Ep. 4 – Cragmaw Castle

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In the morning Fargrim realises that the party is rather close to Old Owl Well, the site of an abandoned trading post built upon a ruin. Having heard rumours of undead near the well he suggests that the party check it out, since it will only be a short detour. They all agree but send Valare on ahead to Cragmaw Castle to scout out the defenses.

Cresting a low hill scattered with trees they spot Old Owl Well from a distance. A set of broken walls around a weedy courtyard lies next to the old trade road. Behind the walls sits the crumbled base of a centuries-old tower. A brightly coloured tent is pitched in the middle of the courtyard and the heroes approach slowly.

As they get closer a group of zombies, previously hidden in the ruined tower, begins to shamble towards them. As the two groups meet one zombie goes down as they flail at the adventurers. At this moment a bald head pops out of the tent and cries out, “What is the meaning of this?” When Chad responds the dwarf waves his hand and the Zombies step back. He introduces himself as Hamun Kost and Fargrim notes that he is a Stormweaver, a member of the Dwarven clan Bale. Chad also identifies the tattoo on his forehead as being of necromantic origin.

They talk for a while and discover that Kost is studying the original use of the tower which was an observatory up until the cataclysm. Commonly called the Starfall it was a time when the sky burned and the stars fell to ruin the earth. The zombies had been raised by Kost to keep raiding Orcs from interrupting his studies. The wizard also tells them about a Banshee in the ruins of Conyberry, a small village nearby, who can use her powerful scrying magic to reveal the name of the tower’s builder. Kost had already tried to seek the Banshee’s aid but she had turned him away for using necromantic magic. Instead he asks if the adventurers would parley with her for him in exchange for a favour.

Following the overgrown road down to Conyberry the party finds the banshee Agatha’s lair without much trouble. A dome of woven branches wreathed in cobwebs is broken only by a low tunnel leading inside. Being the shortest, Tomi heads in first to find a rough bedroom with furniture of elven make. A cold wind signals Agatha’s arrival and she regards the heroes with disdain. Tomi addresses her first but his speech is rough and she sends him back outside. The banshee regards the other party members and asks Atticus’ name. He responds politely and after a short conversation Agatha has calmed enough to answer their question. Atticus suggests to the others that he simply ask Agatha where the relic is, instead of spending the extra step to go through Kost, but they tell him to stick with the current plan. Agatha tells them the tower’s owner was an elf named Arthendel, the first mortal to see the falling stars and cry out his warning.

Back up the path they tread, to where Kost awaits them. He invites them into his tent for lunch and all but Fargrim follows him. The dwarven cleric waits outside muttering under his breath about the evils of necromancy. Inside, Atticus incorrectly relays the name of the tower’s creator as Arthur Doll but Kost takes his word for it. True to his word the wizard tells the adventurers what he knows about the tower, and of the surrounding area. He casts a ritual using enchanted sands to scry on the leader of the goblin tribes, King Grol. They see an aged bugbear sitting on the edge of a bed in the middle of a stone room. At his side lies a large grey wolf with a thick chain collar. On a circular table nearby the party spots a golden sword hilt, a quick check with Fargrim outside confirms that it is the Shale relic they have been seeking. It is time to head for Cragmaw Castle.

About a mile out from the castle the party runs into a hobgoblin patrol and for the first time come up against an organised and well armed and armoured enemy. But with the element of surprise on their side however, they manage to keep any of them from running off. The scuffle does manage to reveal them to Valare who waits for them just up ahead. She fills them in on what she’s found at the castle.

Cragmaw was once a mighty castle with seven towers of varying sizes but now all the upper floors have crumbled. A landing infront of the main door is watched by goblins from arrow slits in the adjacent towers but Valare has noticed that they are quite inattentive in their duties. Furthermore she has spotted bugbears and hobgoblins entering and exiting the castle through a secret entrance on the north side where a grey sheet of canvas hides a tunnel through the rubble.

The party decides to hit both entrances at the same time sending Chad and Tomi through the front while Fargrim, Granite, Atticus, and Valare enter through the secret tunnel. No sooner has the plan gone into action does Tomi stumble near the front door and his armour clatters against the wall. The goblins on guard run to the window and Chad and the halfling have no choice but to duck into the broken double doors before they can bring their shortbows to bear. With the goblins alerted however they rush into the entry room to surround the two heroes who are outnumbered three to one.

Sneaking through dark and rubble filled rooms near the middle of the castle the other team hears a distant boom coming from the direction of their companions and make haste to join the fight, hoping to come in on the enemy’s flank. A gloomy and disused chapel stands opens up before them and they are almost ambushed by a Grick who leaps down from the angelic carvings overhead. The creature is long and snakelike, with a snapping beak ringed by four tentacles. It wraps its tentacles around Fargrim and tries to tear into him with its beak while the other three hack it to pieces. Another boom rings out and Valare and Granite head towards the sound while Fargrim and Atticus take a peek behind a curtain to the north.

Back in the entryway Chad has let loose a pair of Thunderwave spells, knocking back and killing most of the goblin aggressors but also sending Tomi reeling in the process. However a second group of goblins appear out of the southern watchtower and fire their bows at the heroes. Suddenly Valare comes running through a western doorway. Her foot catches on something and she realises just in time that it is a tripwire. She dives forwards and avoids the mass of rock and plaster that crashes down as part of the ceiling collapses. Granite appears soon afterward and still deep in his battlerage he doesn’t even notice the new pile of rubble that has appeared in his way.
In the depths of the chapel Fargrim and Atticus exchange blows with a trio of goblins dressed in ceremonial robes. The dwarf crashes into them with his shield and hammer, laying them low with a divinely powered flurry of blows. Clearly Moradin isn’t happy about goblins desecrating an old chapel.

Four hobgoblins appear in the doorway to their small barracks, drawn by the sounds of fighting in the entry room, and are set upon by Chad who charges in to unleash another Thunderwave. Pulling their shields up to block the brunt of the blast the hobgoblins are pushed back into the room for a moment before regrouping and blocking the path. One of them turns and runs further into the castle to get reinforcements. Granite charges in, pushing Chad aside as he tries to force his way into the hobgoblin’s room but is rebuffed.
The fight gets chaotic as Atticus and Fargrim return just in time to help Chad and Tomi deal with the reinforcement goblins, who emerge from an unexplored dining area. Meanwhile Granite is flailing wildly and failing to hit the hobgoblins through the doorway while Valare tries to sneak in a few strikes. The trained hobgoblin disarms her of her chakram and she is forced to draw one of her throwing knifes. A second disarming sees her draw another and she is forced to try and get past her opponents heavy armour and shield without her favourite weapons. Frustration mounts as the hobgoblins just won’t give in, until Granite can’t take it anymore. His swings become wild and the hobgoblins are finally pushed back into the room. Valare is able to scoop up her chakram before stepping through to join Granite in finishing off their tenacious adversaries. Behind them the goblins are simply outclassed as the adventurers put their recent experiences and lessons to use.

Delving through the barracks and into the dining area, Valare spots a particularly fat goblin stuck in his chair and calling out for his allies to help him. Atticus enters through the other doorway and sends an arrow to follow Valare’s throwing knife, whistling past the goblins head. Valare is quick to follow up her throw, leaping over the long tables to finish off the panicked goblin with her blades.

The party regroups in the relatively corpse-free dining hall to catch their breath and wait to see if any other goblinoids come running, but none arrive. With a moment to recuperate they prepare themselves to face King Grol, whose room lies somewhere in the western half of the castle.

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