Beyond the Lost Mines of Phandelver

Into the Elsir Vale
How much is a room in Brindol?

After several long months of travel the party finally arrived in the Elsir Vale just as summer was really kicking into gear.  A steppe land, the Elsir Vale "enjoys" intensely hot, dusty summers punctuated by periods of intense rain.  Fortunately the party has not seen the intense rain yet (although the local farmers might not say the same).  

It takes about five days to go from Dennovar, the southern gateway to the Vale, to Brindol, the destination suggested by the notes of Glass Staff and the Black Spider.  Upon arrival the party learns that all is not well in the Vale.  Something is causing problems in the north, keeping the usualy common caravans from arriving.  Spooked merchants from the south – travelling in the other direction – have decided to hunker down in Brindol, where it is safe.  The result is an overcrowded city, where everyone is hot and tired.

The heroes begin to investigate their own problems – Malik heads off to discuss the so-called Heart of the Lion with the resident wizard Immerstal.  Li heads to speak with the High Priestess of Lathander, Dawn Lord Tredora Goldenbrow.  And Siero seeks an audience with the Duke, Kerdan Jaarmath.

Malik's investigation turns up little – Immerstal has heard the tales of the Lion King and the Heart of the Lion, but doesn't put much stock in them.  

Siero's investigation doesn't turn up much either – the Duke, it would seem, is too busy to meet with him, but his major domo – a halfling named Anna Swiftstone – tells the Halfling tales of the Lion King and how the river-people halflings that first dwelled in the Vale brought to him an artefact of great power known as the Heart of the Lion (and how it was all utter nonsense made up by Halflings to make themselves look important).  After discovering that Siero is an adventurer Anna does invite him (and his friends) back to the fortress the following morning with a promise to set up a meeting for them.

Li's visit to the Temple of Lathander does not reveal much – Tredora herself is not a native to the Vale and is not entirely familiar with their folktales – but on a hunch she visits the local Academy afterwards and does some research into the tales.  While most of the stories are vague, she does find that Brindol is not the only Lion city in the Vale – before it was sunk beneath the waters of Lake Rhestin the city of Rhest once featured Lions prominantly in their regalia.  

Li returns to share her findings with the group.  Siero shares his news as well – that is seems like the Duke might be interested in retaining their services, and they all agree to meet with him the following morning before heading out to locate this Rhest.  

The next morning they meet Duke Jaarmath coming from a meeting.  After a quick exchange with his major domo Kerdan addresses the heroes – he requires their services as a means to resolve the issues in the northern part of the Vale without actually getting his hands involved (since he does not want to deal with the political fallout of sending actual troops north).  His offer to them is simple – he and the merchant's council will pay them generously to head north to escort a caravan that a local is expecting.  They are to resolve the situation as best they can while they are there.  The players agree, seeing as how Rhest too is in the northern Vale, and they head out towards Drellin Ferry and beyond that – to Skull Gorge.

About three hours south of Drellin's Ferry trouble the encounter their first bit of trouble – a pack of Hobgoblins (including one who can cast spells, much to Malik's chagrin) has set an ambush for unwary travellers upon the road.  Unfortunately for the Hobgoblins, the heroes are not merely unwary travellers.  A short battle ensues, during which Siero slays a foe, causing him to be consumed by a magical, silver-white flame.  The flame reveals something of the mysterious sword he carries – the gemstone turns from red to blue, and silver writing is revealed on the blade – an old fashioned Elven name.  

We leave off as the party searches the dead, finding some valuables and two letters to Kerdan Jaarmath – asking him for Brindol's help.  They depart again, heading north to Drellin's Ferry – more wary now than before.

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Cragmaw Castle
...or why you don't stand and brawl with an owlbear...

Finding Cragmaw Castle was much easier with the assistance of Reidoth.  The old druid led the party to within a couple hours of the ruined castle, and gave them clear enough directions to finish the trip themselves.

Cragmaw itself was in rough shape.  Built more than a thousand years ago, it was remarkably intact and yet there were many holes in it walls.  Aside from the main gate (which had long ago rotted away and was replaced by small picket-style barriers) Siero counted no less than four holes in the walls that could be exploited by the party.  After some discussion the party elected to approach from the east (the most intact of the castle's wall) and then move quickly around to an opening on the northern wall.

The plan worked surprisingly well and for a time it seemed as if between the ever growing shadows of twilight and the general laziness of the goblinoids that the party might be able to strike quickly and recover Gundren without any issue.

However it was not to be.  Li tripped at the last minute and the clattering of her armour drew the unwanted attention of an archer.  Although the archer's arrow missed, the alarm he raised brought the unwanted attention of the entire castle.  The party tried to pick up the pace but Anders ran into an angry patrol of Hobgoblins who seemed to be almost waiting for him.

Anders duelled with the hobgoblins for a moment, before Gwawr stepped in to do what Gwawr does.  However the disciplined hobgoblins had no intention of going toe-to-toe with Gwawr.  Rather they backed off, retreating to one of the castle's towers and releasing their "pet" – an Owlbear.  The Owlbear charged down the hall and tore into Gwawr with its vicious claws and beak, giving the half-orc quite the beating.  He was forced to back off, leaving Anders alone to face the Owlbear.  Li moved in to assist, but the soon other complications emerged – six goblins, emerged from hiding and began to rain arrows down on the party.

Siero moved to engage one of the goblins, but in the process of doing so awoke another of the castles "pets" – a Grick, hidden beneath part of the ruins.  

Surrounded on three sides things seemed dire for the group, but the grick was not the end of their troubles.  The hobgoblins reemerged behind the party, trapping them.  As they attacked Siero took a heavy blow from one of the hobgoblins in formation and nearly fell.  However the tides were finally about to turn…

As things started to look their worst Anders summoned up all his ki and delivery a massive flury of blows to the owlbear's head, crushing the creature's skull.  At the same time Gwawr pushed back on the goblins, buying his party members some room and Malik scorched the hobgoblins with fire.  Li kept the Grick's attention on her, relying on her splint mail to protect her from the creature's tentacles.  

With the Owlbear and Hobgoblin's down the heroes began to push back.  The Grick fell first before Gwawr finished off the Goblins.  As they stopped for a moment to catch their breath Siero (healed from his wounds by Li) listened to the conversation behind the locked door in the north-west tower….

 

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The Red Brands and Glasstaff

The prisoner was not receptive for questioning.

Fearing for his life, he explained that he would not give up the entrance to the secret hideout – at least not without some promise of protection from the Priestess of Helm.  Although there were notes of dissent, eventually the party agreed that they could not simply torture the ruffian (at least not out in the open) and begrudgingly brought him to the Town Hall – to be imprisoned and questioned.

However things did not go well at the Town Hall.  The town master – a fat, pompous fool by the name of Harbin - did not take kindly to strangers murdering townsfolk in the street, while the prisoner changed his tune and claimed that he had no idea what they were talking about, and that anything he had said was simply to get them to not kill him as well (although he did admit that his friends had provoked the murders).  After some discussion Harbin dismissed the party and put the ruffian in the town prison – a cellar beneath the town hall – until he could determine the best course of action.

Dissatisfied the party split up – half continued to search the town for clues, while the other half kept watch on the town hall, to make sure their prisoner did not 'escape'.  A check of the woodsman's house revealed that neither his wife, nor his two children, were present and that whoever had left had left in a hurry – perhaps with a struggle.  They continued on to the Phandalin Miner's Exchange, where they questioned Halia why the Red Brands hadn't interfered with her business the way they had with others.  She responded that she was paying them to keep them off her back.

A customer in the miner's exchange – an odd acting merchant from Calimport – said he wished to speak with the arcanist from Waterdeep that was traveling with the party and even went so far as to pay Gwawr to deliver the request to Malik.  Malik accepted the invitation and, when he returned to the group, revealed that the merchant was actually an old acquaintance who was tied into the Waterdahvian underground.  He had provided Malik with the location of the gang's secret entrace and the information that most of the Redbrands were not criminals by nature, but had become part of Glasstaff's gang and would disperse readily if only their leader was killed.

Now knowing the location of the secret entrance to the Red Brand's lair, the party set out – seeking to end their influence and perhaps rescue their employer (or at least learn more of his whereabouts).  

The entrance was what would be best described as an old sewer pipe that ran from the manor into the forest.  Of course, in the centuries since the destruction of the old manor most of the filth had been washed clean making the trip much more pleasant than it would've been otherwise.  Eventually the wall of the sewer broke through into an underground room – the basement of the old manor perhaps, now cutoff from the surface.  Siero went ahead of the group, scouting ahead but finding no guard set upon the entrance to the hideout – perhaps the Red Brands were trusting in the secrecy of their entrance to protect them.

A quick check around the room revealed that some ruffians were holed up in a quarters off the main entrance area – although their snoring suggested that they were not actively monitoring the room – and a small cache of goods hidden in a cistern in the room.  Choosing to avoid conflict the party took an exit into a long, dusty hallway and, deftly avoiding a pit trap, eventually wound up inside the old Tresender Crypts.

As they pondered their next move the coffins in the room began to shift and three skeletons – protectors of the crypt, or perhaps the hideout itself – emerged from within.  A brief skirmish ensued, in which the party emerged victorious.  From there they moved deeper into the ruins of the old manor and discovered – by way of several hidden doors – large cavern (with sibilant whispers hissing in their ears as they looked into it) and eventually a back path to the living quarters of Glasstaff himself.  

Glasstaff initially seemed as if he would challenge the heroes himself but, with a bit of magic, revealed his true nature – turning tail and running at the first opportunity.  Malik and Anders gave chase, pursuing him back into the cavern, but it was Li – who came back through the secret passage and got the drop on a very surprised Glasstaff – who struck the felling blow.

It was then, in the cavern, that the source of the voices revealed itself.  A nothic, drawn to the ruins for some unfathomable reason, had been acting as a watchman for Glasstaff.  Generally uninterested in clashing with the party it offered them a deal – since Glasstaff was dead it no longer desired to remain her.  If they would bring him three corpses, he would leave them alone and retreat to where he had come from.  The party, not wanting to deal with the nothic (and the band of ruffians who had come to defend Glasstaff – unaware that the wizard was now dead) struck a deal.  

The party quickly made their quota, putting two of the four to death before the remaining two surrendered.  A quick search and some questioning revealed that:

  • Glasstaff was none other than Iarno Albrech – as confirmed by a note to him from the mysterious Black Spider.
  • Glasstaff had been ordered to help capture some of the dwarves friends – likely meaning the party and forward to him any maps they might have found.
  • There were about a dozen other humans in the hideout – some in what the ruffians called the slave pens and some in the room out front.  There were, as well, an assortment of goblins and bugbears, who had been sent to Glasstaff by the Black Spider to "help" him.
  • Although the Red Brands had been told to be on the watch for a dwarf, they had not seen him.

Using information gleaned from the surrendered ruffians the heroes sought out and found the monstrous help Iarno had been using.  Peeking in to what passed as their quarters, Siero found three bugbears playing their favourite game – kick the goblin.  Another battle ensued and, once more, the heroes prevailed – although not until after one of the bugbears had kicked the poor goblin to death.  

Following their victory the heroes returned to find most of the hideout had been cleared out.  The ruffians had taken the opportunity offered by the distraction of the party to flee, and all that remained were the corpses of the wife of the woodcutter and her two teenaged children.  

Solemnly the party returned to town, the remains of the woman and her two children in tow for a "proper" burial.  Although night was falling the town was slowly coming alive, and it seemed rumor had spread across town of the deeds of the party.  They returned to the inn to find their rooms for the night paid for and glasses of ale – far finer than any they had seen so far in the town (although still not the greatest)  - waiting for them.  Toblen Stonehill also told them that their meal tonight would not be the usual stew, but instead would be sausage and roasted root vegetables – but that it would take a little time in coming.  The news of what had happened to the woodcutter's wife and children sombred the mood  somewhat, but most folks were happy to have the Red Brands dispersed.

DM's note: I figured we'd pick up again the next session the morning after.  If anyone has anything they wish to do during the night feel free to post in the forum (if it is public) or send me a message (if it is private).  

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Phandalin

As the party arrived in the town of Phandalin Sildar Hallweather chose to reveal some of Gundren's secrets to the party.  Gundren believed he had discovered the entrance to Wave Echo Cave, the famed Mine of Phandelver.  Although he could not explain exactly how the cave worked, he said it was some nonsense about "bending the weave" so that items could readily be infused with magical properties.  Gundren feared both what already might be lurking in the mines and that others would find out about the mine and attempt to claim it as their own, so he had asked Sildar – a former lieutenant in the Griffon Cavalry of Waterdeep – to help secure the location.

The party elected to pursue Gundren and Sildar agreed that was his plan too.  Sildar claimed he had a friend – Iarno Albreck – who should be in town and who might be able to help get the story straight.  However above all else Sildar needed a good night's sleep, so he would begin his search in the morning.  Meanwhile the party delivered the goods they had brought with them (eliciting questions about the whereabouts of Gundren) and asked around a bit, both at the Lionshield Coaster (where they delivered their goods) and in the Stonehill Inn's Taproom.  

Amidst the litany of complaints about the Red Brands – a band of thugs who had been terrorizing the town of late – the party picked up several pieces of information:

  • The thugs were hanging around the eastern part of the town, near the Sleeping Giant Pub and the old manse that overlooked the town.
  • The thugs had all but murdered a local woodworker because he had stood up to them.
  • The thugs were led by a wizard, known as Glasstaff.
  • Halia Thornton, proprietress of the Phandalin Miner's Exchange, had strangely been left alone by the brigands.

However as the night went on and the ale flowed more and more, most of the complaints reverted back into something approximating "damned Red Cloaks".  Siero considered leaving to confront the thugs (while half drunk) but was convinced by Gwawr to wait until the morning.

As the heroes came down the stairs the next morning they were met by Sildar.  The military man had woke early to begin his investigation, but had produced no sign of Iarno.  After a brief exchange, which included questions regarding his relationship with Iarno, Sildar added some new information to the mix – both Sildar and Iarno were members of a group called the Lord's Alliance, a group of like minded people who sought to wield their not inconsiderable influence and power to bring peace and prosperity to Faerun.  The Lord's Alliance had gotten wind of Gundren's discovery and knew that Phandalin and Gundren would become a target once word got out.  Iarno was sent to establish a militia, with an eye towards strengthening the rule of law in Phandalin while supporting the local Townmaster.  Sildar was sent to ally himself with Gundren and assist in protecting both the dwarf and his discovery.

The party questioned Sildar about the possibility that Iarno and Glasstaff might be one in the same.  Sildar had his doubts but asked that if the party was right – if Iarno had turned traitor on the Lord's Alliance – that they bring Iarno to him, so that he might be brought to justice.

The party debated their next step.  Siero and Li advocated dealing with the Red Cloak menace (a point of view shared by Sildar, although he officially remained neutral) while Malik and Gwawr believed that, unless they were being compensated for their time, they ought to focus on Gundren.  Eventually the party agreed to seek out some of the townsfolk, to talk to them about goings on in the town.

The first stop was at the Sleeping Giant Tavern, to see if any Red Brands were about (to shake them down).  The tap house was closed, however, and no brigands could be found.

The next stop was to the Shrine of Luck, which Sister Gar was tending to.  She too was bothered by the Red Brands, but like Daran they did not bother her as much as the other townsfolk as they feared her martial skill and the power of her divine patron.  Gar had chased the Red Brands several times and knew they had a safe house to the east of the town, but had not been able to find them.  When questioned about her recent disappearance (and if it had any ties to the Red Brands) Gar shook her head, and said she was instead looking for the tome of an ancient wizard which was said to be nearby.  Gar had tried to consult Agatha, the Augur of Conyberry, but the famed banshee would not answer her summons – afraid of her divine magic.  Gar offered the party some healing potions if they undertook the task for her, warning that Li would have to limit her involvement (lest the same fate befall the part as befell Gar).

Then the party headed off to the orchards of Daran Edermath.  Like most of the townsfolk Daran had a problem with the Red Brands, but aside from knowing they were holed up beneath the remains of Tressender Manor he didn't have much to contribute, stating that they had stop hassling him when the last one that bothered him lost his hand.  

Frustrated by the lack of knowledge about town, the party decided to try and ambush some of the Red Brands, now that they knew they were holed up beneath the old manor.  Just as they were coming to the realization that the manor – built as an overlook of the town, would have no real places to stage an ambush they were accosted by four members of the Red Brands – "big dogs" ready to teach some "young pups" how to fight.

Although the Red Brands struck hard and true, they were no match for the party – specifically Gwawr's axe, which broke at least two collar bones during the course of battle.  The last Red Brand standing, aware that the battle was not going to go in his favour, elected to surrender instead…

 

 

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Cragmaw Hideout

With the two Goblin sentries eliminated, the group were free to enter the cavern at their own pace. Once again Siero volunteered to scout ahead, and discovered a small pack of wolves not far from the cavern entrance.  Sneaking away to return with the party in force, the wolves (who were chained to the floor) were quickly dispatched.  

A quick check of the room the pack was in revealed a small, narrow and steep passageway leading somewhere unknown.  As Malik and Anders debated whether or not it would be wise to venture up the passageway, Siero once again scouted ahead.  Unbeknownst to him he was spotted by a Goblin sentry, who went to alert his comrades, while Gwawr and Li joined him.  Suddenly a rush of water appeared, overfilling the stream bed and washing away all three (while Malik and Anders remained safe and dry).  

Upon recovering and drying themselves out somewhat, the party moved back up the cavern in force.  This time the party spotted the Goblin sentry on a bridge high above the river and engaged him – but not before the Goblin screamed a warning to his friends.  A second rush of water quickly followed the warning, but the group was ready this time and now one was swept away.  Two more goblins joined the goblin sentry on the bridge and the party traded ranged attacks for awhile until eventually Gwawr climbed up onto the bridge and decapitated his foes with his mighty axe.  Meanwhile Siero, unable to get in close quarters with the goblins, took a steep passage up from the river bed and found a den of goblins who were unaware of the battle going on in their cave.

The group decided to move on the goblin den next, but they were largely uninterested into walking into an ambush again.  Instead, they elected to hold up outside the den, and try and goad the goblins inside into coming out.  The goblins inside were led by Yeemik, who had Sildar Hallwinter as his prisoner.  The two groups managed to avoid killing one another long enough to strike a deal – the party would kill the current leader of the goblins – a bugbear named Klarg (which would make Yeemik "king" of the group) and Yeemik would free Sildar.  When asked about the whereabouts of Gundren Yeemik replied that he didn't know – that he was taken by the bugbear allies of Klarg somewhere.

Klarg, warned by some of his more loyal minions, was waiting for the party when they arrived, although they did manage to take down his pet wolf while sneaking.  Angered by this Klarg charged the party responsible – Siero – and struck him down with a mighty swing of his mace but between the inability of his goblin archers to hit the broadside of a barn and the deft blows of Gwawr's axe Klarg eventually fell.  

The party returned to Yeemik with Klarg's head and although Yeemik tried to reneg on his deal (claiming he still had the leverage, now that Klarg was dead) the threat of Li using her dread necromantic powers to raise Klarg was enough to make Yeemik relent.  With that the party quickly retreated from the cave and once again resumed their journey to Phandalin, now with the weary and dazed Sildar Hallwinter in tow.

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Goblins!

For three days the unlikely group travelled the road between Neverwinter and Phandalin without incident. About midday on the fourth day, however, that changed.

The first hint there would be trouble was the smell. That and the sight of poorly butchered horses was enough to make Malik nervous, and his concerns were soon justified – from the bushes came a hail of arrows and the gleeful shouts of some foul creatures who believed they had caught some poor travellers in an ambush.

Of course mercenaries from Neverwinter are not quite the same as travellers – a lesson the Goblins quickly learned. Although the group took a few arrows, they gave much better than they got, and quickly the ambush was dispatched.

Quickly looking over the scene the group confirmed that the horses were the same ones they had seen Gundren and Sildar ride out on a few days before. Concerned for their employer (or possibly their paycheque) the party elected to hide the wagon and horses off the main road and follow a small footpath they found leading away from the ambush site. Serio scouted ahead, and although he fell victim to a trap along the pathway, he managed to trace it back to a small cave – outside of which were two goblins.

The two goblins put up even less of a fight than the ambushing party, and although Gwawr wound up upside down and underwater for a time, the goblins seemed to be unable to provide much resistance. Now the group gets ready to push into the cavern, hoping to find their employer (or his pocketbook).

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