We meet our adventuring band on the road to Red Larch. Six brave and heroic..cough cough…er six brave adventurers seeking their fortunes in the North. Hailing from Waterdeep were the pair London Verona and Alistair Creed.
Alistair is a rather cerebral chap for a fighter. He worked in artifact acquisitions for one of the Blackstaffs, the guild mages of Waterdeep. He was fired for being outspoken that such relics belonged in museums where they could be studied and displayed for the good of all people, not in the treasury of some secretive mage. Now he’s hoping that adventuring will lead him to some artifacts of his own, so that he can do with them what’s right.
London doesn’t say much about what he did before adventuring, though he seems loyal to Alistair. He quickly proves to be a deadly sniper when attacking unseen with his shortbow.
Next we met the siblings, Ivan and Ivonne Solokov. Fraternal twins to a mixed race couple, Ivan inherited his mother’s Goliath genes, while Ivonne takes after her father, the dwarf. Both grew tired of their boring existence in the mountains and came down to civilization in order to seek a little adventure and fortune. Ivonne seems to be the more careful of the two, but both have already proven absolutely brutal foes to face.
Finally, the unrelated pair of goblins of different species. Blaxx and Grimmer joined up with the crew. After a “case of accidental possession of others’ belongings”, Blaxx smoothed over the “misunderstanding” and got the two invited along. His druidic skills have already saved more than one party member’s life, and his impromptu friendship with a captive bear lead to a tactically brilliant defeat of some bandits and their goblin allies.
Grimmer has proven a solid scout and prodigious consumer of raw grains. He also may think he’s a god.
So our whacky group arrive in town and have barely had a chance to look around when the two goblins in the group get profiled by the local deputies. When they learn the diverse group are adventurers, it’s suggested that they come talk to the constable who has been looking for some adventurers to investigate reports of banditry less than a day to the south. Broke, and badly in need of some cash, the group hoofs right back out of town to the area the constable describes, getting there in the middle of the night. They’ve been promised a 25gp bounty on each of the 8 human bandits supposed to be in the region, and another 30% of the value of any goods recovered from said bandits.
Grimmer and London scout a clearing within a dell, finding a cave entrance with a campfire outside. A large cart with a cage attached to its back stands near the cave entrance. Within the cage is a black bear, currently asleep, as are the 6 of the 8 bandits who lie around the fire. The two men on sentry duty aren’t very observant, and the two rogues withdraw to report and plan.
Blaxx doesn’t even wait for a plan, but sneaks off into the woods to circle around the clearing to the cart and cage. As the others creep into position, he inspects the cage, finding the lock broken, and an iron piton “spiking” the cage shut. Enraged at the majestic animal being caged, he gently coaxes it awake, and then with a mighty pull, dislodges the piton. The cage door swings open and the bear sniffs the air and then lets out a roar, springing from the cage and toward the closest sleeping bandit.
Combat begins, with our crew surprising the sleeping bandits and slacking sentries. The sentries are dropped by London and Alistair, and the twins are in the enemy’s’ ranks before they even rise from their slumber. Grimmer and Ivonne are soon racking up the kill count, while Ivan trades blows with the bandit captain, who calls out to the cave that they’re being attacked. There’s more in the cave?
The bear and two goblins make short work of the western side of the clearing while the others start mopping up the bandits on the east. The bandit captain is holding the line in the center when four goblins appear in formation at the cave mouth, a well-armored hobgoblin with a wicked-looking glaive bringing up the rear. The front two goblins approach in formation with shield and mace, but are brought down almost instantly. The back two shoot crossbow bolts from a distance while the hobgoblin draws a massive longbow, but their archery needs practice.
Before the new arrivals can cause a momentum swing, the combined blows of the party drops the bandit captain, with Ivan getting on the tally sheet with a massive blow. The last of the crossbow goblins flees into the woods, getting away, while the hobgoblin tries a measured retreat while suing for peace. He gets dead on the end of Ivonne’s axe instead.
Grimmer goes running into the cave and tears into the first loot he finds, a sack full of whole grains. Soon, his oversized goblin mouth is stuffed with grain, and he’s calling for servants to bring him more when he notices a blue-skinned woman climbing out of a recently unlocked cage and grabbing her pack of gear.
The party meets Zephyr Quick, an air genasi bard who was unlucky enough to be part of the small caravan these bandits struck a couple of days before. The only survivor, she was told by the goblins that she would be taken north and sold into slavery. Instead, she escaped almost immediately after they left her alone in the cave, and was in the process of sneaking off when yet another goblin, Grimmer, came running up. Had he noticed her rather than the grain, it may not have been a peaceful introduction.
The rest of the party meets Zephyr and hears her story, and they agree a bard would be a useful addition to their crew, although the goblins both want 30% of Zephyr. She points out that she got free without them, and thus wasn’t part of the bandit loot. They agree to let her have the coins in the belt pouches of the victims of the bandits, which works out to a bit less than each share of the bandit bounties, but is better than nothing.
Blaxx takes off to find the bear that ran off and tracks it a good ways away. He heals its wounds, feeds it, and coaxes it back to the clearing where it eventually sleeps near him. In the morning he casts speak with animals, learning that the bear likes him but can’t stay as it’s worried about leaving its den mate alone for so long. It does accompany them back to the road and then crosses it, grunting a farewell.
Back in town, the constable is troubled to hear about goblinoids with the bandits, as “wild goblins” don’t usually appear in numbers this far south. He coughs up the bounty for the bandit ears and suggests the party rest and recuperate at the Swinging Sword Inn, guests of the town for the evening, and on the “friends and locals” discount thereafter. The caravan goods are appraised at 100 gp, so the party splits 30 gp from the town merchants.
They do a lot better selling the bandits’ and goblins’ arms and armor to the second-hand gear merchant in town, Ironhead Arms, the half-orc proprietor buying the lot for nearly 50% of new item value. They convert some of their new coins back into equipment, with London investing in studded leather while Ivonne improves her defenses with some inexpensive scale mail. Zephyr picks up a couple daggers.
They meet Kaylessa, owner of the Inn, who immediately blames the weirdness on the region in “something going on up at Lance Rock”. Some of the town’s kids were playing up there when they ran into a strange dwarf who sent them away because there was “plague up there”. The party agrees to check it out in the morning for 5 gp now, and 5 gp when they return. The twins go for a walk and explore the town, learning the name and purpose of the major businesses. There are two poultry processors, the butchers, two outfits specializing in wagons, two quarries, a bakery, leatherworker, clothiers, and a combination bath house and dress merchant in whose sign Blaxx recognizes the symbol for the Emerald Enclave the next day.
Zephyr makes a few coins with an inspiring musical performance that’s almost ruined by Grimmer’s “accompaniment”. She explains to him later that he’s not yet at a level where he can accompany her, but to keep practicing, just not when she’s working.
In the morning, Alistair is a bit hung over from the night before, and stays in town (his player had to leave early), so the others head out to Lance Rock without him. There, they find a depression leading to a cave entrance. Signs along the path leading there make a claim of plague, and the party covers their mouths and noses with cloth before entering the cave.
In the first room, a corpse lies in the center of the floor, missing an arm which lies nearby. Based on the lack of blood, they assume the body was dumped here. They are passing it by when Blaxx starts poking around the corpse trying to determine cause of death. He’s just decided on “losing an arm” when the body stirs. It’s a zombie!
They beat it down and proceed onward through a narrow tunnel. Seeing a chamber ahead, Grimmer sneaks forward, but the zombies perched on a high ledge above the entry tunnel have already been alerted by the sounds of battle from without. They drop a box of big rocks on him, but he nimbly dodges all of the rocks.
The zombies leap down after him, and are set upon by the party. One is dealt grievous wounds, but just won’t go down, while the other is cleaved nearly in two by one of the barbarians. Moans coming from a deeper tunnel alert the party to a second group of zombies, kobolds this time, which swarm out in a big wave. Slightly faster than the human zombies, but no more accurate, the kobold corpses have the same ability to cling to life after being dealt mortal blows that the human zombies possess. However, consistent massive damage from the party quickly dispatches them.
Exploration of a different side tunnel finds a cave being used to store more human remains and some discarded short swords. Seven are nearly skeletal, while another three are in various stages of fleshly decay. Fearing more zombies, the party waits while Grimmer snipes at one of the corpses still containing flesh. It doesn’t stir, but the 7 skeletons do, picking up the swords and attacking the party in a mindless wave. They fall a little quicker than the zombies, but manage to land a few blows here and there. Zephyr proves that even undead can have body image issues as her vicious mockery lands again and again on the skeletons, doing that last bit of damage to finish them off.
When the foes are defeated, the party stops for a short rest. They then continue on through the tunnel the kobold zombies had emerged from. They come upon a room with three more zombies, one a black bear, the other two dressed as a ballerina and a jester. The three perform a bizarre dance. Grimmer sneaks into the room and behind them while Ivonne stares at the group of zombies dancing nearer and nearer, seemingly unaware of her presence. When they get close however, they quickly turn and shamble at her.
Ivonne backs down the tunnel to form a chokepoint in the previous room, the bear zombie in quick pursuit. Ivan steps up to the front line with his sister as the bear gets there, and mauls him with claw and tooth, dropping him unconscious in a single turn. The others pile on it, and it doesn’t get a second opportunity. The stealthy Grimmer ambushes the ballerina zombie as it totters after the bear, dropping it with a critical blow. The final zombie falls and Ivonne’s back up with some healing from Blaxx and Zephyr. Ivan, who’s planning on being a bear totem barbarian is sad at seeing a bear’s corpse misused in such a way.
Grimmer scouts up a short tunnel from which they spotted the glint of metal. Two iron-bound chests sit there unattended. A search for traps fails to locate any, but when he approaches, there’s a sound of a lever being thrown from somewhere nearby and a trap door opens, causing rocks to deadfall. Again, the rogue is up to the Dexterity save, and takes no damage. A voice who calls himself the “Lord of Lance Rock” taunts Grimmer, who finds both chests are empty. Seeing no way to get to where the voice is coming from, Grimmer returns to the party who decide to return to town and rest and regroup with Alistair before delving deeper.
They load one of the chests full of the short swords taken from the skeletons and return to town alive, and with strange tales of dead dancing bears.