The game starts with Hammer, Karyl, Morthos, and Osric arriving in the village of Oakhurst, finding themselves in the Ol' Board Inn, where they were to meet with Karowyn Hucrele, matron of the Hucrele merchant family and grandmother to the missing adventurers, Talgen and Sharwyn Hucrele. She explains that they went on an outing with the paladin Sir Barford, and a local ranger to the Sunless Citadel about one month ago, and they haven't been seen from since. Karowyn wishes to see her grandchildren returned safely to Oakhurst, but seems more concerned about the gold signet rings they wear, which are Hucrele family heirlooms.
The group spends some time in Oakhurst, gathering some rumours and information about the area. Strange things are killing people and cattle if they venture too far from town in the evening, found dead the next morning with their bodies covered in multiple needle-like wounds. Goblins have been coming to the town once per year with a perfectly red apple which, when consumed, cures any ailments or diseases which the consumer has. The apple doesn't come cheap, though, and the goblins have never sold one for less than fifty gold pieces. Rumour has it that the goblins inhabit the nearby citadel, and people believe that whatever tree bears this fruit must be in those ruins somewhere.
After purchasing some rations (and stealing a mirror), the group beds down for the night.
The following morning, they struck out on the seven mile journey along The Old Road to the location of the Citadel ruins. Once there, they found a knotted rope, tied to a leaning pillar, descending down into a deep ravine. They descended in turns, with Hammer going first. Fifty feet below, he set foot on a wide ledge where he was set upon by three hungry giant rats. They were dispatched quickly, but not before Karyl fell unconscious after being brutally attacked. Fortunately, Osric called upon the power of his diety, Shaundakul, and healed Karyl's wounds.
Catching their breath, the group prepared to descend down a set of narrow, carved steps that led deeper down into the dark ravine.