Elumai - Eladrin Wizard 1
Berend - Dwarven Fighter 1
Alarik - Dwarven Rogue 1
Krakd - Dragonborn Cleric 1 (DMPC)
The party spends a quiet night in Winterhaven and by morning, it seems that word of their impending assault on the kobolds has already spread around town, as they enjoy a delicious free breakfast courtesy of innkeeper Wrafton. Wasting little time, they strike out south east, following the rarely travelled path marked out on the map given to them by Rond.
Unforuntately it seems that their friends in Winterhaven are not the only ones to have gotten wind of their travels, as the party is accosted once more by a clutch of kobolds lurking in the undergrowth near the road. Only Alarik is attentive enough to spot them, calling out to his compatriots as the kobolds rush to the attack. The ensuing combat is a canny, drawn out affair, with ranged attackers on both sides of the fight looking for openings while the melee specialists hack at each-other amidst the fray. Alarik demonstrates his skill at finding weaknesses in his opponents' defense by dropping one of the kobold defenders in almost one hit, and although the party is victorious, a series of lucky hits from kobold short-swords brings Berend to the brink of unconsciousness before Krakd is able to heal him. In the final moements of the fight, one of the kobolds makes a break for it but is brought down by a deadly accurate bolt from Alarik's cross-bow.
Masking the fight as best they can, the party rests up, tends their wounds, and pushes on. Soon they come upon another suspicious scene: the remains of a wooden cart, smashed to pieces in the road with what looks like its contents strewn about the place. The party approaches cautiously, fearing another ambush, but remain unassailed as they search the remains of the cart, only to find the dead, hewn body of a hobgoblin. A quick scout around the scene turns up a second set of cart and hobgoblin tracks moving away along the road to the east.
In time the group notices the tracks veering off the road into the trees to the south. They can hear the sound of a crashing waterfull somewhere distant, but are unsure which way to head. After a brief discussion they decide to follow the tracks, hacking their way into the undergrowth in the wake of the cart, and after a few minutes come upon the overturned vehicle, undamaged and salvageable. Eyes alight with potential coin, they stow the cart in the undergrowth while Alarik's keen senses discern new human tracks amongst the hobgoblin ones they've been following.
In no short order the forest begins to thin and the party emerges into a clearing. Many kobold voices are heard from behind a broad thatch of trees, and the group can see a ring of standing stones with glowing blue runes inscribed onto the ground, in which a single kobold stands, exultant as hidden onlookers cheer him on. A sheer cliff face supports a crashing waterfall nearby.
Although unsure of the odds, the heroes decide to fall back on a trusted strategy, and drop a Freezing Cloud right in the midst of the circle.
The frigid, explosive gasses lacerate both the kobold they can see, and at least one other, and Krakd clearly hears a panicked order to attack being given by a hidden voice. A wave of kobolds bursts from the trees to assault the interlopers, cut into more manageable shape by a concealed Alarik but enough in number to mob Krakd while Berend charges into the tree-line and Elumai ducks into cover. Berend is quickly surrounded by three dangerous-looking kobolds, and hacks away at them with his axe, giving them little opportunity to focus their attention on the more vulnerable members of the party. The tactic of drawing the kobolds through the tree-line and away from their defensive position works well, and the fight is over suprisingly quickly... however, the group is unable to prevent a single kobold from escaping through the waterfall, an ominous pronouncement on its lips: "Irontooth must be warned!"
Unsure of what's waiting for them behind the curtain of water, the party decides to take stock of the situation before following. Elumai pulls on the furthest corners of her arcane expertise and deciphers the incantation needed to activate the runes, giving all of the characters a boon in the process. Now they stand poised, ready to assault the kobold fortress and deal with Irontooth, whomever -- or whatever -- he may be!
As always, check the comments for more DM-related observations.