Before the party disembarks from the Frosthamar they attack the crew slaying them quickly and mercilessly, ending with Cervantes beheading Captain Odenkirk. After looting the crew and the ship they set fire to the Frosthamar casting darkness upon it to cover their vile treachery. They make the trek to the market town of Aldencross where they instruct Grumblejack to remain in the woods outside of town and the party will make contact with him every two days. Entering Aldencross they find lodging in The Lord’s Dalliance, the only inn in town. During the first four days they begin to uncover vital information from the various people around town.
#1. The garrison is maned by about one hundred soldiers, four captains, one mage, one cleric and his acolytes, and the commander Lord Thomas Havelyn.
#2. Three of the four captains live in Aldencross.
#3. Lord Havelyn is well respected by the townsfolk as well as the soldiers.
#4. There is a small contingent of ten dwarfs led by one Barnabus Eisenbauch to refit the gatehouse of the garrison.
#5. Most of the humans of Aldencross does not seem to like dwarves
#6. The Lord’s Dalliance got it’s name as a brothel which was rumored to have a secret tunnel connecting it to Balentyne so the previous lord could come and go as he pleased without alerting his wife.
#7. Father Donning may have been demoted and sent to Balentyne after some serious trouble with the Church. (Raphael knows of Father Donning and does not believe this to be true)
#8. Captain Zach Eddarly is a handsome man and somewhat of a heartthrob among the ladies of town.
#9. That to be so grim Lord Havelyn might be guilty of something.
#10. The owner of the Lord’s Dalliance Bellam Barhold is a lush and complains he can not get a hold of any good wine.
#11. That Captain Varning leads a weekly patrol into the woods surrounding Balentyne.
Then one night Cylara learns from one of the soldiers that prisoners have escaped Branderscar, killing everyone in the prison save for a corrupt sergeant. A reward has been issued for their recapture. Meeting in their rooms they decide that they must not use their real names again and they must be careful to continue using the iron circlets to disguise themselves. They also hear that someone may have seen an ogre outside of town.
Later that night Zeitram, Kharon and Cervantes discover that the secret passage from the inn to Balentyne is not a rumor, catching Bellam Barhold using it to steal three cases of elven wine from Balentyne’s storage room. They promise their silence for upgrading their room to a suite at no further cost.
The next day the villains decided to implement Zeitram’s plan to strain racial tensions as much as possible between dwarves and humans. That evening Cervantes joined the dwarven table at the Lord’s Dalliance and took part in their nightly drinking contest. Once it was apparent they were all well intoxicated, Cylara mentioned to her soldier friends that Barnabus the dwarf had scathingly insulted her earlier. Intent on defending her honor, one of the soldiers approached Barnabus and began shouting at him. Shouting quickly turned to insults and shoving between the two factions. Soon the feud escalated to an all out brawl with punches being thrown and more dwarves and soldiers joining the fray.
It was at that point that Raphael stood behind one young soldier and with a magical compulsion he whispered, “Kill him”. The guard started to resist, but Raphael repeated the command more forcefully. As a dwarf charged, the youthful private drew his longsword and ran the stocky, bearded fellow through the belly. Somewhere a woman screamed. A blast of gunfire from the bartender ended the fray and the Watch was called to the scene.
Even later that night the group left the inn with a knife stolen from Barnabus’ room. They disguised themselves as dwarves and pounced upon the guards in the dead of night. The battle was quick and the guards soon lay dead with Barnabus’ dagger, and the seed of discontent, firmly planted in the chest of one of the fallen.
The next morning they resolved to leave town early. Not just to avoid the the fallout of their clandestine murders, but because today was an excellent day for hunting. It just so happens that today they would be hunting men. Specifically, Captain Ryan Varning and his small group of soldiers that go on a patrol once a week to scout the countryside. Between the trio of Ashe, Cervantes, and Kharon they were soon on the trail of the patrol. While they may have gotten a head start on the party, the distance was closed in a matter of a couple days.
They descended upon the campsite of the watch patrol in the dead of night. Ashe fired an arrow enchanted with silence while Zeitram slipped invisibly into the camp. The combination was devastating with many of the soldiers dead or dying without knowing who or what was attacking them. Cylara stood back casting spells and cackling madly. Ashe fired arrows with deadly precision against any who were unwise enough to exit their tents. Kharon and Cervantes efficiently murdered all who still lay sleeping. Zeitram entered the largest tent and was suddenly attacked! Captain Varning had awoken and was fighting back. Zeitram stumbled backwards from the tent clutching his wound. The tent shook violently and was suddenly still.
Raphael and Cervantes cried out in alarm that Varning was escaping. The captain lept upon his horse and took off at a gallop. The party made a dash for their horses while Raphael cast a pair of spells at the fleeing captain and his horse. Both fought off the enchantment and Varning and his pursuers disappeared into the forest. Snarling a curse Raphael mounted his horse and made attempt to catch up knowing that if the captain should escape at this moment the element of surprise would be forever lost.
The chase was frantic. Assassin vines had to be dodged, a cliff had to be climbed, blocked paths had to be navigated, and an angry bear! Varning proved to be an expert rider and bypassed them all. Just when he seemed to be on the verge of escape he was slowed enough for his attackers to seize him. He fought valiantly but in the end the forces of Asmodeus prevailed. Varning and his men were stripped of all valuables, their campsite taken down and burned, corpses and supplies were hurled into the vast lake, and all traces of their passing were expertly brushed away by Ashe. And over the next many days, Grumblejack would feast on horseflesh.
Upon their return to Aldencross they learn that the bodies of the dead soldiers were found. The dwarves were questioned by Father Donnigan and he does not believe that Barnabus was responsible.
The party then resolved to take advantage of the secret passage beneath the inn to see what they could discover. They decided that for this first foray into the keep that only the most stealthy of them should go. It was decided that Cervantes the pirate, Kharon the inquisitor, Ashe the ranger, and Zeitram the rogue would be the ones to enter the keep this night. Raphael cast a blessing of status upon them so that if they ran into trouble that he would know. He stayed in his room at the Lord’s Dalliance with Cylara and awaited their return.
Disguising themselves as soldiers of the keep, the group of four entered the armory. Being so late at night, it was abandoned. There were stairs leading up into the tower and a door. Choosing the door, they found themselves in a hallway. Rounding the corner they began opening doors and found a couple empty rooms. Thinking themselves in an unused part of the keep they barged into the next room without much precaution. Opening the door they found a man seated at a large desk wearing a captain’s badge of office. “What do you want,” he asked looking quite displeased.
Clearly not expecting to find anyone in the room Zeitram stammered, “Uh, just checking on you.” The captain’s eyes narrowed and the rest of the group held their collective breath at Zeitram’s omitted honorific of “sir”.
The captain turned back to his writing desk and grumbled, “Next time just knock.” The group offered their apologies and hastily shut the door.
They took more caution with the next room and determined by the lack of noise that it was probably unoccupied. Entering the room they found it to be another captain’s quarters with nicer furnishings. Searching the room, they found a hidden compartment in the wardrobe that contained love letters between Captain Zack Eddarly and the wife of Captain Franz Mott, Catelyn. Taking the letters so they might put them to good use, they began to argue on what to do next. Kill the captain in the next room? Search more of the keep?
They were interrupted when the real night watchmen came down the hallway and began checking doors. Locking the door, they stayed still and silent as stone, and when the watch had passed they made a hasty dash for the secret door. Zeitram grabbed another bottle of elvish wine on his way out and led the party back to the Lord’s Dalliance. When they exited the basement of the inn they were confronted by Master Barhold about being up and about so early in the morning. Zeitram assured the innkeeper that nothing was wrong and slyly handed Barhold a bottle of rare elvish wine. Looking pale and shaken, Barhold said nothing as the group went back to their rooms and relayed the details of their scouting mission to Cylara and Raphael.
The next day the villains gathered more information about town and later retreated back to their rooms to plan the next course of action. Many ideas were thrown around, including assassinating the captain in his quarters, sending the love letters to Captain Mott to arrange a confrontation between him and Captain Eddarly, and poisoning the weekly stew a little old lady brought to the keep once a week. More ideas were brought forth and quickly dismissed.
It was at this time that Zeitram felt the need to leave the room and bumped into Suri, the innkeeper’s daughter. She claimed to have been mopping the next room, however Zeitram noticed that the bucket not only held no water, but was bone dry. Eyeing her, and the close proximity to the room where the group were plotting, he suggested they make use of the empty room. He tried to be charming, but there was more malice in his look than lust. He took a step forward and she ran.
Cursing, he ran after. The rest of the group, having heard the commotion, all hurried downstairs as well.
Master Barhold, the innkeeper, intercepted them when they came downstairs and demanded to speak with them. Once seated with him he confronted them with what Suri overheard while outside their room. “Poisonings and murders. I don’t know who you people are but only bad things have happened since you’re arrived in town. Suri will no longer be serving your food or fetching your baths and I want you gone by tomorrow. And if I catch you in my cellar again I’ll be headed to the watchtower to tell them what I know.”
Many in the party would have visibly paled if not for their magical disguises. If looks could kill, Cervantes would have reduced the innkeeper to ashes with the dangerous glare in his eyes. Raphael smoothly interjected, “Oh Master Barhold, I think there is definitely some sort of misunderstanding here. Clearly your daughter only heard a small part of our quiet conversation taken horribly out of context behind a closed door. Surely you must reconsider.”
“No. I want you gone”, Barhold stated firmly.
“I see”, Raphael mused. “Tell me Master Barhold, what is bothering you. What is this really about?” He leaned forward in his chair calmly awaiting the man’s response.
Barhold leaned forward himself and stared right back at Raphael. “I don’t like being blackmailed”, he growled.
“Ah, there we go”, Raphael purred, a smile creeping over his lips. “Now we have the truth of it! I can see we have wronged you greatly Master Barhold. You’ve given us your best suites for an entire month and all we have done is take advantage of your generous hospitality. I would offer my sincerest apologies, but I see this matter can not be resolved satisfactorily with mere words.” He then pulled out a bulging coin purse and began counting out piles of gold. “I would offer three hundred apologies if I thought it would matter. Perhaps you would accept three hundred of these instead?”
Barhold stood transfixed by the pile of gold laid in front of him. With silver-tongued assurances from Raphael that they truly meant no harm towards anyone in the Lord’s Dalliance or in Aldencross, which was technically true in a way, he backed down from his demands for the group to leave and graciously accepted their gold.