23rd day of the Time of Flowers – 1481 DR
The tranquility of the orchard under the warmth of the late morning sun was revitalizing. The adventurers departed the company of Daran Edermath and meandered through the swaying apple trees. As they made their way back to the Town Green, they paused to appreciate the breeze as it whispered among the branches. Earlier, they had come through their first clash with the Redbrands victoriously. Ered’s wound had been expertly tended by Flint. Still, it had taken a mental toll. They were all tempted to linger, but there was work to be done. Friends were still missing and likely in peril.
Kaster Magus decided that it had been far too long since they had seen any sign of Ulfgar. He took it upon himself to seek out the dwarf. The young noble was also growing increasingly concerned that he had very recently been witnessed killing a wounded man in the street, ruffian though he was. In the excitement of combat, he had not hesitated to finish his opponent, but he was beginning to wonder if he had the stomach for this new life of adventure he had chosen for himself. Or perhaps he was distressed at how easily he had cast aside the manners of a highborn gentleman and given in to his baser instincts. In any case, he felt it best that he maintain a low profile and the isolation afforded by a solitary hunt for his companion through the surrounding woods would give him time to clear his head.
The rest of the group wished Kaster well and decided to check in on Carp at Alderleaf Farm. They passed between Lionshield Coster and the Townmaster’s Hall and headed east along the path towards the farm. As they walked, Ered interrogated Thalia regarding the red-cloaked halfing he had seen watching them as they left Neverwinter. The elf reassured him that this was her friend Panlamin, but the fact that the little sentinel had been dressed in the livery of the Redbrands had not escaped Ered’s notice.
“Why does he wear the cloak of a Redbrand? Is he with them?”
“Well…” the elf started hesitantly, “he used to be.”
Thalia went to on to explain that Panlamin left the gang after he had openly questioned their methods and had subsequently had his life threatened by his would-be comrades. The elf was intent on looking out for her little friend with the big mouth. She revealed that her reason for traveling south with the party, at least in part, was to deal with these Redbrands. Faelyn, overhearing the conversation, asked Thalia if Panlamin had provided any information that might be useful against their foes. Thalia reported that her friend had not provided much in the way of details about the Redbrands’ organization.
The party continued down the road until they came upon a quaint little farm. They could hear the bleating of goats as they approached. Carp could be seen running about in the field chasing something indistinguishable. Tending to the crops was a halfling woman. As she saw the group approaching, she gave an amicable wave and beckoned the adventurers over.
“Hello friends, what can I do fer ya?”
“I am Ered Tresendar.”
“Tresendar ya say? You wouldn’t happen t’be associated with’a manor t’the east of town?”
Ered paused as he considered this, mumbling unassuredly. It was comical to see the large man struggle to account for himself to this diminutive farm woman.
“If the name is anything t’go by dear, I’d say you are.”
“That’s what I am here to find out,” he said regaining some composure, “but I’m also here to see Carp.”
“Oh,” her cheery disposition gave way to the fatigue only a mother can know, “what has the boy done now?”
“Nothing! Nothing at all, he’s been quite a pleasant chap,” Ered comforted.
“He’s a good lad, but he’s so energetic, I can’t keep up with ’im.”
“He mentioned something about a dog he lost recently.”
“Aye, our family dog, Frolla,” she explained, “she’s been missing for a few days now.”
“And you have no idea…no traces? No nothing?”
“No, she’s usually inseparable from young Carp, but she’s been gone for several days and we haven’t seen her.”
Ered expressed his condolences and then inquired about the Redbrands.
“Oh, nasty business…the Redbrands have been in town for a couple of months now causing problems for everyone.”
“What sort of trouble have they caused you and Carp?”
“We try to keep to ourselves, but I worry about Carp. He loves to spend time in the woods near the old manor and the Redbrands are often seen around there. I hate to think of what they’d do to him if he were caught watching them. I’ve warned him not to go near the place,” she continued, "We have a friend, you see…Reidoth, an old druid. He’s filled the boy’s head with notions of adventure and strange creatures. It’s all I can do to keep him on the farm."
“That name is unfamiliar to me,” said Ered.
“Oh, he and Carp are close. Reidoth has told the lad stories about faerie dragons and other such things, and so of course he goes off into the woods to find them. Mind you, I’d normally have no problem with such things, but with these ruffians about, it’s much too dangerous for Carp to be out on his own.”
“You should keep your son close, I feel.”
“Yes,” she told Ered, “but that’s easier said than done, I’m afraid.”
“Maybe there is something we could do to help,” said Faelyn, “If the Redbrands are nearby…”
“The ideal solution would be to drive them out,” the halfling said with enthusiasm. “They’re not welcome here. Oh, but where are my manners,” she said, suddenly realizing that she had not introduced herself yet. “I am Qelline. Qelline Alderleaf. It is a genuine pleasure to meet all of you.”
Each of them greeted the little woman and made introductions.
Qelline continued telling the party about the druid Reidoth. He was apparently very familiar with the surrounding territory. While it was hard to predict when he might come to town or how long he would stay, she told them he would be a good source of information for the group should they need information about the lands around Phandalin.
“Have you seen him lately?” asked Ered.
“Perhaps a couple of tendays ago. I believe he was heading north to Thundertree.”
The adventurers stood, quiet for a moment, pondering their next move.
“There’s not an inch of this land he doesn’t know.”
“If you should happen to see him in the next day or two, could you tell him that I would be interested in meeting with him?” asked Ered.
“I’ll let him know you’re lookin’ for him if I see ’im,” Qelline replied.
“We’re staying at the Stonehill Inn.”
“Toblen’s place. Yes, of course.”
Faelyn, who had been deep in thought, snapped a question without much regard for decorum.
“Carp mentioned he found some sort of…tunnel nearby. Do you know anything about this?”
“No, but I’ve told him to stay away from the place.”
It was at about this point that Carp noticed the gathering of adventurers. He came running over with an eager grin.
“Oh, hello friends! It’s good to see you again! My…the large man is here, mother! Have you met this large man?”
Ered could not help but be charmed by the staggering amount of enthusiasm from one so small in stature. The big fellow laughed heartily.
“Hello, Carp my friend. How have you been?”
“I’ve been good! I went out into the woods…”
At this, the small boy stopped and looked at his mother, expecting a rebuke. Qellin had a stern look, but it quickly softened and she gestured for Carp to continue. Somewhat reluctantly, he did so.
“I…lost the copper coin that you gave me.”
“Oh no!” exclaimed Ered in feigned surprise. Not mockingly, but indulgently.
“I was looking for faerie dragons!”
“How did you lose it?”
“I was walking through the woods and I suppose I had a hole in me pocket, because I lost my coin.”
“Maybe we could help you find the coin,” offered Faelyn. Ered nodded in agreement. Qelline shifted as if to put herself between the party and Carp. She knew where this was going. “Under no circumstances are you taking my boy near that place. Carp, you can tell them where you found your secret tunnel but you are not to go near Tresendar Manor.”
Sensing that this was an issue that was not up for debate, Faelyn suggested that Carp provide as detailed a description as he could to guide the party from the farm to this tunnel he had discovered. He pointed to the woods due east of the farm. As the party gazed in the direction that Carp had indicated, they noted the manor on the hill just to the north of the grove of tightly packed trees.
“Have you been there recently?” asked Ered.
“I go th…” Carp caught himself and he tried to gauge his mother’s demeanor from the corner of his eye. “No,” he corrected. The boy went on to explain that if the party went over the ruined walls at the edge of the farm and headed into the woods, they would find the tunnel somewhere along the foot of the hill to the north. They deliberated for a moment and Faelyn pointed out that it would be wise to be fully replenished before heading into danger.
“Qelline, could we trouble you for a place to rest and eat? We would be happy to pay you,” asked Ered.
“Oh, that won’t be necessary,” she replied cordially. And so, the band of adventurers took refreshment offered by the Alderleaf woman and her son. There was fresh milk and butter and bread baked with honey and cream. Carp brought in some apples that had been given to Qelline as a gift from Daran Edermath. It was just what they all needed.
After a good meal and a nap in the hayloft, they made plans to scout out a possible entrance to the Redbrand hideout. Carp, enraptured as he was by the thought of courageous exploits, could barely contain himself as he bore witness to an actual band of adventurers planning their reconnoiter right their in his home. As he gazed at them in fascination, he noted Thalia’s leather pouch hanging from her belt and inquired about it. She explained that she had made it a long time ago and had only recently recovered it.
“Where did you find it?”
“In a goblin cave,” she told him.
“Oooh! A goblins’ cave! I hate goblins!. Did you kill them?”
“Yes,” the she-elf replied.
“Good! I hate goblins,” said Carp as he wrinkled up his nose in disgust. “Did you kill goblins?” he said turning to Ered, “I bet you killed dozens of them!”
“I killed a fair few,” he told the boy, “and then I felt very ill.” An annoyed look came over the man’s broad face.
Carp went on this way for some time, asking questions and inspecting the party’s weapons and other equipment. When he wasn’t asking question upon question, he was lamenting the loss of his dog, Frolla.
After a relatively relaxed afternoon of resting, planning and preparing, the last light of day began to fade. Ered, Faelyn, Thalia and Flint were all ready to make their way into the woods in search of Carp’s tunnel. Faelyn, being more skilled in tracking than the rest, led the way. Not long after they had slipped in among the trees and thickets, the more keen eyed members of the group spotted a small patch of brush that had been flattened and cleared. In this patch was a small leather bag. Faelyn inspected it. Inside she found a pair of bright copper coins and some crumbs that might have come from a sweet cake.
“This looks like Carp’s pouch,” she whispered.
They changed direction and gradually made their way north. As they approached the hill, they could just make out the ruined parapets and towers of Tresendar Manor through the treetops. As they came upon the foot of the hill, they noticed a large hole, about four to five feet across. They peered into the tunnel and saw nothing but darkness. No noise but the gentle rustling of the trees and bushes around them could be heard. Flint ducked his head and made his way down the passage while the others followed.
As the dwarf moved forward, his keen vision allowed him to see that the passage opened up into a wider chamber. The cold, misty air murmured throughout the natural cavern, occasionally punctuated by the echo of droplets from various directions. Flint’s nostrils detected the faint but undeniable stench of death. To his right, he could see down into a crevasse that divided the cavern. Rough stone columns on either side of the crevasse supported the high ceiling. He could see two wooden bridges spanning the chasm, one very near to him and one on the opposite side of the chamber. To his left and to his right across the chasm, Flint could make out where the natural cavern gave way to man-made hallways. As the rest of the group entered, they spotted what appeared to be the outstretched limbs of a person on the ground, but their view was obstructed by one of the stone columns. Thalia quietly slipped off past the left corridor and towards the column. As she glided past the hallway, she noticed a descending staircase within. As she stealthily approached the column, she knelt down and discovered the corpse of a blonde man with what appeared to be several stab wounds in his chest. He had been there for several days and was starting to stink. She motioned for the rest of the group to come over and soon they were all huddled around the column. The man’s remains bore the signs of his profession in life—a wood-carving knife sheathed on his belt. It seemed likely to be Thel Dendrar. Flint said a quick and silent prayer over the slain man.
Thalia began to move towards the western corridor to make sure the way was clear. As she did, she was suddenly overwhelmed by the sensation of being watched. The elf could feel a sinister presence probing her mind, searching. Though her attacker was unseen and unknown, she understood that she was under some kind of assault. She centered herself and attempted to resist.
“Thalia!” Faelyn sensed that her companion was not well. Thalia explained that she had successfully fought off some form of mental intrusion.
“Could be magic,” observed Flint.
“I think,” Thalia announced, “that something is watching us.”
Faelyn was on edge. “We must be cautious.” Ered nodded.
“There’s something behind that column!” said Thalia with fear in her voice. The elf’s eyes were fixed intently on something near the stone column in the north part of the chamber. All but Ered could see a large, shadowy figure attempting to conceal itself behind the column. Though even he could make out the pale green glow emanating from the creature’s face…it was an eye. An enormous, singular eye regarded them with fiendish curiosity. Flint then felt the invasive probing into his mind that Thalia had successfully fended off. He concentrated all of his thought on Marthammor Duin and managed to thwart the creature. The eye turned towards Ered. The warrior was gripped with terror as a strange voice overwhelmed his consciousness.
“Hello…Ered,” it said.
Faelyn could see that Ered was gripped by something intangible. “Are you alright?” she asked him.
“No…something is talking to me!” he shouted frantically.
The others heard nothing, but Thalia and Flint knew that whatever had attempted to pierce their thoughts unsuccessfully had managed to get through to the large man.
“What are you doing here?” the voice asked Ered.
Faelyn had had enough. Clearly whatever this presence was, it was malicious and was most likely some bewitchment perpetrated by the one-eyed watcher.
“I will not harm you…yet.” The creature must have sensed that things were about to escalate.
“Who are you!” Ered demanded.
“This is my home,” the voice replied.
“Why are you here!”
“I’ve made this my home. The mage let’s me stay here.”
The others looked on as Ered appeared to be having a conversation with himself, the whole while his gaze held by the pale green orb hovering in the shadows.
“You will meet him.”
“Ered, what’s going on?” Faelyn entreated.
“The creature…it’s…talking to me. He says the mage let’s him live here. It’s his home.”
“Does it intend to harm us?” the half-elf asked.
“Not yet,” replied Ered unconvincingly. The voice continued.
“We can make a bargain.”
“What kind of bargain?”
“What is that in your hand?”
Ered looked at the hilt of his weapon.
“This is my battleaxe.”
“Shiny! The little bauble at the end. What is that?”
“That,” said Ered, his terror turning to anger “is not going anywhere without me. That is my sapphire…my family heirloom.”
“I like that sapphire. I can help you.”
“I know you hunt the Redbrands.”
“What do you know of the Redbrands?”
“The mage let’s me stay here.”
“Who is the mage!” Ered shouted, becoming increasingly impatient. The wrathful presence in his mind was becoming too much to bear.
Any remaining doubt Ered had about coming here was removed. This was where they would find the Redbrands and their leader.
“You would kill Glasstaff?”
“Would you give me your sapphire?”
“Give me a moment,” he said reluctantly.
“Take all the time you need.”
Ered explained the offer on the table to the rest of the party and they considered their options. He felt the others should decide their next move without him given that his thoughts were known to the creature, but he also made it clear that he was not willing to part with the only remnant of his former life.
“Ered,” came the voice again, “I hunger.”
And with that, the creature emerged from behind the column into full view. It was as large as a man, maybe slightly larger. It had immense claws on its hands and its three-toed feet. Its hunched back was brimming with jagged spikes. The creature’s mouth was full of sizable, knife-edged teeth. It had no discernible nose, and where a pair of eyes would normally be, a solitary green orb as big as a plate stared back at them. It clambered along the stone floor on all fours, occasionally stopping to stand erect and survey the chamber. It crossed the far bridge over the chasm and shuffled towards the party. It lifted the corpse in front of them partially off the ground and began gnawing at it. The vile thing’s attention now fully fixated on its meal, the party could do little but look on in horror.
Flint, regaining his wits and recalling his earlier suspicion, focused his energy. He uttered a short invocation and raised his outstretched hands. After a few minutes of concentration, the cleric could see an aura of necromantic energy emanating from all around the chamber. To Flint, it appeared as though the monstrosity in front of them blazed with a purple light. There was also another source of magic in the room, though Flint could not quite make out exactly what type it might be. It seemed to be emanating from the ravine underneath the bridge furthest from them. The dwarf motioned to his companions to follow him before crossing the nearest bridge to the east side of the trench. Thalia stayed behind as a rearguard to make sure the one-eyed fiend did not attempt to take advantage of the situation. As Flint, Ered and Faelyn headed north towards the back of the chamber and the far bridge, the creature started and Ered could hear a snarl in his mind. He was overcome with a sensation of jealousy coming from the creature, but it was not clear what it was protecting.
“Stop!” cried Ered. “It doesn’t want us near here,” he gestured towards the northernmost bridge. The same spot where Flint had detected an uncertain type of mystical energy moments earlier.
“We’re not interested in your goodies, we are just trying to pass through.”
The creature walked away from the corpse, staying even with Flint and the others on the opposite side of the ravine. It stood on the west side of the bridge waiting for the adventurers to make a wrong move. The trio headed north into an adjoining chamber full of barrels and crates, packing straw and some common tools. Unlike the natural cavern the group had just come through, this room had stone block walls and a flagstone floor.
Thalia crossed the southernmost bridge and caught up to the rest of the group, leaving the creature behind. As she entered the room, she noted that at the back to her right was what looked like the beginning of a corridor, but it only went about five feet in an easterly direction and stopped. As she faced the eastern wall, she ran her fingers up and down the corners. She noted that there appeared to be a small gap on either side. The elf dropped her pack to the floor and knelt down, withdrawing a small pry bar and a hammer. She wedged the chisel edge of the pry bar into the gap between the walls and tapped the other end with her hammer. A loud tink-tink-tink echoed off the walls. Once the pry bar was firmly in place, the elf motioned to Ered. His muscles rippled as he hefted on the bar once…twice. The wall swung back and revealed a secret passage. Directly in front of them was a door and to the right, a corridor of about fifteen feet that ended with another door. Ered tried the nearest door, but it was locked. Thalia reached into her pack again and pulled out a small bundle and unrolled it on the floor. An array of intricate tools shone in the light of the wall-mounted oil lamps. She set to work picking the lock on the door. After a moment of effort, the door swung wide. It revealed a small room with racks of weapons lining the walls. There were spears, swords, crossbows and bolts. A dozen dirty red cloaks hung from the hooks by the door. Thalia and Faelyn each reached for a cloak and the others followed suit. Ered took a crossbow, a quiver of bolts, and a spear.
Now clothed in the garb of their enemies, the party exited the armory via the same door through which they had entered and turned left down the corridor. The door at the end of the hall was unlocked. Within the room before them were two large stone sarcophagi arranged end-to-end. A third was positioned to their left. They had found a crypt. Along the walls were false columns carved in the image of spreading oak trees. In the southeast corner of the room was a set of large double doors sheathed in tarnished copper plate. Leaning up against each of the sarcophagi were human skeletons clad in bits of rusty armor. As Flint stepped into the room, the skeletons stood up and moved towards them with ancient and worn weapons drawn. Faelyn and Ered backed up against the wall to make room for Thalia who was already charging into the room as she drew her shortsword. She lunged at the nearest skeleton and connected with her blade. The remains of the ancient warrior were knocked back against the wall. It swung its sword in retaliation at Thalia and missed as the nimble elf darted out of the way in the nick of time. The other ghastly soldiers lashed out at Flint. The dwarf raised his shield in time to deflect both attacks. Faelyn leapt from the corridor into the crypt, landing between Thalia and her opponent. The ranger sliced at the bony swordsman, but her scimitar glanced off of its scraps of armor. Ered followed up with an axe attack, but his assault also failed to do any damage. Flint lashed out at one of his attackers with his warhammer, but the skeleton brought up a shield in time to block. With Ered and Faelyn now engaged with her foe, Thalia maneuvered around them to assist Flint. The elf’s blade slipped harmlessly through the ribcage of one of Flint’s assailants and became wedged in the creature’s bones. While she attempted to dislodge her shortsword, Flint’s other adversary plunged its blade into Thalia’s exposed side. She cried out in pain, but was still standing. Meanwhile, Faelyn had slashed through the skeleton she and Ered were tangling with, reducing it to a pile of bones on the stone floor. Flint and Ered connected with blows to the remaining skeletons. Thalia was as a wounded beast. Enraged, she cut through her enemy with such force that its bones splintered into thousands of tiny shivers and hurled motes of dust everywhere. Faelyn turned towards the final remaining enemy and swung her scimitar into its spine below the ribs, rending the grim soldier to bony pieces. The party stood victorious.
As the group settled themselves and checked one another over, Ered decided to investigate the crypt. The stone lids of the sarcophagi were carved to depict those entombed within — two human males and one human female, all of noble bearing. Pushing off the lid of one sarcophagus, Ered peered inside and rooted around in the moldering bones and scraps of clothing within. After a minute or so of this, he pulled out a signet ring. It bore the intaglio of two fanning oak trees, similar to the ones that appeared on the walls in the crypt. He recognized the metal as platinum. He checked the other two sarcophagi and retrieved identical rings from each.
Before they had time to do much else, a door in the northeast corner of the room opened. A Redbrand was standing in the doorway. Surprised to find people in the crypt, the ruffian stood there for a moment, assessing the situation. He turned his head and shouted behind him to an unseen party.
“Are we gettin’ new recruits today?”
“Glasstaff sent us himself,” offered Faelyn.
“They say Glasstaff sent ’em,” the man shouted over his shoulder again. “Wait a minute,” he seemed to grow wary just as Thalia opened her mouth in an attempt to account for their group. “Take your hood off!” the brigand shouted at her. Not wanting to arouse further suspicion, Thalia pulled back her hood.
“We ain’t got no elves!” the Redbrand yowled. “Get in ’ere!” And with that he charged into the crypt with another Redbrand behind him. Thalia, injured though she was, wasted no time in loosing an arrow towards the Redbrand in the doorway. It sunk into the man’s shoulder and knocked him back through the doorway. His sword already drawn, the Redbrand slashed at his nearest foe, which happened to be Faelyn. The pain in his shoulder from Thalia’s arrow caused him to miss. The second Redbrand entered the crypt from the corridor and leaped on top of one of the sarcophagi. He swung his shortsword down on Faelyn, connecting. The half-elf retreated to the southwest corner of the room and let an arrow fly towards the Redbrand. It shot into the man’s chest and thorny projectiles exploded from the site of the wound, ripping through the wretch, killing him. His companion was close enough to take a few of the thorns to the torso as they rocketed outward from the point of impact. Ered jumped up onto the sarcophagus to go after the knave, but the lid was partially removed and it had shifted with the weight of his substantial frame. He swung his axe and missed. Flint rushed the remaining Redbrand and with a crushing blow from his warhammer, the villain was killed.
Having endured back-to-back battles, the group proceeded cautiously through the northeast corner doorway. They entered the center of a long room that was partitioned into three areas with iron bars walling off the north and south. Filthy straw lined the floors. The hinged doors of each cell were secured with padlocks and chains. In the north cell were two women, one of them younger. Both fair haired and disheveled, yet comely in spite of the harsh conditions of their imprisonment. In the south cell was a boy who bore a likeness to the body of the man they had found earlier. All three wore dirty gray tunics and had iron collars fitted around their necks. A heap of discarded clothing was piled carelessly against the far wall. It was clear that they had discovered the whereabouts of the Dendrar family. Faelyn looked to Thalia, then the prisoners behind bars, then back to Thalia. Flint saw this exchange and suggested a more direct approach by pointing at the guards lying dead in the crypt. Faelyn darted through the doorway, knelt beside one of the fallen Redbrands for a moment, then flitted back into the prison chamber with a ring jingling with several keys. She unlocked the padlocks on each cell. The prisoners, dazed but grateful, confirmed that they were indeed Mirna, Nilsa, and Nars Dendrar.
“Do you know how you came to be here?” Ered asked Mirna.
“The Redbrands murdered my husband and brought us here. They were planning to sell us into slavery. Thank you so much for saving us.”
“How long have you been here?”
“I don’t know exactly. It’s been…days, maybe longer? I don’t know.”
“Let’s get you out of this place,” said Faelyn.
And with that, the ranger used the keys she’d taken off of the dead Redbrand to remove the iron collars from each of the Dendrars’ necks. Mirna and her children had no knowledge of the layout of their location as they had been wearing hoods when thrown into their cells by their captors. The family did mention that the leader of the Redbrands was a wizard of some kind which confirmed what the party already knew.
“He has tall, furry monsters with big ears,” chimed in Nars. Faelyn shared a knowing look with her companions. The group weighed their options. From whence they came awaited a wicked creature with strange powers and the corpse of the dear departed Thel. Surely it would not do to take the newly rescued family that way. On the other hand, there were still unexplored dangers and the prospect of running into, in addition to more Redbrands, a wizard of unknown power and the bugbears that Nars had alluded to. They decided the safest course of action, as much as they hated to do it, was to tell the Dendrar family to stay put in the slave pens until they could come back for them. With that, the four adventurers filed back into the crypt and headed for the double doors in the southeast corner of the room.
Ered listened at the doors for a moment before pressing his brawny shoulder against them and forcing them open. They opened up into a hallway. Thick dust covered the flagstone floor. Faux columns lined the hall on either side. The party entered the hall and closed the doors behind them. From this side, the relief of a mournful angel could be seen sculpted upon them. Flint led the way down the passageway. After about ten feet, the flagstones started to give way under the dwarf’s hefty frame. In the nick of time, he managed to find some footing by leaning flat up against the wall. His stubby fingers clenched to the stone at his back as he choked on the cloud of dust and debris triggered by the collapse. When it finally settled, Flint found himself peering into a deep, dark pit. He carefully sidled across the remaining edge of stone and crossed over the void. The nimble elves skittered across effortlessly. Ered thought for amount about attempting to leap across the pit, but thought better of it. The immense warrior hugged the wall and edged his way across. They had all avoided a twenty foot drop into the blackness.
They were now about forty feet down the hall at which point it turned sharply to the right, leading them to a southward facing door. Faelyn cautiously examined it, then opened it. As she stepped through, she entered a large storage cellar, exactly the sort of thing one might expect to find beneath an old manor. To her right was a short flight of stone steps leading up to a ledge above and behind her over the doorway. A second flight of steps to her left led from the ledge up to a landing along the eastern wall. On the west side of the room, opposite the landing, was a large stone cistern. The walls of the room on either side of the pool were lined with barrels and kegs. Along the right side of the western wall was a closed door. The rest of the party filed into the room behind her. Without hesitation, Ered moved towards the barrels and began his inspection. He discovered fresh provisions in the form of salted pork, beef, flour, sugar, apples, and much to his fancy, ale. He shouted his approval at this discovery. Flint headed towards the door on the western wall and the elves followed as Ered continued to review his potential plunder.
The dwarf flung the door wide and stood looking into what appeared to be a storeroom that had been pressed into service as living quarters. Two double bunks stood against the wall near the door, while barrels and crates filled the southern half of the room. Three Redbrands who had been lounging in the room looked up lazily and were startled to see a well armed and armored dwarf standing before them. Flint raised his hammer and engaged the nearest of them, but the villain reached for a nearby shield and managed to raise it in time to turn back the blow. Thalia, who was standing behind Flint, could not get a clear shot with her bow due to the breadth of her dwarvish companion, so she notched an arrow and prepared to let it fly the instant the cleric cleared her line of fire. Ered, looking up from the keg of ale he had been attempting to sample, rushed towards the doorway. In an attempt to reach over Flint, he was only able to bring the flat of his axe down upon the dwarf’s opponent, but again the Redbrand staved off the attack with his shield.
Faelyn ran up the stone steps in an attempt to gain higher ground and perhaps shoot over her companions into the next room. She managed to successfully launch an arrow, only narrowly missing Ered, but it sunk harmlessly into the wood frame of one of the bunks. The Redbrands in the barracks were now fully aware of the presence of four intruders. Flint glanced over his shoulder at Faelyn, an exasperated look on his face. He wisely decided to redirect his annoyance at the party’s ranger toward the Redbrands via his warhammer. The dwarf swung his weapon directly into the face of his opponent, killing him instantly. With her visibility into the room only becoming further compromised by her comrades, Thalia decided she had waited long enough to take action. She bolted into the barracks and jumped up on one of the double bunks. She had to duck low to avoid the ceiling, but she had enough room to swing her shortsword down at one of the remaining Redbrands. She connected, slicing into the man’s shoulder. He flailed back wildly with his own sword, but to no avail. Thalia struggled to fight from the cramped space above as the other Redbrand swung at her, wounding her arm.
The elf was in dire need of aid. Ered attempted to help, wheeling his axe to and fro, but failing to connect. Flint shoved past one Redbrand to get to the one closest to the elf. As he passed, the nearest Redbrand stabbed at him, but the dwarf managed to deflect the blade and get by. He hefted his hammer up and brought it down onto the wounded shoulder of Thalia’s nearest attacker. To Flint’s astonishment, the Redbrand was still able to stay on his feet. Thalia, taking advantage of the situation, jabbed her sword down towards the injured Redbrand, puncturing his liver. The ruffian fell to the floor, mortally wounded. Seeing his confederate fall to Thalia’s blade, the sole remaining Redbrand took a swipe at her, but she rolled back on the bunk towards the wall and avoided the attack. Faelyn was standing outside the room, bow at the ready. Ered, in an attempt to give the half-elf an opening, jumped up onto one of the wooden crates. In doing so, he opened himself up to the surviving Redbrand who tore through him with his sword. Ered attempted to swipe back with his weapon, but injured as he was, the attack was ineffective. With the way clear, Faelyn was quick to let her arrow fly. It sunk into the Redbrand, the shaft now protruding from his ribs, but he remained steadfast. Flint swung and missed as the Redbrand stumbled unpredictably, reeling from the ranger’s arrow. Thalia, badly injured, climbed down from the bunk and attempted to move away from the villain. As she hopped down and tried to maneuver, she noticed him shambling towards the doorway, away from her. She seized the opportunity and, shifting her weight, wheeled up behind him, driving her sword through his back and out through his chest. The ruffian’s lifeless body dropped to the floor.
Ered, wounded though he was, wasted no time in scouring the room for anything useful. He ripped through the bedding, he pried open crates, and he went through the fallen Redbrands’ pockets. He found nothing in the bunks. The crates and barrels contained more of the same provisions they had discovered in the cellar. The fallen men each had coin pouches which Ered relieved them of. In total, he recovered 28 silver pieces, 15 electrum pieces, 12 gold pieces, and 2 garnets worth about 10 gold pieces each. Thalia, also injured, but still able to move under her own power, walked out into the cellar and began investigating the south wall on the far side of the cistern. She noticed that the dust around the edges of the wall and floor had become unsettled, implying movement of someone or something.
To be continued…