In Which Four Ragtag Caravan Guards, Ambushed by Goblins in the Foothills of Phandalin, Track their Assailants to a Cave, Defeat a Vile & Brutish Bugbear, and Begin the Quest to Find the Missing Dwarf
The curtain opens on a wagon, its wheels cutting deep ruts into the soggy dirt road as it departs the bustling town of Cormyr. It is constructed out of sturdy timber and its enclosed design offers no windows or canvas that would allow the curious a peek at its contents. In fact, the only access to the heart of the carriage is a firmly locked rear door. The beasts that are pulling this heavy wooden contraption through the mud are driven by two armed men, brothers known as Jeb and Jacobus Brighthorn.
But this caravan’s defenses do not end here. Accompanying the wagon are four guards on foot. They are as ignorant of each other’s identities as they are of the contents of the wagon, each of them drawn into the task of protecting the carriage by their mutual acquaintance, Gundren Rockseeker. This Dwarf is the employer of the guards and owner of the caravan, and he is very invested in it’s safe arrival. Each of the party expects a handsome payment of 10 gold pieces upon reaching the caravan’s destination, the remote town of Phandalin.
As Cormyr fades, our players are introduced. Gadzooks Gimmelgorn is an energetic Gnome, drawn to his position as much out of curiosity about the contents of the carriage and its mission as by the gold. Two humans of noble birth are also among the guards. One, Sir John Baiste, is the heir of house Baiste’s titles, and is renown as a vicious warrior and resourceful woodsman. The other is Odo Esstlerd, the disinherited scion of the Esstlerd family, who was forced to become a member of an order of martial priests by circumstance, and no longer bears the privileges bestowed by his birth. The final and most mysterious member of this band is the Half-elf Heloise Strange. Unlike the other members, she is not obviously a warrior by training, and carries only a plant gatherer’s scythe for defense. It soon becomes apparent that this young maid has powers and abilities bestowed upon her by a pact she upholds with beings of fey magic, and what she lacks in strength is more than made up for by her cunning.
The trail to Phandalin is uneventful for days of travel. On the third day the party comes across two dead horses in the road, full of black arrows. Before the animals can be identified, goblins assault the caravan. The guards are more than up to the task, but Heloise, barely armored, sustains a deep arrow wound in her upper leg. In the aftermath of the scuffle, the horses are identified as none other that those of Gundren Rockseeker and his bodyguard! The pair had been traveling ahead to Phandalin when they were attacked by a goblin ambush. Sir Baiste quickly identifies a small trail leading off into the woods and signs that two bodies had been dragged along it. Before giving chase, Heloise petitions Jacobus for medical aid. She succeeds in convincing him to open the wagon where he retrieves a healing potion from a small box. While Jacobus is occupied with the alluring Ms. Strange, Gad stealthily peeks at the contents of the carriage. It appears to mostly contain mining supplies but there is a small locked box that seems to contain something important. In search of a key, Gad attempts to pick Jabobus’s pocket, but ends up only fondling the poor driver’s member in front of Heloise. The extremely awkward moment is cut short by Odo, who can not abide to wait a moment longer while his good employer remains in mortal peril. The party gathers to pursue the goblin trail, and gives intructions to Jeb and Jacobus to proceed to Phandalin with haste.
After a few hours of travel, they reach the mouth of a cave that obviously serves as the goblin base of operations. Gad dispatches the goblin sentries with relative stealth, but makes a small mistake resulting in a fight at the mouth of the cave. Suspecting that the goblins are already alerted, Odo attempts to draw them out with a challenge. When this fails he proceeds into the cave, where the party finds three ferocious guard dogs chained to spikes. Odo, thinking that the dogs will be easily put down in their chained state, approaches and swiftly kills the first of the dogs. However, he has moved too close in this, and the other two beasts quickly flank and pounce on him. They manage to bring him to the ground and begin to tear at his flesh, all while the party is still precious moments away. The dogs are eventually slain, but Odo is badly hurt. The Goblins at this moment trigger a trap constructed to defend their cave, unleashing a reservoir and sending a torrent of water out the mouth of the cave. The party is battered by this assault but is left with no time to recover, as all the goblins in the cave, including the monstrous bugbear Klarg, rush out to meet them in battle.
The fight is fierce. Before he can so much as swing his sword, Odo sustains a terrible injury, leaving him unconscious and bleeding on the wet cave floor. Gad does a little better, deploying a bag of ball bearings to trip up the goblin advance, However, he too sustains a powerful blow and becomes unconscious and within an inch of his life.
Baiste and Heloise fight on and attempt to aid their fallen comrades, but its too late for Gad who bleeds out in a dark cave among strangers. Baiste’s skillful archery is the end of Klarg who takes an arrow between the eyes, just as Odo begins to regain consciousness. The rest of the goblins are routed, in no small part due to the help of a mysterious fight in the back of the cave. Still terribly wounded, Odo investigates further into the cave, while Heloise and Baiste wait at the mouth, in fear for their lives. Odo finds the body of Gundren’s guard, who seems to have escaped captivity and killed many goblins before being slain. Further into the cave is a storage room, which contains a small treasure accumulated by Klarg as well as many boxes of supplies. Odo notes that the boxes all bear the mark of House Coster, a suspicious fact. Returning with the loot but no evidence of Rockseeker’s whereabouts, Odo and the surviving party members bury Gad and nurse their wounds. The next day, they depart again for the small town of Phandalin, unsure if their employer is even alive or who will be the next to perish for his clandestine endeavors.