(I don’t own any of what you’re about to read, but if you’d like to read the saga from the party’s first adventure, click here.)
The party was met by the early morning light as they exited the cavern, down one man as Steward, unnoticed and unremembered, had been collected by The Fade as they retreated.
“So, something touched your face?” Vigo asked.
“It wasn’t,” Kir’thiri began. “Not my face so much as, my mind? It’s hard to explain, but something is down there. Maybe we should tackle this from another angle.”
As their quieted conversation continued there in the woods on how best to approach the imminent extinction of the Redbrands, Y’inyahin sighed and brought up a sore subject that she’d been pondering.
“Listen,” Y’inyahin said. “I’m not comfortable standing as judge, jury, and executioners like this. Yes, I, too, was caught up in anger at what happened to Qelline and Carp, their farm. But we’ve had time to think now. Let’s take what we know to the proper authorities.”
“The proper authorities seem to already know,” Willow added grimly. “And are doing nothing. Qelline is kind. Decent in a world that rarely rewards it. And these Redbrands did what they did to her? I want to kill them all.”
The rest of the party, to varying degrees, agreed with Willow.
“Then I can no longer walk with you,” Y’inyahin said sadly. “I wish you well.” She looked to the gnome ranger then. “Don’t get killed, my friend.” And with that Y’inyahin left the party.
Somberly, this group of four continued making their plan of attack, deciding that their best course of action was to return through the cavern beneath Tresendar manor. As they lined up to enter, a flash of red caught Vigo’s eye through the surrounding forest. He pointed it out to Kir’thiri who snuck a closer look.
She watched as a man in a red cloak, seemingly distressed, loaded a small wagon. A young woman met him, a child at her side, and brought some more items from their small house for loading. Looking around, the man hurried the pair back inside.
As Kir’thiri relayed this to her party, Ben decided to walk down and have a chat with the man. Kir’thiri, Willow, and Vigo fell back to see how this would play out.
“Hi there,” Ben announced himself, his empty hands up in the air. “How goes it?”
The man spun, drawing his sword in one hand and waving the woman off in a stay-inside gesture with his other, though Ben couldn’t see her.
“I’m not lookin’ for any trouble,” the man said, making it sound like a wish. “I’m just gettin’ me and mine loaded up, and we’ll be goin’.”
“No trouble,” Ben returned, showing his empty hands. “I was just curious. You seem worried or something.”
The man, Dern, put his sword away cautiously. “You part of the crew what did in them Redbrands outside the Townmaster’s, yeah?”
As Ben and Dern’s conversation continued, Vigo examined their mannerisms from a distance.
“They seem to be . . . talking. Just talking.” Vigo concluded.
“Well that can’t be good!” Kir’thiri worried. “Ben will lead that to bloodshed in a hurry. Let’s go!”
So Willow, Kir’thiri, and Vigo hurried down after Ben.
Seeing this, Dern stopped mid-sentence and began to redraw his sword. Ben gave an annoyed look back to his party, causing them to slow down and stop some twenty feet back.
“It’s okay,” Ben turned back to Dern. “They won’t hurt you.”
“Well, like I said,” Dern’s sword hand left his scabbard. “The Redbrands, we used to be a good thing. Important. Kept Phandalin safe. But now . . . what Glasstaff’s turned us to. After what happened to Thel, his kin. Well, I’ll not be a part of this, no sir. My family and I, we’ll just be on our way.” He took off his red cloak and handed it to Ben.
“That’s okay,” Ben said, taking it and nodding assurances. “Can you tell us where exactly to find the Redbrands?”
Dern pointed up to Tresendar Manor. “Right in there.”
“How about the best way to get in?” Kir’thiri added.
Dern sighed. “There’s a lot of bad in there,” he admitted. “Maybe even mostly. But some are still good men. Men like me, who were there before Glasstaff turned it all turned to rot. Could be that rot needs cut out completely, I dunno. But I’ll not hand you the knife that stabs ’em. I’m sorry.”
Ben and the party watched, deciding what to do next, as Dern and his family loaded up into their small wagon, said goodbye to their house, and headed out of town.
Opting to try the tunnel again, the party made their way back. As they crossed the threshold into the open cavern beneath the house, Vigo felt a flashing sensation in the dark and reacted. Kir’thiri, recognizing the reaction as similar to hers earlier, prepared herself for battle.
“Who’s you?” a mad-tinged voice rang in Vigo’s mind. “Gots food?”
“Who is that?” Vigo whispered.
“Who’s who?” Ben asked.
The giggling grew maniacal in Vigo’s mind. Freaking out a little, he yelled. “What kind of food?”
“Meat!” Willow heard a voice screech into her mind.
“Oh, ugh, meat! It said meat.” Willow cried.
“I don’t hear anything,” Ben said. Kir’thiri agreed, but backed toward a corner.
Then everyone in the party heard crazed gibberish in their own brains.
“I’ve got food,” Ben announced to the darkness, pulling his axe to the ready.
“Don’t believe you,” the seemingly disembodied voice returned to him.
Suddenly, from the corner just behind Kir’thiri, a nothic’s one large eye glowed green as a sinuous blast shot from it toward Ben, catching him in the chest.
A pitched battle continued with the creature. At one point Vigo fell unconscious, but was promptly brought awake by a cure spell from Willow. In the end the nothic fell. Ben kicked it in its oversized single eye, inadvertently connecting to the creature’s dying consciousness as he did so. He saw a vision of its hidden treasure chest. Climbing down into a large crevasse that split the giant cavern they were in, puzzling his party all the while, Ben sought out and claimed the nothic’s prize.
Inside, amidst coins and gems, was a longsword with a name etched into its elaborately designed hilt, a bird of prey with outstretched wings: Talon. Vigo, well-versed in the epic tales of heroes of legend from his father, shared with Ben some of the sword’s history. Ben returned the sword to its sheath and attached it to his belt with a huge grin.
Collecting themselves, the party then found a small hall off the cavern tiled in cut stone. They seemed to have entered the southwest corner of the cellar beneath the manor. The short hall ended with a closed door on either side, leading to the north and south.
Vigo, ever overly-assertive, promptly walked through the north door. Inside was a large room with batches of barrels along some walls. Off the center of the room were a group of four men playing some kind of betting game. All wore red cloaks.
“What the hells?” one of them shouted. As one, all four men stood and drew down on the halfling. One, a bowman, fired at Vigo, clipping his arm with an arrow. Undeterred, Vigo let loose Hellish Rebuke leaving the bowman lying dead on the ground. Of the remaining Redbrand trio, one ran out a door from the room that led north while the other two ran toward Vigo, swords at the ready.
Vigo ran back up the hall and whispered “Redbrands!” to the rest of his party. Ben ran toward the fracas, drawing his new blade as he went. It was then that the southern door opened at Ben’s back. A bugbear stepped into the hall behind him, yelling, “What is this!”
Willow bowled the bugbear over with the mightiest of eldritch blasts! The foul beast fell to its knees, not dead but deeply wounded.
As the bugbear tried to stand, Kir’thiri ended it with a shot from her bow. But then another bugbear stepped from the room! It rushed Kir’thiri, striking her down with its morningstar and knocking her unconscious. Then Vigo, trying to bolt over the bridge that crossed the chasm, fell into the chasm as the entire bridge collapsed, knocking him unconscious. He was dying! Taking a moment to bring both of her downed party members awake, Willow cured both Kir’thiri and Vigo. But it cost her. The bugbear tackled Willow hard, knocking them both into the chasm! Near death and lying prone with an unconscious bugbear, Willow climbed herself out of the chasm. Vigo wandered over to the creature and stabbed it. Kir’thiri, standing above, shot an arrow at it. That bugbear was dead.
While this went on, Ben, the tank of the group, was standing all but unscathed having dispatched the last two Redbrands in the room. One lay dead, the other Ben interrogated. Extraordinarily intimidated and sitting in his own urine-filled breeches, the Redbrand, Glenn, swore to Ben that he would leave, not telling a soul of their presence as he did so, move to Helm’s Hold and never come back. Ben let him leave.
In the room to the south they found Droop, a much-maligned little goblin that the bugbears had been beating on and bullying for fun. Feeling for the little guy, and never happier that they’d dispatched of the bugbears, they let Droop leave and go where he would.
The party, finding an iron key on one of the bugbears – and a jeweled eyepatch that Vigo was completely enamored with, placing it on his own head – decided to hole up in the seeming recreation room of the Redbrands. Locking the doors to either side, they took a short rest.
What they did not do is clean up or in any way attempt to hide the dead bodies.
Hours later they heard men talking down the hall.
“What the hells happened?!” an incredulous voice yelled from behind the door. Severe pounding on said door followed.
Ben, as keeper of the key, went to unlock the door as Willow donned a red cloak – its previous owner wouldn’t be needing it – sitting at the game table, and Vigo hid amongst some barrels. Kir’thiri, for her part, merely minor illusioned into a barrel.
“Come in, sorry about that,” Ben began, a jovial and not at all worried tone to his voice.
“Who are you?” a Redbrand asked, his bow drawn, arrow on Ben.
“Is that a woman?!” asked his dull-faced compatriot.
“Well, yeah,” Ben began. “We’re the new recruits. I’m Glen, that’s . . . Willow.”
“But Glasstaff don’t allow no women.” A third Redbrand added.
“Of course he does,” Ben said, walking over to a tapped keg and filling a glass. “We’re just drinking some ale. Care for some?” He walked back over to the table for a seat.
“What? No!” The bowman yelled. “Oi, go get Glasstaff.” he told his wingman. The man ran back the way they’d come.
“Ya know Rufus,” the dullard said. “I’d like some ale.” he sauntered over to the table and sat next to Ben, taking the offered cup. He stared lecherously at Willow as he drank deep, spilling ale down his face.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” Ben said, smiling. “So, how’s it going? Busy day?”
The Redbrand lowered his cup, an evil smirk crossed his lips as he forced his eyes away from Willow. “You don’t know the half of it,” he beamed at Ben. “Caught ourselves a deserter leaving town, we did. Him and ‘is family.”
A dark shadow slid across Ben’s face in a flash. “Oh? What’d you do?”
“Well, they ain’t none of ’em breathin’ anymore, are they?” the Redbrand laughed.
“Huh,” Ben nodded. Talon left its scabbard so quickly that the Redbrand registered the slash across his collarbone, just beneath his throat, before he did the weapon.
“Why, wha?” The Redbrand flipped backward in his chair landing on the ground before a small barrel. The “barrel” fired an arrow, sending the shaft through his left eye and down into his throat.
Ben rushed the bowman, taking an arrow to the shoulder, and lopped off the bowman’s hand, slicing his bow in two, and finishing with Talon buried in the side of the man’s skull.
Learning their lesson, the party hid the latest bodies, leaving the bugbear where it lay, and resumed their positions for backup Redbrands and Glasstaff.
But none came.
It seemed as though the Redbrands had departed, alongside Glasstaff. In covering their base room by room, the party discovered that Glasstaff was in fact Iarno Albrek, Sildar’s friend and fellow member of the Lords’ Alliance and that he is working in the employ of The Black Spider. Not only have they usurped the Redbrands for their foul deeds – including the slave trade, so the records that Kir’thiri found indicated – but the Cragmaw tribe’s kidnapping of Gundren, the taking of the map to Wave Echo Cave, all of this was on order of The Black Spider as well!
As they left the manor’s cellar, Ben heard screaming; a women’s voice. The voice claimed that she and her children were still locked up, evidently abandoned by their slavers. Ben, rushing to follow the voice, triggered a huge pit trap, causing the floor beneath him to collapse. In an unprecedented feat of acrobatic skill, Ben leaped, flipping through the air to land on his feet on the far side of the pit! The rest of his party followed suit, albeit carefully along the pit’s edge.
Through the next room, they fought through a crypt of skeletons to find finally find the slave pens and the source of the voice: Trilena, wife of Thel, the woodcarver who was slain by some Redbrands. She was locked up with her daughter while her son was locked up alone in the southern cell. Upon their release Trilena thanked the party profusely and, while she hadn’t the money to pay them, she told them of a hidden family heirloom left in the ruins of Thundertree that they could have should they ever pass that way.
Waving away her offers of reward, the party led Trilena and her children out and back to Phandalin. They returned with word to Sister Garaele and got their payment for services rendered in regard to the banshee of Conyberry, discovered that in dealing with the Redbrands they are minor celebrities, and then had to break the news to Sildar about what they’d discovered about his friend, Iarno “Glasstaff” Albrek.
Winded by the news, the distraught Sildar says that the party’s stay in Phandalin will be financed for the time being by The Lords’ Alliance, and ask that, while he tends to the needs of Phandalin from a governing stance, they focus on the biggest answer they need to stop The Black Spider and hopefully save Gundren Rockseeker:
Where is Cragmaw Castle?