It’s a cheery, crisp sort of Saturday outside the Tammilanti District 58 guardhouse.  The kind of day you’d grill burgers on.  But inside the guardhouse, the chief is dealing with two very unusual criminals on what would otherwise be a slow, pleasant day.

The first is a wandering halfling “luchador” that the guard picked up after he caused a drunken ruckus at The Dog & Duck Inn a couple miles outside of town.  Though the guard aren’t normally involved with that inn, it being so far outside the beaten path, two of the guards assigned to the 58 happened to be there receiving an unrelated complaint from the innkeeper at the time and were able to minimize the damage to the place, though it took both of them to restrain the halfling, even in his drunken state.  This is Pip the Mighty Squeak, a former entertainer now wandering, seeking purpose or employment, or maybe just a new start.

The other, still more unusual detainee is a cat.  You read correctly, the guard apprehended a cat.  This is no ordinary cat, however: This one talks and wields daggers—quite proficiently, given how difficult it must be without opposable thumbs—and claims to be the product of a witch’s spell.  Her name is just Felina (apparently self-selected), and unfortunately for her, there is no real protocol for stray animals of unusual intelligence, and it’s likely the guard will be forced by the law to turn her over to local animal control to be put down.

Just as the chief is about to start the piles of paperwork on these two, however, the door bursts open and in walks an important-looking, if slightly short gnome bearing the heraldry of the Gnoble House of Gnomes.  This is Rashida, and, unbeknownst to the guard (but knownst now to us), she is Felina’s best friend.

After some negotiation with the chief of the 58 guardhouse, Rashida manages to convince the guard to allow Felina the opportunity of rehabilitation.  The nearby temple to the goddess Sjailo (pronounced SHY-low), The Temple of Our Mistress of Mercy, has just started an initiative they call “Second Chance”.  It allows for first-time offenders to perform some public service in exchange for their freedom, all under the watch and care of a representative from the temple (meaning none of the chief’s guard has to be assigned to keep watch).  The chief adds “Cat, Felina the” to the Second Chance request form he’s already started for Pip, and sends it off to the the temple.

***

Brother Erno Viranen is very excited.  He’s been looking to contribute more to the temple that so kindly took his mother and her young son in all those years ago, and he’s just been assigned a very important role.  The Second Chance program has had a handful of trial runs, now, with exciting results, and it’s been deemed ready for broader adoption.  And he, Brother Erno, has been selected as the first minor acolyte to lead a group of individuals who are seeking the grace of Sjailo and a second chance at freedom.

As Erno enters the guardhouse, however, he’s surprised at the faces he meets.  The relieved-looking chief hastily introduces Erno to his charges, a middle-aged yet barbaric-looking halfling and … a cat, wearing boots.  If that wasn’t intimidating enough, the cat is accompanied by a member of the Gnoble House of Gnomes. Steeling his resolve, Erno tries to strike an up-beat, can-do tone to inspire these lost souls as he explains to them the service they will provide.

As they travel to The Dog & Duck, Erno gives the party some background on the inn’s keeper, “Tipsy” Hypsi, his reputation, and the nature of the complaints he’s submitted—some sort of goblin problem, apparently.  Erno muses that he may have been assigned to this investigation because he speaks goblin.

Our eclectic band enter the public house and speak with the innkeeper, who fills them in on details of the goblin problem he’s having.  Apparently, the green pests have been stealing expensive spirits from the cellar through an unusually wily scheme: They’ve dug a tunnel into the cellar from who knows where!  Hypsi hasn’t explored the tunnel, as he has know idea what dangers may await him, and so he filed his complaint with the city guard.  While skeptical of the abilities of the group before him, the innkeeper leads them to the cellar and shows them the new exit the goblins have constructed there.

The cat removes any conspicuous clothing and proceeds down the tunnel in the guise of a normal cat.  The stealthy, unthreatening ruse allows her to investigate the tunnel in relative security, and she discovers a pair of goblins a bit of a way down the tunnel.  Returning to the group, she relays the information and re-equips her gear as they all plan how to proceed.  It is soon decided that a trap is the best option, at the repeated assurance of the noble gnome, who is a ranger and definitely knows a thing or two about animal traps.  With a plate of food and a cup of nice-ish mead provided at-cost by the innkeeper, the party set a simple box trap (wherein bait is laid under a box that has been propped up by a stick on one side) and await the goblins’ arrival.

Unfortunately, it seems this rookie group of adventurers has underestimated the goblins’ intelligence.  When the two goblins arrive, they have a brief whispered discussion in the goblin tongue before they cautiously approach the propped-up wooden crate.  One goblin moves under the propped-up side of the crate and stands beneath it, holding it up with a raised hand, while the other goblin dives onto the plate of food and begins to eat.

With some quick thinking, however, the party manage to salvage the situation somewhat.  An arrow flies from Rashida’s bow, striking the goblin holding up the trap and manages to both kill the diminutive green creature and knock him clear of the box!  Smack, the box falls on the other goblin, who begins to panic.  Taking her cue, Felina jumps on top of the crate to keep the goblin secure, but their foe fights back.  Having drawn his tiny sword, the goblin begins stabbing between the slats to strike at the cat and free himself.

With Erno holding back a stress-induced vomit, and the goblin becoming a dangerous problem for the cat, Pip the Mighty Squeak steps forward to the crate, grabs it firmly with both hands, and shakes it as violently as he can!  Cracka-racka-racka-racka!

And suddenly, there is silence.  Except Erno’s heaving.

The goblin, still very much alive, but now too frightened and disoriented to put up a fight, peers fiercely out from between the slats of the crate and awaits whatever is to happen next.  Needing information, our heroes employ Erno’s Goblin-speaking abilities to question their captive.

“What’s your name?” the party asks.

“Snigglet,” comes the response.

“Who are you working for?”

“The big boss.”

“What’s the ‘big boss’? What’s his name?”

“He’s big. His name’s Gari.  Gari Truugsh.”

“What’s his plan?”

“Not sure.  I just collect and deliver notes.  I don’t read them.  I don’t read.  Just take notes to the big boss and bring ’em back.”

The interrogation continues, with Erno translating all the while.  As the goblin gets more at-ease with the situation, he casually plops himself down and continues to eat the food and drink that was laid as bait as he answers more questions.  When the party has learned all they think they can from questioning their captive, they discuss what should be done with him.  When Erno suggests they let him go, he chimes in in common that they should definitely do that, and the party learn that goblins can actually speak common.

To Snigglet’s dismay, our heroes opt not to release him and Erno offers to call signal the guard for help.  He does and our fresh-faced band of adventurers settle in to await the arrival of what they hope will be help as they continue the investigation of a plot that’s beginning to seem deeper than the guard originally thought.  The clock is ticking, however, as Snigglet’s revealed that another goblin patrol will be coming in the next 4–5 hours to assume the next watch, and they will undoubtedly discover the absence of Snigglet and his former companion.

Who is this “big boss”, Gari Truugsh?  For whom are he and his gang working?  And what lies in store for our intrepid new investigators?