It has been two months since they drove the monster races from the town. During that time the company has worked to rebuild the town’s defenses and retrain the surviving militia. As the rest of the company is preparing to break camp Joda, Sereg, and Oeric are called to a meeting with Captain Garret. When they get there they find Turk, Alosius, and Faerlie already there. The captain informs them that they will not be joining the march north nor staying here, instead he has a important mission for all of them that will have then traveling north.
He lays down the very large cursed black blade used by the ogre. He tells them the making of this blade is beyond the capabilities of the monster races. Duke Elliem fears that Baron Hayes is responsible for these weapons. Not only does the Baron run one of the largest mining towns in the area, but he has some of the finest smiths. The captain tells them that it is pretty common knowledge that the Duke and Baron do not get along as the Baron was a mercenary captain that purchased his nobility and the Duke resents the Baron’s close association with the King. Therefore, the orders they have been given will not be written down nor will they have a writ from the Duke. If they do accept their assignment then they will receive triple their normal pay with a bonus if they can find proof of the origin of these weapons.
They grab their gear and get additional resources from the wagon train. Irontown is about a seven day travel from their current location. The trip is uneventful and soon they find themselves outside of Irontown. As they pass through a small collection of farmhouses just south of Irontown, Faerlie talks to some women washing clothes by the town well. She finds out that Baron Hayes is currently visiting some of his holdings to the east and has left Sir Lordoran to see to things in his absence. With that in mind they enter Irontown – and it all goes downhill from there.
They stop in at the Forgehammer Inn and pay for the semi-private room upstairs. Given that this is not caravan season the inn is empty. While the town is working, they decide to walk around and get a feel for the place. It will be hard not to stand out as they are the only strangers in town, but they strive to seem simply like passing mercenaries hired by Faerlie. There are three master smiths in this town, but only two of them are also skilled weaponsmiths. Nobody really knows of anything untoward that has happened of late, but then again it is difficult to get people to open up to the well-armed strangers. They are even hassled by the local reeve’s men until they convince them of their innocent attentions.
Figuring that it would be easier to get information about the town during the evening hours when the workers would flock to the inn to quench their thirst the return to the inn. That night they spend most of their time trying, unsuccessfully, to get into conversations. Instead Alosius convinces Joda to pick a fight with some of the locals, which will give him time to slip out of the inn undetected. Joda, who for some bizarre reason wore is heavy armor to the inn that night, walks over to a few of the tougher looking locals and after a brief and pathetic attempt to make it seem like he was insulted by them – he attacks them. During the fight Alosius tries to slip out, but is unsuccessful as locals are crowding the front door. Still he manages to slip free when the guards arrives to break up the fight.
The guard separate the fighters and get the general information. The crowd is getting ugly as Joda not only started a fight for no reason, but was wearing plate armor. They decide to chain Joda up and then haul him to the keep for questioning in the morning. As they pass over the main bridge to the other side of the river, Alosius follows behind in the hopes of freeing his friend. There is a guard on the bridge who will probably not let him pass. With a quick thump on the back of the head with his sap, Alosius dumps the body into the river – killing the guard. To keep the town occupied he makes a small tinder box and throws its lit contents into a nearby house. He hopes that the fire will provide everyone sufficient cover to search the parts of the town where they believe the weapon cache is hiding.
As the townsfolk rush outside to combat the fire, Oeric slips away to search the smithies. He reaches the smith of Master Grady and after lighting a small lamp he begins searching for some weapons. However, before he can search everywhere the door opens and a young boy sees him. He ties to stammer out something about looking for a barrel, but the kid runs off yelling for the guard. Knowing that there is no escape he waits for the guard. When the guard arrives he simply repeats the story about looking for a bucket to help with the fire, but the guard is in no mood to believe these strangers. He chains Oeric up and drags him to the manor house where he is housed in the guard room.
During this time Alosius has been following the two guards dragging Joda away. He sees a man on horseback approach and given the guards response assumes it must be Sir Lordoran. Using the knight to mask his approach he makes an attempt to free Joda. With a knife in hand he moves forward only to slip on a wet cobblestone – he manages to catch himself, but everyone turns to look at him. He throws the dagger at the guard and tries to escape, but the knight is far faster than him and the guards quickly surround him and pummel him until he surrenders. He is chained with Joda and the both of them are drug off to a cell at the bottom of the north tower.
The next morning Sir Lordoran has all three of his prisoners brought before him for justice. He casts a spell and demands the truth from them or they will suffer for their crimes. Before Alosius or Joda could speak up, Oeric steps forward and tells him exactly who they are and why they came to Irontown. He listens to the story and decides that he believes them enough to release them with only a minor fine for the trouble they have caused. He says that he has heard stories of caravans moving to the north, but that the Baron has forbidden him from interfering with them. He does know that the caravans have made several stops to see Rhianna. Rhianna is a powerful sorceress and not to be trifled with, but for the right trade she can be counted upon to give a measure of the truth. Oeric and Achmundh go to visit Rhianna, while everyone else visits the northern mines to investigate the caravans that passed through the area.
As they near where they were told her house was they saw a wide squat tower and cottage sitting on a jagged rise in the land. As they got closer they could see the tower was actually made of hundreds of steel plates and the smoke they thought came from a stove actually smelled more like a forge. They knocked on the door and a elderly woman answered. After introductions they were allowed inside but not guarantees were made that they would ever leave. The woman was indeed Rhianna, but she could offer no assistance as she never discussed who or why someone purchased her services. They did manage to strike two deals though. First Oeric traded the cursed blade and some coin for a enchanted shield. The shield would drain some of its wearer’s life force and then return it far stronger when called upon. The other bargain was struck by Achmundh who managed to convince Rhianna that he would be willing to become her apprentice.
Rhianna was the current master of a large demonic forge from which she drew her magic and she could use someone to venture into the world and collect souls to feed to the demon. She accepted his offer and cast the binding spell that would transfer all souls he collected to her. Secondly she taught him the ritual necessary to remove the soul from someone moments before they died. She did this in her workshop far from the eyes of Oeric as he would have objected to the use of such evil magic.
Meanwhile the rest of the company made their way to the large mine to the west. With some persuasion and the letter of introduction from Sir Lordoran they were able to convince the miners to talk to them. They discover that there is another abandoned mine farther north. That mine still contains iron ore, but the quality of that ore is very low so nobody works it anymore. Second, there are rumors that Jacob, one of the mine watchmen, has been working late several nights and at least one worker saw him go north with some mining tools. When they inquire with the smaller mines to the north they find out that he never stopped there with tools. In fact they never saw him pulling a cart to the mines. Curious they go back to the large mine and follow his tracks. Jacob appears to be following the path towards the northern mines, but then stops and is apparently met by several people. After studying the tracks Zigoth is certain that Jacob pulled the cart away from here empty. So it is decided to follow the men on foot that met him.
Zigoth’s best guess is that there are half a dozen men and while they are attempting to conceal their path he can follow them. The tracks head northwest for a few miles before they come to a wide river; although not as deep as the Ore River it is deep enough and swift enough they cannot simply walk across it. Zigoth, the best swimmer, takes a rope and jumps into the river and swims to the other side. The river proves to be very cold and swift enough he ends up downstream a bit, but he makes it across. Once he secures the rope to the other side everyone is able to cross safely. It takes a bit of time to dry out and in that time Zigoth manages to find the tracks on this side of the river – they are heading directly north.
They follow the tracks north eventually finding a sizable encampment in a dense stand of trees. There were about a dozen people walking about wearing long robes and carrying curved blades. The camp was far too strong to attack so everyone agreed to check out the mine and then return to get Oeric and Achmundh’s help. While they do see signs of repair to some of the sheds, it appears that the mine is currently empty. Rather than enter the mines, they head back to Irontown to meet up with Oeric and Achmundh and see if they got any help from Rhianna.
Everyone gathers just west of town, given that the townsfolk still consider them criminals regardless of Sir Lordoran’s proclamation. Given that Rhianna offered nothing of value they decide to go back to the abandoned mine and search it for any clues, but first they need to deal with that encampment. Sir Lordoran had told them that the northern mine was abandoned, but there still might be miners trying to scratch out a living from the small value left. However, these men did not look like miners and they had leg chains more commonly used for slaving. Oeric agreed to go in first and assess their demeanor, while the others waited to support him. The plan was made moot when Oeric stepped into the encampment and was attacked.
The encampment was small, but while the slavers were armed most of them were not armored to fend of an attack. The company however was expecting to attack and that more than anything else tilted the battle in their favor. Faerlie managed to cover most of the camp with an entanglement spell that held three slavers from supporting the others. While they were able to assist with their short bows it was clear that they were not very skilled archers. In no time at all they were able to kill or incapacitate all of the slavers. It was at this time that Achmundh committed an evil act.
While he believed the others were not looking he bent over a mortally wounded slaver. Taking out a small dagger and intoning the words taught to him by Rhianna, he pulled out that man’s spirit and bind it to his own. Unfortunately for him Faerlie and Alosius both saw him do something that shivered them to their souls. Alosius was the first to confront him and while Achmundh nearly bought his silence on what he just did, he did not expect Faerlie to intervene. Once Alosius realized that the rest of the company would stand against Achmundh he beat him unconscious.
With Achmundh bound and gagged to a tree and Faerlie to watch over him, the rest of the company entered the mines. Inside they found that a large central glory hole had been widened out and a makeshift forge had been constructed. Coal-black creatures, the likes of which they had never seen before, were working the forges and had several crates filled with black weapons. The smiths, and the two slavers assisting them, attacked, but were quickly over-matched. The strange creatures fought well and died hard, but they did die like all other mortal creatures.
They brought back one of the strange smiths, some of the wounded slavers, several of the blades and evidence of Jacob’s crime to Sir Lordoran for justice. In addition they turned over Achmundh for his crimes as well. They were not sure what he did, but if anything was evil it was what he did to that slaver. Sir Lordoran passed judgement of death upon the surviving slavers. In addition he had Achmundh hung for the crimes that he was able to discern through his holy power. He gave those in the company a fair reward for the capture of the slavers and their equipment as well as the work they accomplished uncovering who was selling them information.
Given that their mission to stop the forging of these weapons might not be completed, as heavy wagon tracks went north, Sir Lordoran sent word back to Captain Garret regarding the partial success of their mission. In addition, he sent along a letter of his personal thanks to everyone involved in this matter. It was agreed that he would simply offer condolences for the loss of Achmundh and allow the the captain to draw conclusions that he simply fell in battle.
Given that the townsfolk still distrusted them after they attacked the guard and tried to burned down McGorwan’s house Sir Lordoran thought it was best if everyone stayed at the keep to recover from their battle. He offered horses and supplies for their journey north to hunt down the slavers and discover where they are getting these strange creatures.
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