The bugbear’s hulking form lies limp in the smoldering light of the fire pit. A few moments earlier, Klarg was seated on a throne, ruler of his domain — commander of his cowed and craven goblin cohorts. Now, his throne is reduced to ashes, and the wannabe warlord is beaten senseless by a group of inexperienced adventurers.
Rána, seeing that the coast is clear, ignores the inert mass of fur and fury, noting the acrid scent of roasting goblin on his way to inspect the loot piled against the south wall of the cave. Roden, Boirin, and Rhogar join him.
The bulk of the loot comprises crates and chests of sundry supplies, all marked with the crest of a blue lion on a white shield — apparently the captured stores of the ambushers’ victims. After a moment’s concentration, Roden recognizes the familiar brand as the sign of the Lionshield Coster, a merchant trading post in Phandalin. The captured stores were many; they would require a wagon to transport, but Lionshield might pay a reward for their return. The adventurers agree to come back for the stolen merchandise after searching the rest of the cave for Gundren.
Rána is the first to spot the treasure chest crudely marked as Klarg’s personal property. It is not locked; inside, there are 600 copper pieces, 110 silver pieces, 2 potions of healing, and a statuette of a jade frog with small golden orbs for eyes. The party won’t be retiring on the proceeds, but they are gratified to see their first profits and divide the wealth between them.
Roden, rummaging through the remaining loot, finds a strange quarterstaff with his nimble halfling fingers. He examines the weapon: two, slender and polished staves are twined about each other — firmly affixed, yet never seeming to touch.
Mark of Convergence
Rhogar finds an embossed azurite gemstone set in a silver brooch, the face of it smeared with blood. Upon wiping it clean with the sleeve of his cloak, his eyes are met with a familiar sigil — the Mark of Convergence. Another member of the Order of the Founders must have been waylaid by the goblins — and fared poorly. He clasps it on his cloak.
Watchful Eye of the Volamtar
Boirin lifts a silver chain from the loot, a heavy iron pendant drawn with it. Unlike his own holy symbol, the iron boot and mace of Marthammor Duin of this amulet are hung upside down. What’s more, the ball of the mace is a perfect crystalline sphere glittering with radiant light, small, but just large enough to look through. He lowers the chain around his neck and realizes that the symbol is righted when held up to his eye. Through the transparent crystal, the cleric is surprised by what he sees. Far from the grim cavern before him, he sees a dim and shifting vision of Dwarfhome, the celestial dwelling of his deity in the astral dominion of Moradin the Creator, the father of dwarf gods. The vision soon fades, but Boirin’s faith is renewed, and clutches the Watchful Eye of the Volamtar to his chest in thanksgiving.
Rána is pleased to find a shortbow, and then its quiver. He has not fared well in hand-to-hand combat thus far, and is eager to put some distance between himself and his foes. Just then, as his blue hands make a final rummage through the loot pile, he feels a sharp pain in his finger, surprised to find himself bleeding. But from what? A small drop of blood seems suspended just above one of the crates… The elf cautiously lowers his hand again and discovers a glass dagger, nigh invisible to the naked eye. He holds it up to the light, astounded at the blade’s clarity and preternatural hardness (sharpness, too, as his stinging finger attests). He hears the others discussing what to do about the bugbear and carefully tucks the Phantom Pane into his belt, certain it will come in handy later.
The Last Words of Klarg
The party means to interrogate their fallen foe. He is in bad shape, but Rána hammers pitons into the ground and, with his rope, lashes the bugbear securely to the cave floor, by way of precaution before rousing him.
The bugbear’s growling voice rumbles a groan as he stirs. “Who dares defy Klarg!” Boirin retrieves his handaxe, which was still embedded in the monster’s shoulder, earning an angry grimace from Klarg.
The party interrogates their gruff captive, receiving answers and invocations of Hruggek’s wrath in equal measure. To their dismay, they learn that Gundren is no longer in the hideout; he has been taken to the Goblin King, Grol, at Cragmaw Castle some twenty miles northeast in Neverwinter Wood. Klarg knows nothing, and cares less, why they were ordered to capture the dwarf — only that the Cragmaw were hired by an entity known as the “Black Spider” to do so. He seems offended at the idea that they were forbidden to kill or loot him. The ambushers captured the dwarf and sent his person and effects along to the castle, in accordance with their strict mandate. Gundren’s human companion, however, was not mentioned in their orders, and Klarg is delighted to inform the party that he is presently the goblins’ guest of honor in the “eating cave.”
The adventurers exchange exasperated glances; this is going to be more difficult than they thought. Why hadn’t Gnerx told them about the castle in the first place? Roden crosses to the fissure in the western wall and hauls up their goblin collaborator to ask him. Once ungagged, the rope-weary Gnerx insists that he told them everything he knew — captives were always brought back to the hideout. He was not a particularly important goblin, after all, and if there were special orders for the dwarf’s relocation, he would have been the last to know. Gnerx’s fear of punishment was, for the moment, outbalanced by his relief that his captors did not forget him and leave him hanging in the chimney.
Turning back to the bugbear, Roden and Gnerx hear Klarg’s final curse — a roar of words rife with rancor and malice: “Klarg will build a new throne from your bones, puny ones!” The bugbear’s reign of terror is ended as Rhogar’s sword separates Klarg’s head from his shoulders. The cavern falls silent once more.
As they prepare to make their way out of the cave and through the north passage, Rána, collector of strange and gruesome things, scoops up Klarg’s severed head.
Twin Pools Cave
The party moves into the chamber to the north and is met with the sound of roaring water. A waterfall is filling two connected pools which fill the majority of the cavern, dammed in by crude walls of rock. The scene might be somewhat pleasant, for a goblin haunt, if not for the bloody mess before them.
The cave once hosted three goblins, ostensibly to guard the “only” entrance to Klarg’s throne room; now, their corpses litter the cave floor, one of them floating lifelessly in the pool. The vile creatures have been torn and disemboweled and show signs of being eaten. Upon closer examination, Boirin and Roden find bloody paw-prints scuffed on the stone, leading away down the northwest passage and disappearing into the stream. They surmise that Rána’s fiery wolf killed the goblins in a frenzy. Wisely, they keep a sharp watch for the beast, certain that it is still at large.
Rather than following the stream down to the cave mouth, the party turns west and follows a passage sloping upwards. Roden sneaks ahead, spotting another guard. The goblin is standing watch on a rickety bridge overlooking the stream. Roden silently nocks and looses an arrow; the goblin dies, falling limply into the water below. Roden signals that it is safe to move, and the party proceeds — but not before Rhogar hitches Gnerx to the bridge and dangles him over the edge.
The adventurers become aware of flickering firelight and the rude clamor of feasting monsters at the end of their long passage. Once more, Roden scouts ahead. He counts six goblins: five around a cook fire, another resting atop a ledge along the south wall. Next to the goblin is a man-shaped heap, perhaps their employer’s kidnapped companion, but too far away to be sure.
Rhogar tries to sneak up next to Roden and accidentally kicks a pebble out into the room… The revelers’ attention is caught for a moment before they go about their business. Rhogar breathes a sigh of relief, but just as he starts moving again his hand breaks a large rock loose from the wall. The clattering report is a kick to the hornet’s nest.
Before the group of goblins below can swarm, Roden and Boirin send an arrow and sacred flame at their ledge-top leader, slaying him in short order. His subordinates drop their weapons in surrender, and the party ties them up.
The dragonborn leaps onto the ledge to tend to the captive, generously administering his recently acquired healing potion to the human. The party exchanges surprised looks over his lavish gift, but Rhogar explains matter-of-factly that he “won’t need it.” The party collectively rolls their eyes.