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