Cromartie had some difficulty picking up the trail after the night’s rains, but the group made their best reckoning and pressed on. The group had a brief scare as –of all things– a green dragon flew overhead! Apparently it was not hungry, or uninterested in tangling with a large group of armed men, and it disappeared within moments.
Eventually, he and Allele scouted ahead trying to find signs of their quarry. When they were several hundred yards ahead of the rest of the group, the elf’s keen senses spotted movement near what looked to be a swale or gulley. The party quickly regrouped and made plans to investigate.
Once near the head of the depression, Roger scouted ahead for a bit and saw a wolf riding goblin below riding away from them, it did not seem to be aware of him, though. Following the gulley from above for a few hundred yards brought the thief to a large bowl-like hollow where dozens of goblins were milling about and being shouted at by a large hobgoblin on a wolf mount. Some seemed t be shooting arrows into a cave mouth at the far end of the bowl. At least on of their number was lying on the ground, apparently shot by someone within the caves. Heartened by a definitive sign of their foes, Roger returned to his comrades and the party quickly made plans to ambush the goblins.
Allele and Cromartie circled to the south on foot as the rest of the group rode along the north edge of the swale. Grogor, the lumberjack, led the riderless horses, the mule, and Roger’s hound along the floor of the gulley with orders from Fyodor to goad them into a stampede towards the hollow if he gave the order.
As the group to the north neared the goblins, a smaller group came boiling out of the ravine toward Fyodor, one of them mounted on a wolf. The sound of the attack alerted the main group and the battle was joined.
One of the goblins sunk its spear deep in Fyodor’s side, and the warrior rode in retreat several yards away. Pavel rode up swinging his flail. Meanwhile the goblins’ thrill at chasing off the larger foe was cut short as Fyodor couched a spear in his arm and charged his horse back at the wolf-riding leader, plucking it from its saddle and skewering it to a tree.
Cromartie and Allele loosed arrows at the hobgoblin, dropping him from his saddle. Several of the goblins panicked at their leader’s demise, though one stepped up to lot his body. This proved his undoing as Cromartie shot him down as he bent over his late leader’s body. Meanwhile Allele cast a Sleep spell on several of the goblins near the cave entrance.
Roger shot several goblins and Martin rode up loosing another Sleep spell on a group climbing the northwest edge of the bowl as a fantastic shot by Cromartie killed two goblins with a single arrow as it passed through one’s throat and into the chest of the second! The goblins fighting Fyodor fled down into the ravine and were nearly run down by the charging animals loosed by Gregor. Upon seeing the goblins, Gregor fled up and out of the swale. Pavel, having healed some Fyodor’s wound rode down after the goblins, with Fyodor following a moment later.
Martin spied two fleeing goblins leaving the bowl and trapped them with a Web spell, then rode up and killed a third with a hurled dart.
By this time, Allele and Cromartie had descended into the hollow and began to deliver the coup de grace to the sleeping humanoids.
Fyodor and Pavel killed the last of the goblins in the gulley and Roger killed the two caught in Martin’s web. One of the goblins put to sleep by Martin was spared and bound for later questioning.
With all but one of the goblins dead, the party examined the bodies. Judging from their trappings, nearly all of the humanoids were from the Red Blade tribe. A few wore scraps of wolf pelt, and the hobgoblin had a necklace with wolf teeth. Other than a few coins on the large goblinoid, the dead had little of value.
The prisoner awoke to find himself tied between two horses and a glowering elf firing questions at him in Goblin. What little resistance it had was quickly broken and it said they were here to punish the Vipers for disobeying “Vlack” in the mater of the horses. Some of the group was sent on to the Wolfskull lair with the prisoners, the rest came here to break the Vipers. The goblin said the lair was south, but wouldn’t reveal any more. Allele slapped the horses’ rumps scaring the goblin so badly it literally wet itself. The ropes were actually secured to nearby trees and the goblins arms stayed in their sockets. It lived just long enough to realize the deception when Fyodor beheaded the creature.
Meanwhile, Cromartie and Roger had gone partway into the cave and found a heavy, but crude door blocking the tunnel. It had a large snake design carved into it, corroborating the prisoner’s story. The group decided to pile the dead in front of the door and burn them. They hoped to smoke the other goblins out –or smother them– rather than waste time exploring the caves. With the grisly task done, the set out to backtrack to where the goblin troops were supposed to have split up and follow the other trail. A couple hours later, they were following tracks due south.
It was nearing dusk as the group found themselves in a strange part of the Dymrak none of them had ever heard of. The trees were all petrified. Not fossilized, but literally stone! Allele even found a fox that had turned to rock. The ground was silty and muddy with no underbrush, though from the looks of the “trees” whatever caused the transformation happened long ago. Roger used a pinch of his Dust of Disappearance and scouted ahead invisibly. In the failing light, he found a black stream moving through the trees and could see that several “trunks” on the far side had been felled to build stone walls around a complex of some sort. Another stone tree lay across the water, presumably as a bridge.
Rejoining the group, Roger explained what he’d seen. Cromartie suggested that –since night was falling– the party withdraw back to the “normal” woods and make camp for the night, then approach the complex in the morning.