Damaran Gambit, entry 2

21 Ches
Ruins of Vraath Keep

Well, that was...interesting. If this horde has many more like those two, Helmsdale's in a lot more trouble than we thought. That minotaur, with appropriate support troops, would have been virtually unstoppable. And that spellcaster... Alright, let me back up a minute. Start with the beginning, fill in the middle, and conclude with the end, as my old sergeant used to say.

So, the beginning. We left Helmsdale early this morning. Well, yesterday morning. Arrived without incident at an old woodsman's house. He agreed to guide us through the Witchwood for 5 gold pieces per day, double that if what we were doing was dangerous. We left immediately for the ruined keep functioning as the hobgoblin's base, and Jorr earned his wage on the journey, warning us of patches of assassin vine, thickets of thornvine, and once the tracks of owlbear. We reached the Vaasan Road without difficulty, and headed south to the old keep.

From the road, the keep looked overgrown and abandoned. Parts of its curtain wall had been breached, and the boulders used to bring the walls down lay tumbled around. Treacherous ground in the best of light, and very difficult to cover in the approaching dark. An eerie wailing drifted from the top of the northeast tower, accompanied by a pale glow. Our guide whispered nervously that the keep was haunted by the ghost of the last ruler of the castle, and that he would stay outside of the keep and watch for any returning raiding parties. Clearly, he was satisfied with only 5 gold per day. We climbed the hill behind the keep and scaled the wall, stepping down onto the roof below us (turned out to be the stables), then moving out after a goblin patrol passed by.

The courtyard was unoccupied but littered with rocks and rubble, and somehow the hobgoblins were alerted to our presence as we crossed the courtyard. We suddenly found ourselves facing well-armed hobgoblins and goblin riders on worgs. They thought to surprise us, but after a fierce fight we slew them all except for one goblin who, as is common with his cowardly kind, fled from the keep. He may have escaped, but I think not. Our guide stayed outside, and he hates goblins with a passion. Almost before the sounds of combat had faded, two manticores leapt from the southwest tower and began raining down spikes on us, while at the same moment a large, bull-headed figure with a huge axe stepped out of the barracks. He bellowed a challenge at us and I swear I felt the rocks in the wall shake with his fury, and then his skin bunched and rippled and he grew double his height. Break my sword if I lie! His shoulders topped the roof of the buildings, and the head of his axe would have filled a wagon-bed! And to cap it all off, a hobgoblin spellcaster appeared on the roof of a building and commenced to throw bolts of flame at us. He burned down the dwarf, but Qhorin knelt over him and administered some sort of first aid, a potion perhaps, and roused him to his feet.

We retreated...err, made a sound tactical decision to withdraw into the empty barracks room...in order to regroup and coordinate our plan of attack. When Juju spotted the hobgoblin spellcaster heading toward the base of the "haunted" northeast tower, we decided to move. Together with Sequana, I led the charge toward the giant minotaur, a challenge ringing from my lips. We felt the crushing bite of his cruel axe more than once, but in the end we overwhelmed his defenses and brought him low. Gasping, I looked up to see that the others had followed the spellcaster into the tower, and were engaged in combat with his forces in the lower room.

Well, listen to me ramble like a starving bard! To bring this report to a close, we cut the goblins down where they stood, and then took stock of our situation. We were gravely wounded, but had ended the immediate goblinoid threat to Helmsdale. In addition, we rescued a prisoner from Ironspur that the goblinoids had captured, as well as discovered the battle plans, maps, and notes in "Wyrmlord" Koth's possession, for so the dead spellcaster turned out to be. Juju, with his eye for hidden things, also found a hidden trapdoor leading into the keep's old treasure vault, hidden for all this time. Qhorin is busy counting up the contents of the vault, but I know that it's Koth's notes which'll provide the information we need to stop this horde once and for all.