The party clears up camp and hides the boat in thick foliage before heading out towards the looming peak of Black Rock. A series of heavily wooded foothills lies in your path and the going is slow. The air smells damp and loamy with a hint of pine. The terrain is muddy and uneven, making travel even slower than normal. A light drizzle peppers the foliage, keeping everyone wet and uncomfortable.
A few miles to the northwest, a dim light shines atop a ruined keep. Thus far that is the only sign of life for miles. Black Rock itself is still some twenty miles distant – maybe two days at your current pace. You crest one of the larger foothills, giving you an excellent view of what lies ahead. The main route of the Hafren river turns into the Serpent’s Tail, a dangerous section of rapids, before dropping off the precipice and becoming a massive waterfall at least 250 or 300 feet into the valley below. Atop the precipice is a city, or at least the ruins of one, nestled right next to the looming black mountain itself.
At the base of the waterfall, sits another city on a large island in the middle of the river. Bridges cross to the shores on both sides and a large road winds up the mountain connecting them. A large cage climbs upward from the lower city to the upper on a massive chain.
A fortress, cleverly blended into the mountain, overlooks both.
The party is moving on a forested path when they hear a noise. Several moments go by before a voice, in goblin, shouts out a challenge. Pek says it’s a patrol and immediately goes into hiding. The patrol, consisting of a mountain goblin scout and a trio of hobgoblin soldiers, attack when the challenge is not answered properly. The party dispatches the hobgoblins, but the goblin escaped into the brush. Htaed tracked the goblin, the party chasing him until he was spotted by Ah Zhi, who put him to sleep.
Having bound the goblin, they interrogated him about all manner of things and learned the following:
- The patrols, which run every few hours, are searching for a hidden force in the mountains. Many previous patrols have gone missing.
- The nearby outpost is guarded by a company of hobgoblin soldiers, which surprised the group. Upon recovering the hobgoblin bodies, they noticed they were wearing the uniforms of soldiers. Their insignias indicated they were a part of the 2nd Company, 7th Battalion of the Broken Tooth Legion. This seemed familiar to Ah Zhi and Zinon.
- The party was skeptical about an entire company or even how many that was. The goblin prisoner said it was six packs and a detachment of goblin scouts (like himself), plus the Captain and the Black Tongue, some goblin workers, two Ogres, and several slaves.
- The goblins said the entire Legion was in the valley, which was ten Battalions. There was also an Orc mercenary outfit. Everyone was lead by Kainis.
The party bound the goblin and began moving after a short rest. In a small clearing, an elven woman awaited. Her bow and blade lay next to her and a small portion of food sit on a stump. The party approached carefully and she introduced herself as Captain Tanevria of the Elven House Guard.
After a brief discussion about their intent, she invited the party back to their hidden camp. The goblin prisoner, putting two and two together, deduced that the elves were the ones killing their patrols.
The elven camp was in a secluded cavern, far off the beaten path and well masked. The elves, numbering perhaps a dozen, had the bearing and organized discipline of soldiers. Their camp was spartan and simple. Captain Tanevria took custody of the goblin prisoner and then proceeded to ask the party questions about their purpose in the woods.
In the course of the discussion, both sides learned much. More discussion about the hobgoblins allowed Zinon to recall the Legion in more detail, remember their leader, General Morrow, as a fierce and skilled mercenary commander. General Morrow commanded the Legion, but it was not clear whether he was loyal to Kainis or just the contract.
She agreed to send message back to Aquilar and to her own people before embarking on a daring plan to raid the nearby outpost held by the hobgoblins. The elves had discovered a barrow they believe has a passage into the keep. They want to attack the keep, but don’t have the forces for a full frontal assault. If the party can navigate the barrow and gain entry to the keep, they could attack from both sides of the walls.
The elves would wait outside and look for a signal. The Captain gave Ah Zhi a packet to throw into the signal fire that would turn it green. Zinon also said he could duplicate the effect with his magic. Either works.
The party rested overnight and ventured into the barrow. The main entrance of the barrow was overgrown with roots, some of which attacked the party soon after they descended. The party fought them off and continued inside.
To be continued next adventure…