23rd day of the Time of Flowers – 1481 DR
After speaking with Daran Edermath, Kaster Magus had split off from the group in an attempt to discover what fate had befallen Ulfgar, whom they had not seen since the previous night. Upon leaving the others, Kaster left town headed north. He travelled back up the road which had brought them into town the night before, and then found himself wandering off into the brush. Despite his lack of familiarity with the area and its terrain, the sorcerer was able to find tiny bits of the hempen rope that the captive goblin had chewed through. He tracked the goblin’s trail in an arc that wound down to the southeast. He spent several hours attempting to follow the traces left by the little sneak…losing the trail occasionally and then picking it back up. Kaster eventually found himself right back in Phandalin at the eastern edge of town. The goblin had apparently come back to the old abandoned manner on the hill. It was getting dark as the young noble approached what was left of the front entrance. He passed through the doorway and into a large entrance hall. The building was in bad shape, having been exposed to the elements for decades, if not centuries. In spite of this, much of the main structure was still intact. He came to a corridor that gradually descended down to a large iron door. He heaved it open and the noise of metal grating on stone echoed through the hall. He stepped onto a landing that had flights of steps leading down to the lower level. It was a cellar. In the center of the room was a large cistern, and on either side of it were the elves, Faelyn and Thalia. He could also see some activity through a doorway to a connecting chamber. He thought he could hear the voices of Flint and Ered.
“Friends!” he shouted.
“Well, look what the cat dragged in. Just in time,” said Ered saracastically.
As the ranger used her magical attunement with nature to tend to Thalia’s wounds, and Ered quaffed a healing potion that had been handed to him by Flint, Kaster descended the stairs. He commented on the wood elf’s poor condition and the party filled him in on what had transpired since they had found the secret entrance to the manor. They spoke of their encounter with the one-eyed creature and other enemies and their discovery of the Dendrar family. As they spoke, he walked over to the cistern and noticed that a rope was draped over the edge into the water. Faelyn noticed as well. Having finished with Thalia, she stood up and made ready to plunge into the water. Kaster discouraged her. He then made a gesture and uttered an incantation. A spectral hand appeared and floated down towards the rope. The hand grasped the rope and floated back up into the air, hoisting an object up from the bottom of the pool. It was a satchel. Kaster took it and the spectral hand vanished. He set the soaking bag on the stone floor and pulled out a healing potion, an invisibility potion, some travel clothes and some gold.
Thalia, who was feeling recovered, stood up and went back to work on the opposite side of the cistern to investigate what she suspected might be a secret door. The elf’s nimble fingers quickly found a mechanism that, when pushed, revealed a passage leading back into the large chamber where they had entered the manor. Thalia headed down the corridor with Ered right behind her. Kaster, Faelyn and Flint followed. Thalia creeped forward stealthily and followed the passage to the right. She stopped where the passage opened up into the wider chamber and peered into the darkness. The one-eyed creature was still lingering near the northern bridge. Just as quietly as she had come, Thalia stole back to the rest of the party who were waiting in the corridor.
“That creature is still there,” she told them. The group consulted with the sorcerer about the possibility of using the invisibility potion to pass the creature without being detected. Kaster explained that the potion would likely not sustain its effect if things became violent and may not be of much use to more than one of them. As the heroes deliberated, the creature had moved closer to them and was now watching them intently from the end of the hall. Kaster noticed their new companion and decided to take a peaceful approach. He moved forward to address the monstrous eye.
The sorcerer then felt an unnerving malevolence attempting to penetrate his thoughts. He struggled but eventually succeeded in resisting the weird intelligence attempting to probe his mind. The creature crouched and stared silently.
“My companions and I are just passing through.”
The creature let out an audible snarl. Without explaining himself, Flint ran back towards the cellar. He tapped Faelyn on the shoulder as he passed. For a second she was puzzled to see the normally brave dwarf running away from the threat, but she quickly realized he was attempting to double back and flank the creature. She followed him.
Kaster whispered a charm and waved his hand, producing an orange ball of blazing energy in his palm. He held it there, the ardent energy of the spell glowing in his hand. As he did so, Ered suddenly yelled out. The large warrior’s body twisted as he grasped his head in his hands. The creature had once again penetrated the man’s mind.
“Ered,” came the hushed and eerie voice inside his head.
“What?” he cried, in an exasperated tone.
“You seek the mage.”
“I seek the mage, yes. And I have two garnets. Would you take them?”
“In exchange for what?”
“Your assistance…with the mage.”
Kaster moved to pass the creature. It snarled and beared its claws as if to attack. Thalia ran up to the bend in the corridor to get behind the sorcerer. Kaster, seeing that the creature was about to attack, released his firebolt directly into its chest, scorching its gray skin. The creature recoiled and growled. Thalia shouted an Elvish battlecry and charged the creature, shortsword drawn. She swung at the creature, but the blade was deflected by the hard spikes growing out of its skin. Flint, hearing the commotion behind him, stopped in his tracks, uttered a Dwarvish curse, and turned back the way he’d come to help his companions in the corridor. The dwarf moved with amazing speed (for a dwarf) and ran to Kaster’s side. He shouted “For Mathammor Duin!” and cast a ward of protection on the sorcerer. The creature swung its claws at Thalia, wounding her. It clawed at Kaster as well, but the ward protected him and the creature swung at Thalia again, but this time her leather armor withstood the attack. Faelyn had run back up the corridor as well and she tried to position herself to get a shot at the creature, but Thalia, Flint and Kaster were all in the line of fire.
Ered rushed the mob in front of him and used his immense strength to shove his companions out of the way. He swung at the creature with his axe, but it deflected the blow with a swipe of its claws. Doggedly, Ered mustered enough strength to take another swing, but still failed to land a blow. Flint called upon Marthammor Duin and prepared to launch a bolt of radiant energy, but in the mayhem, was forced to hold it until he could get a clear shot at the monster. Thalia, still next to the creature, stabbed it in the stomach. It snarled in pain. The creature swiped back at the elf with its claws and dug into her flesh. Kaster tried to maneuver around the creature. It swung wildly as he passed, but did not connect. Kaster, turned around and raised his hand. He spoke some words and gestured with his hand until it was an outstretched palm. A sickening green light emanated from his palm and a ray of green energy shot towards the creature and missed, veering wide and to the left. Ered, who had been watching the sorcerer cast his spell, felt queasy at the mere sight of it. Faelyn ran past Ered’s left and drew her scimitar, jabbing it into the monster’s hide. Ered shoved past the creature towards the bridge. As he did so, it swung at him with its claws and missed. Ered tried to land an avenging blow with his axe, but foundered.
The cleric, who had been holding a charged spell in his hand, let it fly as soon as Ered was clear. A flash of light streaked forward from the dwarf towards his target, but it zipped harmlessly past the creature and off into the darkness. Thalia, who was severely injured, backed down the corridor and let an arrow fly. It sunk into the creature’s abdomen, wounding it further. The monster, now infuriated, latched onto Faelyn and slashed at her ferociously with its claws. Kaster Magus cast a spell and three darts of brilliant energy flew from his fingertips towards the monster. They each struck and the horrific beast growled and writhed in pain. The ranger had barely survived the creature’s attack, but Kaster’s distraction allowed Faelyn to retreat back down the corridor to Thalia. As she did, she stopped before the bend in the hall and loosed an arrow towards the beast, hitting it. Ered followed by swinging his axe into the monster, burying it into the creature’s side. The monster stumbled and blood spurted as Ered pulled back his weapon. The end was near. Once again, Flint called upon Marthammor Duin and a flash of light streaked towards the creature, this time blasting it with radiant light. The foul thing howled as a dazzling display of golden energy crackled about its body. The beast fell to the floor, its corpse smoldering and reeking of charred flesh. The party was victorious once again.
Kaster congratulated his companions for their valiant efforts as he approached the dead creature. He examined the body and declared that it was as he had suspected: a nothic – once a student of the arcane who, through a curse, had been transformed into the hideous, subterranean creature they had just done battle with. With the monster defeated, the party set to healing their wounded. Kaster tossed Thalia a potion of healing which she belted greedily. Flint attempted to cast a healing spell on Faelyn, but his divine powers had been spent in the battle against the nothic. Ered decided it would be good to get the nothic’s sizable corpse out of the narrow passageway. He dragged the creature to the edge of the crevasse and, as he approached the edge, he lost his balance and slid down the steep incline. The only thing he hurt in the fall was his pride. He looked a bit ridiculous lying prone in the rocks and dirt, entangled with the monster. As the large man shoved the dead nothic off of him and dusted himself off, he noticed something under the northernmost bridge. It was a chest! He approached it warily and examined the hinges and the base to check for traps. He found none. He was sure from the keyhole on the front that it must be locked, but he tested the lid and was stunned to find that it opened freely. He rummaged through the contents and shouted to his companions.
“I’ve found a chest!”
Ered pulled out several bags of silver and gold coins, a handful of malachite gems, two potions of healing, and a scroll. As Ered set aside the coins and jewels, he noticed an oblong item wrapped in cloth within the chest. He reached for it and unveiled a beautiful sword in a silver-chased scabbard. It was decorated with oak branches similar to the designs on the columns and doors of the manor. The hilt was in the shape of the outspread wings of a bird of prey. There were sapphires in the hilt similar to the one in Ered’s axe.
After opening the scroll case, Ered discovered that he could not read it. He handed it to the sorcerer, but Kaster did not recognize the script either. He, in turn, handed it to Flint who recognized it as a scroll of augury, a spell used by certain clerics. He explained to the group that the scroll would afford them a chance to tell their future after a fashion. As the party’s cleric, it made sense for Flint to keep the scroll, and he was encouraged to do so. Feeling an obligation to share the rest of his findings with the party, Ered split up the coin and gems amongst his companions, taking an equal share for himself. Having faced no objection from his companions, he also kept the sword.
The party was wounded and weary. Some of them had a mind to retrieve the Dendrar family and escort them out through the secret tunnel. Ered scrambled out of the crevasse and he and Kaster headed north towards the chamber full of supplies. Flint veered off to a passageway near the bridge that led off to the west. After about ten feet, it bent at a ninety degree angle and then left to the west again, where Flint discovered a staircase leading further down. Faelyn and Thalia followed him.
As the members of the party considered what to do next, a trio of Redbrands emerged from the secret passage leading to the armory and approached Ered. Thalia, who had been following Flint, was on the far side of the crevasse. Before Ered quite knew what was happening, the nimble elf had notched an arrow and let it fly towards the nearest of the ruffians, hitting him in his side. He cried out in pain and stumbled. Faelyn ran back to the edge of the northern bridge and put another arrow into the villain, killing him. Flint, realizing his companions were no longer following him, ran back as well and crossed the bridge. Ered was just in front of the dwarf and nearest to the Redbrands. He charged the one on his right and swung his axe at him, but the blow was deflected by the Redbrand’s shortsword. The bandit retaliated and stuck Ered with his weapon.
The other remaining Redbrand saw the opportunity to take down the large warrior and also attacked Ered, slicing his shield arm. Injured though he was, Ered held steadfast and shoved back at his opponents to stave off a subsequent assault. Kaster, who had been near the column on the east side of the crevasse, moved to Ered’s left. The sorcerer extended his hands, palms down towards the Redbrand in front of him. With his thumbs touching and his fingers outstretched, he shouted and fire erupted from his fingers tips, engulfing the Redbrand. The man shrieked as he burned, but he was still alive. Thalia, taking pity on him, shot an arrow into his throat. The screaming stopped and the Redbrand collapsed to the floor, still burning.
Faelyn aimed carefully and fired an arrow between Ered and Flint. It sunk into the stomach of the last surviving Redbrand. He doubled over. Flint moved in brandishing his warhammer, but in spite of his wound, the scoundrel fended off the dwarf’s attack. Ered all but finished him off with a swing from his axe, though the ruffian made a feeble attempt to retaliate. Thalia and Faelyn came rushing across across the crevasse over the bridge and ran at the Redbrand with the intent to overcome him. The rogue attempted to tackle him, but he used her momentum against her and threw the elf aside. Faelyn was more successful. As the Redbrand was distracted with Thalia, Faelyn jumped into the air and landed on him, bringing him to the ground. A cloud of debris kicked up as the half-elf struggled to subdue the injured Redbrand. Her eyes stung and watered as she choked on the dust in the air.
“Where is Glasstaff?” she screamed.
Ered set to work binding the Redbrand with rope while Faelyn interrogated him. The man’s lungs were filling with blood and he coughed and sputtered as he spoke.
“His chambers…are on the west side…of the manor.”
“How many of you are there?” asked Ered. “I’ll make it a quick death if you tell me.”
The ruffian’s breathing was labored. He was fading.
“We’re going to ask you one more time,” chimed in Kaster, “how many of you are there?”
“There’s some boys…gambling…in the other room. But that’s not all…”
With that, the Redbrand succumbed to his wounds and his gurgling and sputtering stopped.
Flint headed north towards the secret door, intent on retrieving the Dendrar family. Kaster followed and the rest plodded along behind him. They all filed past the armory, though Kaster stopped to equip himself with a crossbow and a quiver of bolts. They then passed through the crypt, and finally, into the slave pens. They discovered that the Dendrar family had all been recaptured and locked up in one of the cells. Faelyn pulled the key to the cell from her pocket, the same one she had appropriated from a Redbrand the group had defeated earlier.
“Come with us and we’ll take you out of here,” the dwarf told the prisoners.
They all filed back through the crypt, and back into the main chamber. Flint guided the Dendrar’s safely over the bridge and onto the west side of the crevasse. Mirna’s heart raced. With the help of these strangers, she was on the verge of getting her children out of this place and away from these cruel men. As they approached the entrance tunnel, she stopped and gasped. She grabbed her children close and attempted to cover their eyes as they stood before the corpse of her late husband.
To be continued…