Adaven creeps forward, down a flight of stairs on the left of the manor’s secret entrance. Rough growls and yelps emanate from a room at the bottom, where the corridor bends a right angle and leads to another shut door. Adaven scouts ahead, gently easing the door at the bottom of the stairs open. Inside, three huge bugbears are playing an enthusiastic game of ‘kick the crap out of the goblin’. The half-elf sorcerer gently closes the door, and creeps down the corridor to the facing room.
Inside this one are four Redbrands, playing a game of knucklebones and enjoying an off-duty drink. Adaven manages to peek in without disturbing them, and then scampers back to Grey and Tarlach to formulate a plan of attack. They come up with a good one. What if they play these two groups of villains off against each other? Snickering with gleeful anticipation, the three heroes form up in the corridor, and Grey readies a throwing axe.
Kicking open the door, he roars a challenge and hurls the axe into a bugbear’s chest. Getting a good look at the hideous goblinoids for the first time, the group notices that one stands out – a hulking brute with an eye-patch, wielding a nasty-looking morningstar. In the corner, a helpless goblin covered in ugly purple bruises takes one look at the intimidating dragonborn intruder… and faints dead away. The bugbears roar in fury, particularly the one who just took an axe to the chest, and rush to meet our heroes in combat. Our heroes grin mischievously, and promptly scarper off into the Redbrands’ room.
Adaven, still dressed in his stolen scarlet cloak and looking every bit the terrified Redbrand recruit, bursts through the door, yelling at the top of his lungs. “Murder, murder! The bugbears are revolting!” Thankfully avoiding the potential for a cheap joke, the four Redbrands scramble to their feet. Three draw twin swords, and one hefts a crossbow and kicks the table over, forming some makeshift cover. Tarlach and Grey move into the room with them, weapons drawn, facing the corridor and the four charging bugbears. And seven hells break loose.
The Redbrands meet the bugbears’ charge, convinced that they’re about to be torn limb from limb. The team has clearly tapped neatly in to some underlying paranoia and mistrust between these two groups. Terrific. Leading the bugbear charge is their scarred, one-eyed leader, who is now dual-wielding his morningstar along with that unfortunate goblin slave. He barrels into the room, and his cleaving swipe smacks one Redbrand into the wall. There’s an audible crack, and the poor ruffian slides limply to the floor. Battle is joined. Grey leads the line, dueling one bugbear with his greatsword, taking a couple of nasty strikes but scoring a backhand slash of his own in return. Tarlach whips out his twin blades, and slips in to stab another of the hulking brutes, but wisely skips back to keep the focus on our erstwhile allies.
Dodging and weaving, the Rebrands draw blood several times with their fine blades, but it’s not so easy to take down a bugbear. Despite bleeding from multiple wounds, the beasts continue to bash away with mauls and morningstars. The Rebrand leader fires his crossbow, and turns to Adaven, telling him to go out the back door and find Glass-staff. Adaven shakes his head, and tells the man that they can handle these brutes. He fires his crossbow and misses horribly, and the Redbrand gives him an unimpressed stare. Grey takes one too many hits, and pulls back. A bugbear roars eagerly, and swipes at him, missing by a hair’s breadth. Grey ducks under that blow and comes up with a two-handed thrust that impales the bugbear through its ample gut. The bugbear gasps, gurgles and expires.
Another Redbrand dies, his skull exploded by a falling morning star. “This is going brilliantly”, our heroes all think. Tarlach engages the second bugbear, while the leader makes for Adaven. The half-elf flings a bolt of fire, which smacks into the upturned table and sets it afire. The smell of smoke and spilt liquor fills the room. Grey takes a second to regain his breath, and moves back into the fray. Tarlach scores a nasty hit with a feint and slash along his opponent’s calf, then skips back to avoid another brutal swing.
Gray and the remaining Redbrand swordsman engage the bugbear leader, while the crossbow-wielding Redbrand shouts once more at Adaven to go and get Glass-staff. Sensing that their ruse, fantastically effective though it’s been, is about to collapse, Adaven shrugs and smacks the surprised crossbowman in the face with the pommel of his dagger. Staggering back, the unfortunate ruffian stumbles into Tarlach, who mumbles apologetically and stabs him clean through the back with his rapier.
Grey hamstrings the bugbear leader, ducking as the one-eyed bastard hurls his shrieking goblin slave at him. There is an unpleasant wet thump as the goblin strikes the hard stone wall. With the bugbear reeling, the remaining Redbrand triumphantly cuts out his throat, and turns, grinning, to Grey. Who promptly takes his head clean off. Tarlach takes a hit on the shoulder from the final bugbear warrior, but a crossbow bolt slams into the brute from Adaven, knocking him back before he can follow up his strike. Tarlach doesn’t waste the opportunity, leaping forward with a yell to bury both his swords deep in the monster’s chest. The bugbear issues a surprised gurgle, and topples to the floor. Victory.
The heroes try, and largely fail, not to be too smug about their victory. Three dead bugbears and four dead Redbrands, with barely a scratch suffered in return. This, the group acknowledges, is the best thing they’ve ever done, and will likely not be bettered. Still, through the door behind them awaits Glass-staff. Time to finish this.