The as-yet unnamed party:
Arxire Coilbone, tiefling warlock (Rory)
Beezmo, halfling druid (Michael D.)
-Drex, his mastiff
Erdon Thistleborn, elf cleric (Michael G.)
Felix, gnome wizard (Nico)
Gogh, half-elf rogue (Brian)
-Esh, his donkey
Mathis, human monk (Zach)
Misty, elf paladin (Allie)
Naivara, elf druid (Janine)
Kiko, Naivara’s ferret
Lichen, drow warlock
Tyriel Morlane, half-elf ranger
The elf paladin Misty woke up in the Temple of Life, finally recovered from her brush with death at the hands of the Severed Eye orcs. Her companions left word that they were assembling at the mouth of Blackstar Canyon, near the tree of hands, but before she set off, she had a few errands to run.
She questioned Sister Marla about the Jampor, and the priestess referred her to the town farrier, a dwarf named Pallock Pawstorm. Pallock’s shop was littered with elven symbology and crafts, which was unusual, given the state of relations between the races.
Pallock himself was a weathered old hunter, who’d once gone hunting in the elven territories to the north with some elven suppliers of his. While stalking game near the edge of the Great White Forever, he’d sensed something on the ridge above, and when he’d looked up, he’d beheld a Jampor. The dwarf was awestruck, and he claimed his mind had been filled with thoughts sent from the creature. Though it was difficult for him to put the experience into words, he called it the greatest day of his life. As Misty made to leave, Pallock gifted her with a lucky rabbit’s foot, as she couldn’t afford any of his other wares.
On her way out of town, she came across a truly pitiful creature: an overweight gnome scholar who’d been beaten to a pulp and left bleeding and grunting near the Leaving Tree.
This was Felix, a scholar from a university in the city of Wake, who’d been teleported into town by his superior the day before, on a mission to learn more about the disturbances in Blackstar Canyon. Unbeknownst to his boss, Felix was also intent on finding out what had happened to his associate Lichen. Sister Marla had been unable to help him, but in the Winking Serpent, he’d come across the exiled elf herbalist Pizzel, who’d informed him that their mutual friend had never come back from an excursion to Blackstar Canyon. Pizzel lamented the loss of his drug distributor, and Felix lamented the loss of his drug supplier. Pizzel had suggested they come to some arrangement, though Felix had been noncommittal.
Then Felix had made his ill-fated visit to Lord Mayor Whitebeard. On the way in, a guard had warned the gnome that the mayor was in a foul mood due to the bold tongue of a foreign dignitary he’d had thrown out of town earlier that morning. But that hadn’t stopped Felix from alluding to the mayor’s occasional dalliances with the prostitute Lichen, at which point, the mayor had summoned the guards, had Felix dragged to the basement, beaten senseless, and tossed out of town near the Leaving Tree—but not before the mayor had confiscated his lore book, expensive new magnifying glass, and bag of sand.
Misty would allow Felix to accompany her to Blackstar, but on the way, she wanted to stop in to see the strange seer known as Carlin. When they arrived at his hilltop shrine, they found Misty’s comrade Erdon locked in a battle of wits with the mystic. Though he’d been forced to give Carlin a lock of his hair and a pint of blood, he did get a glimpse of his future (“You will find yourself in a stone courtyard with no entrances or exits. Overhead a storm is brewing. Don’t trust the ghost you meet there. Salvation is found on your knees.”). Though he was hoping to learn more about his nightmares involving swimming with vengeful dolphins, the cleric decided to quit before the stakes rose any higher.
The rouge Gogh then stepped forward to try his luck against the seer. Gogh was forced to tell Carlin a dark secret, then to hand over his treasured insignia momentarily, but one strong riddle won him a reach into Carlin’s bag of charms.
Felix was next. When he lost the first round, he resisted Carlin’s request for his blood, until he was convinced by the army of scorpion-tailed cats that suddenly surrounded the shrine. Felix also managed to win a charm before ending the contest.
Misty’s attempt to win knowledge or treasure did not go so well. She lost three straight rounds of riddles, and was forced to offer first a lock of hair, next a pint of blood, and finally a promise that she’d give Carlin her first-born child. Again, the mystic’s army of mutant felines helped convince her to comply.
With that, the group departed for Blackstar, where they reunited with Naivara, Arxire, and Mathis (noone was sure where the halfling Beezmo and his hound had disappeared to). Armed with new information from the scholar Felix, the group debated their next move until the gathering dusk and an approaching thunderstorm convinced them to get moving. They decided to finish what they’d started and put and end to the Burndog goblins by eliminating their leader Fingerpop.
What few goblins remained had been busy. They’d barricaded the entrance to the goblin cave and written crude warning on the surrounding rocks. Gogh decided to scout the ogre cave and its backdoor entrance to the goblin tunnels while the rest of the party worked to deconstruct the barricade. Gogh spotted a goblin lingering near the backdoor, but the creature had merely giggled and run away. Gogh turned back to warn the others, but just as he emerge from the ogre cave, he watched in horror as the barricade exploded, sending his companions flying backwards, singed and deafened.
From inside the goblin cave came hideous laughter and strange projectiles that emitted sparks as they flew and exploded upon impact. Misty was on death’s doorstep once more, until Gogh leapt forward and poured a healing potion down her throat. Mathis, Arxire, Naivara, and Erdon took up positions on either side of the entrance and made short work of the goblins who charged out. But when Erdon stormed inside, he encountered three tough-looking goblins with interlocking shields guarding one fat, wicked-looking chieftain standing next to barrel of fireworks—Fingerpop, no doubt.
Meanwhile, Gogh was running back toward the ogre cave in the hopes of outflanking the goblins, but he stumbled upon two of them emerging from the same cave with the same thought in mind. Firing his crossbow on the run proved to be too difficult, and Gogh ended up on his face, in the mud while the goblins pounced gleefully. Luckily, Felix saw what happened and came to his rescue, killing one goblin with a bolt of energy, which bought Gogh enough time to recover and dispatch the other.
Back outside the cave, our heroes were becoming unnerved by the ferocity of the thunderstorm—particularly those wearing metal armor. Back on her feet thanks to Gogh’s heroics, Misty promptly took a phosporant goblin rocket to the face, which left her blind and confused. She wandered out into the open canyon, was struck by lightning, and lay smoldering and dying once more. Mathis rushed to her aid, stabilized her, and placed her in relative safety just inside the mouth of the cavern—right next to Erdon who was locked in combat with one of Fingerpop’s elite guards.
That he was only facing one of the guards was thanks to Naivara, who’d entangled the other two and Fingerpop himself by calling forth vines and roots from the cavern floor.
Then the warlock Arxire went to work, casting a hellish hex that jumped to a new victim every time the current one died. He then unleashed two ferocious bolts of energy that left Fingerpop in a fat, sizzling heap on the cavern floor. Their leader dead, the remaining goblins were routed and the Burndog tribe was no more…though they weren’t quite finished with the party, as it turned out.
Back in the ogre cave, Gogh had stumbled through a tripwire strung across the backdoor, which brought about another explosion that left himself and Felix grievously wounded. Almost at the same time, Arxire was searching the body of Fingerpop when he noticed a thin wire running from the chieftain’s little finger to something under his clothes—but he noticed it too late, and again the cavern echoed with a deafening explosion.
When everyone was finished stopping-dropping-and-rolling, and healing was administered, Mathis was sent to explore a few remaining tunnels. He discovered the mechanism by which the goblins flooded the caves, then he ascended several staircases before coming across a stout door with four short, thick white stripes painted on it. This he recognized as the symbol of a tribe of hobgoblins. When he reported his findings to the group, they elected to loot the Fingerpop’s chambers and the storage room before taking on new foes.
The group took cover as Felix used mage hand to open the door to Fingerpop’s chamber from afar. Thankfully, the door was not rigged, but inside they beheld a skinny, terrified goblin holding a torch and standing over a line of black powder that led out of site. This was Smurg, who’d been instructed by Fingerpop to “make place go boom” if anyone other than he opened the door. But the little goblin didn’t want to die, and Gogh was able to convince him to come forward and hand over the torch.
Felix hypnotised Smurg, while the party bound his hands. Felix then set about looting Fingerpop’s chambers, which contained a laboratory for processing bat guano into explosive powder, while a few other party members explored the kennel and storage chamber that had caught fire when Tyriel and Gogh had entered it a few days ago. While rummaging through the charred crates, Mathis discovered large bootprints leading from the back wall and surmised that a hidden door existed.
Back in Fingerpop’s chambers, Smurg was whining about being set free and telling Felix what he knew of the “big hobs” and the “black cloaks” who occasionally visited Fingerpop, while the gnome discovered hidden caches of valuables. Suddenly Smurg saw his chance and sprinted out of the chamber. Arxire, Mathis, and Gogh rounded a corner just in time to see the little bound goblin incinerated by a blast from Felix. Arxire was angry that the gnome had broken the law of captivity, but Felix felt no remorse.
The group convened once more in the ogre cave to plot their next move.