24th day of the Time of Flowers – 1481 DR
Ered, handaxe at the ready, eyed the rat with suspicion. He took a deep breath and brought back his arm, then with an explosion of sinewy power, he hurled the small axe towards the rodent. He hit his mark, but the only sound that could be heard was the clang of steel on stone. As soon as the axe made contact with the rat, the creature dissipated into a vaporous cloud. It left no corpse or blood or any other sign that it had ever been in the room. Having grown increasingly accustomed to witnessing strange events, and knowing full well that they were in the workshop of a wizard, the party took the whole affair rather stoically.
As Kaster explained to the group that the various contraptions on the table were intended for brewing invisibility potions, Faelyn wandered over to the door on the east side of the room and flung it wide. A large bugbear stood sneering in the doorway. He and another like him were lying in wait in the adjoining chamber, anticipating the return of the adventurers. The monster swung his massive morning star at Faelyn and sent her flying into the northern wall of the wizard’s workshop. She fell to the floor, motionless. The nimble elf, Thalia, was the quickest to react. She wheeled around and launched an arrow across the room, but it missed, hitting the stone doorframe. Ered, responding to the wood elf’s bowshot, quickly loaded a bolt onto his crossbow and wheeled around to get off a shot at the unknown target behind him. The haste with which Ered spun to attack caused the bolt to shoot wide of the target. Flint had not been idle. A streak of light flashed from the dwarf’s hand and towards the bugbear. The burst of radiant energy enveloped the creature, searing its fur and flesh until the monster was nothing but a pile of ash.
The remaining bugbear did not seem to be the least bit discouraged by its former comrade’s disintegration. It rushed towards Ered, its massive weapon raised for a strike. Fortunately for the warrior, the brute clipped the doorway on its swing, causing it to miss. Kaster was quick to release a bolt of flame at the monster, but the enkindled projectile rocketed off wildly in an unintended direction. Thalia had notched another arrow and let it fly, this time hitting her intended target and sinking an arrow into the creature’s chest. As the bugbear reeled from the elf’s piercing attack, Ered brought out his axe. He swung it down onto the beast’s hairy arm, slicing down to the bone. The bugbear, though wounded, only seemed more agitated. It began to charge through the doorway at the party. Flint raised his shield and once again sent a gleaming lance of light from his hand towards the enemy. The bolt struck its mark and the creature’s body glowed in golden light and began to burn. Only the creature’s head and shoulders remained intact and they lay in a heap of smoldering ash on the stone floor.
Kaster stood over the still sizzling remains of the fallen monster and noted that these were likely the same bugbears they had encountered in the guard barracks the night before. The surviving members of the trio that had been tormenting Kevin the goblin. The leader, Mosk had been his name, wore a leather eye patch beset with semiprecious stones. Kaster removed it from what was left of the creature, and held it out, “Ered, what do you make of this?”
“With these stones, I’d expect you could probably get about 50 gold for it.”
The sorcerer also found a belt pouch on the creature with some silver coins inside. He divided the coins out among the members of the party, but in lieu of these, Thalia insisted that he give her the eye patch. Kaster obliged. The creature was also holding an iron key similar to the one Faelyn had recovered from one of the Redbrands earlier.
The immediate danger having been dealt with, the group filed into the chamber the bugbears had been occupying. The walls were covered with drapes of scarlet cloth. There were furnishings that included a small writing desk with matching chair, a comfortable-looking bed, and a wooden chest at the foot fo the bed. The chest’s lid was turned up. Ered noted that the chest was full. Flint spotted an envelope on the desk and walked over towards it. He picked up the envelope and noted that the wax seal had an imprint of a spider. It did not appear that the envelope had been opened. As he got closer to the northeast corner of the room, the dwarf also noted the stonework of the eastern wall. There was a panel – or possibly a hinged door – that was set slightly askew to the rest of the wall. Flint opened the letter.
“What did you find?” enquired Ered, eagerly. As he read, Flint held up the now opened envelope and pointed to the spider in the wax seal. Ered’s eyes widened. “What does it say? Read it out loud!” The dwarf began to read the letter to the group.
They all stood there processing this ill news. It would seem that Glasstaff was none other than the missing wizard Iarno Albrek. Not only that, but he seemed to be in league with The Black Spider. Iarno completed the task set forth before him by the Lords’ Alliance…after a fashion. Rather than establishing the constabulary that would secure the town, Iarno assumed the alias of “Glasstaff” and hired a group of thugs and bandits to do his own bidding.
Ered’s mind quickly turned from the intrigue of the letter to potential riches. He huddled next to the open chest at the foot of the bed and found what made up the best pickings of the Redbrands loot: coins in silver and gold along with a variety of gems. He looked up and addressed the rest of the group.
“We can divvy this up later, yes?”
Nobody contested the proposal. Ered then kneeled down and investigated the bed to make sure that it was as clean and comfortable as it seemed. He got up, walked to the workshop where the ranger was laying, and picked up Faelyn from the cold, flagstone floor. Her slender frame was light in his arms. Ered walked back into the wizard’s bedchambers and gently placed the unconscious ranger into the bed. Faelyn, he noted, seemed stable and likely to recover. The others looked on, surprised to see such tenderness from the rugged warrior. Ered, feeling a sudden need to take the attention off of his action, addressed the group.
“Well, now that we’ve seen what’s in here, should we head back to that other room…see if Kevin is still around?”
“We move on to these stairs,” said Flint, peeking behind the crack in the apparent secret door in the northeast corner of the room. The dwarf had noticed a dark corridor with a staircase going up to the right.
“I would like to go run down to the other room,” chimed in Kaster. Before hearing their response, the sorcerer had run back out the southern door of the workshop. He crossed the hall and passed through the common room where the Redbrands had been gambling. He opened the southern door and went down the corridor that led to the guard barracks where they had first encountered the bugbears. He barged into the room only to find the same crudely built bunkbeds, dirty dishes, and half-eaten food. The smell of unwashed bodies and rotting meat filled his nostrils. Kaster, satisfied that Kevin was no longer here, turned back to join the others.
The others had been waiting in the wizard’s bedchambers, watching over Faelyn and investigating the contents of the room. Flint had managed to get the secret door opened all the way just as Kaster returned. The cleric ran into the darkness, though there was plenty of light for his dwarvish eyes. He ran up the staircase and at the top he discovered what appeared to be another door, though it was not immediately apparent how he might get it open from the inside. Ered, standing in the doorway Flint had gone through and having some sense that the dwarf had encountered an obstacle, motioned to Thalia.
“Flint may have found another door,” he said as she passed through. The elf quickly ascended the stairs and was already pulling out her tool kit. She gave the door a quick once over and determined that it was constructed just as the one at the bottom of the staircase. She set to work and within a few seconds, she had it opened. She stepped out into storeroom they had passed through after their first attempt to avoid the nothic. The others followed behind her. Ered decided to pass through to the armory to grab another spear, since he hadn’t recovered the one he lent to Mirna Dendrar. He and Kaster both took crossbow bolts to replenish their quivers. As they surveyed the room for other useful items, Ered suddenly became very quiet and still. He looked at Kaster and brought a finger to his lips. Off in the distance was the rhythmic pinging noise of metal on metal. Not the sound of combat. It was something smaller and much less intense. As the rest of the party filed into the armory behind them, Ered was off to investigate the sound.
The noise became more apparent as they once again passed through the Tresendar Crypts where they had faced the reanimated skeletons. It was coming from the holding cells where they had found the Dendrars. They walked into the slave pen and found the source of the sound. Kevin the goblin stood against the bars of his prison cell, tapping rocks against them. He was quite surprised to see the band of adventurers again. So much so, that he immediately passed out and fell to the dirty, straw-lined floor.
With Kevin not likely to have much to say in his current state and the area now completely explored, the party stopped to ponder their next move. It was Flint and Ered who first began to realize that Glasstaff (or more accurately, Iarno) had only very recently given them the slip. It was possible that they still had time to catch him before he escaped Phandalin. They rushed back to the wizard’s bedchambers and hastily left a note for Faelyn explaining the situation in case she awoke while they were gone. From there, they rushed back up the hidden staircase, moved across the bridge over the crevasse, and towards the southern tunnel entrance to the manor’s cellar. Flint, spotting Thel Dendrar’s corpse pointed to it. “Ered!” The young fighter knew that Flint had intended for him to grab Thel’s remains on the way out. He stopped and hoisted the body over his shoulder and followed the others through the tunnel.
The sun was high in the afternoon sky and still several hours away from setting when they emerged from underneath Tresendar Manor. Even under the canopy of the woods, it took a few moments for their eyes to adjust to the bright daylight of the outside world. As soon as they had acclimated, they began frantically searching for signs of Glasstaff’s passing. There were plenty of indicators that a significant amount of foot traffic had passed in this seemingly inconsequential part of the woods at the foot of the hill under Tresendar Manor. This, of course, was explained by the presence of the secret entrance. However, there were no obvious clues as to whether or not the wizard had passed this way recently. Flint attempted to look around to see if there were any paths that might make for a quick get-away out of town, but nothing jumped out at him. It seemed that if Iarno had stuck to the easiest pathways out of Phandalin, he’d have gone straight up the north road towards the Triboar Trail.
The group headed out of the woods and back over the ruined walls near Alderleaf Farm. They took the road from there to the woodworker’s house. There was the matter of returning Thel Dendrar’s remains and it might also be prudent, the group reasoned, to ask around town to see if anyone might have spotted the escaping wizard.
They approached the Dendrar home and knocked at the door. Mirna, looking understandably tired, opened it and greeted them warmly.
“As we promised, we’ve brought your husband home,” said Flint solemnly.
“Thank you! I simply can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done. We’ll have to arrange for a ceremony.” She seemed a bit anxious and muttered something about cremation.
“If you could please just take him to the town hall until we make the proper arrangements. I can’t have the children see him this way. Oh,” she said, suddenly remembering, “one last thing!” She reached behind the door and produced the spear Ered had given to her the night before. She handed it back to him.
“What do you know of Iarno Albrek, m’lady?” inquired Flint.
“I believe he was affiliated with the Lords’ Alliance,” she said. “The wizard was only here briefly and I had no direct dealings with him. You should speak about this with Sildar Hallwinter.”
With that, they departed the Dendrar home and headed to the Townmaster’s Hall to deliver the remains of Thel. Harbin Wester seemed ill at ease as the adventurers once again darkened his doorway. His impatience quickly gave way to common decency, when he realized they were acting in the interests of the woodcarver’s family.
“Well, this is tragic business with the Dendrar man, but we will tend to the body until funeral arrangements can be made.”
Ered slipped the body off of his shoulder as the townmaster’s adjutants came over to collect it.
“Do you still have our prisoner?” Ered asked as he was reminded of Sullivan.
“Yes, the Redbrand is in the holding cell. Have you found Glasstaff?”
“Actually, I’d like to question the prisoner on that very subject,” said Flint.
A look of concern came over the Townmaster’s face. “I suppose there’s no harm in that…right this way.”
Harbin Wester led them to the back part of the building. In a side room was a cell that seemed reasonably secure. Sullivan was sitting with a scowl on his face, though someone had tended to his wounds. A plate sat next to him, empty but for a bit of crumbs. In spite of his dour expression, he seemed to have been well taken care of.
“Do you know if Glasstaff went by any other name?” Flint asked him.
“None that I know of,” replied Sullivan, “but he’s a wizard and wizards tend to give themselves all sorts of lovely titles.”
Flint’s line of questioning continued. “Does the name Iarno mean anything to you?”
“Not to me,” said Sullivan dismissively.
“What about Lord Albrek?”
Flint abruptly ended his interrogation, gave a quick nod of gratitude to the Townmaster, and headed back out into the street with the others following. The group headed northward up the street and made for the Stonehill Inn to see if they could catch Sildar.
Things were relatively lively for an afternoon at the inn. Toblen was busy tending to various tasks and the party spotted his young son Pip. Trilena was busy tending to customers. As the group looked around, the spotted a familiar face. Sildar was sitting down to a meal. The group approached and just as Flint was about to ask if they could sit, Sildar noticed them, his face beaming as he realized who had come to join him.
“Please! Friends! Come join me!”
The party huddled up at Sildar’s table and leaned in.
“I’ve heard you’ve been quite busy,” Sildar teased, “tell me, what news?”
“Glasstaff has eluded us,” offered Ered. “We…believe he was a rat.” The words sounded preposterous even to Ered as he spoke them aloud.
A booming laugh erupted from Sildar’s chest.
“The Lords’ Alliance…how many of its members do you know?” asked Flint.
“Well, it’s a large organization with members from several city-states. Iarno, as you know, has gone missing and he was sent to Phandalin on a mission given to him by the Lords’ Alliance.”
Flint handed Sildar the letter he had found in Glasstaff’s bedchambers. Sildar’s cheery demeanor was replaced by a grave expression as he read.
“This is worse than I imagined. It would seem that Iarno…and Glasstaff…are one and the same. I did not foresee this. I thought Iarno a good man. This is…unexpected and unfortunate. Did you find him?”
“No,” admitted Flint.
“I have heard that you went to Tresendar Manor. What did you find there?”
“Some very disturbing things,” said Flint, “this letter along with a foul creature that no one should be in league with. Also bugbears…”
“And many Redbrands,” interjected Ered.
“And many Redbrands,” Flint continued.
Sildar rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Did you find any other information about this Black Spider?”
“No,” Flint replied, “not beyond the seal on the letter. But we appear to have intercepted it before Iarno read it. It seemed as though Glasstaff left in a hurry due to our arrival.”
“Did you find anything that might lead us to the goblins’ castle, or to Gundren? Any sign…”
Flint interrupted Sildar, “I think we left behind the one clue that we need to find the Black Spider.”
“What would that be?” Sildar wondered aloud.
“Kevin,” the dwarf replied sheepishly.
“I’m sorry?” Sildar wasn’t sure who Flint was referring to. He searched his memory and then suddenly, he remembered. “THE GOBLIN?” he blurted, surprised to learn that the creature had been found.
“The goblin…we think he may be able to lead us to the Black Spider and we left him there. But he’s in a cell and we left someone on guard.”
“I was about to ask, is Faelyn watching the goblin?”
“YES!” Flint replied enthusiastically.
“So, he’s secure?”
“Oh, very secure,” assured the dwarf. “We have the only two keys we know of.”
As Flint and the others discussed the details of their next move with Sildar, the patrons of the Stonehill Inn began to recognize them. Lanar, the miner Ered had befriended days before, clapped him on the back and thanked the party for their service. The townsfolk at the other tables began to cheer and whistle for their heroes. Despite the townmaster’s reservations about celebrating prematurely with Glasstaff still on the loose, it seemed the people of Phandalin subscribed to no such dubiety. As far as they were concerned, the matter of the Redbrand Ruffians had been dealt with by this group of recently arrived protectors.
Kaster, not distracted by the admiration of the townspeople, was still considering the party’s next move.
“What do you know about Agatha?” he asked, looking at Sildar.
“Who is Agatha? Where did you hear that name?”
Kaster explained that the keeper of the Shrine of Luck, Sister Garaele, had talked to the group about visiting Conyberry in an effort to seek out the banshee called Agatha in the hopes that she might be able to answer a question.
“I’m sorry…I don’t mean to interrupt,” said a voice behind Kaster. It was a peasant farmer, a resident of Phandalin. “The name’s Narth. I don’t meant to interrupt, but did I hear you mention Sister Garaele?”
“Yes you did,” answered Flint.
“Well, it was just recently that she left Phandalin for a number days,” continued the farmer. “Nearly a tenday…we were all growing quite concerned for her. She eventually returned…wounded. She seems fine now, but she hasn’t revealed much about what happened. She’s a fine woman and the town is very happy to have her here to maintain the shrine. We’ve all been quite concerned for her safety.”
The group decided that it might prove fruitful to pay another visit to Sister Garaele. They gathered their things, bid Sildar farewell, and headed out of the inn. They crossed the street and passed the Shrine of Luck before reaching Sister Garaele’s home. The elf was out front and spotted the adventurers coming towards her. She raised her hand in greeting.
“Hello friends! Have you given further consideration to completing the task I set before you?”
Ered stepped forward and gave Garaele a curious look, “We first wanted to inquire about your recent travels."
“Yes,” Kaster walked up behind Ered, “we have heard you were injured recently.”
“Well,” she began, “I was in the woods, trying to find Agatha’s lair near Conyberry, and I ran into some trouble along the way. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it was nothing too serious. I’m fine now. Thank you for your concern. I never did find Agatha’s lair and now, quite frankly, I have more pressing matters to attend to. So, if you have the time and the inclination, if you could take this silver comb to Agatha to find out what happened to Bowgentle’s spellbook, I would be in your debt…which is to say, there is a reward in it for you.”
“We’d be happy to take that for you,” offered Kaster as he took the comb. “We’ll be headed that direction later on.”
“Be careful with this,” warned Garaele. “It is of great value. Not just because of the precious metal, but due to its meaning to Agatha in particular. I’m putting my trust in you.”
The sun was still several hours from setting and Ered was eager to show Daran Edermath the sword he had found in Tresendar manor in the hopes that he might gain some information about it, so the party thanked Garaele and headed towards the orchard. The retired adventurer was tending to his apple trees. He greeted them as they approached.
“Well, hello my friends.” He playfully tossed an apple in the direction of Thalia, who caught it.
Ered was the first to respond. “Daran, we’ve tried to drive out the Redbrands.”
“Yes, I’ve heard that you have had some success in that department,” the old half-elf interjected.
“Sadly, Glasstaff has eluded us,” admitted Ered.
“That is disappointing. I have some resources that I might be able to set on that little task…see if he turns up.”
Ered was relieved to hear this. “I think we just missed him.”
“That would not surprise me. I suspect that he is a slippery one.”
“We think he also goes by another name.”
“Iarno Albrek,” said Flint, eager to learn more about their quarry.
Daran Edermath’s demeanor quickly went from jovial to earnest. “Hmmm…most interesting. I know of Lord Albrek’s mission here in Phandalin. It seems he carried it out, though not as the Lords’ Alliance had intended.”
“It seems Lord Albrek and Glasstaff are one and the same,” said the dwarf.
“That makes sense.”
Ered looked surprised. “You mean you suspected Albrek?”
“No, I wouldn’t have expected this. I didn’t really know the man. However, given that he does appear to have fulfilled Lord Albrek’s mission, after a fashion, it does seem likely that Glasstaff is his alias. Iarno was a magic user as Glasstaff has been reputed to be.”
“What was his mission?” asked Ered.
“The Lord’s Alliance sent Iarno here to establish a constabulary and secure the town of Phandalin from the increasingly menacing surroundings. The Lords’ Alliance is interested in keeping the peace and preserving order.”
Ered’s voice betrayed his astonishment at what he was hearing. “And you believe that’s what the Redbrands were here to do?”
“No, I don’t believe the Redbrands were here to do that at all. I believe that’s what Iarno Albrek was sent here to do, and he did recruit people for his militia, but those were the Redbrands you ran into. Those scoundrels are not the type the Lords’ Alliance would typically encourage one of their agents employ.”
Ered now understood Daran’s theory. Satisfied, he quickly moved on to the subject of his recently acquired weapon. “While we were in Tresendar Manor, I was able to find this.” He held out the silver-chased scabbard and sword. “Is there anything you can tell me about this?”
“May I see it?” Daran asked, reaching out for the weapon. Ered nodded and put the blade in the half-elf’s outstretched hands.
“Where did you find this sword?”
“It was in a chest underneath a bridge.”
“A chest you say…did anyone claim ownership to it?”
“No, it was just in a chest.”
“Well,” Daran paused thoughtfully. “I can tell you this is definitely a sword of the House of Tresendar. Have you noticed anything strange about this sword? Do you feel any connection to it?”
The question puzzled Ered. The warrior had to admit that the weapon had been in his thoughts a great deal since he encountered it. It was as if he was meant to find it. Daran continued examining the weapon. He seemed to pay especially close attention to the sapphires in the hilt of the weapon. As he ran his fingers over the gems, he looked up at the handle of Ered’s axe which, when stowed, sprouted up behind the large man’s head.
“Your axe…the sapphire…where did that come from?”
“It was left to me by my mother.”
“Well, my friend…the fact that you share a name with that house, that manor on the east side of our town, I believe is no coincidence. Particularly, the fact that you feel a connection to this weapon is quite curious indeed.”
Daran Edermath looked at Ered and knew that the warrior was keen to learn as much as he could about his family and this weapon.
“This is the sword Talon and it belonged to Sir Aldith Tresendar, also known as The Black Hawk. He was a great knight who died fighting the orcs that attacked this area hundreds of years ago. My understanding was that the sword was lost when Sir Aldith was killed, but given that he died defending Tresendar Manor, it’s not terribly surprising that you should find it there. Indulge me, if you would. Ask your sword to point the way home.”
Ered was skeptical. “Ask my sword to point the way home?”
“Yes,” said Daran, handing the weapon back.
Ered drew Talon from its scabbard and held the sword up. The low-hanging sun glinted off of the blade as Ered commanded, “Show me the way home!” Ered felt the weapon jerk in his hand. The sword was undeniably pulling, drawn by some impulse. He turned with the blade, spinning slowly about until the unseen force stopped, firmly fixed in an easterly direction towards Tresendar Manor.
“My friend,” Daran told Ered, “the only person that could do that would be a direct heir to Aldith Tresendar.”
“So…I’ve found my family?” Ered asked hopefully. “Is there anything more you can tell me about them?”
“I’m afraid that’s as much as I know about Sir Aldith,” said Daran, sadly. “But it would seem that Tresendar Manor is rightfully yours. My suggestion to you…the next time you have a period to rest and concentrate, sit with your sword. Study it. Practice wielding it. Spend some time with the weapon and see if you can’t enhance that connection you feel.”
“One more thing…do you know anything of my mother?” Ered asked.
“I’m afraid I don’t.” Daran sincerely wished that he had more to offer Ered, but alas, his knowledge of the Tresendar legacy was limited. “Did you not know your mother?”
“I was a child when I was separated from her.”
“I am sorry…no, I am afraid I did not know your mother. In fact, you are the first Tresendar I have met.”
“Well,” said Ered, somewhat disappointed, “thank you.”
“Perhaps, when you are ready, we can approach the townmaster to see what sort of arrangements we can make regarding Tresendar Manor.”
“Do you know anything of these rings,” asked Ered, holding out his hand with the three rings found in the Tresendar crypts.
Daran took the rings and inspected them.
“These are the signet rings of the House of Tresendar. Where did you find them?”
“The crypts in the manor.”
“Yes, that stands to reason. They belonged to your ancestors.”
Ered put on one of the rings which, to his surprise, fit perfectly.
Kaster asked Daran about the road out of town that led to Old Owl Well. The half-elf warned them that the wilderness around Phandalin was treacherous, especially at night. He went on to remind the party about the rumors he’d heard from miners in town that had been working near the ruins in that area.
The group parted from Daran Edermath and his orchard, thanking him for his help. After some discussion, they felt it might be prudent to check on Faelyn and see if they could get any information out of the goblin. Ered suggested that, before they return, they should stop by Alderleaf Farm to see if anyone there had caught a glimpse of anyone strange passing through the area. Flint liked the idea, but suggested their time might be better spent making such inquiries closer to the road out of town. They turned north and headed up the road to Barthen’s Provisions. Elmar Barthen was out front preparing to close up shop for the day. He saw the adventurers approaching and greeted them. Flint launched straight into questioning the old shopkeeper about Iarno Albrek.
“Uhhh…I don’t know that anyone ’round here other than Sildar really knew the man well. He was in town for a time…”
“Do you know what he looked like?” Flint interrupted.
Elmar noted the urgency with which Flint tossed questions at him, but he was cooperative. “Mm…yes, he had dark hair. A beard. He had some sort of white weasel fur coat.” Kaster snickered at the description.
“Have you seen him today?” demanded the dwarf.
“No,” Elmar said emphatically, “I haven’t seen him in tendays…perhaps months.”
“He could still be in town,” observed Flint talking to the others in the party.
“Noticed a rat problem?” joked Kaster.
It was a throwaway comment, but it caught Elmar’s attention. "Sorry, did you say rat?
“YES!” the party replied in unison.
“I seem to recall that Iarno,” the old man said thoughtfully “…had a RAT.” The revulsion in the man’s voice was apparent at the mention of the rodent. “Used to ride on his shoulder. It was strange. It made approaching him for conversation a less than attractive proposition.”
The adventurers began talking amongst themselves about the rat, it’s relationship with Iarno, and the identity of the wizard who had led the Redbrands. There were still more questions than answers.
Ered looked over at Elmar, “Is there a way for anyone to leave town easily without passing this way?”
The shopkeep considered the question for a moment. “Not easily…there are foothills on the other side of the woods to the east. But even the road isn’t particularly safe these days. No, I’d say normally, anyone leaving town would pass this way and I would likely have noticed.”
They thanked Elmar Barthen and headed south back to the center of town.
Flint was ready to get back to the manor. Ered wanted to make a stop or two along the way. They turned left at the Stonehill Inn and continued east until they were in front of the Sleeping Giant tap house. Ered was eager to enter, though it was unclear if his motives were truly investigative as he claimed, or if he just fancied an ale. They entered the tap house and were greeted to a poorly lit, musty little room. There was one very old patron sitting by himself at one of the tables in the corner. Behind the bar was an unfriendly looking female dwarf. She stood there drying mugs with a rag and scowling at the party as they entered. In an attempt to win her over, Ered belted out a dwarvish greeting. The dwarf behind the bar nodded, but she was unimpressed.
“How has the evening been, m’lady?” the large man said as he approached the bar.
“It’d be better if I had some customers besides that old geezer,” she said, gesturing towards the old man in the corner. “You lot drove off all of my business.”
“Terribly sorry,” Ered said as he slammed his purse onto the bar. “I’ll buy a round.”
“Normally, I wouldn’t want your money,” she sneered, “but, as I have no other customers…”
The diminutive barkeep quickly poured four mugs of ale and slid them down the bar to her new guests.
“That’ll be 4 copper each.”
“4 copper?” protested Ered.
“It’s the going rate. Don’t complain.” the dwarf scolded.
“I’ll give you 20 for the ale plus a bit of information.”
“Have you seen a man with dark hair…beard…white fur coat…”
“The rat man?” asked the dwarf.
“The rat man,” confirmed Ered.
“I’ve seen ’em…not lately.”
“When was the last time?”
“Been over a month ago.”
The dwarf went back to cleaning up behind the bar. The party finished their ale. Before heading for the door, Ered purchased a bit of dried meat from the barkeep. The goblin had been locked up for a considerable amount of time without food, and Ered hoped this might serve to ply some information out of him. As the others began to exit the tap house, Ered paused to study the old man in the corner. “Have you seen a man with dark hair, a dark beard, and a white fur coat pass through here recently?” he shouted at the old man.
The aged patron looked up at Ered with milky eyes. “Eh?”
“Have a good evening sir,” replied Ered begrudgingly. He felt cheated out of what should have been a solid lead.
As the compatriots stepped out into the street, the sun was setting. They headed up the winding road that led east towards the manor. Rather than travel up the hill, they opted to hop the ruined wall and head into the woods to enter once again through the hidden tunnel. Once they came into the main chamber, they crossed over the bridge and then headed back to the secret door leading to the armory. They turned south and passed through the crypt and eventually found their way back into the holding cell where they had left the goblin. Slig looked up at the party as they entered the room and managed to maintain consciousness. He made nervous little chattering noises as they approached the cell. The goblin was unsure of his fate. In spite of his terror at the sight of his former captors, he made his best effort to appear supplicant as he attempted to grunt out an appropriate greeting to his would-be rescuers. A tentative, unintelligible muttering was all he was able to manage.
“Alright, Kevin. I’ve brought you something to eat,” said Ered as he pulled the dried meat from his pack. “Are you hungry?”
“Ah, thank you, yes!” The creature reached through the bars and held out his hands.
“Before I give it to you…” Ered paused and the creature let out a subtle, but audible growl of impatience. “…I need you to give me some information. How long have you been here?”
The goblin had a puzzled look on his face. He seemed unsure of how to respond.
“What brought you this way?” probed Ered, becoming impatient. The goblin stared blankly.
“Who put you in the cell?” asked Flint.
The goblin was relieved to get a question it could provide an answer to. “Uhhh…bugbears!”
“Who told them to put you in here?” pressed the dwarf.
Slig was crestfallen that the line of questioning had so quickly returned to things he could not answer. They would kill him for sure, he thought.
“Was there a human here,” asked Kaster, “that wore a white coat?”
“Beard!” Slig yelled excitedly. “Beard?” The goblin looked for some assurances from the adventurers.
“Yes, a dark beard,” said Ered.
“A dark haired man?” Ered asked eagerly.
“Yes!” Slig began to feel as though he might make it through this.
“Did he have a coat on?” Ered was growing impatient and Slig did not entirely understand the question.
“Was it made of glass?” asked Flint.
Slig knew he was on the right track. “Yes! Shiny!”
“Did he have a rat with him?” queried Kaster.
“No.” Desperate to offer up something affirmative, the goblin tried to remember as much as he could about the wizard. “Unh! White!” he shouted, draping his green hand over his own neck.
“Collar?” helped Kaster.
“Did he say where he was going?” the dwarf said, hoping for a lead.
Ered held up the dried meat. “Can you tell us anything more about this man with the glass staff?”
Slig was desparate for something to eat and was eager to confirm what he thought the largest one was wanting to know. “Glasstaff!” he shouted.
Kaster and Flint both started shouting at the goblin. “What about The Black Spider? Where is The Black Spider?”
A look of fear came over Slig and he let out a low utterance that suggested dread. The goblin shook his head.
“You don’t know, or you don’t want to tell us?” asked Ered. The goblin just continued shaking his head.
Kaster stepped towards the gate to the cell. The room filled with a bright light emanating from the sorcerer and his voice became thunderous. “KEVIN! TELL US WHAT WE WANT TO KNOW!”
The goblin cowered in fear. “Where is The Black Spider?” shouted Ered.
“Don’t know!” cried the goblin, covering his face with his hands as he tried to press himself into the corner of the cell furthest away from the terrifying noise and light.
The light faded and things got quiet. Flint took a softer tone. “Why did they put you in here?”
“No like Slig…”
The goblin paused for a moment, then decided to embrace the name the party had given him in a show of cooperation. “Kevin! Kevin! No like Kevin,” he corrected.
“What did you do that they don’t like, Kevin?” demanded Kaster.
“Bugbears…mean.” The goblin shrugged, hard pressed to come up with a better answer.
“You’re not telling us anything useful, Kevin,” Kaster threatened.
The goblin whimpered. He tried as hard as he was able to think of something, anything, which could possibly satisfy these powerful and persistent threats to his well-being. “Dwarf!” he said at last.
“What about the dwarf?” Kaster prodded.
“Dwarf at castle!”
Slig was more afraid than hungry at this point, but Ered held up the dried meat as a reminder. “Where is the castle?”
“Where in the woods, Kevin? Can you show us?” Ered dangled the morsel.
“Yes?” the goblin replied, unsure for a moment where this was leading. He soon got his answer.
“Can you take us there?” Slig knew had had no choice but to respond in the affirmative to Ered’s question.
“Yes.” he replied, defeated. He wanted nothing more than to get away from these people, but it seems he would be their captive once again. Ered removed the rope from the side of his back and prepared to bind the goblin, but he first handed him the prize he’d been withholding. The goblin grabbed the dried meat and ate it greedily, even managing a “thank you.” Once he’d finished, Ered tied the goblin’s wrists and the entire party went back to the wizard’s bedchambers to check on Faelyn. The half-elf was still unconscious, but she was breathing normally and seemed stable. Ered gently lifted her up and put her on his shoulder and, the party reunited, they exited Tresendar Manor with the goblin in tow. They decided to take Faelyn to Garaele. It seemed best to leave the ranger in the hands of a cleric given her condition. Night had fallen by the time they had come back out through the tunnel, but all the same, they walked in a tightly bunched group with the goblin at the center. There was no need to raise any more alarm with the poor townsfolk. They had been through enough as it was. The party made their way to Garaele’s home without incident. They knocked on the elf’s door. When she answered, they explained what had happened to Faelyn and their plans to seek out Cragmaw Castle in the morning. Garaele assured them all that Faelyn would be well taken care of. Kevin stood by awkwardly as Garaele gazed at him for some time. She then shared a knowing look with the rest of the party before setting to work making Faelyn comfortable. Knowing that the ranger would be looked after, the companions thanked Sister Garaele and left to seek out their own shelter for the night.
The group ended up back at Edermath Orchard. They spoke with Daran Edermath and explained that Faelyn was now in the care of Sister Garaele, which he seemed pleased to hear. Ered tied Kevin to a tree, but the goblin didn’t seem to mind as there were plenty of apples on the ground for him to gorge himself on, which he set about doing as Ered bound him around the waist. Inside, Daran was bringing out blankets and laying them out on the floor in the main room of his home. He was very accommodating and seemed genuinely pleased to have some company. They all got comfortable and settled in for the night. Long after the others had fallen asleep, Ered was still sitting with Talon, contemplating the weapon and wondering what had become of his family.
25th day of the Time of Flowers – 1481 DR
The night passed uneventfully. In the morning, Daran Edermath was puttering around the kitchen preparing breakfast for his guests. They enjoyed a meal together, and then at Flint’s prompting, Ered asked the half-elf if he’d be willing to accompany the party to the Townmaster’s Hall to lay claim to Tresendar Manor. Thalia was left to keep an eye on the goblin while Daran and the others made their way to the Townmaster’s Hall. As they entered the building, Harbin Wester was standing in the main foyer. The anxious look on his face at the sight of Ered and the others escalated to full-blown agitation when he saw that Daran Edermath accompanied them. No good would come of this, he was certain. Despite his misgivings, he greeted the group with a cordial bow.
“Good morning! So good to see you again. How may I be of service?”
“I am here to claim my ancestral property,” offered Ered.
Harbin Wester let out an audible sigh. “I assume you are talking about Tresendar Manor,” he said with an undertone of impatience. Ered nodded.
“And what claim do you have on the place? I realize your name is Tresendar…or so you say…but what legitimacy is there to your claim?”
“I bear the sword of Aldith Tresendar.” Ered held up Talon as he said this.
“And I’m princess of Waterdeep,” spat Harbin Wester sardonically. “How does that prove anything?”
“It’s a magical sword,” said Ered defensively. “Only a legitimate heir of the Tresendar family can use this weapon.”
Daran Edermath put his hand on Ered’s shoulder and addressed the townmaster.
“He’s telling the truth, Harbin. I’ve seen enough to be convinced.”
“Show him!” urged Kaster.
Flint anticipated the demonstration that was about to take place, but he was doubtful that the townmaster would be persuaded.
“Show me the way home!” commanded Ered holding Talon aloft. The sword jolted in his hand and pointed east northeast in the direction of Tresendar Manor. They all looked to Harbin Wester and, as Flint had guessed, the expression on the townmaster’s face was one of skepticism. After a long pause, Harbin Wester looked to Ered and spoke.
“Do you have any documentation to back up this claim?”
“All I have from my family is the sapphire in my axe that was given to me by my mother. It is the same as those in this sword.”
“I’m afraid gemstones don’t quite…”
“What about the signet rings?” interrupted Flint.
“Well, I understand you’ve all been plundering Tresendar Manor for the past several days, so you’ll forgive me if I’m a little suspicious about how you acquired those.”
Kaster stepped in and assured the townmaster that Ered’s claim to Tresendar Manor was a lawful one. Harbin Wester, already somewhat convinced about Kaster’s noble heritage and showing some deference to the sorcerer, conceded that if Kaster would vouch for Ered, he could look into the matter further.
“From one lord to another,” Kaster stood closer to Ered, “I vouch for this man."
“Very well, we’ll see what we can discover. Master Edermath, I expect you’ll be quite useful in this regard. If we can validate your claim that this manor is yours, Ered Tresendar, then by all means…we will honor it.” The townmaster chortled a little as he said this. He saw no intrinsic value in the manor in its current state, so if this man was the rightful owner, he had no reason to see it as a loss to the town. His reluctance mainly stemmed from not wanting to spend the necessary time and energy required to verify Ered’s claim when more pressing matters were at hand.
“Has there been any progress on tracking down Glasstaff?” he asked the group.
“We’re heading north to find him,” proffered Flint, “but it seems that he has left town.”
Kaster noted the townmaster’s look of concern. “We have a very strong lead,” he told him.
“Let us be clear on this. Glasstaff is still at large and you’re leaving town? Do I understand you correctly?”
“All the Redbrands are dead,” said the dwarf, “but we will be leaving to pursue Glasstaff.”
“Very well. What can you do to guarantee the security of Phandalin in your absence? Now that you’ve stirred up this hornets’ nest, I’m afraid we need some assurance that you’ll be back to take care of any problems that result from your actions.”
Flint considered this for a moment before responding. “We have business in town…a task to complete for Sister Garaele that will bring us back this way. In the meantime, a member of our party will be staying with her.”
“Ah…and these orcs to the east?”
“We will be pursuing that as well,” Flint assured him.
Kaster cut in, “Our lead may very well take us right to them.”
“I wish you the best of luck. Provided you return, which I hope you will, we’ll iron out the matter of the claim to Tresendar Manor.”
The group returned to Edermath Orchard to meet up with Thalia and the goblin. Daran offered them what supplies he had on hand (mainly apples) and they said their farewells. Ered grabbed the rope by which the goblin was secured. They headed north on the road that led out of town. The group closed ranks around Kevin as they walked so as to not draw attention to the fact that they had a goblin among them. Once they felt they were far enough up the road to avoid prying eyes, they let Kevin take the lead. “Which way, Kevin? North? South? East? West?” Kaster took a stern tone with the goblin in order to maintain his influence over the creature. The goblin gestured to the north. It seemed they would need to head at least as far as the Triboar Trail. “Kevin, what would the bugbears do to you if you lied to them?” the sorcerer asked threateningly. The goblin grunted as he considered the best answer to give.
“Lock in jail?” he postulated.
“Really? Is that all they would do?”
“They would make you lick the floor?” Ered teased. The goblin cringed at the reminder of his treatment at the hands of the bugbears.
“Please don’t be lying to us, Kevin,” advised Kaster.
“No…Kevin no lie. Kevin friend! Kevin help!”
“You did run away once, Kevin,” reminded Flint.
“No! No run away!”
“We’d hate to have to break your legs, Kevin,” added the dwarf.
Slig groaned at the thought.
By mid-afternoon, they had reached the Triboar Trail safely. They stopped for a moment to unpack some of the provisions that Daran Edermath had provided them, but they only stopped long enough to eat a quick meal and be on their way.
“Alright, Kevin…where to?” asked Ered with a gentle tug on the tether between them. The goblin gestured to their right where the road led to the northeast.
“We go down road…then to woods.”
“Where do we turn off of the road?” asked Ered.
The goblin struggled to articulate an answer, but based on his fragmented response, they determined that they were a little less than halfway to their destination. They turned right onto the Triboar Trail and made off in a northeasterly direction following the road.
Over the next several hours, the group traveled at a steady pace and had gone about a dozen miles before the sun began to sink towards the horizon. It was around sunset when the goblin led the party off of the road and towards the tree line of Neverwinter Wood to the north. Ered wondered aloud whether or not they should make camp for the night, but Flint was determined to proceed. Without further discussion, Ered drew Talon and Flint uttered an incantation. The blade suddenly burst with bright light that would allow the humans to see as they traveled through the increasingly darkening woods.
The relative flatness of the Triboar Trail gave way to an undulating landscape as they entered Neverwinter Wood. The thorny brambles caught and tugged at their travel clothes. The companions faltered and stumbled as their toes found the occasional tree root in the tall blades of grass. Talon, imbued with the radiance of Flint’s spell, was held aloft in Ered’s hand as he traversed the hilly terrain. The branches and trunks of the trees threw off disconcerting shadows. The goblin seemed more and more eager as they progressed. The party could sense that they were nearing their destination, though they were not entirely sure what they would find. The trees parted as they came upon the ruin of a large castle. There were seven overlapping towers in various states of dilapidation. Some crude attempts had been made to shore up some of the more exposed areas of the stronghold with timbers and such, but this old fortification was clearly not constructed by goblins. To the west, a pair of opposing staircases led up to a landing and the remains of a large wooden door that had been knocked off of its hinges long ago. To the south, a single staircase led up to a postern with a large iron door. The thick stone walls all around the castle were lined with arrow slits. The party approached cautiously.
“What’s in here, Kevin?” Kaster demanded, a growing sense of anxiety detectable in his voice.
“King Grol,” the goblin replied ominously, “…and dwarf!”
The group began to wonder, now that Kevin had brought them to their destination as promised, what to do with the goblin next.
“If we untie you Kevin, what are you going to do?”
“Uhhhh…” the goblin hesitated, searching for the answer he thought Kaster would most want to hear. “Serve!” he insisted, as though the choice were an obvious one.
“You said there was a dwarf here,” put in Flint. “Is he a guest?”
“Yes,” replied Kevin, mischief in his tone.
“Is he a prisoner?” asked Kaster.
“Yyyes,” the goblin admitted reluctantly.
“So, not a guest,” corrected Flint.
“Ummmm…goblin guest,” Kevin explained.
“What will the king do to you if he finds you with us?”
At this question from Kaster, the goblin let out an apprehensive groan. “Kevin doesn’t want to know.”
“If we let you go,” said Ered with a gentle tug of the rope binding the creature, “will you run off into the woods or into the castle?”
“What would you like?” he asked, eager not to anger his captors.
“Run into the woods,” suggested Flint.
“Kevin can run,” the goblin assured them.
The party explained to Kevin that they were releasing him from their service and commanded him to leave the area and keep out of trouble.
“Thank you for sparing Kevin!” the goblin said, feeling the closest thing to genuine gratitude the creature had ever experienced.
“If we cross paths again,” warned Flint, “we will not be so friendly.”
With that, the goblin bounced off into the woods towards the road and vanished in the darkness.
The band of adventurers took a few moments to quietly prepare to enter the castle. When they were all ready, Flint quietly crept up the southern staircase to the entryway. Ered followed close behind, then Kaster, and finally Thalia. It took some brute strength, but the dwarf managed to open the solid, metal door. Despite his most surreptitious efforts, the force with which Flint had applied to the door caused it to fly open suddenly. A racket echoed through the castle as it clanged into the stone wall. The party waited for some response to the noise, and though none came, they were convinced that their arrival had not gone unnoticed.
Beyond the doorway was a corridor. A few feet ahead, a new passageway opened up to the left. Beyond that, the main corridor continued on towards the north. Rubble from the upper level of the castle had fallen down into the hallway. Flint considered his options. The northern passage was somewhat obscured and seemed impassible. Kaster looked at Flint and motioned silently to the left passage. Flint turned and faced a sizable wooden door down a much shorter hallway. He started to reach for the door when Ered grasped his arm to stop him. The dwarf hesitated and Ered pointed towards the door and then raised a hand to his ear to signify that he had heard something. They all held their collective breath as they listened intently. Behind the door they could hear the clatter of pots and dishes interspersed with the loud grumbling of indignant goblins.
Flint signaled for Thalia to come forward and the elf moved towards the door, slipping past the others. Hoping to get a better look at what they might be dealing with, Thalia gingerly opened the door just enough to poke her head into the room on the other side. The room was full of goblins, half a dozen or more, who were toiling away placing cups and plates onto a pair of long tables in the middle of the room. Half-full stewpots, moldy heels of bread, and gnawed bones were scattered about their surfaces. The plain benches along the sides of each table were still empty for the time being. The ceiling soared twenty-five feet high. This place had likely served as the castle banquet hall in the distant past. As Thalia examined the room, she suddenly realized a small goblin was only a few feet behind the door and staring directly at her with a stunned look on its face. Without a word, the elf quietly backed out of the room and shut the door behind her. The other members of the party watched Thalia as she maneuvered away from the door to get behind Flint, eagerness in their eyes as they awaited her report. She looked up at her companions, a contrite expression on her face. Just as she was about to speak, the door she had just closed opened. The small goblin on the other side was surprised to find, not the diminutive elf he had just seen, but a large armed and armored dwarf standing before him.
Ered was the first to react. He sidled past Flint and moved towards the goblin with Talon drawn. Ered swung his sword at the goblin. Perhaps the darkness was affecting his vision or the nimbleness of his target allowed the creature to dodge, but in any case, his attack did not connect. Flint gave Ered a slight tap with his shield to get the man to move to the side. He stepped back a few paces and let loose a streaking flash of light towards the little goblin. The creature screamed and cowered to the floor as the bolt of light flew harmlessly over its head and into the banquet hall. The goblin stood up, unsheathed its scimitar, and ran at Ered. Thalia, who was behind and to the right of Flint, let loose an arrow at the creature’s exposed belly. The arrow pierced the goblin’s vital organs and it crumpled to the stone, the life fading from its eyes.
Another goblin came charging through the doorway towards Flint. The creature took a swipe with its scimitar, but the blade glanced harmlessly off of the dwarf’s mail shirt. Another of the vile beasties shot at Flint through the doorway with its shortbow, but the cleric managed to deflect the incoming arrow with his shield. Scimitar armed goblins started pouring one-by-one out into the small hallway. A few of them with bows fired arrows from the banquet hall. Flint took the brunt of the attacks, but he managed to avoid any lethal blows. From the north part of the room came a particularly fat and cantankerous goblin, called Yegg. He was the chief cook for the Cragmaws and was the leader of this particular group working in the banquet hall. He came through the doorway and approached the dwarf, who was still tangling with the flood of creatures that had already streamed into the hall. Yegg lashed out with a blade towards Flint, but with all of the commotion in the tiny corridor, the bulbous goblin could not reach his target.
Kaster, who had yet to fully enter the castle, stepped in from the landing just outside the postern. He made a gesture with his hand as whispered an invocation. Three glowing darts of magical force suddenly burst forth from his finger tips and flew down the corridor. Each of the three bedazzling projectiles whizzed down the hall, turned slightly to the left, and rent violently into Yegg. The creature’s flabby corpse, wet with blood, slapped loudly to the flagstone floor.
Meanwhile, Ered was flailing at two goblins directly in front of him. At the sight of Yegg falling to the party’s powerful sorcerer, the creatures decided their best course of action was to flee. They ran back through the doorway into the banquet hall. All of the remaining goblins were now shrieking and running to the west. Between two large piles of debris was a path leading to the castle’s southwest tower, which seemed to be where the creatures were heading. Flint entered the banquet hall and headed for a door along the northern wall. He opened it and peered into the main hall of the castle, but saw nothing of significance save the battered gates lying in ruins at the entrance. The wooden doors had been covered in bronze, but they now lay corroded and collapsed on the floor. A goblin sensing an opportunity, started approaching the dwarf from behind. Flint wheeled around and let a bolt of radiant energy fly towards the creature, but missed. The goblin was on him. The creature made a slashing attack with its scimitar, but the blade bounced harmlessly off of Flint’s shield. The goblin lost its footing as the dwarf’s shield bashed against its face. Flint quickly dispatched the creature with a powerful counterattack from his warhammer.
The rest of the goblins were starting to pile up, furiously attempting to get down the path between the mounds of rubble. Thalia shot arrows at the little fiends, but was failing to connect. Kaster, keen on trying his own projectile weapon, brought out his crossbow and loaded a bolt. He positioned himself near the doorway that led to the banquet hall and let loose his shot, but still, the muddle of goblin bodies between the heaps of dust and stone managed to avoid taking any hits.
Ered, who had still been in the short hallway, rushed into the banquet hall and lunged at the last goblin to head for the tower. The creature cried out in pain as Ered swiped his sword across the its back. Talon had its first taste of blood in centuries, but the goblin was only wounded. It whipped around with its scimitar to retaliate, but Ered avoided the swing.
The goblins that had been running to the tower were suddenly coming back into the banquet hall with reinforcements. They ran at Ered and attempted to surround him, all the while hacking with their scimitars. Ered managed to fend them off with his sword and shield. Unbeknownst to the rest of the party, another pair of goblins had moved out of the tower into the main hall and were preparing to enter the northern door where Flint was standing.
Kaster, who had now moved just behind Thalia, launched another salvo of shimmering magical darts. They flew past the elf and into the banquet hall. One of them ripped through the throat of the goblin Ered had been tangling with, killing it. The other two darts buried themselves into a goblin that was creeping up behind Ered, injuring the evildoer.
Flint and Ered now found themselves with a pair of goblins in between them. Ered took a swing at the one on top of the long table, but the little devil was quick and managed to jump over Talon as it swept at his legs. Flint was having as much luck with the other. The surviving goblin from Kaster’s earlier attack was still behind Ered and closing in. Thalia attempted to take it out with a shot from her bow, but as she pulled back the string, it snapped, rendering the weapon useless. The closing enemy lashed out at Ered, but the warrior was able to fend off the assault with his shield while also parrying incoming strikes from the goblin atop the table. Flint continued the struggle with his own opponent. As the companions battled on, several other goblins ran in from the tower. Two of them engaged the dwarf who was now surrounded. They slashed at him, but Flint’s mail saved him again. Two more joined in against Ered, but the little fiends were no match for the more able fighters.
Kaster, still standing behind Thalia, let more magic missiles fly from his fingertips into the crowded banquet hall. A pair of the glowing spikes of energy ended the life of the goblin at Ered’s back. Another dart sheered sharply to the right and into one of Flint’s opponents. The goblin shrieked in agony, not realizing where the magical attack was coming from.
Ered, now free from the impending rearward attack, focused on the goblins in front of him. He ran Talon straight through the chest of one of the creatures, killing it. At almost the same moment, Flint brought his warhammer crushing down on one of his three opponents, delivering a lethal blow. As Flint turned to fend off an attack from behind with his shield, he left himself open to the creature in front of him. Thalia, her bow now out of commission, drew her shortsword and rushed past Ered and towards the monster in front of the dwarf. The unfortunate goblin, thinking he had Flint dead-to-rights, turned just in time to see the wild elf’s enraged expression. The fiend suddenly felt the cold steel of her blade pierce its heart. As she did this, the goblin to her left, still atop the table, took a swing at her and missed. Thalia was so distracted by the frenzy of violence around her that she failed to spot the goblin that had snuck back into the southwest tower from the main concourse, having abandoned its earlier attempt to flank the group from the banquet hall’s northern doorway. She heard the shot from the wretch’s bow at the same moment she felt the arrow’s impact. The elf cringed at the searing pain in her side, but nothing vital had been hit. Another arrow from a second goblin in the tower skimmed harmlessly through her hair. She had been lucky. Behind her, yet another goblin ran up to engage Ered. It lashed out with its weapon and the expert swordsman parried the blow.
Kaster, who saw the arrows come from the pathway leading to the southwest tower, came rushing into the banquet hall. He jumped up on the nearest table, spoke some magic words, and unfurled his fingertips, releasing a small burst of flame in the direction of the tower goblins. Light cascaded across the dark walls of the castle as the bolt of fire and smoke streaked between the mounds of rubble, landing squarely into the shoulder of one of the goblins. Ered’s foe, distracted by Kaster’s display, soon regretted the loss of focus. The warrior took advantage of the opening and ran Talon through the creature’s chest and out its back.
The tide of the battle had definitely swung in favor of the band of adventurers. No less than seven dead goblins lay scattered about the banquet hall. Flint and Thalia were each paired off with their own adversary. Kaster was still atop one of the tables preparing another attack, and Ered with Talon in hand was seeking out a new target. Kaster released another bolt of fire, this one a bit more substantial, at his previous target. Still recovering from the sorcerer’s preceding attack, the creature was batting out the flames on its leather armor when the second flash of flame streaked towards it. This time the goblin was completely engulfed. Its confederate watched helplessly as the flaming creature thrashed wildly about before collapsing to the floor, motionless.
Ered joined Thalia in her struggle against the speedy little beast atop the far table. The goblin leapt over Thalia’s blade and she sliced through nothing but air. The creature counterattacked, but the elf ducked in time to avoid the goblin’s scimitar. Just as Ered was about to strike the creature, another one came rushing at him from the tower. It connected with its strike, but Ered came away with nothing more than a minor flesh wound. Kaster, seeing his comrade in danger, let another flaming bolt fly, hitting Ered’s attacker. The creature survived the magical attack, but only long enough to see Ered drive Talon through its belly. Nearby, Flint wielded his warhammer expertly. He heaved the weapon into his foe, pasting the goblin against the northern wall. A crimson geyser erupted and the stone was awash in goblin blood.
The party had suffered a few minor wounds, but they now faced but a single enemy. Flint, full of adrenaline, rushed over to Thalia and Ered. The three of them now surrounded the final goblin and Kaster, from the other table, was lining up another spell attack. But there would be no need. Flint was able to crush the vile thing with his warhammer. The party stood victorious.
Kaster hopped from the table and immediately started going through Yegg’s pockets. He moved on to the other dead goblins, one by one, but it ended up being a fruitless endeavor. Thalia set to work restringing her bow. In the meantime, Flint made his way for the northern door of the banquet hall and opened it to get a better look at the castle layout. Directly in front of him was a wall. To his right was a door heading east. Down a wide passage a bit to his left, he could see two doors – one leading north and another which seemed to lead to the northwest tower of the castle. To his right was a wall with a door that lead to the eastern part of the castle. Night had set in fully outside and the castle interior was completely dark. Still, his dwarven eyes were adept even in the gloomiest of conditions. As he scanned the floor in front of the eastern doorway to his right, he noticed a thin line running across the flagstones. Upon closer inspection, he discovered that it was a fine strand of copper wire. Each end of the wire had been fixed into the opposing walls so that it was suspended a few inches off of the floor. Flint stepped back through the doorway and into the banquet hall to inform his comrades about the trap. Thalia did not hesitate. She looked out into the hall and cautiously made her way to the anchor point for the wire on the southern wall. She withdrew a set of small pliers from her pack and carefully snipped the copper wire, successfully disarming the trap in a matter of seconds.
Kaster was certain that something interesting lay beyond the intended trap. Once the elf assured everyone that the tripwire had been disarmed, the sorcerer jumped from the top of the table, ran from the banquet hall, and brazenly flung open the door leading to the eastern part of the castle. Kaster walked into the high, narrow room. It looked as though it may have once been a chapel or shrine. Sculptures of angelic figures lined the room’s upper reaches. To Kaster’s left, heavy curtains blocked a matching pair of archways. On the floor between the archways sat a cracked but ornately carved stone brazier full of unlit coal.
The others gradually made their way into the room. Kaster pointed to the archways and they lined up in pairs in front of each opening and prepared to part the curtains and pass through. As Kaster looked up admiring the stone figures, a large section of the wall above the arch suddenly came to life, writhing and reaching for Kaster. The wormlike beast blended in with the stonework so completely that it had remained undetected until Kaster was directly underneath it. The monster reached down and ensnared the sorcerer with its chitinous, hook-ended tentacles and drew him inward towards its sharp, snapping beak. Kaster screamed as the beast tore into his flesh. It loosened its hold in order to reestablish its grip on the noble, and he managed to slip free and dash back towards the door through which he had entered the chapel. He spun around and shouted, flinging his hands out to release a small, flaming spheroid towards the creature. It connected and the monster recoiled with a squeal.
The thing reached for Ered and lashed out with its clawed appendages. Ered swung at the creature with Talon, slicing into one of its four tentacles. Thalia, who was still a few paces away from the monster, let an arrow fly, penetrating the creature’s tough hide, but only just. Flint ran over to Kaster who was leaning in the doorway. The cleric laid hands on the man and recited a prayer. Kaster felt a tingling sensation followed by relief and renewed vigor. He launched another flame attack at the creature. It attempted to worm its way back onto the ledge between the ceiling and the top of the arch. Before it could recede back into the unreachable areas of the room, Ered lunged and pierced the thing’s thick hide, driving Talon deep into the monster’s nerve center. It reared up and thrashed around, and gave a gurgling death rattle before it fell to the floor, a mass of lifeless, elongated flesh.
With the monster defeated, Flint had an opportunity to examine the room a bit more. He noted that the deities once revered here were Oghma (god of knowledge), Mystra (goddess of magic), Lathander (god of down), and Tymora (goddess of luck). He had already suspected that this castle was built by humans and the religious remnants in the chapel confirmed this.
Ered and Kaster each approached the archways, Ered on the right and Kaster on the left. They peaked behind their respective veils of fabric. The chamber on the other side occupied the northern tower of the castle. A stone altar stood in the middle of the room, covered with bloodstained black cloth. Golden ritual implements – a chalice, a knife, and a censer – were carefully arranged on top of the altar. Ered and Kaster could see that the room was occupied by three robed goblins. As two of the creatures lunged through the curtain at Kaster, Thalia let loose an arrow. It lodged into the lower left side of her target, wounding the goblin gravely, but the rascal stayed on its feet. Kaster managed to hit the creature with a firebolt before it got too close, but it still managed to advance on the sorcerer with its ally. The two goblins lunged at Kaster, brandishing weapons they had pulled from underneath their robes. The sorcerer managed to deftly sidestep the sweeping blade attacks.
On the other side of the room, Ered was attempting to engage the third goblin without getting tangled in the curtain. The creature jabbed at Ered through the fabric with a scimitar, but was unable to land a blow. Ered had better luck and a strike from Talon found its mark, but the goblin was merely wounded. It lashed out again, flailing through the cloth, but unable to connect. Ered struck another successful counterblow. He ran Talon through the goblin’s torso, killing it instantly. He kicked the goblin to the floor as he withdrew his blade from its lifeless body.
Flint, from the back of the room, attempted to help out Kaster. He held up his shield and fired a bolt of radiant light between Thalia and Kaster, but his shot went wide and blasted innocuously through the curtain.
Thalia launched another arrow into her previous target, this time ripping through the goblin’s throat, killing it. Kaster now had only one opponent to deal with. He struck the creature with a firebolt, but it was not powerful enough to kill it. Still smoldering, the goblin ran its blade into Kaster, wounding him. Flint came charging to the sorcerer’s rescue wielding his weapon. He landed a walloping hammer strike to the goblin’s head, injuring the creature substantially. It still clung to life, but only momentarily. Thalia, standing from the back of the room, fired a salvo over Flint’s shoulder killing the last goblin.
Kaster was a bit worse for wear, but the rest of the party had fared well during the battle. Flint gathered the implements from the altar and showed them to Ered. Having some experience with such fineries, Ered estimated their combined worth at something around 330 gold pieces. For the time being, it seemed they had not stirred any other occupants of the castle. Flint stowed the items in his pack and prepared to move on.
To be continued…