With ever the eye for danger, it was Lana who first spotted the tip of a goblin arrow peeking over the edge of the ravine. She immediately took cover against the wall, warning the rest of the party, though neither her arm nor her words were enough to get Kang out of the middle of the path.
Hoping to get the element of surprise, Loralai began climbing to the top of the ravine, only to be stopped by Harlow. Taking some rope and the immovable rod with her, Harlow used her armour to get to the top and peeked over. She discovered there were far more goblins there than any of them would have expected. When she reported this back to the party, Lana remembered that there were ways to hide from her primeval awareness, which would explain why she hadn’t been able to detect these goblins. Now knowing where an enemy was, the still semi-raging Kang considered climbing up himself – but then the first goblins noticed and swarmed over the edge, onto the party.
Unsurprised, this time Lana managed to push Kang back towards the others and loose arrows at the first swarm that fell to the ground right before them. Their first swipes missed her completely, leaving them open for Charlie to make his own attacks at them as a second swarm came over the edge, landing in perfect range of Kang’s koloss sword. Then a third swarm came down, enveloping Charlie and knocking him to the ground – threatening to do some serious damage, before he was time skipped to safety by Sly, while Harlow caused a spray of thorns that took out a large chunk of that swarm.
All the noise of the fighting reached Anvir, way up high in his cave. He cautiously made his way out, heading towards the sounds and testing his earring repeatedly as he went, trying to get within range and find out what was going on.
When the party didn’t manage to wipe out the swarm completely, Charlie reappeared in the centre of it, where the goblins recommenced stabbing him. One of the other swarms then tried to pile on Kang, who barely noticed it as he continued swinging his sword. Then Harlow and Lana heard Anvir’s voice coming through their earrings, and yelled out “GOBLIN SWARMS!” in response to his questions.
Together, Kang and Loralai took out the second goblin swarm, turning on the first swarm as Sly cast a fireball and eliminated the last few stragglers, a few seconds before Anvir arrived. With the others keeping watch – though Kang was still ready to fight anything that so much as breathed – Lana did another primeval awareness, and couldn’t sense anything nearby. But, knowing now that that didn’t necessarily mean anything, the party elected to inform Anvir what had happened on their way back to the ship. Given that there might be more goblins around, they decided to go stealthily, with Lana casting pass without trace on them all. Kang, still barely holding in his rage, stormed noisily ahead (not listening even to Lana) and picked up rage-logging where he’d left off, putting the sailors to shame.
The others returned to the ship to rest, with Harlow and Loralai having a brief talk about Sila and the many secrets they were keeping hidden from the rest of the party. Lana made sure the twins were alright on the beach watching the sailors, checking on the goblins with primeval awareness before going back to the ship herself. As night fell, the party found their bunks – Harlow joining Sly in her cabin – and even Kang eventually came back and went to sleep, though his mood didn’t seem much changed.
Dawn found Helwyr sitting on the beach like a giant seagull, while Lana slept peacefully in her hammock. Kang, Loralai, and Anvir woke and did their usual morning pushups in quiet (or angry, in one case) silence. Harlow and Sly were still asleep in their cabin when something unseen pushed open the door and slipped inside.
So it was that Harlow’s wake up call was being punched in the face.
With a scream, she scrambled out of bed at the same time Lana and Loralai were struck by similar invisible fists – Lana rolling out of her hammock to grab her bow, losing an arrow blindly before casting hunter’s mark on the unseen attacker, her second arrow then finding its mark. Harlow dived for her armour, unable to cast without it, and was struck again as she managed to pull on her shield just in time to deflect a third attack. In an effort to protect her girlfriend, Sly swung an unarmed punch at the thing, as it and the one below deck with Lana whispered “Lyne sends her regards” in primordial.
Hearing the screams from Sly’s cabin, Loralai ignored the thing that had punched her and raced across the deck, bursting through the door in time to prevent Harlow’s attacker going after her again. With it locked in place, Harlow threw fire in its general direction, but instead caught the papers on Sly’s desk and set them alight. It’s hard to hit something when you can’t see where it is. Outside, Anvir cast faerie fire on the invisible attacker, making it visible enough for him and Kang to finish it off quickly before it could give chase to Loralai, and they joined the rest in the cabin in time for Sly to pull on her gauntlet and Haste Kang and Loralai.
The fight below deck was going considerably worse, with Lana being knocked around even as Charlie and the twins rushed to defend her against something they couldn’t see themselves. And then the invisible stalker in Sly’s cabin crashed through the floor beneath it, into a storage room next to the crew’s bunks. Loralai jumped down after it just in time to see Lana go down, abandoning her opponent again to save the ranger with a goodberry.
Harlow followed Loralai down, turning into a panther to pounce onto the invisible attacker. Unable to fit through the small hole without risking landing on Harlow, Kang rushed outside, threw open the cargo hold, and smashed into the one that had been attacking Lana. That one was being attacked from all sides by Loralai, Kang, the twins, and Charlie as it continued to go after Lana, while Harlow and Sly fought the one that had woken them.
Then another attacker appeared behind Kang, smashing its fists into him, leaving him trapped between the one sent for Lana, and the new one sent for him. But Anvir dropped through the hole, healing those within range. But as the fourth stalker tried to make another attack on Kang, Loralai pinned it in place, and she was knocked out by the one that had been targeting Lana. And in the other room, the one Harlow was fighting knocked her out of panther form – and then out of the fight completely.
Seeing his friends go down around him, fueled by Haste and rage, Kang was the one who finally murdered the one that had been attacking him and charged through the bunks to kill the other before it could finish Harlow off. Seeing its comrades defeated, the final stalker disappeared – though the twins kept their guard around Lana just in case – giving Anvir and Kang time to get to everyone with healing and goodberries.
Shaken, but alive, the party retreated to the main deck to tackle the fire spreading in Sly’s cabin. Harlow relayed what she’d heard from the first invisible stalker – and Anvir, picking up on the group’s discomfort, asked about the attack. After all, it had seemed very specifically targeted.
For the first time in… well, ever, the party gathered with Sly and Charlie to talk about everything that had happened, and the secrets that had gone unspoken. Loralai explained about their mercenary work aboard the Siren’s Bane, the civil war in Haven, and that Lyne was evidently still out there and looking for them. She and Harlow then told the party about Sila, their patron, and the chess game he was playing against an unknown opponent – one in which they were pieces, as Sila’s white knights.
They also revealed that Sly was one of Sila’s pawns, having traded her sanity to him for help with the Predator – leaving her somewhat bound to the ship, as being aboard it kept her slightly more sane. Kang, Lana, and Anvir were concerned about these deals – though Loralai told them that so long as she provided Sila entertainment, she was fulfilling her side. As far as Harlow knew, she was required only to “stay on her current path” to complete her initial deal. With that in mind, the party showed Anvir, Charlie, and Sly the burned list of names – but they didn’t know any more about it than the rest of the party did already.
After this unprecedented amount of sharing, Loralai and Harlow asked the others to stay with them as they tried to unravel the mystery of Sila’s chess game – who is his opponent? Who are the pieces that, in their dream of the chessboard, seemed to be bearing down on Sly and Loralai? What is the prize for victory? Even with the others to weigh in, there were still more questions than answers, and nothing the party could do about them here on Maesa Sari. They needed to find Gladomain and find out what they could from him.
The party turned their attention back to the goblin problem. Thanks to Lana’s primeval awareness, they were able to determine that most of the surviving goblins were hanging out in two of the ruins. One of them had distinctly fewer goblins, so the party decided to go after that one first. Given the rough state they were in after the fight against the stalkers, they decided that everyone would go, save for Charlie, who would stay behind on the Predator to protect it.
Harlow cast water walking on the rest of the party, while Anvir and Lana flew ahead to scout the ruins out. As the group drew closer, Lana descended and cast pass without trace on everyone, to hopefully give them an element of surprise.
Anvir, flying ahead, had the first volley at a group of goblins standing guard outside – incinerating them with fireball. Now alerted, Lana set Helwyr ahead to stick his head into one of the ruined buildings, only for him to disappear with a screech as arrows flew through the space he’d left behind.
Further back, still creeping through the trees but hearing this commotion up ahead, Sly cast Haste on Loralai and Kang, giving them the movement to barrel through into the ruins and, between them, eliminate nearly all the remaining goblins. Eager to maintain use of Haste, the two of them burst down the door into the only room still standing – setting off some kind of magical enchantment. But as there were no visible effects, the two continued.
When the others caught up, the two had found a trapdoor – which Lana detected had a glyph of warding on it, just seconds before Loralai decided to throw it open anyway, triggering a small explosion. And in an uncharacteristic display of impatience, she then jumped down the ladder and landed on another glyph, which this time caused an ice burst. Finally, they decided to stop and have someone cast detect magic while Lana used her primeval awareness, determining that there were more goblins at the end of the tunnel.
Proceeding onwards together, at a less reckless pace, they came to another door. Pushing it open they discovered another cavern – and the goblin wizard, who set off a fireball in the middle of the party. Along the walls of the cavern were raised wooden platforms, and atop each of them sat several goblin archers who began to shoot at the party. Lana returned fire, downing most of them with a single arrow. The others charged forwards to attack the goblin wizard, but it didn’t quite go as planned, with Loralai turned into a small animal (mouse? Rabbit? Can’t remember) until she bit herself to get out of the shape. The wizard’s fireballs wreaked havoc on the party, nearly taking out Lana, Harlow, and Loralai – though they were healed thanks to Anvir.
And then, when things finally started to go the party’s way, with the other goblins dead and the wizard on its last legs… the wizard used dimension door and disappeared.
Lana immediately began casting primeval awareness – and detected the gobin heading straight for the Predator. Spurred immediately into action, the party began the mad dash back, hoping to get there before anything terrible happened. But they still had to get out of the cavern and back through the ruins. They’d never make it in time, even with Sly racing ahead of the rest.
Alone on the Predator, Charlie didn’t notice the goblin’s stealthy approach. After its initial surprise attack on him, he hid behind the mast and threw several daggers at it, dealing a surprising amount of damage. In response, the goblin disappeared again.
Charlie sprinted below decks to the power crystal, knowing that if the goblin attacked that, the Predator wouldn’t stand a chance. He spent a nervous half-hour guarding it, waiting for another attack, but the goblin didn’t resurface, and finally, the rest of the party made it back to the ship.
Knowing now what they were up against, the party faced a choice. Should they go after the hopefully exhausted wizard, finish it off once and for all – or take the rest so very much needed by the party’s spellcasters? Yet they knew that leaving the wizard alone for such a long time would undoubtedly give it time to to prepare for their next battle, enough that there was a good chance the party would lose again.
But, short of sending one person after the wizard alone, they didn’t have much of a choice. Nearly everyone in the party needed to rest. They would have to face the wizard tomorrow.