15 Kythorn 1481 (continued)
After interrogating the captive Redbrands & talking more with Sildar Hallwinter, visited a contact of Shandri’s with an orchard in the northwest of the village. Learnt a little more about the Redbrands and the ruined manor, were directed to a halfling farm in the southeast corner of the village where a lad was rumoured to have seen odd goings on in the woods behind the ruins. Declan befriended the young halfling boy, who talked of seeing Redbrands meeting in the woods and showed us a small hidden rocky cleft in the hillside some way behind the ruined manor.
Followed the narrow passage some distance underground until it opened into a larger cavern, with two wooden bridges over a chasm in the centre & several stonework rooms & passages leading off. Brushed off a psychic assault & spotted a humanoid creature with a single huge & terrible eye, spines & claws hiding behind a pillar on the far side. Declan identified it as a “nothic”, telepathic conversation ensued & it offered to help us if we brought it live food, telling us it was able to read the thoughts of all who passed through its cavern. We went back out to the woods, where Karrod’s skill at hunting soon saw us return with a trussed & muzzled deer that the nothic immediately tore into. In exchange it told us a little more about the hideout’s layout and the Redbrands, who have apparently been hired by “Black Spider” to make the village obey & scare off any adventurers.
As Shandri crossed one bridge it collapsed, leaving her at the bottom of a 20’ chasm with unnaturally cold depths. Also down there was the half-eaten corpse of a male human woodcutter, kidnapped (along with his family) by the Redbrand some weeks previous & dumped here after being killed, his body gnawed by the nothic. Shandri found a hidden chest containing coins, gems, a couple of potions, a spell scroll, & an untarnished longsword of exceptional craftsmanship with a pommel in the form of a raptor & the word “Talon” engraved on the blade. Declan identified the sword as having belonged to Aldith Tressedar, known as “The Black Hawk”, the lord of the manor who died here centuries past fighting invading orcs in the tunnels beneath his home.
Leaving the cavern through a store room to the north, a secret passage led to a locked armoury. Availed ourselves of a few extra weapons, then locked the door & jammed the lock. The hallway outside led to a crypt, with a trio of armed & armoured skeletons leant upright against a three sarcophagi. They didn’t react to our presence until Shandri charged into the room & attacked them. Once they were destroyed we reinterred their remains in the sarcophagi from which they had been taken. Next to the crypt was a small prison containing two Redbrands who attempted to ambush us (one taken captive, one fatally immolated by Karrod) & the woodcutter’s family – wife Murna Dendrar, late teen daughter Nilsa, young son Nars, with iron collars around their necks. The Redbrands had been intending to sell them as slaves, we freed them & took them (along with our new captive) out through the passageway & back to the village. In gratitude Murna described how the family’s old shop in Thundertree (now overrun by undead) contains a hidden emerald necklace.
Returning after lunch, we resumed our exploration from the crypt & crossed a pit trap in a large hallway to reach the old manor’s main cellar, full of stored provisions & a large cistern & a way up into the aboveground ruins of a kitchen. Next to the cellar were some sleeping quarters, where three bandits were swiftly defeated. Against my objections, they were left bound & gagged in their beds. A passage from the southwest corner of the cellar returned us to the cavern & we took another secret passage from the northern store room into the bandit leader’s private bedchamber. A chest contained more coins & gems & a couple of spell scrolls, a writing desk contained numerous records of provisions & alchemical supplies, plus a letter from Black Spider which confirmed the bandit leader’s identity as erstwhile Lords Alliance member Iarno Albreck & warned him of an expected visit to the village by people with an old dwarven map (probably our party, Gundren & Sildar – did Gundren have this map?)
Next to the bedchamber was an alchemical lab full of bubbling apparatus, tomes & scrolls. One dwarven tome by an author named Urman spoke of the Lost Mine of Phandelver, the Forge of Spells, and an enchanted mace named Lightbringer commissioned by priests of Lathander. Across a hallway from the lab was the bandits common room, where we surprised four ruffians in the midst of their drinking & gambling & quickly dealt with them. Across another hallway was the final room in the complex, a barracks where we fought three bugbears (their goblin servant fainted when we burst in). We took our 10 new captives (one of the bandits left in the sleeping quarters off the cellar having been eaten alive by the nothic!) back to the village, where those from the civilised races where imprisoned to await trial while Sildar had Shandri publicly execute the bugbears in the village square.