Our story begins in the Queendom of the Owls, a realm populated mostly by humans but ruled by elves.
A group of would be adventurers gather together in a tavern to seek the bounty on a renegade dragon cultist who was part of a raid on the local armory in Oaktree. They are Delcurion, an aasimar cleric of the sun god Lathander; Mythra, a warlock obsessed with the occult; Sariel, a high elf monk unused to social niceties, and Wrog, a half-orc barbarian fresh off the barges at Great Fork.
Lord Quenthar of the Smallwood offered 50gp for the dragonborn cultist, dead or alive. The adventurers pick up the trail outside the lord’s keep and travel into the Smallwood, which is said to be dangerous to outsiders. They press on after the fugitive, exhausting Delcurion. The aasimar lags behind as the party is attacked by a ferociously territorial band of baboons. Though they bite Mythra and Wrog, the party gets better of them with sword, fist, and spell and soon the surviving apes flee in terror.
Their trail ends at the grim entrance to a cave. Delcurion casts light on Mythra’s dagger, which she ties to her quarterstaff to give her some illumination. With that, they enter the cave, where they observe not only the dragonborn’s tracks, but months old tracks of goblinoids, as well as more recent tracks of a man-sized spider.
Venturing further, Wrog blunders into a chamber with three zombie hobgoblins. The zombies prove resilient to sword and spell, clawing at both Sariel and Wrog. However, backed up by magic from the cleric and the warlock, the monk and the barbarian are able to bring the zombies down.
They take a short rest while the warriors recover, and retrieve several items from the zombies: a sheaf of papers written in Goblin, a single caltrops made of bone, and a rope necklace made of elf fingers which Wrog insists on claiming.
Pressing onward, they avoid the tunnel that seems to lead towards the spider’s lair and instead follow the dragonborn’s tracks. They move stealthily, sheathing Mythra’s glowing dagger and muffling Delcurion’s armor. Unfortunately, they walk into the cultist’s trap as Sariel realizes too late that she and Wrog are standing in a pool of oil.
The dragonborn lights up the corridor with his fire breath, immolating the barbarian and the monk. Sariel collapses to the floor, where death’s tendrils close around her. Delcurion rushes forward to cure the monk’s wounds and share a healing word with the badly burned barbarian. Sariel rises back to her feet and rushes to confront the cultist. He tries casting a spell at Wrog, but she punches him in the face and the blast veers off, slamming into the cave wall with enormous force.
The half-orc then charges forward with his greatsword held high. The cultist tries to block the blow with his quarterstaff, but Wrog sheers through it and badly wounds him. The dragonborn falls to the ground, seemingly bleeding out. Mythra and Delcurion suggest keeping him alive, while Wrog and Sariel prefer death.
Then the cultist rises back to his feet, surprisingly still conscious. Sariel tries to knock him out, but he insists he has Tiamat’s blessing and cannot be rendered unconscious. He offers them riches, information, and magical item if they will let him leave. Sariel tends to his wounds while the others interrogate him.
The cultist says his name is Arjhan, and he is a cultist of the red dragon Vermanthrax, which is trying to take over the town of Great Fork. His band of cultists were tasked with stealing weapons from the armory at Oaktree, but failed. He says that his contact in Great Forks was a local artist named Mogdred. He also tells them that the caves were once the lair of a band of goblins that were exterminated by the local lords a few months ago. There is a shrine deeper in the dungeon which holds a strange gem, but it is most assuredly trapped. He also warns them that an intelligent giant spider, P’tha, dwells in the cave and could pose a danger.
Arjhan will only hand off the magical artifact at the entrance to the cave, but the party judges that he’s told the truth. He provides them with a set of goggles of night, which Mythra immediately makes use of. The dragonborn staggers off, while the party heads deeper into the cave.
They come across the shrine, half buried in the collapse, and see the gem. Both warlock and cleric get a strange vibe from the room. Sariel recognizes it as a shrine to the goblin god Maglubiyet, while Mythra notices the explosive runes trap that will go off if a non-goblin disturbs the shrine. She clears everyone out of the room, then fires an eldritch blast at the runes, sending off a thundering explosion. With the trap’s power spent, Wrog attempts to pry the gem free, but fails, as does Delcurion. Sariel pushes them aside and snaps it out easily. “It’s all in the wrist,” she explains.
They then hear P’tha approaching. Sariel hurls a fire bolt at it, but the spider avoids the flames. Mythra has more luck with her dissonant voices and they learn the spider can speak. Delcurion wounds it with a guided bolt, but the creature insists it will defend its lair. They explain that they have no desire to take its lair and the spider backs down, allowing them to leave. Wrog bemoans the fact that they won’t be able to deliver their reward.
They rest under the leafy boughs of the ancient Smallwood and then emerge refreshed the following day. Arriving in Oaktree, they are brought to see Lord Quenthar, a wood elf known as a skilled huntsman. He asks if they have slain the cultist. “Yes,” Wrog announces loudly. His lie seems to convince the elf lord, who is delighted and provides them with their reward. Mythra also shares her notes on the information the cultist provided, claiming she found them on his body. Overjoyed at this good fortune, Lord Quenthar encourages to spend a night at the local tavern, at his expense.
They regroup there, where Mythra convinces Wrog that they’d get a better price for the gem in Great Fork, where they might also find a buyer for the goggles.