ot wishing to waste any time, the party finished their drinks as Kellar gave them the details of the assignment and then left the noise of the tavern for the still darkness outside. After a brisk walk they came upon the barn where one of the villagers was attacked and Clarence studied the tell-tale marks of goblins. Carefully noting the quantity of different tracks, he quickly led the band of travelers toward their origin. Tharn grumbled to himself about how inconsiderate Elves were as he struggled to keep up, due equally to his short stature and his preoccupation with the odd Tiefling that also seemed to be struggling to move quickly. His agitation increased as he perceived the tall horned man take only half-steps and grumble to himself as though he too were irritated with the elf (or simply mocking the dwarf, Tharn noted). Clarence stopped abruptly and held up a closed fist to signal the rest of the party to do the same. “Here,” he breathed quietly. The group stared at the entrance to an old mine shaft, now boarded up and left for ruin. They had expected as much; Kellar had informed them this was likely the place where the goblins were launching their raids. As Kava began prying some of the boards off, Raven quietly slipped between loose planks where the small goblins likely passed into and out of the mine. The taller heroes stood alert as Kava ripped more of the boards free, and after a short and uneasy silence they all descended into the darkness.
Accustomed to seeing in dim light, the party nonetheless struggled to peer into the absolute dark ahead. Only Raven seemed truly at ease, quickly moving ahead of the rest. As they fumbled through the mine, Varis broke the silence with a single word. “Lux,” he spoke, and gradually a small pinpoint of light grew in luminescence on the top of his staff until the tunnel was dimly lit. The party quickened its pace.
After a brisk march, Clarence noted flickering light ahead of the group and heard the guttural bickering of goblins. Again motioning the group with a hand-arm signal, he positioned himself at the end of the tunnel where it seemed to adjoin to a small chamber. Varis quickly extinguished his light and let Kava and Tharn take up positions in front of him. As Clarence readied an arrow, he peered out into the chamber again to get a count and single out his target. His quick glance revealed three goblins in leather armor playing cards and arguing at a table in the center of the room. Light was dim, and the chamber was empty sans the card game in its center. A smile formed on Clarence’s face as he noted Raven standing in the shadow of one of the goblins, but admiration for the halfling’s bravery and stealth quickly turned to mild horror as it sneered its face to reveal fangs. As quick as a scorpion’s tail, Raven sunk his teeth deep into the goblin just as Clarence loosed an arrow into one of its fellow gamblers. As the monsters screamed in pain and fury the third quickly reacted by flipping the table, just as two more arrows embedded themselves into it.
Kava and Tharn charged into the room and began melee combat as Raven faded back into shadow. Suddenly, he felt himself grabbed from behind as another goblin stepped from hiding. A fifth goblin emerged from the shadows on the other end of the cavern, and Tharn promptly charged toward it. Melech sauntered into the room, looking around absent-mindedly as though he were in a shop without any particular goods to buy. Noticing the battle quickly escalating around him, he felt himself slipping into one of his characteristic rages. Singling out one of the goblins, he swore an oath of enmity on it, making a pledge to the Raven Queen to end this foul creature’s life. Moving with a sense of purpose, he drew his sword and joined the fray. He and Kava seemed to work well together, flanking the smaller creatures and forcing their attention to be on the fighters instead of the dwarf, who was silently uttering prayers for the safety of his new companions.
Finally striding into the chamber, Varis looked around slowly and carefully noted the location of each creature. Time seemed to slow as he took everything in, and after only a few seconds he had all the information he needed. Without any haste he reached into the folds of his robes and pulled out some strange herbs and other spell components as he began to chant, “culmen flammae.” A bright pillar of flame erupted on the other end of the cavern, though Varis didn’t seem to notice the flash or the screams of pain and surprise as the acrid smell of burnt flesh filled the chamber. Already he was focusing on his next spell, bending the invisible webs of aether in the room to suit his purposes. Without much effort, the party was able to dispatch of the goblins, and Tharn gave thanks to his patron as he cured the wounds of the others. Raven drained one of the goblins for sustenance and the group quickly moved deeper into the mines, pausing only to bandage their small wounds and search the bodies of their enemies.
Continuing down a short L-shaped hallway, Clarence and Kava entered a second antechamber where much debris littered the floor, apparently from a cave-in. Varis noted to himself that this was most likely what caused the mines to be shut, and Kava cast a disdainful glance at the filth and detriment that had accumulated in the room over unknown time. Across the chamber, a goblin hexer was standing near some sort of brazier filled with fire. Eldritch components and small bones were scattered about his feet, and a small entourage of goblin warriors stood at alert, apparently having heard the struggle in the previous room. Kava boldly rushed into the room as Clarence quickly fired off a few arrows, missing his mark. As Kava drew near to her opponents she noticed the hexer was in some sort of trance, mumbling strange incantations. Suddenly two large beetles erupted from the debris near the entrance where Clarence was standing with the rest of the party to his back. Each spewed a cone of fire into the entrance and hallway, but it was Clarence that took the brunt of the assault. Before anyone could react, rats began emerging from other piles of filth in the room, clearly driven insane by some primal magic. They swarmed around Kava, isolating her and allowing the goblins to slowly move in as they assessed what they were up against. Raven, Melech and Tharn moved forward to aid the others, and Tharn began healing the burns that Clarence had sustained. Melech charged for the beetles, hoping to draw their attention from the elvish archer. Just as Raven was about to slide past the fire beetles to help Kava the room plunged into a deep darkness which not even his eyes could pierce. The incantations of the hexer could still be heard as he prepared his next curse, and the sound of battle resonated from the darkness as Kava struggled against invisible foes. The party tried to hold their ground in the entryway and deal with the beetles as Varis finally moved up to asses the situation. Since he could only see the beetles he began launching missiles of arcane force at them to help wear them down. Clarence, still recovering from the initial attack, fell back into the hall next to Varis since only the beetles were visible and melee combat against them was outside of his abilities. After a short struggle which left many of the group at least partially wounded, the darkness ebbed and then faded entirely as the hexer gave up sustaining it and decided to run. His allies were all dispatched, save a single goblin and a pair of rats still fighting with the Dragonborn and he clearly found discretion to be the better part of valor. As he pushed through two large wooden doors deeper into the cave Raven ran after him, hoping to stop him before he made an escape.
After dispatching the remaining foes, the adventurers heard a cry from Raven in the next room, signaling trouble. Rushing in, they found the hexer smiling maliciously next to a robed hobgoblin with a staff. Also occupying this final chamber were a small host of hobgoblin warriors, a small timber wolf and a large dire wolf penned in a cage behind well-built portcullis. Raven stared intently at the warcaster, beckoning him forward and into a deep pit in the floor, adjacent to a worn statue of some demon. The warcaster quickly recovered, climbing from the pit and throwing Raven back with a pulse of energy. One of the warriors ran to a lever on the wall and threw it up, and Raven noticed that the portcullis began to slowly rise. As the party rushed into the room to help the warriors set up a defensive formation and moved forward while the timber wolf began pouncing on the heroes, knocking them prone before moving to the next victim. The warcaster kept moving around the chamber, attempting to stay out of melee range while launching invisible orbs of force at the party. The hexer began cursing the PCs, robbing individuals of sight or forbidding them from moving. Things looked grim for the group until they banded together and turned the tide, felling first the warriors, then the wolf and warcaster, and finishing the hexer last. Varis conjured up a magical hand that was able to throw the lever down just as the dire wolf was beginning to slide underneath the portcullis.
Surveying the room, the Varis noted that the statue was built in the likeness of Orcus, the demon prince of the undead. As servitors of the Raven Queen, the group decided to desecrate the statue by pulling it into the pit it overlooked. As it crumbled to pieces at the bottom, Raven sifted through the rubble where he found an orb of deep obsidian. Wrapping it in a heavy cloak and storing it in his pack, he made a note to inquire about it later.
Searching the body of the warcaster, Varis found a vellum scroll with marks on it. Though he could not decipher the goblin language, he was able to read a single word in Common: Thunderspire. Melech found a map of the village with the lord’s manor and the brewery circled in red, and the group decided to quickly report back to Kellar to collect their pay and relay what they had seen.