Chapter 3: Once Again Victims

Upon their return to where they had originally located Jonathan, the party headed back north. They located a group of hobgoblins camping and proceeded to eliminate them, then turned northwest. What they found was a large open area with a small house in the middle, and a small crop field on the other side. Passing the dwelling and investigating the field, Snicker-snack was unable to locate any crops but did find some small bones buried, perhaps belonging to goblins. Behind the home was a fairly recently dug unmarked grave, in which Kerry located the partially decayed corpse of an old man.

Next, heading into the dwelling, the party encountered an old man. The old man told the party that he had been living there and that he was kept fairly safe from the goblins by his traps. He welcomed them to rest there if they would be willing to eliminate some of the goblins. It had become apparent, however, that the old man was not being entirely truthful and the remains they had found were highly suspicious. Pressing the old hermit about the small bones, he insisted that they were goblins, not children. When asked about the corpse of the other old man, he became defensive and shouted that he didn’t do anything.

Unconvinced, the party pressed the issue to the point that Snicker-snack opened the chest inside the old man’s home, which caused him to fly into a panic and attack the party. Still unsure of the old man’s intentions, the party continued to question him, asking what happened to the other buried old man. All that the old man would say was that he didn’t kill anyone and to leave him be. While it seemed like he might be telling the truth, he was still acting erratically and violently against the party so they proceeded to attack the old man. As Snicker-snack sliced at him with his shortsword, he noticed that the blood coming out of the old man was glittering and multicolored, vanishing as it hit the floor.

As the fight went on, it became apparent that the old man was not going to succeed and so he attempted to flee. Being fully suspicious, the party wouldn’t allow it and as the old man fled the dwelling, Frazious cast a web at the old man’s feet, allowing the rest to quickly finish him off. As he fell to the ground, his body warped and changed into a strange grey creature – a doppelganger. Inspecting the creature’s belongings, they found a shortbow and a diary. Reading the diary, the party discovered that it was originally written by an old man who lived in the small house. The old man had died naturally and the doppelganger, having observed him for a short time, decided to try and take his place. The doppelganger then also began writing in the diary and that it had been fleeing from people that were keeping it prisoner. Having defeated the monster, the party used the safety of the house to rest for a time.

Resuming their search for more captives, the party headed north into the forest. They eventually saw in the distance a ruined tower with several hobgoblins and goblins watching guard. Behind them, were several prisoners – a few humans and a dwarf. While the party discussed the viability and potential execution of a stealth ambush on the captors, Eogan decided that it was a time for action, not for subtlety. He immediately charged towards the group on his horse, ready to take them head-on.

While Eogan held off the distracted the goblins and hobgoblins with his halberd, the rest of the party caught up and were able to handily defeat the rest. Upon freeing the prisoners, the party was thanked kindly by the dwarf. He stated that his name was Arvin and that if he was grateful to the party for saving him but that there were others. He would gladly give them a generous discount on his wares in Planks if they would go and save the rest. Eager for the chance to save some coin, the party agreed and headed east, deeper into the forest.

Heading east, the party immediately encountered a group of goblins and hobgoblins moving away from them. Taking the opportunity to surprise them, the party immediately attacked. When it became clear to the goblins that they were no match for the well-prepared adventurers, one of them ran further to the east, shouting a warning and asking for help. As the party moved through the remaining enemies, it quickly became clear who the goblin was shouting to – a very large group of goblins and hobgoblins escorting many villagers down a winding path through the forest headed east. At the warning, the massive group of goblinoids turned their full attention to the adventurers coming to their flanks and the party realized that there was a fight on their hands.

The battle was long and bloody. The amount of hogoblins seemed endless – every time they would manage to down one, another would come around the bushes to shoot one of their wicked longbows or charge at them directly. The helpless villagers, seeing an opportunity for freedom amidst the distraction of the battle, attempted to flee back towards the party. However, the hobgoblins, hungry for blood, cut many of them down as they passed. Braving and surviving wave after wave of hobgoblins and trying to help the villagers escape, the party managed to finally end the threat and saved four of the original twelve villagers. The villagers thanked them but informed them that there were more being taken eastward and begged the party to help the remaining captives.

Exhausted from the battle, the party returned to the old man’s house to rest for a while. Eogan, in particular needed recovery and stayed in the house while the party returned to the scene of the  massacre. Moving further east and keeping quietly to the shadows, the group spotted the entrance to a cave at the base of the mountains. Perhaps the “new gate” that had been spoken of. At the entrance to the cave, however, was a guard of two of the larger hobgoblins and a large, scarred up orc with a tattoo of a red skull on his chest. Remaining hidden, the party devised a plan to ambush the guards. They were able to immediately drop one of the hobgoblins from the shadows and damage the other. The orc, noticing them, expressed his delight at having a good fight on his hands. While the remaining hobgoblin was no match, the orc proved a tougher opponent than it seemed. Charging at the party he was able to inflict heavy wounds but alone was defeated.

Facing the cavern, the party prepared to venture forth…