Storm King's Thunder

An Unusual Ally
"You small folk are so interesting!"

Having spied a mysterious white tower floating through the clouds toward them, the adventurers charged through the forests to meet the oddity head-on, knowing not what to do once they encountered it.  Lucky for them, the tower's occupant had plans of his own.  The tower froze in the skies overhead and extended a harrowing spiral stair made of cloudstuff to the ground where they stood.  With some trepidation, the party climbed, finding the stairs to be solid as well as the cloudstuff beneath the tower.  They saw no one, however, upon reaching the top, and sent Greg on an exploratory mission.  He could see nothing through the stained glass windows at the second story, and only an aerie of indifferent griffons above that.  As the party tried to figure out a way to fly Torgul up to the spire's peak to speak with the griffons, a disembodied voice boomed a cheery welcome and invited the party within.

Inside the tower, the adventurers encountered a cozily appointed living space – for a giant.  The furnishings stood taller than they did, and the ceiling loomed hight overhead.  They were greeted by a cloud giant of peculiar appearance – billowing white hair and beard as wispy as clouds, a deep purple robe adorned with celestial ornaments, and a wizard staff that must once have been an entire tree.  The giant, Zephyros, greeted them with delight, professing his deep fascination with the small folk and their ways, and impressed as all hell that they managed to train a talking badger to fight with them.

Zephyros explained that he had been in contact with unnamed extraplanar entities who had instructed him to find the adventurers at this very spot.  He explained that the Ordning, the divine hierarchy of power put in place by Annam the All-Father, had been shattered by the All-Father himself for reasons unknown to giant kind.  But, according to the extraplanar entities, the adventurers he would meet would be able to restore the Ordning!  And Zephyros was ready and willing to take them anyplace they needed to go to do it.

Problem was, the adventurers had no clue about where they ought to go.  They questioned Zephyros further and debated among themselves, and as they did, Zephyros leapt in to offer his assitance one more in seeking clarity from the extraplanar beings.  Before anyone could stop the poor, mad soul, he was up at his spellbook, reciting the incantation that would put him in touch with another dimension.  The spell left him looking somewhat comatose, but the griffons did not seem disturbed, so the adventurers decided their only option was to wait it out.

They managed with some team acrobatics to access the larder, and after a filling meal of grains, fruits, and owlbear jerky, they settled down for a comfortable night's sleep …

… Only to be awoken the next morning by a might "Hail, my lord!" shouted from the tower's curtained entryway.  They were startled to find a pair of strangely-dressed cultists, announcing themselves as the Howling Hatred, followers of Yan-C Bin, The Prince of Evil Air, standing before them seeking an audience with Zephyros.  The cultists were deterred by neither threats nor hospitality, and once they learned that their giant host was out of commission, they attacked the adventurers as heretics.

Ceilid, having found herself somewhat trapped on the stairs to the second level as she barred their way, bore the brunt of their initial attack as the cultists released an invisible menace upon them.  Unseen blows rendered her unconscious in just a few short seconds.  Meanwhile, Torgal and Dor'Kath attacked the enemies they could see while the cultists flung about mostly-ineffectual spells.  But back-up was on the way – seven more cultists barged in and made a beeline for Althaea, who had thought herself at a safe distance from the fight.

Torgal called out for aid to the griffons, and in response, a great commotion was heard outside.  Meanwhile, Ceilid was revived and tripled herself with a mirroring spell only to fall once again to a very lucky blow at the hands of the belligerent cultist, likely eliciting a minor heart attack and a string of colorful curses from a steadfast Tiefling woman hundreds of miles away.  Althaea summoned her own spectral weapon before being overrun by cultists, and Dor'Kath finally silenced their noisy leader.  As they fought and withdrew, Ceilid, once more revived, released her shattering aural blast, taking out the last of the attack force.

As they went to bind their sole survivor for questioning, a half-nude and fully awake Zephyros appeared imploring them to go to the rescue of his beloved pet griffons.  They ran out to the cloud garden, but found the situation more or less under control.  The battle prowess of Lord Fluffington and Mrs. Squeaks was beyond compare, and with a few extra blows and an intimidating shout from the adventurers, the giant vultures which had served as mounts for the cultists were all either fled or griffon food.

Zephyros, happy to see his babies safe, helped clean up the mess and showed only curiosity for the events that led to the formation of a heap of bodies on his living room floor.  Though still tinged with madness, imagining himself dressed in an impossibly fine robe, he declared that their next step lie in their very pockets, a sign that the letter they bore to Bryn Shander was perhaps more than just chance.  Zephyros insisted on setting off right away, barreling onward into the northern skies at breakneck speed.

The adventurers were left with a week to kill, now safely housed within the tower.  The captured cultist, Argus, turned out to be more of a flunkie than a fanatic, and Dor'Kath used his need to follow an authority figure to convert him to the worship of Chauntea and teach him a fitness regimen.  Althaea attempted but failed to duplicate the chemical compound of the black pudding sample they had retained.  Ceilid, like a child in a chocolate shoppe, feasted on the wealth of information that Zephyros had at his beck and call, questioning him and poring through his journals and spellbooks, learning the workings of his spell to contact other planes, though performing it still carried some risk.  And Torgal spent his week shrooming it up, documenting what to this day may be the primary and most complete mycological study for recreational use.

The skies grow ever colder, and mountains loom in the distance.  Bryn Shander is near, and with it, the next step of their journey to solve the giant mystery and restore the Ordning.

Goblin Liberation
"I Summon the Aspearagus!"

Having ended the reign of Boss Hark, the adventurers escorted the intelligent goblin Snigbat into the main chamber of the caves, freshly severed head of Hark held high.  Snigbat made a passionate plea to the goblin guards in the main cavern, and with the help of Hark's disembodied cranium (not so much Dor'kath's attempt at an intimidating glare), she won their loyalty.

The ogre couple, Nob and Thog, were another story.  Once she had secured her leadership position among the goblins, Snigbat turned to the ogres and demanded their peaceful departure.  Unfortunately, Nob was not impressed by the goblins' threat, and was seriously not thrilled about the prospect of NOT getting easy free food.  Rather than leave, Nob turned on the nearest goblin for a quick snack.  The goblin narrowly escaped becoming an appetizer, and the adventurers sprang into action.

Ceilid summoned another auditory blast to rattle Thog and half-crumble the stalagmite enclosure she hid behind, successfully putting the ogre bride in a foul mood.  Meanwhile, Torgul, Dor'Kath, and Greg the Quasit rushed into action, aided by unusually adept goblin archers.  Torgul's threatening snarl was taken a bit more amorously than intended, flattering Thog and infuriating Nob, who smashed poor Greg in consternation.  Dor'Kath stoked Nob's rage further by smashing his wife's face, but before long, the fight was finished with a bloody kneecapping.  The ogres were down, and the goblins rejoiced!

As the goblins celebrated, Torgal scoped out Hark's hoard, generously leaving a sum of gold behind for Snigbat's use in revitalizing the community, and Ceilid and Dor'Kath went to retrieve the surviving villiagers.

The villagers, held together by innkeeper and local hero Morak Ur'gray, continued to affirm the strange story of the flying castle bombarding the town of Nightstone with boulders.  Ceilid and Dor'Kath got them together on their way home.  Meanwhile, Snigbat made a special request to the adventurers to help her reclaim the cave's best fresh water supply from an unseen foe.  Torgal agreed, and once the villagers were safely away, a search and destroy part was formed.

The party inched into the dark cavern, one by one, carrying torches to light the way.  Greg led the expedition as a scout, and a group of goblins brought up the rear.  Surprisingly, the party made it all the way to the water supply without incident.  Then the screams came.  Two goblins vanished into an unnatural shadow, and the rest ran to take cover behind the adventurers.  When the adventurers rushed back to catch the beast, they saw nothing but the same stalagmite they had passed earlier.  But something was amiss.  Upon further poking around (literally), the location of the strange beast was verified by a couple sticky punches bursting out from within.  The amorphous creature slapped the adventurers with brute force and even more brutal acidity, corroding any weapons or armor it touched, eating javelins like they were kabobs.

Things were looking grim for the party until Althaea summoned her spectral weapon – a spear of asparagus.  An Aspearagus!  Upon being stabbed with it, the creature shrieked in revulsion and fled the safety of its stalagmite to exact vengeance upon the horrible vegetable.  Alas, since the aspearagus is immune to physical damage, the creature's onslaught had no effect.  The vicious ooze, a black pudding of vile temper, was laid low shortly thereafter.

With the water source freed up, and the discovery of a lush mushroom habitat, the adventurers made every effort to give Snigbat and her followers the foundation they needed to build a better society.  They offered their knowledge and skills in abundance, and Snigbat and Gwerk accepted their generosity with great enthusiasm.  The adventurers left with high hopes for their goblin friends.

The next day, the adventurers rendezvoused with Morak and the handful of townsfolk who had decided to leave Nightstone rather than be subjected to governance by the Zhentarim.  He rewarded them in what ways he could, and entrusted them with a letter to Markham Southwell, sheriff of Bryn Shander, letting him know his sister Semile had passed in the attack.  As they were making their farewells, Morak noticed to his horror that a white spire, not unlike the floating castle that had attacked Nightstone, had appeared in the distance, and seemed to be moving closer.  Morak fled with his fellow refugees toward Waterdeep, and the adventurers, eager for answers, charged onward to meet the spire.

Enter the Dripping Caves
"Oh my god, they killed Fuzzums! You bastards!"

(Sorry for the late post, I forgot I hadn't added my log that night!  I may have forgotten some details, so feel free to message me with reminders and I'll add them.)

After the adventurers departed Nightstone and reconnected with the sole surviving goblin, Gwerk, they found a safe place to camp among the elves' forest of Ardeep.  Sitting around the campfire, they came to learn more about each other, partially because the laconic Torgal revealed a greater extent of his vocabulary.  Gwerk, truly moved by the kindness of "Orc-friend" Dor'Kath, shook off her terror in exchange for happy sobs.  The evening passed peacefully, save for the sudden waking of the halfling, Gwerk's very vocal dreams of bread, and, with the sunrise, the sudden appearance of Ceilid's new hawk familiar.  But such are the oddities of travel in the wilds, one supposes.

By day, they continued onward to the Dripping Caves.  Under Gwerk's guidance, they gave the cave's main entrance a wide berth and scaled the hills to reach a secret entrance, a natural chimney delving into the depths of the cavern from a rocky outcropping above.  As they formulated a plan of entry, Ceilid transformed her unexplained companion into a snake for improved cave mobility.  She convinced Gwerk of the snake's friendliness, and sent the serpent down with the goblin to view her meeting with the much-hyped Snigbat.  Gwerk climbed down the shaft and encountered Snigbat as promised, then with some little convincing gained Snigbat's trust and ushered the adventurers below.

Snigbat proved to be quite the oddity, able to speak to them in quite excellent Common.  They discovered she was unusually intelligent for a goblin, and thus unsatisfied with the brute force lifestyle in which she lived.  Lacking the physical strength to go up against the bosses, however, she was fated to forever be a lowly grunt in a society of burly idiots.  Though she found Torgal's manner seriously off-putting, she decided to trust the adventurers as her best hope for forming a better life for her and the weaker goblins who Boss Hark considered completely disposable.  She told them about the layout of the cave, where Boss Hark could be found, and of the existence of two ogres in the main cavern who would not likely be persuaded to leave their easy food source.  The goblins who guarded the main cavern were a source of uncertainty, though Snigbat felt it likely they would fall in line if the party walked out into the cavern carrying the liberated head of their chief.

Leaving nothing to chance, Ceilid sent her serpentine familiar off on a scouting mission – and promptly into a rat pit, where it was handily trampled and devoured.  But she was not deterred, then summoning a quasit to do her scouting for her.  The mischievous beast became invisible and flew throughout the cave, lending Ceilid its eyes.  What Snigbat reported was true.  So, rather than dither any longer, the party decided to go on the offensive.

The ever-resourceful Ceilid devised a scheme to take out Boss Hark and his retinue in one fell swoop.  Conjuring an arcane shout, she shook the very foundations of the small cavern in which Hark resided with his bodyguards and pet rats.  The concussive blast and falling debris from the cavern ceiling killed all but one rat, who fled, one goblin, who was promtly skewered by one of Torgal's javelins, and Boss Hark, who took cover in a tiny alcove but was pursued and decapitated nonetheless.  The battle was over in less than a minute, and the adventurers were unscathed.

Now, the echoes of that terrible sound have reverberated throughout the tiny cave system, putting all on alert.  How will the adventurers proceed?  Will they survive so unscathed against hungry ogres?  Will Snigbat come to be the new governor of her clan, and finally get to implement her community arts program?  Only time will tell!

Journal of Ceilid Thornhill, 11 Kythorn 1312 DR
[In translation from her cypher]

Ground shifted since last entry. First, future plans:

Companions insist on diverting to goblin caves to rescue NS villagers/support insurrection. I have significant doubts regarding survival of NS villagers. Despite delays/likely futility, diversion to goblin caves of potential value for investigating social structures and cultures—presence of translator Gwerk offers unprecedented opportunity for understanding + research. 

Will stay with current companions if they can be persuaded to refocus after spelunking break. I underestimated the difficulty of this endeavor when I started out. Significant local unrest, scope of reward for surviving the undertaking balance out inefficiencies of group travel. Cleric Althea is a skilled healer, biddable enough. Dor'kath a good ally—solid in battle, idealistic which makes loyal if distractable. Not sure what to make of Torgal yet, but he's a skilled fighter and I like him, for whatever that's worth.

See, Genevieve, I am trying to make it home.

Since last entry:

Zhentarim expanding presence in area—taken posession of NS (town) given opportunity, though original plans were to infiltrate covertly. Known operatives: Kella (spy, archer), Xolkan (fighter, in love with Kella, dull around the edges, believes himself in my debt but gratitude unlikely to last).

[sketches of Zhentarim from Nightstone]

Retrieved token from  Xolkan to allow access to Z leader Snail, although unlikely to use Xolkan's name for entry.

[sketch of Zhentarim ring]

Multiple reports of giants, flying castle seen over NS (town). Kella + NS guards claim castle flew overhead & was source of NS boulders. No eyewitnesses to theft of NS, but disappeared during period of flying castle transit.

Stelleg regerred to air castles, thoguht ot be apocryphal but never given his due. Investigate potential connections between NS and giants. (R may have more, not sure if able to correspond from here, potential for scoop?)

Orcs attempted to overrun NS. Unable to assess motivation, home base, previous movements. 3+ war parties, Chief and Eye of Gruumsh as well. Harried by elves before arrival. Witnessed elves in area, but nature of conflict with orcs unknown. Likely path of movements noted on map above. Retrieved religious symbol from Eye of Gruumsh after orc company slain/fled:

[sketch of Gruumsh symbol]

Likely path of castle and potential movements of local orcs, elves, goblins on map:

[sketch of map]

NS guards Alara and Sadiri deserved better deaths, longer lives, a better commander than me. Died trying to defend their home.

[sketches of Alara and Sadiri]

O.O. has felt closer. Seeing true natures more strongly, feeling a pull from myself. Soon I will learn what I know.

8 days rations remaining.

Onslaught Undone
"Hey Norgra, toss the gerbil your shield."

A great battle fell upon the village of Nightstone as the adventurers and the Zhentarim operatives who had claimed the town were attacked by what was left of an army of orcs.  The orcs swarmed the southern bridge, clambering up in pairs to meet the force of attackers above.  Having taken heavy damage from spears both spectral and corporeal, and looking soon to be overwhelmed, the adventurers planned a steady retreat as the four town guards they had brought from the keep helped guard their path.

At first, things seemed to be going well.  The War Chief Gurrash found himself repeatedly thwarted by the simple caltrops that lay in his path, and even as he struggled to maintain some shred of dignity, his defter underlings used him as a ladder to scramble up onto the bridge.  Knocked off his feet, peppered with caltrops, skewered by his own team's spectral spear, and cheeks exposed by holy flame, victory seemed assured.

Then, the orc forces began to gather topside.  Their natural aggression compelling them forward, they hacked through the town guards with aplomb.  Sydiri Haunlar, Alara Winterspell, Torem Breck, and Kaelen Zam all fell protecting Nightstone from the invaders.  And as the orcs pressed onward, things were looking grim for the adventurers, especially as Norgra One-Eye, Gurrash's Eye of Gruumsh, reached the battlefield.

In an effort to gain some backup, the adventurers kited the orc hoard toward the city square.  Zhentarim archers fired on them from the safety of the watchtowers as more orcs were sighted approaching the southern bridge, targeted unsuccessfully by what was clearly the least talented archer of the Seven Snakes.  Torgal and Dor'Kath both went down in the fight and things were looking bleak when Ceilid and Althaea had strokes of brilliance.  Althaea retreated to the temple where once more she sought and received the blessing of Eldath, reinvigorating her severely depleted healing powers.  Ceilid, meanwhile, crafted a clever ruse in which she fooled Xolkin into believing his love Kella had been nearly killed, begging for his aid in protecting her.  The ruse not only earned her a healing potion to save her companions, but also spurred a now-invulnerable Xolkin into the fray with Norgra.

Though Xolkin demonstrated no exceptional prowess in battle, despite his phenomenal stats, the distraction, along with the flurry of arrows from his compatriots, helped turn the tide of battle.  As the orc forces were diminished one by one, the fallen adventurers returned to consciousness, and the final party of orcs left fleeing the scene of the slaughter, finally the adventurers and the Zhentarim together were able to overcome the hoard.  Only one of the Seven Snakes was lost in the fight, and as the battle wrapped, Xolkin expressed to Ceilid his unabashed gratitude for "saving Kella's life."  Though he showed great generosity and even offered the party another night's stay in the temple, Ceilid hurried them along, knowing full well that Kella took no such damage and that poor, gullible Xolkin would soon discover her deception.  The adventurers raided the dead for useful items and made a hasty departure.

Unfortunately, the sudden appearance of the orcs left a few more casualties in their wake.  The three goblins, sent from the village to await the party in the forest, found themselves in the orcs' path.  Tob and Flak were not fast enough, and were slashed and trampled underfoot as the orcs passed.  Luckily, Gwerk managed to hide herself away in a tree, safe from harm.  When the adventurers found her, she was shaken, but well.  With elves patrolling the woods in search of stray orcs, the party found themselves in a peaceful wood that night, ready for a long and well-deserved rest.

When Orcs Attack
"It's Torgal Time!"

The party and the newfound stranger Kella found themselves in an odd situation as a group of riders entered Nightstone at nightfall calling Kella's name.  Torgal became uncharacteristically protective of the goblin captives and uncharacteristically talkative toward the riders, and Kella, feeling cornered, made an unsuccessful attempt to escape out a window.  A couple awkward conversations later, Kella was reunited with the riders, who revealed themselves to be Zhentarim, the team was reunited with their weapons, and Torgal was reunited with his more verbose companions.

The commander of the riders, a half-elf named Xolkin, was visibly relieved to see Kella safe, though she didn't quite seem to share his enthusiasm.  Several awkward comments from Dor'Kath later, Xolkin was beet red and Kella mildly irritated, but still they managed to set a few things straight.  They had no quarrel with the adventurers, but they could not allow them to hold up their plans to secure the town for use by the Zhentarim.  The adventurers were invited to stay the night at the temple, then depart in the morning.

The party was not too keen to simply trust the Zhentarim, however.  Ceilid used a spell of invisibility to sneak in through the crumbling wall of the inn and eavesdrop on their conversation.  Through this, she confirmed Kella's story about the flying castle as truth, as well as learning of the Zhentarim's contact – the Snail – and yet more evidence of Xolkin's painfully unrequited feelings for Kella.  Moving on, she made a secret survey of the approach to the Nightstone Keep, which still had yet to be explored, then returned to the temple to make a somewhat tricky invisible re-entry through a window.  Assured there was nothing more they could learn that night, and weary from a long day of goblin-slaying, the party set watch and got some rest.

They arose bright and early the next morning to discover Xolkin and Kella waiting for them in the square.  Though disconcertingly genial, they impressed upon the adventurers their desire that they should be on their way.  Ceilid, however, was keen to explore the keep, so the adventurers volunteered their services to investigate it on the Zhentarim's behalf.  Xolkin was not eager to oblige, but Kella saw the potential value in sending the strangers into a potential death trap, and nudged him to accept, on the condition that the adventurers kill anything they found inside.  The party sent the captive goblins from the town to hid in the woods and await their return, then made their way to the broken bridge.

This day, neither Torgal nor Dor'Kath managed to prove any particular gymnastic prowess as again and again they attempted to make the jump across the bridge and failed, dangling from a rope in their shame.  Finally, Torgal managed to cross the breach, faceplanting on the splintered boards before going on to secure the rope to the pylons at the far side.  The ladies shimmied expertly across the taught rope, but poor Dor'Kath, he fell to the waters below, and then needed to be fished out.  One wearing a blossoming bruise on his face and the other dripping, Torgal and Dor'Kath led the way on their slow procession to the keep, and finally opened the door into the unknown.

Inside was not exactly the sight they expected.  Four startled guards stood around a body on a table, shrouded in a white veil.  The sudden presence of the adventurers startled them, but they were eager to see friendly faces.  They explained that the Keep was cut off early in the attack, and that Lady Nandar among others were killed when stones dropped from a flying castle demolished two of the four turrets of the keep.  They also revealed that giants had descended from the castle via a stairway made of clouds and taken the Nightstone with them.  They knew of no reason why, and had gone into hiding when the castle moved again, oblivious to the current state of the town and shellshocked from the sudden attack.  Unable to establish who was in charge, they were frozen with indecision and scared for their lives.

Ceilid laid out the current state of affairs to the guards, and while they mulled over what to do, Ceilid, Althaea, and Dor'Kath explored the Lady's library while Torgal went rummaging around in the Lady's room.  All was going well until Torgal opened a chest that activated her magical security system, emitting a shrieking wail and summoning a magic sword from the wall to attack him.  The guards rushed in to survey the scene, Torgal made no attempt to resist, cooperating as the guard managed to reset the spell and following the guards downstairs.  Once the unsuccessful search for clues in the library was completed, the party reconvened with the guards to learn their decision.  Two of them, realizing their livelihood was likely taken from them, wished to sell their services to the Zhentarim, while the other two determined their duty to the townsfolk to be greater than their employment, and wished to help rescue what of the townsfolk remained.

In what was perhaps a momentary lapse in judgment, the party sent the painfully innocent Dor'Kath off to discuss the terms of hiring and/or releasing the guards.  He immediately divulged the presence of the guards in the keep to the first Zhentarim he saw before going to to talk to Kella and Xolkin.  The duo disliked that the party had disobeyed their one and only request that they kill whatever they found inside, but saw fit to let the guards live if they swore allegiance to serve the Zhentarim or to never return.  The two guards not seeking employment with the Zhentarim were equally unhappy with the terms, but determined to go along with it as a ruse.

The guards were led into the town square to take their oaths, but before they could be completed, they were interrupted by the sound of war horns.  Zhentarim stationed on the drawbridge towers called out a warning of an approaching band of orcs, perhaps twenty strong.  Xolkin immediately loaded the towers with archers while Kella retreated to the inn to watch the square with the remaining Zhentarim.  She gave teh adventurers and the guards license to do whatever they wanted, but she recommended finding a place to take cover.

With the drawbridge raised and the towers well-manned, the party turned to cover the bridge to the keep.  The Zhentarim at the gate managed to deter attempts by the orcs to scale the walls, but rather than give up, the orcs set about searching for another point of entry.  A scouting band reached the keep bridge and was handily dispatched, but not before one was able to notify a larger force.  Xolkin sent two of his men to watchtowers on the far side of the village, but would not send any aid to defend the bridge entrance, so the party was on their own, with the help of the guards.

At first it seemed that the other orcs might fall as readily as the first band, but the party did not account for the power of the War Chief and his Eye of Gruumsh.  The War Chief rallied his forces with a fierce battle cry, then downed Torgal with a single blow of his spear.  Meanwhile, the Eye of Gruumsh forced Dor'Kath to discard his hoard of javelins and summoned a spectral spear whose sole purpose seemed to be stabbing Ceilid.  The orc forces are clustering at the bridge, ready to clamber up, and the party is on the defensive.  There is more of this harrowing battle yet to come!

Friends or Foes
"Gwerk it, gurl."

With their goblin captive, Tob, safely strung up in the temple bell tower, the four intrepid adventurers set out to sweep the town for dangers … and loot!  Making straight for the local store, as any reasonable creatures might, they moved stealthily enough as to spy upon a rather hopeless goblin rabble collecting in a nearby pumpkin patch, wherein two unfortunate goblins were not so much out of their gourds as in them.  Retreating into the ransacked shop, the adventurers looted a few odds and ends, crowbars and caltrops, and managed to stand about dithering and deliberating long enough that the goblin onslaught began without them.

The goblin warriors charged the square, screeching to a halt as they spied the adventurers in the shop, their bepumpkined companions ricocheting off their backs.  The fight that ensued was quick and brutal, with half the goblin forced smashed to bits, one burnt to a holy crisp, and the final one, Flak, taken captive.

The adventurers continued their sweep, taking in the full devastation of the town of Nightstone.  Bodies lay crushed under rubble, homes lay smashed, destroyed, and plundered.  But, a little sleuthing turned up some helpful healing items and a modest sum of gold.  Unfortunately, it also turned up two surprisingly adept goblin archers hiding in the rafters of the town windmill.  One long ordeal and two near-deaths later, the party took a rest and finally went to confront the mysterious female goblin mind-imaged by Tob.

The figure ended up being less than imposing, tossing down its treasure and prostrating itself to beg mercy.  What she lacked in threat, however, she made up for in useful information.  Gwerk, as she called herself, spoke exceptionally passable common.  She could shed no light on what had caused the chaos and destruction, but she did know that some of the villagers had survived, and last time she was home in the caves, they were captives of the goblin chief, Boss Hark.

Gwerk was not fond of Boss Hark, and upon hearing Dor'Kath blurt that the adventurers might kill him, she made them an offer.  She would show them to a secret cave entrance and enlist the aid of Snigbat, a dissident underling of Hark's, in overthrowing him, thereby making Snigbat the new goblin chief.  Ceilid, securing the promise of additional aid in clearing and investigating the town, stuck a deal with the captives, and, much to their delight, Dor'Kath finally shared with them all a loaf of delicious bread.

Things did not go altogether smoothly, though, as Gwerk attempted to track down the last two goblins at the Nightstone Inn.  She discovered her companions slain and was nearly taken down herself.  The adventurers discovered a lone human female in the upper story of the inn, shooting down goblins through a huge boulder hole in the floor.  Clearly not expecting the adventurers' presence, she was extremely cautious allowing them in, and in the end, Torgal, who would not put down his weapons, was left outside guarding three very nervous goblins.

Ceilid, Dor'Kath, and Althaea formally met Kella Darrendale, a self-professed worshipper of Mielikki, and her "pet" flying serpent, Ziggy.  When asked what happen to Nightstone, Kella described to them, with perfect honesty, a scene too bizarre to be believed.  A flying castle in the clouds?  A barrage of boulders?  The Nightstone itself mysteriously ripped from the earth?  Before they can make full sense of this story, or of Kella's part in it, they are interrupted by the sound of approaching hoofbeats.  Riders enter the town, and call Kella's name.

The adventurers may have leveled up, but will they ever earn their long rest?  Do these riders come bearing good or ill?  Will poor Ceilid ever get to investigate that damn keep?  And will Gwerk live to see her goblin friend Snigbat win the day?  Only time will tell!

Journal of Dor'Kath Day 1
Today I meet new people

Dear journal,

Today has been quite good day. I see help needed for town called Nightstone and get on cart to go there. I meet three others two of which are people. The third one, not sure. First I thought it a puppy but it stabbed me so I reconsidered. Now I think it a very smart gerbil, they can always hide things in their mouths and maybe that is where it keeps battle axes.

Never mind that, we go in town and everything is bad. Boulders everywhere and no towns people at all. I would say it quiet but church bell ringing, we heard it as we came in town and me and Althaea, she is elf priest, go to help people in church. I think at the time the other two were behind me, but then I hear voice in head and look up to see our gerbil bleeding everywhere with bad puppies over it.

Journal, battle was fierce and full of many miracles. For instance gerbil gets up and makes sound that I never hear gerbils make before pulling axe out of mouth me think. I never see more than eyes in fur so I not certain. I did my part to keep bad monsters down and protect these new friends. 

When all was done we kill some, and some goblins run away. Yes Journal, there were goblins, but they small things that gerbil could kill so it not worth worrying. So we go in to church, bell still ringing and we decide to help people. We got in side and I think, I let people know we are hear to help. This would be good thing because it church, but goblins came down instead of people. There was more fighting and we were tired when all done. 

There is much more to tell Journal, but after fight gerbil helped capture goblins and Ceilid played picture game, but without chalk and in minds. I never thought goblins had much in way of minds. Ceilid used this and now we are off to investigate more. Promise to write you once we rest for night.

Journal of Ceilid Thornhill, 9 Kythorn 1312 DR
[In translation from her cypher]

Traveled 40 km from Waterdeep to Nightstone via High Road.

Nightstone [town] damaged—potential siege weaponry involved. Boulders in the streets. Nightstone [artifact] missing from its plinth, no sign of damage to the artifact. See 13 Hammer 1311 DR for observations and previous attempts to shift artifact. 

No human residents found, evidence of evacuation on the road. Arrived with Torgal Wynn [not to be touched], Dor'Kath [Chauntea devotee], Althea [cleric—deity?]. All aware of OO gifts. 

Skirmish &etc with goblins and wargs. Wounded but functional. Goblins at least may have arrived after the town's fall. Subject in custody [goblin, chicken-killer, loves his cave] claims to be with another g. that speaks to men, orcs, elves. Unprecedented to my knowledge, but goblin society and interspecies relations understudied. Of potential interest to S.V.L.

OO TC functional without common language—impressions, images transfer clearly.

10 days of rations remaining.

Welcome to Nightstone
"Can we please kill this chicken?"

The adventurers met for the first time boarding a rickety cart bound for Nightstone.  On the long ride, the halfling Torgal Wynn proved rather prickly, and the half-orc Dor'Kath (not to be confused with his estranged brother, the bard Mor'Goth) perhaps learned to be more cautious when handling "nature animals."  The human Ceilid remained observant and reserved, though she expressed quite the expertise on local fungi, and the elven Althea kept calmly to herself .

As they approached the town through a stretch of quiet woods, they heard the tolling of a bell growing louder and louder.  It wasn't a measured cadence, however, but an erratic, discordant noise.  As the cart emerged from the woods, they discovered even more cause for concern.  While the bell tolled, there was no sign of people moving about.  The drawbridge that crossed the span of river between the field where they now stood and the walled bailey of Nightstone was lowered, and the Keep and those rooftops that could be seen above the sharpened log palisade had suffered terrible damage, and the bridge that connected the bailey to the motte of the Keep had been partially destroyed.

Upon seeing this, the cart driver aggressively unloaded his passengers and fled, leaving them alone in the field.  As they approached the besieged village, they saw a mess of tracks leading into and out of the village.  The larger humanoid prints were older and traveled North into the woods, but the smaller prints – and some large paw prints, led into the village instead.

The adventurers crossed the drawbridge and witnessed a scene of unusual destruction.  Boulders were scattered everywhere, tearing through buildings and leaving craters in the dirt paths, and what was more unsettling was that Nightstone's signature centerpiece was missing entirely.  While Dor'Kath and Althea made for the temple, their faiths leading them to hope that it might be a place of sanctuary for some poor soul, Torgal and Ceilid headed into the town square to get a better view.

Unfortunately, the view they got was of two worgs ripping some once-living bloody mess to shreds.  Having not chosen the stealthy route, the adventurers were immediately spotted and attacked, the worgs howling for backup.  Torgal, rushing into the fray, was downed almost immediately by the vicious beasts, and Ceilid psychically called for backup.  Althea applied her healing arts and Dor'Kath scolded the bad puppies.  In the ensuing fight, three goblins joined the fray.  Two got Torgal-chopped and one ran away.  Dor'Kath went down after a worg chomped his face, but his half-orc resilience kept him in the fight.  Ceilid demonstrated herself to be a master of unsettling psychic visions before getting knocked out herself.  It was a close call, but in the end they survived to retreat to the temple.

Dor'Kath, trusting in the goodness of sacred ground, called out as they entered the temple to see what goodly, beleaguered souls might be within.  However, it was not a human survivor, but two playful goblins who were responsible for the tolling of the bell.  They rushed out to attack, but were quickly dispatched as Althea lit one's hair on fire, Ceilid performed minor magical molestation on the other, and Torgal and Dor'Kath generally just hacked what was left to bits, redecorating the sacred space in shades of crimson.

Luckily, their victory earned them a short rest in which they could heal.  Althea restored the temple to order and prayed to her goddess Eldath, one of the two goddesses revered here, receiving magical rejuvenation in response.  Ceilid took a couple steps away from death's door.  Torgal absconded with a chicken, and kept watch.

As they rested, two goblins fled from the nearby stables where the runaway had taken refuge in the earlier fight.  Torgal was quick to notice, however, and Ceilid was likewise quick to react.  Casting a devious spell, she made one goblin her puppet and sent him walking right into Dor'Kath's grasp.  Attempting a sort of telepathic Pictionary, Ceilid interrogated the captive goblin and learned of a potential translator hiding in one of the village watchtowers.  She also learned that, if the goblin was telling the truth, the damage to the village was done before the goblins arrived, the goblins have no ties to the new giant threat, and this particular goblin has a peculiar fondness for fields of daisies and straw mat beds in dank caves.

So, will our adventurers get the answers they seek from this mysterious translator?  Will they track down the final goblin who fled?  What else will they find in this derelict Nightstone?  And will Torgal secretly eat that chicken?  Tune in next time!


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