Session 9: Saving Gundren

Cragmaw Castle
With King Grol and all his minions defeated, the group began to prepare their next steps.

Before leaving to follow Snowg, Turenim cast spare the dying on Grol.

Snowg hurriedly led them through the castle, passing through a curtain into an almost completely collapsed tower crowded with rotting crates and ancient barrels. Then passing through a door to the east, and then another door they entered a chamber that had been set up as a crude living space, with thick furs thrown on the floor to serve as carpets, old trophies hanging on the walls, a large bed to the north, and a brazier of coals burning brightly. A round table with several chairs stood to the south near the door. The mattress lay overturned on the floor, and one of the chairs lay toppled on the floor. Most notably was a large pool of blood filling the room, in the center of which was a dwarf, quickly identified as Gundren.

"We were too late to save him…" wined Snowg.

Turenim immediately cast gentle repose on Gundren, and bandaged his throat for good measure.

Atilius went off to tell Lee, and Moula brought Gundren's body back to the main hall, with the rest of the dead bodies. Then Moula dropped to her knees and began to pray to Oghma. Turenim began to cast a ritual prayer of healing on everyone, and he noticed the symbols of his god, which decorated the chamber, appeared to glow briefly, adding power to his prayers.

Pippin began searching Grol's body, but did not find anything of value.

"What's he doing?" Snowg asked, regarding Pippin, "I think I have everything of value that Grol had right here." Snowg held up the sack he had brought with the healing potion. There were two more potions in the sack among the assorted silver and electrum. Atilius determined that they were both potions of healing and he stashed away one and gave the other to Moula for later use.

Four goblins appeared right outside the door in the foyer, with their bows aimed at the group. Lee lifted up Grol's head from the floor and shouted at them “Want to end up like this?”

Snowg interjected himself, "Wait, stop!" he said in his most commanding voice, directed at everyone. Then turning to the goblins, he shouted something in goblin, "Tecovactus amagardus imoalecus!" Then turning to the group he muttered, "I told them to put down their weapons or they’re all going to die."

The goblins put down their bows.

Continuing with the goblins he told the party, "I told them that you guys killed Grol and that they would surely die. I think they’re afraid of you, Lee."

Turenim addressed the goblins, "Do any of you speak Common?" One of them nodded. "What do you know about Cragmaw Castle?" Turenim continued. Snowg kept translating Turenim's words to the goblins.

Turenim and Lee began to argue about whether to resuscitate and question Grol, and what to ask him, and whether they should instead explore the rest of the castle.

Pippin lost his patience and began to run out of the room to look for loot. Moula beat him to the door and blocked his passage.


"What were you going to do to Gundren?" Turenim inquired.

Lee leaned into Turenim and whispered "Don’t be so loud! The drow are listening."

"I was going to give him to The Black Spider." Grol finally replied.

"How long have you had him?" Moula asked.

"Days." Grol replied, "Where is he? I’ll kill you all!"

Lee began to threaten Grol, suggesting they would leave him in the woods and let the crows pick at him for ten days. Grol told them to go ahead and kill him or let him die, and daring Lee to follow through on his threats, and challenging him, incredulously.

"You wanna tussle?" Lee eventually asked him.

"Yeah, let’s go. One old man against another. I’m ready to die. Are you?" Grol replied, eagerly.

Pippin pulled out a sword and started prodding Grol below the belt.

Grol got bothered and yelled, “Stop it!”

Lee continued, "There was a drow that entered your castle. Who was it?"

Grol replied "You mean the Black Spider? I know him."

Lee continued, "Where is Wave Echo Cave?"

Grol replied "I don't know..." then in response to Pippin's prodding, "Okay, okay, there’s a map on Gundren."

Atilius and Moula searched for the map on Gundren and in the king's quarters, but they could not find any map.

Meanwhile Turenim continued the questioning, "Who killed Gundren?"

"He's dead?" Grol answered, in surprise, "I don't know, maybe it was The Black Spider."

Snowg shuttered, "Does that mean… that I was face to face with The Black Spider himself?"

Lee interjected, sarcastically, "Your majesty, I love all your comments and blibber blabber, thanks for all of your info…" and offered a sarcastic bow. Then turning to Turenim, "What d’ya got?"

Turenim suggested, "We should bring him back to Sildar."

Everyone disagreed, suggesting that it was too dangerous to leave Grol alive, and that there was too little benefit in dragging him all the way back to Phandalin. The argument grew heated, especially between Lee and Turenim. Eventually Lee lost his patience, and drew his bow, aiming an arrow at Grol. Turenim tried to knock Lee's bow aside, but Lee dropped down and shot in between Turenim's legs, hitting Grol in the chest, killing him a second time.

Turenim cast spare the dying on Grol again, saying “Sildar may know something.”

Lee retorted, "If everyone disagrees, you can do it by your own."

"It's 'on your own' [not by your own]" Turenim replied.

"Honestly, grammar does not matter in this situation," Atilius interjected.

Pippin started dragging Grol's body toward the door.

Lee shook his head. "I’m disappointed, but you’re a child. You can do whatever you want."

Turenim and Lee began arguing again, relentlessly. Eventually Turenim corrected Lee's Common, which was the final straw for the ranger.

"You’re disagreeing with someone who’s agreeing with you." Atilius suggested.

Dejected, Lee left the hall, exited the castle, circled the castle's perimeter, and then sat down on the castle step inside the dusty canvas in the ruined tower. There he laid Talon on his lap and communed with the sword. For hours he fell into dreams of flight and the experience was pleasing.

Then Moula even chimed in, "We should take the money, leave the bodies, and go."

Snowg muttered to Turenim, "Tury… Lee’s right."

Turenim finally conceded, "Fine. Let’s go out…"

Pippin had begun investigating a stone brazier that contained a mound of coal, suggesting "We should light the torch."

Turenim, disagreed, "No, we should not light it."

"I am in agreement with Pippin. Let’s do it!" Atilius added. At this they lit the brazier with a torch, but nothing noticeable happened.

Pippin then went through the curtains into the northern tower of the castle. Moula, Turenim, and Atilius followed, leaving Snowg in the hall with the goblins and the bodies. There they found a stone altar standing in the middle of the room, covered with bloodstained black cloth. Carefully arranged on top of the alter were golden ritual implements—a chalice, a knife, and a censer—which Pippin and Moula determined were human-made and valuable. Moula put them in her pack for storage.

Atilius and Turenim recognized the drawings of the beast god Maglubiyet on the bloodstained black cloth and concluded that this place was used for sacrifices.

Moula removed the bloodstained black cloth from the alter and saw, carved in the bloodstained alter, symbols of the same gods as were depicted in the hall. She declared that these sacrilegious rituals were defiling the gods of knowledge and good, and proceeded to clean the blood off the alter with her robes. The blood began to rub away, but the stains were extensive and there were many layers. Moula, Turenim, and even Pippin chipped in—noticing that Lady Luck was also depicted there—and they poured water from their skins onto the alter to help clean it. After a long while the alter was finally cleaned. When they were done they all felt better about the situation, especially Moula, who had received visions of this place from Oghma, during her meditations, and was on a personal mission to reconsecrate the defiled altar.

Turenim and Atilius left to explore the perimeter of the castle while Pippin continued to examine the hall and the shrine, feeling that there must be more treasure to be found. Exhausted with the search, Pippin and Moula began to explore the rest of the castle. They made their way to the storeroom where they found old casks of salted meat and sacks of rotting grain. Among the supplies, Moula found a bloody suit of chainmail, a heavy crossbow, and an unsheathed longsword with the emblem of Neverwinter worked into its hilt. Examining the casks, Pippin found one with an unusual scent. While Moula was investigating the gear, he tasted it and liked it. He took a long drink and felt unusually invigorated.

Looking through the door in the western wall, they saw a barracks with four plain straw pallets and bedrolls lined up on the floor, and brackets on the walls holding a number of weapons—spears, swords, morningstars, and more. The north wall showed signs of damage, but the floor was swept clean of rubble.

As they were bringing all the gear and weapons back to the main hall, Atilius and Turenim returned from exploring the tower's perimeter.

"What did you find?" Atilius asked.

Pippin replied, "We found a long sword from Neverwinter, a heavy crossbow, a bloody suit of chainmail, and some other weapons."

Looking into a small room, where the archers were posted, they found some quivers of arrows, which they also retrieved.

Heading south, they passed through the southwest tower of the castle, which was little more than a heap of rubble. Several ragged bedrolls were scattered across the remaining floor space, and a small, twisting passage led east through the ruins.

They continued through the rubble into what must once have been the castle's large banquet hall, with a soaring ceiling twenty-five feet high. Two large wooden tables with plain benches stood in the middle of the room, and a brass brazier full of glowing coals was tucked into one corner. Dirty dishes, half-full stewpots, moldy heels of bread, and gnawed bones covered the tables.

Investigating, Pippin noticed there was still some meat on some of the bones, what kind he could not tell, but he concluded that it looked like chicken. Tasting it, he concluded that it also tasted like chicken.

Moving through the halls, they passed through an area with a stone brazier full of glowing coals and four straw pallets lined up along the east wall. To the south a barred wooden door stood open, and a curtain hung in an archway to the north.

A putrid stench came from the southeast tower with the barred door. Moving cautiously into tower they saw that the upper floors of this tower were collapsed, creating a hollow silo at least thirty feet high. The upper reaches of the room were lost in shadows. Dust, rubble, and broken glass covered the floor, and old worktables and empty bookshelves lie strewn to the south. In the middle of the room they saw a large pile of poop. Examining it, Pippin concluded that it was chicken poop, from a very large chicken.

They headed north until they were back into the room where they had found Gundren's body. Then they headed back to the hall where Snowg and the other goblins were still waiting.

Snowg told Turenim that he had looked through all the bodies. "Did you find anything?" Turenim asked.

"I noticed a goblin who was not dead, and I put it out of its misery." Snowg replied, "But that was all. I bet that they had no money because King Grol took it all."

Turenim went to try and make peace with Lee, and returned quickly, alone.

Then they went back to the southeast tower. With Turenim shining his light in the tower Pippin spotted a jagged ledge 15 feet up the tower wall. They leaned the bookshelves against the wall and Pippin climbed up as high as he could get, but he still could not reach the ledge. Turenim easily walked to the top of the bookshelf and lifted Pippin up until he could reach over the ledge. Feeling with his hand, Pippin found a small chest and pulled it down, passing it to Turenim. Reaching for the chest, Turenim dropped the child and the chest, but Pippin leaped down and caught the chest before it hit the floor.
Entering the hall, circling through the shrine, and heading towards the hidden exit.
Returning to the hall Pippin opened the unlocked chest. They found piles electrum and gold, a potion, a large diamond, and a small, plain wooden box. Atilius investigated the potion and concluded that it was another potion of healing. Pippin examined the box and opened it. Inside he found a swab of cotton. He noticed that when he put it in his ear he could not hear anything in that ear.

With Lee still meditating, they decided to take a short rest to recuperate.

When they were done, Atilius cast detect magic. He sensed magic on the potions he and Moula carried, his staff, and unidentified wand and a jar he also retrieved from Glasstaff's quarters, the cotton swab and the diamond they had just found, and something in the stone brazier. Announcing his findings, Pippin searched through the coals of the brazier and found a gold statuette under the brazier, still wrapped in unburned crimson cloth. Atilius detected the statuette was imbued with divination magic.

Atilius then cast identify on the cotton swab, which could be used to cast silence on a 20-foot-radius sphere, the diamond, which could be used to cast revivify, and the statuette, which could be used  to cast augury by any one person, but only once, and only within close proximity of the shrine.

"Can’t we use augury to determine whether we can revive Gundren?" Atilius asked, which prompted a 30 minute debate on how to ask the question. Eventually Turenim took the statuette and asked, "Is it a good idea to use revivify to revive Gundren?" and he felt good feelings about it.

With that Turenim used the diamond and cast revivify. The symbols of the gods in the hall glowed briefly, lending power to the spell.

"Oy Vey! Vhat pain in de neck! Hey! I know you guys. You're Sildar's friends who vere supposed to bring my supplies to Phandalin. Did you make it alright? What a time I've had. I feel like death!"

"What happened to you?" Turenim and Atilius asked him.

"Vell, I never made it to Phandalin myself. Ve vere ambushed on de vay, by no good goblins." he said casting a suspicious eye at the goblins in the room. "Dey beat me up and dey brought me to deir leader, a big bugbear. Den some hobgoblins came and brought me here. Dey vanted my map! Dey tortured me for days! Dey vanted to know if anyone else knew the vay to the entrance of the long-lost Vave Echo Cave, site of the mines of the Phandelver's Pact! But only me and my brudders, Tharden and Nundro know the vay.

"Eventually a drow, De Black Spider himself came for me, but Grol didn't vant to hand me over. He vanted more gold for me. Dey argued. De Black Spider said Grol's allegiance vould be revarded, but his insolence vould be punished. But Grol vas not scared in his own castle. Den a man came and vas brought in to see Grol and De Black Spider. He seemed friendly vid De Black Spider."

"What did he look like?" Asked Atilius, suspiciously.

"He vas a big human, vid armor and two longswords."

"Ivor!" The group exclaimed.

"Dis guy told Grol that the castle vas about to be attacked. That a group had slain scores of hobgoblins outside de castle and dat dey vere about to lay siege to the castle. Dis man said dat Grol must act fast and set an ambush if he hoped to survive the assault. Den Grol said he had to prepare and left me vid de man and De Black Spider. Den de strangest ding happened. Dis Ivor guy says to De Black Spider 'I'm going to stay with you sister.' and let me tell you, De Black Spider ain't no one's sister. And den De Black Spider said "No, brother, you go and report back. I'll take care of things here.' And den dey hugged, like dey vas family. And I vas also vonderin' who is dey going to report to? I tought De Black Spider is de boss!"

"And then what happened?" Atilius asked eagerly.

"And den, De Black Spider slit my throat! And you know. My throat is still pretty sore. Does anyone have a lozenge?"

Turenim cast cure wounds on Gundren.

"Ah, dats much better. I owe you one."

Meanwhile the half-elf male bard, Albrecht Engelhart, had recently left the city of Neverwinter towards Neverwinter Woods in search of his fiancée, Edith Lestrange, his only clue being a drow in a red cloak.

By evening Albrecht approached what looked like a town from the distance, but he knew were the ruins of Thundertree. Gradually, the trail became an old, overgrown lane winding between dilapidated buildings choked in vines and brush. In the middle of the settlement, rose a steep hill, upon which stood a stone tower with a partially collapsed roof and an adjoining cottage. A dirt road hugged the base of the hill and wound its way between old stone houses, many of which were roofless ruins with interiors open to the weather. Other buildings appeared more or less intact. The whole place was eerily silent. A wooden sign was nailed to a post nearby. It read: "DANGER! Plant monsters AND zombies! Turn back now!"


Albrecht wandered around the winding lane, looking around at the buildings in various stages of ruin. He approached a small house that appeared to be in better condition than the ruined and dilapidated structures nearby. The doors were reinforced with heavy iron bands, and thick shutters protected the windows. He tried the door, but it wouldn't open, even after he tried to break it down.

He found another building where the doorways were open except for a thick tangle of webs blocking their entry. He tried to cut the webs down with his rapier, but found that the webs were too thick.

Moving on he found a small building with open doorways leading into to the darkness within. Entering stealthily he heard dry husky moans and barely made out two humanoid shapes rise from the ground and approach him slowly. As they approached the light from the doorway he could make out the features of ashy corpses. "Get back you foul beast!" He declared and stuck the creature with his rapier. His rapier plunged into the closest one, but the creature kept staggering towards him. As he pulled out his rapier a small plume of ash erupted from the where he pierced the zombie. The creature slashed at Albrecht with its claws, ripping into his flesh. Albrecht responded by casting thunderwave. A loud boom shook the area and the zombies went flying back into the building. A cloud of smoke and ash drifted from the building's two doorways.

Still hearing movement from within the building, Albrecht moved on before they could catch up with him. He approached a ruined shop with cluttered with sagging storage shelves and broken furniture. Shards of glass and pieces of pottery glinted in the weeds and rubble next to rotted books and casks. Seeing nothing of interest, he moved on.

He approached a large sagging and dilapidated building with a weathered signboard by the door showing the faded image of a workhorse holding a flagon of ale. The door was locked, but pushing against it, the door gave in to his weight. Again he heard the familiar moans and he backed up as two zombies staggered out of the building. Albrecht drew his rapier again and faced the closest zombie, which knocked his thrust aside and swung his claws at the bard. Circling away out of the zombie's reach, Albrecht accidentally moved into the reach of the other zombie, who raked his flesh brutally. As he turned, he could see two more zombies were staggering from the building. Realizing he was outmatched, he moved away and began to flee, relieved that at least he was much faster than the undead.

He tried to hide in the ruins of a cottage that looked as though it might have been the home of a prosperous shopkeeper or well-off farmer, but now all that remained was the collapsed walls and piles of debris. Then he heard a slithering movement coming from several young trees that had grown up in the midst of the ruins. Not daring to take on another threat in his exhausted state, he fled to a nearby identical cottage. Almost immediately he heard the same slithering movement and fled again. As he ran he saw that the zombies were just turning the corner, approaching the ruins.

On the east side of town, the lane opened up to form a small square. Several ruined buildings surrounded the south side of the square, but a larger, intact structure to the north looked like a barracks. In the middle of the square, leaning to one side ever so slightly, was a weathered wooden statue of a warrior clutching a spear and shield.

Albrecht moved to the top of the hill where a round tower stood with a cottage attached. Both appeared to be in good condition, although half of the tower's roof was gone. A door led into the cottage, and several arrow-slit windows were visible in the tower. Albrecht noticed an acrid smell permeating the air. Then he saw the corpses of two hideous giant spiders sprawled near the edge of the pathway, apparently dragged there. Their bloated bodies were puckered and blistered, and appeared to have been mauled by a large animal.
Reidoth the Druid

Albrecht circled around to back of the cottage, where he found another door. As he reached for the doorknob he heard a voice from the woods. "I wouldn't go in there if I were you." The voice was that of an old man, and turning to the woods he saw a gaunt, white-bearded human. "One who struggles against some zombies would not want to face the dragon."

"What?!?" Albrecht replied. "There's a dragon in there?"

"Yes, a young one, but a dragon nonetheless."

"Well, then thank you for the warning. I am Albrecht Engelhart of Neverwinter. Who are you?" the bard asked.

"Reidoth," answered the old man.

"Can you help me, Reidoth?"

"Help you with what? All your problems seem to be of your own making. None of these monsters were stirring until you aroused them."

Exasperated, Albrecht conceded the point. "You're right. But at the moment I'm still bleeding."

"Why don't you rest in my place? I'll let you in this time." responded the old man.

They returned to the house that Albrecht had previously been unable to enter. While Albrecht rested in the cozy cottage, Reidoth prepared a salad for the two of them. As they ate, Albrecht told Reidoth his tale of losing Edith Lestange and of the drow with the red cloak.

"What will you do if you find this drow?" Reidoth challenged. "Surely you will need to show more skill than you did against some zombies."

"I don't know, but what choice do I have?" Albrecht replied.

"I suggest a more strategic approach." Reidoth chided. "Don't be so hasty to enter into a fight unless you know you can win. I'm sure someone with your skills could take out all the zombies in these ruins."

"Really?" Albrecht remarked. "And how do you think I could do that?"

"Did you notice how easy it was for you to get away from those zombies? You are much faster than they are. And did you notice how relentlessly they pursued you? Why don't you round them all up and hit them with your thunder wave?"

"Oh!" replied Albrecht. "I hadn't thought of that."

"When you're feeling up to it, why don't you give it a try?" Reidoth suggested.

After a while Reidoth led Albrecht around, showing him the three places where zombies were located. Albrecht got their attention, and rounded them up, eleven zombies in all. He led them to the town square and waited for them all to be in range of his spell, but out of reach. Finally he cast his thunderwave, with a loud boom that pushed all the zombies back from him. Huge plumes of smoke and ash washed off the zombies, so much that it appeared that they might evaporate altogether. But they did not. Instead they all recovered and continued to stagger back towards the bard.

"Can you do that again?" Reidoth asked, and Albrecht nodded in affirmation, circling away from them and maneuvering them into position again. He cast another thunderwave, but this time he cast it a little too fast and the damage was not as great. Again the zombies were pushed back, and they fell to the floor, and again ash billowed from their husks. But then they began to stir and they all began to rise once more.

"Can you do that again?" Reidoth asked again.

But this time Albrecht shook his head. "I am depleted."

"Then stand back!" commanded Reidoth, and while Albrecht ran for cover, Reidoth took his place, and cast his own thunderwave. This time the blast dissipated the zombies entirely and they were gone.

"Why don't you rest? You can try that again. There's some mutated vegetation inhabiting these runs."

Albrecht took another rest in Reidoth's cottage. When he was fully recuperated Reidoth showed him five buildings where twig blights had grown. Albrecht carefully entered each, moving away quickly, before any could reach him. Eventually 22 twig blights were following him into the town square. When Albrecht cast his thunderwave they all turned to twigs like a little pig's wooden house.

Afterwards they returned to Reidoth's house. "I've heard of drow wandering in Neverwinter Wood of late. It is getting dark. Why don't you rest here for the night? In the morning, go to the woods and look for a squirrel with white fur. This squirrel will take you to where the drow were last seen."

Albrecht agreed.

• • •

The next morning Albrecht awoke and he was alone. He ate the salad Reidoth had apparently left for him and headed off to the woods. When he got to the border, he saw a squirrel with white fur cross his path, and he followed it. They traveled along the border of the woods, sometimes entering the woods and then coming back out again. Sometimes the squirrel would disappear for hours at a time, and Albrecht continued on in the same general direction. Then the squirrel would reappear.

One time, in the woods, Albrecht took out his viol to relieve the boredom of the journey. Immediately the squirrel climbed a tree and onto an extended branch near Albrecht's face. It began to make a "tsk, tsk, tsk" noise, and then Albrecht promptly put his viol away and continued on in silence.

Albrecht made a camp on the border of the woods and slept without incident, confident that no harm would come to him.

In the morning the squirrel led him much deeper into the woods. Finally, in the middle of the second day after leaving Thundertree, he came upon the Cragmaw Castle clearing. The squirrel was now nowhere to be found, and Albrecht knew that this was the place.

While spying on the place from the wood, he saw a canvas part in the side of the ruined castle, revealing a hidden entrance...

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