While the rest of the party slept during the night, Roger and Allele were on watch when several large bats swept out of the darkness at them. Allele yelled to alert the others and brought his greatsword about, but failed to connect with the dodging creatures. He received a small scratch as one tried to bite his wrist, but was otherwise unhurt. Roger’s hound grabbed one in its jaws and mauled it to death, but the thief failed to hit one with his axe.
The rest of the party awoke, except for Fyodor who was slumbering deeply. Gregor the lumberjack thrust some nearby torches into the banked embers of their fire, casting some light on the campsite. Cromartie unlimbered his bow and looked for a target in the darkness. Pavel took a torch and moved toward the conflict. Martin readied himself but took no action until he had a clearer idea of the threat they faced.
The bats swept around their targets but failed to get through the sentries’ defenses. When Pavel brought the torch closer, Cromartie could see the beasts in the light and fired, taking one more down. Fyodor, awake by now, lit another torch and carried it in one hand, with his sword in the other, and advanced.
Another one of the bats was felled and the remaining two fled. Fyodor hurled his torch in the direction of their flight to keep them illuminated a bit longer. Roger dropped his axe and chased them while hurling a dagger, but missed his mark. The bats disappeared into the gloom and the thief recovered his knife.
Pavel bound Allele’s wrist, declaring the wound not serious. The others inspected the dead creatures. They were large specimens, their bodies the size of a weasel and a wingspan of almost four feet. The teeth were narrow and sharp, like a cat’s. Most notably though, was the fact that each wore jesses (leather cords) on its feet, like a falcon. Apparently these were trained, or at least kept, beasts.
The party settled down again and tried to rest a bit more. When daylight came, the sky was blessedly free of rain for once and the wind had died down. After breaking camp, the group decided it was time to advance back into the petrified forest and continue the search for the goblins and their prisoners.
Following the goblin tracks they’d found previously, the group rode slowly into the stony “woods.” Even the underbrush was petrified, making it necessary to break through finger-width stone “branches” if one wanted to make a new trail.
They were a couple of miles into the bizarre landscape when Allele and Roger, taking point, nearly stumbled into a large goblin patrol that hadn’t been paying attention either. The two groups stared in surprise at one another, then launched into battle.
Three of the goblins rode large wolves, and Allele shot one out of its saddle then dropped his bow to ready his sword. Roger fired and missed while the rest of the group prepared to move up and aid the two scouts against the goblins.
Pavel cast a Light spell on the eyes of one wolf, blinding it and sending it into a panic. The rider slipped nimbly from the saddle and screeched an order at the wolf whose rider had been shot, causing it to spring at the elf. Several foot goblins advanced behind the wolves and a few fired arrows at the thief and the elf.
Martin attempted a Sleep spell, but it failed to affect any of the foes. A goblin shot Roger and wounded him badly, and the wolf attacking Allele sank his fangs into the elf. Roger’s war hound bravely harried the wolf attacking Allele.
Fyodor couched his spear and charged forward, skewering a goblin, then dropped from his saddle and drew his sword, Trollcutter. Cromartie advanced on horseback, then dismounted to better use his long bow. Pavel rode forward, flail in hand. The dog distracted the wolf enough to allow Allele to withdraw from the melee and use a Sleep spell on the goblins, felling several, including the third wolf and its rider. The blinded wolf continued to run around in random directions, yelping in fear.
Cromartie fired at the wolf that the dog was fighting, but Roger stepped into the arrow’s path! The shaft sunk into his shoulder and he scrambled toward Pavel for healing. The cleric had already cast a healing spell on the elf, but was able to mend the worst of Roger’s wounds as well.
Fyodor struck at one of the goblins that had resisted the elf’s spell and literally cut him two before advancing on the blinded wolf to finish the creature. The noise of the fight woke a few of the sleeping goblins, but they were cut down almost as fast as they woke up. The sleeping wolf also awoke and launched itself at Allele, nearly bringing him down. Fyodor dispatched the blinded wolf with a massive blow to its spine.
Finally the wolf that had been fighting Roger’s hound was brought down and the last wolf was killed as well. The party delivered the coup de grace to the sleeping goblins and searched them for valuables and/or clues.
The goblins were all obviously of the Wolfskull tribe, and carried a few coins each, but nothing else of much value. The heroes moved off, letting Allele scout ahead, as Roger was still in bad shape from the goblin arrow (and Cromartie’s!).
Allele crept ahead and espied the stone walls and bridge described by Roger yesterday. There were sounds of goblin voices across the black water, but he couldn’t make out words. Returning to the group, he decided to look for a place to ford the river upstream, so they could sneak up on the lair from the North. Allele left his heavy armor and greatsword behind to aid in his stealth. After picking his way through the stony brambles, he came to a shallow part of the river bank. The water was too dark to see the bottom, but his woodcraft told him the water was moving swiftly enough it couldn’t be too deep. Carefully wading out, testing each step to avoid plunging into deep water, Allele attempted the crossing. When he was almost halfway across, he suddenly felt a sharp pain in his leg, then another! Turning to retreat to the bank, the water began to boil around him as he felt his flesh torn at from every angle. He caught a glimpse of white scales thrashing beneath the surface before his legs gave out, their tendons torn, and he was pulled under. He never had a chance even to scream. Within minutes, his bones were picked clean and littering the river bed along with the tattered remains of his gear.
His companions, less than two hundred yards away, remained oblivious to his grisly fate.