Phandelver

Hordebreakers
Life is Cheap in Cragmaw Castle

Having driven away the Cragmaw hunters, the heroes contemplate their next move: stay here and try to rest, or seek refuge elsewhere? "I have idea," Droop offers. "Cover rag in blood and create false trail."

"Your blood?" asks Ad.

"Yes, and yours too!" Ad looks dubiously at him. Paying him no mind, the goblin looks at Artex. "But elf blood is best. Hobgoblin hate elves, train wolf to follow their scent."

Droop takes his dagger and slices his palm, and making a fist he squeezes blood from the wound, covering the rag in red. "Now you!" he says, handing the rag to Artex. "I need my hand to shoot," replies the elf, who nevertheless donates blood to the cause. Again led by the ranger, the party sets out in the darkness to create a false scent-trail into the wood. "I spensible now," Droop tells the warlock. 

After some time, the party discards the soiled rag, backtracks, and strikes out in a new direction, being careful to cover their new path as best they can. Miraculously, the plan works: the party evades the Cragmaw hunters and manages to get a full night's rest. Late in the morning, they creep back to the castle, this time approaching from the south. 

Falling into a trance, the warlock psychically inhabits his familiar and sends her forth to explore. She flies down the sheltered causeway along the south wall and finds an iron door at the end of the passage. She slips silently underneath it. Inside, she espies a crumbling corridor with four doors — two on the west, one to the east, and one to the north that leads to the tower in which they found Yeemik and his ragged warriors the night before. There does not appear to be any guards in this area, though she hears what sounds like the banging of cooking utensils coming from the first door on the left.

Jessica returns to her master, and the party pairs up in formation. They steal across the narrow field to the causeway, proceeding with what caution they can muster, and enter the sheltered passage. The iron door is locked! Ad kneels down, pulls out his tools, and begins to ply the lock. He is successful, and the party opens the door. 

Hearing the clatter of dishes to the west, the group bursts through the door to find eight goblins in a large dining chamber. "It's them!" shouts the kitchen's master. Before the goblins can draw their swords, Trudy attempts a parley.  Are the goblins suffering under the yoke of King Grol? Would they care to abandon him?  A guttural scream from the leader provides the answer: no.

Battle is met! The goblins skitter easily in and out of melee range of the heroes, but the heroes quickly overpower them — Droop steps up to distract one of the Cragmaws, and Stedd crushes him under his hammer. Artex and Ad slay two more. The goblin leader has a little more success, cutting Stedd twice with his sword, but it comes at a heavy price: with each strike, Stedd retaliates with Wrath of the Storm. The second such strike fells the leader, and the remaining goblins flee in two directions.

Gertrude follows the two that fled down the caved-in hallway along the western wall. The path opens into the southwest tower, where five more goblins join with the two that had retreated! The paladin again calls for their surrender, but the goblins have renewed confidence in their numbers and refuse. Ad follows and raises his hand, and with a flash, he effortlessly dispatches another goblin. "I don't know how we can make this any more plain," Trudy remarks to the humanoids. 

Stedd casts Bless upon the party, and the Power of Valkur surges within his allies. Meanwhile, the nearest goblin makes a run at Trudy, but she stands ready for the assault and cuts him down. The others, fearful of the paladin, fire a volley of arrows, but she holds her shield aloft and turns aside their missile fire. Artex, on the other hand, is far more deadly with his bow: he fires two shots and slays two goblins. Droop follows Stedd, who has taken up a defensive posture in order to channel his divine power. Casting sacred flame, he singes another enemy. 

The battle spills out into the castle's front corridor, where the heroes discover that the western entrance has been sealed by the Cragmaws — they have piled up rocks and other debris to block it completely. Ad blasts another goblin, and Artex, using his skill as a horde-breaker, levels his bow and picks off two more. The paladin notes that the party has no clear way out, but hastens forward confidently. The door to the guard station in the southwest tower swings open, and three goblins spring upon Ad and Artex. Ad does not abide the assault, and unleashes a blistering hellish rebuke, immolating his foe. 

Stedd and Droop move to the door in the dining room, covering the intersection. The cleric spots the two goblins who had fled this way at the end of the hall to the right. They make eye contact as if to issue a challenge, then slip behind the door, beyond which lies a very dark room. He casts light upon a crossbow bolt and fires it toward the darkened room, illuminating it with a holy light. At his angle, however, he cannot see much. 

Back in the corridor, Gertrude heads north and attempts to open the next guardroom door, but finds it held shut. With a sharp blow, she forces the portal and finds two goblins within, cowering at their post. The goblins surrender to her, dropping their weapons and throwing up their hands. The paladin and warlock question them briefly about Gundren's whereabouts. "Dwarf with King Grol… Drow come two day ago. He want to take Dwarf." With a flash of insight, Trudy orders them to start clearing the blocked exit to the west, and asks Droop to help them. 

Artex turns east to follow the goblins who ran down the corridor into the room beyond, now illuminated by Stedd's efforts. In haste, he fails to see a thin copper wire rigged across the passage — his boot catches on it, triggering a cave-in! Wooden beams, rocks and stones rain down upon him. Bludgeoned and stunned, the elf shakes off the dust and pain while the cleric, seeing the ranger's plight, scrambles over the debris and tends to his wounds.

The elf steels himself and steps into the room, his bow at the ready. Instead of goblins, however, a huge, hideous snake-like creature known as a grick slithers forward and attacks! Its tentacles lash at the ranger, pulling him forward, and its razor-sharp beak snaps at him. The ranger side-kicks and jerks back, narrowly avoiding the grick's maw. Artex fires wildly, unable to aim properly at such close range. 

Stedd and Trudy hear the muffled gasp of the elf and rush to his aid. Stedd attempts a sacred flame, but the creature is unaffected by the cleric's power. Gertrude charges forward, compelling the grick to a duel, but again the creature resists the heroes' magic. It cannot resist the power of her steel, however: the paladin calls upon Torm to smite this abomination, and Talon cuts deep. The grick emits a hissing shriek of anguish! The warlock follows Trudy's blade by conjuring an eldritch blast upon the monster, and its charred and lifeless body falls to the ground. 

The goblins who had retreated to the grick's lair cannot be seen, and the party turns back to deal with the denizens of the northwest tower. Again, Trudy wins a contest of strength, forcing the tower door. Expecting to find another group of cowering goblins, however, she is instead confronted by four hobgoblins and a pair of slavering wolves — part of the remnants of the search party that the adventurers encountered the previous evening. The wolves leap to attack, and Trudy is bitten twice! She manages to hold her ground before a hobgoblin drops her with a massive critical hit.

Ad and Artex work on dispatching the wolves, while Stedd revives Trudy with a Healing Word. Droop bravely interposes himself in the doorway to distract the enemies while Trudy lays hands upon herself. But the Cragmaw warriors press their attack and knock her unconscious again, this time taking out Droop with her. Trudy is at death's door when Stedd, Ad and Artex finish off the remaining hobgoblins.  Stedd quickly pours a potion of healing down the paladin's throat, and then revives Droop with Cure Wounds.

In the end, sixteen goblins, four hobgoblins, two wolves, and the horrific grick all lie dead at the hands of the heroes. But the party is spent, and the western exit is not yet open. Many questions remain: what lies on the eastern side of the castle, beyond the grick's lair? Will the goblins dig out the exit in time? Or will the heroes be cut off by King Grol, the mysterious drow, and the remaining survivors of the Cragmaw Tribe

Session XP: 450
Total XP: 1850

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Having Fun Storming The Castle
A New Enemy Is Met

Neverwinter Wood! A strange and magical place, if tales are to be believed. In truth, most sensible people avoid it. But a small band of heroes, emboldened by their recent adventures and newfound abilities, have encamped under its eaves, ready to discover its secrets. Assisted by an unusual guide, the party seeks the mysterious King Grol and his fastness at Cragmaw Castle. Having defeated a small squadron of hobgoblins who had attacked under the cover of darkness, the party and their guide drags the hobgoblins away from the camp and leaves them hidden in a grove. The rest of the night passes without incident. 

In the morning, the party breaks camp and follows Droop into the wood, and Artex trails the goblin closely to observe. It is slow going, as the forest is dense and difficult to navigate, and the party is searching for clues. After a few hours, elf the notices that the party has passed this way before, and he realizes Droop has become disoriented. "I know the way! I know the way!" Droop protests. Trudy gets a sense that Droop is doing his best, but that he has lost his bearings. "Well, honey, um… why don't we rest for a minute..? We don't want to go in circles."

As it is midday, the party elects to break for lunch. While making a meal with such provisions as they have, Gertrude turns to the goblin. "So, Droop, how far do you think it is?" the paladin asks. 

"Maybe 4 mile, maybe 5." 

"Would it help to climb a tree?" 

Droop brightens at the suggestion: "maybe… you have good idea! Give me boost?"

With Trudy's help, Droop scampers up the tree. After a few minutes, he returns and announces, "I know way, I know way." He leads the party onward into the ancient forest, punctuating his discoveries along the trail with solicitous grunts. As they march through this wilderness, Artex feels the weight of history upon him: the strange, fey magic of this forest stirs something within his Elven blood. 

As the sun retreats west behind the mountains, the party at last sees their destination: in a clearing ahead, seven crumbling towers of different sizes and heights cast long shadows, their upper stories all in varying states of collapse. A short but majestic flight of steps under a crumbling archway leads up to a terrace in front of the main gate. At the foot of the staircase, two pillars wrought in the likeness of mighty oak trees once supported the arch, which must have been a breathtaking sight in its prime. Beyond the wreckage of the gate lies a shadowed hall. Round towers loom over the entrance-way, with dark arrow slits looking down upon this stone platform.

The party stops short of the clearing, pausing to reflect on this truly ancient structure. "What's inside, Droop?" the party asks. "I never go inside, I never go inside. They chain me up at the pillar there," says the goblin, pointing to the pillars. "I brought here one time before being taken to house dungeon with red coats to be slave." 

Falling into a trance-like state, Ad possesses his familiar and sends her flying into the castle to investigate. She flies through the broken gate and into the dark corridor. The dimly lit passage forms a complex intersection with four doorways. Crawling under one door, Jessica finds three goblins, apparently stationed as guards, lounging about in the tower to the north. They do not notice the bat. Ad directs Jessica to investigate the south tower, and she finds a similar guard room, though smaller, that holds two goblins, dozing off at their post. 

Jessica returns from her initial sortie, and the party circles to the north side of the castle. Arrow slits appear at regular intervals around the fortress, and high in the central tower to the north, the party sees the remains of stained glass: a shrine or chapel, perhaps. This piques the heroes' interest, and Ad again sends Jessica into a window to explore the ruin. 

The familiar sees five goblins performing some ritual or ceremony: one speaking and gesturing while the others prostrate themselves. She sees a stone altar stands in the middle of the room, covered with bloodstained black cloth, and golden ritual implements — a chalice, a knife, and a censer — are carefully arranged on top of the altar. This was clearly once a beautiful Elven temple, but now it has been remade into a profane shrine to the gods of these foul creatures. 

Beyond the tower of the gods, the bat swoops past a dais standing along the crumbling north wall. Through his mystical connection to her, Ad perceives a concealed door in the rubble. The bat returns to her master. The party decides that this entrance is their best option to win entry to the castle, and they move into position, with Gertrude and Stedd at the vanguard. 

The heroes mount the steps and approach the threshold. A dusty canvas painted gray hides the northern entrance to the area, blending with the surrounding stone-work and rubble. Aided by the warlock's dweomer of guidance, Artex steps forward and silently pulls the curtain aside in order to see what lies within. Six goblins have made their home in this part of the castle. A flash of recognition crosses his face: Yeemik and the Cragmaw goblins are here! 

The party hastily formulates a plan: have Stedd cast Thunderwave! While Trudy casts Bless and Artex casts Goodberry, and Stedd quietly marshals all of his divine power. The cleric then steps forward and casts an augmented Thunderwave! The goblins are caught completely off-guard. Yeemik recognizes the party and shouts, "YOU!?!" but his cry is drowned out by the deafening boom of Stedd's spell. Its effect is spectacular: the five goblins affected by the spell immediately fall dead, rubble and gear scatters in every direction, and the door at the back of the room is blown open. As dust and detritus fall from the shock, Gertrude charges into the room and strikes at the last humanoid, but he dodges her blow. Ad directs Jessica to distract their opponents and then fires an Eldritch Blast, and with the help of the paladin's blessing, he incinerates the final goblin.

Artex scans the room for a target and he is not disappointed: four hobgoblins storm in from the western doorway. As the elf places his Hunter's Mark upon the first and fires a deadly shot, the adventurers hear a loud, low-pitched voice barking commands from the darkness beyond. Stedd maneuvers into position to attack, but his opponent blocks his hammer-strike. With a keen hatred in his eyes, one of the hobgoblins thrusts his sword at the elf, dealing heavy damage. Trudy hears the ranger cry out in pain, turns to another hobgoblin and slashes deep. Ad reaches out with a shocking grasp and kills him. 

Artex swings his hand-axe, but cannot penetrate the humanoid's stout armor. Stedd's hammer finds its mark, however, and he staggers his foe. The two remaining hobgoblins strike at Trudy and Ad: the first misses the paladin, but the second painfully wounds the latter. Furious, the warlock summons an enhanced Hellish Rebuke, immolating his attacker. 

Trudy slashes her enemy through the heart and calls for a strategic withdrawal, moving to defend the exit. Just then, a huge bugbear, a wolf, a giant spider, enter the ruined tower! A shadowy figure lurks close behind. The spider scurries forward and attempts to bite Ad, but alarmed by the hideous creature, he jumps back, just out of reach of its dripping fangs. Ad withdraws, and Jessica and Droop follow close behind. Artex moves back but turns to focus his hunter's mark upon the spider, and with a sickening thud he buries an arrow deep within the arachnid's carapace. The creature lets out an otherworldly hiss, its eyes fixed upon the elf. 

King Grol strides into the room, cutting off Trudy's escape. He roars and swings his huge morningstar: perhaps too eager to strike, Trudy evades his aggressive blow. The wolf nips and tries to knock Trudy prone, but the paladin keeps her balance. Stedd withdraws, nimbly evading the bugbear.

The shadowy figure steps into the room: it is a drow. He looks at Gertrude intently. The rest of the party edging away, Trudy makes a desperate leap past the bugbear, slipping past him to safety! Grol follows the heroes out and delivers a crushing blow upon Stedd, who is closest. The King of the Cragmaw Tribe roars out a taunt: "run, you cowards! My hunters will find you! Your heads will be on pikes!" Stedd musters the wrath of the storm in reply to Grol's blow, but this mighty bugbear shrugs off its effect. Ad's mystical blast ricochets harmlessly off of the castle's ancient wall, raining dust and pebbles down upon the bugbear. As the party turns to flee in earnest, a low, angry voice calls after them: "you'll be back for the dwarf!"

The Cragmaws do not pursue, and heroes have made good their escape! At least for now. The ranger leads them deeper into the forest, seeking a refuge. Tired, hungry, and wounded, the party attempts to take a long rest. Artex consumes his goodberries. "Do you have any spare berries?" the warlock asks. "Sorry, that was my last one," replies the elf. 

"They have wolves, they will track you!" warns Droop. The party travels north, then edges west, trying to find a defensible position in which to hole up for the night. After a some time, they come upon what Artex perceives to be a decent grove of trees.

"Droop, you hate the bugbears. Do you think the other goblins of Cragmaw also hate the bugbears? Do you think they'd turn on King Grol?" Trudy asks. 

"Maybe. Always fighting in goblin tribes."

"Perhaps we can send you in to make an offer to the goblins in the castle..?"

"You save me, you save my friend the girl. I help if I can. But what mean 'dwarf'?" 

"Oh," Trudy replies. "There's a friend of ours being held there, in the castle. We are here to rescue him. He's our employer."

"He owes us money," Artex puts in.  

Ad looks at the paladin and the ranger. "Do we even need Droop anymore? I mean, not to be cold, but he's dispensable now."

"What you mean me 'dis-pen-sa-ble'?" Droops eyes well up. 

"Listen, Droop, you're not dispensable." The goblin is mollified by the paladin's kind words, and the conversation wanders back to their encounter. "Maybe that was Black Spider," says Trudy as she unrolls her pack. "I am actually suspicious of Halia," replies Stedd, laying out a compelling but circumstantial case.

The party dozes off. Around midnight, Trudy begins the second shift. She strains to see and hear anything she can, but all is silent except for the eerie sounds of an ancient forest, creaking and rustling in the gloom. Suddenly, two arrows pierce her torso! Hunting with wolves, a stealthy hobgoblin war band has attacked! A pitched battle ensues, and after taking some losses, the hobgoblins withdraw into the darkness. 

As the enemy retreats, Gertrude breathes a sigh of relief before turning to her companions. Her face still illuminated by the Sacred Weapon, she says, "the first thing we need to do is kill those wolves."

Session XP: 250
Total XP: 1400

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Reunited
The Heroes Follow An Unlikely Guide

Nine short days out of Neverwinter, and the heroes find themselves alone in the dungeons of ruined manor house with a goblin and a little girl — the traitor Iarno Albrek and the remaining Redbrands have escaped!

After questioning the unlikely pair, they resolve to bring the child to Stonehill Inn, and then follow their quarry. They proceed to the secret tunnel and emerge in the forest. Artex's woodcraft is uncanny, and all at once he perceives many things: the daisies at the mouth of the passage have been trampled in a struggle, and two trails lead in different directions: one group has fled south, while a single set of tracks leads east. On top of everything, he senses a gathering summer storm. They must act quickly — these tracks are fresh, and they would lose too much time returning the child to the Stonehills. "I want to see my mommy!" cries Narsa.

Expecting to find the brigands with the Dendrars, they follow the tracks leading south. The path is easy to see: the Redbrands have made no effort to cover it, and in fact it appears that the trail has been marked by a continuous struggle through the underbrush of the forest. 

After twenty minutes or so, the heroes come upon a clearing in the forest, and they see the two Dendrars — mother Mirna and daughter Nilsa — bound and gagged in its center. A trap! 

Narsa charges toward her mother, but she is stopped short: Stedd grabs the child for her own protection. Wary, Ad and Artex prepare a counterstrike. Gertrude casts Bless, scans the grove, and strides forward, eager to draw out the remaining Redbrands.

A flask of alchemist's fire strikes Trudy and she is at once engulfed in flames! Her spell is lost, and invisible attackers surround her with murderous intent. Protected by her stout armor and good fortune, however, she escapes further harm. She pats out the fire and brandishes Talon, ready to mete out justice.

Meanwhile, Stedd places Narsa into Droop's arms and casts Aid upon the heroes. Invoking Hunter's Mark, Artex scores a glancing shot against one of the Rebrands. The heroes notice that one of the ruffians, a fair-haired, good-looking youth, is holding back — his heart does not seem to be in this fight. It must be Virgil. Telepathically, Ad bids him to surrender.

The battle continues! Stedd swings his hammer and Artex fires another arrow while Ad blasts his eldritch magic, each with limited success. Gertrude too struggles to find her mark, but on the other hand, she has retained the attention of the Redbrands, drawing their attacks away from her less heavily-armored companions.

Ad circles the fray, trying to find a better angle from which to strike at the bandits, but his efforts are in vain. Artex too misses again. Stedd invokes a spell, withering his opponent. The heroes are slowly gaining the upper hand, and Virgil drops his sword and surrenders. Ad closes in, but still cannot connect. Stedd plies his hammer, Artex drops another foe, but Gertrude still cannot hit her target.

The captain takes a desperate final swing at Trudy but again fails to connect! Though he is apparently an experienced warrior, this is clearly not his fight. Sensing defeat, he turns to run, exposing his flank to the paladin. Without hesitation, she strikes him down as he tries to flee.

Droop releases Narsa as the heroes untie the captives, and the Dendrars share a warm and tear-filled embrace. Though Thel is gone, the remaining family is reunited and free, thanks to the intervention of these adventurers from Neverwinter.

"Don't kill me! Don't kill me!" Virgil cries out. Ad questions him while Artex keeps an arrow knocked and ready. "Which way did Glasstaff go?"

"Aron, our captain, and Glasstaff argued about which way to go, and we split up. Glasstaff went east, and we went this way. The prisoners were struggling, and we had to stop, so Aron set this trap for you."

"Where was Glasstaff going?" Stedd asks.

"I don't know where! I'm new to this group, ya know. It seemed like we were going to have some fun, make some money, kill some monsters. I didn't know they were slavers working with humanoids trying to take over Phandalin!"

"Let that be a lesson to you," Gertrude says, and Stedd nods in agreement.

The party examines the bodies of the fallen Redbrands. They find some gold and potions, as well as some empty vials — the containers that held the potions of invisibility. Ad takes an interest in these empty flasks and collects them, much to Artex's amusement. In addition to the coins and potions, they see that the Redbrand captain wore an iron ring on his left forefinger, and that he has a skull tattoo on his left forearm.  

"Heya, Virgil: what is this Iron Ring? The skull tattoo?" Trudy inquires. However, she isn't given much help from the handsome youth: "I don't know — I think they symbolize membership to some organization." 

The party escorts everyone back to town. As they walk, Mirna is almost verklempt with gratitude. "I have nothing to offer you. I am but a poor farmer, and my husband is now dead. But if you ever chance to find yourselves in an old, ruined village east of Neverwinter known as Thundertree, there is a treasure there that may serve to offset some of the great debt I owe you. When I was a young girl, my family were herbalists and alchemists. We had a shop there before the town was destroyed by the volcano and overrun with undead. Hidden beneath a section of storage shelves, there was a small case containing our family's most valuable heirloom: an emerald necklace. I bequeath it to you for saving me and my daughters, and I hope that you may one day recover it."

They deliver Virgil to Grista. Much to Trudy's satisfaction, she grabs him by the ear and begins loudly admonishing him in front of the party before dragging him inside, her rough voice still audible from behind the door. The Dendrars bid them farewell and continue on to their farm. Worried about the impression that Droop might make on Sildar, the party sends him scurrying after the Dendrars. "Yes, Droop help little girl! Droop help family."

The adventurers elect to pay Sildar a visit — he must be told about Iarno. They make their way to the townhall as the thunderclouds darken the afternoon sky. They make a dramatic entrance, and Sildar starts to greet them warmly: "ah, my friends!"

"Are we, Sildar? Are we..?" begins Artex, vaguely accusatory, but he is cut off by Trudy and Stedd, who come to the point: "we've defeated the Rebrands and cleared out the dungeons of the Manor House, and saved the Dendrar family — at least, the mother and her girls."

"Good news! Phandalin will rest easier tonight."

"But there is more: Iarno Albrek is Glasstaff. He escaped."

As the full implications of these tidings dawn on him, Sildar cannot hide the look of horror on his face. After a moment, he composes himself: "this is shocking news." Trudy considers his reaction, and believes he is telling the truth. He takes a deep breath. "We must bring him to justice — the Lords' Alliance will punish him."

"Where might he go? Cragmaw Castle?" Stedd asks. 

"I am not sure," Sildar replies. "He may go there, if he's working for this 'Black Spider.'" He offers the party 200 gold pieces for bringing him back alive, or 100 for presenting evidence of his demise. "Bringing him in will not be easy: Iarno is an accomplished wizard who held a position of some importance within the Alliance. I am horrified by this treachery — he was more than a colleague — I considered him a friend," he trails off.

"Of course, capturing Iarno is important, but more important is to stop these Cragmaw goblins, and locate our old friend Gundren, if he is still alive. The Alliance must deal with this King Grol, and I am enlisting your aid." To this end, Sildar offers 500 gp for finding Cragmaw Castle and the dwarven prospector. The party accepts these quests. 

"How did Iarno get turned so easily?" asks a skeptical Artex. 

"I do not know. Whether there was some hidden evil dwelling in his heart, or whether some madness or magic has been worked upon him, I cannot say. But the die is cast, and he must be stopped." 

Reflecting on the Redbrand captain, Ad asks, "Sildar, one of the leaders of the Redbrands had a skull tattoo and an iron ring. Do you know anything about that?"

Sildar raises his eyebrows at the mention of these symbols. "Really? That might explain the capture of the Dendrar family. Because that is the badge and token of slavers out of Skullport, a hidden city that lies deep beneath Waterdeep. It is troubling that slavers are so far north. " 

The heroes bid Sildar farewell, but the rain is still coming down hard. The party takes refuge from the storm in a nearby abandoned cottage. Ad informs the party that he wishes to read the Dwarven journal though magical means, and perform another special ritual as well. 

Opening his Tome of Shadows, he invokes its power to read the dwarven journal. It is the Chronicle of Urmon, a dwarven prospector who had explored the lost mine long ago. Ad finds that the book recounts the tale of the mines, the pact — all familiar — but Ad also finds a detail the party had not heard before: lost within Wave Echo Cave was a magical mace known as Lightbringer, commissioned by priests of Lathander.  

After gathering the required materials, Ad next performs an hour-long ritual. Light from the fire dances in the brazier, and the shadows play upon Ad's face. All is quiet but the rain and distant thunder and the sound of the warlock's voice as he chants out the strange incantations. Dark smoke begins to take form, and a bat appears.

The warlock makes an introduction. "Everybody, this is a bat from the netherworld. Her name is Jessica. She's not an evil bat, but she's not a good bat either. She will be assisting me on our journey." The bat seems to like Trudy. "That's just terrific," says Trudy as it flutters around her.  

The storm gradually begins to break late in the afternoon, and the party elects to get an early start the next day, rather than setting out now. They decide to visit Halia to see if her reward for 'Glasstaff' is still valid. When they arrive, she seems to know about the party's exploits, and congratulates them on their success. "Jasper says you drove the Redbrands away." 

Trudy offers a characteristically blunt correction: "well, we've actually killed most of them, apart from your young friends. The only one left is Glasstaff himself." 

The warlock, eager to explain, adds, "we plan to track him him down. This seems to be close to home — we need to pursue him."

Halia gives a noncommittal look. "Good luck! We humble folk of Phandalin are glad he will not trouble our town any longer."

Ad presses her: "you seemed to be very interested in him earlier."

"We believe he is holding Gundren, and we are hoping that your offer for apprehending him is still valid…" the cleric says. 

Telepathically, Ad asks his companions whether he should attempt to cast a suggestion spell on her. Trudy does not think this is a good idea. Frustrated by this turn of events, Ad says to his companions out loud, "I think it's odd that she offered 100 gold for killing Glasstaff, but now that he's gone, she has no interest in him." 

Halia decides to play along. "Well, let me ask you this: did you find anything of value among his effects? Personal items, books, papers, letters, correspondence… things of that nature?"

"We found a Dwarven Tome…" Ad blurts out. 

"A tome, you say? That sounds interesting…"

But Trudy cuts her off. "That's ok, we're good… Could we have a moment to confer with one another.?" Halia points to a small empty sitting room off of the main guild hall. 

Once alone, Trudy continues: "this might not be a good idea to sell to her. The journal is the story of the Lost Mine, and she doesn't seem altogether trustworthy with this information. " The party agrees. They return to Halia and tell her that they do not wish to sell. Disappointed, she asks, "and there was nothing else..?"

Trudy sells her denial: "Nope." Halia gives the paladin a long look, and finally she pulls her hair back and sighs. 

Unsatisfied and still wanting to get paid, Ad begins speaking again about 'integrity.' Halia flashes him a venomous look and replies: "listen, young man: in the Miner's Guild, we do things to the letter of the law, in an exacting way. We fulfill our contracts. I put 100 gold on his head, and you did not kill him, you have produced no evidence that you killed him, and you are unwilling to part with any of his effects. There. Is. No. Deal."

Artex chuckles at the exchange, but Ad seems unfazed: "fair enough, for now. But we might be back. Can I hold you to your word if we come back with more evidence?" 

Halia has clearly lost patience with the young warlock, and says, "I rescind the offer: you are playing word games with me, and I do not take kindly to that."

Striving for the last word, Ad says to his companions, "we are done with her." 

Halia smiles. "You may regret that statement one day. This is a mining town, after all. Good day."

The party walks up the road to Stonehill Inn to arrange lodging and early start for the next day. There is a palpable sense of relief in the common room over the defeat of the Redbrands, tempered only by the sadness at the confirmation of Thel's death and the deaths of Clayton and Diehl. Still, there is a sense that those miner boys had caused some trouble, and that they had met some rough justice, and life can go on. 

After dinner, Artex settles in for some work with his flagon, and the rest of the party are at their ease. Their respite is interrupted, however, when Daran Edermath sends word for Stedd. While the others stay behind, Stedd trudges over to Edermath's cottage along the muddy lane. Daran thanks Stedd and his companions, and gives Stedd a brooch of a gauntlet holding a sword, and grants him the title 'Chevall.' Stedd is now a member of the Order of the Gauntlet. 

Daran clears his throat and gives Stedd more to think about: "now that the Redbrands have been dealt with, there is another threat: along the Triboar trail, there lies an old watchtower known as Old Owl Well. I've heard reports from freelance prospectors that undead have been seen wandering the area, and I fear that some evil magic has been awakened. If you and your companions are up to the challenge, find out who is there and what they are up to." 

Stedd tells him of Iarno's treachery, and after giving a troubled look, Daran brightens, pats Stedd on the back, and says "the Alliance appears to have a weak link. Good that you're with the Gauntlet!"

Stedd also asks him about the Iron Ring, and Daran echoes much of what Sildar revealed, adding that if that Redbrand had a skull tattoo, he must have been an agent who traveled to Skullport, where the slavers ply their trade and bring surface dwellers to be sold in the Underdark. 

Stedd thanks Daran for everything, gives him a hearty handshake, and bids him farewell. As he leaves, Daran calls after him, "wherever the Hand of the Gauntlet is strong, you will have a friend." 

Early the next morning, the heroes stop at the farm to collect Droop. He seems reluctant to leave the Dendrars, but also eager to please the adventurers. "Castle is north, in big forest. Neverwinter Wood!" The party is somewhat surprised by this, and Trudy has a thought: "perhaps Glasstaff has translated the dwarven journal, and has enough information to find Wave Echo Cave. Maybe that's where he was headed." 

The four ponder this theory, and review the map of the region. Thundertree, Conyberry, Old Owl Well, Cragmaw Castle: all places of interest. They ultimately decide to stick to their original plan: if Gundren is alive, he must be rescued.  

Led by Droop, the party travels due north toward the grand and mysterious Neverwinter Wood. After crossing the Triboar trail, they break for lunch and continue north into the wild. On the eaves of the forest, the party makes camp. Though it is summer, the heroes huddle close to the fire, as if to draw safety from its light and heat. 

Late in the night, Stedd hears a twig snap — someone or something has approached! Droop cries out as four hobgobins attack! Stedd rouses his companions and the party puts the creatures down in short order. When they search the bodies, however, they find among their effects a wanted poster with four familiar faces: two men, a woman, and an elf! 

Session XP: 250
Total XP: 1150

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A Hard-Fought Victory
The Redbrands Retreat

The heroes exit Tresendar Manor and reunite at the freshly repaired Sleeping Giant Taphouse. Stedd relates his encounter with Grista; while in turn the others tell him of the Redbrand lair which lies underneath the old manor house, and the uncanny dangers they faced while there. 

Grista asked that the heroes spare the young and wayward miners turned Redbrands: Virgil, a fair-haired, good looking youth, and Jasper, a dark-haired and nervous lad. The party realizes that they have already partially fulfilled this request, having allowed one of the more callow ruffians to flee. Stedd also notes an uneasy social compact that exists in Phandalin. 

While discussing an altercation between the Redbrands and a local farmer and his family, the heroes have a flash of clarity: the captives must be the Dendrars! They lament their missed opportunity to save them during their first foray into the dungeon — a mistake they mean to rectify by returning to the underground hideout immediately. 

This time, the party approaches Tresendar Manor from the road. Walking up the winding path, it is clear that the home was once a small, sturdy and elegant fortress. Though its timbers and plaster were burned and ruined ages ago, and now lie overgrown with grass and ivy, much of the manor's foundation and masonry still stands as testament to the skill of its designers and craftsmen.

Nestled on the eastern side of the ruins, the party finds steps leading down. They enter the manor's lower level through this cellar, recognizing the storage room in which they found a large cistern. Proceeding to the Tresendar Crypt, they contemplate the two unexplored doors, listening at each before opening the eastern one.

The room has been fashioned into a prison: it is partitioned into three areas, with iron bars walling off the north and south. Filthy straw lines the floors of those cells. The hinged doors, once secured by chains and padlocks, now stand open. A heap of discarded clothing is piled carelessly against the far wall. Gertrude calls out for the Dendrars, but no answer comes. Searching the room, the heroes discover that the clothes had belonged to a woman and two children. Trudy finds some scratches on the stone walls and floor, and a little doll fashioned from straw: the children must have been held in one of these cells. Though they were here recently, the prisoners must have been taken elsewhere. 

Stedd looks at the floor closely, and Ad wonders aloud what he is doing. "Looking for Dendrar's blood," he replies, and Ad has a morbid insight: the body at the bottom of the chasm in the Nothic's cave must be Thel. 

The heroes return to the crypt and open the door in the north wall. The five-foot wide corridor leads north, ending with a locked door on the right. While Ad pulls out a small toolkit and begins probing the lock for its weakness, Trudy and Artex search the north end of the passage for a secret door. The latter two find nothing, but Ad's task is successful: with a satisfying "click," he unlocks the door. Inside, the heroes find a well-stocked armory: racks of weapons line the walls of this chamber, including spears, swords, crossbows, and bolts. Seeing some red cloaks hanging on pegs, they each take one and put it on. Stedd restocks his supply of bolts, but the party leaves the other weapons and gear. 

The party decides to return to the Nothic's cave in order to continue their exploration of the hideout. When they enter the cavern, however, they are ambushed by three bugbears!

FIGHT! (description goes here)

The heroes are spent and repair to Grista's. She agrees to put them up for the night in exchange for the barrel of fine ale recovered from the Redbrands. They elect to take a long rest in order to recover from the battle with the bugbears. 

The night passes, and the party returns once more to the cavern. On its far side, they find a storage area: the north end of the cavern has been finished with dressed stone block walls and a flagstone floor. Several barrels are stored against the walls here, along with a number of empty crates, straw for packing, hammers, pry bars, and nails. Lying among the mostly worthless items are thirty beaver pelts, apparently looted from a trade caravan.

Descending to the lower level of the dungeon, the party turns to the north: this room appears to be a wizard's workshop. A rat scurries across the floor and takes refuge under a large worktable set up with alembics, retorts, distillation coils, and other alchemical devices, all of it stewing and bubbling away. Bookshelves are crowded with sheaves of parchment and strange-looking tomes. One of the books sits atop a shelf: a tome written in Dwarvish. As the adventurers search the workshop, they notice the rat crawling under the door along the eastern wall. 

The party opens the door: a bedroom. the rat is nowhere to be seen. The walls of this room are covered with drapes of scarlet cloth. The furnishings include a small writing desk with matching chair, a comfortable-looking bed, and a wooden chest at the foot of the bed. Various papers and notes are stacked neatly on the desk, mostly consisting of written orders to apothecaries and alchemists in nearby settlements for more materials for the workshop. It appears that someone has hastily left the room.

Suspecting that an invisible someone is still present, in the room, Ad quickly shuts the door. Carefully searching the room, Trudy finds a secret door in the corner of the room. 

On the desk, the adventurers find a letter signed with a symbol of a black spider:

Lord Albrek,

My spies in Neverwinter tell me that strangers have arrived in Phandalin. They could be working for the dwarves. Capture them if you can, kill them if you must, but don't allow them to upset our plans. See that any dwarven maps in their possession are delivered to me with haste. I'm counting on you, larno. Do not disappoint me. 

A mystery is solved: Iarno Albrek is Glasstaff!

Opening the secret door, the party discovers stairs leading upward. The stairs end at a small landing, and the party finds another secret door that opens into the storage area. 

The party returns to the lower level, crosses the hallway, and opens the door to the south: several worn tables and chairs are scattered around this large room. Wooden benches are drawn up against walls decorated with draperies of brown and red, and several ale kegs are propped up and tapped, though most are now empty. A few copper coins, playing cards, and dice litter the floor around the table. 

Continuing south, the party finds another room: it contains four roughly built wooden bunks, with heaped-up blankets and dirty dishes scattered about. A strong smell of unwashed bodies and rotten meat fills the air. Artex senses something, and shushes the party. Beneath one of the beds, they find a child and a goblin!

When the girl sees that the party is not hostile, she emerges and starts crying. The goblin is reluctant to come out from his hiding place, but Trudy and Ad issue commands, and he crawls forward, but remains on his knees in supplication. He is an obsequious runt called Droop, and begs for his life. The nine-year-old girl is Narsa, one of the Dendrar children who had been a captive of the Redbrands. In an innocent and matter-of-fact way, she describes Droop's role in her escape: in the chaos, the Redbrands lost track of her, and Droop helped her to hide. 

Trudy offers the two some food and water, which they gratefully and greedily gulp down. Ad asks Droop about King Grol, and he replies: "I know King Grol! He live at Cragmaw Castle." "We are looking for Cragmaw Castle," Trudy puts in. "I can take you to him!" 

Ad is suspicious of Droop, and leans over to peer into the goblin's eyes. He feels that the goblin is sincere. Droop was brought to the Redbrand Hideout by the bugbears, and when Artex mentions that the bugbears are dead, he appears visibly relieved.

"What do you know of 'Glasstaff'?" Trudy asks. "Wizard not know me, he not see me or care about me. Sometime I clean his workshop. He have lots of books." Trudy continues her interrogation: "can you tell us what happened to the other Dendrars? Where they might be taking them?" 

"I can tell you," he replies. "The Redbrands are slavers. They wants to sell them." 

Session XP: 175
Total XP: 900

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Interlude: Stedd Tallstag
In Which Secrets Are Revealed to the Cleric

Daran and Grista approach the party after lunch. The dwarven woman fingers Stedd and says, "that's him! He started the fight! He was the one who broke up my doors and shattered my windows with his magic! Curse his sorcery!" Daran apologetically but insistently urges Stedd to make reparations. Privately, he tells Stedd that he must do the honorable thing and help Grista to repair the damage to The Sleeping Giant Taphouse caused by Thunderwave, and that there is more to being a member of the Order of the Gauntlet than killing monsters. Stedd very reluctantly agrees.The party makes arrangements to regroup later in the day, and Stedd departs with Daran and Grista. 

The remaining heroes watch the cleric anxiously as he marches down the road. 

*

Few words are exchanged as you walk along the dusty road toward the Sleeping Giant. In spite of the silence, you get a sense that Grista wants to dislike Daran, but that she has too much respect for him for her grudge to entirely hold sway. What history lies between these two is anyone's guess. 

Once you arrive, your old sailor's habits as take over, and you set about your work with skill and efficiency and an economy of words; even a very harsh critic could not find fault with your professionalism. As the afternoon wears on, something resembling approval softens Grista's attitude toward you: as a dwarf, she values your hard work and precise craftsmanship, and she appreciates your taciturn demeanor. 

When the work is complete, she takes down a bottle and two glasses. She pours a double in each, pushes one in front of you, and knocks back her own with a well-practiced hand, not waiting for any reaction or acknowledgement on your part. 

She sighs. "I knew two of them boys you killed last night. Clayborn and Diehl. Miner's sons — decent lads. Fell in with those Redbrands when they showed up, and could not be talked out. Clayborn's father died last fall, his mother gone — moved away 'bout three or four summers back. The boy had neither the head nor the heart for mining. But he kept at it. Wanted to be like his daddy I guess. That is, until they showed up… For his father's sake, Halia never turned him out of the guild, but she should have — he didn't belong. If she had, maybe none of this woulda happened." 

She pours another drink and swallows it as unceremoniously as the first. "I know the Redbrands are no good for this town. They got to be turned out, for everyone's sake. But there are two other boys I know among 'em, and I'd take it as kindness if you'd let them go. One is Jasper – he was here last night. He was the one what got away from you. Dark haired, boyish face, lanky. A little nervous. The other is Virgil – fair-haired, good-looking kid; I ain't seen him in a while. But I'd bet my hammer and tongs that he's shacked up in the cellars of that old manor with the lot of 'em." 

Another drink. "I heard you was working for Gundren — brought in a supply wagon for him and his brothers. Now, Gundren ain't much of a proper dwarf. If you want my opinion he spends too much time around elves and men — no offense — but I took a liking to his brother Tharden, and it seemed for a time like they might bring some right miners to this town, even proper dwarven folk. But their whole business seems down a well at this point. I ain't heard from Tharden in a while now, and I'm worried about him. And now you bring news that Gundren is missing… it don't make me feel any better about this town's prospects."

"That half-elf Edermath thinks I misjudged you. Thinks you ain't just a bunch of claim-jumping dilettantes and carpet-baggers, and that y'all are gonna drive out these damn Redbrands. You gonna prove him right? You & your friends are good in a fight — I'll give you that." She gives you a side-eye as she finishes her fourth. 

"I'll tell you an ugly secret: Thel Dendrar, a local farmer who lives down the miner's trail, stood up to the Redbrands a ten day ago. He and some of the other farmers down that way have been knocking heads with some diggers over mineral rights and title disputes. Anyway, them Redbrands roughed up his kids while they were on some contested land, and I heard tell that Dendrar thumped 'em good, til the ruffians stuck him like a pig. Word is they dragged him away, and now his goodwife and two children have gone missing too. What do you say to that?" She seems to be descending into a foul mood, and you motion to leave.

As you reach the door, she quietly composes herself. "One last thing: I think they got more up there than just Redbrands. I heard 'em talking about a goblin servant, and I wouldn't be surprised if there were bigger brutes holed up with 'em. Be careful."

View
Monsters Under Tresendar
The Heroes Find More Than Redbrands in the Manor

The midday sun hangs at its zenith and a warm breeze rolls up from the south. High clouds wander in the blue sky as the heroes ponder the day's tidings. Lingering near the square, everyone senses a subtle shift in Phandalin's mood: an ominous tension has settled over the town.

Yesterday, townsfolk went about their business with a nod and a tip of the hat, but today, its people scurry past without so much as making eye contact. Some even give the party sullen looks. Apart from Daran Edermath and Pip Stonehill, none of the townsfolk has had any kind words for them.

They learned little from Townmaster Harbin Wester except that he blames them for last night's disturbance at The Sleeping Giant. Although the Redbrands are a nuisance, and probably a criminal organization, at least some — including the townmaster — seem to think that they are indeed providing a measure of security to Phandalin by maintaining the eastern Triboar Trail.

Meanwhile, Halia's offer of 100 golden dragons for eliminating "Glasstaff" is by all appearances a legitimate one, but what are they to make of performing a contract killing for a stranger? Fighting and even killing monsters and criminals is one thing, but taking a job as paid assassins is quite another.

The heroes know that there is work to be done in Phandalin, however, and they will face these trials, come what may. They resolve to return to Lionshield Coster in order to purchase some new armor and re-equip — the better to face the dangers ahead. Linene is at least pleased to see them again, which buoys their spirits. She offers her complete line of martial supplies. While there, they learn that at least some of the Redbrands have been recruited from the local population, which further explains Wester's reluctance to clamp down on their activity.

Freshly outfitted, they dine in the outdoors on this warm summer day. After a light meal of hardtack, the party considers its options. As they do so, Daran and Grista approach. The dwarven woman fingers Stedd and says, "that's him! He started the fight! He was the one who broke up my doors and shattered my windows with his magic! Curse his sorcery!" Daran apologetically but insistently urges Stedd to make reparations. Privately, he tells Stedd that he must do the honorable thing and help Grista to repair the damage to The Sleeping Giant Taphouse caused by Thunderwave, and that there is more to being a member of the Order than killing monsters. Stedd very reluctantly agrees.

The party makes arrangements to regroup later in the day, and Stedd departs with Daran and Grista. Without pursuing the boys for more information, the remaining trio decide to investigate the fragmentary lead Pip passed along that Redbrands have been seen in the nearby forest.

In order to avoid more unwanted attention, the party cuts through the fields on the south side of town and they enter the woods. It is dense and difficult to navigate, but the elf's senses are exceptionally keen on this day. As if to downplay his uncanny skill, he casually picks a daisy and places it behind his ear as he points to the evidence that men have been passing through the area. Sobriety has its uses, the ranger muses to himself.

Artex leads them north toward the hill upon which Tresendar Manor stands, and they find themselves in front of a sheer and rocky slope, dense with vines and briars. The trail ends here, however, and perhaps Trudy and Ad wonder whether Artex has lead them astray.

Untroubled, the elf's woodcraft again astonishes his comrades, as he catches a faint scent that leads him to a concealed tunnel. Trudy and Ad exchange a glance, and the warlock lights his torch without ceremony. Weapons drawn, they creep into the darkness. The narrow passage leads deep into the hill, and they follow it for one hundred feet and more.

The tunnel opens at last into a large and unnaturally cold cavern, and there, they catch a faint scent of decaying flesh. A crevasse divides the cavern's floor, and two rough stone columns support the twenty-foot-high ceiling. Two wooden bridges span the chasm.

A chill runs through the group as an alien cackle fills their minds — there is a creature communicating telepathically! "So, you've come! You stole the silver from your friends, didn't you…? I think the Redbrands know you're coming. Heh heh heh…"

From the darkness, the creature parleys with the heroes and seems ready to betray the Redbrands… for a price: it wants treasures, and the bodies of the party's victims. Trudy strains to see it and asks, "well, can we have a look at you?" The creature steps forward into the torchlight: it is a hideous, one-eyed nothic — an insane subterranean monster that hungers for human flesh.

The nothic presses his advantage: through his weird insight, he knows that Ad stole some of the party's treasure, and tries to sow discord among them. The party shudders with revulsion, but they feign interest in dealing with the monster, even to the point of trying to persuade it that they will give it what it wants. When Trudy expresses reluctance to deliver corpses, however, it grows angry: "I must eat! I must eat!"

Battle is met with the horrifying aberration! Its giant eye flares with a sickly light, and for a moment, Trudy feels the grip of its corrosive effect. But the blood of the Helder Clan runs strong, and she shakes off the creature's necrotic gaze.

The elf's vision penetrates the darkness and he targets the monster; the sound of steel piercing a thick hide followed by a howl tells the others that Artex has found his mark. Ad steps forward and sparks of green energy fly from his fingertips. His aim is true! The creature curses at the warlock. Gertrude charges the beast and brings her steel into the fray, and delivers a blow upon it. The beast flails its claws at Gertrude in reply, but the paladin's defenses hold.

Artex again fires his bow, but his shot is too cautious by half; aiming wide to avoid hitting Gertrude, he misses entirely, and his arrow glances off of the stone pillar and falls into the chasm. Ad dashes across the southern bridge in order to flank the creature, but this bridge is rigged as a trap, and it collapses under his weight! He falls, stunned and hurt.

Trudy again swings her sword but the nothic avoids her blade, and it slashes back at her with its filthy, razor-sharp claws, drawing blood. Artex hits again, further wounding the creature. Ad scrambles out of the fissure and, still clinging to the rock-face, he fires a desperate blast of mystical energy: the creature shrieks and falls into the chasm.

Ad descends again into the rift, this time more slowly, and discovers a chest filled with gold and silver coins, two potions, and a scroll. Atop all is a magnificent sword inscribed with the word "Talon," and whose hilt is worked into the shape of a bird of prey with outspread wings. Chastened by the encounter with the nothic and working under the watchful eyes of his companions, Ad suppresses a flash of avarice. The party hauls up the warlock and the chest.

Gertrude examines the weapon, and pulling it from its sheath, she sees a faint glow – a magical blade! Having browsed Daran's library the night before, Ad recalls a tome he skimmed that made mention of a weapon by this name: it once belonged to a great knight named Aldith Tresendar, known as the Black Hawk. Sir Aldith was presumed to have died fighting off the orcs long ago during great siege of Phandalin.

Trudy girds herself with this new weapon, and the party retreats back down the tunnel to recover. Artex keeps watch as Trudy and Ad bind their wounds and rest, and the elf chuckles as Ad again casts Fiendish Vigor upon himself. Ad in turn congratulates the ranger for his unparalleled skill in finding this passage in the first place, and offers to buy him a beer when this is over. "A domestic," he finishes with a small inflection. The hour passes without further incident.

They return to the cavern, and after looking down the two passages leading west, both having staircases leading deeper into the dungeon, the trio follows the corridor leading east. It ends abruptly after about thirty feet, but the party strongly suspects that there is more to this passage than meets the eye. They search and find a secret door that opens into a large, well-lit cellar filled with barrels, crates, and other supplies.

A large and deep cistern filled with fresh rainwater sits along the western wall next to the secret door through which the party entered. They inspect the cistern, and find a submerged packet about four feet under its surface. Inside of this well-oiled satchel is two potions, some gold, and a set of traveling clothes.

The party has been cautious to this point, but now they hear voices and fall silent. They approach the door and overhear an argument: one man is loudly telling others that a group of four newcomers killed seven of the gang last night at the 'Giant, and that he was lucky to have escaped with his life! He is imploring them to go to Glasstaff to report this threat.

After Trudy casts Shield of Faith upon Ad, and the party bursts in on the Redbrands! They catch them unready if not surprised. "That's them! These are the ones at the 'Giant what killed Phin and Clanton!" one cries. Trudy and Artex brandish their weapons while the warlock's calm but menacing voice unnerves the gang members. Before they can respond, or even fully realize what happened, Trudy and Ad disarm them.

The Redbrand who had faced the party at the 'Giant and saw what they can do is cowed and begs to be released. He offers to tell the party whatever they want if they will let him go, while the other two remain quiet. One in particular appears to regret his hesitation, and it is clear that he remains hostile.

"You can still save the prisoners!" blurts out the first. "What prisoners?" Trudy and Ad reply.

"The farmer's wife and kids! The one who got killed…"

Trudy presses him: "So, where are these captives?"

"They are through that door and down the hall, woman! Just let us go!" Questioning him further, they learn that Glasstaff and his workshop are in the level below, at the bottom of stairs leading out of the northwest part of the nothic's lair.

"Are you gonna let me go or not? You said you'd let me go!" Satisfied, the party lets him pass, though not before Trudy issues a final warning: "You ought to reconsider the kind of life you lead." He flees up the stairs and out the Manor's cellar door.

The trio turns back to their remaining prisoners and the bigger, uglier Redbrand says, "hey, asshole, why don't you let me go?"

"Because you have a filthy mouth," Trudy tells him, and the party ties and gags them, muffling a curse uttered at the paladin.

The trio then returns to the cellar, and they pass through the north door. It opens onto a wide corridor with sconces illuminating a hallway running west that ends in a copper-patinated vault. On the left is a small alcove containing a statue of a nobleman with a hunting raptor perched on his gauntlet. Following Gertrude, the party proceeds forward to examine the statue, but Trudy jumps back just a concealed pit trap falls open beneath their feet!

Carefully proceeding around it via a narrow catwalk, they approach the door. The ancient vault is engraved with the name "Tresendar." They enter the ornate but dusty crypt and see three skeletons, each propped against its own sarcophagus. Using her Divine Sense, the paladin confirms her hunch: the skeletons are indeed undead creatures.

Anticipating a trap, the party approaches one of the sarcophagi, and the skeletons leap to attack! Wishing that Stedd was there, they engage the bony warriors. Using Hunter's Mark, Artex carries away half of the first skeleton's ribcage, but Ad's blast merely disintegrates the corner of a sarcophagus.

For the first time in battle, Gertrude unsheathes Talon and issues a mighty thrust, but it passes through the skeleton's empty frame. Artex cannot miss however, and his second arrow shatters the skull of his target. The other two skeletons relentlessly swing their weapons, but Trudy and Ad dodge their blows. Ad attempts another blast, but spellcasting in melee again proves too difficult. Trudy swings Talon, and this time, the magic of the blade guides her strike home, knocking the creature back. Artex seizes upon the opening, and his third arrow crumbles it to dust.

The final skeleton draws blood, wounding Ad. Frustrated, he unleashes a Hellish Rebuke in reply, charring its bones. Trudy pivots to face this last skeleton, but misses. The ranger's fourth shot threads the needle and does heavy damage, nearly dropping the creature. The skeleton continues its assault upon the warlock and it drives him back toward the door. Ad shouts out a mystical command and raises his finger: the blast utterly destroys the creature.

The heroes inspect the sarcophagi and find three platinum signet rings amid the bones within.

The party decides to leave the dungeon to recover and regroup. Artex shoulders one of kegs of ale on his way out, but as they return to the cellar where they had tied up the Redbrands, they discover that their prisoners have escaped!

Stedd's help is needed to finish this job. Perhaps he has learned something useful while toiling with Grista…

Session XP: 250
Total XP: 725

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Sword Coast Drifters
A Rough Night in Phandalin

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

View
The New Master of Cragmaw
The Party Makes a Daring Rescue

Fresh from battle, the heroes' sweat turns to steam in the cool damp of the cavern. As the party searches Klarg's lair, the chatter of rushing water can be heard from the passage to the north, which seems to mask all other sound. The torch gutters in this heavy atmosphere, and smoke from the bugbear's fire thickens the haze, creating an oppressive smog. 

Stedd summons the power of Valkur to restore Ad's vitality while Gertrude ponders the Lionshield supplies. She realizes that they must belong to the trading company out of Yartar which bears that mark. This goblin tribe has been busy, it would seem. 

The party turns to the north and a lone goblin appears at the mouth of the passage. He says: "the new Master of Cragmaw Cave bids you come forth for an audience with him in his chambers." Gertrude is nonplussed and replies, "sweetie, I think we're the new Masters of Cragmaw."

"We will see about that!" the goblin snaps. He throws something at the party and disappears. The party looks down: a human hand lies on the cave floor. The party surmises that it must belong to Sildar. Artex picks up the hand and examines it – it was cut recently, and from a living victim. He moves forward and peers into the northern cavern. A short staircase leads down into a large room, half-filled with two adjoined pools. A waterfall on the east wall fills the reservoir. Ad inches forward and holds his torch aloft, straining to see. Stedd descends the stairs and carefully scans the room. In the dim light, he catches a glint of metal: a goblin hiding behind a stalagmite? 

Trudy moves into the pool room and readies for combat. Two additional passages exit this room: one to the west, and one to the northwest. The pools are actually artificial, created by a low stone dam. "Come, come!" cries the goblin who had thrown the hand. He disappears down the western passage. Artex raises his bow to pick off the goblin hiding behind the stalagmite, but his arrow misses badly, and the goblin flees down the passage to the northwest.

Ad follows his mates into the room. As Stedd darts past the western passage he spots a bridge spanning a gap in the corridor. With no other adversaries about, the party forms up. Suspecting a trap, but seeing no other option, they cross the bridge and advance cautiously down the passage. It curves northwest, then bends back to the southwest, finally opening into a large split-level room to the south. 

A host of goblins stands ready, with bows bent at the party! From the raised area of the room, a seated goblin — Yeemik — barks out: "You've come at last! Welcome. You caught Klarg unawares, and I thank you for that — he was a nuisance to me. But I do not think you realize the jeopardy you are in. I have your prize here." He grabs the white hair atop the head of a naked man sprawled on the ground at his feet. The man winces in pain, clutching the stump where his right hand used to be. He has been badly beaten and is nearly unconscious, but still breathes.

"We've finished off most of your friends already," says Trudy in reply. "We can make a deal if you want: give us Sildar, your weapons, and all of these supplies, and that's the deal. Otherwise, we slaughter all of you."

The goblin captain cackles. "We will ransom the human for 100 gold pieces!" The tension in the room is palpable as the eight humanoids and a wolf stare down the party. 

"Don't trust him," moans the man. "Save yourselves!"

The tension breaks and battle is met! Artex fires an arrow at the goblin standing over Sildar, but misses. Ad uses an Eldritch Blast on that same archer, but his magic also misses its mark. The wolf leaps from the platform and charges Artex, delivering a vicious bite. Trudy swings her sword down upon the wolf in reply, dealing it a heavy blow, and it lets out a high-pitched yelp. Stedd conjures a sacred flame upon the wolf, who falls. The goblin archers fire a volley of arrows, hitting Artex and Ad. The foot soldiers hold back, apparently hoping the archers would drive off the party. 

Yeemik curses: "you will pay for your invasion! Kill them!

"This was a bad idea," Gertrude says, and a sense of doom descends upon the party. Badly wounded, Artex and Ad fall back, but each turn to find a target. The elf's arrow is well-placed, staggering an enemy, and the warlock's strange energies envelop him, his face frozen in a silent scream. To the astonishment of the others, Trudy rallies, steps forward with new resolve, and cuts down another goblin. Buoyed by the sturm und drang of battle, Stedd summons a second sacred flame, killing a third. Perhaps the adventurers can carry the day! 

But then the tide turns again: from the corridor behind, two wolves charge the heroes! In the distance, two more goblins stand at the far side of the bridge. Sensing this change of fortune, sword-wielding goblins spring upon Trudy, breaking down her stout defense. Yeemik notices the party edging away and calls out, "since you will not pay ransom, this human will DIE!" He pushes Sildar off of the precipice, who falls with a thud and lies dying.

Desperate, Artex reels around and lets fly at one of the wolves as it rounds the bend and the canine skids to a halt and collapses. Ad concentrates a blast of magic upon the other wolf, but to no avail. Gertrude moves on the remaining wolf, but it evades her sword. Stedd must choose: will he heal Artex or Ad? He chooses Ad, and his magic invigorates the warlock. Stedd then moves into a defensive position to protect Artex. 

Meanwhile, the remaining wolf pounces upon Trudy and knocks her prone. Artex fires at the animal to drive it away from Trudy, but he cannot thread the needle. Ad blasts the creature but does not kill it. He in turn moves forward to protect the paladin. Gravely wounded herself, Trudy clenches her jaw, stands and slays the beast.

Drawing again from his divine power, Stedd calls forth the Sacred Flame, but this time it has only a minimal effect. The goblins retaliate by attacking Stedd, dealing heavy damage. The party takes stock, and realizing they are in serious trouble, consider a strategic withdrawal to the other side of the bridge. Turning again, however, it is apparent why the goblins did not advance: while the party was occupied, they destroyed the overpass. 

Remembering the potions taken from the bugbear's effects, Trudy instructs Artex to hand her one of them. He reaches into his pouch and hands it to her as Ad attempts to hold the goblins at bay. She uncorks it and takes a deep draft. A healing potion! She immediately feels its power. Stedd disengages as he cannot survive another hit. Following Trudy's lead, Artex downs the second potion, and the magic elixir invigorates the elf. 

The party is revived! Ad risks a spell while in melee, and conjures another Eldritch Blast. This time, the effect is spectacular: crackling green energy shocks the goblin, who emits a horrifying shriek. Gertrude slashes through her attacker, slaying him instantly. 

Stedd holds fast; he is too hurt to attempt anything. The goblins do not appear, however, and Artex and Ad round the bend to see that the goblins have finally had enough — they have abandoned the area. Sildar lies motionless in the empty cavern, and the party regroups to attend to the unconscious warrior. Stedd kneels down and casts Spare the Dying. He is stabilized but does not regain consciousness. Underneath the blood and filth, it is apparent that Sildar is an aging but stout fighter of perhaps 60 years. 

The heroes are now in fact the masters of Cragmaw Cave. They make Sildar as comfortable as they can and survey the area. They do not find much — Yeemik and the other survivors must have taken their valuables when they fled the battle. Exhausted, the party elects to fortify their position and take a long rest.

The night passes uneventfully. Early the next morning, Sildar regains consciousness, and he thanks the party for their bravery. He is weakened by his ordeal, but he sits up to speak.

"I overheard the goblins speaking — I happen to know a bit of their foul tongue. Gundren was taken to Cragmaw Castle, where King Grol dwells. I do not know where that is. The Cragmaws are quite well organized for a goblin tribe. They act with a purpose I have not seen before in their kind. They attacked us as we rode down the Triboar Trail, and I was unhorsed by several shots — I'd call them lucky — and they overcame me. That has not happened in many years, but perhaps I've lost a step at my age…"

Gertrude questions him about Gundren's supplies and mining equipment, and Sildar replies: "yes, though perhaps we may discuss these matters in the light of day, and not in this darkness."

The party attempts to take the east exit, but realize that way is dangerous for creatures larger and heavier than goblins. Trudy manages to leap back just as the precipice begins to collapse. So they take the long corridor and climb down the cave wall where the bridge stood. Trudy nimbly makes her way down to assist the others. Eager to escape the foul cave, Ad slips and falls, injuring himself. Stedd pulls out a rope for Sildar, and Artex and Stedd lower him to Trudy and Ad. The rest make it down safely.

Outside, the party sees no sign of the goblins; even the one they had captured is missing. Sildar asks whether anything else was found, and the party notes the boxes and casks stamped with a blue lion. After some discussion, they decide to collect those supplies. They return to the site of yesterday's ambush and set about wrangling the oxen, yoking them to the wagon, and returning to the cave to collect the supplies. The work takes several hours, and the beasts labor under the prodigious load, but by afternoon they are again moving toward their destination. 

While on the road, Sildar opens up about his purpose. He tells you of the three Rockseeker brothers — Gundren, Tharden, and Nundro — and of their discovery, the long lost Wave Echo Cave, site of the Mines of Phandelvers Pact. The look on Trudy's face halts Sildar's tale, and he says, "I see this does not mean much to you. " But Ad's face is flush with recognition: he suddenly recalls some of the arcane lore that Barnabas had described in his veiled and sometimes erratic fashion. Excitedly, Ad outlines its history:

More than five hundred years ago, clans of dwarves and gnomes made an agreement known as the Phandelver's Pact, in which they would share a rich mine in a wondrous cavern known as Wave Echo Cave. In addition to its mineral wealth, the mine contained great magical power. Human spellcasters allied themselves with the dwarves and gnomes to channel and bind that energy into a great forge (called the Forge of Spells), where magic items could be crafted.

Nodding in agreement, Sildar continues:

Yes, times were good, and the nearby human town of Phandalin prospered as well. But then disaster struck when orcs swept through the North and laid waste to all in their path.

A powerful force of orcs reinforced by evil mercenary wizards attacked Wave Echo Cave to seize its riches and magic treasures. Human wizards fought alongside their dwarf and gnome allies to defend the Forge of Spells, and the ensuing spell battle destroyed much of the cavern. Few survived the cave-ins and tremors, and the location of Wave Echo Cave was lost.

For centuries, rumors of buried riches have attracted treasure seekers and opportunists to the area around Phandalin, but no one has ever succeeded in locating the lost mine. In recent years, people have resettled the area. Phandalin is now a rough-and-tumble frontier town. But now, the Rockseeker brothers-a trio of dwarves- have discovered the entrance to cave, and they intend to reopen the mines. 

My people, the Lords' Alliance, took an interest in Gundren and his brothers' discovery, and we sent an emissary, a friend named Iarno Albrek to Phandalin to look after them and to insure that the Cave did not fall into the wrong hands. That was several months ago, and I have not heard from him since. I was accompanying Gundren to learn what has happened. 

Late in the afternoon, the party rolls into Phandalin. As they enter the village, they come to Barthen's Provisions. They stop the cart and enter the shop. Inside, Elmar Barthen, the shop's kindly proprietor, greets them. He is astonished by the heroes' tale, but he dutifully pays the contracted fee. He doesn't have any information about Cragmaw Castle, and neither do his clerks Ander and Thistle. He suggests that perhaps Tharden and Nundro might know, and tells the party that they have been camping outside of town and returning to resupply. They haven't been back in a while, but he expects they should return again any day now.

While Ander and Thistle unload the wagon, Elmar does say in whispered tones that a gang calling themselves the Redbrands has moved into town in the last couple of months, shaking down local businesses and flouting the townmaster's authority. He hopes someone will do something about it, and mentions that they spend a lot of time at the Sleeping Giant Taphouse.

As the party bids good evening to Elmar and makes ready to depart, Sildar gives you a haggard look. Though his posture is strong and his gaze keen, you sense that his ordeal still weighs upon him heavily, and that he has finally reached the limits of his exertions. The incongruity of this noble warrior dressed in rags and covered in wounds and filth would be touching to even the most unsentimental cynic.

Sildar says: "my friends, I am bereft — entirely without means. I must stay here while Barthen drafts a Letter of Credit for my benefit, and then I will retire to the Inn. A weariness is upon me that I have not felt before…" he trails off momentarily, then recomposes himself. "I am in your debt. You have my gratitude and the gratitude of the Lords' Alliance for your service. I will not forget it. We will see each other again soon." 

The party continues on to return the stolen goods to Lionshield Coster. The Lionshield representative in Phandalin, Linene Graywind, thanks you profusely, and she offers to help you any way that she can. The party shows her the frog statuette, and she offers forty gold coins for it. They accept. As they depart, she too warns the party of the ruffians about town, who have made some trouble for her as well, and she advises the party to avoid the Sleeping Giant if possible.

As evening falls, the party repairs to Stonehill Inn. It is filling up with the local denizens of Phandalin…

Session XP: 125
Total XP: 350

View
Road to Nowhere
The Adventure Begins on the Triboar Trail

The famed City of Neverwinter! Known as "the City of Skilled Hands" and "the Jewel of the North," it was long regarded as one of the most cosmopolitan and civilized cities in all of Faerûn. It is no longer so high, having endured war, disaster and cataclysm. The decades-long process of restoring its former glory grinds on, while rumors of giants and wizards and dragons trouble the great captains and lords of the city.

But for you, neither its historic reputation nor its fragile rebirth holds much appeal: right now, it's just a muddy, crowded burg in which to spend your last few silver pieces. There seems to be little work for inexperienced adventurers such as yourselves. Maybe it is time to quit Neverwinter in favor of more untamed lands…

On Midsummer's eve, Gertrude Olafsdottir, Stedd Tallstag, Artex the Elf, and Ad Nauseam assemble at an unusual tavern in Neverwinter known as Ottos Shrunken Head. As the hand of fate guides the denizens of Faerûn, so it happens that these adventurers have some connection to one another. Trudy caught Ad cheating at a game of chance, while Artex once pulled Stedd out of the Sea of Swords. But those tales must wait for another day. 

Here and now, after talking its way past the establishment's put-upon bouncer (a huge half-orc), this unlikely quartet meets Gundren Rockseeker, a prospector of some reputation, who hires the party to transport his goods to a small mining outpost known as Phandalin. He plans to travel ahead with his friend Sildar Hallwinter, and needs a trustworthy driver and guard to escort his supplies and deliver them to Barthens Provisions. After making ready, the party drives South along the High Road, and then strikes East on the Triboar Trail. 

Alas, the rendezvous was not meant to be: about a day's journey from Phandalin, the party discovers the dead horses of Gundren and Sildar. Before they can investigate too closely, however, a small band of goblins ambushes the party! Black-fletched arrows rain down on them, surprising Trudy and Ad, and wounding Stedd. 

Reacting more quickly than their comrades, Stedd closes the distance and crushes one of the goblins under his warhammer while Artex looses an arrow that narrowly misses another. The downed goblin's companion counters with his short sword and gravely wounds Stedd. Another goblin fires an arrow at the elf, hitting him. Stedd retreats, takes cover behind one of the fallen horses and returns fire with his crossbow, killing another goblin. Ad, attacking for the first time, attempts an Eldritch Blast, but his spell fizzles. Artex exhales, levels his bow, and scores a critical hit, slaying the third goblin. The final goblin routed, he beats a hasty retreat, but he is no match for Trudy's athleticism; she catches him and runs him through with her longsword. 

Stedd is seriously injured and must rest. While Trudy lays hands upon Artex and restores his health, Ad searches the goblins. He reports finding 10 silver pieces, but generously offers to take a smaller share of the treasure, owing to his ineffectiveness in battle.

After this short rest, the party investigates the scene. It appears that the goblins have been using this area as an ambush point for some time, and that the horses have been dead less than a day. They determine that the raiders left the Triboar Trail to the northwest — presumably with Gundren and Sildar in tow.

The party resolves to follow the goblin trail to rescue the captives, for altruistic as well as more mercenary reasons. They hide the wagon, put the oxen to pasture and pursue their adversaries. Along the trail, Trudy observes a snare trap, and after pulling Stedd back from its clutches, guides the crew around it.

About five miles from the scene of the ambush, the tracks lead into a shallow stream that flows down from a rocky hill that appears in the distance. Following the stream, the characters find its source: a cave in the side of the hill, surrounded by briars.

Hidden in the briars, Ad discovers a pair of inattentive goblin guards arguing over a game of chance. Artex fires an arrow, but it glances off the goblin's shield. His parry was in vain, however, as Trudy steps forward and cuts him down. The other goblin connects on a desperate blow against Trudy, but Ad casts Eldritch Blast and knocks him out.

The party ties up the goblin and revives him for questioning. Under Trudy's gentle ministrations, the group learns that there are approximately 20 goblins in this Cragmaw lair. Observing the interrogation keenly, Stedd is convinced that the goblin is telling the truth. It turns out that the captain of this troop is a bugbear named Klarg, who answers to King Grol, leader of the Cragmaw Tribe. Grol sent a message that someone known as Black Spider has paid the goblins to capture Gundren and his personal effects (which specifically mention a map), and the King ordered Klarg to carry out the mission.

Using his darkvision, Artex peers into the cave's mouth to get a sense of what lies within. He sees an ascending passage that curves East, with two passages on either side of the main tunnel. Opting to rest rather than enter, the party fortifies the briar patch. Then, Ad suggests that he use a minor illusion to imitate one of the goblins and lure one or more of the tribe members out of cave. No one in the party speaks goblin, however. Undaunted, Trudy tries to convince the goblin to tell Ad how to say, "our shift is over, we want to be relieved!" The goblin resists her charms, so Stedd tries, explaining that the party is only trying to rescue the captives for contractual reasons. The goblin is still not convinced. 

Finally, Ad attempts to deceive the goblin by saying that the party is working for Klarg too, and that the attack was an unfortunate misunderstanding. Completely credulous of Ad's mendacity, the goblin tells Ad what he wants to know. 

Ad casts the illusion and leans in to determine its effect. He can't hear much; the running water masks most sound, but he thinks he hears what sounds like a dog whining. After a minute, a goblin appears to admonish the person calling for relief, but when he arrives he notices the hiding characters and readies for action. However, before he can move, Stedd casts Sacred Flame, which immolates him. He collapses into the water, steam rising from his charred remains. 

The party enters the cave and turns East up the stairs to find two wolves chained to a stalagmite. Artex crouches down and locks eyes with the alpha, whispering in the elvish tongue. The wolves whimper, soothed by Artex's voice. Artex observes that the wolves have been starved in order to keep them hostile. While they are focused on Artex, Trudy attempts to slip past, but something about her scent or movement rouses the wolves and they posture to attack. Luckily she scampers past before they can act, and Artex brings them to heel again. The others move past without further provoking the animals. 

In the rear of the cavern, Trudy and Ad crawl up a narrow chimney into a cavernous room. Stedd can't quite manage the ascent, blocking the passage for Artex. Trudy and Ad find themselves in the presence of Klarg, his pet wolf Ripper, and two goblin attendants! 

Sensing danger, Artex springs into action! He squeezes past Stedd and up the flue, leaps into the room, and fires his bow at the first goblin he sees, piercing his eye and slaying him instantly. Ad targets the other goblin, and crackling energy shocks him. The goblin hesitates, fearful of Ad's powers, but Klarg goads him on. He scores a hit upon Ad, who is now backed against a wall. Fortunately, Trudy strikes the goblin down. 

Klarg is enraged and cries out in anger, while Stedd strains to crawl upward again, and this time succeeds. He summons another Sacred Flame, this time upon the wolf, but Ripper shakes off its effect. Artex drops his bow, pivots with his axe, and strikes at the wolf, but misses. 

Ad focuses his next blast upon the wolf, and the wolf is staggered by the spell's power. Klarg howls with impotent rage, unable to penetrate Trudy's stout defense. The wolf, badly wounded and confused, bites at Artex, but fails to find his mark. Trudy slays the wolf with lethal precision. 

Now Klarg stands alone. Stedd moves into position and attacks the bugbear with his hammer, but Klarg evades him. Artex's axe falls short. Inspired, Ad focuses another blast, but deals only a minor wound. Incensed by Ad's magical attack, Klarg replies with a mighty swing, and Ad collapses to the ground. Trudy engages once more, and manages to clip him. Stedd marshals his strength but his hammer rings off of Klarg's armor. The bugbear is surprisingly nimble for a creature so large, and Artex again misses. Any hope for the bugbear fades, however, as Trudy drives her sword beneath his guard and delivers a critical hit. Klarg pivots to block Stedd, leaving him vulnerable, and Artex's axe finally connects, dealing another critical blow.  

Klarg swings wildly, but cannot hit Trudy nor escape the party. Summoning inspiration from her family name, Trudy means to finish him, but cannot. Grimly determined, Stedd brings his warhammer down upon Klarg's head, and the bugbear falls to his knees and slumps forward. 

The party revives Ad and inspects the cavern. Sacks and crates of looted provisions stamped with a lion's head are piled up in the south end of this large cave. The coals of a large fire still smolder in the center of the room, and the party finds a chest filled with copper, silver, a jade frog statuette, and two potions.

Session XP: 225
Total XP: 225 

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Prelude
Four Novice Adventurers In Neverwinter

Ad Nauseam: Evening, two days before Midsummer. A curio shop owner that you know, Pinwin, meets you in an alley near the Chasm. The idea of a secret meeting with her in a dangerous part of town piqued your interest; you've been impatient for some action since your mentor Barnabas Marsh suddenly left Neverwinter a fortnight ago. (He does that sometimes.) She seems uncharacteristically nervous and speaks in whispers. "There's a caravan headed south to the town of Phandalin. You know… Phandalin." Something about the way she stresses the name makes you uncomfortable. Has Barnabas ever told you about somewhere called Phandalin..? Before you can finish your thought, she continues: "a dwarf is hiring a small group to accompany him. There's a meeting tomorrow night at Otto's — 9 o'clock. You must go!" Without another word, she slips off into the night.


Gertrude Olafsdottir: Morning, day before Midsummer. Your Confessor, Edelmere the Just, has summoned you to his sanctum. He has seemed distracted lately, but this morning he clears his throat and comes right to the point: "a dwarf of my acquaintance called upon me yesterday — a friend of a friend, really. He wishes to hire a driver for a job. I represented to him your skill as a teamster, and he was sold. I'm afraid he was rather vague on the details — mentioned something about taking supplies south. But as your training is complete, and I am occupied by other matters, you should call upon this Gundren fellow yourself at a tavern with the uncouth name of 'Otto's Shrunken Head' off of Southgate Road. Nine in the evening, tonight." Edelmere dismisses you kindly but without ceremony and returns to his notes. "Justice brings Hope to the Innocent. May His Righteous Hand Guide Yours," he says as you leave his chambers.


Stedd Tallstag: Noon, day before Midsummer. Your petitions to join the Order of the Gauntlet have gone mostly unanswered, but perhaps that is about to change. Your contact within the Order, Mallory Luskan, wants to send you south. As she tells it, she's received a letter from a friend of hers in a small town called Phandalin by the name of Daran Edermath, who is some having some local trouble. She asks that you visit the community to investigate, and hints that your prospects of becoming a member of the Order might improve were you to do this favor for her. In her circuitous way, she adds that some dwarf brothers are hiring mercenaries to guard their supply wagon, and so, to reach Phandalin safely, perhaps you could sign on to their journey..? "Meet someone called Rockseeker at Otto's on Southgate at 9 PM," she finishes.


Artex: afternoon, day before Midsummer. "Hot spit and harpy vomit! There ain't never no rangers in this goddamn city!" You're not sure whether Santoro Alered is the most foul-mouthed halfling you've met, but he's probably close. How you came to be day-drinking and seated next to him at a reputable establishment like the Driftwood Tavern is anyone's guess — a chance meeting, as they say. "I know a guy — a dwarf! — who is lookin' for a bloody ranger. I told him, 'get bint, ya ham-fisted clincher, you ain't gonna find one in this town, not especially this time of year.' But here y'are, as plain as the hair on my feet! He's having a confab of sorts tonight — around nine, I think. Place called Otto's down near Southgate. I bet he'd hire you on the spot!" In spite of his coarse exterior, something about Santoro's demeanor suggests a hidden gravitas, and you resolve to visit Otto's.

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