The salty air mingled with their drying sweat. After the fiery goblin battle, the group rested briefly. Next, they went to investigate the howling hole, the opening of an underground grotto full of sloshing seawater. Once the rope was set, Bandaro descended first. He swung to a sloping barnacle-covered rock. Ragnok began his descent next, but halfway down trouble struck.
A mastif-sized crustacean with oversized claws scuttled onto the rock intent on mincing Bandaro. The swordsman repeatedly slashed its carapace but in its death throes, it lashed out still.
Two more reefclaws emerged from the water. Albi sank a crossbow bolt into one from up above. Still 15 feet from the water, Ragnok swung and dropped, massive sword leading, onto one monster. The crunch echoed throughout the chamber. Maggie followed down the rope.
Meanwhile, up in the goblin warrens, a blood-red panther surged from the brambles and ripped a chunk from Karik’s pants and leg. The firepelt took an axe blow from the half-orc as it reared for a rending strike. Albi turned his attention to the savage cat just as a gout of flame flashed by his head. The gnome briefly caught sight of an especially savage-appearing goblin wielding a flaming blade and a smoking wand.
Down in the grotto, Bandaro and the two tieflings battled the remaining reefclaw. It grabbed Ragnok who reversed the grapple allowing the others to finish it off. As Ragnok’s rage ebbed he noted several gashes seeping a urine-colored ooze, but the reefclaw poison had no effect on the stalwart Shoanti.
Up above, Karik continued a titanic battle against the firepelt. Clearly no normal beast, it fought on despite terrible wounds. Just as the half-orc chopped into its heavy neck ending the battle, the goblin shaman unleashed a massive spell turning every bramble within twenty spans into a writhing, grasping vine. The thorns bit and tore as the shaman slipped away through the briars.
The party reunited, healed, and waited for the spell’s effect to end. When they did so, a stranger appeared from the south. He said, “I have a message for Karik.” Startled, Maggie flung a dagger his way. The cloaked figure failed to evade, but he ignored the gash and launched at the rogue binding her throwing arm. She wormed away, but before she could retaliate, Karik stepped in. The party learned that the messenger was a recent tiefling immigrant to Sandpoint named Drakken. The message he delivered Karik irritated the half-orc who tersely said, “I have to return to Sandpoint. I need to put a boot in someone’s ass.” With no more explanation, he left.
The heroes decided to press on. The three tieflings snuck forward and found a den of goblin dogs. The beasts could smell their enemies and charged. During the battle, the goblin shaman returned and shot a ball of fire at Drakken. The attack missed. Drakken and Bandaro rushed the goblin shaman. As the last goblin dog fell, so to did the flame-loving greenskin. The heroes rifled through his lair and belongings finding a twisted branch of a wand, a magical cape, a pair of potions, and a hoard of nasty goblin trappings.
The sky turned purple and the water black before the party attempted to cross the bridge to Thistletop Island. Maggie snuck first, then Drakken. They crept to the base of one watch tower and Maggie began her silent ascent. Above she found two sleeping goblins. She set the grapple and one stirred. She leapt over the palisade, grabbed the greenskin’s leather tunic, and hurled him over the wall. She slashed the other goblin across the throat before it spoke and pitched it after its friend. She signaled Drakken – the way was clear.
The rest of the heroes traversed the swinging bridge under the cover of darkness and the blowing wind and crashing waves. Once reunited in the watch tower, Maggie moved cat-like over the stockade roof to the other guard tower. Once at the top, she found a pair of goblin commandos playing at dice. Hanging from the wall, she slashed one for a grazing wound. It leapt to its feet unwittingly exposing itself. A hail of missiles from the other tower struck the goblin. It fell but its comrade had time to hoist the trapdoor and disappear below. Determined, Maggie vaulted over the wall and dove through the portal. She landed hard on a dirt floor 30 feet below, but she blocked the commando’s escape.
The rest of the party descended their tower and advanced through the complex. They passed a foul trophy hall with poorly preserved dogs, horse heads, and a rotting harpy corpse. They pressed on toward Maggie’s last position.
At the bottom of her guard tower, Maggie traded slashing strikes with the goblin, but it managed to slip by her and race down a hallway yelling, “Longshanks!” Just then, Drakken and Ragnok pushed through the adjoining door and rushed after the goblin.
Now behind the tieflings, Bandaro heard goblin mutterings behind a ramshackle door. He shoved it open, bathing the room in iounborne light. Half a dozen goblins crawling from their hammocks screamed in panic and anger. Over the Varisian’s shoulder flew a flaming flask. The resulting inferno incinerated three goblins and seared the others. Albi grinned mischievously. Maggie rolled through the smoke into the room wreathed with small fires and slashed the dying goblins. Her claw-like blades and Bandaro’s long steel finished the nasty foes in moments.
In the guard tower hallway, Drakken grabbed the goblin commando and wrestled him to the floor. During the melee Ragnok jabbed at the green skin unable to swing his enormous blade in such tight confines. Drakken revealed a hellspawned power: his skin radiated a burning heat that blistered the goblin’s skin and withered its hair. Ragnok ended the foe’s misery and rushed through the door it had been heading toward. Her beheld Rippnugget’s court:
The large shadowed chamber with wooden walls and a steepled canvas ceiling decorated with hanging furs, dog pelts and horse hides was supported by four thick masts reaching to a web of suspended ship’s rigging. The base of each mast was studded with iron spikes with impaled mangled body parts in putrid decay. In the rear corner, a wooden platform supported a throne heaped with pelts and hides. Dog skulls adorned the armrests and a horse skull leered over the throne’s back. The throne was flanked by a pair of braziers, which provided the room’s only dim orangish light.
Seated in the throne was Warchief Ripnugget. Large by goblin standards, his skin appeared black with orange highlights. An ornate breastplate covered his chest but was overshadowed by the embers reflecting from his jester’s cap-like crown. Held backward in one hand was the handle of a vicious perforated blade and in the other, the reins of a massive black-scaled lizard with spiked barding.
Many other goblins were present as well, including an honor guard and several warriors.
Ragnok turned around and pulled the rickety door shut behind him.