Arden and Company once again turn their attention to the lure of the Caves of Chaos. Their last foray to the Caves had ended in tragedy. The bandits that attacked them have now been broken. Arden had to wonder what might have changed in the Caves since that time. He knew that hobgoblins were working with the goblins. Perhaps the goblin forces were dwindling, but nothing could be certain about the Caves, not without a spy on the inside. Arden laughed at the thought of disguising Thane as a goblin. He would pummel me at the mention of it.
It was good to have Corwin back with the Company. His magic would save their necks if things went south. Lord Kent kept his word and sent a small contingent of archers, twelve, and the corporal of the guard. A volley of arrows may help to soften up any foes.
The weather was about as expected for a fall day. The air was crisp and the skies overcast. The Company made an early departure from the Keep. Farmers and woodsmen were the only travelers on the road as the sun began to peek over the horizon. The day was uneventful and the road dry. The company stopped for a short rest at the large mound overlooking the river. Bread, cheese, and some apples made a welcome repast. If the archers were anxious about the trip, it showed little. Most of the men had experience patrolling the roads and running off bandits. Not many had encountered goblins. Goblins tended to travel by night, stealing from farmsteads or unwary travelers.
A few more hours and the company arrived at the trailhead leading to the Caves. They led the horses into the woods on the east side of the Old Trade Road. Egg Barkley stood watch over the horses. If any sizeable force approached, Egg couldn’t do much more than flee. He primarily kept the horses fed and quartered.
Corwin sends his familiar, Nicodemus, to scout ahead. The cat spies a lone hobgoblin sentry on the hill watching. The cat slips back to the group to inform them. Thane tries to sneak up to the hobgoblin. He alerts the guard and the guard fires an arrow but misses. The hobgoblin rushes away from Thane heading into the one of the caves on the hillside.
The company moves quickly in pursuit. Arden orders the archers to take a position outside as the company moves into the dark.
Nicodemus scouts the dark passageway and quietly pads into a guard room filled with goblins and hobgoblins. The sentry is there and they are gearing up for battle. One of the goblins spies Nicodemus. Several javelins are thrown as the cat races back to his master.
Arden and Thane lead the group with Thane moving slightly ahead. He tries to draw their fire and several goblins launch arrows and javelins at him. Thane hunkers down behind his trusty shield and the missiles can’t find their target. (Thane has taken the combat maneuver called Cover). The goblins round the corner in pursuit of what they think is a lone dwarf and find Arden with his greatsword ready. Four goblins with two hobgoblin overseers rush at them. Arden and Thane hold the line with Martin ready to relieve someone. As the fight continues, a squad of goblins with a hobgoblin leader attacks from behind. Catamont and Goat fire arrows and then aid Mecklin and Handsome. Corwin stands ready with a spell. The company takes some hits, but only Meklin is hurt badly. Martin tends to him with a healing herb which restores a little health. Two goblins flee into the common room and all the others have been slain.
The company moves into the common room to find six goblin males and women and children. The goblins attack, but three are cut down quickly. The rest retreat father into the caves. Two large hobgoblins rush out of the chieftains quarters (originally the goblin chief’s quarters, but he has been killed as the hobgoblins have taken over his tribe). This is a hard fought battle, but Arden and Company slay them with no major damage sustained.
The company searches the chieftain’s room. (I rolled the FU die to see if the hobgoblins had noticed the secret drawer in a stool. Result=no!) Martin and Corwin roll 11 and 12 when searching the room. They find a tapestry with silver and gold thread! (900 sp in value!) The only other room in this section of the caves is where the goblins fled. Only a couple males and the remnants of their tribe are hiding here waiting to fight for their lives. Arden and Company attempt to parley with them. Thane knows just a smattering of goblin and can roughly determine that the hobgoblins have made them slaves. (The goblins do indeed hate the hobgoblins but are too fearful to tell Thane that a secret door in this room connects their lair to the hobgoblins.) The Company does not want the blood of goblin women and children on their hands, so they leave them alone and explore the other branch of the goblin lair.
The company moves into the east branch of the goblin lair. They find an abandoned guard room and past that another room with two goblins and a hobgoblin that rush at Arden and Thane! Arden quickly cuts one goblin down with his greatsword. Thane strikes the second with a critical blow, killing him. The hobgoblin thinks better of attacking them and tries to flee. Catamont and Goat release arrows and both find their mark, killing the hobgoblin! Six silver coins are found on their person.
The next room they enter is a torture chamber. Two large hobgoblins are here. One with a cruel whip. The hobgoblin whips Arden, causing no damage but sending him to the floor for two rounds. The other hobgoblin moves to attack Thane, striking his armor. Martin tries to advance, but the whip lashes out again striking the cleric and sending him to the ground. Thane kills one hobgoblin and Arden finally makes it to his feet to dispatch the other.
The room is filled with a crude assortment of torture devices. Chained to the wall are six prisoners. One is a fat merchant who is half starved and his wife. Both were slated for tonight’s feast. They are relieved to be rescued…so much so that the merchant promises a reward when they return to the Keep. Accompanying the merchant are two men-at-arms. They vow to serve Arden and Company for one year for their freedom. The last two prisoners are more of a problem. One is a captured orc and the other a crazed looking gnoll.
Arden frees the orc and throws him a sword. The fighter’s hatred of orcs is intense, yet he will not murder the orc. The orc throws the sword down and states that he owes Arden his life and cannot fight him. Arden is talked out of fighting the orc by Martin, the cleric. Thane, being a dwarf, has no love for any orc and suggests he needs to be dispatched. The orc vows to fight for the party.
The gnoll on the other hand is a different story. He is released and immediately goes wild, attacking Arden with his fists. Arden takes some damage (the gnoll scored several good shots on him) but with the help of his companions, manages to put down the crazed gnoll.
Arden presses the orc for knowledge of the hobgoblins or other parts of the Caves. The orc is limited in vocabulary, but tells of other tribes in the Caves. He also tells them that he has seen some humans moving towards the west end of the Caves. He will not go there–it is bad magic. Arden tells the orc to leave the Caves. If they meet again, he will kill him.
The company decides it is better to return the captives to the Keep and not linger. They can return another day. The archers on post outside the cave entrance are relieved to see all the company return alive. They find their way back to Egg and the horses. The trip back to the Keep is finally one of light hearts and revelry. The merchant introduces himself and his wife–Alton and Erdene Haldrin. They know the Guild Master and will provide a handsome reward to the Company. The men-at-arms are Haynek Gralt and Ike Higgins. Both are overjoyed to be free. Arden has to think about their offer of servitude. He would rather bring competent men along than untested ones.
More to come….