Stonehill Inn, Phandalin

Bart Hillbrook (Human|Druid)
Gozu (Half-Orc|Bard)
Jarqiroth Wystongjiir (Dragonborn|Warlock)
Yrwyn Jerynomonis (Dragonborn|Rogue)
Zilrug Boondiggles (Gnome|Warlock)
Goliager Athran (Goliath|Ranger)

We rejoin our band of explorers in the lobby of the Stonehill Inn, rested, fed and mostly cleaned up. They’re pondering the current whereabouts of John Malkovich. To many, this would be a strange thing to be mulling over, and that would be particularly true for the actual Mr. Malkovich, if he existed in this world. But he doesn’t, so that thought ran through nobody’s mind at all.

There are hushed, somewhat troubled and possibly regretful murmurs passing back and forth between them of the kind that you’d expect to hear after a particularly heavy night out; did we really…? Are we sure we agreed to…? Were we really asked to…? and “Who and where is this Glassstaff bloke anyway?”

They also consider the possibility of finding vendors of useful potions and equipment nearby that they can splash their recently acquired loot on. Anything at all that might help in their quest to off Mr. Glassstaff, or with which to rapidly patch themselves up in the obviously totally unlikely event that they’re not one hundred percent successful during the upcoming encounter.

While the conversations and questions are buzzing, an oddly painful, wheezing sound, somewhat reminiscent of a herd of asthmatic goats, drifts through the Inn, a precursor, it turned out, to the arrival of a bagpipe wielding, drum beating figure who introduces himself as Gozu, bard for hire, and promptly breaks out into an improvised recital.

He spends the next few minutes happily taunting them with lyrics, and a vague approximation of music, retelling rumours that are circulating about a bunch of hapless, still-breathing-due-to-being-incredibly-lucky adventurers, bracketed in actual air-quotes no less, on a quest to eliminate the leader of a notorious gang that the entire town has been trying to figure out how to deal with for some weeks now.

The group considers the musical lunatic with an odd blend of curiosity and contempt, some wondering what his drums and goat-like bagpipes will sound like when introduced to various items of weaponry that could be brought to bear upon them with extreme prejudice.

However when he has eventually finished, Gozu does share some interesting insights as to where the group could acquire some provisions and where a bunch of ruffians, apparently connected to, and likely working for Glassstaff’s gang could be found, right now, just a short distance away in the Sleeping Giant tavern.

Fuelled at least in part by embarrassment, and keen to quash the town’s titterings by proving their ruthless combat effectiveness, they decide that swift action is definitely preferable to considered preparation and planning, and so they scoop up their belongings and set off at a brisk pace in the direction of the Sleeping Giant. From somewhere among their ranks, the words “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” escapes from someone’s lips.

Bart Hillbrook arrives at the tavern’s door first and hefts a weighty boot upon the flimsy catch. The door flies open with such force that the little bell above is ripped from its perch and launched into the gloomy interior, clanking painfully with each bounce over the sawdust strewn floorboards.

Seizing the element of surprise by the bells, Bart tumbles into the tavern closely followed by the rest of the group who have, weirdly, arranged themselves autonomously into a fire team wedge formation.

Sure enough, four ruffians, as promised by Gozu, are gathered around within. One of them thrusts out a scruffy foot and trips Bart in mid don’t-mess-with-us stride. He lands face first in the sawdust and is, naturally, quite upset.

Goliager, being immediately behind the suddenly prone Bart, takes umbrage at the human ruffian’s actions and, figuring that his longbow would take too long to draw, load and aim, instead unsheathes both of his short swords and whirls them menacingly in the air, glowering at the antagonist while somewhere behind, Gozu pumps his bagpipes into reluctant action, wailing unconditional disapproval at the evolving scene and drowning out the ruffian’s taunts.

Goliager quickly proves himself to be completely incompetent at dual-wielding short swords and hits absolutely nobody as a result of his carefully planned attack. It’s really only by luck that friendlies and other non-combatants in the vicinity escape hospitalisation during his pathetic whirling demonstration.

From his position further back along the “formation”, Yrwyn brews up a fancy Eldritch spell and releases it with what has now become a characteristic squeal.

The conjuring is successful, and his aim is true but sadly the spell somewhat lacking in effectiveness and just kind of glances off of the ruffian with no discernible damage having been inflicted whatsoever.

Motivated by the sudden, if so far pointless violence, Gozu spits his bagpipe mouthpiece from twixt his lips and, accompanied by rapidly dying groans from the bizarre bag of air, releases a torrent of Vicious Mockery, directed at the ruffians.

Realising that summoning all the motivation in the world would still be inadequate at the point that his best cutting remarks ricocheted harmlessly off the ruffian’s eardrums – possibly due to a lack of processing capability on the other side – he quickly reverses direction and makes a rapid retreat under the cover of additional, and equally useless but at least somewhat entertaining verbiage.

As Gozu shuffles backwards past Jarqiroth, the warlock dashes forwards and belches up a seriously lethal Breath Weapon attack. The carefully aimed gutsy green gust lands right on target and the ruffian reels backwards from its unsettling bowel-loosening effects.

It’s at this point that it dawns on the ruffians that they are actually being attacked and that they should probably do something about it. The first takes a swing at Goliager but misses entirely. The second lands an impressive blow on the still-prone and not particularly mobile Bart, causing some severe bruising. The remaining two also consider the over-large, and obviously martially-challenged Goliager to be an easy target and both land heavy poundings to his ample frame causing a range of effects from a dead arm and bruised ribs to light concussion and a seriously dented ego.

Then the air in the tavern turned strangely static with a hint of ozone. Anyone still able to look behind them – as opposed to directly at the floor they were lying on – observed little Zilrug Boondiggles brewing up a pretty impressive-looking ball of lightning. Eyes flicked uneasily back and forth between the ball of energy growing in Zilrug’s hands and the maniacal grin growing proportionally on her electrically-illuminated face. Needless to say everyone leaned back, just enough, to create a slightly wider corridor between Zilrug and the ruffians whose day was about to really start going downhill.

The Witch Bolt launched, accompanied by a cackle so long and loud from Zilrug that it even drowned out the bagpipe-backed abuse continuously flowing from Gozu’s still-retreating mouth further behind – possibly even into the street by now.

Even better than the Witch Bolt’s spectacular release was the wet, and thankfully remarkably self-contained meaty explosion that followed when it hit and found a very solid path to ground through one of the ruffians.

Then there were three.

Buoyed by the sudden turn of fortunes, Bart hops back up to his feet and while shouting “Don’t do that again!”, whacks one of the ruffians – who was transfixed by the still-settling cloud of goo that used to be their buddy – a glancing blow on the side of his head with his Scimitar, leaving behind a satisfying, if not entirely intentional or life-threatening bald streak.

Goliager has also managed to find his feet again, and aiming to improve upon his former attempted dual-short sword wielding fury, mentally focusses hard upon his opponents.

The short swords again whirl and carve the air into pieces with a satisfying thrum until one of them connects with something. Goliager opens his eyes and is pleasantly surprised to find that it is indeed one of the ruffians that has been hit by the blade. Unfortunately though it was the flattest, and most certainly the least sharp or pointy bit of the weapon that made contact, but still the force of the blow was enough to make the ruffian fall down in pain. “Yes!” shouted Goliager, pointing the blade at the fallen figure, “Take that you trippy human thug!” and turned nodding and grinning to his friends.

Jarqiroth steps forward and with some of his very best warlocking, prepares a Burning Hands attack which sounds and looks very impressive but the cone of flame is only successful in igniting a glass of liquor and, subsequently, the significant eyebrows and moustache of the unfortunate dwarf sipping from it at the time.

Hot on the heels of the Burning Hands spectacle, the room fills once again with a whining crescendo of bagpipey goodness. Gozu, while yelling and taunting from outside has obviously been enthusiastically pumping up his instrument of animal innards with tremendous vigour as he proceeds to throw it in the air in front if him and smack down on it so hard that it emits the oddest Thunderclap attack anyone has ever witnessed. But it’s effective (bagpipes are known to be frequently damaging to ones health even when not deployed in a combat situation) and one of the ruffians receives a thorough sonic battering – not quite enough to finish him off but significant nonetheless and is left stunned and reeling. The look of intense smugness that fills Gozu’s face is as comment-worthy as the audacious attack itself.

Yrwyn steps around the bard as he is scooping his spent, flaccid bagpipes up off of the floor, and in one deft fluid motion produces a rapier and adopts the stance of a world class fencer. Now this is something new to the group too, so those that are able take another shuffle backwards to avoid becoming collateral damage as a result of the the upcoming assault.

However, the rapier is expertly wielded and the resulting strike is both swift and true. The blade punctures various biological parts that are generally considered essential in supporting the ongoing existence of the human form, which in this case gurgles and leaks its way to the floor, dead.

And three became two*.

Whilst Gozu is executing a tactical withdrawal to find a place to recharge his beloved instrument, one of the remaining ruffians cuffs him hard behind the ear and he is sent reeling across the room, bouncing off of tables, chairs and patrons in a cloud of stars, birds and goats.

Sensing that the advantage was now definitely on the side of the adventurers, the last still-upright human ruffian makes a dash for the door, throwing an elbow at Goliager as he passes, and surely enough the blow finds its way to his already damaged ribs, sending the goliath ranger staggering backwards clutching his side, the previously worn grin replaced by a definite grimace.

As the ruffian clears the doorway, the adventurers, keen to maintain their advantage and not let some potentially useful information about Glassstaff hightail it into the distance, decide it’d be A Very Wise Thing to get after him.

“Don’t let ‘im get away!” someone yells.

“Go ahead,” wheezed Goliager, “I’ll catch you up when I can breathe.” Then he realised he was talking to the backs of his friends rapidly disappearing into the distance.

Collapsing heavily into a nearby chair, Goliager looked up into the very red, angry face of a miner who seemed not to have any facial hair whatsoever. Which was quite unusual for a dwarf.

*At some point during this encounter one of the other human ruffians was dispatched I think, but I’m not sure exactly how or by whom, so in this retelling, affected as it is by the red mist of combat-induced rage – he’s just incapacitated by one of the described attacks.