GM: So you have a week in town before the people who went out scouting for goblins return. I know Zakhar is making potions... what about the rest of you?
Ash: "I spend the week sleeping. The whole week."
Kaito: "I spend the week sleeping with the shopkeeper's daughter."
(I think other people had already confirmed their plans with the GM privately... a lot of them live in the same house)
At any rate, after a week of relative calm, the results came back from the search outside the city walls -- the goblins were nowhere to be found. Most of their usual haunts were deserted. Since the heroes had found the journal that suggested the goblins were forming an army, that seemed like a bad sign.
The journal also pointed to a place called 'Thistletop' as the likely location of Nulia, who was the one who actually wanted Sandpoint destroyed and was probably organizing the goblins. It wasn't on the list of places searched, so the heroes headed there.
The two-hour journey was uneventful until they got to the giant wall of brambles that surrounded Thistletop proper. It was thirty feet high and nigh impenetrable, but there were several pathways carved through it, presumably by the goblins themselves. They decided to take the one that was large enough for most of the group to stand upright and only duck a little. It was still a bit cramped, and the stinging nettles and poisonous 'goblin berries' along the way were a minor threat.
Eventually, they heard the sound of the ocean as they neared the shore, and the pathway opened up into a wider clearing. A suspicious cluster of branches turned out to be a gate, of sorts, made out of thistle-branches that could be pushed open but would snap back into position. Phoof (who, as a tree, did not have to worry about the thistles) held it open for the others to pass.
On the far side was a crossroads. Down the left path they heard goblins talking, faintly, and down the right the howls of a creature echoing out of a cave. There was some argument about which way to go, eventually settled by most of the party going nowhere while Altei and Noggin's valet snuck towards the goblin voices. Altei disguised himself as a goblin, planning to infiltrate their camp.
Instead, they managed to spy on a small camp of goblin refugees who'd been driven out (or perhaps left voluntarily) of the main camp because of Ripnugget, the goblin leader, who was slavishly following Nulia. They had problems -- they felt that they had to keep throwing goblins down 'the hole', and several of them had been eaten by predators.
They were also definitely not what the party was looking for, so Altei returned to report.
Hearing the news, the party moved on to the middle pathway which had seemed quiet, but got distracted by 'the hole' -- the howling cave turned out to be a hole in the ground leading to a sea cave, and the middle path had a gap in the thorns where they could investigate it (even if the right path was the direct route). Looking down, one of them eventually made out a huge, tentacled beastie swimming in the flooded cave below.
Val (the sea witch): "Mom?"
They decided not to jump in the hole. Unfortunately, they made a little too much noise and the goblins from the refugee camp sent some guards to investigate. Kaito tried to scare them off by imitating the roars from the hole, but wasn't very good at it. Luckily, Altei was still disguised as a goblin and intercepted them, distracting them by letting them lead him back to the camp.
Goblin 1: "You've got a nice hat. The females are going to fight over you!"
Goblin 2: "And we can throw him into the hole next, instead of me!"
While there, he got a little more information out of them before sneaking away, including the presence of a goblin shaman nearby whose pet panther was responsible for picking off several refugees for lunch.
But that information came too late -- Noggin's valet, Elsie, Val, and Ash had already wandered off following the sound of barking, and after calming down some goblin dogs, Ash wandered further down the path with Elsie and got attacked by the panther.
Elsie punched it, but it was a tough kitty and mauled Ash badly -- plus, someone was healing it! The huge entangle spell that caught most of the party (except for Phoof, Kaito, and Altei who were still messing around with the refugees) was especially painful since it was entangling people with thistles, and the panther escaped while everyone was busy wriggling free and retreating out of the area of effect.
Except for Elsie, who moved forwards instead, hiding at the edge of a bridge which led to the island lair they'd been searching for.
The entangle got Phoof's attention, and since she could walk through solid thistle walls unhindered, she snuck around the edge of the entangle until she found the shaman who'd cast the spell. After failing to convince him that she was the spirit of the forest itself, she did manage to apologize for Elsie punching his cat, and get him to agree to a nonaggression pact. He had no love for Nulia, who'd driven him out of the goblins' lair as well. He cancelled the entangle and let the party move on to the bridge.
Between the shaman and the refugees, the party had somewhere found out that the bridge -- a rickety wooden-slatted rope bridge 80 feet above the crashing waves, between two sets of sheer, slick cliffs -- was rigged to collapse with badly tied slipknots. A quick discussion identified Ash as the only qualified sailor (and therefore knot-expert) among them, so Phoof made her invisible and she snuck across the bridge (in fox form, to be light enough not to trigger the collapse) and re-tied the knots so that it would hold the party's weight.
Then, they cast a few mage armor spells, drank a few shield potions, and with a few dramatic chords from Phoof to spur them onwards, charged across the bridge!
The goblins had a reasonable plan to defend themselves -- several goblin dogs, most of them with riders, tried to block the party on the bridge (while waiting for it to collapse), while one goblin ran for reinforcements and archers in the towers rained arrows on them. It didn't survive contact with the party, who had enough magic missiles to clear a path for several combatants to get to the far side of the bridge and eliminate the runner, and at least two people who were good enough at jumping or climbing to get to the archers once they were on the far side.
Also, the archers in the second tower were too drunk and slept through the whole thing.
Not to say that they didn't get some nasty hits in. Kaito relied a little too much on the shield spell and got bitten in the crotch by a lucky goblin dog. Well, relatively lucky. He still stabbed it immediately afterwards.
The archers tried to run from the ninja and monk, but two were cut down from behind, and the third ran headlong into therest of the party, who'd come in through the front door after dispatching the guards outside.
Noggin rejoined the party -- his valet had found somewhere to 'rest' while he left his box, and he'd flown around scouting out the grounds. Aside from the goblins in the towers, there were no other external guards, but he'd found a pathway to the basement through a small opening (the island was actually the severed head of a giant statue, with the severed neck pointing up, and he'd flown in the nose) and found a terrible slimy monster waiting in the depths.
At that point the party started to explore the interior of the fort. Kaito snuck up into the other tower, but found only sleeping goblins. And pickles. Alcoholic pickles. He snagged the pickles, and left the pickled goblins to their nap.
Elsie and Altei found a locked door, and Elsie decided to punch through it, because punching solves everything! Unfortunately, the door did not want to be opened that way. She eventually managed to punch a hole in the door, but when she pulled back her fist it was quickly followed by a sword poking through the hole!
Altei looked through the hole and saw a whole pile of goblins holding the door shut. She stabbed through the hole, only for the goblins to fetch a stone table and slam it up against the door to block it further. Eventually she decided to go around and find another entrance, while Elsie kept punching.
On the other side of the fort, Phoof opened the door to a courtyard, and found four goblin dogs busily devouring some goblin corpses. She used a spell to put three of them to sleep, but while she tried to figure out what to do about the fourth, Zakar threw a firebomb and roasted them all.
Phoof flew into a rage, punching the alchemist with her tiny fists. "Why did you do that? I'd just put them to sleep!"
Kaito arrived from the tower and tried to restrain her. "Calm down! What's going on?"
Phoof: "That was my only second level spell slot!"
At the same time, Altei finally arrived at the other entrance to the room with the suspiciously strong door, and threw it open. Inside, she saw the pile of goblins still blocking the other door, while the goblin chief (Ripnugget, presumably) sat on a throne overseeing the affair.
And we stopped there, because it was six and several of the players had to go to work. We'll pick up with the mini-boss fight next session, probably.