Rolen, Jiàntóu, S, and Shank descended to the lower level of the cavern using the handmade lift. Pale lights cast by Rolen illuminated the path and they pressed forward into the tunnel. Feeling bold at their success against the guarding party the adventurers were caught unaware of a trapdoor hidden below ankle deep water. S and Rolen stepped onto the trap door causing it to fall out below them. S stumbled backwards, in the process pushing Rolen down and he disappeared below the surface of the water. After a few moments of fumbling, S and Jiàntóu were able to wedge the trap open and Rolen escaped. After regaining their composure, the group continue, much more cautiously, down the tunnel.
The reached a crossroad and after decided which way to explore first, they came to a large, open cavern filled with a roaring waterfall. The sound was nearly deafening. A few hundred feet from where the Falconiers entered into the cavern was another archway, illuminated with flickering torchlight. Jiàntóu, still under the effects of Hogan’s Own High-Times Elixir, which granted him the ability to scale walls like a spider, snuck to the top of the archway and surveyed the contents.
What he saw were two guard dogs at the entrance, next was a table with various beakers filled with potions and magical paraphernalia. Beyond the table were two hobgoblins, forcing a small goblin down onto a stone slab with straps at the ankles and wrists. Waiting on the other side of the slab was a figure in a jeweled black robe, holding a slender silver knife, slowly stirring something inside an ornate goblet. The end of the room contained a tall shelf lined with glass orbs next to a sturdy wooden door.
S and Rolen waited for Jiàntóu to return, but instead he rushed into the room, running on the ceiling, and fired two bolts into the guard dogs. S ran forward into the room with his sword drawn while Shank and Rolen followed after him. After S dealt a blow to an already wounded guard dog, it suddenly disappeared, blinking out of sight, to reappear between Shank and S. Frustrated, S flipped the table containing the magical items and potions causing the glass and liquids within to cover the hobgoblins. The one closest to the table shrieked, slumping down. The other yelled in anger, as she was covered by the slimy contents of the beakers and pierced by the broken glass.
Their attentions still on the dogs, Shank and S pummeled the creatures with many blows. Jiàntóu and Rolen were focused on the robed figure in the back of the room and Jiàntóu placed a bolt into his shoulder, causing the knife he held to drop to the ground.
At that moment the shrieks of the hobgoblin changed into a bone-chilling howl. The Falconiers turned to see a gruesome creature, half goblin, half wolf, rising from the ground. What was a normal hobgoblin was now a cursed beast wearing tattered clothing, too small for it’s frame. It lashed out at S, who’s sharp sword could not wound the beast.
While S and the werewolf were in battle, the robed figured recoiled from the bolt shot in his shoulder. He stumbled back to the shelf, grabbing one of the glass orbs, and hurled it towards the cave entrance. It shattered and from the broken glass another werewolf emerged, howling. It lunged at Shank and sank it’s teeth into his torso. The pair tumbled to the ground.
While many in the room were engaged in the fight, Rolen was able to sneak in and levitate the robed enemy, allowing Jiàntóu to grab him and pull him from the orbs. Fearing for his life, he began to shout at the adventurers and the werewolves to stop the fighting.
Ignoring his pleas, S and the first werewolf continued to engage in the fight. Another howl was heard and Shank shoved the werewolf that’d bitten him away, he stood up and was fully transformed into a werewolf. He gave another long howl, then fell backwards, changing back to his normal form. However, when rose again he did not look like Shank. Instead, he had a featureless face and pale skin. Recovering from the werewolf’s curse caused him to revert to his actual doppleganger appearance. Seeing he was no longer in the form of Shank, he shouted, and ran from the room. The werewolf that had attacked him rushed after him, their screams and howls heard echoing through the cavern.
At this point the mage, suspended in air and held by Jiàntóu with a crosspoint pointed at his throat, had convinced the werewolf engaged with S to stand down. After a few moments of calm, she too changed back into her normal form.
The mage, the hobgoblin assistants, the one remaining guard dog, and the Falconiers faced each other down in a silent tension. The only noise was from the small goblin who’d been tied down to the stone slab as the adventurers rushed in. She pleaded in goblin and broken common to be freed.
The mage identified himself as Rick Little and was quick to offer up the hobgoblins as payment for sparing his life. Increasingly angered by his betrayal, the hobgoblin assistants shifted uneasily. Tired of waiting for the worst to happen and fueled by the desire to rid the world of fiendish creatures, S savagely attacked the hobgoblins before either had a chance to transform to a wolf, beheading them both.
At the sight of this, Rick Little begged to be left free. Using manipulation and illusions, Rolen was able to learn why he was in the caves and what his purpose was. It was discovered that Rick Little was a Black Claw Mage of low status, trying to earn his way by killing Ruby Reid at his camp near Cloudmouth. The destruction of the camp by the Falconiers changed his plans.
The Falconiers decided to bring Rick Little to the leaders of Cloudmouth to face their judgement when suddenly he cast a spell, breaking himself free of Rolen’s control. At this, S ran his sword through him, ending Rick Little’s life.
They searched the remainder of the cave, discovering another encrypted Black Claw Mage scroll, a note saying “Send Goblins first - if they return from the Watchtower then it’s safe for me.”, an antidote, and other miscellaneous items. Preparing to leave, the bound goblin begged for them to let her go and to help her free her family. Persuaded by her pleas, the Falconiers agreed to help.
They returned up the tunnel that lead to the fork and snuck up to the holding area. In one corner was a brutish Ettin, ignoring the remaining guards. Disguising themselves, Rolen and Jiàntóu deceived the Ettin, convincing him that he could be in charge, now that Rick Little was dead, and that he should kill and eat the other hobgoblins. Their plan worked perfectly and the Ettin quickly cleared the room while announcing “I eat THEIR bones!” and ran down to search for more goblins to kill in Rick Little’s lair.
Many of the goblins that were caged had been cursed. Using the antidote and the silver knives they found, the Falconiers lifted the curse, providing salvation to the hobgoblins. They gathered anything of value they could find and began their trek back to the surface to share what had been found and to let the mayor of Cloudmouth know how to return water to the village well.
Once they climbed up the wall they’d entered many hours before, they were met by a town that was still, as if it was holding its breath. They met Katelyn Crookbrow on the road and she informed them that the Tahotra has sent a party into town, tracking the footprints of the escaped slaves, and were threatening to return if the town did not provide information regarding the whereabouts of anyone involved. She beckoned them to go to the mayor to discuss options.
After a quick detour by Hogan’s store, where they were able to decode the Black Claw Mage scroll, learning it said “We require Hwindock’s assistance. Persuade her if you can - something of fine workmanship should be enough. You know the question we would ask.” They replenished a few supplies and then headed to see the mayor.
Meeting with John Stone and Fennick, they learned more of the threat to Cloudmouth. They left the robe of Rick Little with the mayor, instructing him to say the destruction of the camp was the result of a Black Claw Mage. They then left, heading towards the watchtower. They found horses tied outside the village and headed up the path. Finding a quiet place to rest for the night, they placed the small Onyx Dog statue that Fennick had given them on the encoded scroll, hoping it would decode the message. However, a large black mastiff immediately appeared and spoke, pledging his allegiance to the party…