Late Malader, 2718: In an effort to heal the breach between her and Par, Vorzheva asks him to help her pick out a new sword. She wants to broaden her range with a larger, heavier blade, opting for a broadsword that Par helps her choose. (She doesn’t keep it long though, as a few fights demonstrate that it just doesn’t suit her style.)
Halwain comes by the Tattered Gryphon in the evening. He says that he must go to Harrow to see about some kind of disease or poisoning that is afflicting the town, which lies a few days to the west. He asks Vorzheva, Par and Zath (Hope isn’t feeling well) to accompany him, since there have been reports of trouble with goblins in the hills along the road west.
The next morning they set out, accompanied by an acolyte from Halwain’s church, and Mallon, the messenger from Harrow that brought the troubling news. The first night is quiet, except for Par and Halwain choking on Zath’s extra spicy cooking (though Vorzheva is delighted by it).
The next day they are attacked by goblins before they reach Harrow. They fight them off, though most of the goblins flee, Vorzheva does take three goblin ears to collect the bounty on them as well as a few silver pikes and copper helms from their pockets and a decent enough shortsword for her personal use.
Halwain, Zath, Vorzheva and Par head upstream from Harrow the next day. Scouting ahead, Vorzheva finds some goblin sentries. She and Zath try to take them out quietly with a sleeping powder grenade and are only partially successful. They give chase to the remaining sentry and run into an ogre guarding the entrance to the caves where the goblins are digging. After slaying the ogre, the group makes a concerted assault on the caves.
They manage to get pretty far into the cave before they are attacked by the first wave of goblins. The adventurers fight their way through them and track the survivors to a closed door. Uncertain how many goblins are on the other side of the door, and already a little tired, the group considers their options. When asked if she feels up to pressing the attack, Vorzheva states she doesn’t want to give the goblins time to dig in or get more reinforcements.
The group breaks down the door and begin to cut their way through the ranks of goblins arrayed against them.
It is difficult business and they are down to their last strength before Vorzheva disarms the goblin chief and forces the remaining goblins to retreat, and swear they will never return. Par is badly injured by goblin archers, who managed to hide in the back ranks, and with the Goreadon unconscious the group is unable to exact more favorable terms.
Halwain and Zath determine that the goblins digging tunnels and pouring the dirt into the stream is the cause of the selux poisoning, though the goblin shaman seems to have been deliberately extracting the stuff from the tunnel walls to add to the stream as well.
Vorzheva, her small frame belying her true strength, carries Par back to Harrow, where he is tended to by Halwain and Theska. Vorzheva hovers around outside, feeling personally responsible for the wounds he’s suffered in the attack. He is back on his feet in a few days, but she can tell he’s troubled.
Early Eledra, 2718: With the constable and a few men they return to the goblin cave to make sure they have cleared out for good. The goblins have indeed gone, leaving their dead behind. Vorzheva, Par, Halwain and Zath had slain 30 goblins plus their ogre ally. The constable pays the bounties on all of them and has the men seal up the cave.
The four of them remain in Harrow while Halwain tends to the last of the poisoning victims and makes sure the stream in the north of town is once again safe to drink from. Par is somewhat morose; he doesn’t feel he did very well against the goblins and mentions he’ll have to atone for his lack of ability once they return to Tor’s Gate. Vorzheva argues that the four of them killed 30 goblins — how much better could he expect to do? — but to little avail. He is not very responsive to her efforts to cheer him up, though she is eventually able to convince him to join her for a drink at the local pub, hoping that the fact that the townsfolk regard the four of them as heroes will have some positive effect on his mood.
“Listen, Par,” — she puts her hand on his shoulder to make him stop and listen to her on their way to the pub — “we were all on our last reserves of strength in that fight and maybe we shouldn’t have pressed on to that last fight at all. We both know that if those archers had had the intestinal fortitude to stand toe-to-toe with you, you would have had the better of them, but there’s little enough you can do against cowards who stand behind ranks of their fellows and shoot at you. The only reason the archers didn’t shoot me down as well is that I’m a much smaller target and harder to hit over the backs of their comrades’ heads.
“If you have to blame someone, blame me. I should have known better than to shoot my mouth off around a bunch of men about how I felt like I could fight some more, when we were all pretty beat up already. You couldn’t let yourselves be outdone by a girl.
“And I know you don’t believe in Luck, but that doesn’t prevent Her from taking an interest in you, whether for good or ill. If it did, people would be a lot more inclined to trust in Fate and not go praying for Luck to help them out.
“So please stop beating yourself up about this. It won’t help for you to lose confidence in yourself, and it’s breaking my heart to see you so down and not be able to do anything about it.” She gives his shoulder a squeeze and lets him go.
He proffers a weak smile and doesn’t say much, but his posture improves.
At the pub, they are surprised to see Zath and Halwain already there with Hope, who had come to check up on them since she expected them to be back to Tor’s Gate by now. Hope has acquired an admirer here as well: Aldus Lankit, a young man perhaps seventeen years old at the most. He has a dog he calls Raffi, and seems very intent on killing goblins. Aldus explains that he’s from an even smaller town called Coldmere, which is further west, and his father was killed by goblins there not too long ago. He wants to see the goblin cave so he can try to track the remaining warriors and the goblin chief that escaped to be sure they do not cause trouble again. Par and Halwain only reluctantly agree when they get him to promise that he won’t slay the goblin women and children who were with them. Aldus seems to have been in a few fights already, despite his youth, but Vorzheva supposes they will find out tomorrow how well he handles himself.
Vorzheva takes Hope aside to tell her what happened in the goblin cave and about Par’s moodiness. Vorzheva feels that Hope will probably understand him better and may have better luck talking to him. Hope says she will see what she can do.
Aldus turns out to be as good as his word when they go to track the goblins the next day. He has no problem finding and following their tracks, which lead into the Grey Hills, away from any towns or roads. However, he also finds some bugbear tracks heading straight for the White Road (between Harrow and Tor’s Gate) that were made only yesterday. They are probably planning to waylay travelers, and may be the ones responsible for the trouble along the road that they had on their way to Harrow some days ago.
They follow the bugbears hoping to prevent any mischief. Aldus estimates that there are at least a half dozen of them. The emphasis should have been on the “at least” part. When they finally catch up to the bugbears they end up fighting nine of them, all of whom are big and tough. Everyone is pretty seriously injured before they finally kill the last of them. Vorzheva’s face is badly slashed by a bugbear spear, and she is very glad Par and Halwain are both there to provide healing prayers.
All in all it ends up being a fairly profitable trip, at least monetarily, thanks to bounties and plunder. Zath cooks bugbear remains for dinner that evening, though no one but him is willing to eat any. Vorzheva abandons her plan to have him cook exotic dishes at the Gryphon.
Aldus accompanies the group back to Tor’s Gate, paying particular attention to Hope along the way. Vorzheva asks him what brings him to Tor’s Gate, “besides Hope’s smile, that is.” He says that he has nothing keeping him in Coldmere. His father was the huntsman for the low governor there, but was killed by goblins not too long ago. His father wanted him to get an education, so he is heading for a big city to find something called a university, where people go to learn stuff. Vorzheva tells him that everyone she ever knew learned by living and doing and she’s never heard of this university thing before. Aldus says that it is pretty expensive, so he will be looking for ways to earn money for a while.
They arrive safely back in Tor’s Gate the next day, where Hope tells the tale of their exploits against the goblins and bugbears to the patrons of the Tattered Gryphon.
Characters Introduced: Mallon, Aldus Lankit, Raffi