15 Kythorn 1481 (continued)
With the Redbrands securely (though overcrowdedly) locked up in the mayor’s house, Sildar and Declan made overtures to them offering pardon in exchange for service as a village militia. Most of them seemed receptive. We discussed the nothic, which given it has murdered at least one helpless Redbrand already and shown it has a taste for the thoughts and flesh of civilised sophonts should clearly be dealt with as a danger to the village. Karrod wants it left to roam free and hunt as it pleases, as a compromise he persuaded Shandri and Declan to talk to it and offer it employment as an interrogator in the service of Shandri’s order – she’s sent a letter to the nearest temple asking if they’d be willing to take it on. An appalling idea, but at least it would leave the village safe and the nothic no longer our responsibility.
Some of us went to the Sleeping Giant inn to see if the dwarf bartender there had seen any sign of the fleeing Iarno. They reported seeing their mountain pony stolen by someone invisible person and ridden off at high speed along the main road to the village centre. They were concerned about not getting any custom now all the Redbrands are jailed, so Declan played some rousing tunes on his bagpipes to draw in custom. We then inquired at the town’s other inn, where some had seen the pony galloping north out of the village. Karrod was also seeking information on a druid named Rydoth, and was directed back to the halflings of the Alderleaf farm in the southeast of the village. They told us that Rydoth was probably in the forest to the north, likely somewhere around the Thundertree area investigating the undead problem there. They gave Karrod a basket of provisions to pass on to Rydoth if we see him.
16 Kythorn 1481
Woke early and followed Iarno’s trail north out of the village. He continued to the main east-west road and turned west, the same way we’d come both initially and when returning from the goblins’ lair. After some distance he turned north off the road, and several miles further on he sent the horse off in one direction while continuing on foot in another, still heading vaguely north. We camped overnight in the wilderness and set watches.
17 Kythorn 1481
Woken early by a swarm of six stirges overhead. They dove to attack, managing to attach themselves to me and Declan, but we slew them all without much difficulty. Spent the day continuing to follow Iarno’s trail north.
18 Kythorn 1481
Had a peaceful night, followed the trail north into the thicker forest, and midafternoon discovered the ruined castle we’d heard about. Karrod transformed into a tiny spider to scout out the building, discovering a total of 18 goblins (3 of them robed as priests) and 6 hobgoblins led by a bugbear. Two of the hobgoblins were next to a tower room containing a captive (trained?) owlbear and a treasure chest, while the bugbear’s quarters were shared by a pet wolf, a drow carrying Iarno’s distinctive glass quarterstaff, and a dwarf who might be Gundren Rockseeker but was so badly beaten that it was difficult to clearly discern his features. No sign of Iarno – had he been slain by the drow long since and magically impersonated all this time by the drow? A conspiracy led by drow would certainly explain the “Black Spider” title and symbology.
While the castle’s upper floors were mostly absent, its ground floor was fairly solid with two raised entrances approached by steps, arrowslits around the walls, and several goblins keeping watch from guardrooms. While many stretches of wall were in disrepair, they remained impassably choked with rubble. Karrod did discover a small tunnel on the castle’s north side crudely concealed with canvas. The goblin priests had a chapel with a bloodstained altar consecrated to some unknown dark deity, next to which was a storeroom containing a suit of bloody chainmail, a longsword bearing the emblem of Neverwinter and a crossbow, likely Sildar’s stolen gear. We decided to attack at the dead of night, and spent the rest of the day in the nearby forest resting and making preparations.
When the castle was mostly in darkness but for flickering torchlight and low chanting emanating from the chapel, I led us in through the hidden entrance tunnel, and the rest of the party waited just inside while I crept around quietly driving padded wedges into the doorways leading to the western half of the castle to slow the goblins and most of the hobgoblins from reaching us if the alarm was raised. Then we all crept into position, but made enough noise that the two hobgoblins in the guardroom just outside the chief’s quarters were alerted and stood waiting for us. We took them down quickly, but not before one of them woke the chief and the door was barred against us. We battered it down and broke in, seeing the bugbear, wolf and drow but no sign of the dwarf. While we fought the bugbear and wolf the drow read a scroll and unleashed a fireball, badly burning everyone in the room (and killing the wolf), then attempted to flee. Shandri and I gave chase but first her and then I were dropped by magic missiles; while Karrod battled the bugbear Declan roused Shandri and Shandri roused me, and the drow was brought down by fatal psychic damage from one of Declan’s spells.
The rest of the castle had been woken by the commotion and came to attack, a couple of hobgoblins driving a group of fearful goblins through the tunnel into Karrod’s waiting clutches while the rest battered at the doors behind which Shandri and Declan stood ready. Most of the goblins were slaughtered (half a dozen slain and a hobgoblin badly wounded in the chapel by a single shattering spell from Declan), though a few managed to flee into the forest. One of the hobgoblins also fled, with two more dying and one being taken alive for questioning.