Peribold and Hornsby, following the goblins’ indiscreet path through the woods, cross a small creek and then find their trail ascending sharply upwards. Moving slowly due to the rocky, uneven landscape, they travel for about half an hours’ time before something makes them drop to a crouch. There it is: some ways further up the mountain, a small cave guarded by at least two more goblins.
Choosing discretion over the direct approach, the duo circle around and make towards the cave entrance along the mountain-side. Once within attacking distance, the two make themselves known as they steps out from the shadows and begin gathering arcane energies for an assault. The goblins almost immediately run at the young pair, displaying a frightening, animal speed. Perhaps alarmed by the rapid approach, both disciples miss their targets. Hornsby brings up his already-famous wall of wind, while Peribold prepares for melee—he has no intent of frittering away his magics on his Armor spell this time!
Almost immediately he regrets it, as he is deeply wounded by one of the goblins. Things go from bad to worse quickly, as he takes another wound. He is in bad shape and facing off against two of the goblins, who he can’t seem to land a hit on. The third goblin is preparing a sling stone to try against Hornsby’s wall of wind.
Hornsby, seeing the dire situation his companion is in, directs a jet of air toward one of the standing goblins, and knocks it down. This leaves Peribold with a fighting chance as only one goblin is standing near him. Peribold jumps at the oportunity, striking a surprisingly vicious blow to the goblin’s weapon arm, crippling it and stunning the goblin. By now, the goblin that was facing Hornsby has gotten up and decided to try throwing a sling stone against his foe hidden behind the vortex. This proves to be a futile attack as the swirling winds buffet the stone away.
Peribold easily dispatches the stunned foe, and squares off against the other goblin who is, once again, on the ground and seemingly blind after throwing himself into the wall of wind in a desparate attempt to attack Hornsby.
Hornsby, now seeing his friend is doing well, launches a bolt of lightning against the goblin with the sling in the hopes of destroying the foul creature in one strike. Unfortunately, the goblin is not killed by the bolt, only stunned. With both remaining goblins unable to defend themselves effectively, Peribold and Hornsby dispatch the remaining foes.
Looking off toward the cave entrance, the companions see at least two more goblins watching them from a safe distance. A moment later, they are gone into the belly of the mountain. It’s clear that they want the next skirmish to happen on their terms. Cleverly, Hornsby casts a spell to move the earth and seal off the entrance, save a couple feet. This strategy, intended to give them time to rest (but not suffocate any allies inside the cave) pays unexpected dividends—one of the goblins attempts to scramble through the small hole. It is defenseless in this position and quickly dispatched. No more goblins are so daring. Feeling good about this turn of luck, the two rest a short while before re-opening the cave mouth. Peribold uses his healing magics to great effect in the short time they can spare.
There is a smell of filth and death when they enter the cave. Sensing another dire situation, both cast protective armor spells. Hornsby takes the lead through the short passageway. Before too long, the passageway opens up into a larger cavern, where there is a goblin with a sword and a smaller, odd looking-goblin holding a staff and wearing some kind of ceremonial shroud.
The goblin with the sword charges, swinging his weapon at Hornsby. A little too overeager for violence, the goblin swings wildly and misses. His companion, however, remains in the corner of the room, pointing his staff at Hornsby and letting loose a searing ball of flame. Instinct saves Hornsby as he reflexively brings up his shield to block the blast.
Once past the initial surprise of a goblin shaman, Peribold and Hornsby take to the threat they can immediately deal with, the goblin blocking their way to the fire shaman. They quickly move to flanking position and strike the goblin with their weapons, knocking it senseless. Furious, the shaman lets loose another jet of flame, but it goes wide. Peribold tells Hornsby to finish the helpless goblin as he charges the shaman, ever ready to close with those who would harm his companion.
Perhaps it is Peribold’s familiarity with fire magic that allows him to dodge the ensuing magical flames. But after short order, he is standing, and the shaman is not. They can only guess at how close they came to perishing.
The cave is quiet, save the crackle of a small dung fire in the corner. The two survey the room, and their hearts drop as they see what was once a classmate of theirs laying in a heap not too far from the fire. They notice that his magical class ring, the one given to all new graduates, is missing, and moreover, so is the finger that held the ring! Hornsby inspects the wound and mentions that it looks like it was ripped or bitten off. They quickly confirm that neither the ring nor the finger are anywhere to be found, but they do find a rough leather pouch of 300 gold pieces that appears to have been carried in someone or something’s teeth. They find that the goblin shaman’s staff is a potent source of magic, but is the source of much of the stench in the cavern. They also find paw prints that suggest a large dog or wolf. Concern takes the two and they decide they need to leave the cave quickly and discreetly.
Bearing their fallen comrade down the mountain is the right thing to do, but proves to be back-breaking and difficult. They move slowly and carefully through the rocky terrain toward the road and the destroyed carriage. Morning comes and the two are exhausted. They quickly decide to bring the body back to their school, as it is closer than Hornsby’s uncle’s house. A litter is created out of scrap lumber salvaged from the ambushed carriage, and they head back.
Upon reaching the college, they cause an immediate stir among the headmasters present, who quickly spirit away the young boy’s body. A surprised Galt approaches and they relate the story of the goblin attack. His mood darkens and he thanks the boys for doing the right thing, instructing them to return to their rooms at the Society and wait for him. Not much time passes and Galt enters the novice’s quarters.
He looks troubled as he tells Peribold and Hornsby that there is a new, surprising danger to the school. Apparently someone is paying goblins to attack and kill graduates passing through the woods. None know who could be doing this, but this is the second graduate to have been killed since leaving the college. It appears that the class rings provide proof of the deed to the buyer, and the gold is delivered in a pouch. The tooth marks on the pouch suggest that it was delivered by a large wolf. This raises the frightening possibility that another mage is hiring the goblins, and his wolf familiar is handling the delivery. However, it doesn’t explain what goblins would need with gold—they typically scavenge their food, have no economy of their own and are despised by all of the races intelligent enough to possess their own merchants. The goblin shaman’s staff is a thing of evil and will be careful destroyed. Galt states the instructors will be having a meeting about this disturbing situation and deciding how to best deal with the threat (as well as try to guess who might have cause to harm them), and asks Peribold and Hornsby to deliver a note to the parents of the fallen student relating the sadness the college has over losing one of its own.
Of course the two accept and agree to deliver the note. They leave the next morning…..