Having driven away the Cragmaw hunters, the heroes contemplate their next move: stay here and try to rest, or seek refuge elsewhere? "I have idea," Droop offers. "Cover rag in blood and create false trail."
"Your blood?" asks Ad.
"Yes, and yours too!" Ad looks dubiously at him. Paying him no mind, the goblin looks at Artex. "But elf blood is best. Hobgoblin hate elves, train wolf to follow their scent."
Droop takes his dagger and slices his palm, and making a fist he squeezes blood from the wound, covering the rag in red. "Now you!" he says, handing the rag to Artex. "I need my hand to shoot," replies the elf, who nevertheless donates blood to the cause. Again led by the ranger, the party sets out in the darkness to create a false scent-trail into the wood. "I spensible now," Droop tells the warlock.
After some time, the party discards the soiled rag, backtracks, and strikes out in a new direction, being careful to cover their new path as best they can. Miraculously, the plan works: the party evades the Cragmaw hunters and manages to get a full night's rest. Late in the morning, they creep back to the castle, this time approaching from the south.
Falling into a trance, the warlock psychically inhabits his familiar and sends her forth to explore. She flies down the sheltered causeway along the south wall and finds an iron door at the end of the passage. She slips silently underneath it. Inside, she espies a crumbling corridor with four doors — two on the west, one to the east, and one to the north that leads to the tower in which they found Yeemik and his ragged warriors the night before. There does not appear to be any guards in this area, though she hears what sounds like the banging of cooking utensils coming from the first door on the left.
Jessica returns to her master, and the party pairs up in formation. They steal across the narrow field to the causeway, proceeding with what caution they can muster, and enter the sheltered passage. The iron door is locked! Ad kneels down, pulls out his tools, and begins to ply the lock. He is successful, and the party opens the door.
Hearing the clatter of dishes to the west, the group bursts through the door to find eight goblins in a large dining chamber. "It's them!" shouts the kitchen's master. Before the goblins can draw their swords, Trudy attempts a parley. Are the goblins suffering under the yoke of King Grol? Would they care to abandon him? A guttural scream from the leader provides the answer: no.
Battle is met! The goblins skitter easily in and out of melee range of the heroes, but the heroes quickly overpower them — Droop steps up to distract one of the Cragmaws, and Stedd crushes him under his hammer. Artex and Ad slay two more. The goblin leader has a little more success, cutting Stedd twice with his sword, but it comes at a heavy price: with each strike, Stedd retaliates with Wrath of the Storm. The second such strike fells the leader, and the remaining goblins flee in two directions.
Gertrude follows the two that fled down the caved-in hallway along the western wall. The path opens into the southwest tower, where five more goblins join with the two that had retreated! The paladin again calls for their surrender, but the goblins have renewed confidence in their numbers and refuse. Ad follows and raises his hand, and with a flash, he effortlessly dispatches another goblin. "I don't know how we can make this any more plain," Trudy remarks to the humanoids.
Stedd casts Bless upon the party, and the Power of Valkur surges within his allies. Meanwhile, the nearest goblin makes a run at Trudy, but she stands ready for the assault and cuts him down. The others, fearful of the paladin, fire a volley of arrows, but she holds her shield aloft and turns aside their missile fire. Artex, on the other hand, is far more deadly with his bow: he fires two shots and slays two goblins. Droop follows Stedd, who has taken up a defensive posture in order to channel his divine power. Casting sacred flame, he singes another enemy.
The battle spills out into the castle's front corridor, where the heroes discover that the western entrance has been sealed by the Cragmaws — they have piled up rocks and other debris to block it completely. Ad blasts another goblin, and Artex, using his skill as a horde-breaker, levels his bow and picks off two more. The paladin notes that the party has no clear way out, but hastens forward confidently. The door to the guard station in the southwest tower swings open, and three goblins spring upon Ad and Artex. Ad does not abide the assault, and unleashes a blistering hellish rebuke, immolating his foe.
Stedd and Droop move to the door in the dining room, covering the intersection. The cleric spots the two goblins who had fled this way at the end of the hall to the right. They make eye contact as if to issue a challenge, then slip behind the door, beyond which lies a very dark room. He casts light upon a crossbow bolt and fires it toward the darkened room, illuminating it with a holy light. At his angle, however, he cannot see much.
Back in the corridor, Gertrude heads north and attempts to open the next guardroom door, but finds it held shut. With a sharp blow, she forces the portal and finds two goblins within, cowering at their post. The goblins surrender to her, dropping their weapons and throwing up their hands. The paladin and warlock question them briefly about Gundren's whereabouts. "Dwarf with King Grol… Drow come two day ago. He want to take Dwarf." With a flash of insight, Trudy orders them to start clearing the blocked exit to the west, and asks Droop to help them.
Artex turns east to follow the goblins who ran down the corridor into the room beyond, now illuminated by Stedd's efforts. In haste, he fails to see a thin copper wire rigged across the passage — his boot catches on it, triggering a cave-in! Wooden beams, rocks and stones rain down upon him. Bludgeoned and stunned, the elf shakes off the dust and pain while the cleric, seeing the ranger's plight, scrambles over the debris and tends to his wounds.
The elf steels himself and steps into the room, his bow at the ready. Instead of goblins, however, a huge, hideous snake-like creature known as a grick slithers forward and attacks! Its tentacles lash at the ranger, pulling him forward, and its razor-sharp beak snaps at him. The ranger side-kicks and jerks back, narrowly avoiding the grick's maw. Artex fires wildly, unable to aim properly at such close range.
Stedd and Trudy hear the muffled gasp of the elf and rush to his aid. Stedd attempts a sacred flame, but the creature is unaffected by the cleric's power. Gertrude charges forward, compelling the grick to a duel, but again the creature resists the heroes' magic. It cannot resist the power of her steel, however: the paladin calls upon Torm to smite this abomination, and Talon cuts deep. The grick emits a hissing shriek of anguish! The warlock follows Trudy's blade by conjuring an eldritch blast upon the monster, and its charred and lifeless body falls to the ground.
The goblins who had retreated to the grick's lair cannot be seen, and the party turns back to deal with the denizens of the northwest tower. Again, Trudy wins a contest of strength, forcing the tower door. Expecting to find another group of cowering goblins, however, she is instead confronted by four hobgoblins and a pair of slavering wolves — part of the remnants of the search party that the adventurers encountered the previous evening. The wolves leap to attack, and Trudy is bitten twice! She manages to hold her ground before a hobgoblin drops her with a massive critical hit.
Ad and Artex work on dispatching the wolves, while Stedd revives Trudy with a Healing Word. Droop bravely interposes himself in the doorway to distract the enemies while Trudy lays hands upon herself. But the Cragmaw warriors press their attack and knock her unconscious again, this time taking out Droop with her. Trudy is at death's door when Stedd, Ad and Artex finish off the remaining hobgoblins. Stedd quickly pours a potion of healing down the paladin's throat, and then revives Droop with Cure Wounds.
In the end, sixteen goblins, four hobgoblins, two wolves, and the horrific grick all lie dead at the hands of the heroes. But the party is spent, and the western exit is not yet open. Many questions remain: what lies on the eastern side of the castle, beyond the grick's lair? Will the goblins dig out the exit in time? Or will the heroes be cut off by King Grol, the mysterious drow, and the remaining survivors of the Cragmaw Tribe?
Session XP: 450
Total XP: 1850