Zex Rockseeker, cousin of Gundren, found himself alone in the wilderness. Again. His last traveling companion had not seen it worth his time to accompany the Cleric on “family business.” It didn’t matter that Zex knew his cousin Gundren was sure to pay handsomely for any assistance they offered. The promise of danger sent his fellows scurrying back to the temple. No matter, he thought. I’ll help him myself. With a Dwarfly grunt, he set about the task of cooking breakfast for himself.
As his side of bacon began to crackle over the fire, Zex spotted a very strange sight indeed. A head. Big, by the look of it. Followed shortly by a body, just as big. A Stone Giant, perhaps? He got his Warhammer ready. What would bring a Stone Giant this far out of the mountains?
The creature spoke. “Ho there, Dwarf!”
Zex hesitated a moment… “Ho there.”
“Are you kin to Gundren Rockseeker?”
Zex knew that Gundren had friends all over the Realms, but this… thing? “I am.”
“Well met, friend! I am Ro-Kan Ogalakanu, but you can call me Stormcaller. Remember the name. It will be sung about for ages. I have received a letter from your cousin, instructing me to meet you along this road. He has been good to my clan, and in return, I will aid him in his time of need.”
Zex looked him up and down. Seven and a half feet of solid muscle, this one. Skin like a boulder. The hammer slung across his back was bigger than the Dwarf’s whole body. How much trouble is Gundren in, that he sought help from this one? Maybe it’s a good thing I’m not going there alone.
“Very well. I am Zex. Would you join me for breakfast?”
“Yes, yes, let us feast!” With that, the Goliath disappeared into the forest. Zex was puzzled, but mere minutes later Ro-Kan returned carrying a brace of rabbits he had caught. In a flash, the massive creature had skinned them, skewered them, and had them roasting over the fire.
“Hello? Hello there!” the voice came from behind the Dwarf’s cart. A strange bronze-skinned man stepped out, with circles inscribed on his forehead. He clutched a pair of glass orbs in one hand, and spun them around one another. “Is this your cart? I need a ride.”
The human stopped when he saw the pair that he addressed, a strange sight indeed, with the Goliath dwarfing the Dwarf.
“Ah. Are you the cousin of Gundren Rockseeker, by chance?”
“I am,” Zex replied.
“Then the honor is all yours, I’m sure. I am the Mighty Mun Mekhtetmo, wizard and free man of ancient Mulhorand, that earthly paradise, and I have this letter.”
As the unlikely group ate (Ro-Kan decided he needed to catch some fish for the new member of their team), it quickly became obvious that a rainstorm was going to hit them, and make pressing forward difficult. At his smaller companions insistence, Ro-Kan pulled a sizable tent from his backpack and quickly set it up, driving stakes into the earth with his massive two-handed Maul. The wizard quickly scrambled into the tent and zipped it closed, lest a drop of rain or speck of mud touch his clean white robes. Zex grumbled in the way that only a Dwarf can, and sought shelter beneath his cart. Ro-Kan climbed on top of a nearby boulder, brought out a guitar and played a blazing tune to welcome in the storm.
Rat was tired, and hungry, and he didn’t want to get wet. He kicked Whiskey, his pony, in the ribs. Whiskey did not go any faster. Or straighter. Rat knew he smelled cooked food up ahead, they just needed to get there. As they reached the top of the hill, Whiskey stopped altogether. Damn ungrateful, lazy pony. I’ve given you half me whiskey! Rat rolled off the drunk pony, and jerked the reins forward. He saw a cart. With oxen. Loaded with supplies. Maybe they had blankets! And tents! And food!
As Rat got closer, he spotted a pair of boots sticking out from under the cart. With a quick peek under, he saw a Dwarf snoring in the dust. Moving around the back, he saw a tent. Here we are, thought the filthy halfling. The money man. I’ll get him to hire me on as a bodyguard. Dangerous roads out here. And if he doesn’t want to hire me, I’ll show him just how dangerous these roads can be…
“Hullo in there!”
“What?” came the angry reply.
“Noble sir, is this your tent?”
“I’m in it, aren’t I?”
Mun threw the flap open and peered out. He saw a filthy halfling, who carried twin cutlasses covered in dried blood. The wear on the handles of those blades told Mun that the little guy would have no hesitation about using them.
“You should hire me as a bodyguard.”
“Check around back.”
Rat walked around the backside of the tent and was greeted by an angry Goliath.
“I know that smell anywhere! GOBLIN!” Ro-Kan’s hand lashed out at Rat, who spun out of the massive man’s grasp. Ro-Kan drew his hammer and Rat’s twin cutlasses appeared in his hands.
“Mun! There’s a Goblin out here!” Ro-Kan shouted at the tent.
“I know. I sent him ’round to you. He wants a job.”
“I’m NOT a Goblin.”
“You smell like one.”
“I’ve been travelling. I’m on a very important job. I have a letter!”
They confirmed it. Gundren had issued letters to all of them. Just then, the skies opened up, thunder and lightning, wind and rain all came crashing down around them. The human sat in the giant-sized tent, while the Dwarf and Halfling got to know one another under the cart. The Goliath shredded into the howling storm. And though the weather was furious, as Zex heard Ro-Kan playing along to the storm, he felt something truly divine.
Once the storm ended a few hours later, they packed up their tent and set out along the road. Zex drove the oxen, Mun rode next to him in the cart. Whiskey waddled alongside with Rat perched atop, and Ro-Kan picked his way across the landscape, moving along just inside the treeline. After a few hours of travel, they spotted a pair of horses in the middle of the road. Zex stopped the cart, passed the reins to Mun and leapt down to inspect the horses. Ro-Kan ran up to join him. Zex used the edge of his axe to scrape a sheave of dried blood and muck off one of the horse’s rear ends.
“I know this brand. This is Gundren’s horse.”
As the pair examined the mutilated horse corpses, arrows streaked out of the trees. One stuck in Ro-Kan’s armor. Another thudded into the wood of the cart just beside Mun’s head.
Thinking quickly, Ro-Kan and Mun both swiveled. The Goliath called in a dense fog to obscure the left side of the road and the human dropped a thick cloud on the right side. If the hidden archers couldn’t see them, they couldn’t hit them.
The plan to stop the ranged assault obviously worked, because it quickly turned into a melee ambush. Goblins streamed out of the fog on both sides. One leapt out of a tree toward Ro-Kan and Zex, a trio descended on Mun, and a pair went toward the Halfling. Mun dropped to the road and crawled under the cart, to try to get away from the Goblins, but they latched onto him. One slashed him in the throat. Another started trying to climb up the inside of his robe.
The one leaping through the air toward Ro-Kan, sword drawn, screeching a Goblin battlecry was about to get a lesson in humility. With barely a thought, the Goliath took up his Maul and with a great overhand swing, connected with the beast as it began its descent. With a sound not all that dissimilar to a canvas sack stuffed too full of rotten tomatoes bursting apart at the seams, the Goblin was changed from shrieking warrior to chunky salsa in a matter of an instant. Ro-Kan charged back to the cart to help his companions.
Zex saw what was happening back at the cart and ran back to help. He threw a handaxe and buried it into the wood of the cart, narrowly missing the Goblin trying to rip off Mun’s face.
Rat made good use of his twin cutlasses. The swirling blades sent several Goblins to their graves. Under the cart, Mun was scrambling, trying to get the hideous creatures off him. He grabbed one by the face and launched a Fire Bolt down his throat, but even that wasn’t enough. Rat charged in and slashed one off of Mun. As the other turned to face the Halfling, he saw the bloody pair of cutlasses in his hands, and the massive Goliath with the massive hammer coming up behind him, and the pissed off Dwarf coming behind him, and decided to turn tail and run. The coward grabbed the other surviving Goblin, and together they disappeared into the forest.
“After them!” shouted Ro-Kan as he ran off, eager to crush a few more goblin skulls.
“Grab my handaxe!” shouted Zex as he followed.
Rat pulled the axe out of the cart and looked at Mun. Together, they moved the Dwarf’s cart off the road and tied the oxen up before setting after the others.
The pair of them arrived just in time to see Ro-Kan fall into a pit trap. He managed to avoid getting snared in the netting the Goblins had rigged, but he still dropped into the pit. A moment later, he popped back out, looking no worse for the wear.
Must be that stone skin he’s got, thought Zex.
After falling into the pit, Ro-Kan was less enthusiastic about being the first one up the path, and so Rat took the lead. Before long, he fell into a pit trap as well.
“It seems like they took the time to trap the path,” said Mun, derisively.
Half an hour later, the sun began to set, and the group had not fallen into any more pits. They stood at the forest’s edge looking at a river flowing out of a cave’s mouth.
“This must be where the vile beasts ran. Vermin always crawl back into the ground,” said Ro-Kan. Zex shot him a sideways glance. “Not to say that everyone who lives underground is vermin…”
They approached the mouth of the cave, moving quietly. Ro-Kan pulled out a Longbow that looked like a Shortbow in his massive grip. Rat held a hand crossbow and followed closely behind. Just inside the cave opening, they spotted a pair of Goblins. Their pair of Goblins? No matter. Ro-Kan fired an arrow, skewering a Goblin through the eyesocket and pinning him to the wall, his body twitching in its death throes like a macabre marionette. Before the second Goblin could even register what happened to its partner, a halfling-sized crossbow bolt pierced his throat, painting the wall arterial red.
The group pressed into the cave, eventually coming to a room with a fissure in the far wall, and a pair of wolves chained up in the middle. They looked hungry. Very hungry. And they were eager to see the meat that just walked into their room.
“Maybe if we gave them some trail rations, maybe some dried meat…” said Mun, looking through his bag for something suitable.
Ro-Kan reached into his pack and pulled out some of the cooked fish from breakfast and threw it at the wolves. They descended on it, greedily tearing at the first meal they’d had in days. While the wolves ate, the four adventurers quickly moved past them and entered the fissure.
They emerged in a room packed with boxes of supplies. As they stepped out of the wall, a voice challenged them in Goblin: “Nixkedalthoremaka-Klarg?!” Mun translated: “He said ‘Who dares disturb the mighty Klarg?!’”
Then they saw him. A massive 9-foot tall Bugbear, carrying an enormous Morningstar shifted in his makeshift throne, cobbled together from crates and barrels looted from travelers and merchants along the road. He stood and shrieked angrily.
A pair of Goblins burst into the room with a wolf on a chain. It looked hungry.
Ro-Kan stared Klarg in his yellow eyes and bellowed “Klarg! I am the Stormcaller, and I challenge you to face me alone. Translate, human!”
Mun translated Ro-Kan’s challenge into Goblin.
Before Klarg could indicate if he accepted or declined, the wolf snapped it jaws around Ro-Kan’s leg. Lucky for Ro-Kan, his stone skin protected him, and when he shook the creature off his leg, Klarg grabbed it and snapped its neck. Klarg spoke, and Mun translated.
Rat, Zex, and Mun very quickly dispatched the pair of Goblins. Zex called down Sacred Flames to burn them, as Rat slashed at them and Mun blasted Fire Bolts. Once the pair was dead, they sat on crates to watch the duel.
Ro-Kan opened by calling upon Thor to guide his hammer. A flash of light burst out of his hand and streaked into Klarg’s face, illuminating him from within with silver fire. Klarg howled in pain and swung his giant morningstar. Ro-Kan knocked the blow aside with his Maul and raised it high. When he smashed his hammer into Klarg’s shoulder, the silver fire flared out, and with a ripping sound, Klarg’s right arm dropped limply to his side. Klarg swung one-handed, but his morningstar just scraped uselessly against Ro-Kan’s armor. The Goliath stepped forward and swung again, and again, hammering at the Bugbear’s torn shoulder.
“SUBMIT!” Ro-Kan shouted in his face.
“Zal!” Mun translated from the side of the room.
But Klarg would not submit. Klarg tried once more to swing his giant weapon one-handed, and once more he failed. Ro-Kan would have no more of this. With an underhand swing, he brought his hammer up and connected squarely with Klarg’s jaw. With a crunching sound, Klarg’s eyes lost their rage, and his body slumped lifelessly to the ground. Ro-Kan spied the colorful scarf that Klarg wore around his neck, and took it as a trophy, tying it around his waist.
Mun and Rat quickly searched the corpses and a few of the crates for anything worthwhile. Zex scoured the room looking for some sign of Gundren or his companion, Sildar. Ro-Kan just followed them all around excitedly recapping his duel with Klarg, as if they hadn’t just seen it.
After the searches proved fruitless, the quartet pressed on, crossing a rickety bridge and finding themselves on a platform overlooking a dozen or so Goblins who were taking orders from one who dressed a little fancier than the others. Feeling invulnerable after crushing Klarg, Ro-Kan took a flying leap off the platform and brought his Maul down onto the head of the fancy Goblin, spraying blood and gore on the stunned underlings.
Immediately, they dropped their weapons and began to beg for their lives. Mun translated for the group:
“They say that you don’t want them. You want Klarg. … Maybe I should tell them what happened to Klarg.”
Ro-Kan nodded and as Mun jabbered in the Goblin tongue, the Goliath pointed to the colorful scarf he had taken off the Bugbear. The Goblins grew quiet.
Zex and Rat explored around the corner, finding Sildar tied to a post.
Zex questioned him about the whereabouts of his cousin, finding some useful information. As Sildar and the group readied to leave the cave, Sildar questioned whether we should leave the Goblins who had treated him so poorly alive. Ro-Kan, not wanting to kill them after they surrendered and were unarmed—even Goblins—simply handed a dagger to the human and walked out.
The party agreed to take Sildar back to civilization…