We started heading toward the bridge and came across a hole in the ground, an ominous howling coming from within. I had an uneasy feeling being near it and kept walking toward the bridge while Cairn and Hamlin stopped to look at it for a minute.
Across the bridge, we could see a rough-looking wooden fort, with watchtowers on either side of it.
One goblin was milling about in front of one of the towers, apparently just picking up rocks.
Two goblins on the east side of the building were “playing” with a seagull. One was throwing rocks at the bird while the other would yank on a string attached to the seagull’s leg to make hitting it more difficult. Two others were doing the same on the west end.
Three of their grotesque dogs were lounging in the bushes at the base of the building.
We contemplated a few plans, and decided to have Hamlin use his acting skills to pretend to be injured by a goblin blade, which he tucked under his arm, then stumble back into the bushes where we would be lying in wait to ambush them when they came to finish him off.
His ploy worked, and the lone goblin came across the bridge with the three dogs.
When they got close, Hamlin fired a crossbow bolt into the lead dog, Shadow following up with a grazing bite while Cairn moved in behind the goblin at the rear to prevent its escape. I did a flip over the dog to flank it with Shadow, and managed to skewer it with my offhand, finishing it off.
Everything else fell quickly after that, in a flurry of blades and claws and teeth. Only Cairn took any significant damage in the fight, and he drank some potions while I snuck out of the brush to see what the other goblins were doing.
The seagulls from before were being consumed by two of the creatures while the others were pulling another set of seagulls out of cages and trying to tie strings to their legs to continue their games.
The remaining goblins didn’t seem to even notice the missing goblin or dogs, so we decided to rest in order for Cairn to meditate and regain his spells. It was dark out by this point, and the goblins had all moved inside, so we made our way across the bridge.
Cairn went across first, followed by Shadow and Dante. I went next, then Hamlin. When he was almost all the way across, the bridge suddenly collapsed. Hamlin managed to grab onto a plank of the falling structure, slamming against the cliff face before climbing up.
Looking down the rock face, I noticed a pulley system. The bridge was apparently rigged to collapse, and there was a rope system that would let you put it back in place.
Hamlin and I circled the building, but there was only one real entrance at the front. It didn’t even appear to be locked, but I could hear a couple goblin voices behind it. We decided to sneak up on the roof and make our way in through the western tower.
We made our way down the stairs, and came upon a sleeping goblin, which I crept up on and executed without making a sound.
Another goblin was at the bottom of the stairs, rummaging through a sack, though I was not as successful at ending its life quietly as I was with the sleeping one. It managed to get a scrape in on me.
Shadow came leaping down the stairs and jumped over the railing to finish off the creature in front of me, while another goblin came charging into the room, taking a swing at me, but missing.
Cairn barreled down the stairs and chopped that goblin in half.
Moving to the east, we found the main entrance to the building. It looked like it was once a grand entrance hall, now in… disrepair, to say the least. A pile of junk was in front of the entrance.
“The door opened outward, didn’t it?” I whispered to Cairn. He nodded as I shook my head at the goblins’ stupidity.
Poorly taxidermied horse and dog heads were scattered around the room, and feathery black wings were poorly tacked onto the southern wall. They looked large enough for a person-sized creature.
We charged into the room and started hacking away at the two goblins milling about. Shadow eviscerated one with its first claw swipe, and Cairn stepped up and practically exploded the other.
Taking a closer look at the wings on the wall, Cairn said they looked like harpy wings. They were pinned to the wall with a half dozen daggers, one looking a bit more nicely crafted than the others, with a pearl embedded in the pommel. I pocketed it.
Cairn and Hamlin pointed out two of the collars on the mounted dog heads. They were made of fine leather and had a few gemstones attached to them. I estimated each collar to be worth about fifty gold. Into my pack they went as well.
We moved down the hallway headed east from the entrance hallway and came upon three goblins in a room at the base of the eastern watchtower. Two seemed to be playing some sort of card game, but all three were surprised at our sudden appearance in the doorway.
One of the goblins at the table started chanting as the others moved up to attack Cairn. I got stuck behind Shadow in the hallway as everyone tried to shuffle about to attack the goblins, the druid managing to actually move into the room.
In a blur of blades and claws and teeth, Shadow killed two of them and wounded the last before we could do much else than watch Hamlin stab it in the neck. I moved up the tower and didn’t find any other enemies, so returned to the group.
Moving north up another hallway, we came upon a crappy-looking throne room. There were some shamanistic goblins in the room chanting, and ghostly images that looked like the battle in Sandpoint we participated in before, but with images that looked like us, lying dead in the street… the dirty little liars.
The goblin on the makeshift throne greeted us warmly, stated his glee at our not actually being dead, and asked if we had come to swear allegiance to the Thistletop goblins.
We walked into the room calmly, and I noticed four pillars around the rugged throne that were covered in rusty spikes. Would need to make sure to stay away from those, or at least keep a goblin between me and them, during the inevitable fight.
Hamlin immediately answered, “Yes,” and I gave him a funny look. He shrugged.
Cairn said, “Your time is done. Leave.” So much for the ruse Hamlin tried to start.
The leader jumped onto a giant gecko and gave the command to attack. “No, you are done!” he shouted.
“You’ve obviously never fought humans before, have you?” I asked. The goblin leader shook a necklace at me, which had what looked like finger bones on it. “… that weren’t mere farmers you caught unawares or some such. I mean, you’re goblins, and we aren’t pushovers.” I looked to Cairn, who nodded in agreement as he readied his weapon.
The druid, surprisingly, did not use his axe right away, though, instead summoning an earth elemental in the back of the room.
A net was suddenly thrown over Hamlin and myself by one of the goblins, but Hamlin managed to slip out right away.
The gecko-riding goblin leader leapt into the air and flipped upside down, attaching to the ceiling, and came scurrying over to attack the druid… who promptly collapsed to the ground from a heavy blow.
Hamlin stepped back into the doorway we entered from to fire his crossbow at a goblin, and I followed behind him, managing to cast the net off of myself with a flourish and toss it onto the goblin who put it on me all in one motion.
“Ha ha!” I exclaimed, then fell silent when I saw Cairn’s body on the ground.
The leader attacked me from the ceiling, landing a blow, and I managed to hit him back with my shortsword. The goblin I’d thrown the net onto was struggling to get out of it, and I whipped my rapier over, stabbing it in the neck and finishing it off.
I dodged another attack from the ceiling as the (horribly) singing goblin nearby stepped up and tried to stab me with a horsechopper, and I got another small stab in on the leader, who I realized suddenly must be Ripnugget, the Thistletop tribe leader.
Shadow leapt off the ground, swatting at the gecko’s tail, but failing to knock it off the ceiling.
I somehow managed to keep not getting stabbed from both the side and above, and noticed out of the corner of my eye that the earth elemental had disappeared at some point, and Cairn, while still on the ground, suddenly moved. I thought I saw him drink a potion, but then he appeared to be immobile again.
Shadow pulled the lizard down from the ceiling, but Ripnugget managed to land a blow on me as he fell, and everything went black.
I woke up what must have been only a moment later, the singing goblin standing over my body, and managed to sneak a healing potion off my belt without being noticed, feeling a slight amount of vigor return to my body.
Cairn stood up and I saw him drink another potion of his own.
Shadow landed a claw and bite on Ripnugget, who retaliated, wounding our feline friend.
“From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee!” I shouted, as I leapt to my feet, landing a vicious stab on the suddenly flat-footed leader of the Thistletop Tribe.
“Why you longshanks not stay dead!?” Ripnugget shouted as Shadow landed another bite.
Cairn then hefted his axe… right into Ripnugget’s face.
Hamlin took a small slash from the remaining goblin, then stabbed it in the face with his dagger. It died from its wounds.
I leapt onto the gecko’s back and tried to calm it down. Shadow decided he wanted a gecko dinner and started clawing at it. Cairn then decided to help him and my newfound dreams of having a giant gecko mount were dashed upon the edge of my druid friend’s axe.
We found a couple of more powerful healing potions, and Cairn drank one since he was on the brink, while I drank one of the potions we had brought with us.
Ripnugget had an oversized (for him) breastplate, and Cairn noted the shortsword was magical. From my experience in the Bartered Coin, I was able to recognize the craftsmanship and determined it was just a minorly enhanced blade. Slightly sharper, easier to land a blow, that sort of thing.
Because I use a shortsword more often, I took it, and Hamlin asked if he could take the cold iron blade I had had crafted before so he had something with more reach than the dagger he’d been using up until now.
Shadow’s ears perked up, and he looked toward the west wall, then I heard a thump and what sounded like a pumpkin being smashed, followed by a goblin-sounding yelp.
I let the others know what I heard, and we decided to look into the rooms on the east side of the “throne room”. We found an armory filled with run down equipment: scrap metal blades, goblin-sized suits of studded leather armor, and two masterwork daggers. Hamlin and I each took one of the finely crafted daggers.
I picked the lock on the door on the north side of the room and found a ring of keys right inside. How did Ripnugget get into the room if the keys were…? I thought to myself. Oh yeah, he’s a dumb goblin and probably just locked himself out.
Also in the room was a silver holy symbol of Lamashtu, the Mother of Monsters, and a brass key that wasn’t on the keyring. The floor was covered in poorly tanned dog and horse hides.
The door to the south of the room filled with dead goblins led to an empty hallway, which led back to the entryway to the fort, with the poorly-taxidermied animals.
We peeked out of another door off the main entryway, and there I saw the smashed pumpkin. Well, what had sounded like a smashed pumpkin was actually a goblin head being smashed, as there were two of them in the yard, along with two of their gross dogs, also dead on the ground, heads or ribcages crushed. Another dog looked wounded and was barking at a small shed at the back of the little yard that was shaking from something inside pounding on the walls.
Hamlin and I took aim with our bows and let fly at the dog. We both hit our mark and the dog fell to the ground barely making a sound, and the pounding in the shed ceased suddenly once the barking stopped.
There was a door just next to the one we entered the yard from, and on the other side was a small storage room with a couple dozen rabbits in cages.
Cairn moved up to the shed slowly and after a moment asked whatever was inside if it understood Common.
A whinnying sound came from within. A horse. Goblins don’t like horses, and horses don’t like goblins.
“I think I know what crushed the goblins’ skulls over there,” I said.
Looking inside the shed through cracks in the wall, we spotted a horse clad in fine barding, neatly tooled leather pieces, and… I recognized it. I knew this horse.
“Shadowmist? What are you doing here?” I threw open the door on the shed.
“You know this horse? How do you know this horse?” Cairn asked.
“My… My father trained this horse, years ago. He was sold to a nobleman, though I can’t remember who. But I’d never forget this fine steed. He’s one of the finest my father ever raised.”
Shadowmist had appeared to calm down somewhat with all the goblins and dogs dead, so I coaxed him out of the small shed. One of his legs appeared to be wounded and didn’t look too good. Making soothing motions, I managed to calm the horse, and moved to the storage room quickly to get water and what had to be the last clean cloth in the entire fort.
With help from Cairn, we cleaned the infected wound as best we could. At this stage, there wouldn’t be any permanent damage to Shadowmist’s leg, as long as we got it cared for back in Sandpoint soon. Unless it somehow took us multiple days to clear out this little fort, that wouldn’t be an issue.
Further exploration found what appeared to be plans for the attack that had taken place on Sandpoint. Cairn took them as further evidence against the goblins to turn over to the mayor.
We found a chest behind a false wall in a room with a rather disgusting toilet. I couldn’t disarm the trap we found on the chest and wound up being stabbed badly enough I barely survived, needing to drink one of the more powerful healing potions we had found on Ripnugget’s body in order to recover.
Inside the chest we found a large amount of copper and silver (it had to be in the thousands, so we would count it later), about 150 gold pieces and 3 platinum. There were also a few gems I estimated to be worth roughly 20 gold each.
All that was left was to head down the nearby stairs and see what awaited us in the underground levels of Thistletop.