Two days’ journey on the High Road south from Neverwinter has passed without incident. Highsun on the journey’s third day, the party is in high spirits, enjoying fair weather and pleasant travel. Rhogar turns the wagon’s ox-team eastward along the Triboar Trail while Roden, looking even more diminutive than usual seated next to the towering dragonborn, is happily nursing a bottle of wine he uncorked that morning. Boirin, who, though polite, has developed a low opinion of Rhogar’s gruff driving, has taken to walking with the oxen, gentling the faithful beasts. Rana, meanwhile, skulks behind the wagon, avoiding the small-talk and polite conversation that inevitably arises from languorous journeys. As a result, the others become more acquainted than he and consider the high-elf somewhat peculiar, if not suspect.
Triboar Trail Thicket
Not long easting, the escort party approaches a dense thicket through which their road passes, and then turns, betwixt an embankment. Rhogar and Boirin, being experienced in such matters, are aware that the spot would be ideal for an ambush, and discuss whether caution dictates sending a scout. Roden is on the edge of volunteering when Rana suddenly streaks past with surprising alacrity, running ahead without consulting the party. By way of explanation (and by magical means) Boirin receives a whispered explanation from Rana. Then Roden, less accustomed to magics and somewhat disturbed, also hears their companion’s whispered report in his mind: beyond the bend, there are two dead horses in the road. Wisely taking this as an ill omen, the adventurers set about preparing for danger. Roden stealthily enters the thicket on the left to scout while the others hitch the oxen to a tree and draw weapons.
Roden returns and describes the grisly scene: the horses were slain, pricked with many black-feathered arrows — in the posterior, he adds — and on the ground lay a saddlebag and map case besides. Rhogar furrows his scaly brow and then frowns: goblins, he informs them. Boirin growls, his old hatred stoked, eager to introduce the vermin to his hammer. Together, Rana and Boirin devise a plan to reverse the goblins’ scheme.
The party flanks the road, Rana and Boirin on the left, Rhogar, swords drawn, on the right, and Roden cunningly concealed in the bushes beside the wagon with his shortbow. Counting down, Rana casts Prestidigitation, simulating the sounds of footsteps through the underbrush, while Boirin uses Thaumaturgy to amplify his dwarvish voice, uttering a terrible war cry. One of the goblins lying in wait is overcome with terror, springing from his cover in the thicket with a cry, and running into the road. He soon trips over one of the slain horses and falls prone. Roden looses an arrow, but misses his mark. Rana casts Magic Missile, thrice smiting one of the equine carcasses with magical bolts — to no effect whatsoever and the bewilderment of his comrades. While three sinuous tendrils of smoke yet rise from the horse’s leathery flanks (posterior, Roden notes), a black-fletched arrow flies from the thicket and impales Rana’s side. The elf crumples to the ground without an utterance.
Another goblin, overweening in courage, bursts from the thicket and rushes at Rhogar, who is ready for him. The goblin swings his scimitar smartly, only to be deflected by his target’s armor. Rhogar answers in kind, cleaving a devastating gash across the goblin’s chest. His attacker falls to his knees. Without losing a moment, Rhogar draws his longbow and fires an arrow at the first goblin, still sprawled on the road. The arrow flies true, driving through the monster’s foot and pinning it to the ground. He cries out in pain, calling out an order to one “Quagmire” to flee and warn the others.
Boirin, seeing the sorry state of his compatriot, draws his shield and rushes forward to protect Rana from further harm. Leaning down, the cleric lays a hand on the elf and utters Cure Wounds, which magically restores him to good health. A black arrow rebounds from Boirin’s stout shield, and Roden sneaks deeper into the thicket with a mind to dispatch the cowardly archer. Rana, reinvigorated by Boirin’s healing, sends a Firebolt streaking into the foliage. In a stroke of luck, the fire smites the hidden archer’s breastplate. It does not burn him severely, but the sparking embers mark his position in the wood clear as day.
Meanwhile, the wounded goblin whose blood stains Rhogar’s sword raises his own scimitar to return the favor, but in a flurry of rage and agony the blade finds his own throat, and he dies at Rhogar’s feet. The ranger steps over his unfortunate enemy and brandishes his torch, which he lights and uses to ignite the dry underbrush of the thicket on the south side of the road.
Boirin, seeing the ember-smitten archer, rears up, brandishing his war-hammer, and plunges into the thicket, bringing the weapon down on his victim’s skull, concussing the goblin. Seeing his opportunity, Roden leaps over-soon from the bushes and his surprise attack lands in the branches. Rana, joining the fray, sends his daggers after the goblin’s throat, but does not draw blood.
To the south, Rhogar’s remaining goblin leaps from the thicket before he is smoked out, and runs to aid his comrade in the road. He rips the arrow from his howling friend’s foot, but fails to make an escape before Rhogar is on top of them. The dragonborn’s clawed hands force the small monsters to the ground with ease. With a commanding voice, the ranger interrogates the unharmed goblin, who succumbs to unmitigated intimidation. The goblin melts in fear, blubbers, and soils himself. Given the opening, the wounded goblin returns Rhogar’s arrow, driving it like a spike into his foot. In painful exasperation, the adventurer swats it away and returns to his questioning.
Meanwhile, Boirin brings his war-hammer round in an uppercut, connecting with his foe’s jaw with a mighty crack. The goblin’s arms fall limp to its side, its cries silence, and its vacant eyes glaze over as it falls flat on its back in the brush, nevermore to rise. The wounded goblin shrieks, lamenting Quagmire’s death.
Rana emerges from the thicket, dragging away and binding the shrieking goblin with hempen rope, so as to let Rhogar focus on his interrogation. The blubbering goblin, alternating incoherence and profuse divulgence, emitted a pitiful discharge of bubbling mucus from his nose while his comrade continued to shriek. To spare their ears, Rana casts sleep on the rackety creature. At once, when he does so, the sorcerer’s wild magic surges — his formerly pallid skin turns an unnatural and vibrant shade of blue.