We leave Phandelin in the morning to head toward Thundertree, which we know was once a prosperous community until Mt. Hooknal erupted and destroyed the area thirty years ago. Over the course of two days travel the group manages to do a bit of hunting, but not much else.
After two days we come upon a trail heading east into the ruins of Thundretree. A tower on a hill overlooks the village and the majority of the buildings are heavily dilapidated. A sign nailed to a tree reads “Danger: Plant Monsters and Zombies. Turn back now”. Liarel remembers Mirna telling her about an emerald necklace which may still be in her family’s old herb shop in Thundertree.
We cautiously approach a building toward the front of the ruins which appears to be in better shape than the rest. The door is reinforced with iron bands and the shutters are closed. Liarel opens the door and a man calls out. She responds in Druidic, asking if he is Rydoth. He confirms that he is and tells us to come in. Before giving us directions to Kragmaw Castle, Rydoth tells us that a young green dragon has taken up residence in the tower. We decide to deal with that matter another time, opting instead to head directly for Kragmaw in order to save Gundren.
We travel for a day until we come to a rocky outcrop and decide to rest for the night. Part way through her watch Never hears a voice in the distance. She wakes Mella, Liarel, and Droop just in case. Droop says the voices belong to bugbears and we come to the conclusion that they are patrolling the area as they never fully approach us.
The next morning we take a trail up to a crumbling castle consisting of seven towers arranged in a circle and joining together in the middle. We circle the castle and make note of the front entrance, a side entrance, and what appears to be a secret entrance. After much discussion the group decides to send Never to try and scare the inhabitants of the castle outside using Thaumaturgy. Unfortunately, she is quickly spotted and shot in the foot. She tries to recover the situation by making friendly conversation, but is ultimately forced to retreat. We decide to wait until dark before trying again, but hear a gruff voice coming from one of the towers a few hours into our wait and decide to send Mella (disguised as a rat) to investigate.
Mella scurries closer to the tower and overhears two voices negotiating for someone, presumably Gundren. A gruff voice says, “The agreement was for the dwarf. If you want the map you must pay.” The voices continue to argue for a short while before the gruff voice says, “Very well, question him”. Mella decides to climb up into the arrow slit to see inside the tower and finally manages it after some difficulty.
Looking inside the tower, Mella sees Gundren looking badly beaten. He is being prodded awake by a Drow woman. There is a Bugbear sitting in the corner with a wolf. When Gundren wakes the Drow asks him repeatedly who else has seen his map. He insists that no one has and she crosses the room to burn the map before turning back to approach Gundren, rapier drawn.
At this point Mella decides to intervene. He scurries into the room and quickly shifts into panther form, shocking everyone in the room. He lunges for the Drow’s throat, knocking her prone and biting her twice before shifting his stance to protect Gundren. The Bugbear (Grol) and the wolf both attack Mella, causing him to revert to elf form as the wolf drags him to the ground.
Outside, the remainder of the group realizes that it is time to act and Liarel casts Darkness into the room as we all run toward the presumed secret entrance of the castle.
In the darkness, Mella hears the Drow move and the sound of a door opening. He casts Thunderwave, hearing that he has knocked the wolf back, before grabbing Gundren and beginning the move along the wall.
The group comes through the secret entrance into a provisions room. Danak opens the door to the east, revealing the Drow bandaging herself up, Grol, and a cloud of darkness emanating from the corner. Two armored goblins come in through the door behind us. Danak rushes at Grol as one of the armored goblins turns and leaves, presumably to get reinforcements, as the other stays and attacks Danak.
In the darkness, Mella hears the commotion outside as he continues to make his way to the door. He calls out in Druidic that he has Gundren. In the next room over, Liarel cures Danak’s wounds and Never tries to cast Suggestion on Grol, telling him that he is our ally and there is no need to fight us. The armored goblin makes another attack on Danak, who defends, before Grol calls him and the wolf off.
Mella tries to have Grol attack the Drow, saying she is our enemy, but he does nothing. The Drow lunges, stabbing Gundren, who falls, before running off. Never stabilizes Gundren and Danak moves to pick him up, but Grol says to leave him, that Gundren is his. Realizing that Grol took “ally” to mean “our leader”, Elada charges at him with her sword, slashing him in the hip and breaking the Suggestion as five more armored goblins burst into the provisions room.
Mella hurls fire at one of the goblins and picks up Gundren as Elada and Grol exchange blows. In the provisions room, Liarel casts Thunderwave and knocks back three of the new goblins. Danak swings at Grol with his great axe, but misses and hits Mella instead. Danak, Never, and Elada Docus their efforts on Grol while Liarel continues to take on the five goblins in the next room over. Mella cures Danak’s wounds and Droop faints.
Mella gives the now-conscious Gundren his long sword just before the wolf lunges at the elf, knocking him to the ground. Liarel sends out another Thunderwave, knocking out three of the goblins and leaving the other two looking worn down. She notices a dwarf who looks remarkably similar to Gundren sneak out behind the goblins with a sword. He motions for her to be quiet.
In the other room the battle of three-against-Grol continues and Mella Thunderwaves the wolf back into the darkness. One of the goblins hits Liarel, who falls, and the darkness disappears. Meanwhile, another figure which looks remarkably like Liarel (henceforth “Lie-arel”) comes up behind Elada and stabs her. Never notices that something seems off with Lie-arel and attacks her with witch bolt whil Elada finally finishes Grol.
Lie-arel continues to hack at Elada, who falls unconscious, then shifts her attention to Danak. Danak and Never Fight off Lie-arel as Mella heals Elada. Danak strikes Lie-arel and she collapses, turning into an odd humanoid creature. We fight off the remaining Goblins, most of whom run away, and leave out the secret entrance. We hear voices approaching and Droop says there are “nine”. We run for the forest and see several goblins chase after us, but they do not leave the castle.
We quickly feed Gundren and make our way around Kragmaw Castle to have a better view of the exits, in hopes of catching the Drow as she runs away. After an hour we still haven’t seen anyone leave and Mella casts a location spell on the Drow’s sword, discovering that it (and hopefully, by extension, the Drow) is still in the castle. We ask Droop how many goblins are left and after thinking for a moment he says “nine”. We begin to expect that he thinks any number higher than four is “nine”.
Mella and Liarel try to sneak back into the castle through the secret entrance disguised as rats, but are chased off by two goblin guards, one of whom wears a belt made of rat tails and goes by “Rat Slayer”. After a brief scuffle they return to the forest. Danak and Never go off to join them, leaving Elada and Droop to guard Gundren.
Mella, Liarel, Danak, and Never decide to try once more, this time going through the front entrance. We loop around to the front and Liarel casts a fog cloud onto the front facing arrow slits. We rush through the front entrance until we come upon a door. Danak moves to listen at it, triggering a trap which brings stones and beams down upon us.
After a brief discussion as to whether or not this plan continues to be “worth it” we decide to press forward through the now un-trapped door. It opens into what appears to be a shrine to Lythander’s pantheon. Inside are three small goblins, one of which wears a red cloak, and a large, worm-like creature. Mella wants to clear the room and study it, as it was the subject of some of his deceased master’s studies, but he doesn’t quite know what he’s looking for. Against our better judgement we stay and fight.
There is a round of everyone missing before Danak manages to get stabbed multiple times. Mella tries to talk to the goblin priestess about the god Ohgma, but she appears to be a priestess of Magmulyet and otherwise completely uninterested in conversation. Mella lays down a small offering to Ohgma before joining the fight.
There is a brief scuffle during which one goblin is set alight, Danak Splits the Priestess’ head down the middle, and Mella turns into a panther for the second time today, then the door at the opposite end of the room swings open revealing Grol and two armored goblins. Liarel transforms into a wolf and Danak and Grol begin attacking each other, both missing several times. Never takes out the last small goblin with her mace as Grol finally lands a hit on Danak, who collapses. Never stabilizes Danak as Mella and Liarel fend off the goblins. Liarel kills one of the armored goblins and Grol and the remaining goblin retreat, calling out as they do.
More goblins appear and there is another scuffle before the group manages to get the shrine free of goblins and shut both doors. Liarel loses concentration on the fog cloud, causing it to dissipate. Elada notices this and she, Droop, and Gundren begin to run for the front of the castle. Inside, Liarel heals Danak and Mella searches the shrine. Looking behind one of the curtains, Mella finds an altar covered with a bloodstained black cloth and some ritual tools. Still a panther, Mella grabs a knife with his mouth and ransacks the altar.
We make our way out of the shrine, through the altar room, into a storeroom. We hear several goblins in the next room, which we assume to be the landing from which we entered the shrine initially and so plan to have Mella thunderwave them aside so we can make our escape. Unfortunately, when we open the crack open the door to look out Mella is struck with two arrows and falls unconscious. We close the door and stabilize him while we try to come up with a new plan.
Elada and Gundren rush up through the front entrance and kill a goblin each. Droop stabs another and hides. There is another round of attacks and Gundren falls. The group in the storeroom hear the commotion and decide that this is their chance. Never and Danak rush out to attack while Liarel carries Mella and books it. Danak picks up Gundren and Never stabilizes him. We run out of the castle, a small horde of goblins chasing us. Liarel falls and Never carries her out as Elada picks up Mella before she, too, is hit and falls. Danak gets Gundren into the forest before rushing back for Elada and Mella.
In the trees, Danak and Never take the party’s two health potions off of Mella and give them to Elada and Liarel. We make out way back to the rock formation we had camped at the previous night, Gundren and Mella waking on the way. We set up camp for the night.
Our rest is disturbed by an owlbear which appears to be following our scent. All at once Liarel and Mella hurl fire at it, Never hits it with witch bolt and Elada throws a javelin at it. Droop faints. Danak rushes forward and enters into combat with the owlbear, the two exchanging blows until Danak falls. Never continues the witch bolt and the elves keep producing flame, Liarel accidentally setting herself on fire. Gundren slashes at the owlbear wildly and Mella stabilizes Danak. Droop wakes up and leaps at the owlbear, stabbing it with his dagger, killing it. It falls over on top of him.
Mella and Liarel stabilize Elada before they and Never push the owlbear off of Droop. the small goblin looks a little worse for wear but looks up them and says, “Get ’em?” Everyone awake breathes a sigh of relief.
We finish our rest then make our way back to Phandelin, where Gundren pays everyone but Droop twenty-five gold (Liarel takes note of this injustice and gives Droop five of her gold pieces) and promises the group ten percent of the mine.
As we enter Phandelin, Gundren gives us detail directions of Wave Echo Cave. We begin to approach the town master’s hall to reunite Gundren with Sildar, who we meet exiting the building. Sildar is quite relieved to see Gundren safe and they begin to talk as we make our way to the Stone Hill Inn.
Asking around, there’s been no sign of the Redbrands and news has circulated that Mirna and her family are back home safe, which is raising the town’s spirits. Gundren buys a round of drinks and tells us he’s concerned about his brothers. Since they have yet to be seen in town, they are almost certainly at the Wave Echo Cave, where we suspect the Black Spider has a presence. We rest the night at the inn.
The next morning we decide to head off toward the Old Owlwell. On our way we quickly come upon some large rocks, spotting movement behind them. We split into two groups to try and surround whoever lies in wait. Shortly thereafter, a large humanoid figure peers out over the rocks with a javelin. Never tries talking to him, but he largely ignores her greeting and immediately demands that we give him “everything”. Never offers him her excess herbs, but he says he wants gold instead. Liarel gives him five gold pieces, pretending it’s all we have. He takes it and moves on to demanding food. Never again offers the herbs and Liarel eats a handful to prove that they are indeed edible. The giant calls Liarel stupid for eating “weeds” and says he’d rather eat elf, demanding that Liarel step forward.
At this point we realize that we cannot talk our way out of this situation and move to attack. Elada and Danak rush at the giant as Liarel casts Melf’s Acid Arrow, Mella transforms into a panther, and Droop throws his stick. After a brief fight, Droop land the killing blow and we dub him Droop the Giant Slayer. Mella and Liarel stabilize the giant and Liarel takes the time to use the giant’s javelin to write “The elf left you alive” in the ground while Elada steals the giant’s furs.
We make our way to a river to clean the furs and rest, then travel for the rest of the day and set up camp. Near morning we hear the sound of rustling leather approaching. We spot a handful of small flying creatures coming toward us. Liarel shoots one before Mella Thunderwaves them all out of the sky. Droop eats one and Mella buries the rest. Fifteen minutes later we hear a squawk followed by the sound of arrows. Liarel is hit thrice and Never once. We are surrounded by a small group of goblins. We make short work of them and raid the area for arrows before finishing our night’s rest.
The net morning we continue on our way to the Old Owlwell. We eventually come upon the crumbling ruins of an old watchtower, a colorful tent in the courtyard in front of it. A rotting smell is coming from the tower. As we approach, a horde of shambling corpses pours out of the tower. We begin to attack them but are quickly stopped by a man in a red robe with a necromatic symbol tattooed on his forehead stepping out of the tent.
We talk with the Necromancer (Kost) for a bit and learn that he only keeps the zombies about as protection against the Orcs nearby at Wyverntor. He says We are welcome to return to investigate the Owlwell if we take care of the Orcs for him. He then points us in the direction of Wyverntor and we head on our way.
Once at Wyverntor, a rocky high point in the area, we spot a cave entrance. As we approach we notice a guard hiding behind a rock. We stop to plan our approach and decide to send Elada to talk to the guard and set up a meeting. She does, telling the guard about her village of half-orcs which was destroyed by evil humans. The guard says to come back at nightfall. We quickly realize that Elada’s story complicates our association with Danak and so we decide to disguise him as Elada’s slave when we go back that night.
Around dusk Elada, Danak, Droop, and Never approach the cave entrance as Liarel and Mella hide out nearby, keeping watch. The guard calls for “Brogor” and an orc comes forward introducing himself as Brogor Axebiter of the Clan of Many Arrows. He is accompanied by another giant humanoid. We try to convince them to leave and never return by telling them of a mythologized version of Danak who recently came into Phandelin, but they are unperturbed and reveal themselves to be scouts observing the area for an army of thousands. Brogor says he will let us leave for our information and we head out.
When we regroup we acknowledge that we can’t scare them off and begin to plan for a fight.