The party decided to return to the goblin cave in haste – hoping to find Klaarg and potentially some information on the disappearance of their missing employer, Gundren. Tracing their steps, the group could no longer find any evidence of the original ambush and hurried quickly onward into the woodlands. Gore-Grey led the group back into the cave whilst Pinrun cleverly fired an illuminated arrow deep into its depths – only to see the dark silhouette of a dead goblin lying on the floor, body and features contorted in agony. Zinssa spent a few moments attempting to investigate for signs of injury but could not determine what had killed the creature, but then stumbled upon a smaller cave which the goblins had clearly used for a kennel. Dead wolves littered the floor, and Zinssa (at Pinrun’s request) burnt the corpses to set their wild spirits free.
Again, following Gore-Grey’s lead, the party finally emerged into what appeared to be goblin barracks – more dead goblins lay twisted and contorted upon the floor, and a giant bugbear lay dead next to the corpse of a wolf. In the corner, slumped seated against a wall with chin to chest, the party found Yeelick. Whilst Kai discreetly looted a nearby chest, Yeelick gasped for breath and spluttered his dying words to the party: Gundren had been taken to a place known as Cragmaw Keep – and that an entity known as the Black Spider was responsible for the goblin massacre in an attempt to tie up loose ends and silence them. Zinssa tried to stabilise the dying goblin, but a dark force resisted her magic and launched her across the room. At hearing the name ‘Black Spider’, she became incredibly affected as memories flooded her mind. Yeelick pleaded for death, and Gore-Gray obliged with help from the cleric. At that moment, the goblin corpses and bugbear suddenly twitched to life, reanimated by a powerful magic, and attacked the party. They were swiftly dealt with.
The party continued their journey towards Phandalin with Zinssa in a pensive mood. They arrived at nightfall to the makeshift settlement, and realised that it was barely more than a village of log cabins and prospector huts. As they approached, they viewed a large crowd on the edge of the village and saw a hooded red figure cajoling the crowd with a lit torch pointed at a male, middle-aged halfling tied to an unlit bonfire. The figure shouted ‘this is what happens when you break the rules’, and tossed the torch. Akra and Zinssa urgently struggled to make their way through the crowd, whilst Pinrun attempted to use his crossbow to shoot the bonds which held the captive. Akra was knocked to the floor, but Gore-Grey and Zinssa finally pushed their way to the front of the large group – realising that amongst the locals, there were dozens of figures wearing garments of red to match their leader. The goliath and aasimar suddenly felt the invisible hands of a spell freeze them to the spot. Unable to move, they could only watch, and listen, as the halfling died horrifically before them. The hooded figure then looked at them both, and then the crowd, before shouting ‘we will return tomorrow for one more’.
The locals, and hooded figure, all dispersed into the night, leaving a forlorn female half-ling staring at the bonfire – and an older halfling spotted and spoken to briefly by Akra. She was told to meet him at Barthen’s Provisions the following morning. The tension, overwhelming Pinrun, caused the rogue to goad and mock Gore-Grey into attacking him; Zinssa was able to pin the overcome halfling to the ground, but Pinrun eventually freed himself and skulked off into the darkness with only Kai able to see where he went. The remaining party head for the Stonehill Inn…