Strangely enough the next morning arrived without incident. Perhaps the monsters of Neverwinter Woods were intimidated by the peculiar spectacle of the Dwarven Aledance, or perhaps the party simply got lucky.
As Shadamehr went about concealing their wagon beneath a layer of leaves and branches, the others untied the oxen. They had decided to take the oxen with them rather than leave them so close to the road.
Khelgar stood before one of the dim-witted creatures and attempted to bond with it, holding its gaze and speaking to it softly. Incredibly, not only did the dwarf succeed in calming the nervous creature, but he actually managed to befriend it! Perhaps his stories about taming battleboars were true…
The ox grunted with affection and nuzzled the dwarf’s hand. Khelgar named it Oxgar on the spot and the sound of Glasha’s grinding teeth could be heard all across the lands. It was Meepo all over again!
Red and Shadamehr lead the party south along the goblin trail until finally they arrived at the goblin cave. They tied the oxen up in a small clearing off to one side and ventured into the cavern entrance, following the path to the right of the shallow stream.
Almost immediately they came upon the same pair of snarling, snapping wolves. The party attacked and Red was immediately dragged to the ground by one of wolves. Luckily her comrades bounded in and helped her fight off the crazed beast. After a short melee both wolves were dead.
On the opposite end of the room the party discovered a stinky pile of rubble and refuse— old bones, rotten vegetables, and what appeared to be several poop rags. A hole opened up in the stone ceiling above the pile. They could see the flicker of torchlight about thirty feet up.
The natural chimney was too narrow for any of them squeeze into so they backtracked and continued up the corridor, following the stream deeper into the cavern complex. As they progressed the corridor grew steeper and the stream cascaded over several small waterfalls.
Off to the left another passage opened up. This one only went about ten feet before ending at a steep, rubble-strewn slope. They kept following the stream and as they rounded a bend they saw a rickety wooden bridge spanning the cavern above them. The bridge appeared to connect a pair of smaller side passages.
Shadamehr went ahead to investigate, but just as he got to the bridge there was a great crash followed by the sound of roaring water.
From upstream a wall of water filled the corridor, tumbling towards him in a frothy, rushing wave. The rest of the party ducked into a side passage to avoid the deluge, but not Shadamehr. Trusting in his superior barbarian athleticism, Shadamehr leapt up to catch hold of the wooden bridge above him. “When they go low, I go high— ahhhhhh!”
Unfortunately Shadamehr misjudged the height of the bridge, it was a good twenty feet off the ground, and succeeded only in leaping into the air, spread-eagled, as the wall of water engulfed him. The rest of the party flinched and then watched helplessly as the barbarian was swept past them.
When the water finally subsided Glasha, Red, Khelgar, and Mezan went looking for their friend. They finally found him lying in the grass outside the cave entrance, coughing and sputtering next to the grazing oxen. The floodwater had already spread out by that point, and the stream once again flowed normally.
After helping Shadamehr to his feet the party headed back into the cave. They pressed ahead with determination. As soon as they arrived at the wooden bridge, there was another crash, the ground shook, and a second wall of water rushed towards them. Cursing, the party managed to get out of the way before the flood could take them.
Having no desire to be caught a third time, Shadamehr climbed the wall like a spider and leapt atop the wooden bridge. The rest of the party backtracked and made their way up the steep sloped side passage.
They regrouped with the barbarian in a narrow corridor. To the east was the wooden bridge, while to the west the corridor opened into a chamber lit by flickering torchlight. They went in that direction and were soon crouching outside a smelly goblin den. Uncured hides were scattered across the uneven stone floor and a pot of foul goblin stew bubbled over a small cooking fire. Six goblins lounged around on the hides playing goblin dice games and eating stew.
The party made no attempt to conceal their presence and stormed into the room with a loud battle cry. Summoning previously unknown magic, Red stepped forward and vanished in a puff of mist, reappearing on the upper shelf of the split-level cave. The goblins, taken by surprise, dropped their bowls and dice and tried to form a quick defense but, attacked from both sides, alas were cut down in moments.
After the battle the party looked around. Chained to the wall of a small side chamber was none other than Treem Bunceler! The halfling mercenary was badly beaten and was missing his gear, but he was certainly happy to see them.
Khelgar healed his wounds while Shadamehr unshackled him. The halfling rubbed his wrists as he described what happened after he and Gundren were ambushed. The goblins tied him up and dragged him to this hideout, probably to eat him, but they took Gundren somewhere else— a place called Cragmaw Castle. Someone named “The Spider” was there and wanted the dwarf alive. Treem never heard of Cragmaw Castle or The Spider, but neither one sounded good.
With Treem by their side the party backtracked and made their way across the wooden bridge. On the other side was a large chamber and the source of the cavern's stream. Red was the first to enter, several steps ahead of the rest. A mighty waterfall poured down from a fissure high above, feeding two large pools that were nearly empty. A pair of stone and timber dams, now demolished, held back the water no longer.
As she nodded appreciatively at the simple but effective trap, no doubt the source of the two flash floods they endured, she was suddenly caught in a hail of goblin arrows! A hasty incantation brought up a magical shield in the split-second before the missiles struck home, and they clattered to the floor. Raising the alarm, Red rushed forward, splashing across the shallow pool to engage three goblins who had peaked out from behind their hiding spots. The party rushed in behind her, and after a short battle were once again victorious.
A small passageway opened along the south wall. On the other side the party found another spacious cavern, this one lit by flickering torchlight. The chamber was filled with crates, canvas sacks, barrels, and other random goods— all of which seemed to have been plundered from passing merchants. Many of the goods had a unique stamp on them— that of a blue lion.
A cluster of five large stalagmites crowded the western edge of the room. On the floor beyond them was a small hole, perhaps only two feet in diameter. Based on its location it was likely the same natural chimney they investigated earlier.
Red crept over to have a closer look, and just as she reached the nearest stalagmite a loud bellow echoed through the cavern! A brutish bugbear leapt out from behind one of the natural columns, swinging a heavy morning star over his head.
“Attack! Kill them all!”
Immediately three more forms jumped out to join the fray— a pair of stringy goblins and a large, bloodthirsty wolf.
The wolf wasted no time pouncing on Red and taking her to the ground, where he proceeded to maul her mercilessly. Khelgar and Glasha came to her aid and helped slay the frothing beast, while Mezan burned up one of the charging goblins with a magical beam.
Before the bugbear could even register the death of his faithful pet and his loyal retainer, Shadamehr summoned the strength of the tundra and delivered a mighty sword blow to the goblinoid's waist. The bugbear's torso was cleaved in two with such power that both halves flew backwards and tumbled down the chimney. Several wet thuds echoed up from the dark, blood-splattered hole, followed by a final, sickening splat.
Glancing around and realizing that he was all alone, the remaining goblin turned and dove into the hole after his boss. There were a few more thuds followed by another wet splat. The party shrugged and looked around for loot.
Red took a small ceramic pot bearing the blue lion symbol— perhaps she could learn more about this symbol in Phandalin. Shadamehr managed to find a healing potion that he quickly pocketed, while Glasha discovered a small jade statuette that could fetch a nice price.
Sensing their work there complete, the party left the cavern complex, untied their oxen, and returned to the wagon. With Treem by their side they headed off to Phandalin. Who could say what adventures they might find there!