Scene 1: On the Trail Again
The group buried the goblin bodies and that of their fallen comrade Synechie, aka Sunshine. They found a note on the goblin leader that read:
Our agent in Dawnstride reports that some rookie adventurers are making the town its base of operations. They cannot be allowed to interfere. Kill them if you have a chance. —Munsheraj
Just as they finished the burying, the forest suddenly went pitch black and a loud fabric-ripping sound echoed through the trees. When the sun light reappeared a few moments later, Abey was lying face down in the middle of the trail. Apparently she left Gillius back at the broken keep in the Wood of Heartache.
Following the trail of broken underbrush, the Fists found an unconscious tiefling dressed in black tied to a tree. Once revived, the tiefling Morthos readily joined the group to look for the message he was to deliver to Duke Thorndike.
Careful tracking led the Fists to the goblins’ base camp, where a goblin chef named Marco was idly preparing smoked human and halfling meat . . . who promptly fainted when Nala charged him. Nala and Salvatore easily intimidated the captured goblin into talking about the goblin chief Munsheraj and the (deceased) warband’s mission to sever trade and communications between Dawnstride and Glenwood. Several saddle bags of payments and letters were recovered. Before leaving the goblin base, the Fists forged a message in goblin and sent it to Munsheraj via passenger pigeon: Adventers Ded! Orders?—Crag After camping for the night, the Fists continued to Glenwood with Marco as a prisoner.
Scene 2: Glenwood
By evening of the next day the Fists arrived in Glenwood. The head hunter, Kimrak Endar, informed them that trade and messages had been stopped for 4 weeks, and that she would not allow any further caravans to take the trail to Dawnstride until she was confident they would be safe. While she was happy to get the back payments for caravans from 3-4 weeks ago, she ultimately refused to budge while the the two most recent caravans were missing.
Booking rooms at the Sleepy Salamander, the group learned in the crowded common room that many local hunters had also gone missing in the thick woods to the southwest of Glenwood. Only 1 hunter (Prim) had returned, and that was largely luck: he had washed down the Babbling Brook and over the stepped waterfalls into the village’s pool. Salvatore and Nala crossed the street to the militia house and succeeded in neutralizing the poison (carrion crawler brain juice) threatening Prim’s life. Meanwhile, Morthos, Abey, and Bree befriended Jarod, an enthusiastic 15 year old aspiring woodsman who thought adventuring was the coolest thing ever.
Once Prim recovered he drew pictures of the tracks he saw on the southern loop trail just before he stumbled onto a hollow clay rock containing the poisonous gas that felled him. He warned the group to beware traps if they investigated.
The Fists ultimately changed their plans, opting to leave town as if going to Hillcrest while secretly doubling back and cutting cross-country to the southern loop. Jarod eagerly signed on to act as their local guide. They stashed the horses in an isolated cave, and cut a deal with Marco to watch over them as part of his parole.
Scene 3: Southern Loop Trail
After a day of hiking, the Fists found the trap location on the southern loop trail and recovered two undamaged clay mines disguised to look like flat rocks. Jarod led the group off the trail, following a barely discernible trail. In a small glade they startled a lone kobold who quickly escaped underneath a thick bramble patch. Wary of a trap, the group examined the brambles and found them to be enchanted. More bizarrely, a large crow was trapped inside a natural cage formed out of bramble branches, deep inside the patch. When Morthos incinerated a section of the bramble wall with a burning hands spell, the remaining brambles writhed and contorted. The crow’s cage violently contracted, the crow squawked a raucous dying alarm, and the woods were momentarily silent.
Until a large grizzly bear charged through the smoldering bramble remains and attacked the group. Despite the beast’s size, the group dispatched it with relative ease. Jarod was visibly shaken after his first true battle.
Scene 4: Fine Kobold Engineering.
Pressing thru the impressive trap, Our Heroes find the lightly guarded entrance to a cave network. The light guard turns out to be the bait of an ambush which is quickly brushed aside by the group. They find the remains of a number of caravans scattered at the entrance, these are the raiders they’re seeking. In scourging the cave complex they find a sophisticated mining operation attempting to fine a truly ancient dragon egg, the focus of their worship. The operation is put to ruin and the Kobold cult leaders put to death in an epic battle featuring friends and companions turned to vicious bears and dramatic rope swinging.
Kimrak Ender, having been saved, returns with captured hunters to Glenwood with party and allows caravan to head to Dawnbreak under their own guard. The Fists continue North to Hillcrest on their mission.