Enduring the hardships found within The Architect’s lair, the Investigators had returned to Itven after driving the criminal out and taking his riches for their own as payment. Hastily they conducted various brief businesses and dispatches before regrouping to continue. There was still daylight left enough to travel. They would be returning to the homestead of Dolran Galborn, to once again take up the trail of the missing soldiers, to once again seek answers…
Katarday, Twenty-fourth of Declarations, 1044 Y.K.
Resuming their trek along the trail of the missing soldiers, the Group moved north by west, heading very generally toward a reunion with what was once the road between the towns of Itven and Bolnven. The road itself was all but gone now, damaged heavily by the great wave, and made worse by both the passage of time and lack of maintenance. Overgrowth and debris were known to cover the road, and many bricks and stones had since been stolen.
As the miles passed, Maldus began to take notice of the activity of Hurthral Galborn. The young man’s head turned this way and that, looking at various trees or rock formations. He almost seemed as if he were looking for something specific. The young Galborn was hesitant when pressed, but eventually gave in, admitting that this area was familiar to him, and that the trail coming along this particular path filled him with great worry.
Hurthral soon confided that they were indeed heading toward the family home of Taldred Sterond, an enticing young woman he had met and taken to seeing socially, visiting her on numerous occasions without his family’s knowledge. If the fiends who had taken or killed his father had come this way, perhaps Taldred had been taken as well. He had not seen her in weeks, having been sequestered by Constable Plonnor with the rest of his family.
Arriving to the home in due time, the Group found that the large place was a farmstead similar to the Galborn’s but had been partially remodeled into a hostel or way-point between Itven and Bolnven. From a distance it looked abandoned, but the movement of shadows was spotted in the side barn as they approached. Zeph and Gram circled right toward the rear of the structure, while Stoat crept left, nearly invisible and utterly silent.
Directing the Constable and his militiamen to move to the farmhouse and guard their flank, Brendolm took the rest of the Party and moved into the barn. Inside, the Group discovered a ghastly scene, as several bodies hung from ropes and slowly swung with the creaking of boards. Back outside, Gram and Zeph were merely a few steps from the barn’s rear entrance when arrows flew from the trees beyond the back fields, their approach had been spotted and an ambush set!
The company flew into action as Zeph shouted warning of attack from the rear. Gram worked Kir into a full run and was engaged in melee with one attacker by the time the inside group had run to the rear of the barn and flung open the doors. An explosion rocked the Party, as a well-timed Fireball spell landed in their midst just as they cleared the structure. Arrow fire continued as the front line fighters raced across the field, their blades at the ready.
A summoned bear spawned from the fingertips of Hilg and was quickly directed to the enemy Sorcerer. The villains attempted to counter the Party’s assault, falling back to take additional ranged shots, but were quickly outmaneuvered and found themselves forced to desert their bows in favor of hand weapons. With their ranged advantage gone, the tables rapidly turned against the ambushers and the Party routed them soundly.
Returning to the barn, Constable Plonnor identified some of the bodies as his missing soldiers. The others were identified by Hurthral Galborn – the family of Taldred Sterond. But the girl was not among them. The young man left the scene and immediately began searching the farmhouse-hostel and shed for her. The party turned its attention to their would-be killers. Three had been captured, and would surely have answers.
Questions followed as Brendolm took to interrogating the conscious prisoner Fordal. The fool attempted lies, but was unprepared for the gifts of The True. His falsehoods were as glass and righteous Paladin easily saw the truth behind them. Assault and murder were his crimes, and with his guilt already assured, the wicked man finally relented his employer…a woman he referred to as the “Dark Lady”, Guldella. He named her a Cleric, but refused to reveal which deity.
Brendolm pressed the villain further, and he resumed his futile attempts at deception. The Party learned of a strong likelihood of foul deeds in or around the nearby town of Bolnven and declared further investigation would be necessary. The interrogation ended and the group set watches so sleep could be had. They would need to return the prisoners to Itven before they could go further, but it would only be a minor detour.
Fireday, Twenty-fifth of Declarations, 1044 Y.K.
Departing at first light, the company retraced their steps and arrived to Itven with their prisoners in tow. As before, they sought to keep their stay brief and return to the investigation – and thus only a small handful of tasks were given time. Of particular note, Brendolm once again hired a militiaman to travel to Cosolen to procure an item for him. With a similar monetary arrangement as before, Lanop was hired, and quickly made tracks in the hopes of catching up to Celdren.
The Group reassembled in short order and prepared for their trek to Bolnven, sending Roth and Malmir to fetch the horses and ready the wagon. Constable Plonnor would stay behind this time. He had soldiers to bury, and Bolnven was outside the realm of his duties. Hurthral and Sendrita remained with the Party, still intent on finding Dolran Galborn and capturing all associates of the farmhouse-hostel men, and perhaps even this “Dark Lady”.
Heading out, the company moved slower with the wagon, but knew the terrain well enough – having just traveled it the day before. The various obstacles of the path were circumnavigated with little difficulty and the Group once again arrived to the farmhouse-hostel of Taldred’s family late in the evening. There were still several miles to their destination so the Party decided to resume the trip in the morning when they would arrive in the daylight.
As the company set watches and bedded down in the farmhouse-hostel for the night, Hurthral approached Maldus, requesting council. The young man worried terribly for his missing love, and wished to be infused with the hope of The Lord of Silver Linings. The Cleric read from Every Cloud – selecting one of the fourteen “Disasters” and then following it up with the accompanying “Deliverance” passage. The young Galborn was moved, and thanked Maldus profusely.
As he was leaving, the illusionary form of Dokari materialized from the crystal ball and scoffed at the young man’s previous despair. She professed that if he wanted news of his lady, all he had to do was ask. As the group watched, both fascinated and slightly horrified, the illusionary woman called upon the power of the orb and summoned forth the scryed image of Taldred. The potential danger of an intelligent magical item capable of activating itself was not lost on the Group.
For her part, Taldred was seen to be chained to a wall alongside a handful of other comely young women. She looked tired and unwashed, but otherwise unharmed as of yet. Gram used his keen dwarven sense for stonework and noted that the wall was the inside of a curved or rounded structure, of construction typical to the area. The girl was still in Cosdol somewhere, of that much he was certain. A wider view would be needed for a more detailed analysis.
Homeday, Twenty-sixth of Declarations, 1044 Y.K.
Approaching the outskirts of Bolnven near midday, the Party stopped up at the sound of a strange voice yelling from a nearby tree. A single goblin shouted in broken Brandobian for the Group to lay down their arms. Despite being outnumbered and outmatched, the creature stood its ground and continued to demand the Party’s surrender. Stoat attempted to reason with it using his knowledge of the hobgoblin tongue to speak somewhat familiar words.
Using this Hodge-podge system of communication, Stoat was able to speak with the humanoid a bit more easily and was surprised to find that the goblin referred to Bolnven as “our town”. As near as he could figure, goblins had somehow overrun the settlement or were perhaps laying siege to it. He could get no read from the creature about any “Dark Lady” but did learn of a “tall woman” in league with the aggressors before wrapping up his questions.
As the Group dispatched the troublesome little monster, they became aware of another danger. The lone goblin had been a scout, and his shouting had alerted a sort of guard station of reinforcements nearby. Nearly three dozen goblin warriors atop worgs crested the hill and bore down on the investigators. Roughly half engaged the Party, while the rest took positions outside the melee to cut off any escape. The heroes would have to fight their way out.
A clever Entangle reduced the number of attackers, as several of the goblin riders were effectively trapped in the area of the spell and could not move. Gram found himself outnumbered three to one, but stood his ground against the hated enemy of his race. One particularly vicious worg harried Maldus, severely hampering his ability to heal and cutting him off from the rest of the Party. Stoat rained arrows from the slain scout’s perch, high in the treetop.
The goblins fought vengefully, but ultimately were no match for the superior warriors of the Party, Zeph and Relmir slashed their way through the humanoids’ ranks and soon relieved Maldus of his bothersome shadow. The reserve force of goblins regrouped and retreated as the Party used missile weapons to finish off those pitiful creatures entangled by magic. Whoever commanded the goblin force in Bolnven would certainly not be taken by surprise now.
With the battle over, the investigators had time to treat their wounds and digest the full extent of this development. Gram found himself particularly concerned – any force of goblins who had come this far from the Krond Heights would most assuredly have had to pass through Grumstone. Had the home of his family been seiged as well? Did the sons of the Gramdal Clan still live?