They greeted each other warmly, and spoke briefly about Rask and his companion’s business in town. The old half-elf welcomed the adventurers in Tumbledale, especially if they were willing to help with the Redbrands.
Rask mentioned that they had been told of the gang menacing store owners, and even murdering a man in the streets. Daran somberly confirmed these stories, and pleaded with Rask to make a difference. He also mentioned The Sleeping Giant, a local watering hole that the party knew was a Redbrand hangout, but went on to give Rask the location of the Redbrand hideout, under the Tresendar Manor.
As the two were saying their farewells, both paused mid-sentence as the ground began to shake beneath their feet. Daran rose from his chair and hurried around the side of his house to look upon the orchard that took up the majority of his property.
At first, there was nothing to see. But the rumbling was growing louder, and after only a minute or two, Daran and Rask were able to see a small group of humanoids cresting the horizon. The largest and loudest was a half-ogre, looking stupid and terrified, who kept looking back over his shoulder. He was accompanied by three goblins and two hobgoblins, leading the way in front of him. They were all running at almost a full sprint, and looked frightened, like they were running from something.
Daran raised a hand to the sky, and a shower of sparks shot upward nearly eighty feet. It was nearing dusk, and the signal was visible throughout the town in the waning sunlight. Rask drew his bow, and readied himself next to Daran.
Torbjorn and Adeline saw the shower of sparks, though Torbjorn was the only one to also feel the ground tremble. Even without context, Adeline knew that the signal couldn’t be good news, and both party members took off running for the orchard.
Once the party of frightened goblinoids grew close enough, Daran reached into a pouch under his robes and drew out a bit of fleece. He tossed it into the air, waving his other hand about and saying a quiet incantation. As the fleece seemed to dissolve on the wind, the image of a troll manifested itself sixty feet away, directly in the path of the goblins.
None of the smaller creatures were fooled, and continued their charge. However, the half-ogre paused, confused at the sudden appearance of the beast, and scared to approach any closer.
Rask and the goblins exchanged a few arrows before the rest of the party showed up. It was around this time that the hobgoblins charged directly through Daran’s silent image spell, causing the half-ogre to realize it was a trick, and resume his charge.
Daran dismissed his spell and turned to the adventurers. This one hundred and five year old half-elf had looked tired and feeble up until a few moments ago. Now there was the fire of battle in his eyes, and the party could see that this man was likely a force to be reckoned with back in his adventuring days.
“If you really are the kind of people you claim to be,” he said to the group, “then we need your help. I have to warn the rest of the town and start getting people to safety.” He looked at the heroes with an expression that made their task, and the consequences if they failed, crystal clear.
A Wild Druid Appeared!
As Daran hurried off, Torbjorn and Adeline stepped up to take stock of the situation. As they were watching the approaching hoard and planning their attacks, the sound of galloping hooves penetrated the cold night air. While they watched, a majestic horse emerged from the trees to the right of the goblins, taking everyone by surprise.
As this horse came into view, its form instantly began to shift: its long, thin legs bulged and ballooned; the spine seemed to lower itself closer to the ground, and the narrow back upon it seemed to broaden; and the fine horsehair covering the beast sprouted into a furry mange that covered the whole beast.
The horse had shapeshifted into a brown bear before their eyes.
Without missing a step, the bear launched itself into combat with the goblins at the front of the group, rearing up on its hind legs and swiping at them with its massive paws.
Quick, everyone, help that bear!
The party sprung into action. Rask climbed a tree for a better vantage point, and fired at the engaged goblins with his bow. Adeline sneaked off to the left side, taking cover behind the trunk of a tree, and did the same. Torbjorn rushed forward into throwing range and chucked his handaxe at the closest hobgoblin.
The group had incapacitated many of the lesser creatures by the time the half-ogre was able to make it to where its allies were fighting the bear. Rask jumped down from the tree and moved into position on the half-ogres flank, well out of its range.
As Adeline was creeping through the trees and peppering the battlefield with arrows, she heard the sound of lute strings behind her. She turned to find Dominique also creeping along behind her, eager to see what all the fussing and fighting was about.
The party could feel the ground tremble once more, but the half-ogre hadn’t moved enough to cause it. However, there was little to be done in the heat of battle.
As Adeline and Rask launched volley after volley of arrows from their hiding places, the half-ogre, now bleeding profusely and looking rather tired, made another attack on the mysterious bear in front of it. This massive hit by its greatclub sent the bear flying, and before the animal had hit the ground, it changed shape again. A wood elf, adorned in twigs, leaves, and wearing a cloak pelt that closely resembled the bear it changed from, landed on the ground, wounded and exhausted.
The wood elf used its gnarled tree branch of a staff to climb to its feet, but in its current state it would not last long against the half-ogre. Adeline saw the injured newcomer and rushed forward from her cover. She reached out and grabbed the wood elf’s shoulder, casting cure wounds and putting the elf back into fighting condition. He said nothing, but gave her a short nod of thanks.
With another sneak attack from the trees, Rask put the half-ogre down. It stumbled, trying to keep its footing, but the life soon left its eyes and it came crashing to the ground with a mighty thud.
Out of the Frying Pan, Into the Mandibles
There was only a moment of silent celebration before the ground trembled again, this time much closer. The party had just enough time to look at each other, worried, before the nearby ground erupted, and a monstrous arthropod with six legs burst through.
This beast was ten feet long, and must have weighed upwards of eight hundred pounds. It had a many-segmented body, covered in a brown chitinous exoskeleton. Its mandibles looked capable of snapping a tree in half, if necessary.
It attacked the nearest thing it could, the wood elf, and managed to find purchase with one of its jaws. However, the recently healed elf was able to survive and move out of the way, casting a spell on his gnarled staff, and causing it to glow with an arcane green energy.
The party worked together with the mysterious newcomer to damage the armored insect, using mostly ranged attacks to stay out of range of its mandibles. However, they found out the hard way that the creature was capable of spitting acid as well.
When the beast was looking pretty bloodied, it stepped up to attack the wood elf again, but Dominique managed to get in the way. He cast thunderwave, dealing a massive blow to the creature and pushing it ten feet backwards, where it slammed into the trunk of a tree. Dominique looked to Torbjorn for approval, and even got a little nod in return.
The elf wasted no time taking advantage of the situation, and charged the monstrosity while it was weakened and had its back against a tree. He took his magically imbued staff and forced it into the beast’s maw, forcing its head back against the bark of the tree. Then, using all of his strength, he pushed it through the back of the thing’s head and wrenched the staff upward, splitting the skull open down the middle. The arthropod slumped over, dead, its head now divided down the middle with thick, black ichor pouring out.
The party ran over to the wood elf where he stood next to the body, but as they approached, he collapsed.
Daran Edermath hurried over to the group, and it was at this point they noticed the crowd that had formed at the edge of town. Everyone must have witnessed the last moments of the fight, and therefore seen the heroes’ bravery.
Daran urged the party to take the elf, who was clearly exhausted and had fallen into a coma, back to the inn. The sun had set, and the group was worn out, so they readily agreed.
However, as they sat around the inn enjoying a few drinks and the praise of the townspeople, they couldn’t take their minds off of the elf passed out in one of the rooms.
Who was he? Why had he come to Tumbledale? What did he know about that group of goblinoids? Or the giant insectoid, for that matter? All troubling questions, with no answers…at least, not until he woke up…