4 26 09

Intimidation seemed the way to go in their dealings with the hobgoblin archer. As they interrogated the goblinoid, he revealed the position of their main lair and the number of forces within, as well as the name and nature of their leader; Isti-Zar, a green dragon. With this revelation, the group saw that this may go beyond simple caravan raids. As the questioning continued, Brother Cassius noticed the yellow glow of eyes, watching the group from the nearby woods. Upon closer inspection Cassius saw that it was a massive wolf with jet black fur and yellow eyes. It made no threatening move toward the group, it just sat and watched.

The cleric of Bahamut hailed the wolf and it calmly approached. They nodded at one another and the beast changed forms to that of a longtooth shifter with dark skin, tattoos on his face, and long dreadlocked hair. He told Cassius that the PCs had come across his quarry, the hobgoblins had decimated his tribe and that he'd been tracking their movements and had found their lair. He introduced himself as Anton VonDost, telling them to call him Voodoo for short. The group agreed to follow Voodoo to the lair and aid each other in clearing it out. Akriel dispatched the hobgoblin archer with little ceremony, or warning, and they decided to rest again before heading to the goblins' main lair.

The group arrived at the lone wooded mountain at around sunset. A large rock formation provided cover while Akriel, Voodoo, and Hadarai snuck-up to inspect the situation. Aside from the main entrance there were two other side entrances shrouded by trees. One was guarded by a pair of hobgoblin archers while the other had a lone goblin warrior sentry. Voodoo removed the sentry as a threat as Hadarai and Akriel signaled for the rest of the group to advance. After a bit of cover fire from Olan the group moved-in for battle.

The fight was a long one, made worse by the arrival of reinforcements. The group was hard pressed and almost fell under the crush of a bugbear warrior leader and his goblin bodyguard. Benjaar was knocked silly and Cassius fell to archer fire. But, Olan's timely casting of sleep turned the tables; knocking out many of the goblins and the bugbear warrior. After that, the fight was much easier. The group chased down the remaining hobgoblin archers and dispatched one while taking the other prisoner.

Cassius was revived and the group tried to question the hobgoblin, but upon the mention of the green dragon he became spooked and tried to flee. The PCs didn't let him get very far. After another extended rest and search of the small cave complex; during which they found a natural chimney leading up into the mountain, the group prepared to climb to the upper levels and find Isti-Zar.

The climb up the chimney was well coordinated, but still very difficult, due in no small part to the traps installed by the goblinoids. Spear gauntlets greeted the PCs at many of the natural shelves during their climb, which claimed a few of their healing surges. The crest of the chimney showed signs of masoned floors and walls, though they quickly gave way to natural cavern walls. As the PCs regrouped from their climb (and leveled-up!), Akriel moved a bit further into the natural hallway, accidentally tripping another trap; Rocks tumbled from the ceiling above dealing a bit of damage to the drow, but the rest of the group remained unscathed. Worse, it no doubt alerted their quarry of their presence.

The path eventually opened into a large cave with a trench of rushing water fed by a large spout. The water traveled a short distance before falling into a large hole in the cavern floor. On the far side of the 'river' was the infamous Isti-Zar, along with what appeared to be another hobgoblin warcaster and a few hobgoblin grunts. On the PCs side of the rushing water were many more grunts and a hobgoblin commander. The PCs wasted no time in neutralizing a potentially fatal battle; Olan put his new spell, hypnotic pattern, to very efficient use, luring many of the grunts and even the commander into the waterfall in the cavern floor. Benjaar and Voodoo moved into point positions as Hadarai and Akriel sniped from the rear. Cassius stayed close to the front, waiting to ply his healing where needed and blasting the hobgoblins and dragon with holy power.

The group managed to stymie the dragon's tactics by slowing him and his hobgoblin ally more than a few times and the remaining grunts were dispatched easily. Benjaar and Voodoo closed with the dragon while Hadarai, Akriel and Olan traded attacks with the hobgoblin warcaster. Slowed and unable to cross the rushing water, the warcaster couldn't make optimal use of his abilities, but when Cassius ventured too close to the melee, the hobgoblin managed to use his Force Lure to almost devastating effect; The cleric was pulled into the yawning hole in the cavern floor and fell… ten feet to a narrow shelf. Luck was with the priest of Bahamut that day, bruised and battered by the fall, but still breathing, he picked himself up and climbed out from the chasm.

Isti-Zar put up quite a fight, though his tactics were disrupted by being slowed for many of his turns. In the end the PCs defeated the dragon and his warcaster. They went to work searching the cavern and butchering the dragon's body. Benjaar began skinning the drake but Voodoo intervened, saying that unless they had the proper means to preserve the scales it would just be a waste of time as they would be useless by the time they got them to a buyer. However, the heart would be easily preserved by a Gentle Repose ritual, and was fairly valuable to arcane spellcasters. Benjaar, of course, took the head, as proof of their exploits to Lord Markelhay and to add another footnote on the leader-board.

Cassius, Olan and Hadarai, meanwhile, stumbled across the dragon's hoard. Many useful and valuable items were found including; +2 astral fire armor, +1 medics' mace, sandals of precise stepping, a cloak of the mountebank, and a ruby scabbard along with plenty silver gold and emeralds. The cavern opened in the rear to a wooded ridge overlooking a heavily overgrown and dangerously narrow path descending the mountain. Closer inspection of the wickedly barbed underbrush revealed a generous coating of poison. Apparently Isti-Zar had used his poisonous dragon breath to turn the thorny foliage into a well disguised trap. After gathering the treasure in their bag of holding and securing Isti-Zar's head on a Tenser's Floating Disk the PCs slowly and carefully descended the path. The true nature of the path became apparent when they reached the bottom; the dragon could have easily watched for intruders from his perch and picked them off with fly-by attacks and hovering blasts of his poisonous breath as they tried to climb the trail. The group had taken the easy way, up the chimney. Fallcrest now awaited their return along with a hefty reward.

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