The Razing of Licktoad Village

Jharad offers, “I will stay here and guard the big hut if some of you want to search the other huts.”

“What’d you call them, Keng?” asks Toshio, settling down a bit (but not dropping his guard) now that the immediate fighting is done. “Snot monkeys? Not very nice to monkeys, but a good name for them. Where’s Zeyala? Jharad, I though you were with her! Everyone, let’s go find her… and stick together!” he finishes irritably.

Then Toshio sees that Zeyala has made her own way over to them, keeping beneath the huts and walkways as much as she can to stay under cover.

Now that they are all together again, Toshio says, “We’ve pushed our luck a bit. Still, we need to finish what we’ve started. Lets clear out that big hut the gobs were so keen to get into. Then we’ll go back in and clear those other huts.”

Toshio turns to Zeyala and asks, “Before we get started again, do any of you feel we’re pushing our luck too far by continuing? Do we need to head back now?”

“Toshio, my power is nearly drained,” announces Zeyala. “I can heal only a few more times, then I will need rest.”

“Understood.” Toshio looks around at the others, waiting for their responses.

Jharad says, “I think we should continue, as we are almost finished. This large hut seems to be the last of it.”

“We should try to get a glimpse of what’s inside.” Jethrik suggests. “At the very least, we’d have to report on it. At the best, maybe we can handle what’s inside.”

Keng agrees. “I just want to kill them. Unless there are a couple of squads worth or more in there I say we go in.”

“Alright. Let’s look around,” Toshio says. “There should be a better way in than through their front door – I don’t want to look like a hedgehog again!”

“Good idea… too bad we don’t have a large axe or something,” Jharad says as he is gazing at Keng’s bloody greataxe.

Toshio says, “Let’s not forget that there is at least one that made it outside the palisade and isn’t accounted for.”

Jharad mentions, “I saw a ladder at the back of the hut, but no door. My guess is that there is a back door there. I will check that out.” Jharad heads in that direction.

“Jethrik, let’s send you up that ladder on the other side of that hut to the roof. I bet there’s a way to drop inside from up there.” Toshio looks at Jethrik, then at the roof and adds, “On second thought, I’ll go myself. Last time you went up a ladder first it didn’t end as I’d hoped.” Toshio heads over to the ladder, saying to the others, “Keep the doors covered so nothing escapes.”

“I have to object.” Jethrik scowls. “Of the two of us, I am much more sneaky and much less of a favored target. You stay below and direct everyone’s efforts. You seem to enjoy it.” He adds the last part with a testy sniff.

Jharad muffles a snicker.

Once Toshio and Jethrik arrive at the back of the hut, they see that the ladder only leads up to where a door should be and not up to the roof. Toshio looks at the ladder and where it leads – apparently nowhere. “Jethrick, you were right. This does look like a job for you. Will you search for a hidden door where the ladder leads? It would be a good way to surprise them, don’t you think?”

“Well, there’s still the front door, isn’t there?” Toshio says. “Jethrick, can you unlock that door?”

“No.” Jethrick frowns. “I have friends in low places, but they keep their secrets. Professional and otherwise.”

Toshio continues, “Well, maybe Keng can smash it open. No pincushions this time – as soon as the doors give, get out of the way so their arrows don’t hit us. Then we’ll rush in to attack, flanking if possible. I’ll draw their attention – they seem to like me – and go full defensive while Keng hacks them to bits. Zeyala will be ready with healing, at our backs. Jethrick and Jharad, you support as you see fit, be it with spells, song, bow or sword.” Toshio thinks a moment and then comments, “Not much detail, is it? But it’s a sound plan. Anyone want to add anything?”

“Before we do anything, let’s move that ladder.” Jethrik suggests as he walks toward it. “Just because I didn’t see anything, doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. I don’t sneak professionally.”

“Good idea,” says Toshio. “If anyone tries to leave by the ladder, the drop may surprise them.”

Jethrik quickly retrieves the ladder.

“This ain’t no war party, it’s a ladies tea party!” growls Keng. He starts hewing at the door with his axe.

With nonchalant indifference to Keng’s efforts, Jharad suggests, “It is likely that whoever is inside has something big planned for the first of us to break through the door. I strongly suggest we use that to our advantage. I can ‘create’ more men looking like Toshio and have them rush through whatever opening we create. With battle shouts from all of you to lend credence to my images, they should believe it long enough to give us an advantage. Also I suggest we create a distraction and try to enter from two directions. The walls may be easier to hew through than the doors. That is usually the case.”

“Two directions may be tough, when we only have one axe.” Jethrick observes with a sarcastic snicker, “And one barbarian.”

Jharad continues calmly, “Keng, stop annoying the goblins for now. Let’s lend a little intelligence to this before we unleash your fury on the hapless monkeys.”

Not actually waiting for Keng to stop he continues talking with the others, “True Jethrik, but we may be able to distract them at their front door, which they will expect, while Keng hews in through the wall.”

“I agree,” says Toshio. “The extra images are a brilliant idea. I don’t think Keng will leave us time to make another entry point, though.”

At just that moment Keng breaks through the barred door.

Jethrik turns in alarm as he hears the doors crash open. “Oops.”

Jharad curses in Elvish, “Jukkete!” and begins casting. Pulling out a bit of fleece he commands, “Criar Homens,” and creates five warriors dressed like Toshio that clamber up onto the boardwalk and follow Keng into battle.

Keng kicks one of the doors open while taking cover behind the other in case any goblin archers are in the hut. There are no archers, just three shaky goblins with dogslicers lined up across the room and behind them, hopping up and down in fury on a rickety, five foot tall wooden chair with a ladder built into the side is Chief Gutwad himself, frantically trying to light a skyrocket and jabbering at his bodyguard . The walls of the throne room are decorated with numerous poorly preserved horse and dog heads, along with other trophies like broken weapons, brine-pickled bodies of brutally slaughtered furry animals, and other bits of grisly ephemera.

Keng bellows while he charges into the hut, “Time to die you great fat ugly bastard!” He charges the line of goblins bowling them over while he attacks Chief Gutwad. The goblins scramble out of his way, as much to get away from the multiple images of Toshio as to get away from Keng. Keng brings down his axe on the Chief, cutting the skyrocket in half and tearing through the chief’s chain shirt, opening a horrific gash in his side.

Chief Gutwad shrieks in rage and with almost superhuman agility (especially for one of his girth) hops down from the chair, grabbing the spear leaning against it and plunging it into Keng’s side.

Roaring, Toshio runs with the illusions to join Keng in the attack, making as much noise as possible.

Zeyala follows the others.

The three goblins in the chief’s throne room give way to the Toshio images. One of them runs through a door into an inner chamber, and another heads for the back wall where they open a secret door. The third follows the second backing away from invaders and waving his dogslicer in a futile attempt to scare them off, though it is obvious he is the one who is quaking in terror.

Remembering the plan, Jethrik makes as much “battle noise” as he is capable of, shouting and clashing his sword and buckler.

The multiple Toshio’s continue to menace the goblins, ensuring their route as Keng and Chief Gutwad trades blows but so far neither have scored another hit on each other as both are agile and trained combatants, though it’s clear that Keng is overmatched by the wily goblin chieftain and it is only a matter of time before Chief Gutwad lands another telling blow, while Keng is having a very hard time striking the small and quick chieftain.

Toshio slips past his doubles and joins the attack on Chief Gutwad, but he also finds that the chief is very difficult to hit.

Zeyala clambers up onto the walkway outside the chief’s hut.

Two goblins make it out the back of the chief’s hut, where there in fact was a secret door. The first had fallen just as Jethrik had predicted due to the missing ladder. The second leaped down on top of the first. They disentangle themselves and try to make it to the open gate, running under the walkways and past the stilts elevating the huts. They don’t make it far, however, as Jethrik and Jharad’s arrows cut them down before they are even halfway there.

Inside the hut, the images of Toshio fade away as Jharad ceases to maintain his concentration on them. They are no longer needed. Keng manages to land another blow, again tearing through the chief’s armor and hacking into the corpulent goblin’s bulk. The chief screeches and looks for a way out, spying the open secret door behind him. He backs away from towards the secrete room and inadvertently gives Toshio the opening he needs. Toshio’s katana separates the chief’s head from his shoulders.

“Before we celebrate, is anyone other than Keng injured?” asks Zeyala from the doorway.

Jharad moves closer to Zeyala, “Here.”

“Keng, Toshio, did either of you sustain any more wounds?” she asks.

“Here” replies Toshio. “I am still hurt.” he moves towards her. “Not more, but some of those little wound from the arrows remain.”

“They are just a scratch. Save your energy,” Keng says but nods his head in gratitude when she does channel her healing energy.

Keng utters, “The head is mine,” as he turns his attention to the corpse of Chief Gutwad. He cuts off the chief’s fingers putting them in his pouch for later curing. He then walks into the secret room next to the throne to collect the chief’s head. He also finds that the chief had another skyrocket by his throne, a very well crafted goblin sized composite longbow and a quiver of 11 arrows, half of which seem to be of exquisite manufacture as well. He also has two potions on his person, as well as the goblin-sized chain shirt that also seems to be too good to be anything the goblins could have made.

“Sure, Keng. You can carry the head,” says Toshio.

“Hey, where’d the other goblin go?” wonders Toshio aloud about the third goblin that had run through the other door in the throne room.

Still holding his gory trophy in his left hand, Keng strides into the other room, leaving a trail of blood. It turns out to be Chief Gutwad’s bedroom, though the bed is little more than a big, nasty pile of ratty blankets, moss, and foul-smelling animal furs. The walls of this room are decorated in a manner similar to the throne room. Keng sees the goblin tucked into a tightly curled ball rolled cowering under the bed. With his right hand he grasps the back of the goblin’s neck like a newborn pup, drags him out from under the bed, and carries him into the main room. He throws him onto the floor and says, “Anyone have any questions for it before I kill it?”

“You mustn’t kill a prisoner, Keng. Even a snot monkey prisoner,” admonishes Toshio. “But by all means, let’s find out what it knows. Has anyone some rope? We should bind it.” He considers for a moment then adds, “Not all means of course. We can’t torture it,” trying to head off that possibility. “Ask it what you will, though.”

Keng gives Toshio a questioning look at this and replies, “Why not? It’s a goblin.”

Toshio responds, “As a prisoner it’s no longer a threat. It wouldn’t be right to kill or harm it. We need to take it back to town. It can be tried there.”

Jharad, indicating Chief Gutwad’s head, says matter-of-factly, “I care not if you keep the head, Keng, but the bounties should be shared.”

Toshio says, “Agreed. And the ears of the others will be needed if the bounty is to be collected.”

Keng growls and say, “Is this some elf trick?”

“Elf trick? I do not think so,” replies Jharad. “We all contributed to this victory, the chief, in particular. If it were not for my illusory samurai scaring off the three guards and Toshio’s final blow it is likely you and I would not be speaking right now.”

“Perhaps Keng is right to claim the bounty on the chief’s head for his own,” Jethrik poses “but then it would be equally right to charge him our services as they contributed to his success. Isn’t that reasonable, Keng. Expensive perhaps, but reasonable.”

Toshio likes the direction Jethrick is taking. He quietly steps back (physically removing himself from the dispute since Keng is likely to take extra offense from him) and lets the others continue the discussion. He’s relieved that it has remained a discussion – he wasn’t sure there wouldn’t be blows when the greedy Keng didn’t get his way or all the money. Toshio takes some hope from this.

Zeyala sighs, “Unfortunately, we made no such agreement about the bounties before heading out. If Keng feels entitled to the bounty for what he’s killed, then who are we to establish the rules now? I unfortunately have the least to gain, as I did not use my spear once. But Keng, did we all not take an equal risk by coming here together? Although I did not slay a single creature, are my talents not worthy of reward?” she asks.

Toshio nods and waits to hear Keng’s reply. Toshio is also quite willing to leave the distasteful task of collecting goblin ears for the bounty to the others. Now that Keng has refused the initial four (and his gesture of goodwill), he’s not interested. It’s a bit of a conundrum, that the mayor and sheriff have condoned the collection as part of the bounty.

Keng growls and mutters.  He looks at Jharad and says, “Wizard! You are playing word games to trick me!” Then shakes his head trying to clear it, his dreadlocks and bones make a light rattling sound.

This is clearly not how the tribes work, he remembers, Shalelu warned me the civilized lands are strange with different ways and I must to adapt if I am to succeed in my quest.

A silence follows as he walks in a circle around the room muttering. Then he stops next to Jharad and says to the group, “Sharing is your way. It be strange to me. But as long as I am with you I will share.”

Keng turns to Toshio and says, “The prisoner is yours.” He then walks out of the room sits on his pack outside the chief’s hut and cleans the flesh off the chief’s finger bones while awaiting the others.

A nod to Keng is Jharad’s only reply. He walks into the back rooms looking for his belongings. He finds nothing in the bedroom, but there is another door to a room beyond it. It is there that he finds his own armor, sword, longbow, pack and other equipment. He also finds single beautiful red chest that is itself a work of art – if the mud and filth that encrust its lacquered sides are cleared off. When Toshio sees it he recognizes that the chest and its delicate etchings of cranes and frogs playing along a beach are of Minkai manufacture, like many of the things in his family’s manor.

Jharad takes an inventory of his equipment with his back to the chest. Over his shoulder he offers, “I can open that chest safely from a distance if you would like.”

“Please do so,” Toshio responds. “It’s best not to take chances when we’ve no cure for the poison needle it may hold.”

While Jharad does what’s needed to open the chest, Toshio asks, “Do you know of Minkai? That’s the land my family is from, long ago. The artwork marks this chest as being from there. I am eager to see what it holds.”

Once Jharad opens the chest, from a distance with his cantrip, they see that within its velvet lined interior are six masterwork throwing stars, silver and gold coins (329 and 112 respectively), a long hairpin with a red pearl at one end, and a gold-and-ivory fan depicting a gecko walking amid cherry blossoms on the reverse of which a crude map has been drawn (probably by a goblin). Not knowing the Brinestump Marsh well, the map is all but undecipherable to Toshio and Jharad.

Glancing into the chest, Zeyala says, “Ooh, a girl could live quite nicely on that. How do you think I’d look with that hairpin?”

Jharad returns a deadpan reply, “Dangerous?”

“Jharad, will you please detect magic on these items, and as we search the rest of the village?” asks Toshio. ”We’ll divide this,” he indicates the chest, “fairly back in town. For now, let’s check the rest of the village so we don’t miss anything of significance. The other ears can be collected as we go, too.” He makes sure the crude map is stored carefully so as not to damage it, and then closes the lid of the chest. ”Let’s get started. The sooner we get done, the sooner we can head back to town.”

Jharad responds, “I am afraid I failed to memorize that spell; odd, because I usually do. Let’s all move together. I will care for the goblin if you would like.”

Keng looks up at Toshio from where he is sitting and asks, “We done here?” Then he says to Jharad, “You still have the fire to call upon? I plan to burn this place down when we leave”

“With this hut, yes. Once we’ve searched the others we can head home.” Toshio hands the goblin over to Jharad and begins the detailed search through the village.

Jharad swaps the borrowed longsword and belt out for his own and dons his favorite worn overcoat. It is obvious by the way he takes care in dusting it off that he is a bit attached to it. He then tucks the borrowed longsword into his own belt and uses the now free one on the goblin. Cinching it around its neck, so that it does not choke it, he fashions a leash that Jharad tightly hangs onto and leads the goblin around.

Zeyala casts detect magic and focuses on the chest, its contents, and then the rest of the room. She finds that the chief’s potions and some of his arrows are indeed magical, but nothing else registers.

“Allow me!” Jethrik also casts detect magic on the contents of the box. Jethrik quickly discerns that the chief’s two potions are for curing light wounds. Five of the chief’s 11 arrows are magical, but they are of a moderate power and Jethrik is not yet so skilled in spellcraft that he can figure out their purpose. Nothing else of the chief’s is magical, though Jethrik notes that the masterwork chain shirt he was wearing would be suitable for himself if repaired and cleaned. The chief’s masterwork composite longbow however has too strong a draw for him. None of the items in the red chest are magical.

A search of the other huts reveals that the village is indeed abandoned except for the few goblins they already defeated. In the southernmost hut, Jharad finds hidden stash of 23 gold pieces and three skyrockets. Toshio notes that towards the northern end of the village and by the chief’s hut there is dried blood staining the ground and walkways as well as gashes and cuts in the walkways and on the stilts that elevate the village. There is nothing else of value in the village, and no other clues as to what disaster struck the Licktoads before their own arrival. Only their prisoner knows what occurred, and until they find someone who can speak the goblin tongue, he is unable to tell them what happened.

When they are done, Keng torches the village with some help from Jharad who uses his magic to light some torches. Then they head directly back to town. After the goblin is jailed, Toshio receives assurances from Sheriff Hemlock that it will not come to harm unless there is a trial that gives that result, and he also leave instructions that he and the others need to talk to it as soon as an interpreter can be found.

Sweeping the Licktoad Village

Toshio quickly draws his dagger and collects the ears of his kills. Returning to the others he says, “I think this would be a good time to return to town. Our resources are not fully exhausted, so we should be okay for the trip back. We can assess what we’ve seen and done, and come back tomorrow if needed. We should leave now (my recommendation), or press our attack now, but either way we need to do it right away. Comments?”

“I say we finish what we started,” Keng replies. Then continues with a sneer pointing at the ears, “Ah the samurai likes his trophies too, eh?

“I got them for you” replies Toshio, holding all four ears out to Keng. “I noticed there wasn’t time for you to get the other ears, and I don’t want you to end up disappointed.”

“I takes only what’s mine,” Keng replies with a wave off.

“Uhm… I’ll take ‘em…” mumbles Jethrik.

Toshio just tucks the ears into a pouch. Ignoring Jethrik, he says to Keng, “Okay. We’ll talk about money and the bounty when the fighting’s done.”

“How many goblins have been dispatched? A half-dozen?” asks Zeyala. ”Jharad, when you were here before, were their numbers much more than we’ve encountered?”

“Is anyone injured and how seriously?” asks Zeyala. She sees that Jharad looks pretty roughed up.

Jethrik gives a moment’s thought. “I still don’t see where we know what we’re dealing with here. Without knowing that, pressing the attack is terribly dangerous. Let’s withdraw, recover and scout some more.”

“I agree with Keng, and I suggest we do it quickly. No time for ears now,” says Jharad.

“Okay,” says Toshio. “There is an opportunity here that we’ll follow up on. Let’s take cover for a few moments, heal those in greater need, then renew our attack.”

“It seems that Keng and I can survive our scrapes, but Jharad is in need of something more immediate,” says Zeyala. “Before doing anything further, I think we should do so without wounds. Keng, Jharad, please gather around me,” she instructs.

“Good idea. Thank you,” says Toshio.

She once more calls upon her radiant healing power.

Feeling some urgency, Toshio encourages them. “Zeyala, have you finished with your healing? Is everyone ready? If not, let Zeyala know or ready your weapons. As Keng says, we should finish this, and we need to move quickly to do so. Okay, we’ll dash across and sweep through the huts, staying inside to reduce their arrows’ effectiveness. We’ll start there,” he indicates where he’d killed the two goblins, “and proceed hut-by-hut (counter-clockwise), and clear that big hut to the southeast last. I’ll charge in first – something about my appearance really shook the ones I fought. I don’t know why, but if it still works I want to take advantage of it. All set? Each of you please sound off with ‘ready’ if so.”

Jharad is the first to speak up. “Ready here. My magic is fading so I will support.”

“Perhaps you’re too pretty for them,” Keng says with a snort. He simply nods he is ready and hoists his axe to low ready position.

“Right behind you.” Jethrik adds brightly.

“I’m ready to go,” says Zeyala.

With Toshio leading they gather by the door of the first hut on their sweep, a ten by ten guard hut serving as a watchtower over the palisade with windows affording excellent views of the surrounding marsh. On the walkway behind them is the first goblin hut that Jethrik had already checked out upon first entering the village. Moving on they come to a short corridor with a door opening to their left, behind which is another goblin home. At the south end of the corridor, Toshio opens a door that opens onto a walkway between the palisade and another goblin hut. As soon as he opens the door, three goblins standing atop the roofs of the huts whose wall encloses the southern part of the walkway aim already lit Desnan candles at Toshio. Three small fireballs crash into the walkway and the doorframe, sparking, smoldering and hissing all around Toshio. He quickly closes the door.

“Toshio, maybe Jethrik and I can climb to the roof and provide supporting fire,” suggests Jharad. “There is not a lot of room for all of us in these tiny huts anyways.”

“There are three goblins on the roof over the storage room, shooting fireworks. Get bows or ranged weapons ready. Keng, let’s you and I climb up to the roof from the other side and charge them, leaping from this hut to theirs. That’ll get us up there with cover, and then we can disrupt their attacks while the others shoot them. And with a bit of luck we’ll catch them with some burnt-out fireworks instead of fresh ones. I’ll shout when we’re ready to charge. You guys pop out and start shooting them when you hear me.”

Just before Toshio and Keng leave, with the party centered around her, Zeyala calls upon blessings from Pharasma. A flash of glowing blue energy momentarily engulfs everyone in the burst and fades.

Jharad once again swaps to his bow and waits for the shout.

Keng readily follows Toshio liking the idea of climbing and jumping on the goblins.

With cover from the angle of the roof, Toshio looks to Keng to make sure they’re ready. ”On ‘three,’ okay? One… two… three!” He stands up with a shout as they charge at the goblins, ready to leap the gap and lay waste to them!

Keng is right behind Toshio and roars as well.

Hearing the roar of the charge, Jharad opens the door and steps out onto the walkway. Realizing that once Toshio and Keng are engaged with the goblins firing into their melee would be a mistake, Jharad once again changes weapons and moves to the door at the end of the walkway and opens it. “Come on Jethrik and Zeyala, let’s move to the storage room.”

“Lead on, Jharad,” says Zeyala. Zeyala follows along, and then casts guidance on Jharad.

Jethrik follows Jharad to the storeroom. “Following an elf into the closet,” Jethrik mumbles, “I’d best not think about that right now.”

Though probably not seen by Jethrik and Zeyala behind him, Jharad smiles at the comment.

Up above, the goblins have switched to their bows and directed all their fire at Toshio. Toshio doesn’t even make it to the first gap between the huts when he collapses from his wounds. The goblins run off across the roofs of the huts to keep their distance from their enemies.

Jharad decides to make sure Toshio and Keng are still advancing along with them. “Keng, all okay? Should we advance?”

Keng never slackens his speed and cries, “Toshio is down!” Then he makes the leap towards the goblins on the roof. He then drops his pack to gain more speed. ‘It’s clobbering time and I am is sick of these little green rats.

“I’m going up to check on Toshio,” says Zeyala.

“Yes, good. Let’s stick together,” Jharad replies and also climbs up.

Jethrik decides to try the lamest trick in the book… “Thank the gods!” he calls loudly, “the militia is coming must be 20 or 30 with two mounted officers!” He then uses his ghost sound spell to create the sounds of two horses whinnying and neighing.

Atop the huts the three goblins see Keng coming and loose their arrows at him before climbing down from the roof. In the goblin tongue the first is saying, “Oh narr! I da cavalry iz comin.” The second says, “Quik! we must get bak to da chief!” The third says, “Wait da minute yous morons. I don’t chek any horses. Someone’s tryin to use tricksy magic on us!”

Only one of the arrows hit Keng, and it barely did more than scratch his side. He reaches one of the goblins before he is able to climb over the side and scale down the wall of the hut. One swing of his axe and the goblin is flying in pieces over the side, raining blood and gore down upon the two goblins below who are, unfortunately for them, looking up at the spectacle with mouths open in shock and awe.

Zeyala crouches down beside Toshio and gently takes out the five arrows in his chest. She then lays her hands upon his bloody cuirass and sends her healing power into him. When he coughs and starts to revive, she exclaims, “I’m blind. What the hell am I doing on a rooftop?!”

“Ah, Ameiko?…” says Toshio, before realizing it’s Zeyala. “Oh. Thank you. I wasn’t sure where I was for a moment, and couldn’t… Well, thank you,” he finishes rather lamely, but with a smile at how silly he must sound.

“Toshio, we need to get off this roof,” says Zeyala. ”To keep you safe,” she says, as she casts virtue on him. She starts to climb back down from the rooftop.

Jethrik thinks, I came to dance, and I’m gonna dance. He leaps the gap and runs after Keng. He calls out to the goblins, “The barbarian is faster than you! Give up and we’ll let you live!”

Jharad also attempts to leap the gap but slips due to Toshio’s blood that had gotten onto his boots. Unable to catch himself on the edge of the next hut’s roof, he falls back onto the ladder, breaking it, and heavily into the mud beneath the elevated village.

“So, how are we doing?” Toshio asks as he starts to get up and recovers his katana. Hearing the crash of Jharad in answer to his question, he merely shakes his head and says quietly, “That bad, huh?”

Toshio makes sure Zeyala gets off the roof safely, then, holding her arm, brings her with him to check on Jharad.

“Jharad, I just fixed you up,” calls down Zeyala, “and now you go diving off rooftops?”

Toshio looks down at the elf amid the wreckage of the ladder and shakes his head in disbelief. ‘An elf made that racket and wreckage?’

Keng leaps off the roof back down to the wooden walkway with a mighty roar, “Gorum!”  He lands hard on the walkway. A plank even breaks under his weight. He runs down the walkway and tries to leap across to the walkway the goblins are now on, but he is far heavier than the goblins and doesn’t clear the distance. He lands on his hands and knees in the mud beneath the walkway. The goblins, however, are too busy yammering and banging on the locked double doors of a large hut to notice.

“Toshio, Jharad, please gather round,” says Zeyala and channels a healing burst. Feeling better, though not completely well, Toshio moves as swiftly as he is able beneath the huts and walkways looking for a position where he can loose his arrows at the goblins without exposing himself to enemy fire. Jharad limps his way over to Toshio and does the same.

Keng gets up, grabs the walkway and swings himself up onto it. In just three mighty strides he reaches the goblins and cuts the closest in twain.

Wide-eyed the remaining goblin screams and backs away from the double-doors of the large hut. He turns to leap off the walkway but then Toshio’s arrow is in his throat. He gurgles, coughs up blood, and falls face first into the mud.

Licktoad Village

It is less than an hour later, backtracking down the route taken by Jharad, that they come upon a filthy village surrounded by a crude wooden palisade sitting atop a low hummock of solid ground – the Licktoad Village. A wooden gate in the north wall of the palisades lies in shambles on the ground. Nearby, a large, algae-filled pool on the northeastern side breaks the palisade and allows a clearer view into the village’s interior, which consists of a collection of ramshackle huts connected by wooden walkways, all built on thick wooden stilts. Jharad does not remember the gate being broken down. In fact, he had barred it behind him when he left. Nor do any of them see any goblins.

“Hmm, this is not how I left it,” remarks Jharad. “Something has happened here, and recently.”

“I think we should take a closer look.” Jethrik says in a low voice. “I might have the best chance of getting close without being observed. One of the benefits of not being grotesquely lanky.”

Jharad says to Toshio, “I second that. If nothing else, I would like to look around to see if my belongings are still here.”

Jharad is looking around (not moving around) for a good place to cover the village with his bow. The towers look tempting, but too difficult to climb without being seen.

“Are you shittin’ me? We came all this way for this?” asks Keng as he looks around, seeing nothing but shambles. ”I will go with Jharad and watch his back as he looks for his gear.”

“Well I think Jethrik is better off taking a first look on his own,” Jharad remarks. “Up to Toshio though. I can cover him from the gate with my bow. It’ll keep me hidden and will provide me some cover.”

“C’mon elf. Boy Wonder is too busy checking the fit of his diapers. Let’s get your stuff and get outta here.”

“Agreed. We should check it out. There may be opportunities here, with or without goblins,” says Toshio in a quiet voice. “Wait a moment. It won’t hurt to have Jethrick scout it out first. Then we can enter or attack with better understanding. Let’s all take cover ourselves, and be ready to support Jethrick. Jethrick, don’t hesitate to come back at full speed if necessary, and give us what warning you can. Don’t sneak up on us even if you’re coming back quietly – we don’t want any accidents.” Toshio readies his short bow.

Jharad nods and takes up a position at one side of the broken gate. He signs with his hands, suggesting Keng join him and take position on the other side.

Keng pulls up then shrugs and stands where Jharad pointed with his axe held in the high ready position.

Carefully, Jethrik enters through the open gateway and moves to check out the elevated hut just to the right of the gate. He finds a ladder there leading up to a doorway. He sneaks up to peek through alightly ajar door. Jethrik only needs to push it open all the way to see if anything or anyone is inside. Before doing so, he glances back at the fire pit in the middle of the courtyard and sees that it is filled with the cremated corpses of goblins, perhaps a dozen or more. Jethrik looks over to where Jharad is peering around the gate and waves for the others to come in.

Jharad says in a low voice, “Jethrik wants us to move up to him,” and waits to follow Keng in.

“That’s our cue. Let’s hear what he has to say.” Toshio heads over to Jethrick, keeping his eyes sharp for threats.

“Told you,” Keng says as he swaggers into the deserted village.

Jharad chuckles as he follows the half-orc in.

“Good call, Keng. Good call. Thanks for being patient.”

While the others come in, Jethrik pushes the door open further and sees that the hut is abandoned. It is a typical goblin pigsty but there is no blood. The wooden shutters opening up to the outside are broken open, as though someone or something leaped through them. This is unlike the front gate, which looks like it may have been smashed inward. Jethrik climbs into the hut and finds nothing more than goblin rubbish and a door opening up onto the elevated walkway.

Jethrik quietly climbs down the ladder back to the ground level and moves over to his friends. “I didn’t see much, but I saw enough to figure it was safe for everyone to come this far. I think the goblins, or most of them were killed. The building is empty and the bonfire pit has a dozen burned goblin bodies. Still there may be some goblins coming back to check out the wreckage. Or there might be the victors setting up in their new digs. I couldn’t say. I could keep searching if you like.”

“Can anyone read tracks well enough to tell what has happened, or who did this?” asks Toshio. “Are these bodies the youngsters? Where do you suppose their warriors are? And yes, let’s scout together. That’ll keep Keng in temper.”

Jharad says, “Well the storage room I was held in is back there. I found Slorb close to there as well. I suggest we enter over there up the stairs or that door over there. The huts I went through were connected, we may be able to walk through them as a group and find out more.”

“Okay,” says Toshio. “And maybe we’ll find your gear as well. Another thing to watch for – they may have left behind a stash of fireworks. It would be great to get those out of their filthy little hands.”

Toshio leads them up the ladder. They enter a guard hut and find it empty. Exiting to the south they find an empty corridor with a door at the end and another halfway down opening into what proves to be yet another empty hut. They go to the end of the corridor and Toshio goes through the door and onto another walkway. To his immediate left is a ladder and across the way another hut. Toshio sees a goblin peering at him from the hut’s window. The goblin quickly ducks his head down when he sees that Toshio has noticed him. Toshio indicates to Keng that he saw a goblin. He moves back into the hut so they can consult.

“Toshio,” Keng whispers, “There is something wrong here.”

“Agreed,” Jethrik adds, “I’m not sure who, but someone attacked the goblins. And either they or the survivors control the village and they may be setting a trap for us.”

“What does the witch sense?” Keng asks.

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” says Zeyala.

“Agreed. But what? Can we capture that goblin for questioning?” asks Toshio in return.

“I say pull back and burn the whole thing down just to be sure.” Keng recommends.

Toshio says, “Okay. We’ve scouted the village, but what do we know? Nothing that will help keep our town safe. Let’s circle the village, keeping a sharp lookout. We’ll look into each hut. Maybe we’ll find some useful information or their firework stash. If we can capture or kill a goblin, fine. Then we’ll head back. We can come back tomorrow if needed. How does that sound? In any case, we mustn’t get caught out after dark.”

“But I thought the goblins sleep during the day,” says Zeyala. “I agree it looks like something has happened to the ones living here, but if there are any goblins left, maybe they’re holed up somewhere resting. Should we break off before learning anything?”

Keng sighs and shakes his head at Toshio’s ‘plan,’ “Toshio, we should burn the village. It does two things. It denies its future use by creatures that seek ill of your village and two, if there are creatures lying in wait for us it will flush them out. Let’s stop talking and start doing something.”

Jethrik chuckles, “Kinda hard to turn in ears when they are ash though.” Looking more sober, “And how would we start such a large fire with nothing but rotting, wet wood?”

“I’m sure Jharad has something we can use!” Keng responds.

Toshio appreciates the humor. “Yes, he always seems to pull something out of, well, nowhere. I’m sure he won’t let us down.”

Keng nods. “Jharad got any fire handy?”

Jharad snaps his fingers with a “Fogo,” and produces a small flame at the end of his index finger. Smiling, he snuffs it out with his other hand.

After thinking the situation over Jharad says to Toshio in a matter-of-fact tone, “We need to know what happened here and assess the current goblin threat. I suggest we get off this boardwalk and into those huts for cover and observe from inside as we search the rest of the west side. If we find nothing then we check the east side of the village. Our mission was not to assault the village, but things have changed now. We need to make a more thorough evaluation.”

Toshio lays out a new plan. “Alright Keng. Here’s what I want you to be doing. Break down the door to each room as we come to it. We’ll search each room. When we’re done with that building, you burn it. We’ll start with those buildings off to the side.  That one first, then the next, and then this third. Then we’ll start back here and work around that way. We’ve seen one live goblin, and there are probably more, so don’t get sloppy. Zeyala, how much healing power do you have? It could determine when we need to bug out.”

Zeyala answers, “Well, I had to spend some of my healing on the halfling, which some of you may have picked up on my reluctance to use it before knowing what we might find out here. Then I healed Keng, which was absolutely necessary,” Zeyala thinks aloud. “The healing I provided for Keng, that I can do a couple more times. That burst of healing energy, like I used in the shack, based on what I’ve been able to do before, less than a half dozen more times,” she says. “My curing touch is different than my healing channels. When I touch, it is focused healing energy on a single person. When I channel, all creatures within the burst are healed, friend or foe,” Zeyala explains.

“Questions?” Toshio asks. “Okay, let’s not give the goblins more planning time than we’ve had. Let’s start doing.” Toshio leads them over to the first building.

Jharad observes that the huts they are in are connected, “Toshio, these huts are connected. They need to be burned together after we have searched them all. If not, then we will be running from the fire as it chases us from hut to hut.”

When they arrive at the hut on the far northeast section of the village Toshio says, “Okay, Keng. Do it” motioning to the door he should break down.

Keng deliberately doesn’t kick in the door. He slowly and carefully opens it while standing to the side in case a ranged weapon is waiting within. In this way he avoids a barrage of small goblin arrows save one that sticks in his left arm, painful but not more than a serious scratch. The goblins all run out of the other door of the hut, down the ladder and out into the village courtyard below the walkway.

Toshio shoots one of the fleeing goblins but misses as they are too small and fast. “Alright. If there are two doors, we block both of them next time, curse it!” growls Toshio in frustration as he realizes there is a hut door right behind him.

Zeyala squeezes by Jharad and Toshio and into the cover of the hut. May your strike be true,” commands Zeyala, as a glowing yellow orb appears in her hand. She reaches out and touches Keng, the yellow light transferring from her hand and instantly bathing him with its glow and fades just as quickly. ”For luck,” she whispers.

“Thank you Zeyala,” responds Keng.

Keng isn’t about to go chasing after goblins – he smells a trap. He does say to Toshio, “Good idea. How about a pair of us go in from the back while the rest go in from the front?”

As Toshio moves aside, Keng opens the door to the hut behind him, but sees no goblins amidst the clutter of the long hut beyond the door.

Jethrik and Jharad loose arrows back at the goblins. Jethrik strikes true and wounds one. Jharad touches his bow, causing it to glow briefly with a blue hue, and then shoots at the one Jehtrik had just wounded and finishes him off.

The two remaining goblins return fire, both hitting Jharad, though they do little more than pierce the skin as he is now protected by a chain shirt and greaves. The goblins take cover behind the palisade.

Not being the greatest with a bow, Toshio drops it and draws his katana. Leaping from the walkway, he runs at the goblins. “Keng, with me!”

Keng, once again in a mighty rage, charges across the courtyard to the gate and splits the goblin to his left down the middle. The other drops his bow and tries to stab Keng in the back with his dogslicer but the half-orc is already spinning around to face him and he is forced to back off.

Zeyala rushes to Jharad’s side and confers the same blessing upon him that she conferred upon Keng.

Jethrik takes cover and does a little stand up. “Ugh, more goblins! I had to share a wagon with a goblin and his rotweiller on my way to Sandpoint… It wasn’t so bad, they were a really cute couple.”

Jharad jumps up, grabs the roof of the hut and scrambles on top to get a better view of the whole village.

The remaining goblin, seeing his comrade pulverized by the raging half-orc, drops his dogslicer and races down the trail. Keng gives chase. Toshio heads back to the walkway to recover his bow.

Atop the roof of the hut, Jharad looks around and sees to his alarm that two squads (of three goblins each) are climbing up onto the roofs to the south, and a third squad is gathering on the walkways ready to charge up the center of the village towards Zeyala and Jethrik.

Jharad calls out, “Incoming from South, 3 ground, 6 roof!” and moves just a bit closer to the 3 goblins on his roof. “Disfarcar,” he commands and throws colored sand that quickly turns into a vivid cone of brilliant color and engulfs the goblins.

Jethrik, seeing the goblins coming onto the walkway fire his bow at them but only hits a hut behind them and takes cover behind a hut. “These things don’t just breed like rats, they breed with them too.”

Zeyala casts guidance on Toshio and jumps down from the walkway and makes for the gate.

The goblin that Keng is chasing veers off the trail into a patch of brambles and attempts to weave his way through them, unfortunately for him getting caught just a little ways of the trail. Keng finds, though, that he will have to find a way to work his way over to the goblin to get him.

On the rooftops of the village the remaining goblin in front of Jharad and the three on the other roof loose their arrows at the elf. Two arrows hit and it is enough to bring Jharad down. He collapses and passes out.

The squad of goblins on the walkway loose their arrows at Jethrik but are unable to hit him due to the cover provided by the hut.

Determined not to leave anyone, Toshio sprints down the walkway to take cover around the hut on the western side. He shoots at the lead goblin down the walkway and wounds him in the leg. He looks for convenient huts, which may provide temporary shelter while the collect themselves. ‘Great! The only guy that can cast mage hand to pull a downed person to safety is the person down!’ reflects Toshio with strong irony.

Keng curses and then turns and runs back to village.

Tucking his bow under one arm, Jethrik takes a scoop of butter from the pouch at his belt and smears it over his palm. With his other hand he pantomimes walking across the grease. “Whoops!” he exclaims and his fingers take a pratfall. At this the butter disappears in a glowing mist and rockets to the roof under the goblins. All of them drop their bows and start windmilling their arms. One of them actually slips off the roof and a cry of pain can be heard from beneath the hut as he falls to the muddy ground below.

Zeyala calls to Toshio, “Is it bad?  Is Jharad still on the roof?” Not waiting for a response, she darts back toward Toshio and shouts, “Feel the warmth of my healing wash over you!” A glowing burst of healing energy erupts from her body, washing over anyone nearby.

Still watching the goblins, Toshio replies “Yes – to both! Jharad is stuck and unconscious on the roof.” before he can go further he feels the healing power flow from her and says “Good job! As soon as he’s down with us we’ll make our exit. Everyone take what cover you can until we leave. Think defensively!”

The goblin on the roof with Jharad leaps over him (for he has been healed somewhat and is starting to regain consciousness but has not yet stirred) and fires his bow at Zeyala in the doorway, hitting her in the side, though it is not a fatal wound. The goblin who fell gets up and runs beneath the walkways, joined by another who leaps off the walkway. The goblins on the roof of the other hut climb down and out of sight. The two still on the walkway to the south take better cover and fire arrows at Toshio and Jethrik but hit neither of them.

Toshio wounds the foremost goblin down the walkway a second time.

Keng, returning to the gate and seeing two goblins under the walkway just beneath his friends, charges into them and cuts down the first one with his axe.

Jharad rolls away from the goblin and stands. “Escudo,” he says as a magical sheen surrounds him.

Zeyala also retreats within the hut she is in and casts virtue upon herself. Zeyala calls out, “Is anyone injured?”

“Me,” cries Jharad.

Jethrik keeps behind the hut so as not to present any kind of target to the goblins.

The goblin on the rooftop with Jharad looses his arrow at Keng but the shot goes wide. He then wheels around to see that Jharad is now standing right behind him.

Down the walkway, the goblin that has been hit twice by Toshio retreats to the window of the guard hut behind him and leaps through it. The other goblin keeps firing his arrows at the corner where Jethrik had been.

The lone goblin facing Keng turns and flees, weaving beneath the stilts that elevate the huts and walkways.

Toshio is concerned that they’ll just be easier targets if they move into the swamp while pursued by the goblins. Okay, we’ll have to deal with these first, he thinks silently and quickly changes his plan. He drops his bow (again), hops down from the walkway, crosses over to a ladder and waits, katana drawn, outside the door of the hut that he believes other goblins may soon be rushing out of.

Keng reaches up and pulls himself onto the walkway and moves over beside Jethrik, who is sitting tight. Keng starts to climb up onto the roof of the hut to get the goblin with the bow.

Zeyala stays she has full cover, however, she is ready to attack the first enemy that comes within striking range.

Jharad looses an arrow at the goblin in front of him, hitting and wounding him.

The goblin on the roof looses an arrow in return but it bounces off Jharad’s magical shield. Panicked the goblin jumps to his death off the roof.

Jharad keeps low to give himself maximum cover from the goblins below as he finishes off the two unconscious goblins still on the roof. He yells out, “All clear on the rooftops!”

Over at the door to the other hut, Toshio strikes down the first goblin to open the door. The other takes his place and swings at Toshio. He doesn’t even come close to actually hitting him. In fact, he seems crazed with fear upon actually catching sight of Toshio. They begin trading blows.

Outside, Jharad runs across the roof and drops down to the walkway. Jharad peeks his head into the hut where Zeyala had taken refuge. “Can I get some heal… Ahhhhhh!” Zeyala almost hits him with her spear point but stops in time. She moves her spear away and again channels the healing energy of the gods.

As Zeyala channels, Jharad asks Jethrik and Keng, “Where are the goblins?”

Keng, his rage spent, is panting like a blown, broke down old dog; great raspy gurgling sounds coming from him. His eyes are glassy and rheumy. He tries to center himself using Shoanti calming breaths; slowly he starts to feel his breathing slow down.  His eyes begin to clear and his thoughts focus. “Jharad, the dirty little green snot monkeys are tricky cowardly bastards and won’t show themselves. They will be hiding in ambush awaiting us to come to them. They may have moved to block our retreat. We might be trapped here. Once we have rested and healed, let’s move forward together down the walkway. I will take the lead to get them to reveal themselves by catching their arrows.”

Jharad replies, “Yes, good. Lets take up with Toshio and move together through the huts, flushing them out to the big one in the southeast.”

Toshio manages to wound the goblin he is fighting, but it seems fanatically determined to keep fighting, though no closer to hitting Toshio. Toshio senses that the goblin is fighting in a panicked frenzy and has been since he caught sight of him. The goblins of course knew that human warriors might be waiting for them, so it must be something about Toshio himself that is causing this panic. Toshio continues the fight with the goblin, adding kiais and other shouts to his strikes in an attempt to further shake the thing’s confidence.

“Toshio!” shouts Zeyala. “My powers are nearly half drained.”

Finally, with a thundering “Kiai!” Toshio separates the goblin’s head from its shoulders. No other goblins can be seen or heard in the hut or anywhere else for the present.

The Soggy River Monster

It is a little past noon when they finally reach the Old Fishing Trail and cross the decrepit bridge over the Soggy River that Jharad passed over the night before. Once they start down the trail, Jharad pulls out his bow and loosely nocks an arrow. He holds it comfortable this way as he walks. Keng crosses over first, axe at the ready, but even he is unprepared for the creature that launches itself at him from the mud and reeds at the side of the trail just before he is able to step off the bridge. It sinks its fangs into the meat of Keng’s right leg and flails at him with its claws, trying to get a good grip on him to drag him off the bridge and into the murky waters beneath. The creature is roughly humanoid in shape, although its legs bend backwards like those of a dog. It’s pallid skin is crisscrossed by a network of visible gold-tinged veins, and its jaws split down the middle into tiny grasping claws.

Keng feels the jaws close on his leg and growls turning to look at what has bitten him. Before he can focus on the hideous creature his mind clouds with vile and evil thoughts; anger rises towards his orc father and lost human mother; he wants nothing more than to leave this stupid band of idiots and find his father and torture him to death. His mind then wanders to how much gold he should be getting paid for all that he has done for these ungrateful humans. Then his shame at how ugly he is; as no one wants to look upon his visage nor mate with him; he is alone, poor and outcast.

His horrible thoughts almost make him forget that he is being chewed on by some unnatural thing and dragged into a watery grave. He reaches for his rage but cannot call upon it. He knows something is wrong, he is being dragged off the road and he can’t feel his right leg. He tries to concentrate but his mind keeps slipping away.

Jethrik rushes forward fishing through the pouch at his belt. He pulls out some sweets shaped like little bears and a feather. “Couchie coo,” he sings as he tickles the little bears. The monster however, does not find this enchantment even mildly amusing, but of course is no barrel of laughs himself as Jethrik and his companions can see.

Jharad charges across the bridge pulling his longsword and touching it with a finger as he runs, causing it to briefly glow a blueish hue. With one two-handed swing he separates the beast’s head from its body, and watches both drop to the ground lifeless. “Trapo,” he says and conjures a towel that he then uses to clean the gore from his sword.

“Awww,” Jethrik frown “That’s not funny at all.”

Toshio stops in his tracks as the body falls, stunned that it was dispatched so swiftly, and further stunned that it was dispatched by the elf so swiftly. Composing himself, he returns his (still clean) blade to its scabbard. “Zeyala, can you see to Keng’s wounds?

Keng is writhing on the ground, snarling, grabbing and pounding his head and drooling…  ”Jharad… Zeyala… Poison… Can’t… Control my thoughts… Ack…. Grahl…. Help!”

Zeyala moves up to Keng.  A glowing ball of warm light forms in her hand that she applies to the wound. Keng’s wound fully heals and before a minute has passed he recovers from whatever affliction came upon him from the creature’s bite.

“Thank the gods you’re doing better,” Jethrik exclaims. “I’d hate to see you out of control!”

“I am sure none of us would,” says Jharad. He puts a hand on Keng’s shoulder and says, “I am glad you feel better.”

Toshio nods in agreement. “Hmm. Yes. Zeyala, any idea what caused that fit?”

Keng still slightly unsettled from the effects of the creature’s bite looks at Toshio and snarls, “Poison, you morons!”

Toshio just rolls his eyes. ‘I suppose I shouldn’t expect much elaboration from an orc,’ he thinks to himself.

“Sorry Toshio,” replies Zeyala. “As Keng said, it was possibly some sort of poison.”

“Well, thanks for giving it some thought before answering,” Toshio replies.

Keng says to Zeyala, “My thanks.”

Then to Jharad he says, “I see you are good for more than parlor tricks.”

Jharad smiles and replies, “Saved your ass.”

Keng grunts, “Indeed. I owe you one.”

“Uh oh. Should we establish just what that’s worth to a mercenary? In case the chance of saving a life in return actually doesn’t happen?” Toshio asks.

“Yeah, after that display, I’m definitely glad we corked our weapons before sparring,” adds Zeyala.

“Just to let you all know,” says Zeyala, “I can routinely check wounds, but my healing powers have their limits. Once I have expended myself, I will need a full rest before I can provide anymore. I will let you know when that time comes.”

Toshio responds, “Thank you. Please let us know, even before that time comes. If we have to get out of a bad situation, we’re going to have to start the process before we’re all expended – healing, magic, ammunition or health.”

After cleaning and sheathing his blade, Jharad recovers his longbow and arrow.

While the freakishly tall elf struts around feeling good about himself, Jethrik looks under the bridge for bags of gold and treasure. ‘Well, maybe copper and bangles, but it would be nice if the thing had something shiny.’

Jharad says, “I am sure that this was the creature I saw peeking out at me the other night. I would guess anything of value would be found under the bridge. Let me see if I can find anything.” Jharad says, “Mao,” and begins to feel around under the bridge and in the muck with mage hand. All that he and Jethrik find, however, is mud, slippery rocks, and crayfish.

“When life hands you crayfish, make jambalaya!” Jethrik shrugs.

“Do you suppose that thing had a lair anywhere nearby? We should see if there is anything of value in it – how else will we pay dear Keng?” Toshio says with a chuckle as he finishes crossing the bridge.

It is clear, however, that there is no lair within sight.

Toshio says, “Well, since its lair isn’t showing itself, I’m sure we can find it later. Right now, the Licktoads await!”

When all is settled following the ‘Battle on the Bridge’ Toshio suggests, “Well, let’s try again. Keng, you’ll have to be more careful or we won’t reach the Licktoads before dark.” He hides his mirthful smile (but can’t keep the humor out of his voice) and stays alert in case Keng doesn’t find this funny.

After being back on the trail a bit, Toshio quips, “Master elf, maybe we should keep you up front. Then we warrior types might feel much safer. Who would have expected such a performance from a wizard?”

Jharad chuckles, “While happy I could assist Keng, I think I will stick with his wise plan and stay behind him.”

“Hehe. I don’t blame you. Good choice.”

Visit to Proudfoot

Jharad is outfitted for the day’s trip. Backpack in place, strung bow slung over his shoulder and sword at his side he looks well rested. His hair is no longer white but a muttled straw yellow and marsh green, very similar to colors found in the Marsh. His cloak and pants are similarly marked. On the breast of his chain shirt is a picture depicting Slorb’s head with an arrow through it and large X’s for eyes. “Good morning everyone,” he greets the group cheerfully.

As they gather in the morning Toshio looks around to see that everyone is there. One by one he mentally marks them present: Jharad, Keng, Zeyala, and Jethrick. He also checks to see that they are all attired, armored and equipped as appropriate.

“Good morning” opens Toshio. “I’d like to start off by explaining in advance, nothing I say or ask you to do is meant to insult any of you. It’s just that I don’t know how much each of you knows, and I’d rather say some things and risk a mild offense rather than leaving something unsaid but needed.

“I’d also like to review our goals before we start walking. We are here to scout the Licktoads’ settlement. Just as importantly, I want us all to come back. If there is opportunity to do more, we’ll evaluate the situation before proceeding.

“Now that those things are out of the way, let’s head out. Keng, will you accompany me up front? I suggest Jharad and Zeyala stick to the middle. And Jethrick, will you please guard our tail?” With that, he heads in the direction of the halfling’s home on the New Fishing Trail.

Keng nods his agreement.

Jharad jokes to Zeyala, “Maybe I should open all of my conversations that way, ‘I mean no offence by what I am about to say…’” and chuckles.

Zeyala flashes a smile back to Jharad.

“Why do I have to guard the tail?” Jethrik quips “Is he sayin’ I gotta big butt?”

Toshio, hearing this, writes it off as the jester plying his trade and makes no reply.

By mid-morning they reach the New Fishing Trail. They find the wetland in the daylight to be a tangle of nettles, reeds, and other swamp plants often supplemented by larger vegetation – cypress, eucalyptus, oak, and willow trees mostly. Even following the trail, it is slow going at times, as underbrush encroaches upon the trail and muddy patches and small creeks bar their way. Fortunately, the morning fog has already burned off by the time they reach the marsh. The aptly named Soggy River is the primary waterway that flows through the Brinestump. As with the Old Fishing Trail a damp and mossy bridge with missing planks must be crossed to get over it.

Toshio says, “All right. I’ll go first. Then Jharad, Zelaya and Jethrick. Keng, please bring up the rear, and we’ll have you at the fore once we’ve all crossed. Speaking of order, when possible, keep spread out enough so one hazard won’t catch more than one of us.”

“In the rear?” mutters Keng, “Look boy, I need to be where the sword meets the shield.”

“No need for fuss. You cross first and cover the rest of us. I’ll get the rear for the crossing. But let’s go, daylight’s burning.”

Jharad says nothing but keeps between 5 and 10 feet behind Toshio.  Remembering the wispy-spooky-something-or-other from when he passed through the marsh last, he takes specific precautions to glance under the bridge before crossing it.

The trail continues to wind through the marsh and over two more bridges before they come to a muddy trail that leads up to a swampy lagoon. The open ocean is visible just beyond these shallow waters, while an old two-story building, its walls soggy with moss and its roof sagging with age, sits on the lagoon’s eastern shore.

The “shack” is a two-story wooden affair and the trail leads right to the front door. Around the back there is a ten-foot stone wall fencing in a garden and a porch held up by wooden pillars whose roof is the overhanging second floor.

“Let’s go see Mister Proudstump” says Toshio, mostly to himself as he leads them to the front door.

After Toshio knocks, a voice inside calls out, “Ariite. Oo is it?

“Izawa Toshio, and four others. May we speak with you? We’d like to ask you about the marsh.”

“Oh Am dead sorry ’bout dat, but Am not feel’n tew bright terdee. Could yous come back inna few days? I’d be made-up ter rabbit about de marsh whun Am scutty.”

‘What’s he saying?’ Jethrik wonders. ‘He’s sick but he should be feeling well enough to run around the marsh in a few days?’ Raising his voice enough to be heard by the hobbit inside he says, “Mr. Proudfoot, we simply need to speak with you. Further, we have a healer along with us who might be able to help you somewhat.”

Toshio was about to say something similar, but lets Jethrick’s reply suffice.

“A ‘ealer yous say? Actually, ay ‘ad a run in wi’ a giant snake last even’n and it bit me. Ay drove it off, but Ay did get bit. It would be wonderful if yous could elp.” Cautiously the halfling opens the door and peers out at Toshio and the others. The halfling certainly does seem a bit shaky and worn out. He opens the door a little further and says, “Please come in, dough Ay dare say iddle be a blind bit crowded. Also, it’s a choss. It’s not oftun ay get visitors.” Within is a roughly 10’ by 20’ room, with a settle and some dingy chipped pots with various flowers and shrubs growing in them.

Keng unslings his pack and props it against the wall, sits on it, extends his legs and closes his eyes, “More talking, nap time.”

With a broad smile, Zeyala says, “Let’s have a look at that bite of yours then.”

Jharad enters last, props his pack next to Keng and sits. With a word, “Conselho,” he creates a floating chessboard complete with a few rough mystical creatures on each side. With a touch of his finger they animate and can be pushed, square-by-square in sequence, till two occupy the same space and brutally fight. With a smile he offers to play this ‘game’ with Keng.

Keng grunts agreement and makes a move.

Zeyala examines Proudfoot’s snakebite but sees that at this point there is not much she can do for him. The poison has already done its work and Proudfoot has survived. Now all that can be done is for him to slowly recover. She does see that the bite he has suffered could be healed with a cure spell or the channeling of positive energy.

“Well Proudfoot,” says Zeyala. “You seemed to have made it through the worst of it. There’s not much I can do for you.”  After making a quick scan of the shack, she adds, “Do your best to keep it clean. If we’re able to, I’ll check in on you before we return to town.” Zeyala moves back to Toshio and out of his way.

Toshio asks, “We are out here in response to the goblin problems the town has had recently. We are wondering if you can tell us of any other hazards or landmarks we should be aware of as we scout the goblin settlement.”

“Oh, Ay could tell yous about de Licktoads Ay suppose. If yous could dough, sound as a pound berd, do yous ‘uv de power ter ‘eal me wounds. Ay kun yous can’t do anyth’n about de poison, but de bite is rather painful and a little ‘eal’n would be laughin ter close it up.”

Zeyala steps back behind Toshio to whispers to him, “I could cure him of his affliction, but it would limit what I’ll be able to do once we leave. What do you think?”

“How much of a limit?” whispers Toshio, mostly thinking aloud. Without waiting for a reply, he continues, “I think you should heal him if you can.”

Zeyala walks back to Proudfoot’s side. “If you are willing, let the blessings of Pharasma heal you.” Her body begins to glow and a warm burst of light fills the tiny shack.

Keng looks at Jharad over the game board, “Too much talking. At this rate I’ll be an old man by the time we carve a few goblin ears.”

“Yes, but if Toshio and Zeyala do their jobs right then it makes ours easier,” replies Jharad as he moves his war pig into the square with Keng’s troll. The troll quickly scoops it up with both arms and bites right through its torso. Dropping the remaining pig chunks, blood spewing from each half, the troll lets out a loud belch and grins.

Keng smiles a feral grin seeing his troll eat the war pig, then he smiles and says, “Jethrik, watch this,” as he moves his mounted griffin onto a gnome pike man. The griffin bites off the gnome’s head and eats it. Keng turns to Jharad, “You’re right of course.”

Jharad blurts out a chuckle as his gnome figure is eaten.

Toshio glances their way and is pleased to see the elf and orc getting along.

Meanwhile, the life-giving energies channeled by Zeyala cause Proudfoot’s bite wound to close over. He still looks in pain however. He says, “Ta. Dat feels a little scutty. Now de Licktoads, Ay tinnie tell yous dat dee live about south-east o’ e’yer. If yous tinnie find de Owd Fish Trail from de Lost Coast Road and follow it westward and dun follow it ter de rite westward whuz de trail splits, dun yous wul come de Licktoad Village. Ay think you’d beesknees ‘ry dough. Ay suspect dee ay gett’n ready fe an all-out attack ed de farms er evun Sandpoint. Say, yous wuddun be able ter spare me a blind bit more ‘eal’n could yous? Am still a blind bit bruised up. Thuz wuz a lotti stumbl’n about Am afraid.”

“I’m sorry Mister Proudfoot,” says Zeyala. “I’ve done all I can for you at this time. As I mentioned, if we pass through this way before going back to town, I will see if I can further tend to you injuries.”

“Bright ta anyroad. Am se you’ve done all yous tinnie. Nah need ter come back e’yer. Ay juss need a few days o’ welt. Sound as a pound luck against de Licktoads.” Proudfoot then shakily gets to his feet to get the door for them all and show you out.

Keng’s impulsiveness in taking the gnome pikeman works against him as Jharad’s elven archer sticks two arrows into the troll’s brain cavity. Before it can begin to regenerate, the arrows explode, sending the now flaming troll skull across the room. Seeing as they are being kicked out of the halfling’s hut Jharad dissipates the board, picks up his pack and leaves before Keng’s protest can get ugly.

Keng just stares at the board in disbelief, or at the now disappeared board, and says while shaking his head, “Frackin elf! I love his tricks!”

“Have you seen the marsh monster?” Toshio turns to the others, knowing he got the name wrong. “What did Nesgus call it? That pale humanoid thing?” Turning back to the halfling he asks, “Anyway, have you ever seen sign of it, or do you know what it is capable of?”

Proudfoot shakes his head and shrugs.

Toshio hoped for more information, and Proudfoot has only given them what they already knew. Toshio had somehow thought someone who lived in the swamp would be able to tell more about it. “Can you tell us anything else about the dangers of the marsh? Anything would be helpful. Are there other creatures we should be wary of? And do you know how many goblins there are in the Licktoad tribe now?”

“Ay try ter keep ter myself over e’yer. De last th’n wanna do is attract de attention o’ de Licktoads. Ay leyuv dem alone and dee leyuv me alone. As fe any uvver munstis, ay suppose thuz ay bags o’ things ter look out fe. Thuz ay giant pop bugs and spiders and boggards. Ay dun kun about any pale spook dough. I’d love ter chat, but Ay must be gett’n back ter bed. Ta again fe de ‘eal’n, and sound as a pound ‘unt’n. Lati now.” Proudfoot opens the door and smiles, waiting for Toshio, Zeyala, and the others to leave.

Toshi says, “I suppose so. Well, thank you for confirming our information. We’ll check on you on our way out. Zeyala may be able to help you more then.” Turning to the others he asks, “Everybody ready?”

When they’re out of earshot, Toshio mutters, “Well, that was disappointing. I didn’t expect friendly from a hermit, but I really had hoped for more detailed information.” Shaking his head he says, “So be it. Come, let’s go find the Old Fishing Trail and see what we can see of the Licktoads.”

Mapping the Way

Once the duel is over and all debts settled, Ameiko approaches Toshio and looks as though she is about to volunteer, but then looks around and frowns, muttering, “I would go with you, Toshio, but I have an inn to repair and alarmed customers to see to. May the gods, and especially Iomedae look after you.” She smiles at him, but there is a worried look in her eyes.”

“You’ll be missing out on the fun…” Toshio says to Ameiko with a smile. “But yes. It’s good to be responsible and take care of one’s own” he adds with mock seriousness. He leaves it up to her to decide just how serious he is being. Internally, he’s highly amused with his own joke and has trouble keeping the chuckles from slipping out. He only partly manages to keep the smirk from being too much.

Sandru says, mostly to Jethrik, “I would also go with you, but I need to see to the horses and to repairing the wagon. I will help Sheriff Hemlock here and will certainly join the militia once they are gathered. The menace must be stopped. Just scout out the goblin village. Don’t try to do anything stupid on your own.”

Keng is bored with all the jibber jabber. He speaks up, “Good townsfolk. While I am no goblin lover, this is not my town nor my fight. I came here looking for work. Do you want to hire my axe for this raid?”

Sheriff Hemlock, who is still present, points to the Help Wanted board and the poster of the goblin bounty. He says, “If you want work Keng, all you have to do is harvest ears or better yet bring back the head of Chief Gutwad – 10 gold for each ear and 300 gold for the head. I’ll talk to the Mayor Kendra, but after tonight we may double that bounty. I can’t speak for her though.”

“I can speak for myself,” says a surprisingly young, yet aristocratic, woman from the doorway. She walks in and introduces herself. “I am Mayor Kendra Deverin. And right here and now I’ll authorize a doubling of the bounty. And that will be 20 gold for each ear even if its from the same goblin – just to make that clear.” She crosses her arms and looks Keng in the eye. “Will that be enough for you?” She then looks around at the others as well.

Keng rubs his chin and looks up at the ceiling (trying) to do the math in his head, using his fingers to count, “40 per head plus 300 for Gutbomb…” “Carry the one… Okay by me,”

Toshio isn’t sure he trusts a mere mercenary, and certainly doesn’t care for that kind of attitude. However, this doesn’t seem to be something that needs to be discussed. He can wait and watch how the big fellow really acts. ‘Hmmm,’ thinks Toshio. ‘Maybe we can work him in with a fair payment that actually benefits the town more.’

Seeing that no one else is volunteering for the scouting expedition, Toshio suggests, “Let’s start with that map, then a visit to Proudstump.”

Jharad clears a large space on a table and begins crafting elements to form a rough map showing Sandpoint, The Lost Coast Road, and Brinestump Marsh. He marks a position on the road where the goblin ambush against the caravan took place then pauses to make sure everybody sees and understands the map.

“Here are the major elements we need, now I will get into more detail.” He touches the position of the ambush and the map slowly zooms in to show only the road and a portion of Brinestump. From there he traces his finger, creating a dashed green line leading away from the road and into the swampy marsh.

Jharad comments, “Here is the overgrown trail I followed, it is muddy with bogs and waterways and from what I heard many animals and other creatures we should be wary of.”

He draws the trail west, quickly noting a mossy bridge crossing the Soggy River with the words ‘Caution – Rotting, Home to vaguely humanoid creature?’ The trail then continues west for some time until it turns south, deeper into the marsh. After some distance the path continues south but a new path heading west again is focused on and continues being drawn. It stops after roughly 600 feet where the gate of a palisade is drawn and marked ‘Licktoad Village’.

He leaves this map up for a few moments for everyone to get a good look, and then zooms in closer to focus on Licktoad Village. Drawing what he knows of the village, the pig pit, fire pit and various buildings and entrances; Jharad says, “So there you go. Our path is laid out before us.”

While Jharad waits for a response or questions from the others he fetches some parchment and ink from behind the bar and sets it down on the table within the map.

Jharad says, while the quill animates and begins transcribing the maps on its own, “There are a few things that should be noted as well. The Licktoad’s seem to sleep during the day. Also at night a fog rolled in which obscured vision quite a bit. I would suggest we plan on arriving at Licktoad during the day. Also Toshio, you suggested we should visit Proudstump who may be able to give us more information about what is waiting for us in the marsh. Please show me where he is to be found on the map so that we may pay him a visit as well.”

Toshio answers, “I’m sorry, but I can’t. I only learned of him earlier… well, yesterday now that it’s past midnight. And Old Nesgus only said to take ‘the trail’ to his hut. I doubt there are that many trails, but maybe Nesgus can be more specific.” He looks around to see if Nesgus is available. “I had it in mind to go to the cliffs and get a higher perspective of the marsh, and map what we can from there before going down into it.”

Jharad says, “We should find him in the morning before we leave. Clearer directions would be helpful. We can decide if a trip to the cliffs is necessary after that. For now I suggest we all rest well tonight and get an early start. Toshio and Jethrik, we will meet here in the morning then go speak with Nesgus. Keng and Zeyala, gather water and rations for two days and meet us here when we get back. Is there anything further to discuss?”

Jethrik’s eyes had opened wider at Jharad’s curt directions, but catches himself. He says, “Well, those are all sensible suggestions if we are all agreeable. I could help with the rations if you like.”

“I’m sorry, what!?” asks Zeyala incredulously. “Gather water and rations? I did not agree to be involved with this party as a fetch maid or midwife. How about you Keng, I didn’t take you for an errand boy.”

“I ern’t no step-and-fetch-it-boy for this war party,” growls Keng. “Nor did I hear you appointed as boss-elf.” Keng continues while looking at the sheriff, “If the townsfolk wants protection then let them put up the supplies.”

Smiling, Zeyala steps over and slightly behind Jharad, draping one arm over his shoulder she whispers into his ear, “My my, Koya never described you like this. If we’re going to work together, you could at least take a little effort to make me feel like an equal. Or at least fake it.”  With that last sentence, she stands back, the smile gone from her face.

Keng lets out a great snort at Zeyala’s comment, and says, “Zeyala how many fingers am I holding up?” Then he drains his tankard slams it down on the table and says, “One! Har, har, har! I need another drink! Drinks on me boys, let’s toast the elf’s victory, the witch’s courage and tomorrow’s adventure!”

“Keng, I’ll drink to that,” Zeyala replies.

“I’ll drink to that too!” says Toshio. “To the elf, the witch, and the adventure!”

Jharad smiles at Keng, “You are as wise as strong, Keng. A very good suggestion.”

“Well someone’s gonna have to fetch some rations or we’ll all be pretty hungry out there,” chuckles Jethrik. “I’d be happy to help with that, but don’t look to me to carry them all!”

Sheriff Hemlock comes back over with Old Nesgus. He says to Toshio and the others gathered around. “If you are all going into the swamp to scout tomorrow, then know that if you come to the garrison first thing in the morning, I’ll see to it that you receive whatever supplies you may need and have on hand. And you will get paid for whatever goblin ears you bring in and for the head of Chief Gutwad at double the previous bounty as Mayor Kendra said. So don’t worry, Keng, you do well and you’ll be wealthy enough. Now I am appointing Toshio leader. He is already a watchman under my orders and I know he can be trusted and I know he knows what he’s doing.

Toshio nods acceptance to Sheriff Hemlock. Internally, Toshio is relieved that the question if leadership was settled with so little fuss. He’s also determined to do right by the members of the expedition despite the challenges. After all, this is his first time leading people that aren’t part of the local setting and who aren’t part of the town hierarchy.

Looking at Toshio and then to the others, Zeyala says, “Look, I know my job. Despite my earlier performance, I hope no one has expectations that I’ll be wading into battle with any regularity. I just wanted to prove that I don’t need anyone to lead me by the hand. When we go out there together, I want to make sure that we all come back together.”

She adds, “Please don’t think I’m not willing to follow orders. I am. Just don’t expect me to sit back and follow blindly. Pun intended.”

“Nicely said” replies Toshio, appreciating the pun. “And your help will be welcome. Whatever we find and come what may, it is also my goal go see us all come back.”

The sheriff continues, “Now, Old Nesgus, please tell them about the trails in the marsh.”

Old Nesgus says, “Wal, th’ fine sheriff hyar has axed me t’tell yo’ a bit mo’e about th’ marsh. I’ve already spoken about th’ ha’flin’ Walthus Proudstump, th’ se’f-appointed warden of th’ swamp. He lives on th’ coast an’ yo’ kin find his shack hyar by follerin’ th’ Noo Fish Trail, ah reckon. It leads into th’ swamp fum th’ Lost Coast Road about hyar.” He points to a spot north of where Sandru was attacked and where the trail Jharad followed out of the marsh met the road. This New Fish Trail goes southward into the marsh and winds ever westward across three bridges until it ends at the coast where Nesgus indicates they should find Proudfoot. “Now despite th’ dangers of th’ Brinestump, we local fisherman will swears by th’ fine fishin’ thar, an’ we use this hyar trail t’git t’th’ marsh’s bess fishin’ holes.” Nesgus then points to the trail further south along the Lost Coast Road, the trail that Jharad took out of the marsh. “Thet’s th’ Old Fish Trail, ah reckon. We used thet trail long ago when ah was a bit yo’nger. Th’ trail once led all th’ way t’th’ sho’e, but th’ goblins made it sech a hazard we stopped usin’ it an’ switched t’th’ Noo Fish Trail, ah reckon. Now thet’s all ah knows about th’ swamp, o’ even be hankerin’ t’know. ah need t’git home now an’ git some sleep. Yer all brave min an’ wimmen,” he tips his head to Zeyala, “an’ we sartinly all is grateful yo’re volunteerin’ t’go out thar an’ find these Licktoads so we kin git rid of them once an’ fo’ all, ah reckon. Goodnight ev’rybody.”

Duel in the Dark

Much later that night, when the fires in the garrison have been put out, and Eugini’s body found and wrapped in burial cloths. Sheriff Hemlock calls an impromptu emergency town meeting at the Rusty Dragon (since the garrison is not currently in any condition to hold meetings in at the moment). Jharad, though, is able to get a pair of breeches, a simple belt, and a homespun shirt, as well as a chain shirt, a longsword (and sheathe), a longbow, and quiver full of arrows from the armory (which wasn’t touched by the fire or smoke). There was a bit of damage to the roofs of the Rusty Dragon and the Goblin Squash Stables but the damp and the quickness of the bucket brigade prevented the fire from spreading very far. The bucket brigade was greatly assisted by the convenient presence of the mysterious ladder that didn’t seem to belong to anyone and that was too big for the goblins to have brought in so it was assumed that it was mercifully sent by the goddess Desna to help save Sandpoint from a greater conflagration. Because there was so little damage, only a bit of patching on the Rusty Dragon’s roof is needed to keep the rain out of the corner room. As for the Goblin Squash Stables, none of the horses was harmed and they were soon calmed down and led out of the stables and to the Sandpoint Market and then led back in again after Daviren Hosk was sure it was again safe for them. He insisted, however, on maintaining a vigil along with a couple of neighbors for the rest of the night, but only after venting his wrath in the ear of Sheriff Hemlock about how they needed to do something immediately before the goblins destroyed the whole town while they slept. The other citizens crowding into (and spilling outside of) the Rusty Dragon echoed this sentiment, especially the newly widowed young wife of the murdered watchman Eugini.

“Now, now, folks! Don’t think for a moment that I am not taking this seriously!” Booms the sheriff. It was my garrison that almost got burned down, my watchman that was murdered, and my jailer who was also nearly done in as well if not for the heroic Keng.” The sheriff waits a moment for the jailer, Vachedi, the other watchmen, and many other Sandpointers to lift their mugs and toast to the good fortune of Keng.

“Now I know we need to mount an expedition against the Licktoad goblins, but we need to find them first. We can’t just go traipsing into the Brinestump Marsh without knowing clearly where we are going. Unfortunately, no one has seen Shalelu around in a few weeks now. Hopefully she’ll be back soon, and I’d rather have waited for her to return until this happened. As it is, I’m ready to go as soon as I can gather in the Sandpoint militia. That means sending out riders in the morning to the farms to bring the rest of them in, those not already gathered here or living in town. Then we need to coordinate. Figure out who’s to stay in town and keep watch, and who will be part of the expedition to find the Licktoad Village. We may not even be able to start until the day after tomorrow at the earliest.” There is a collective groan when this is heard. “Now, now, people. The last thing we want is to get a whole company of us lost in the marshes. Goblins aren’t the only things in there for us to worry about.”

That’s when Nesgus, the salty old fisherman, takes his cue and shouts, “Thet’s fo’ sho’nuff, Sheriff. Yo’ knows thet th’ Soggy Rivah Monster was see agin jest t’other day by a fisherman on th’ Noo Fish Trail, ah reckon. He said it stood taller than a man, had white hide, an’ had a mouth thet opened all th’ way down its neck. Shet mah mouth! It was eatin’ whut looked like a goblin on th’ far side of th’ rivah, which is whuffo’ th’ farmer managed t’excape.”

Sheriff Hemlock, grimaces as Nesgus speaks, and then sighs heavily. “Yes, as though we didn’t have enough to worry about. Look folks, that’s just the problem. We don’t know what’s out there, and I don’t want to lead your sons, and brothers, and young fathers into that trap of a marsh until we can get everyone together, gather intelligence, and come up with a plan that won’t get people killed for no good reason. Now does anyone have any sensible suggestions? Or can we assign some guards on the bridges, so the rest of you can get in a bit of sleep so we can get up bright and early and muster the militia.”

Sandru speaks up, “Didn’t the elf escape from the Licktoad village? Maybe he can lead a scouting expedition and see if he can find it again while the militia gathers?”

Jharad stands up. “Yes, I can find my way back there and am willing to lead a scouting party. I would ask the hero, Keng, to join me and maybe two or three others.”

Jharad waits for volunteers to speak up.

Jethrik jumps up on his chair, “I will go!”

“I will go with them,” offers Toshio.

Keng mutters, “I am no hero, but I hate goblins and I am looking for work.”

“If you will have me along, then I would like to go too,” adds Zeyala.  ”I will not be a burden.  I will carry my weight.”

Concerned for her safety, Toshio asks, “Forgive the question, but how much can you actually see? Or not see, as the case may be?” Toshio regrets that he doesn’t know Zeyala as well as he knows the other townsfolk. It’s an uncomfortable question, but he figures it’s better to find out here than in the marsh.

“In all honesty, not much,” she admits. “If something’s close enough, I can make it out.” Zeyala laughs between draws on her clay pipe and says, “I won’t be leading a posse on horseback, if that’s what you’re asking. Hell, it’s doubtful I’d be riding a horse solo; but I have my other senses. In fact, there are times when I might have an advantage over you,” Zeyala adds with a wink.

Zeyala leans in close, whispering only enough for Toshio and maybe a few others to hear. ”People see my clouded vision as a weakness, which gives me an advantage. They will do things around me without a care, simply because they believe I can’t see. I will need some cues to guide me,” she says. “I won’t deny that. You know, to point me in the right direction. But I won’t hold anyone back.”

Zeyala leans back in her chair and takes another draw from her pipe. “Besides, those gobs might set off another bomb, and I think I’ve shown what I can do for burns.”

“Interesting. Then by all means, come along. Your help will be most welcome.”

Jharad produces an orange from out of thin air and tosses it lightly at Zeyala’s head.

Zeyala attempts to bob her head out of the orange’s path but fails as the orange bounces off her forehead.

“Hey!” yells Zeyala, as she grabs up her longspear. “Is that one of your customs for people you’ve just met? What kind of cheap shot is that?”

Around them the folk of Sandpoint can be heard muttering cries of shock and outrage. “Elves! Is they allus so arrogant an’ uncomprehendible?” “How dast he?” “Whut in tarnation th’ hell was thet?”

Jharad ignores the cries of the people and responds to Zeyala, “Good enough for me, she at least sensed it coming and tried to get out of the way.”

Keng thinks to himself, ‘This elf is funny. He’s right though: a witch who can’t see? That’s a problem. Better to deal with it here than in the marshes.’

Still standing, Zeyala holds up her hands to silence the exasperations of the crowd. “Now now, thank you for your concerns, but I’m a big girl.”

While looking squarely at Jharad she says, “It may be good enough for you, but now you have reinforced the doubt that others have already formed. No, that won’t do. If not for the others, than for myself.”

Turning to Ameiko, she says, “With your permission, I’d like to move the tables and chairs back to create an empty space in the middle of the tavern.” As a wicked grin cuts across her face, she adds, “Then I’d like you to shutter the windows and douse the lights.”

To Jharad, she says, “I’ve heard of the exceptional perception of elves, perhaps you can see what I see. Jharad, a friendly duel with padded weapons. Are you up to the challenge?” Zeyala asks.

Jharad smiles wickedly, “A challenge? I like it. Ameiko, do you have any such toys for us to play with?”

Ameiko grins. “Sure thing.” She directs her staff to shutter the inn, close the door, and prepare to douse the candles. “If you are going to do what I think, you will need these. “She reaches behind the bar and brings out some large barrel corks. “You can put these on the tips of your weapons.”

Jharad unsheathes his borrowed longsword and firmly affixes it with a barrel cork then stands at one side of the cleared space.

Zeyala takes and affixes a cork to the tip of her long spear.

Tables are set down on their sides to create a kind of crude ring so that the combatants won’t accidentally hit a bystander. The crowd in the tavern move outside the ring. The sheriff is shaking his head and muttering about the goblins perhaps returning while they play around in the dark, but he is not heeded as everyone is hoping the rude elf will get his ass kicked by the lovely and charming young Varisian healer. They groan when they realize they won’t be able to see anything, but Ameiko asks Keng if he wouldn’t mind calling out what is happening.

“Sure why not,” replies Keng. “I can do the stroke by stroke. “A susurration of whispering and fidgeting passes through the crowd as bets are quickly placed before the lights go out.

Keng cries out, “Two gold pieces on the witch!”

“I’ll take that bet,” says a lanky Varisian who steps up to Keng. “My name is Jubrayl, friend, Jubrayl Vhiski, but I think it’s the elf who’ll win. Everyone knows that poor Zeyala is practically as blind as a temple mouse, and everyone also knows elves can see in the dark and are master swordsmen. I don’t know what Zeyala is trying to prove, bless her heart, but I wouldn’t lose any gold on her.” With a nod from Jubrayl, a couple of other Varisians in the crowd start shouting and taking bets with 10:1 odds against Zeyala. Sandru and Sheriff Hemlock both scowl at Jubrayl but neither make a move to stop him.

Jethrik is not interested in gambling or taking bets. He wishes the whole thing was unnecessary but sees no way out if it now.

Jubrayl approaches Toshio with a sly grin and half in jest asks, “So my good man, care to put some money down on your new elf friend. It’s a sure thing. Come on, have a little fun, man.”

Toshio would like to make a bet, but when he reaches for his money realizes how little of it he has. “Ah. Maybe I would. But either way, I’ll be working with both of them tomorrow and I wouldn’t want either angry with me for betting against them,” responds Toshio, carefully neglecting to mention how little coin he has. Disappointed, he quietly sits and listens. ‘May the goblin hunt be good.’

As the room is brought into complete darkness Jharad says, “I thought you were going to prove you could hold your own in a fair fight. I was correct to test you, as it seems you indeed cannot participate in a real fight but have to manipulate the environment to bring others to disadvantage first. I am not sure this is helping you.”

“As I said, I’ve heard of the exceptional eyesight of elves. If it is correct, then we are still on equal footing,” responds Zeyala. Zeyala is in constantly motion as she uses her longspear to maintain distance between herself and Jharad.

“In total darkness, you are incorrect. This duel has been fashioned to put your foe at a clear disadvantage and is not a good test of your ability to overcome your obvious weakness,” Jharad responds.

An angry murmur spreads through the crows as they hear this, and those foolish enough to trust Jubrayl and his cronies realize that they may have been cheated by being talked into betting against Zeyala.

At the side of the makeshift arena, Toshio comments to the participants and those around him, “The elf makes a good point. Even if Zeyala prevails here, she had to manufacture the conditions. When she can’t control conditions – like in the marsh – how will she survive without endangering those she’s with?”

Kengs bellows, “Silence!”

Toshio feels crummy after saying that aloud. Still, it would be irresponsible of him not to bring it up and explore the situation properly. He wants to help Zeyala. ‘She’s nice, and clearly more capable than at first expected – but will she be a hazard to the expedition despite her abilities and spunky attitude? It’s always nice to have an attractive woman around, and Zeyala is attractive (not Ameiko-attractive, but hey…). But that’s not enough to earn her a place in the expedition.’

Zeyala moves within 10′ of Jharad and thrusts with her long spear but Jharad is already moving away from her, circling around the perimeter of the marked off (or tabled off) area.

Kengs begins calling out the actions of the two combatants. Keng still feels confident in his bet on Zeyala; his mother was an oracle and he is captivated by Zeyala’s beauty, for knowing his ugliness he is drawn to the unattainable.

In a few brief seconds Jharad touches his blade and it flashes dimly for a brief second. Then speaking firmly he points to the chandelier, “Iluminar,” and a single candle lights up a 10 foot radius around the makeshift arena. Almost simultaneously he lunges at Zeyala with his sword but she deftly parries it away with her spear.

Keng growls and is hard pressed not to intervene as the elf has arbitrarily changed the rules, but he doesn’t because the elf is right. Zeyala needs to prove she is not a liability in the dark or the light. ‘Better pubic humiliation here than death in the marsh.’ Plus he still thinks she has a few tricks up her sleeve that will win her the bout.

Zeyala take a short step back and while making a quick hand gesture she says, “A blessing is bestowed,” causing a burst of glowing energy to flash from her body, expanding to fill much of the room before it winks out.

Jharad advances on Zeyala forcing her into the corner, while pointing his finger at the chandelier and lighting the northwest candle. “Luminar,” he commands and lunges at her with his longsword again. This time he misses completely.

Members of the crowd start to titter and laugh. One of them, a farmer named Pavo, calls out, “Mebbe it’s th’ e’f who’s blind! Fry mah hide!”

Zeyala skips away to maintain distance so she can use her spear effectively. She makes another thrust towards Jharad but he sidesteps it.

Jharad advances and strikes but his blow goes amiss as Zeyala has stepped back into a more dimly lit area of the makeshift arena.

“Oh, that was close Jharad,” says Zeyala. “You’re not actually trying to hurt me are you?” She steps straight back to the perimeter of the impromptu arena and sweeps her spear in an arc towards Jharad’s feet but he leaps over it.

“Nice try,” quips Jharad who then illuminates the northern area by pointing at the appropriate candle and misses again with his sword.

“This is quite the dance,” observes Jethrik, sounding a bit apprehensive.

Keng hears Jethrik’s comment and thinks, ‘Bit of a snoozer actually. No strikes or blood yet.’

“Indeed” agrees Toshio. “I now know who I’ll go to to light a lantern, But which one will be most useful in a fight with the goblins?”

Zeyala instinctively grabs for her dagger, but stops. “Damn me for not corking my dagger!” she curses. Realizing that she doesn’t have the space required to wield her spear, she has no choice but to try to evade Jharad’s reach. Moving to her right, she darts over to the darkened southwest portion of the tabled in area, but in doing so receives a telling blow in her ribs from Jharad’s sword.

Zeyala grimaces as she feels the sting from Jharad’s sword. She dashes to the southwest corner of the arena and holds up a hand saying, “Blessing heal me.” Another glowing burst of golden energy flashes from Zeyala.

Jharad smiles and points at the southwest candle, illuminating it, as he rushes Zeyala once more but is intercepted when Zeyala makes a quick thrust with her spear, landing a solid blow. ”Just returning the favor, love,” purrs Zeyala, and then blows him a kiss. Dodging another of Jharad’s attacks, Zeyala steps back towards the southern edge of the arena and strike again with her spear but Jharad sidesteps it.

Jharad once again closes and this time lands a blow. “Ow! I deserved that,” says Zeyala. “But I’m not ready to concede.” She holds a hand against her chest and repeats her healing prayer and the bruises instantly vanish from her body. She circles to his left. He jabs again but misses her as she deftly moves aside.

Jharad saunters closer to just beyond her spear range. He then points to one of the tables and with a wave of his hand says, “Atacar!” and wills it to hover and launch itself at Zeyala causing her to dodge away from it. He quickly closes the distance between them, nimbly ducking under her spear point and attacks, scoring another blow to her side.

Zeyala takes another step back giving her the space she needs to wield her spear. She slashes at Jharad in a diagonal arc, hitting him on the left arm.

Toshio nods, eyebrows raised and chin in hand. “Darkness or light, she seems quite capable” he comments. “It’s only a duel, but I feel she would not be a hazard to her comrades.” He goes on, saying, “And the elf! How often have you seen a wizard who can also get into a real fight? I don’t think I ever have! If they don’t batter each other senseless we should have a fine group for goblin hunting.”

Jharad pushes the attack, stepping up and stabbing with his sword but Zeyala again deftly steps aside.

Zeyala backs away and tries to poke Jharad again, but this time her spear is knocked right out of her hands. Jharad uses mage hand to retrieve it and float it back to her. He asks, “Do you concede?”

Zeyala salutes by pressing her left fist in the palm of her right hand with a slight bow. “I yield,” she responds as she grabs back her spear.

Protests and even cries of dismay are heard from throughout the room by the Sczarni thugs, but under the watchful and stern eyes of Sheriff Hemlock and Sandru, Jubrayl and his men pay up and make their exit, with baleful expressions directed at Jharad and even at Zeyala.

Zeyala continues, “Hopefully I proved I am a worthy opponent and have cleared up your doubts,” she says. Looking towards the others, she asks with a laugh, “So who’s next? My vote goes for a test between the gnome and the half-orc.”

“I have no quarrel with Keng!” Jethrik exclaims, “Quite the opposite, he’s earned the accolades he is receiving.”

Jharad says to Zeyala, “It is clear that you can see more than you let on. It was enjoyable sparring with you.”

To the others he says flatly, “Zeyala will clearly be an asset and not a hindrance to this mission.”

Keng laughs at the idea of dueling a gnome and pays off his debts. He says to the two combatants, “You dance good, but make sure you stay behind me in a real fight.” He turns to Jharad and says, “Nice trick with the table.”

Returning to his ale Jharad smiles at the half-orc, “Thanks. And I am sure that both of us would be very happy with you in front when it matters.”

The Heroic (?) Rescue

After their triumphant return from the shipwreck with the chest full of treasure and fireworks, Chief Gutwad is so pleased he even lets Poog, Reta, Mogmurch, Chuffy, and Drubbus keep the loaned items they won from the dares, as well as the unused fireworks they were given before to accomplish their task. There is much rejoicing over the death of Vorka, and much laughter and “We told him so-s” in regard to Scribbleface. The five goblins are all regarded as big damn heroes. His Mighty Girthness Chief Rendwattle Gutwad decides right then and there to wed his daughter – the fearsomely corpulent and ferociously lusty Gupy Wartbits – to Drubbus. The other four goblins are given prominent tribal positions: Mogmurch becomes Master of the Pig Pit, Poog becomes the Boss of Big Fire, Chuffy becomes the Head Village Watcher, Reta becomes the Overseer of Village Stabbings. The goblins then have yet another a drunken debauch.

The weeks that follow prove to be the most fun the Licktoad tribe has ever had. More fireworks are found and retrieved, and the goblins go on a rampage of terror throughout the farmlands and up and down the Lost Coast Road. They don’t actually get much loot, but many horses are scared witless or even killed, and many humans are chased away with goblin arrows in their behinds. New songs are made. One night, the goblins even manage to capture an elf! In great anticipation, the elf is stripped, hogtied, and carried back to the village on a pole. His book (horrors!) is given to Slorb for safekeeping until the next night when Poog, the Boss of Big Fire, will preside over the sacrifice of both book and elf to the flames for the glory of Zarongel, the sacred god of dog-killing, fire, and most holy mounted combat.

Unfortunately, something goes terribly wrong the evening before the sacrifice. There is much shouting and yelling and when it dies down, the five heroes (who managed to sleep through the whole thing) are called in to see Chief Gutwad. They are ushered in to see the chief by Gronky. Where could Slorb be they wonder?

Chief Gutwad whispers to Gronky for a long time, and then in his deep voice, Gronky relates to them their new mission. “Chief Gutwad says that a most terrible thing has happened. You must rectify it! The sacrifice has escaped, and took the book with him! You are probably wondering where Slorb is. Well, the sacrificial elf took him too! Chief Gutwad, in his infinite wisdom, has already tracked them out of the swamp, for Chief Gutwad can track a single flea through all of Brinestump if he wishes. The Chief saw that the longshanks took Slorb back to their village. You must get him back. Long ago our spies saw that there is a large fortress in the center of their town where they lock their own up. Maybe Slorb will be locked up there too. You must get him back before he tells the longshanks how to find us and they come and take away our fireworks. Go! Go to the longshank village and rescue our dear brother Slorb. And if you see the elf, stab him. Stab him many times and set fires wherever you can before you leave. Let that be our sacrifice to Zarongel. Goblin dogs have been prepared for you. They are by the village gate. Ride! Ride for the glory of the Licktoads! Make the longears pay, make the longshanks pay! Make them all pay! Ride!”

The ride on the goblin dogs doesn’t take too long. They reach the outskirts of Sandpoint, close enough to see the streetlamps and the lights in the taverns. They know they must beware of any dogs. Having come up the Lost Coast Road they see that the bridge over the Turandorok River is the closest way into town.

A short distance down the road from the first bridge Reta stops and screeches to the others, “We cross the bridge and ride by the docks, then around the outskirts to the back of the fortress. Nobody sees us coming that way!”

“Okay, we do that.” Drubbus agrees wondering how the fireworks and setting homes ablaze could be worked into the plan.

“Look at where the trees grow up around the wall. Stupid humans give us a place to sneak in! We would even be close to the big lock up fortress thing.” Drubbus is quiet after that. All that thinking is taxing on his goblin mind.

“Dummies!” curses Mogmurch in a whisper. “We just need to ride in fast. And we’ll need our doggies to get out fast again after the fires are set. Smash and grab. And burn. And… and stab the pointy-eared longshanks. Then leave while the smoke rises thick.”

Poog giggles, “Burn baby burn!”

“Maybe we split up,” says Chuffy. “Light off fireworks by one gate and let menfolk all go and run to see what’s happening. Then we come running in and catch them by surprise from behind.”

“Yeees, let’s draw them away from Slorb,” Mogmurch agrees, “but then let’s run around them to get Slorb. Then we light fires as we go out, eh?”

Reta lets out a quick heavy breath in exasperation, “No, we should stick together. We is mighty but we is small and better in numbers. We stick together. Chuffy, you go alone and light your fires for distraction. Just don’t get caught and don’t get dead!”

“Yez weza stickz togetha,” squeals Poog. “Splittin’ up getza all dead.”

“Me counts to 500 then me lights fireworks,” says Chuffy.  ”Sounds good?” He waits for a response from the others, and then asks, “Where me go after fireworks go bang?”

Without bothering to give Chuffy a response, Reta leads the rest of the goblins across the North Bridge sneakily.

Poog stays on his goblin dog. He is laughing wildly as he lights and casts firecrackers to each side along the way.

Reta slaps the fire parchment from Poog’s hands. “Quiet Dummy! Let them hear us on our way out after we have Slorb. We fires the place up on the way out! Otherwise we dies!”

Poog pouts at Reta’s discipline, but then shrugs, “Okay Reta, yooza right.”

Mogmurch stays on his goblin dog, riding quickly through town behind Reta.

Drubbus also keeps on his goblin dog following the others, but trying not to be last.

Reta leads them on their dogs up Undercliff Way then onto High Street to Tower Street to the front of the big fort thingy. On several streets lanterns have been hung from poles or the eaves of buildings, but there are many streets that are not lit and plenty of shadows for the goblin dogs and their riders to keep to. Unfortunately, Poog’s two expended paper candles seem to have woken up every guard animal in Sandpoint and the entire town soon resounds with the barking of dogs and the honking of geese. Then, as they come in sight of the Sandpoint Garrison, a series of explosions and lights, horses crying and shouting can be heard coming from down by the South Bridge.

Chuffy counts for as long as he can stand and then, after leaving his dog in among the trees near the South Bridge, he creeps across it. Seeing the sign of the trampled goblin outside the Goblin Squash Stables and hearing the horses within, it become obvious to him where to strike first. He looks to his Personal Very Useful Robe That Is Useful and takes off the ladder patch. He sets it against the building from the alley side and clambers up to the roof. There he takes a quick look around and finds an opening to the stables within, probably for loading grain. He throws a couple of paper candles into the stables and chortles gleefully as the horses start to panic, screaming in terror and kicking at their stalls. Across the city he hears the barking of dogs and the honking of geese adding to the din. Quickly he strikes one of his tindertwigs and rushes to the main street to see if any longshanks gather to investigate. As it happens, there is an inn right next door to the stables. As a mob of humans rush out into the street, Chuffy uses his tindertwig to light his skyrocket and aims it right at the longshanks, ignoring the burning of the sparks on his arm. The rocket works better than he had dreamed, exploding into the midst of them. Chuffy’s heart soars to hear the cries of panic and anguish from below.

Chuffy backs away from the edge of the roof and lights a Desnan candle. He then aims it at the roof of the inn next door. The first candle is launched at it when he hears noise on the ladder behind him. He turns, incidentally pointing the Desnan candle at the newcomer, to see a gnome poking his head up over the top of the ladder. Chuffy drops the candle and climbs down from the roof at the back end of the stables in order to make his way to the riverbank. Behind him the Desnan candle rolls down the roof and onto Market Street, spitting out sparks, smoke, and more fireballs on the way down. Chuffy clambers down the side of the stables like a spider thanks to his magic ring. In the alley at the bottom the darkness is thick and impenetrable, and he easily slips past the gnome and the human, and gets back to the riverbank. At the bridge things get a little tricky since a bucket brigade has started to put out the fires he started. Still, it is not a solid line of longshanks, and while they are distracted hauling buckets he gets by them as well and scampers across the bridge and back to his goblin dog among the trees on the other side.

In the shadows of the large stone building across the street from the garrison, the other four goblins hear an even louder explosion from the southern part of town, followed by cries of pain and dismay from humans. Chuffy must have used his skyrocket! Sorely disappointed to have missed whatever heinous deed Chuffy just perpetrated, the heroes of Brinestump nevertheless force themselves with a mighty effort to focus on the task at hand. Across the street the door to the garrison swings open and three longshank warriors rush out and head down the street. The door is then pulled shut. So there is at least one warrior left behind. The garrison is tall, but climbable, and they can see that there is a chimney on top and some kind of wooden structure on the roof. There are windows, but they are very narrow, too narrow even for goblins.

Reta smiles, dismounts, and gives the ‘follow me’ hand wave as she approaches this front door. She then knocks.

Poog follows Reta and stands out of the line of sight against the wall next to the door with both hands pressed firmly to his mouth trying to control his giggles, nothing comes out but a strange muffled breathy laugh, “Hethsch, hethsch, hethsch…”

Reta quietly says, “Shhhh!” but then starts to giggle herself.

Mogmurch had concocted a potion to make him cat-like again. Giving his toad Amphibier a quick lick for good luck, he tosses the potion down his throat. A quick dash into the shadows along the garrison wall, and he starts climbing, making for the wooden structure at the top.

“Hey sheriff, back so soon? What’d you forget… Aagh” says the member of the watch as he opens the door and Reta tries to stab him. Fortunately for him, the Gorge of Gluttons fails to cut through the sleeve of his chainmail shirt.

Mogmurch screeches at the watchman as he leaps upon him from the wall! “YAAAAaaagghhh!”

“Aaaahhhh!” The watchman screams again and skips back away from the door. Mogmurch falls stomach first and spread-eagle but then bounces into the watchman and drives him even further into the garrison hall. Before he can regain his bearing he has to fling his arms up to protect his face from one of Poog’s fire bolts. “Crap on a stick!” he yelps. Finally he rolls to a stop and starts trying to climb to his feet.

Drubbus grabs the door and make sure no other longshanks pull it shut.

“Die, you little roach, die!” shouts the watchman as he strikes Mogmurch with his sword.

Reta charges in over Mogmurch to get behind the longshanks and strike. The watchman’s sword goes right over Reta’s head as she runs past him. She can feel the whoosh of it against her bridal veil.

With the watchman distracted by Reta, Mogmurch is able to get to his feet and stumble out the door, trailing blood, desperate to get out of reach of the longshank’s sword. “Aiee Aiee Aiee! Help help help!”

Safely outside, Mogmurch drinks his healing extract, swallowing quickly so he can get back into the chaos. Giving forth a satisfied belch, he looks around and sees a street lantern he can use to light some fireworks, eagerly hoping to start setting things ablaze.

Poog casts fire bolt out of his right hand into the long shank’s face, “Eatz dis yooz big ugly!”

From the doorway, Drubbus fires two stones from his sling. Both stones hit the beleaguered watchman in the forehead. With a stunned look on his face he staggers over to a door to the left of the hall facing in yelling, “Help! Vachedi! Help! Invaders!”

Reta cackles and brutally silences the watchman with the Gorge of Gluttons.

At just that moment two things happen. From behind the door they hear someone yelling, “Eugini! What’s going on? Hang on! I’ll be right there!” And over by the entrance Mangy, Drubbus’ pet goblin dog (not the one he was riding) comes over and starts yipping at him.

Drubbus looks outside or wherever it is that Mangy is leading him. Mangy seems to be indicating that something is going on to the south of the garrison. Drubbus hears the yelping of the goblin dogs from that direction but they are receding further south. It would seem that the goblin dogs are either chasing something (or someone) or being chased. Though their yelps sound more like the ones they make when they are excited and have fresh prey in sight. Hopefully they will catch their meal and be back in time for the getaway. Otherwise, Drubbus and his companions will have to sneak out on their own.

Inside the garrison, the inner door bangs open and the goblins are confronted by a huge brutish Shoanti warrior in a breastplate and wielding a huge two-handed flail. “What the devils!?” He shouts. Then his eyes grow wide as he sees the watchman sprawled on the floor in the middle of a growing pool of blood. “By Gorum, I couldn’t save Eugini, but I will avenge him!” The Shoanti jailer’s face reddens, his nose flares, his lips curl back from his teeth, and he begins swinging the flail around his head as he steps into the room to engage the goblins.

Poog starts casting  fire bolts as fast as he can. The first hits the jailer but doesn’t seem to faze him in the least, though it clearly leaves a burn. He advances on Reta, who fortunately for her leaps out of the way. The heavy steel balls actually break the stone flagging of the floor and raise a small cloud of dust. The goblins realize that if the jailer hits them they will be pulverized.

Stupid Reta is in the way so Mogmurch can’t bomb or fire at the longshank! Instead of a vial of fire, he throws his tanglefoot bag at the big nasty, intending to gunk him up enough for everyone to swarm him. The bag is thrown too far, however, and explodes on the ground past both the longshanks and Reta. Then he gives a quick look around. Where could Slorb be? he wonders. If we can grab Slorb, we can run away, setting fires as we go!

Reta does her best to keep out of the way of the flail and retreats to the far side of the chamber.

Another of Poog’s fire bolts zips past the jailer’s head and sets fire to the tapestry on the wall behind him.

The jailer charges the door to strike Poog before he can fire any more of his fire bolts at him. With one swing of his flail he launches Poog into the street where he falls broken like a limp green rag doll.

Mogmurch backpedals away from the door and across the street, simultaneously lighting his skyrocket by casting a vial of alchemist fire onto the street and lighting the fuse from the resulting blaze.

Reta takes the chance to zip back across the chamber behind the jailer’s back and through the door that he came out of.

Drubbus sees the wild Shotani barbarian in the doorway about to come out after Mogmurch. He quickly casts entangle so that the weeds growing around the front of the garrison might at least delay him. The weeds do in fact stretch out and wrap themselves around the Shoanti, trapping him within the doorway. Fortunately, there are no weeds among the cobblestones in the street where Drubbus and Mogmurch are standing, and where Poog lays dying. The Shoanti strains against the weeds, but they are thick and resist his rage-enhanced efforts. He screams and curses at the goblins in an incoherent frenzy.

Mogmurch’s skyrocket, in the meantime had been shooting forth sparks and smoke. It launches itself at the doorway with a loud roar and a trail of thick smoke. It hits the raving Shoanti and blasts him back into the chamber where he falls howling in pain and fury as he rolls around trying to put out the fire on his chest and blinking his eyes trying to see again.

Reta meanwhile finds a stairwell receding down into the dungeons beneath the garrison. Before she can get far down them, however, a familiar high-pitched, nasal voice issues from below. “Reta, is that you? Well, then I have you to thank for giving me a chance to pick the lock.” Slorb rounds the corner (which he had been peeking around). He puts a lock-pick back into a hidden seam of his long black frilly glamrockin coat and says, “I thought that big doofus would never leave.” Reta and Slorb then hear the roar and explosion of the rocket from the chamber above. Bright multi-colored lights flare up at the top of the stairs and then slowly fade, accompanied by the howling of the barbarian. “I think we’d best not linger,” observes Slorb.

Outside, Drubbus rushes to Poog’s side and casts another spell to stabilize him.

Reta dumps a vial down Poog’s throat. Then realizing it was the human perfume, she quickly follows it with her healing potion.

Poog starts to stir and sputter, “Whah.. Whaz … Hhmmmm… Eew! Yuckie! Reta whatchaz give me? Itza dizguzting!”

“Let’s sneak away,” Drubbus suggests, “We can’t risk getting caught with Slorb.”

“Yeah! Sneak away, and let’s light things on fire as we go!” whispers Mogmurch, readying another firework.

Revived, Poog is still badly hurt with broken ribs, but he is able to follow them now into the covering darkness of the alleyways. When they are safely away from the now burning garrison, he takes his wand out and rubs it back and forth quickly then says, “Feelz good, healz good, wishah could dooz mysef goods.” Then he giggles as his breath smells funny, he leans into Reta and says with a great breathy exhalation, “Howz-ya doo-ingz Reta?”

Mogmurch laughs and waves his hand in front of his nose, as if warding off the “bad” smell of the perfume.

Liking the smell of the perfume, Reta leans in close to Poog, “Mmmmm, I like that… Wait, we needz ta get out-a-here!” She pushes him away and leads the group across the North Bridge and back down the Lost Coast road, secretly hoping to find Chuffy but outwardly showing no care.

Before crossing the bridge, Poog pauses to light his entire batch of fireworks and toss them onto as many buildings as he can before turning and fleeing as fast as his his little flappy goblin feet can run!

Mogmurch pauses long enough to light up both his Desnan candles. One in each hand, he fires them at the thatched roofs, trying to set them aflame and singing:

Things go boom when Mogmurch throws,

Much more fun than using bows.

Sometimes when the boom boom blows

Is not my fault – that’s how it goes.

Since no pursuit is evident when the candles are done, he follows them up with his bombs, expending his daily allotment to wreak more havoc and set more fires. Then he hustles to catch up with the others.

Reta, Poog, Mogmurch, Drubbus, and Slorb all make it back to the South Bridge and with the help of Mangy and Chuffy’s goblin dog they manage to sniff each other out and all meet up again in the woods. Then they have to walk back to the Brinestump Marsh and the Licktoad Village. So the story closes (for the present) on the five heroes of Brinestump.

Quest for Fireworks

We be Licktoads! We make raid!

Put the longshanks to the blade!

Burn them up from feet to head,

Make them hurt, make them dead!

Put the parents into ham,

Smush the babies into jam,

All the rest in pot get stewed,

We be Licktoads – you be food!

The goblins of the Licktoad tribe live deep in Brinestump Marsh, south of the hated man-town called Sandpoint. Once, the goblins of Thistletop (a small island north of the city) tried to burn Sandpoint down, and they would have been legends if they had succeeded. But they didn’t bring enough fire, and got themselves killed as a result.

Yesterday, the Licktoad goblins discovered that one of their own had been using forbidden arts and was engaged in one of the greatest of taboos – writing things down. In fact, rumor holds that what he was writing was a history of the Licktoad tribe! There’s no swifter way to bring about bad luck than stealing words out of a goblin’s mind by writing them down, and so the tribe had no choice. They branded the goblin’s face with letters to punish him, which is why everyone calls him Scribbleface now, and then ran him out of town, took all his stuff, and burned down his hut.

That’s where things got interesting, because before they burned down his hut, Chief Gutwad found a weird box within the building. Inside was a map and a lot of fireworks – fireworks that immediately came to use in burning the hut down. Then, this morning, Gutwad announced that tonight there would be a feast in order to drive out any lingering bad luck from Scribbleface’s poor decision. But perhaps even more exciting, four Licktoad heroes have been secretly invited to meet at Chief Gutwad’s Moot House. All four similarly wondered, ‘Why would the chief want to speak to me? It can only mean that he’s got an important mission for us… one that the other goblins of the tribe couldn’t pull off. This could mean my chance to go down in Licktoad history!’ 

Lying at the center of the village, the chief’s Moot House is a veritable museum of Licktoad heroics – crammed with trophies such as stolen weapons, shiny bits of treasure, and the brine-pickled bodies of dozens of brutally slaughtered small furry animals (mostly dogs). His Mighty Girthness Chief Rendwattle Gutwad rules Licktoad Village from atop the great Teeter Chair, which is 6 feet high and allows him to more properly look down on his subjects. By tradition, Chief Gutwad does not speak directly to his subjects. Instead, he employs an advisor and through him he whispers instructions, for the Licktoad goblins understand that the words that come out of the chief’s mouth are so mighty that they might frighten away all the words in the heads of the lesser goblins. Only his duly appointed advisor, the overdressed, pompous goblin named Slorb, can handle the might of the chief’s words without fainting from fear.

As the story begins, the four Licktoad heroes are all gathered before the entrance to the Moot House, awaiting invitation from Slorb to enter. (adapted from from Pathfinder Module: We Be Goblins, pp. 3-4)

Poog , a frightening little cleric of the goblin deity Zaronge,l is so excited and nervous at the thought of going inside the chief’s hut he pees his pants a little bit.

Drubbus, the nature shaman of the Licktoads, shifts around nervously. Consciously or not, he keeps trying to work himself into the middle of the group.

Reta Bigbad, a fearless goblin female warrior, sneaks up beside Drubbus and licks his ear then screeches, “Stop It Drubbus!” and slugs him in the gut. She then eyes Chuffy’s caged spider, wishing she could squish it just to see the color of its ick.

Drubbus gives a clicking growl over the licked ear and punch to the gut, but he’s got bigger things on his mind than a rumble. Since the others all know him well, they can practically hear the words in his head. ‘Bein’ pointed at for a small raid izz only lil lezz killy than being pointed at only! ‘N goblinz what pointed at izz usual tossed in stewpot on way or other ‘n quick!’

Mogmurch, the deranged Licktoad alchemist, laughs and says, “Hey Reta, forget about that tweak! Let’s go to my hut and you can lick my,” he pauses, to increase the suggestiveness, “… face… all you want.” As he finishes, he gives Drubbus an irreverent shove.

Chuffy Lickwound, the tribe’s most ardent arsonists and sneak,  smiles into his pet spider Stankrush’s cage. While waving a smoldering twig says, “Hey Stankrush, what kinda of fun can we have wif dis?”

After long interminable seconds of waiting, the high-pitched nasal voice of chief advisor Slorb calls out for them all to enter. Inside, the corpulent Chief Gutwad sits precariously atop the Teeter Chair.

“You may have the great honor of sitting in the dirt before Chief Gutwad.” Slorb gestures to the filthy area littered with bones below the Teeter Chair.

After they have all gathered around, with much pushing and shoving, and found a space amid the debris they are amazed and shocked to be addressed by Chief Gutwad.  They are also all relieved to find that their heads are not exploding after all as the chief speaks to them directly in a deep, booming voice. It must be because, as they always assumed, they are all the elitist of the elite among goblin-kind, and probably any other kind as well.

“You all be heroes. Each of you. You are best Licktoads but for me. And maybe but for Slorb. That you aren’t fleeing in terror from the mighty sound of my voice is all the proof that you should need. Yet soon, all Licktoad goblins will know your might, for I have picked you for a dangerous mission.

“You know about fireworks and map we found in Scribbleface’s hut. Fireworks were fun. But map is more fun. It shows a route to a place near the coast where Scribbleface found fireworks. And it says there are more fireworks there!

“I want then for Licktoads. You all go get them tomorrow. Tonight we have a big bonfire to burn bad luck away from you, and we play many games. Much fun. Tomorrow you fetch me fireworks. If you meet men, you make them dead. If you meet dogs, you make them dead. If you meet horses, you make them dead. If you meets Lotslegs Eat Goblin Babies Many, you maybe should run. And if you not find fireworks, you not come back or we feed you to Squealy Nord!” (the above paragraphs in italics from Ibid, p. 4)

When the chief finishes his speech, he reaches behind him and digs around for a bit. Then he produces the map and flings it down at them all. “Take the map,” Chief Gutwad bellows. “Now get out! Slorb and I have a feast to plan!”

Chuffy slinks back a few steps. A wide grin breaks across his face, his large eyes squinting to yellow slits. He stands there rocking on his heels. Poog eyes the map greedily and sticks his foot out to trip Mogmurch after the latter jabs him in the side. Unfortunately for Poog, he only ends up losing his own balance as Mogmurch leaps over Poog’s foot and dives on top of the map. Drubbus joins in the general dive for the map, landing hard atop Mogmurch. Mogmurch gasps as Drubbus lands on him. Reta pushes aside Chuffy, almost nicking herself on the dogslicer he has drawn, and piles on trying to grab the map away from Mogmurch. Trying to throw off his competitors, Mogmurch bares his teeth and hisses viciously at Drubbus and Reta, trying to scare them off.

Chuffy steps back, watching eagerly, dogslicer at the ready, to see who emerges from the tussle with the map. Slorb waves at Chuffy to put away his dogslicer and starts kicking at the goblins on the ground, yelling at them to get up and be on their way. Chuffy continues to grin, but his eyes go wide. He turns the dogslicer over and scans the edge. As quickly as it was drawn, the sword is sheathed. Looking at Slorb, Chuffy shrugs with an upturned palm, and then whispers into the cage held in his other hand.

Poog is dismayed that his attempt to trip Mogmurch failed and he ended up on the floor himself. He tries to look as if nothing happened and is now on his hands and knees looking out the door of the chief’s hut. He sees the goblins gathering a great amount of wood for a fire! His eyes light up and he starts to sing.

Fire is sweet,

So nice and neat,

It burns bright in the dead of night

And makes things dead and right.

Poog picks himself up and as he is dusting himself off he notices his pants are wet from when he pissed himself earlier. He smells his fingers and smiles momentarily blissed out on the smell of his own pee. He casually wipes his hands on Chuffy’s back as he walks past him to where the other goblins are toiling to build a bonfire out of branches, sticks, and unburnt timbers taken from the ruins of Scribbleface’s hut.

Chuffy chases after Poog. When he gets to the bonfire, he rocks on his heels and from time to time whispers to his pet spider. Each time he smiles and gives a satisfied nod.

Stepping up to Mogmurch, hands behind her back and smiling seductively, Reta forces herself to speak low, “Hey ‘Murchy. Can I see that map puuhleese? I won’t try and steals it. Really!” As she speaks, her voice slowly raises to its normal loud screechy level so that the word ‘Really’ can be easily heard by anybody nearby.

Leering greedily, Mogmurch asks Reta, “Oh ReeeAALLY? Well, what’ll ya gimme for a look?”

Reta looks coyly out of her halfling wedding veil then produces a rather plump caterpillar from her pocket. Eyeing the morsel she half yells excitedly, “We can squish it together!”

Drubbus takes out his sack of salty beetles and noisily crunches one. “Mmmm! So salty and crunchy! Mog, if you want a few, I could hold your map.”

Tongue lolling in anticipation of salty goodness, Mogmurch shouts, “Gimme!” and snatches at the salted beetles, tossing the map toward Drubbus.

He tries to eat as many beetles as possible before Drubbus can stop him or anyone else tries to take them. In a flash he greedily devours all of them.

Reta peers over Drubbus’ shoulder at the map. The map is relatively simple, showing little more than the Licktoad village, the old shipwreck on the coast that supposedly contains the fireworks, and the creek that runs between the two locations. By following the creek they should be able to easily reach the old wreck. Unfortunately, the old wreck is also located in the part of the swamp that all Licktoads know to be the territory of Vorka the cannibal. (italicized portion from ibid, p. 5)

Reta screeches, “That’s where Vorka lives, look!” and points to the location of the shipwreck. This loud proclamation in Drubbus’ ear is also overheard by Mogmurch standing nearby noisily crunching on beetles, and also Chuffy and Poog over by the bonfire.

Several other goblins that were piling wood on the bonfire look over at Reta and then begin chuckling and sneering. “Hey Reta, youz afraid a Vorka? Har har!”

Reta rounds on the goblins and barks out, “You is stupid you don’t take her seriously. That why goblins like you only good as lunch for others!”

The goblin gulps, quickly ducks his head and gets back to work.

“Get away from me, Reta!” Drubus growls. “I got the map, so youz gots to do my sez so! And what the heck is a Vorka anywayz?”

Through his beetle-stuffed mouth Mogmurch says, “Hah!  Dummy, Drubbuth! Vorka’th that goblin eatth other goblinth — thpethially oneth with mapth hahaha!” Swallowing, he continues. “We’ll feed you to ‘er tomorrow. Then she’ll let us get to the ship and take the fireworks and all the shinies.”

Drubus grumbles something in the secret Druidic speech and says aloud, to Mogmurch, “Peas, carrots, taters and bit o’ garlic and you might be worth eating yourself.”

Turning back to the map, Reta puts her arm around Drubbus’ shoulders, “Pay no ‘tension to Mog. He be eaten himself with those others soon as old Vorka sets her pitch black eyes on ‘em,” she motions to Mogmurch and the other goblin hecklers.

As night falls, a group of four struggling goblins carry the Teeter Chair (with Chief Gutwad sitting atop it) out to the bonfire. With great ceremony the chief produces a foot long wooden tube with a fuse at the top. The chief sets this in the middle of the bonfire and lights it with a burning branch. The fuse quickly burns down and then the tube flares up full of sparks and begins firing out tiny fireballs up into the air. Some of these land and hit the goblins gathered around the fire burning hair or the arms and hands flung up to ward off the flames. Those who are not hit find this gut-achingly hilarious. Other fireballs actually land back and ignite the bonfire. This signals the start of an all-night party that features lots of good things to eat (snails, fish, and snakes) and also a barrel of fermenting cider apples that the chief has rolled out.

Poog had overheard the jibber jabbering about shipwrecks and vorka-thingies behind him, but didn’t have a clue what they are talking about, nor could he care less. The pretty flames now completely captivate him. His eyes light up and he starts to sing, “Fire is sweet, so nice and neat, it burns bright in the dead of night and makes things dead and right.”

Drubbus has two mugs of cider, but keeps a death grip on the map.

Poog cavorts, leaping and jumping around the bonfire while practicing making little fireballs with his fingers. He consumes three ciders relatively quickly.

Reta chugs back an entire mug of the stuff.

Chuffy takes a few sips of his first mug, and then throws the rest down in a single gulp. After his second mug, he’s feeling just about right.

Mogmurch has two drinks before the first of the dares begins.

As the drinking progresses the other goblins begins whispering and pointing to Poog, Reta, Drubbus, Mogmurch, and Chuffy. It is obvious that someone has spilled the beans about them being sent off on a mission. Finally, a scrawny wretch named Gawg says, “Hey I bet dese guys can’t even dance with Squealy Nord, how are they gonna get us some fireworks?”

“Yeeeaaah! We dare you to ride Squealy Nord and show us what youz can do” his equally scrawny brother Mogawg adds.

“Yes,” says Slorb after a whispered consultation with the chief. “Let the dares begin, and I will provide the prizes. If any of you win a dare, I’ll see that you have nice things to help you in your mission.”

A little goblin girl, fresh out of the baby cages hesitantly asks, “If it could help them get the fireworks, why not just give them what they’ll need?”

All the goblins fall silent at such audacious stupidity. Chief Gutwad glowers and even Slorb seems speechless. Finally a nearby goblin smacks the goblin girl hard on the back of the head, almost causing her to fall into the bonfire. “Don’t be stupid!” says the smacker. “That’s just not how things are done in the Licktoad tribe. You wanna prize, you gotta take a dare!”

At this all the goblins begin shouting, “Squaly Nord! Squealy Nord! Squealy Nord!” as they all, pushing and shoving one another, make their way to the muddy pit by the goblin baby cages. The pit itself is circular, nearly 20’ in diameter, and just over 10’ deep. In the center of the pit, snorting and rooting through the mud, is Squealy Nord – the fiercest boar in the whole of Brinestump Marsh and the mascot of the Licktoad tribe. A more cynical and irreverent human viewing the scene might point out that Squealy Nord is not quite a fierce boar and has more than a passing resemblance to a missing piglet named Wilbur from one of the nearby farms, but fortunately there are no longshanks about to say such a thing.

“So, who has the first dance?” asks Slorb looking at them all. “How about you Poog? I’ve heard you’re quite a rider.” This is greeted with hoots, chortles, and snickering from the surrounding mob. “All you have to do is stay on for a count of…” Slorb starts counting off the fingers of his hands and then realizes he doesn’t have enough. He looks at his toes for a moment and wiggles them a bit in the mud surrounding the pit. Finally he looks up and says, “Until I get tired of counting.”

Reta knows she is the biggest badass present. She walks to the pen and jumps on Squealy Nord.

Mogmurch scowls at Poog like he’s a real pansy. “You let her go first?!” and spits at the ground by Poog’s feet. He turns to watch Reta, eagerly waiting for his own turn.

Poog snarls back at Mogmurch, picks a booger and flicks it at the back of his head.

While Reta is riding, Drubbus tries to slip away from the crowd, map still clutched firmly in hand.

Poog, noticing Drubbus sneaking off under cover of all the excitement, yells out loud enough for all the Licktoad tribe to hear. “Where’s ya goin’ Drubbie-boy?”

Hurriedly attempting to hide the map behind his back Drubbus whines, “Youz don’t needz to know!”

As for Reta, she is thrown after half a minute but is unharmed – to the disappointment of the howling mob.

Mogmurch gulps down one of his vile concoctions and transforms into something that looks like a cross between a goblin and a feral cat. With a bound he mounts the poor piglet and manages to stay on for at least a minute before Squealy Nord collapses in the mud from terror and sheer exhaustion.

Poog curses and spits, “dirty little cheetah boyz.”  He goes and sulks by the fire until the piglet has recovered and it is his turn. He manages to stay on for half a minute before he leaps off.

Chuffy is thrown after a minute but manages to land on his feet. Chuffy jumps and cheers for himself until he realizes he didn’t stay on long enough to beat Mogmurch’s time.

As Drubbus walks over to the pig he calls out, “I don’t have no spelly drinks, so I’ll have to do this on my only!” He folds up the map first and hides it in his tunic before hopping on the piglet. It is not quite a minute before he too is thrown, and unfortunately he lands hard on his elbow.

Chief Gutwad whispers to Slorb and the latter announces that Mogmurch has been declared the winner, “Even though he cheated! But of course it’s not about how you play the game… it’s about winning! Ha ha hah!” Slorb then hands Mogmurch a vial that was taken from a band of travelers who made the mistake of sleeping on the side of the road without a guard dog or anyone on watch. Mogmurch almost weeps when it is handed to him – for it is the fabled Dragon Brew Gourd.

“What’s next?” Slorb asks the mob with an evil grin.

Gronky, a bloated goblin with a deep voice, calls out, “They might get hungry on their mission. Let’s feed ‘em!” With that, covered wicker baskets are brought out along with soggy leaves for napkins. “Who wants a little somethin’ to chow down on?”

Poog slyly looks at the basket Gronky is holding and tries to sniff it but it’s too far away to smell anything. He looks greedily over at the Dragoon Brew Gourd and wants one too. He marches over to Gronky and says, “Gimmee deez nasteez, Poog not fraid to eatz dem all.”

“Be my guest,” Gronky says. “There’s plenty for all, heh heh heh…”

Mogmurch shoves Gronky out of the way to get at the food. Drubbus, Poog, and Chuffy also grab a basket. When the five of them uncover them they see that within is a slimy squirmy bag of bull slugs. Once their leaf napkins are tucked into their tunics like a bib, Slorb announces that it is time to begin. They have a minute to choke down at least five of the bull slugs.

Eating the slugs is not a problem even though they wriggle, taste of rotten fish, and burst with a little squal when chewed. Eating a full bag is the hard part. and every goblin knows that when eating bull slugs it is prudent to spit out the slug’s mildly poisonous slime bladder though it takes longer than simply gulping them down.

Just to show he’s extra tough, Mogmurch chews each bite, making yummy noises and feigning delight.

Chuffy pokes at the food a bit, and then goes at it by the handful.

Reta gulps them down as fast as she can.

When Slorb calls the time (with a battered digital stopwatch looted from Numerian merchants) Poog, Mogmurch, and Chuffy were only able to consume three of the slugs each. Drubbus did a little better and was able to consume five. Reta, however, takes the prize having swallowed nine live bull slugs. She in fact looks even greener than goblins normally look. Before she can get away, Slorb grabs her and declares her the winner of the “eat a bag of slugs real quick dare” and therefore gets the prize. The chief hands her the famed Gorge of Gluttons, an enchanted dogslicer that is particularly good at killing horses.

“This is from Chief Gutwad’s horde,” says Slorb. “This is loan only. You bring it back or we take it back along with your head as interest.”

“Nice one Reta,” croaks Chuffy.

Reta tries to smile back at Chuffy, but only manages to burp loudly as slug drool runs down her cheek. She tucks the Gorge of Gluttons into her belt and attempts to not look sick.

Poog looks at Reta and giggles hysterically seeing her light green skin turn a bright chartreuse color. ”Reta you be lookin’ funny!”

Drubbus gives her a congratulatory punch in the stomach.

Drubbu’s gut punch causes Reta to vomit half-digested slugs (and their slime bladders) all over Drubbus. This causes Drubbus to begin retching and then vomiting as well. The other goblins of course find this hilarious.

Reta belches loudly for a third time and wipes her mouth on her sleeve. “Oh that feels better! Thanks, Drubby.”

The next dare that Slorb announces is the ever popular “Hide or Get Clubbed,” the goblin version of hide and seek. The dare-takers must rush into the marsh without any weapons and attempt to find a good hiding spot. The other goblins try to find him (or her), and if they do, the finder is allowed to whack the previously hidden goblin with a club. The goblin with the best hiding spot who remains undiscovered the longest will win the loan of the mystical Ring that Lets You Climb Real Good from the chief’s hoard.

Mogmurch, looks nervously around at the other competitors. He does not relish getting clubbed. He hesitates just a bit as the others start running into the marsh, then rushes after to find his own hiding place and hoping the others didn’t notice the delay.

Poog looks at Slorb and says, “I’m in!” and skips out into the marsh singing, “Can’t find me, no you won’t, I be hiding under some tree.”

Poog thinks craftily to himself, “I am very stealthy yes indeedy. I will use my speak to animals spell to ask them where to hide so no one will find me!”  He then casts his spell and seeks guidance from an old marsh rat about where to hide.

The swamp rat tells Poog, “There’s a rotten log over there by the crick. You should be able to fit in there,” and he then scampers off. Poog hears the band of goblins tromping through the woods behind him so it’s the log or nothing.

Poog races over and slips into the rotten log and pulls some moss over the opening to cover his tracks.  He is thrilled to find some nice crawly bugs to munch on while he hides. He happily watches the Licktoads searching through the moss while he eats bugs. He can barely contain his giggles. Unfortunately his giggling gives him away and he soon has a bump on his head for all his troubles.

Drubbus is found very soon after hiding behind a tree and also given a thump.

Reta, Mogmurch, and Chuffy hide so well that they have to be called in after enough time passes (a few minutes) that the other goblins start to get bored. Since fewer goblins came even close to Chuffy’s hiding place, Slorb hands the Ring that Lets You Climb Real Good to him with a warning that it is also a loaner from the chief.

Reta slaps Chuffy upside the head in congratulations and says pointing at the ring, “Nice one Chuff.”

The infamous Rusty Earbiter is a hollow coil of rusty wires, barrel hoops, bent swords, and thorny branches and vines that’s kept behind the Moot House when not in use. So named for the fact that it’s claimed a number of goblin ears in the past (at any one time up to three partially severed goblin ears can be found tangled in its sharp internal coils), the Rusty Earbiter is both an object of fascination and fear for the Licktoads. The half-insane tinkerer who invented the thing has long since died (carried off one night by a giant bird of some sort after his first and only test of a prototype bird-attracting hat), but his legacy lives on. The other goblins cheer and hoot when Drubbus, Reta, Poog, Chuffy, and Mogmurch are dared to crawl through the Rusty Earbiter, and a half-dozen eager goblins roll the 20 foot coil out from behind the Moot House with the typical number of slashed fingers and stabbed legs such a task normally brings. A goblin who agrees to this dare must climb into one end of the Rusty Earbiter and then wriggle through it, coming out the other side. There’s no time limit to get it done, but the faster the better! (italicized section from ibid, p. 6)

Reta pushes Drubbus forward, thus volunteering him to go first. “Show us how it’s done big guy!”

Drubbus grabs her and pushes her forward, “You do it, Vomit-head! I need my ears to listen to the ancient spirits, and tell them to haunt you if you do that again!”

To hide his own terror at the thought of being cut up inside that thing, Mogmurch helps Drubbus push Reta toward the device. “Reta goes! Reta Goes!” he shouts, cheering as he considers the mayhem about to happen to her.

Poog looks at the Rusty Earbiter and says, “No no no. I iz not gonna go in dat ting. I needz my earz to hear the words of Zarongel!” He is mad too that he has no bright shiny prizes to play with either. He is beginning to think the entire goblin dares games aren’t as fun as they used to be watching them.

Chuffy spends a few moments studying the Earbiter with slight trepidation. Then a grin cracks across his face, as he seems to have gained some sort of insight on the inner workings… or it could be the wind he broke. He starts his way through.

Reta stops pushing and fighting with the others and grins at Chuffy. Slowly and quietly she starts to chant, “Chuffy, Chuffy, Chuffy…” looking around at the other goblins and motioning for them to join in.

Drubbus joins in as well, but after a few moments he drops his voice and changes the chant to, “Not me! Not me!”

Poog can’t stop giggling, “Chuffy’s in de tube, he needz to sneeze some lube! If he getz stuckz hez so outta luck!” He is now giggling so hard he slobbers all over himself with spit and snot.  He then wipes it and running over to the tube throws it in!

Right as he goes in Chuffy gets an ear snagged, but after that he moves through swiftly and gets out after less than half a minute.

As the only one to take the dare, Slorb awards Chuffy with one of the tribe’s most coveted items: the chief’s Personal Very Useful Robe That Is Useful. He places it on Chuffy as the surrounding goblins cheer (or boo).

Slorb announces one more dare: Grab the Stone. Chief Gutwad hands Slorb a jagged egg-shaped stone that shines with a faint red glow. Slorb drops it inside a large rotten stump with several holes in it that had been set before him by a team of goblins.

“There are many holes in this log,” Slorb leers at them all as he states the obvious. “All you must do is reach in and grab the Stone of Fixing Broken Stuff. But first…” Slorb is handed a leather sack bound at the top with a rope. He thumps it about a bit and then unties the sack and dumps an angry water moccasin into the top of the stump. “Now I believe we have a snake bite cure somewhere. We’ll send someone to see if it can be found if we need to. But it would be better if you just grab the stone and not the snake. Heh heh.”

Poog sticks out his tongue and makes a raspberry noise, “No wayz.”

Reta watches and waits for any of the others to step up.

Chuffy is still massaging his wound from the Rusty Earbiter. “Nope, that’s one dare you can’t get me to take,” has says and steps back.

“Snake! Rake! Eat the cake! I’m not afraid of that little slithery worm!” Mogmurch steps up to reach in for the stone but comes up with nothing.

Drubbus steps up to the stump, he says some words in the secret Druid tongue and scatters some mistletoe leaves.

Mogmuch shouts “Frack!!” in disappointment, and reaches into another hole but comes up with more nothing.

Drubbus spits on Mogmurch for luck. Then he shoves his hand into a hole to find still more nothing.

Drubbus tries yet another hole – nothing.

“Mog, you really wanna get snake bit? You just as like to grab a snake as a stone, an’ I can’t helps you if’n ya do.”

“Slinky snake won’t get me! I’ll get the stone!” Mogmurch tries the tenth hole.

Drubbus reaches in again but again comes up with nothing. He turns to Mogmuch and says, “I can tell you what hole the snake is in, so’z ya don’t get bit. What’s that worth to ya?”

Reta belts out laughing at the increased agitation of both Drubbus and Mogmurch, very happy that she is not thrusting anything into those nasty holes.

“Which hole? Tell me!” screams Mogmurch as he thrusts his hand into another hole. Then his eyes go wide and he pulls it out again triumphantly, shrieking “I win! I win!”

All of them are expected to set off into Brinestump Marsh the next morning, lingering sickness from the previous night’s party or not. As it is, Poog recovers fully, Reta is no longer sick, but Chuffy and Drubbus are still feeling their cuts and bruises respectively. They are all brought before the chief again at dawn, whereupon he instructs them all to “Get fireworks and bring them here to me.” To help, he gives them the remaining fireworks from Scribbleface’s stash – two Desnan candles, four paper candles, and a skyrocket. The chief leaves it to them to decide how to divide these up.

“Ooo, me likes the big boomy one,” say Chuffy. He reaches into the stash and tries to grab one of the paper candles instead though. ”This looks just perfect for Chuffy,” he says with a grin.

Poog says, “Gimmee deh rocket onez!” He makes a grab for the skyrocket.

Drubbus attempts to be sly and avoid a fight over the skyrocket, he makes a grab for the paper candles trying to get one in each hand.

Two hands, two fireworks. Reta grabs a Desnan candle but sees that Poog has already grabbed the skyrocket so she grabs a paper candle that is closer to hand! Reta is too engrossed in her new toys to mind much about not getting the big one. She grins from ear to ear and waves the Desnen candle about, imagining it throwing forth fireballs of doom upon all her enemies.

Mogmurch gets what’s left as he found it too hard to decide what to grab for first. This turns out to be the other Desnan candle.

Next, they organize themselves into the semblance of a marching order.

Drubbus tries to move up in front of Chuffy, so he has someone behind him if something sneaks up on them.

Poog is too busy with his skyrocket to care where he is in the line singing to himself,  ”Across the sky shooting stars… fiery lights leaving scars, making fire is my delight, eating nasteez in the night.”

Reta tries to take command. “Poog, you be in front. I will stay way up ahead of you guys cuz I make less noise. If I see something I will come back and tell ya.”

“What?!” Poog screeches at Reta. Hopping from leg to leg and spinning around several times, Poog is clearly quite distressed. “Eyez not gonna walk in front, yooz do it.”

Reta sighs, “I will be in front… a lot in front. You just in front of da rest!”

Poog casts a sneaky sideways glance at Reta, and says, “Okee dokee Ugly Reeeta Marsh Maid.”

Reta squints her eyes in anger then turns away and moves up ahead, putting around 60 feet of distance between the group and herself.

Poog lets Reta get out ahead and then starts to follow her whispering to himself, “Oh yez, Poog is following right behind Reta with his big stick.” He makes several thrusting motions with his skyrocket towards Reta. He then begins to giggle so much he trips and falls on his face in the mud with a splat and mud flies everywhere.

The journey to the fireworks stash, as indicated on the map is relatively short – a slog not quite a mile-long through the swamp along a creek’s northern bank. The journey takes only one hour to make. The marsh itself is relatively difficult to navigate, with numerous stretches of deep water that must be skirted and thick tangles of stinging nettles, but they are all at home in these swamps and so are not worried about getting stuck or lost. Still they need to be wary of other larger predators. (italicized section from ibid, p. 6)

The point indicated on Scribbleface’s map isn’t quite on the coast, but it’s close enough to hear the faint susurrus of waves crashing on an unseen swampy shoreline. The site itself is obvious once it is approached. A two-masted ship lies mired in the mud in a clearing, its rigging thick with moss and decorated with lanterns and windchimes made from goblin skulls and bones. Strange writing is faintly visible along the ship’s prow, while the soggy, swampy “yard” that surrounds the wreck is encircled by a rickety wooden fence. A thin curl of smoke wafts up from a chimney that protrudes from an unusual box-like structure near the ship’s bow. (italicized section from ibid, p. 9)

As he’s bringing up the rear, Chuffy glances behind to make sure there is no one following. He casually squeezes one of the boils on his face.

Thinking very highly of herself, Reta says, “Somebody lives here, let me sneaks up and look. Stay here.” She waits a few seconds for anybody to contradict her, then starts heading towards the gate to get a better look.

Poog grasps Reta’s arm lightly, and whispers, “Wait Reta. Lemme check for magic trapz before yooz stepz in it.”

“Yes, good. Do that,” Reta says and waits to hear back what Poog discovers.

“Ya, Reta.” Drubbus whispers roughly “An, when hez done, I can give you a spelly to keep you safe from any guard dogs.”

“Good, Drubbus, do that too. When you are done I can sees what there is to see… Hey, wherez Poog going?”

While waiting for his dog hiding-ness spell from Drubbus, Reta watches Poog head towards the fence. She crouches down and waits, mumbling “Stupid Poog.”

Poog doesn’t sense any magic from the fence or the yard; however, all of the goblins hear the barking of dogs – seemingly from the ship and somewhere farther off the neighing of a horse. Poog creeps as close to the fence as he needs to scan the whole ship. He moves counterclockwise along the fence, for why would a goblin do anything else?

Mogmurch goes with him. Whispering to Poog, he says, “Hiss! Horse and dogs! What kind of creepies keep horses and dogs?”

When Poog and Mogmurch reach the north side of the fence they see that the main deck of the shipwreck is cluttered with objects both natural and artificial. Thick swaths of leafy vines grow over the deck, and shiny green patches of algae and moss grow where the vines do not. The central cabin’s roof has a wide edge, creating a canopied walkway along the ship’s sides. A flight of steps leads up to the roof of the ship’s main cabin, the entrance to which is blocked by a door decorated by a large number of rodent and bird skulls. A smoking stovepipe chimney extends up from the ship’s highest point above. Two rickety wooden platforms – crow’s nests – sit on the masts, ten feet above the ship’s decks below. Each is linked by a pair of thick ropes, and additional ropes hang down from the platform on the stern-most mast to the deck. (adapted from ibid, p. 8)

They can see clearly that there are not just one but two dogs on the ship (and hear what might be a third). One mangy hound with a blue eye and a brown eye is chained to the central mast on the upper deck, and the other is a scruffy mongrel with a crooked tail  chained to the aft mast below on the main deck. Both dogs are barking ceaselessly and straining at their chains as they smell the presence of the goblins. Even more horrifying than the dogs, however, is the filthy, dark grey stallion on the other side of the fence. At the sound of the dogs it neighs and runs off behind the wreck to the southern side of the yard, churning up mud with its hooves. Despite all this, Poog is able to maintain his concentration and he detects the presence of magic within the main cabin. There are two sources of magic within the cabin, both faint. Because he cannot see them, Poog is unable to discover anything more.

“Let’s go back an’ get the others to kill the dogs, ‘kay?” asks Mogmurch, but Poog is already heading back the way they came.

“Yes yes yess! I hatez dogz.”

Meanwhile, Reta and the others hear the dogs barking and the neighing of the horse as it rounds the wreck. Reta loses all sight of the mission in a blood lust for the horse, empowered by her new weapon. “Let’s get it boyz!” she screeches to Drubbus and Chuffy. Reta draws the magical dogslicer and sneaks up on the horse.

Reta slips stealthily over the fence and sneaks quietly up to the unsuspecting horse, obscured from its notice by Drubbus’ spell. Unfortunately for her, she lunges at it just as it steps away and she misses. Her aggressive intention causes the spell to fail and the horse immediately rears up and lashes out at her with its hooves. One hoof hits Reta in the shoulder. Nothing seems broken but Reta knows she will feel that in the morning. Enraged, Reta fells the horse with a single blow. The horse collapses in agony, badly injured and unable to get up.

“Hehehe! That’s how it should be! Kill a horse!” says Mogmurch as he and Poog get back and see what Reta has done.

Poog reports there are two minor sources of magic inside the ship but nothing too strong.

Reta stops hacking at the horse and says, “We can take those mutts with bows, just need to find a good spot.”

Drubbus looks up to the ship for any sign of movement.

Reta hacks at the horse’s head one more time then joins Drubbus in looking at the ship. Since there is none, she says, “C’mon boyz, lets board” and starts heading for it.

Reta grins and says, “You boyz go up to the front. I’ll take out the dogs. She drinks her spider climbing potion, climbs a nearby tree and starts firing on the dogs. Her first two shots miss, but her third shot hits the dog that is on the upper deck but only wounds it. The fourth shot isn’t really a miss but it careens off the side of the dog. Both dogs are now in a frothing fury and both actually manage to break the rusty chains tethering them to the masts. But since Reta is up in the tree all they can do is leap up to the railings howling and barking.

Meanwhile, Drubbus isn’t sure what to do… he hesitantly starts toward the gangplank as does Poog, Mogmurch, and Chuffy. They come to a vine-choked gangplank with mossy handrails that ascends sharply up to the ship’s bow from the muddy ground. One handrail seems to be encrusted with a large ball of dried mud.

Chuffy whispers, “Let me take a look at this thing.” He doesn’t see anything to be alarmed about though. Drubbus however, points out that the ball of mud is actually a wasp’s nest and when he looks further he sees it is connected to a vine on the gangplank. Drubbus feels very good about himself for spotting this!

Mogmurch had concocted a potion for boosting his agility. He doesn’t drink it yet though. Then he checks his bomb supplies, and (almost hyperventilating) mutters, “Boom and burn. Boom and burn! Boom and burn!” over and over to himself.

Drubbus feels the heightening anxiety of the group, “Easy fellas, there are fouler things than dogs on this ship.”

Chuffy does his best to safely dislodge the wasp nest trap, but only ends up causing it to fall and burst at the bottom of the gangplank. He is even stung by a few angry wasps for his troubles. Fortunately he is not stung enough to cause any severe swelling.

Poog can’t stop himself from stalking the dog, so compelled is he with killing it. “Dirty dizguzting nazty dogz.” He moves along the port side of the cabin closer to the dog aft of the cabin that is barking furiously at Reta in the tree and shoots his fire bolt at it. The dog yelps and collapses on the deck, whining piteously. Poog is momentarily speechless seeing his fire bolt strike fell the dog.

Mogmurch laughs as the dog’s last blood leaks out. “Ha har! Good job, Poog!” and gives him a hard congratulatory slap on the back.

That is when the cabin door crashes open and out steps a female goblin with a too wide, even by goblin standards, snaggletooth grin of mismatched file sharpened teeth that leaves little doubt as to her preference for tough, stringy meat (for instance, goblin meat). All but Poog and Drubbus recognize that she must be Vorka the cannibal. She wears rags and bits of stained cloth – trophies harvested from her hapless victims – over her equally patchwork leather armor. Atop her large, misshapen head is a floppy, pointy leather hat. She screeches, “What’re you doin’ to my doggies?!” A torch-like flame then flares up on her outstretched hand and she uses it to light a Desnan candle that she immediately fires at Reta (being the first goblin in sight). The first pyrotechnic candle fired hits Reta square in the chest and give her a nasty burn.

Then another monstrous thing leaps out of the cabin. It is a frog about the size of a human and probably weighing around 200 lbs. “Get them Lord Longtung!” screams Reta pointing down the walkway. With a few hops the giant frog blocks the walkway and its long tongue flashes out and almost catches Poog who ducks beneath it with a startled yelp.

The dog atop the cabin races over to the flight of steps down to the main deck to Vorka’s side, ready to mangle any intruder who comes within reach. “Good doggy, Tickletooth!” Vorka says, “Look what they did to poor Scabtongue!”

Reta scuttles down the tree to get cover from the branches and looses another arrow, this time at Vorka. She hits her in the left shoulder and though it causes her to curse all the more doesn’t seem to be enough to put her down for good.

While Vorka raves, Poog steps in closer to the frog, calls upon Zarongel, the god of fires, and lets loose with a burst of flames from his hands. Unfortunately, the giant frog is too quick and leaps back away from them.

Mogmurch drinks his potion to boost his throwing accuracy and stays behind the cabin out of the way of the mayhem along the port side.

Drubbus casts his entangle spell to keep Vorka and her tongue-flailing boyfriend away from the goblins. The vines all over half the ship, from the stern forward, all begin wrapping themselves around the dog Tickletooth and Longtung the frog, and also Poog who is halfway down the port walkway. Vorka, however, manages to slip free of them, at least for the moment.

Poog, failing to disentangle himself is cursing mightily and shrieks, “Drubbie yooz dumaz. Now what are we supposed to do!” Poog is good and thoroughly stuck, from where he is he tries a desperate throw of his javelin at the frog.

“Suits you right, Poog!” responds Drubbus.

Chuffy runs around to the starboard walkway, but has to stop as he finds the writhing vines blocking his way.

Vorka fires another candle at Reta but this time only hits a branch over Reta’s head. Vorka dances about cursing and manages to keep away from the encircling vines. “I’ll have your eyeballs pickled in sauce before this night’s over!”

The frog and the remaining dog try to break free of the vines but fail. Lord Longtung, however, tries again to grab Poog with its tongue to drag him closer. The tongue hits but Poog slips through it. Poog hurtles his javelin back at the frog but it gets knocked off the ship by one of the vines.

Reta looses another arrow at Vorka and hits her left thigh.

Poog is desperate now, seeing his last javelin casts fail and he is still entangled with the frog attacking him. He slaps his head and says, “Zilly Poog! Poog forgets he has skyrocketz!” As the frog once more tries, and fails, to get a grip on him with its tongue, he grabs the skyrocket slung by a string from his back and holds it up to his right hand just as he shoots another fire bolt at the frog – which hits it on the tip of its head and certainly hurts it but doesn’t kill it. The fire bolt lights the skyrocket that begins to shake and emit bright white sparks out of its tail. “Herez sum pretty colors for you, you ugly frog prinze!”

Drubbus advances down the port walkway until he’s just outside of the entangling vines and beside Poog. He holds a dart at the ready.

Vorka fires a third candle at Reta but once again it bursts against the covering branches. “I’ll roast you maggots and pick my teeth with your bones!” she howls. Finally the vines catch her and, like her pets, they wrap around her as well.

Again Lord Longtung hits Poog with his tongue but is unable to get a firm enough grip to pull the goblin priest of Zarongel towards it.

On the starboard side, Chuffy pockets his tindertwig and paper candle and draws his own dart, ready to throw it at the first enemy that comes around the corner.

Reta looses another arrow at Vorka, but this time the cover between she and the cannibal works against her and the arrow lodges itself in the gunwale of the wreck.

Poog’s skyrocket finally takes off with a roar, tearing itself out of Poog’s hand and hitting Lord Longtung in the belly whereupon it explodes into a cascade of multi-colored light. The frog is badly burned and lets out a piteous bellow. It blinks its eyes and shakes its head, blinded (at least temporarily) by the lights.

To add insult to injury, Drubbus hurls a dart at it that sticks into its head right between its eyes and dangles there for a few moments before the frog shakes it off.

Mogmurch comes up behind Drubbus, so he can get a good throw at Vorka with one of his bombs.

Vorka screeches, “Cuddles! Cuddles! Get out here, your momma’s in trouble!” From up above a third dog, sounding even larger and more ferocious than the other two, can be heard barking in rage and hurling itself at the door of the upper galley in an attempt to break it open. Vorka casts the Desnan candle overboard (it fires one last candle into the mud), ducks down behind the gunwale, takes out a potion from a pocket in her rags with her left hand (a magical fire is still burning in her right), bites off the cork, and quickly consumes it. She licks her lips and mutters, “That’s a little better.”

The dog Tickeltooth finally bites through the vines holding it and it bounds past Vorka and even Longtung to get at Poog.

The frog, Lord Longtung, keeps shaking its head and trying again and again to break free of the vines holding it in place but is unable to do it.

Reta moves up to the higher branches to get a better shot at the frog, but her arrow goes amiss and just sticks in the cabin by the frog’s head.

Poog screeches, “Drubbie, curse yooz! When I getta outta here eyz gonna trim yooz earz!”

With a mighty effort, Poog finally strains against and breaks the vines, Drubbus helping in the effort by grabbing him around the waist and hauling him out. Finally, Poog is free and with Drubbus they are both able to move towards the bow, leaving Mogmurch a clear path to hurl his bomb at the frog or Reta.

Mogmurch lofts the bomb at Vorka, watching its flight and chuckling softly as it lands on Vorka’s head and explodes, burning her hat into cinders and leaving her face covered in soot. The burst of flaming debris also lands on Scabtongue who lets out a final whimper and passes out.

Mogmurch screams, “Yes yes yes! Boom boom boom!” as the smoke clears, delighted with the effects.

Reta calls out, “Yeah! Good shot! Take that ya old witch!”

Vorka tries again to break free of the vines but with no luck. Nevertheless she raises her right hand and blows the flame in it towards Mogmurch, a new flame spring up in her upraised palm immediately after. Mogmurch yelps as he is badly burned on the arms he flings up to protect himself by the fist-sized ball of flame.

Tickeltooth managed to avoid getting caught again by the vines and hurls itself at Mogmurch snapping at him viciously.

Lord Longtung finally snaps the vines wrapped around its legs. It backs up and hops up onto the upper deck where it finds more vines waiting to embrace it, though it manages to evade them for the moment.

Cuddles, the dog in the galley up above can still be heard howling in rage and attempting to smash through the door barring its way.

Reta sings, “Doggie die, doggie die,” as she lets loose an arrow at Tickeltooth who yelps as it pierces him in the side.

Poog, unsheathing his dogslicer, slips away to the bow. “Go get ‘em Moggie Boy!” Poog clasps a dirty dog-leather pouch he has around his neck and utters strange guttural sounds that build to a crescendo of raw noise. He steps up and touches Drubbus bestowing upon him the divine guidance of Zarongel.

Mogmurch pushes back, away from the dog, his elation turning into scowling horror. He pops the cork on the Dragon Brew Gourd and tosses the strangely bubbly contents down his throat. He then burps up a gout of flame that engulfs Tickeltooth and leaves him smoking and still on the now defoliated and charred patch of deck.

With great fanfare, Drubbus takes a clump of mistletoe out of his pocket and cast resistance on Mogmurch.

Desperate and enraged beyond all reason, Vorka pulls free of the vines and blows another ball of flame at Mogmurch but her aim is thrown off by the vines and the ball hurtles harmlessly into the mossy trees.

Without warning Lord Longtung drops down from the upper deck behind Poog and opens its sharp-toothed maw to engulf him.

Up above the other dog is still trying to get out of the galley.

Reta looses another arrow at Vorka but it overshoots her and is lost to view on the other side of the wreck.

Mogmurch steps in a bit towards Vorka and then breathes forth another gout of flame that hits her from 25’ away. Vorka screams in agony and starts to run, evading the grasping vines around her.

Poog turns at the thud behind him and shrieks! “Itza rainin’ frogzz!” He slashes with his dogslicer at one of the frogs legs leaving a nasty cut. ”Itz frogs legs for dinner boyz and girlz!”

Drubbus slips around the corner from the walkway to the bow and brings down the scythe onto the frog, but it easily hops away from the swing.

Vorka runs to the steps leading to the upper deck. This gives Chuffy a chance to hurl his readied dart at her (there are no risers so he can try to throw it between the steps). In his excitement, however, he trips over a vine (an inert one but still hazardous) and slams into the deck, where he lies stunned. Vorka cackles when she sees this and keeps going right up to the main deck – too quickly for the vines to catch her again.

Lord Longtung finally succeeds in wrapping Poog up with its tongue and begins pulling the goblin into his mouth. Reta looses an arrow at the frog but it goes right over its head (and Poog’s as well).

Drubbus attempts to keep the frog from eating Poog. “Ancient spirits, guide me!” Unfrotunately, with not quite enough room to swing, his blow fails to cut through the Longtung’s rubbery hide.

Mogmurch, being momentarily left to his own devices, takes a moment to quaff one of his extracts. He is soon feeling almost as good as new.

Desperate, Poog calls upon Zarongel and a wave of life-killing energy radiates from him in all directions. It is still not enough to kill the frog however.

Vorka makes it to the upper deck and to the door of the galley. Reta scrambles into the upper branches of the tree to get another clear shot at her. The arrow whistles past her, causing Vorka no small amount of consternation that she is still being fired upon.

Longtung bites down on Poog and the evil goblin priest stops squirming at last. As Poog loses consciousness he mutters his death song:

And Poog lies bleeding on the deck

Killed from the bite of a former man

Zarongel’s cleric, lover of fire and hater of dogs

 The lick spitter tribe couldn’t protect Poog

Poog lies bleeding on the deck

As Longtung munches on Poog, Drubbus brings his scythe down once more and this time pierces the brain of the frog, putting an end to it.

Mogmurch takes a quick look around. He sees Vorka fleeing and desperately wants to burn her, but also see’s Poog and realizes they may need his help soon, if he can be saved. So Mogmurch changes direction and pulls Poog out of the frog’s jaws.

Vorka rushes into the galley and slams the door shut behind her.

As Mogmurch lays Poog on the deck, Drubbus takes out his potion of wound curing and pours it down the fallen goblin’s throat. With a cough and a splutter, Poog is revived. Poog looks good enough to Mogmurch’s practiced medical eye, so he leaves him as he is.

“Stop the tanglies! Stop the tanglies or we’ll never get to Vorka!” screams Mogmurch to no one in particular.

Poog opens his eyes and blinks a half dozen times, then he carefully runs his hands over his body while he whimpers. Once he realizes he not dead he is so happy and cries out, “Lord Zarongel is great!” He springs to his feet and says to Mogmurch and Drubbus, “Do yooz twoz needz zome healin’z beforez weez continue?”

“Not now.” Drubbus shakes his head “But prolly later!” He hands a firework to Poog “Give this to Vorka for me!”

“Tankz Drubbie,” replies Poog. Poog is animated in his childish delight with his new paper candle. He giggles with anticipation to light it off, “Com’erz Vorka! I has a present for yooz!” He then makes little thrusting motions and pantomimes turning his back and covering his ears.

“I wanna boomer too! Gimme one!” cries Mogmurch.

“I’m gonna keep the entanglement goin’ ’tilz we getz a looksee at dat dog I hearz.” Drubbus sayz as he hands over his last firework with a grimace. His greed for it overcome by the realization that he has no way of lighting it anyway.

Reta climbs from where she is onto the upper deck, slinging the bow and taking out her dogslicer. She finds a place to hide up there and wait for Vorka (and the dog) to come out.

The entangling vines finally stop their writhing and return to their usual inanimate condition. The goblins walk to the stern to go up the upper deck after Vorka.

While following the others, Drubbus whistles to his goblin dog and calls out, “Mangy! Get over here you disgusting, little beast!” Mangy then scrambles up the gangplank and joins them.

Poog walks over to the rigging and makes the grab for the rope but it is covered with moss and fungus and he slips and falls back to the main deck with a resounding boom!

“Need that other healy drink now, Dufus?” Drubbus laughs.

Poog laying there now seeing quite a few more stars in the sky lets out a weak squeak, “yez pa-weez.”

Chuffy gets up, glad that no one saw him take a fall, and pulls out his paper candle and tindertwig as he follow the others up the steps.

Drubbus motions for everyone to group up to one side of the door to the galley. “Don’t cross in front of that door, boyz! Da Vorka can maybe throw more fire at us!” He whispers.

Poog is tired of getting his as kicked and is fine leading from the back, “Good idea Drubbie, yooz go first!”

Above the galley, Reta sneaks across the roof and bends over the side to take a quick peek through. She sees that the room is a blood-spattered chamber of horror. Dead rodents, snakes, and birds have been variously nailed, tied, and hung around the walls. Between the two portholes, a large cauldron bubbles over an iron stove set against the bow wall, its stovepipe chimney extending up through the ceiling. A bloody burlap sack sits on the floor next to the stove. The center of the room contains a long, rickety table surrounded by chairs that contain several grisly decorations of a whole family of skeletal goblins, their bones bleached white and bound together by reeds and twine. Vorka is standing right by the door, and it looks as though she is about to undo the latch, swing open the door and cast another spell. Two discarded vials lie at her feet (yes, healing potions). At her side is a hulking, rheumy-eyed, lumbering cur of a dog bigger than most goblins. It is growling and tense and ready to spring through the door. (italicized section from ibid, p. 8)

Reta waves, silently, for everybody to move away from the door.

As the door opens, Chuffy quickly lights his paper candle with a tindertwig and throws it into the galley at Vorka who can be seen within casting a spell.

Drubbus runs past the doorway, and takes a swipe at Vorka with his scythe but doesn’t even come close to hitting her.

Mangy leaps for the doorway and snaps at Vorka as well, but comes no closer to hitting her than Drubbus.

Mogmurch gets a light from Chuffy for his smokestick, which he then tosses through the open door into the galley. The galley quickly fills with a thick puke green smoke.

Poog also lights his paper candle from Chuffy’s tindertwig and throws it into the galley but a little further in.

Vorka, alarmed by the first paper candle thrown at her feet and the smoke backs away from the doorway and continues casting her spell. The length of the casting is in fact beginning to worry Drubbus and Poog who realize that it must be some kind of summoning.

Then Cuddles lunges at Mangy, chomps down on his neck, worries him for a bit and then drops him, dying, to the deck.

Reta climbs down into the galley clinging to the ceiling, only to find that she cannot see because of the thick green smoke that fills it. She scuttles over to the far corner and emerges from the worst of it. She can just see the silhouette of Vorka within the smoke. Reta takes a swipe at Vorka’s head with her dogslicer but only cuts through smoke.

Chuffy, eager to kill Cuddles, attacks the dog with his dogslicer and succeeds in cutting it. At the same time the paper candle he threw explodes, momentarily blinding the dog.

Drubbus tries to hit Cuddles with his scythe but is unable to get a good angle of attack with the doorframe in the way.

Mogmurch, behind Chuffy and the others tries to get a clear shot at the dog in the doorway but in unable. He shouts, “Move move move!” to the others (as inarticulate as any goblin), hoping for a good shot at the dog Cuddles.

Poog unleashes a fire bolt at Cuddles, but it goes over the dog’s head and disappears into the smoky room. His paper candle goes off and Vorka is also blinded but is able to maintain her concentration and continues her spell.

Inside, Reta tries again to hit Vorka and this time draws blood and disrupts her spell casting.

Vorka screeches in frustration, leaps to the ceiling and scuttles away deeper into the smoke away from Reta. Under cover of the smoke she casts another, and shorter spell.

Cuddles bites Chuffy but the latter is protected by his leather armor, this time.

Chuffy takes another fruitless swing at Cuddles, before backing away until he is by Drubbus.

Drubbus finally hits the dog with his scythe, opening up a large gash in its side.

Mogmurch breathes his last gout of flame at Cuddles and finishes off the vicious monstrosity of a guard dog. Mogmurch eyes widen with glee! “Mogmurch toasts the puppy! Oh, isn’t fire wonderful?

Poog sees Cuddles go up in flames and with an evil gleeful grin says, “Nice work Moggyie-Boy!  Now itza Poog’s turn!  Poog dives through the open doorway over the flaming mutt, tucking into a ball he lands in a somersault, rolling up onto his knees sliding into the corner of the room looking up at the ceiling for Vorka, all the while humming a well known globlin battle song, “Dah dah Dah deh Dah dah… deh nah dah… deh nah dah, DAH DAH!” He spots her hanging from the ceiling amidst the smoke towards the back of the galley and unleashes a fireball at her that sets her hair on fire.

Then Reta comes running across the ceiling screaming “Reta kill! Reta kill!” Reta plunges her dogslicer into Vorka who falls, toasted and stabbed, into the stew pot with a loud splash.

The battle over at last, Drubbus bends down and casts stabilize on Mangy.

Reta fishes out then searches Vorka’s body, all the while cackling evilly. She also finds a goblin’s left arm and heart floating around in the stew.

Poog also cast detect magic to see if it can guide him to anything of value but there are no indications of anything magic on either Vorka’s body or in the room.

Mogmurch looks for any shiny things but finds nothing. Seeing through the smoke is difficult, so he opens the portholes wider to let the smoke dissipate. He throws the still smoking smokestick outside.

Reta turns to the bloody burlap bag and dumps its contents onto the deck. As she supposed, the rest of the goblin in the stewpot is now rolling around on the deck, including a uniquely branded face. All turn and consider how Scribbleface’s hideous fate should serve as yet further proof to all that writing words can, in the end, only bring bad luck – or worse!

“Me’s gonna look elsewhere” screeches Reta and she looks for the hold. Poog follows her. Mogmurch follows, eager to find the stash of fireworks (and other goodies). Chuffy follows along with the others, his dogslicer still drawn and ready.

Drubbus cries out in a pathetic wail, eyes wet with tears, “Can’t anyone help me with my poor little Mangy?”

Poog utters some guttural sounds while he clasps a small leather pouch made from the scrotum of a large bull mastiff and filled with his sacred goblin talisman of Zarongel then lays his hands on the poor goblin dog and says, “Healz yooz, arizez and be ready for battlez!”

The air in the main cabin is thick and close, stinking of swamp and sweat, with a thick glistening layer of mud on the floor and swaths of oily fungus clinging to the walls. Even more dangling decorations of goblin bone and animal-part fetishes hang from the ceiling on lengths of sinew here, and what appears to be a nest made of rags, sticks, mud, and cast-off bits of clothing lies against the westernmost wall But scattered amid the filth and clutter are several exotic-looking man-made objects – including a tantalizing red chest. (italicized section from ibid, p. 9)

Mogmurch says “Ooh!  Shinies!” and starts checking out the items in the room.

The majority of the man-made objects are filthy and broken, but 10 minutes of sorting and scavenging turns up some interesting finds. All of these items (broken and functional alike) are strangely decorative, depicting colorful serpentine dragons, towering cliffs, delicate humanoid figures, and strangely ornate towers with large eaves. They all seem to be made of bamboo, exotic wood, and in some cases paper, so they are all going to be a lot of fun to burn! Among the more obviously valuable pieces are 140 gold pieces that don’t look like they were minted in Korvosa, a bejeweled silver and jade lantern built to look like a coiled dragon, a dozen sharp flat metal stars, a long hairpin with a red pearl at one end, and an ivory and gold fan depicting a gecko walking amid cherry blossoms on one side and on the reverse side is a crude map of Brinestump probably drawn by Vorka. Two other items register as magic when Poog uses his spell: a wand and a crystal vial shaped like a heart with some liquid in it. (italicized section from ibid, p. 11)

Reta smiles with delighted greed and pounces on the chest. As Poog is saying, “Lemme scanz it first for magic trapz,” Reta opens it quickly to see what is inside! What she finds is exactly what they were all hoping to find: 14 Desnan candles, 20 paper candles, and seven skyrockets.

Reta gives out a loud screech and points into the chest, “Fires works!”

Fire Over Sandpoint

Jharad produces a small rope and ties it around his waist, holding the cloak closed. Tucking the dogslicer into the rope belt, he grabs his large mug of ale and takes Keng up Market Street. Passing the Market Square, they walk down Water Street along the docks then turn north and follow Main Street all the way to the garrison building. He comments along the way, “It has been a long time since I lived here, nice to be back.”

Keng is looking around taking it all in, assessing strengths and weaknesses, places to fight from and places of potential ambush. He just grunts at Jharad’s comment.

Just as they turn the corner onto Main Street they hear from a few of blocks behind them a couple of tiny explosions followed by the screaming of horses and then the shouts of people crying out in alarm and outrage. Whatever it is, it sounds like it might be coming from the Goblin Squash Stables and the Rusty Dragon Inn.

Jharad nonchalantly stops and turns towards the noise. “Well that sounds alarming,” he says mildly. “I am going to continue on to the armory to warn them and get supplied. I would suggest we stay together, though I am guessing you would rather run towards the impending danger.”

“Jharad, the animals are defenseless, I’m heading towards the stables!” yells Keng. He turns and races back towards the stables unslinging his axe and thinking, ‘I had a bad feeling about this night!’

Jharad decides to pick up the pace and begins to run.

Back at the Rusty Dragon, the sounds of fireworks can be heard going off in the Goblin Squash Stables right next door. Daviren Hosk, the owner of the stables who had come back to the Rusty Dragon with the posse, is the first out the door. “What in the Nine Hells! The goblins must be attacking my horses. I’ll skin those little buggers – everyone of ‘em!” Hosk is followed by the farmers who were closest to the door.

Toshio is out of his seat and a half step behind Hosk. “So much for a quiet end to the evening!” He pushes past the farmers and draws his katana as he exits the tavern. “Get a lantern out here!” he shouts to anyone who will listen, wishing (not for the first time) that he could see at night like an elf.

A smile breaks across Zeyala’s face. “Welcome to my world Toshio!” she laughs. Without so much as a glance, she grabs up her long spear and heads towards the door.

“I’ll ask you more about that, but let’s wait ’til tomorrow,” says Toshio as he moves out.

Jethrik runs toward the commotion! “Into the valley of death charged the 500!”

When they get outside they hear a loud hissing noise and see a shower of sparks falling from the roof of the stables. Suddenly, something that looks like a shooting star hurtles down from the roof and crashes into Daviren, exploding with the sound of thunder into a shower of light. Hosk and several of the farmers around him are badly burned and have to roll around on the muddy street to put out the fires.

Zeyala calls out, “Is anyone hurt?”

“Aye, many of us” responds Toshio as he starts to get up.

Zeyala casts a curative spell lays her hand upon Toshio, letting the positive energy wash over him.

“Thank you, Zeyala.” When Toshio can see again he follows Hosk.

The two other wounded farmers are crying, “Cleric, we need a cleric!” Hosk is too ornery and too worried about his horses to bother about some minor burns.

“I’m here, I’m here!” says Koya as she kneels in their midst. She grasps her silver butterfly medallion in her hand and calls upon the healing light of the goddess and within moments all who were burned feel their wounds fade away completely.

Jethrik runs to the side of the building on River Street and discovers a ladder leaning against the stables, a ladder no goblin could have dragged into town but which nevertheless must have provided it (them?) with access to the roof.

Toshio steadies the base of the ladder and says to Jethrik, “All set. Up you go to squash the worm!”

Jethrik makes a mental note to hate Toshio a little less. He may think he’s good enough for Ameiko, but he’s not all bad. He scrambles up the ladder as quickly as he can and at the top sees a lone goblin holding some kind of cylinder that is hissing and pouring out a copious amount of sparks and smoke. Then it launches some kind of small fireball at the roof of the Rusty Dragon. The goblin twirls around and sees Jethrik, incidentally pointing the cylinder right at him.

“Bah! That bastard in the weird armor set me up!” Jethrik swears.

Right behind Jethrik, “that bastard in the weird armor” is hustling up the ladder before the gnome even gets a chance to step off it at the top.

The goblin drops the Desnan candle and scurries over to the rear of the stable’s roof. He clambers over the side and out of sight as he climbs down to Mud Lane. Behind him the Desnan candle rolls down the roof and onto Market Street, spitting out sparks, smoke, and more fireballs on the way down.

Jethrik calls down to Toshio, “Hey what’s-your-name… He climbed down the back of the building, cut him off!”

Without answering, Toshio reverses his direction, placing his hands and feet on the ladder’s outer rails and slides back to the ground. Once down, he sets off in the direction of the fleeing goblin. Toshio doesn’t really notice the insult until a bit later, as he finishes the slide to the ground. But then he’s too busy to worry about such pettiness and forgets it in his haste to catch the goblin.

As Jharad runs up Main Street he hears an even louder explosion from the area of the Rusty Dragon Inn and the sound of humans screaming in agony and dismay. A multi-colored glow of lights can be seen over the rooftops in that direction when he looks. Running down the street from the direction of the garrison is Sheriff Hemlock and two of his watchmen.

“Jharad! What’s going on!” the Sheriff asks as he approaches.

He replies, “I am not sure. I heard explosions coming from the inn and stables. I am unarmed but will accompany you and do what I can.”

“Not much you can do with just a cloak, and goblin scrap metal. You’d better go on to the garrison and get suited up as soon as you can. Just knock on the door, Eugini will let you in, so just tell him what you need.” The sheriff and his men continue on down the street and round the corner out of sight.

“I will do that, Sheriff. Thanks.” Jharad continues up the street. Jharad then hears the sound of screaming from the garrison ahead. It looks like the door is open and small shadowy figures are moving about and there are occasional bursts of fire. As he gets closer he sees that they are goblins and that one of them is using a sling to cast stones into the building. He can hear a watchman yelling for help inside.

Jharad runs around to the back of the garrison and starts banging on the servant’s door, “Let me in, the sheriff told me to come here and help!”

Before a servant can answer, however, a foul stench reaches Jharad’s nose. He looks and sees four shadowy figures round the corner of the building. ‘Stray dogs?’ thinks Jharad for a moment. Then he hears their strange grunts and sees their flicking rat like tails. ‘Not dogs… goblin dogs!’ They break into a run after Jharad.

Keng finally makes it back to the Rusty Dragon and sees that the area is filled with smoke and fires seem to have been started on the roofs of the inn and the stables next to it. The horses are still screaming and the doors to the stable are open. People with lanterns are apparently inside already trying to calm the horses so they can be led out. Ameiko and Sandru are organizing another group of people into a fire brigade. Koya and Zeyala are caring for two young men whose clothing appears to have been burned in the front by some kind of fiery blast. In the middle of the street is some kind of object like the goblins used earlier that night shooting out sparks, though it fizzles out just as Keng arrives. Toshio and Jethrik are nowhere in sight though he thinks he hears them shouting from the other side of the stable.

Keng sees that there are no enemies nearby and the townsfolk are being organized. He approaches Sandru and asks, “Are we under attack? Where is the enemy?”

Sandru responds, “We only saw one goblin with fireworks atop the roof of the stables, but that was enough to cause all this havoc. Toshio and Jethrik went around to the side of the stable to see if they could catch the little villain.” Sandru points down the street to the end of the stable at the corner of Market and River Street. Keng runs off in that direction.

He runs around to River Street and sees that there is a 24 ft. ladder leaning up against the building. Both Toshio and Jethrik are on the corner of River Street and Mud Lane peering into the inky darkness of the alleyway. Keng helps them look for the goblin but it would seem as though the pyro-maniacal little vermin has escaped into the midnight blackness of the alleyways.

Around the front, Ameiko and Sandru have the ladder dragged around and with a bucket brigade stretching down to the Turandarok River they manage to get the fires on the roofs of the stables and the inn put out. Fortunately, because of the intermittent rain throughout the day the roofs were damp enough to prevent any real blaze from springing up. Still Ameiko is in a bit of a shock. “They tried to burn my inn down?” she says in disbelief. “Is nowhere safe?” Sandru comes up and puts a hand on her shoulder. She leans into him and they embrace for just a moment and then pull away from one another with a sad knowing look.

Disappointed with the “chase,” such as it was, Toshio says to Jethick and Keng, “Well, we gave it our best, didn’t we? Let’s go back to the tavern and see how things stand there.”

As they make the short trip back, Toshio adds, “Looks like we’ll have to hunt them down in the marsh, before they can set up another raid into our town.”

“By Gorum!” cries out Keng! “This was just a distraction! The real threat is elsewhere.  Jharad went to the garrison for his armor. He is by himself!” Keng then runs off towards the garrison to check on Jharad.

“I thought you were with him until you turned up here! I’m with you – let’s go!” Toshio takes off to keep up with Keng.

“Well, the man seems to know his goblins…” Jethrik muses and trots after the others.

Jharad runs down Rat Alley and leaps over the assorted rubbish and empty crates that fill it. He can hear the goblin dogs racing after him, their yapping getting closer by the second. Suddenly there is a fence that Jharad doesn’t remember being there before, granted that was close to 20 years ago. He vaults over it. Behind him the goblin dogs make their own way over the rubbish-strewn alley. Jharad next finds his path blocked by a veritable wall of crates and barrels. He tries to leap atop them to get over them but ends up sprawled on all fours as the barrels tip over. The goblin dogs behind him are having trouble clambering over the fence, so that gives him time to get to his feet and scramble over the barrels. He can now hear the goblin dogs hurling themselves in frustration against the fence. It is only a matter of time before they either break through it or manage to climb over it, so Jharad keeps running. He finally gets to the end of the alley and onto Sand Street, only to see that at the head of Wet Dog Alley there are indeed a pack of wet and bad tempered stray dogs, who are already barking and howling at the dark overcast skies. Jharad hesitates, not sure if he can sneak past them and get back to Main Street. Behind him he hears the clatter of barrels and crates and the yapping of the goblin dogs. He realizes that they must have gotten over the fence. He looks again but still sees no chance to get past the pack of strays. In fact, one of the dogs is now looking in the direction of where Jharad is crouching. The dog growls as the hairs on its back bristle. The goblin dogs are still back among the barrels but any moment now they will come flying out of the alley. Jharad realizes he is running out of time. Sticking to the shadows of the north side of Sand Street, he tries to slip past the pack, but it is too late. They have already scented him and spotted his movement. Before they can trap him, though, the goblin dogs rush out of the alley and that gets the real dogs attention immediately. Caught between the two groups, Jharad leaps up and catches hold of a rusty drainpipe. As the two packs collide amidst fierce growls and hissing, Jharad climbs up to onto the rooftops and makes his way back to Main Street.

As Jharad reaches the Sandpoint Market he sees that it is filling up with people coming out of their homes to see what all the commotion is about. Now in addition to the geese and dogs the shouting of people can be heard from all over town. Several head over to the Rusty Dragon to help put out the fires (though they are already put out for the most part except for the thick clouds of smoke that can barely be seen for the darkness of a cloudy night anyway). In the middle of the market he sees Keng running back towards him. Behind Keng, he sees Toshio and then Jethrik, and behind them Sheriff Hemlock and the two members of the watch.

Keng says, “Jharad, you all right?  There’s goblin mischief afoot and the chaos back there at the Dragon Inn and stables appears the work of one goblin to distract from the real threat!”

Jharad stops running at the sight of Keng, “Keng, quick. Goblins are forcing their way into the garrison. I am sure they are after Slorb!” He then runs with Keng back to the garrison.

“Gorums balls! Damn snot monkeys are everywhere,” he says in reply as he follows after Jharad.

Keng, running ahead of the others, rounds the corner onto Main Street just in time to see a fiery rocket propel itself far up ahead from the east side of the street and into the garrison. An earth-shattering boom and shower of multi-hued sparks roars out of building. Keng pours on even more speed, and then the others round the corner and see it too. Furtive shadowy figures race out of the building and join others in the street. They stop to pick up one of their number who was lying in the street and disappear into the dark alleys of Sandpoint. As Keng finally gets within a block of the garrison he sees that the whole interior of the building as well as the entranceway is on fire. Burning weeds of tremendous length and thickness writhe in front of the building as if searching for prey. Within, a voice screams for help and then lapses into a fit of coughing.

Without hesitation Keng leaps past the flaming weeds and into the building. Crouching down beneath the smoke, he sees a Shoanti warrior in a blackened and dented breastplate stumbling about in the smoke. Keng seeing the warrior is a Shoanti says in Shoanti, “Brother let me help you.” He then tries to pick him up and carry him out. The warrior can’t respond for all his coughing but he extends his hand and allows Keng to carry him. As Keng carries him back through the door the flaming weeds wrap themselves around both of them. Keng becomes enraged at being caught by the flaming vine like weeds and begins pulling and tearing at them in great handfuls while growling and snorting in anger. He fears not the fire. Fire is cleansing. But he is terrified of being held captive against his will. He succeeds in breaking through them and escapes the flames.  He barely feels the burns across his back, arms and neck. His sacred tattoo of flames on his back gently tingles. He is greeted by a sound he never thought he’d hear. The sounds of people applauding and cheering him! The people of Sandpoint who had come out of their homes along Main Street in response to the explosions and fire had all seen his heroic rescue. They paused in the very midst of putting together a bucket brigade to cheer him. At that moment, Toshio, Jharad, then Jethrik, and then Sheriff Hemlock and his men arrive on the scene.