After returning the stolen supplies to Lionshield Coster and receiving the reward proffered by Linene Graywind, the party's eyes turn toward the warm light of Stonehill Inn, just across the town square. As they approach, the noise of merriment spills out into the evening.
When they arrive, Trilena Stonehill seems be expecting the group, and greets Ad, Artex, Gertrude, and Stedd at the doors. She tells them: "welcome! Your friend told us you were coming — he has made arrangements for you." Caching a glance of their state, she smiles and adds: "I'm sure you'll be wanting warm baths and a change before joining us in the common room. We've Phandalin's finest entertainment tonight!"
The party bathes and freshens up and returns to the common room, where they see a lively local scene: a fiddler and lutist are playing, and the crowd is in good spirits. They sample some of Toblen's Summer Ale, and find it to be uncommonly good for such a backwater establishment. Toblen knows his brewing arts, it would seem. Gertrude learns that their hosts are also from Triboar. Truly, this inn is a familiar and comfortable haven.
The adventurers are restless, however, and cannot surrender themselves to an evening of song and drink with the townsfolk; the knowledge that a gang of ruffians has been troubling Phandalin lights a fire within them. Gertrude and Stedd in particular seem unable to bear the presence of these thugs. Gertrude flatly asks Trilena to point out any Redbrands in the crowd, and in hushed tones, she directs the party to her husband Toblen.
While waiting for Toblen, Ad reveals his newly acquired ability to communicate telepathically with his comrades. They are impressed and imagine it could prove useful in the coming days and weeks. Toblen approaches and he confirms what Elmar and Linene had already told the party: that the Redbrands came to town a couple of months ago, and have been making trouble for locals since then. Toblen laments that Townmaster Harbin Wester has done little to reign in their behavior. But then he walks back his comments: he has a wife and child and a business, and he does not wish to stir up trouble.
The party decides to pay a visit to Sleeping Giant Taphouse. "Time to wake the giant," says Stedd as they march confidently down Tresendar Lane. There are a few lamps along the road, and dim light can be seen from several houses, but mostly all is dark at this hour. Bright stars shine down, however, and the party sees the mist gathering in the hollows and lowlands — it is a beautiful summer evening.
Four men wearing deep red cloaks loiter on the porch of the tap house. They stare down at the party, and one of them spits and says, "What do we have here? Some puppies, and a bunny too! Come here to bark at us?"
"Bunnies don't bark," Gertrude says.
"We're on a pub crawl," Artex puts in.
The Redbrands tell them that the 'Giant is more of a private club, and tell the party that they had best move along. The two groups trade a few more insults, but the party is determined to go inside, and Stedd attempts to push his way past one of them.
Weapons are drawn and the night erupts into sudden violence! The ruffians' steel flashes at Trudy and Stedd, and the Redbrands draw first blood upon the cleric. Artex casts Hunter's Mark and fires an arrow, hitting one of the gang members. Stedd grasps the throat of one of his attackers and withers him with a horrifying necrosis. Ad invokes his enhanced Eldritch Blast, wounding another, and Trudy quickly dispatches him.
"Phin! Clanton! Get out here, we're under attack!" Four more Redbrands appear, ganging up on Stedd, Trudy, and the others. Perhaps wishing he was back at Stonehill enjoying a summer ale, Artex finds himself badly wounded. Stedd and Ad also suffer damage, but their divine and arcane energies strike back at their enemies.
Artex again fires his bow, but it is ineffective in close quarters. Stedd summons a Thunderwave, however, slaying two more foes. Ad's spell is disrupted by his adversary, but Trudy lands a critical blow, leaving her opponent reeling. The Redbrands turn out to be more formidable than the party had guessed, however, and their attacks bring down Artex while pushing Ad, Trudy, and Stedd to their limits. But they are still no match for the heroes' might and magic, as Ad's Hellish Rebuke kills another enemy, Stedd's warhammer finds its mark, and Trudy cuts through another ruffian. The sole surviving Redbrand runs off in the direction of Tresendar Manor.
Stedd revives Artex and the party searches the bodies. Though it was hard-earned, they find some gold for their trouble. They then walk into the squalid bar, and see that there are not many people at the 'Giant tonight: some miners, escorts, and other rough customers. All look stunned to see these four strangers.
A surly dwarven woman approaches to confront them. "What do you want? You are ruining my business! Killing my patrons! GET OUT OF HERE!" The party wants to question this person, but they are also wary of another confrontation. Stedd tries to get something useful out of her, but the dwarf remains hostile and keeps telling them that they are murderers and that the Townmaster will hear about this.
"Can I get a to-go cup?" asks Artex.
"No, ya pointy-eared dirt worshipper!" she says in reply.
"Well, we'll see you later," says Gertrude.
"I hope not!"
While leaving, they spot a figure darting between buildings and they attempt to pursue. The person eludes them, but Artex is able to track him to a large, well-appointed cottage on Old Forest Road. The party surmises that the cottage belongs to the Townmaster, and that their quarry has run to give him news. They elect to turn in for the evening.
When the heroes return to The Stonehill, however, it is apparent that word of the fight has reached the inn. The common room has emptied and the mood is grim and foreboding. Fearing retaliation from the Redbrands, the Stonehills apologetically ask the party to find other accommodations. They suggest that Sister Garaele, who presides over the shrine, or the half-elf named Edermath, who runs the orchard, may be willing to house them.
Stedd raises an eyebrow at the name Edermath, and says: "Edermath? You don't mean Daran Edermath?" His contact in Neverwinter, Mallory Luskan, received a letter from Daran, and sent Stedd to investigate. "The very same," replies Toblen.
The party crosses the square and the green to the orchard, where they meet Daran Edermath. Stedd introduces himself as the man sent by Mallory to assist, and relates the events of the last few days. Daran invites them in for wine to hear more of their story. Once inside, Edermath tells them that there are many Redbrands, that they are using the ruins of Tresendar Manor as their base, and that they are lead by someone the gang refers to as Glasstaff, an alias no doubt.
The party inquires about their relationship to the Townmaster, and Daran expresses doubt the master understands the threat the Redbrands pose to the community. "If there is a deeper, more sinister relationship, I am not aware of it," Daran finishes. The heroes admit their need for a safe house in which to recover from their exertions, and Daran offers to put them up for the night. The rest of the night passes without incident.
The next morning, to the delight of his guests, Edermath lays out a full breakfast spread: eggs, a rasher of applewood-smoked bacon, breads, muffins, fresh cream and butter. Though he clearly has respect and appreciation for their handling of the Redbrands, he says, "I must caution you: there may be some fallout from the events of last night. The townmaster may try to rally some of the townspeople against you, not because they have any great love of the Redbrands, but because they fear violence and chaos."
The party decides to confront Harbin. While trying to slip out of Daran's home unnoticed, they spot Pip, the Stonehills' child, and Carp Alderleaf, a halfling boy, playing in the Town Green. Pip approaches and exclaims, "you guys killed those Redbrands last night! I know you did. You guys are like heroes, right? I want to be a warrior too! My friend Carp saw some Redbrands coming out of the forest."
"Shut up! You dummy," Carp punches his friend and the two of them run off. The party does not follow.
The party plans a winding route toward the Townmaster's home, which leads them past the Miner's Exchange. The townsfolk they see avoid their gaze and hurry past when met — they seem fearful. They reach Harbin's cottage, but find that he is not at home.
After some discussion, they decide to pay a visit to Halia Thornton at the Miner's Exchange. They enter and see an attractive, sharp-featured woman sitting behind a desk. Without looking up from her work, Halia says, "you don't seem like miners."
"Well, I'm 20 years old," says Ad.
She fixes her gaze upon Ad; "so you are."
Undaunted, Trudy launches into a story about coming to Phandalin in the employ of Gundren Rockseeker. Halia listens with more interest to this information.
"You had a run-in with the Redbrands last night," Halia interrupts. "You seem like you can handle yourself in a fight," she adds. "Well, we do our best," Trudy replies. Halia makes a few patronizing remarks, but she is clearly assessing the party, and she comes to her point: "I think I may have a job for you. The leader of the Redbrands is called 'Glasstaff.' You may have heard that name. I would like him eliminated. I will pay for this — 100 gold crowns."
Artex asks what the town master will think of this contract, and Halia smiles and says, "don't worry — I can handle Harbin."
Ad asks for the whereabouts of "Way Echo Cave," and Halia corrects him: "Wave Echo Cave? That is the question worth 10,000 gold pieces and more, isn't it? We here at the guild would all like to know where lies Gundren's discovery."
The party wonders aloud how many Redbrands there are, and though unsure, Halia has a curious reply: "there are some decent lads in the group; it's really their leader I'm interested in."
"Decent?" Trudy can hardly believe her ears.
Halia underscores the point: "they are just mercenaries, and not so different from yourselves. They do what they are paid to do. I believe Glasstaff is behind their activities."
The party decides to explore the fragment of a lead they received from the boys — search the old forest at the foot of the hill upon which Tresendar Manor stands. But before they can proceed, an errand runner finds them and brings them to the Townmaster's Hall, where they finally meet Harbin Wester, Phanadalin's master.
The Townmaster's Hall has sturdy stone walls, a pitched wooden roof, and a bell tower at the back. Inside, Harbin — a fat, well-dressed country gentleman — is red-faced and angry: "what is the meaning of this disruption last night? Killing people in the streets? My goodness!"
The party pleads their innocence, but Harbin seems unmoved: "that's not what I heard. I was told you were threatening and tried to push your way into Grista's tavern."
After hearing the party's story and their repeated assurances that they do not wish to cause trouble, he softens a little. "Well, it's an ugly business. We can't have this kind of lawlessness in Phandalin." He explains that there has been a lot of bandits and orcs on the Eastern Triboar Trail, and that the Redbrands have been protecting caravans, mail carriages, and some of the outlying farms and homesteads.
As they speak, Stedd leans in and puts his foot on a chair in an exaggerated pose. His foot goes through the chair, and he makes a dramatic show of removing his foot from its trap, finally peeling it off and tossing it to the wall. Harbin is agape at Stedd's comical histrionics. "I think you folks better leave! I dunno what's wrong with your friend, but that boy ain't right."
"Maybe you could set up a meeting with Glasstaff..?" Artex asks.
"I don't know this Glasstaff, and I don't even know if he even exists," Harbin replies.
Trudy sees his eyes dilate and a bead of sweat drip from his brow; she is certain that Harbin knows more than he is saying. But what can be done? He wants the party to leave. As Harbin tries to rid himself of these outsiders, who have become a nuisance, in walks Sildar Hallwinter.
Sildar is much revived and greets the party warmly, but he asks that the party excuse them, as he has business with the townmaster. They exit, but Stedd lingers in order to eavesdrop on the conversation between Harbin and Sildar. Through Stedd's efforts, they learn that Sildar is indeed who he claims to be — a member of the Lords' Alliance who wishes to bring Phandalin under the organization's protection. He wants to be given an office within the Town Hall, and insists that he be afforded all due respect owed to the Alliance. He is particularly concerned about his friend and colleague, Iarno Albrek, who came to Phandalin some time ago.
The townmaster in turn relates that Albrek had indeed arrived several months back, was seen in town for a few days, and had even spoken to Harbin about forming a constabulary. Ominously, Iarno was last seen on Tresendar Lane near the Sleeping Giant, and no one has seen or heard from him since then.
Session XP: 125
Total XP: 475