This tale begins not long after the Glass Breakers began exploring Wave Echo Cave, having been led there by Gundren Rockseeker – whom they had rescued a few days earlier and was the one that contracted the party to help him in the first place. They had just dealt with two giant spiders that were hanging around at the cave they had entered, after which they had found the webbed corpse of Tharden Rockseeker – one of Gundren's brothers who had gone on ahead with their other brother, Nundro – who was nowhere to be seen, and were now navigating a maze-like corridor after going west on a fork in the open pit they had climbed down to.
While traversing the corridor, Rare and Arthur had caught a glimpse of something crawling away from them – with the latter able to tell that the movements of this unknown creature had a distinct sludge-like sound, prompting them both to warn the rest of the group to maintain caution. A few more minutes of exploring passed, and Arthur's senses eventually flared to life as he heard the sound of sludge once more, this time notice a small splotch of black ooze slowly land on the ground directly in front of him.
He then looked directly above him and saw a large, jet black ooze about to lurch itself towards his and Riku's direction. Seeing the imminent danger about to befall them, Arthur turned to warn the rest of the Glass Breakers of the black pudding that was about to attack, pushing himself and Riku away from where the ooze was about to strike.
However, though he was able to keep the samurai out of harm's way, he felt the black pudding's attack strike him with devastating force. In this kind of situation, I probably would and definitely should have let Arthur make a Dexterity check to see if he would be able to dodge the sudden attack had the thought crossed my mind, which admittedly didn't at the heat of the moment. Even if it had, however, there was just one problem – I had rolled a Natural 20 on its attack, making it an automatic hit. In addition, going by our group's current house rules on critical hits, dealt a total of 60 damage in that one strike – more than enough to kill Arthur outright.
As the bard felt his flesh and bones begin to melt away from the black pudding's devastating blow, Arthur turned to his friends one final time and, in his last moments of life, bid them farewell. "Au revoir," he said with a smile on his face as the rest of his body was slowly consumed into the large, obsidian ooze.
Everyone was left upset and/or enraged at this sudden development, with special mentions going to Jameson, Riku, and especially Rare, who had all suffered this kind of loss prior to banding together as an adventuring party. After a relatively quick fight with the black pudding and retrieving whatever remains of the bard were left behind, the Glass Breakers were at a loss of what to do next, especially since the ooze had also managed to slightly damage their equipment due to its corrosive form.
In the end, the party agreed that it would be best for them to retreat and restrategize. However, just as they were about to exit Wave Echo Cave, they found that their tribulations for the night were far from over, as they found that their path was now barricaded by a small band of goblinoids from the Cragmaw Tribe led by Vhalak and a now-free Vyerith – both of them in their usual guises as drow. They had just returned from a successful rescue operation that the Glass Breakers were not around to stop, as they had elected to go on ahead to Wave Echo Cave and declined Sildar's request for assistance in case the Lords' Alliance's extraction of Vyerith were to go awry.
"Ah, we meet again. I see you've had a rough experience in the short amount of time you've explored these caves…" Vhalak began, a wry smile on his face. "I also see that one of you seems to be missing, and I can only surmise that he met an untimely end. Either way, as you can see, we've had a rough time ourselves."
Not willing to listen to another word come out of his mouth, Jameson began to walk towards the doppelganger. "I wouldn't step another inch closer if I were you," Vhalak coolly cut him off before motioning one of the hobgoblins to step forward and drop the battered, bloodied body of Sildar Hallwinter – whom the players were all fond of by this point of the campaign – in front of them.
Given the circumstances at present, Vhalak was willing to let the Glass Breakers take their unconscious friend and leave for the time being, warning them that they'd be ready for them should they return. Everyone except for Jameson was reluctantly willing to go along with this otherwise-suspicious offer of mercy… until the exact moment they decided to fight back instead.
As such, a gruelling fight between the two parties ensued, especially since they had already exhausted themselves by quite a bit during the earlier fight with the black pudding. It even nearly ended in a second death in the party, with Jameson being taken down rather quickly due to Vhalak's poison-coated shortsword having done a number on him, even with his rage allowing him to resist the blade of the shortsword itself.
However, Vhalak's own luck would soon end when he quickly found himself on the receiving end of Nigel's goedendag, the first strike of which successfully knocked him prone via a trip attack and the second strike being the fatal blow on the doppelganger, forcing him to revert to his true, monstrous form as the last vestiges of life began to ebb away.
Going back to Jameson for a moment, some higher power apparently had no intentions of letting death take another of the Glass Breakers so soon as the gnome then rolled a Natural 20 on his next death saving throw, allowing him to get back up on his feet and act again, even with just a single point of HP. He then proceeded to finish off the hobgoblin devastator, who had been the biggest threat to the party due to having access to some powerful spells that could have done a number on them had they failed their saves against them.
With Vyerith having successfully fled deeper into the caves earlier, likely intent on filling the Black Spider in on what had just transpired, and the rest of the returning war band dead at their feet, the Glass Breakers' voices echo through the caves, declaring their intent to put an end to this conflict soon enough, and finally leave Wave Echo Cave and end up making camp by a clearing around the nearby hills for the night.
There, they pay their last respects to both Tharden Rockseeker and Arthur Watanabe, the latter of whom the party had just come to realize was somehow the one link that kept this motley crew of chaotic dumbasses from completely falling apart, even if Arthur seemed to have his own inner turmoil as well – the details of which they'll never get to learn from his own mouth now that he's gone.
Rest in Peace, Arthur Watanabe. May you and your nightmares be laid to rest, wherever you are.