Lost Plot of Phandelver

The ox on the left farted nonchalantly, causing an eruption of another sort from the driver's seat as Simeon the Druid reluctantly paid yet another copper piece to his Gnomish companion.

"Godsdamnit! Again!", the human cried. "Are you sure you're not using Gnome magic, Wren?"

The Gnome flicked the reins and laughed. The two oxen pulling the cart had been slow and steady on the road from Neverwinter, but their gaseous emissions had been providing Wren and Simeon with gambling opportunities since they had set off. Betting on whether left ox or right ox would let rip next was the most exciting thing to happen this whole trip.

"Maybe if it was squirrels, master Druid!", said Wren, with a wink. Simeon was not convinced, and after a long stare declared, "Both together" and put another copper on the bench seat between them.

Suddenly, the gnome pulled on the reins. Up ahead, the green hulking shape of their taciturn Dragonborn companion had stopped, one massive arm raised in the air.

"Something's up", said Wren. Simeon nodded and jumped down from the cart, alert now. Wren steered the cart to meet with the Dragonborn, Pandjead, who pointed at the road ahead.

Following his emerald scaled finger, Wren and Simeon could see two horses lying on the trail ahead, their sides pocked with black, greasy-feathered arrows. The gnome, a ranger by trade, and the Druid both noticed how quiet it had become. Simeon scanned the woods on either side of the trail.

"Looks like Gundren's horse", rumbled the Dragonborn, and it was true. The palomino had been a handsome beast and easy to recognise. The other must have been his bodyguard's, the grizzled human they had met only when they took possession of the Dwarf, Gundren's, cart of supplies with the job of getting it to the frontier town of Phandelver.

Simeon couldn't see anything in the trees as Wren quietly notched an arrow to his bow. Pandjead unslung his heavy warhammer and stepped closer to the horses. It seemed even the air was holding its breath.

As he reached the palomino, the companions heard the unmistakable sound of both oxen farting in unison. Simeon and Wren exchanged a glance and a smile, relaxing, as at that moment they heard the thrum of arrows and saw Pandjead stuck with three black, greasy-feathered arrows.

"Ambush!", he roared, span round by the force of the deadly missiles. Another arrow thudded into his back as another gashed Simeon's leg. Two more buried themselves in the wood of the drivers seat next to the gnome.

Wren caught a glimpse of shapes in the trees to his right: goblins! And more to the left. They were surrounded!

To be continued...
 
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Lost Plot of Phandelver: part 2

This trip had not been to Pandjead's liking.

Too large to fit on the wagon seat, and with no room inside, he had taken it upon himself to act as forward scout, his long stride letting him easily lead the group. The other two had kept up a long conversation most of which seemed to consist of the human complaining and the little gnome laughing. There appeared to be something about the oxen, but Pandjead was too far away to join in.

And now, he found himself filled with stinking black arrows and losing a lot of blood. And for what? A few gold pieces and the chance to get out of that overcrowded human city and into the fresh air again. There hadn't been a single other Dragonborn in Neverwinter that he could see, and his trip seemed a waste of time. He had jumped at the chance of finding the wild places again.

He was doubting his decision-making now. Wren had shouted that their foes were goblins and promptly hopped under the wagon, shooting his little bow into the trees. The Druid was trying to find cover on the left of the path, and here he was, a sitting duck.

Well, sod that.

Pandjead hefted his hammer and ran past a startled Simeon into the trees to the left, aiming for the movement of leaves he had seen when that last volley came. No bloody goblin was going to kill a Dragonborn, not this day!

He crashed through the trees as behind him he heard the gnome shout in pain. Suddenly he found himself in front of two skinny goblins, their stench setting his nostrils on edge. He breathed in, and belched a cloud of green poison gas at the creatures. These cowardly snipers didn't deserve the honour of dying by his hammer.

They both reeled backwards, dropping their bows, more out of shock at this vision of green-scaled fury suddenly upon them, and the one on the right found itself taking the brunt of Pandjead's breath, the poison eating away at its eyeball.

The goblin screamed in pain as the other, shielded from the worst of the poison by its unfortunate companion, stabbed at Pandjead with its curved, hooked shortsword. The blade bit deep into his shoulder and and darkness filled the Dragonborn's vision. He fell forward, seeing both goblins engulfed in flame from somewhere.

His last thought before the world went black was that he had failed his tribe. He would die a disgrace, and his tribe would die out. All for the sake of a wagonload of Dwarven goods...

To be continued...
 
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Lost Plot of Phandelver: part 3

Pandjead woke with a start, sitting up violently and head butting the pink, blurry face that had swum into his view.

"Dodsdabbit!"

Simeon clutched his nose, scarlet pouring down his face. Pandjead looked around, seeing Wren stifle a laugh and Simeon writhing in pain. He was sitting in the woods where he had attacked the goblins, but the trees around him were burnt and blackened, much like the goblin body lying twisted behind where the Druid was experimenting with new swear words.

"Whoops. Sorry, Druid Simeon", he said. "What happened?"

Wren, red-faced from the effort of not laughing, exhaled to gain his composure and checked the Dragonborn over. He seemed pale, or at least a lighter shade of green than usual, but fine.

"Simeon saved you. He threw Druid flame at the goblins and finished them off with his scimitar, while I took care of our goblin friends on the other side of the trail", he explained.

He neglected to mention that his arrows, despite heavy cover, had found their marks in the necks of both the goblin archers he had slain. But he was proud, nonetheless.

"He was just casting a healing spell on you when you woke up and butted him to say thanks".

"Dobe worry aboud me, I'll be fide", muttered the Druid. "You dearly gob kid".

"Gob kid?", asked Pandjead, his scales crinkling in puzzlement.

"He means, you nearly got killed", said Wren.

"Dads wad I said. I thig by node id broge".

Pandjead looked around. Where was the other goblin? He remembered there being two of them. Simeon saw his look.

"Dobe worry. We cabjured...oh, bor hebben's sayg". Simeon grabbed his nose and with a crack, set it straight again. He shook his head, eyes watering. "There. We captured the last one, the one who stuck you".

Pandjead looked down at his shoulder. Only the slightest wrinkle in his scales to show where the goblin's sword had cut him.

"He's over there", Wren nodded to the side. "Calls himself Grokk. Says his mates waylaid a dwarf and a human. Would've killed them but for a map the dwarf had about his personage. Says his boss was all of a quiver to get his hands on them".

The goblin was securely trussed and gagged with Wren's rope, lashed to a tree.

"He's going to show us where his sneaky bastard mates are hiding, aren't you Grokk?", said Simeon.

The goblin nodded, miserably. It was badly burnt.

The Druid nodded back. "Too right you are. I've been shot, head butted" - he looked meaningfully at Pandjead - "and now my employer has been kidnapped. I'm not going through all this to not get paid."

"But first, we're going to hide the wagon and rest up", said Wren. Only then did Pandjead notice the gnome had been wounded too. "And then..."

"Then I'm going to show you what a Dragonborn is really capable of", interrupted Pandjead.

Wren thought he saw some of the colour come back to his companion's scales, but he realised the Dragonborn was blushing. These goblins had embarrassed him. Wren didn't think it would happen a second time.

To be continued...
 
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Lost Plot of Phandelver: part 4

Grokk having bad day.

Grokk see Cragmaw friends die. Grokk feel bad about hiding behind Tagg when dragon-man spat poison, but Grokk have to live. Still, Grokk unhappy about how things worked out.

First, crazy fire thrower human knock Grokk out. Then, scary gnome with faraway stare tie Grokk up. Crazy human wake up dragon-man. Dragon-man headbutt human. This make Grokk laugh.

Dragon-man threaten Grokk and haul Grokk along goblin path. Grokk think dragon-man could go easy. Grokk laugh inside at faraway gnome up ahead. Gnome not know about traps Grokk and Tagg made.

Stupid gnome find traps. Dragon-man hit Grokk. How he know Grokk made traps? Could've been Urk or Dakk for all he know. Stupid dragon-man.

Then gnome talk to squirrel. Why talk to snack? Grokk not understand. Eat squirrel. Good food. But gnome talk to it. Then gnome run ahead. Grokk tied up to tree by crazy human. Grokk hear gnome up ahead walk into leaf trap Klarg made goblins make. Leaf trap noisy but not kill you. Leaf trap tell Cragmaws someone coming. Grokk laugh to self.

Faraway gnome come back, whispers to others. All go off. Good. Grokk friends kill them then free Grokk.

Grokk hear squishes and pain noises from up ahead. Ropes hurting Grokk now. Grokk try to free self. Squirrel watches Grokk. Stupid squirrel. Grokk struggles make rope tighter. Grokk thinks squirrel to blame. Grokk eat that squirrel when friends come.

No friends come.

Grokk hear Cragmaw wolves yapping. Then Grokk hear nothing.

Squirrel has a friend now. Grokk hate squirrels.

Getting dark now. Grokk hear shouting but far away like inside cave hideout. Grokk can't feel arms anymore. Squirrels laugh at Grokk, him sure of it.

Grokk hear running feet. Hah! Grokk friends chase off stupid dragon-man and gnome and human. Grokk free soon. Grokk make squirrel pie.

Grokk see Cragmaw goblins run into sight. One goblin, two goblin. Fingers of one hand goblin. Cragmaw goblins scared. Yokk all covered in blood. Grokk not see Yeemik (he the goblin boss). Grokk not see Klarg, bugbear overboss. Grokk not see half the goblins from the hideout. Grokk ask, Where the other goblins? Goblins cut Grokk free. Yokk tell Grokk what happened.

Strangers sneak into hideout. Kill guards. Kill wolves. Sneak into Klarg cave. Goblins hear noises of fighting, go to help. Dragon-man has ripped off Klarg's head. Yeemik happy. Yeemik never liked stupid bugbear boss. Yeemik want to take over. Yeemik start to explain to dragon-man and friends. But faraway stare gnome shoot him and dragon-man throw Klarg's head at Yeemik and kill him with it. Blood all over Yokk. Cragmaw goblins run away.

Grokk run away too.

Grokk forget about squirrel pie.
 
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Lost Plot of Phandelver: part 5

Who the hell are these guys?

Not that I'm complaining mind you, I mean, being held captive by a bunch of stinking goblins for a day isn't my idea of fun. Nor is it good for my reputation - Sildar Hallwinter of the Lords' Alliance, bested by goblins? Caught unawares and trussed up ready for the pot? But, still. They make me nervous.

Of course, I remember them from when Gundren hired them to guard his wagon of mining gear. I certainly recall the Dragonborn well enough. Pandjead. Don't see many of his kind in Neverwinter. Just seemed like he wanted to get out of the city, like the smell of the place had gotten under his scales. I swear he would have taken half the fee on offer just to get into the fresh air again. Like a coiled spring he was, and half again as tall as the tallest man I've ever seen. "He'll do", Gundren had laughed. "Oh, yes, any bandits will think twice if they see this lad on guard!". I remember he slapped Pandjead's thick back then, and came away bruised. Watching him hold aloft the bugbear's severed, dripping head and hurl it with such force that is felled the goblin lieutenant was no stretch of the imagination. But his companions...

They seem changed, somehow. The little gnome, calls himself Wren, talks to me politely enough. But that thousand-yard stare... brr. This is what comes of being a ranger, out in the wild for so long, I guess. This is why I am a city man. You might lose your purse to a thief or be fleeced by the merchants in the market square, but you never get that look in your eyes.

Gundren had it, more or less, though it was different. Not the same faraway hardened stare but... like to the gold fever look, he had. Has! Not had. What am I saying? I know the bugbear and the goblin Yeemik talked about sending him (and his brothers' map) to someone called King Grol somewhere called Cragmaw Castle, so I have to pray that he still lives. Gods be thankful for distrustful Dwarves and their insistence in making maps in code! Else my companion would be dead and I next for the spit.

And the Druid, Simeon. I always thought of Druids as pipe-smoking old men who'd rather cuddle up with a conifer than lie in the arms of a good woman or clank a tankard with his brothers in arms. Gentle folk, with songbirds hanging out their washing for them in some bosky glade in the depth of the woods. But this one seems altogether more bloodthirsty. The way he charged at the falling Yeemik and cut his arm off with one slash of his scimitar seemed altogether...unnecessary. When Gundren hired him, he's explained that he was hoping to explore the area around Phandalin after the wagon was delivered: I assumed he was going to look for tree spirits to chant with, not monsters to murder. As I say, not that I'm complaining, mind you. It's just...unexpected.

And I'm sure it's not druidic of him to dice for the gold teeth they found in Yeemik's purse. The gnome seemed disgusted by the thought of taking someone's teeth and refused to play, but Pandjead and he happily gambled for these tiny trinkets on the floor of this grubby, foul-smelling cave, awash with blood and the stench of burning hair from the wolf they had thrown onto the fireplace during their fight with the bugbear.

And yet, he seems genuinely determined to inform the Lionshield Coster of the whereabouts of their goods. These goblins had been boasting of their raid and the amount of barrels and boxes they had stashed in the caves was...impressive.

They wish to do the right thing. They are escorting me and Gundren's wagon to town. They have vowed to find this Cragmaw Castle and rescue the Dwarf. They are determined to return the stolen goods to their rightful owners. And now, as the wagon rocks and bumps down the slope to Phandalin at dusk, they seem almost normal.

From where I lie in the back, bruised and battered from the treatment the goblins meted out, I can hear the druid and the gnome chatting away to themselves. They appear to be playing a game of chance of some sort with the oxen but I can't make out the details over the creak of the wheels. The dragonborn is walking behind as rearguard in case any of the goblins who fled in terror at the sight of Klarg's severed head crushing their boss' skull decide to sneak after us and get their revenge. Mind you, as we have got closer to the town, I've noticed he pays less attention to the woods and more to the curious pipe he carries with him. Every few steps he blows upon it and instead of music the pipe blows out bubbles. The massive Dragonborn barbarian, so frenzied just a few hours ago, seems curiously childlike as he watched the bubbles reflect the sunset off his scales.

More than just wagon-guards, and more than meets the eye, that's for sure. If anyone can help rescue Gundren and his map, it's these three strange companions. Maybe then, with the Lost Mine found, I can help civilise this backwater and bring the authority of the Lords' Alliance to bear in bringing prosperity to Phandalin once more.

But that is for another day. Tyr's tired arm, I look forward to a foaming mug of ale and a night in a good soft bed.

But I will be certain to lock the door. With these heroes, you can never be too sure...
 

Lost Plot of Phandelver: part 6

The group settled themselves in Phandalin after dropping off Gundren's wagon at Barthen's Provisions, as per their contract. Sildar, the bodyguard who they rescued from the goblins, had told them about Gundren's map to the fabled Lost Mine and it's Spell Forge - and given the grim tidings of his being bundled off to 'Cragmaw Castle' for further interrogation.
After an ale or three, which Wren paid for out of his ox winnings, they rested in the local inn and chatted with the villagers, none of whom knew about this castle. In fact, they seemed more concerned about the local militia - the Redbrands - who were seemingly shaking down the businesses in town and had recently killed the town woodcarver for not paying their 'fee'. Worse, the mans family had been kidnapped.
Bad things were afoot in Phandalin.
The next morning, after a hearty breakfast of bacon (particularly hearty for Pandjead), they set out and enquired about town.
WREN:
Visited the Elven priestess of Tymora. She knew nothing but charmed him (using her bewbs+1) into finding the local banshee, Agatha, to ask about the whereabouts of a spell book. Giving him a jewelled comb to flatter her with and promising him healing potions for his trouble, the gnome left her none the wiser but tighter of trouser.
Key dialogue:
Wren: My companions and I were hired to guard Gundren's wagon...
Priestess: (looking him up and down) And you're the muscle, are you?
PANDJEAD:
Visited the home of retired adventurer turned orchard keeper, Daren Edermath. He too, knew nothing of the castle they sought, instead asking him to explore Old Owl Well, where reports of undead have filtered back to town from prospectors scared away from the area. Also, sizing him up, he asked the Dragonborn to deal with the Redbrand menace, as he, Daren, was but one man...
Key dialogue:
Daren: You seem a no-nonsense sort of fellow.
Pandjead: Got any cider?
SIMEON:
Visited the home of Halfling farmer Quinelle Alderleaf and was pointed to Thundertree, back nearly to Neverwinter, where a fellow Druid named Reidoth would know where to look. A breakthrough! On the way there he had stopped at the smithy to sharpen his cutlass, and Quinelle's son, very taken with the shiny sworded adventurer, promptly demanded a swish with the sword and that Simeon explore the secret entrance to the ruined manor the Redbrands use, that he had found just the other day.
Key dialogue:
Simeon: Thank you for the information, let me find my friends and...if you could...if you don't mind, I...can I have my sword ba...
Son: Slash! Slash! Woo!
All three met up for a beer at the inn and decided to find Sildar. He had promised them gold for getting him to town (free money, they were headed there anyway!). Finding him in the town mayor's office, they were given a bag of gold, promised lots of gold from the fat, spittle flecked mayor if they dealt with some orcs at Wyvern Tor a few days out if town, and promised more gold by Sildar to bring the Redbrands under control.
As they left, a foursome of these red cloaked ruffians confronted them on the street outside, demanding they hand over their money and leave town.
Pandjead was having none of it, especially after his chat with the veteran adventurer earlier. Two steps forward and his best battle roar set all four of them running, one of them shuffling somewhat due to a bad case of wet legs.
The adventurers looked at each other.
If this is what the Redbrands were like, surely they could take a short detour and deal with this bunch of cowards before setting off to find Gundren...
 
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Lost Plot of Phandelver: part 7

Wren drained his mug of ale in one gulp. When rough farmer's hands clapped him on the back and gave him another mug, he readily accepted. He was trying to forget the eye.
The boy had been right, he had found a secret way into the catacombs below the ruined fortress, which the Redbrands were using as a base. After leading them there, he had fled back to his mothers farm, and through the rocky crevice the three of them had gone. Seeing the reaction of the Redbrands in town had made them bold. These guys were pushovers. Simeon reckoned they could be dealt with in one go if they were taken unawares, and they'd probably run away or piss their pants again. Both Wren and Pandjead had agreed with this assessment and promptly set out to teach them a lesson.
He drained the second mug.
They'd come out of the passage into a wide chamber split in the middle by a ravine of some sort with bridges over it near and far. The place smelled damp, and watchful. And sure enough, not two stealthy steps in and a huge blue eye appeared below the far bridge. A voice, sibilant, lisping, ragged, and in his head. In all of their heads. Demanding meat. Female meat.
A third mug. Good. Wren drank it slowly this time and wandered outside to watch the sunset over the shrine to Tymora. He hoped to catch a glimpse of the priestess. Gods, but she was a fine woman. Too tall for his liking, but still. No sign of her. Shame. He wondered what she woukd have made of their desperate bargain they made with the huge lizard-like beast that leapt up from the ravine in one smooth movement, with its unblinking eye seeming to burrow into their souls as it's horrendous voice spoke in their minds.
Simeon had agreed to find the creature female meat if it would let them pass. This didn't sit well with the gnome, but he had to agree that anything would have been better than taking on that eye.
He shuddered in the evening breeze. Or perhaps he was remembering the damp of the cavern.
They edged past the eye creature and down some stairs to find a short t junction. Ending at stout doors at either end, they had decided to get the job done and get the nine hells out of there, so Pandjead went ahead and grabbed the nearest door and shoved it open.
Wren wasn't sure quite what surprised him more.
The unexpected bugbears.
The goblin they were making dance for them.
Or the fact that Simeon changed into a snarling black bear before his eyes and leapt into the room, clawing at the nearest bugbear's face.
The goblin was just as surprised as he was, and promptly passed out. Pandjead started smacking the biggest bugbear, the one with the bejewelled eye patch, and Wren fired at him, too, casting a spell of ensnaring thorns as the arrow hit home, with sharp needles and briars erupting from the shaft and engulfing the bugbears as they fought back with little success. In a few seconds and another arrow, hammer and claw later, monsters were dead and Pandjead was wearing that eyepatch as a trophy. The goblin came to, took in the carnage, and promptly declared itself to be both Droop and their friend.
Which reminds him, what happened to Grokk? He wasn't there when they came back from the goblins' cave. Hmm. Anyway. Simeon joined him on the porch, handing him another ale with a smile. They both watched the sunset for a moment.
'We nearly lost it in there, Wren', he said. 'I honestly thought that woman had me. Thank you.'
Wren smiled up at the Druid, clinking mugs.
It was the second room. That was the moment. The three of them repeated their tactics and rushed in, to find four Redbrands playing cards and drinking ale. A tall, red haired man, one of the men from earlier in town, plus a shorter man, and the ugliest human woman Wren had ever seen.
Simeon bounded in first, still in his wild shape of a bear, followed by the Dragonborn, as Wren fired a volley at the ruffians. They figured that these cowards had been drinking, they'd drop what they were doing and flee...but no. Simeon dropped the short man, but the other men ducked under Pandjead's hammer and the woman and they brought out their scimitars. Gods, but they were fast! Two attacks for every one the party made, and the woman slashed at bear-Simeon in a frenzy, sending him crashing to the ground with a roar and reverting to his human shape. Again she slashed at him, again she bit deep with her blade. She stood above him, ready to finish him off. Pandjead and the other Redbrand were toe to toe...well, toe to claw...and Wren simply had to hit. His arrow flew true, burying itself in her eye.
Wren smiled to himself, outside the inn. That was a shot he was proud of.
But Pandjead was also struggling, the red haired Redbrand slashing as fast as the woman had and theone from town earlier having found some courage in the bottle it seemed. All looked lost. The fight had made a lot of noise. The Redbrands, on home turf, seemed to be more of a challenge than they had thought, and they had no way of knowing how many there were down here...or whether that creature would be attracted by the noise.
At that moment, just as Pandjead slipped on some spilt beer, Simeon got himself to his feet and in a bear-like roar, unleashed a Thunderwave spell. All the Redbrands, alive and dead, were hurled against the far wall of the room. The table thudded into them and all the coins they were gambling with studded the wall with the force of the spell. The Redbrand from earlier died with twenty silver pieces embedded in his face, and Pandjead took advantage of the red haired ones stupefaction to crush his head against the wall with one mighty blow.
The spell was ringing in their ears as they looked at one another, Simeon and Pandjead badly bloodied. Someone was bound to have heard that!
The door of the inn opened, and Wren was brought back to the present by an Elven smile he had hoped to see all night. How had she slipped past him? Pandjead's grinning green face joined the priestess at the doorway and he went back in, content for now to leave the memories where they were.
Simeon stayed outside, puffing on his pipe. He had come close to dying that day, and there were worse memories. And mysteries to ponder...
 

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