blast at another goblin, hitting it but not causing significant wounds.
Drenk continued his assault with a backhand swing, catching a goblin and splattering its body against the wall. His downward arc after this caught the active wolf on its head, and stove it completely in, and the wolf dropped immediately with a now concave skull. A low whine came from Francois, although he still didn’t move to attack.
The goblins, panicking now, scrambled back from the assault, and tried to take close-range shots with their bows. One just missed, his jittery hands throwing his aim completely off, but the other over extended his drawstring and it snapped, whipping him across the neck and neutralising his bow.
Jester added to the confusion with a shot embedding itself in a goblin leg, before dipping back behind his shelter, and Enna struck out when swinging her mace at the same goblin, since it dipped over to grab at its leg. Her frustration sounded in her next words, “Oh Eldath, are you not following me this day?” Burian swung his staff while turning round, but realised halfway through his swipe that the intended target was lying dead on the floor from Drenk’s rampage. Drenk was currently engaged in a clash with a third goblin, whose little shield was stopping Drenk’s strikes, for now.
<Kame…hame…HA!> and a taste of brimstone told Burian that his brother was using his corrupted powers again, and he saw Kalashnikov chant to his foul patron and cast another Eldritch Blast from his outstretched arms, completely disintegrating the wounded goblin, leaving only his sole-less shoes intact. The final goblin looked aghast at the pile of dust that used to be his friend, and Jester took advantage of its shock to bury an arrow deep inside its eye socket.
The fight over, the party caught their breath while all but Burian kept a wary eye on the calm wolf. Burian walked over to his new friend, Francois, gave him a good scratch around the neck and offered him a piece of jerky from within his pack. Francois gobbled it up, rubbing himself against Burian while keeping him between the wolf and Drenk.
Jester and Drenk gave the goblin bodies a once-over, but they did not find anything of use, clues or otherwise. Enna inspected the cages, and could see that a dozen or so people had been kept there for a short while, but thankfully didn’t find any recent bloodstains or bones. Kalashnikov swaggered over to the dust-pile that had been his target, and grabbed the “shoes” that it had left. He rapidly tied the shoes of his first kill in a long while together, and swung the sole-less flaps of leather around his neck.
Meanwhile, Burian had cast Speak With Animals to talk to his new “pet”, and was having a less-than-successful conversation with Francois. The wolf was still obeying him, and liked to be petted, but was rather hesitant about getting anywhere near “Georgekiller, the Bane of all Wolfkind”, known to the companions as Drenk. Francois had some serious inner turmoil, wanting to stay by the side of his new dwarf, but was rather hungry and thought the goblins and George’s body looked rather tasty…
The cage room had two exits, to the left and right, and Francois told Burian that he could smell that the captured humans had been through both exits, not really helping at all. Kalashnikov did suggest that the team split up to “cover more ground”, but Enna was the voice of reason and soon the companions decided to try the left-hand exit first. As much as Burian tried, he could not convince Francois to come with them, but knew his spell would last for a whole day yet, so had Francois stay in the cage room and eat to his heart’s content.
Just before they headed into the next chamber, Kalashnikov tried a spiteful kick at Francois, but Drenk, realising the danger, managed to net him and stop him from infuriating the wolf, and the druid. As he was struggling with the net, Enna persuaded the warlock that perhaps now wasn’t the time to flare up sibling rivalries. And with that, the heroes delved along the corridor and into the next chamber…