An Urchin’s Funeral
The morning after the battle in front of The Sleeping Giant, everyone was up early to prepare for Rask’s funeral.
The night before, Sister Lia and Sildar Hallwinter had spoken with the group and come up with a funeral service they felt would befit the halfling street urchin. Sildar and Daran led the party to gather sticks and wood for a funeral pyre, and Sister Lia prepared to give his eulogy.
They piled the materials five or six feet high on the town green, and Sildar brought Rask’s body over from the inn and placed it on top. Everyone gathered a good distance from the pyre, standing roughly in a line at the crest of a small, sloping hill on the edge of the green.
Sister Lia said a few words, noting that his two small contributions to Tymora, the goddess of luck, had not gone unnoticed. It was unfortunate, however, that his luck still managed to run out when he needed it most, but such is the will of the gods.
Adeline and Torbjorn also spoke of their fallen comrade, but having only spent a little more than a week with him, their additions were brief.
When everyone was done speaking, Adeline raised her halfling longbow, already nocked with an arrow wrapped in flammable rags. Daran raised his hand and cast prestidigitation, setting the rags on fire, and Adeline loosed the arrow at the funeral pyre. The dry wood caught quickly, and within moments a column of fire over ten feet tall was roaring in the center of the town green.
After the fire had died down, a few townsfolk set about cleaning up while Toblen Stonehill invited everyone back to the inn for a drink and a celebration of life. He passed out flagons of ale to everyone in attendance, and raised his own cup high, proclaiming “To Rask!”
Most people stayed for the one drink, quietly mingling and speaking of their limited interactions with Rask, before leaving the inn to open their own businesses for the day. A few hung around longer, using the occasion as an excuse to start drinking early and heavily.
Torbjorn was one of these people.
By early afternoon, most of the crowd had filtered out of the inn. Torbjorn was drunk, Adeline was somber, and Dominique was trying, with little luck, to compose a song in Rask’s memory.
An Elf of Few Words
It was at this time that the mysterious wood elf woke up from his coma, and exited the room where he had been unconscious for almost two days. Torbjorn drunkenly tried to greet him, but the elf pushed past the intoxicated dwarf with little effort and exited the inn.
After a few moments of stunned silence, Torbjorn barreled out of the room after him.
The elf was already well up the road, heading back towards the Duskendown Trail. As Torbjorn tried to catch up, Daran Edermath managed to beat him to it. The half-elf thanked the mysterious newcomer, first of all, and then implored him to stay. The druid explained that he had to return to the forest, for he had been tracking a great disturbance in his land for many days, and needed to get to the bottom of it before the natural balance was thrown off any further.
Daran understood the elf’s concerns, having known a fair amount of druids in his adventuring days, but insisted that the town needed his help, especially after this latest murder.
The druid was hesitant, clearly more concerned with his obligation to the land, but he could indeed see that the local gang were an issue that might eventually affect the natural balance if left unchecked. He absentmindedly spoke aloud, claiming that the adventurers might actually be of some use in tracking down this threat, and Daran readily agreed, essentially volunteering Adeline and Torbjorn for the task.
Torbjorn walked up just at the end of this conversation, and loudly agreed (even though he was unaware of what he was agreeing to), as long as he got to kill some things. Adeline exited the inn, saw the group having a discussion at the edge of town, and started making her way over to them.
The elf finally introduced himself as Faldryn Renferal, and asked to be brought up to speed on the situation with the Redbrands. Torbjorn took Faldryn by the wrist and started to lead him back to the inn, talking at length but saying little in response to the elf’s question.
They walked right past Adeline, who had to turn and immediately start making her way back the way she came.
The Addition of an Unlikely Pair
By the time they reached the tavern, a carriage had made its way into town and stopped in front of the Townmaster’s Hall. The back of the wagon was loaded with supplies, as well as a male half-orc and a female gnome. The two human drivers hopped down and headed back up the road, towards the inn. The half-orc proceeded to exit the wagon as well, before turning back and helping the female gnome safely to the ground.
Faldryn addressed what Daran had said about the state of the town, claiming that the arrival of such a formidable looking half-orc was not a good sign.
Sildar appeared at the door to the Townmaster’s Hall and demanded to know what the two newcomers were doing in town. The half-orc introduced himself as Gremmer, and explained that he was hired by another member of the Lords’ Alliance, Bruce Winterun, to assist in dealing with the Redbrands and apprehending the ones responsible for the death of Thel Dendrar a tenday earlier. His gnome companion was Daphina Sparklegem, however she was not affiliated with the Lords’ Alliance and had instead purchased a spot of the wagon from Silverwilde as part of a personal endeavor. Daphina spoke up and claimed it was because she hadn’t seen many half-orcs before, and was curious enough to hitch a ride.
Sildar said he would need to make arrangements to confirm these claims, as he was unaware of additional forces being sent, but would gladly render the promised payment once the Redbrands were dealt with. He saw the party near the inn and instructed Gremmer to speak with them, as they had the most recent and personal experience in dealing with the gang.
The whole group, which now consisted of Torbjorn, Adeline, Faldryn, Gremmer, and Daphina, sat in the inn to discuss the current situation. Torbjorn was, again, less than helpful, and after a quick conversation with Gremmer over their mutual hate of goblins, he retired to his room to pass out and sleep off the drink.
While Torbjorn slept, Dominique informed the newcomers of all that had transpired so far. Gremmer and Daphina enjoyed their first good meal in a few days, and settled in to their rooms in the inn, which was now almost at capacity with out-of-town adventurers. Daphina spent a large amount of time speaking to the townsfolk that were present, getting to know everyone, gathering rumors, learning who lived where, and recording everything in her trusty notebook.
Once Torbjorn woke up, it was past six in the afternoon. Everyone was adequately rested and prepared, so talk began to turn to the plan for the evening.
The group was aware that the Redbrands hung out at The Sleeping Giant, but Rask had learned from Daran that their hideout was actually beneath Tresendar Manor located at the top of the hill east of town. On his last night, after the attack in the orchard and the arrival of Faldryn, he had relayed this to the group. He had also reminded them that Carp, the young son of Qelline Alderleaf, had seen men in the woods south of the manor, possibly Redbrands or bandits, and claimed that there was a hidden tunnel in that area. Rask had even tried, unsuccessfully, to explore those woods south of the hill the next morning.
The group agreed that Rask was correct in gathering this information, and that a secret entrance was better than a frontal assault. Everyone but Torbjorn thought it might be worth talking to Carp, to see if he could lead them to the hidden tunnel.
Before they left, Faldryn asked if there might be anyone in town with knowledge of the great disturbance he had been tracking lately. Daphina adjusted her glasses and consulted her notebook, then said that Qelline was actually friends with another druid in the area who might have more information. Upon confirming that this was the same halfling with the son they needed to speak to, Faldryn got up and headed for the door.
Torbjorn was unhappy with a plan that hinged on the word of a child, but pretty much everyone else was in agreeance, and so it was decided.
While everyone else headed for Alderleaf Farm, Gremmer stopped at Sister Lia’s house. He told her of the plan to take on the Redbrands, and requested that she might be prepared to provide assistance if necessary. As she was agreeing, Torbjorn walked up, told Sister Lia they didn’t need her, grabbed Gremmer by the arm, and dragged him away.
Sister Lia closed the door, but decided to don her armor anyway. Just in case.
Because Trust is for Suckers
The group arrived at Qelline’s door very late in the evening, and asked to speak with Carp. The young boy was very excited, yet nervous, to be speaking with so many adults, especially adventurers such as these. He managed to confirm he could probably lead them to the spot in the woods where he had heard the men and seen the tunnel.
Qelline was reluctant to let Carp out of the house so late, especially when the task could potentially be dangerous, but she desperately wanted to assist the group in taking out the Redbrands. And so she donned a cloak, dressed Carp in a warm jacket, and had the boy lead them into the woods.
Carp was true to his word, and led them directly to the tunnel. They approached very quietly, but it was unnecessary as no one else appeared to be in the area at this time of night. Qelline told the adventurers that this was as far as they would go, and the party agreed. Gremmer asked Carp for one more favor, to run and let Sister Lia know where they were. However, Torbjorn told the kid to forget it and not seek her out, before he, once again, dragged Gremmer by the arm into the tunnel.
The dark tunnel went on for roughly one hundred feet, before it opened into a relatively well lit underground cavern, with a large fifteen-foot crevasse running down the middle. Two wooden bridges spanned the gap, and the party could see hallways to either side them, as well as what appeared to be an exit at the far end of the cave.
The group started toward the left hallway, when Adeline’s mind was filled with a voice; a whisper that sounded loud and very clear, yet didn’t come from her ears. It said, “Come for vengeance, yes, hehe. Come to seek out the red cloaked ones for killing their friend, yes they have, hehehe.” She stopped the group, and told them what she had “heard.”
After a quick look around, Torbjorn spotted a large yellowish eye poking out from behind a nearby pillar. The group then understood what Adeline was talking about, because the creature began transmitting its thoughts to everyone, reaching into their minds and forcing them to think the words.
It introduced itself, albeit in a very disconnected and creepy manner, and said that it had been living under the manor long before the Redbrands moved in. The leader of the Redbrands, Glasstaff, struck a deal with the creature, promising it a steady supply of flesh for food, but the creature made it clear that it had no allegiance to the gang.
Daphina piped up and let the group know that this was a nothic. A psychic aberration that was once a powerful wizard, these creatures are the cursed remnants of the first arcane spellcasters. These wizards led the intellectual charge in unlocking the secrets of magic, but they also accidentally opened a portal to another plane, letting in Tiamat and unleashing gods upon the realm of Atlos. They were forever cursed for their arrogance and foolishness, locked in this form, but with no memory of their past life.
The nothic explained that it could tell they were there for blood, but it had no quarrel with the party. As long as they agreed to provide it food, such as the bodies of the Redbrands they might kill, perhaps, it would leave them alone and just continue to live in the crevasse.
The group was very mistrusting, and Torbjorn actually took out his handaxe and pointed it at each member of the group in turn, polling them as to what they should do. When he got to the last member, it became clear that a confrontation was inevitable.
As soon as Torbjorn made up his mind to attack, the nothic was aware of his intentions. The whole room tensed as everyone launched into combat.
Panicked and unsure what to do, Daphina cast prestidigitation and made a shower of flowers fall from the sky. Faldryn turned into a direwolf, and used the animals quick reflexes to lunge at the nothic. Adeline took off running across the closest wooden bridge, but it was rigged to collapse and so it crumpled under her weight, leaving her at the bottom of the crevasse. Gremmer moved into range and attacked it with his sword which, between him and the direwolf, effectively blocked the way through for the rest of the party. To make his attack, Torbjorn jumped on top of the direwolf, hoping to launch off of its back towards the creature. However, Faldryn heard him coming and turned at the last second, sending Torbjorn flying as he slipped sideways from the wolf’s back.
The nothic used an unusual, piercing gaze at Torbjorn, and he could feel his life essence wane, just a little, as the creature dealt necrotic damage to his form. However, Torbjorn countered by using his momentum as he got to his feet to heave his greataxe skyward and bring it down upon the creature, delivering the final blow. He cut the nothic’s head clean off as it stuck out its neck to attack.
The Wrath of Goblinsbane
As the party gathered itself and continued down the left hallway, they began to hear shouting and laughing. The words being spoken were in Goblin, so only a few of the party members could understand. However, the voices didn’t belong to goblins, because the timbre was lower which indicated that the creatures were much larger, but it didn’t matter to Torbjorn.
Torbjorn pushed his way to the front of the party and located the source of the voices: a room located on their left as the hallway turned a corner to the right. He kicked open the door, and found himself staring at the furry back of a bugbear.
There were actually three bugbears standing around the room, as well as a familiar looking goblin standing in the center. As soon as the goblin saw Torbjorn, he fainted.
The party killed the bugbear in the doorway before entering and systematically dispatching the rest. Even Daphina did some damage, as she repeatedly grabbed bugbears by the ankle to cast shocking grasp, electrocuting one to death.
The bugbear leader, a beast slightly larger than the other two who wore a jeweled eye patch over one eye, was the last one left standing. Gremmer stepped up, dodged a swing from its mace, got within its defenses, and buried his sword in its chest up to the hilt. He released the sword, snatched the eye patch from the bugbear’s face, and then retrieved the sword using the same hand.
When the room had been cleared, the party gathered in the room and piled the bodies in front of the door. Daphina quickly cast prestidigitation on Gremmer’s new eye patch, cleaning up all of the blood and leaving it in pristine condition. Torbjorn tied the goblin up and secured him to the pile of corpses, lighting a pipe as he wait for the goblin to come to.
It was only a minute or so before he did, whereupon he freaked out at the sight of Torbjorn.
He apologized profusely for things he hadn’t even done, and tried to explain to the party that when he chewed through his ropes outside of the Cragmaw Hideout he tried to run away, but the bugbears captured him and dragged him to the Redbrand hideout where they had been torturing and humiliating him.
His name was Droop, he said. And he never wanted to offend Torbjorn, and he wanted to leave like he said he would, but he couldn’t. And he didn’t want Torbjorn to kill him, like he had to many of Droop’s friends, and he would do anything to prove his worth and ensure that the party would spare his life.
Torbjorn questioned him a little, asking about how many Redbrands were in the hideout (no more than a dozen or so), what kind of traps or surprises they could expect (such as the nothic they had already encountered), and if there was anything else useful that Droop could provide them.
He mentioned secret doors. That there were many secret doors. And he asked if they had found any yet.
Torbjorn said no.
Then Torbjorn pressed the goblin’s head against the wall, and applied pressure.
Droop screamed in agonizing pain and awful fear, until eventually his head popped like a ripe grape beneath Torbjorn’s palm…