Previously: a shady individual that worked for Dasharra Keldabar was suspected of being a Zhentarim. The Beastmasters followed him after he left the Singing Manticore down a back alleyway and confronted him while he was trying to relieve himself on a wall. Surprised, the redhaired man drew an artificer's weapon from beneath his jacket and fired it at Aera, missing over her shoulder with a loud report.
Aera retaliated with a swift stab with his rapier. Bran jumped around the corner, his bow at the ready, calling for the man to surrender. Stark, hearing the firearm's bark, ran past the ranger, and swung his battle axe at the man, lopping off his arm. Spurting blood all over the alley, the man passed out, face planting on the ground.
Stark grabbed the firearm, kicking the severed forearm to the mouth of the alleyway, then cast a cure wounds on him so that he wouldn't die from blood loss. As the others debated on what to do, Mal picked up the unconscious man and hoisted him over his shoulder. Aera attempted to disguise the body so that it wouldn't look like the goliath was carrying a body. At last, the group decided to head to the partially destroyed warehouses on the dock so that they could wake the man and question him.
After finding an out of the way ruin of a building, the party looked around to see if anyone had followed them, then went inside. Stark waited ten minutes to see if the man would wake up on his own, but he had lost too much blood in the fight. He examined the weapon and found it to be of similar construction to his own weapons. Mal, tired of waiting, walked down to the dock and filled his waterskin with ice cold ocean water, then poured it in the red haired man's face.
With a scream, the man awoke and Mal clamped a hand down over his mouth. Stark asked him where he got his weapon and the man responded that he made it with his own two hands. Stark then asked who taught him how to make it. Mal asked if the man was Zhentarim, to which he replied, "Yes, don't you see the tattoo on my neck!" Again, Stark asked "Who taught you to make this?"
"My masters," he replied. "A man and a dwarf in Daggerford, Alistar and Thorindin" He scrambled to his feet and dodged away from Mal as he darted for a broken section of wall. Stark grabbed him, but he pushed the dragonborn away. Mal stepped up and punched him, knocking him out cold. He was reaching for something at his belt as he was running, and the group realized that no one had searched him after the fight in the alleyway. Stark realized that they were spell casting material components. After searching him, they find a small book of spells and a pouch holding ammo for his weapon. Bran, Aera, and Turin looked around to see if anyone heard the shuffle, but the night was still quiet, apart from a ship bobbing up in the down on the far side of the harbor.
Stark cast cure wounds on the man to bring him back to consciousness. The artificer then asked their prisoner "After training you, where did they go?"
He replied, "I believe they were headed to Mirabar." Frustrated, Stark left and returned to the Drunken Dwarf. After much debate on what to do with their prisoner, the adventurers decided to knock him unconscious again, disguise him, throw him over Mal's shoulder and haul him to the forest north of Fireshear. Bran took the severed hand and threw it into the water, and the two of them headed north of town via a circuitous route. Turin, unknown to Bran and Mal, followed the pair of them from the shadows. Aera returned to the Singing Manticore and began to "ply her trade". Turin, unknown to Bran and Mal, followed the pair of them from the shadows.
As Bran kept watch, Mal climbed a sturdy tree with his prisoner, tying him to the trunk on a large branch fifteen feet in the air. Afterward Bran and Mal returned to the Drunken Dwarf.
Meanwhile, back at the Manticore, Aera noticed a constable had arrived who was questioning several patrons on what they had been doing for the past hour or so. Eventually, the constable came over to the aarakocra and asked her what she had been doing and where her friends were. Aera responded in a mysterious manner and managed to bluff the constable into looking elsewhere for answers. As he left, Aera lifted his coin purse and discovered a wedding ring inside the pouch. After watching three more constables arrive and start questioning everyone in the bar, Aera decided to return the wedding band to the constable, who was thankful.
Mal and Bran returned to the road outside of the Manticore and the Drunken Dwarf to see several constables speaking with drunken merry makers. Some of the patrons were being up against the wall of the tavern being searched. Mal and Bran decided to head to their room at the Dwarf. Upon reaching their room, they discover that Turin wasn't there. Fifteen minutes later, Turin finally showed up. Mal noticed Turin being a little shady and asked him, "What did you do?"
Turin replied, "No loose ends."
Mal responded, "We'll deal with this in the morning."
Back at the Manticore, Aera watched the constables finish questioning everyone, then cross the road to the Drunken Dwarf. From the common room upstairs at the dwarf, everyone is awakened by a loud booming voice coming from the taproom below. "So sorry to wake you, ma'am. I need to speak to any guests that you might have."
The innkeeper fetched the adventurers, who came downstairs to see all four constables standing in the taproom. The constable tells them that there was an attack in an alley close to the Manticore, and it appeared as if a lot of blood had been shed, so it might have even been a murder. "Could you account for your whereabouts this evening?" he finally asked.
Pointing at Smoke, Bran said, "I was having to track down my dog. He ran away from me, chasing rabbits."
Mal nodded and said, "And I was helping him."
The constable looked at the wolf and said, "Well, he seems well trained, being inside currently."
Mal muttered, "Rabbits."
Turning to Turin, the constable asked him where he was. Turin said, "I was walking down by the docks."
"By yourself?" the constable replied, quizzically.
Turin shrugged and said, "Well, I had my bear."
The constable raised his eyebrow then turned to Stark.
"I was down by the docks close to the warehouse," Stark said.
"Which specific building?" Stark told him one of the partially destroyed ones.
Turning to all four, the constable asked "What are your plans for the next few days?"
"We are sailing out to Neverwinter on the morning tide," Stark said. Mal pulls out their Icewind Dale identification papers and showed them to the constable, telling him of their search for the Weevil.
The constable handed back the papers and asked "Are you leaving on the ship that is currently docked in our harbor?"
"Yes, that is our intention," replied the goliath.
The constable shook his head, saying, "Several sailors from that ship were in the Manticore when the attack took place, so I have already spoken to the captain of that vessel. She will not be leaving until our investigation is complete. I must ask the same of each of you." After getting each of their names, the constable introduced himself as Grindell, and the four lawmen took their leave.
Aera, returning to the Dwarf from the Manticore, saw the constables leaving and heading toward the docks. Finally the party decided to turn in for the night.
The next morning, the party looked around the room to make sure no one was listening. Stark cast detect magic but couldn't find any magical spying devices. Turin seemed very shifty and muttered something about "no loose ends". Bran and Mal decided to take Smoke to go hunting for rabbits. Aera decided to scout the town for a pretty decent sized mark. Stark headed for the constable's office down by the docks.
When Stark arrived at the office, Dasharra the griffon trainer was there, with three of her men standing close to her. As the dragonborn approached the door, he could overhear her telling the constables that "Red didn't show up for work this morning." The lawmen told her that they found evidence of a fight or an attack close to the Manticore last night, and that they were very concerned that someone might have been killed.
Turin strolled around town and noticed several of Dasharra's burliest men searching every nook and cranny in Fireshear. Stark left the office and walked down to the ship that was docked in the harbor.
Several sailors were going about their business half-heartedly, upset that they were not able to set sail that morning. Stark called up to them, asking where their captain was.
One of the sailors shouted, "Xenia, come down here!" A green haired elven woman leapt from the crow's nest, swinging from rope to rope until she landed nimbly on the deck.
"What can I do for you?" she asked, stepping up to the railing.
Stark replied, "I'm with that adventuring group that was supposed to set sail with you this morning."
Xenia's face brightened. "Oh, yes, the group with that handsome goliath! How can I help you?"
"Well, I just wanted to come down and check out the ship," the artificer said. "I was curious and it's been a long time since I've been on a ship. In fact, never!"
Xenia chuckled. "Are you scared, little dragon man? Well, come on board and I'll show you around." Stark walked up the gangplank and spent some time learning the ins and outs of sailing after which he returned to the Drunken Dwarf.
Aera, after following a man who turned out to be wearing costume jewelry, decided to make contact with the local thieves' guild. After a bit of searching, Aera met one of the dwarven miners and told him about the situation. The dwarf replied, "It's a right mess, Red was well liked in Fireshear."
Aera implied that a non sanctioned thieves' guild might have been behind the attack on Red, and that he heard a rumor that Red was carrying several items of worth that might need to be fenced. The dwarf told her that they would be happy to come to an agreement.
Around mid-afternoon, Turin heard shouting in the streets. Upon investigating, he saw the four constables plus Dasharra and her men running toward the north end of town. Turin followed behind, and watched as the group spread out in a line and begin walking north. After several minutes of searching, someone on the east end of the line blew a horn, and the entire search party converged on that location. Turin watched as they gathered around a tree that held the body of a red haired man, his throat sliced open. The ranger grew white-faced as he could hear the head constable ask someone to find a cleric in town that could cast speak with dead. Two men ran off back to town.
Meanwhile, in the woods, Bran and Mal could hear the horn blast coming from the direction of the tree, and Aera could tell that many townsfolk had heard about the commotion north of town and were headed in that direction, so he decided to find his contact again to expedite things.
Stark observed two men talking to Sirac in the taproom at the Drunken Dwarf, and overheard them asking him about the spell speak with dead. Sirac shook his head no, but the two men pleaded with him, asking him to come and see if he could do anything to help.
Bran, Mal, and Turin, from the south, observed the scene from a distance and saw a dwarf wearing leathers and a green cloak examining the ground all around the tree. After a few moments of pondering, she walked up to Constable Grindell and told him, "I can see footprints for three men and two beasts of some sort."
Catching up to Sirac and the two men, Stark yelled out, "Sirac, where are you going?"
Sirac sent a withering gaze at Stark and said, "Come on, something's happened."
Back at the tree, Dasharra's men were lowering Red's body from the tree branch as the three adventurers tried to figure out what to do.
Aera met with her guild contact, who told her to "tell me everything". Aera told him everything that had happened up until the party's splitting up at dawn's first light. The dwarf told her that "I will do what I can. I might need some extra funding." Aera nodded and returned to the Drunken Dwarf.
Sirac, Stark, and the messengers arrived at the crime scene to see the dwarven ranger tracking the footprints. "It looks as if one of them climbed the tree, then two of them walked back to town," she said. "The third person wasn't with the other two." Constable Grinnell noticed the cleric's arrival and walked over to him.
"Is there anything you can do to bring this man back to life?" Grinnell asked. "He was well loved in this town"
"I have just started my studies as a cleric of Torm," Sirac replied. "I don't know very many spells. I would love to help you, but it appears like you don't have all the information." Sirac shuffled nervously.
Stark patted Sirac on the back and said, "Maybe there is something we can do to help these people."
Sirac took a deep breath and said, "Perhaps if I prayed and meditated overnight, I might be given some guidance or inspiration from the almighty Torm."
Grinnell sighed and said, "Well, let's make a stretcher and move the body back to my office." As he said this, the constable scanned the crowd, looking for some sort of reaction. "If this good cleric of Torm is unable to help us, perhaps we will be able to send for a cleric from another town." Dasharra, upset over the death of her employee, began weeping. Her men placed the body on the makeshift stretcher, and together as a group, began walking back to town. Turin, Sirac, and Stark returned with them. In the middle of town, Aera caught Turin's eye and Stark and Turin walked over to the bird.
"There's a plan in motion," she whispered. "Be at the Manticore tonight. Pass it along." Turin, wanting to find the missing two party members, decided to find Mal and Bran's tracks from their morning hunting trip. Finally, Turin tracked the two of them down and relayed Aera's information to them, saying that things could have been much worse, but that they were fine now.
Mal replied, "Maybe. Maybe."
Upon arriving at the constable's office, Grinnell ushered the body inside along with Sirac, shuttered all the windows, then posted guards around the perimeter of the building.
Stark returned to the boat and talked to Captain Xenia about the events of the day. Xenia told Stark that they were ready to leave at a moment's notice and that he should tell the rest of his party to be ready to depart. Stark thanked the captain and returned to the Manticore.
After discussing it, Bran, Mal, and Turin decided to make it look like someone mugged them and began attacking each other and making the terrain around them look like a fight took place. Afterward, Turin ran back to town to tell someone had been attacked.
Back at the Manticore, Stark noticed that Dasharra and her men were sitting around a table, drinking and mourning their lost comrade. Turin burst into the bar, shouting for help. Cursing, Dasharra sent four of her men with Stark and Turin, who was rambling on about the Weevil and his men attacking them. Shortly afterward, Aera arrived at the Manticore to find none of her friends there.
Turin guided the group back to Mal and Bran. Stark cast several cure wounds on the injured party members and Dasharra's men asked Mal what had happened. Mal told them that they were attacked by the Weevil and his men. Dasharra's men wondered why the Weevil was operating so far west. "Usually, they operate out of Mirabar, right?"
Mal shrugged but said, "I don't know, but they got all of our gold and ran that way." Stark, not knowing about the con that was going down, headed that direction. Stark easily found two bags full of gold, one of them bloodied. The dragonborn looked around for tracks, but could only see signs of a scuffle. Eventually, the group headed back to town, meeting the constable and another one of Dasharra's men who were coming to help.
Finally, the adventurers made it back to the Manticore. Mal recounted the "ambush" to Aera. Stark was the last to arrive, noticing a man pacing back and forth outside the Manticore, setting his jaw and muttering to himself. Stark entered the tavern and the man followed right behind. The dragonborn joined the rest of the party at a table and Stark began questioning Mal by saying, "What did you do?"
Suddenly, a piercing scream filled the room. The muscle bound man had come up behind Dasharra and sliced her throat open. Shouting "I will kill all of you!" the man dashed out the door. Stark cursed and ran after him. Bran jumped to Dasharra's side and cast spare the dying as Mal, Turin, and Aera pursued the knife-wielder.
Bran and Turin ran out the door and shot arrows into the back of the escaping man. The goliath and bird ran at him, trying to cut him off. From the rooftops, crossbow bolts rained down on the party, hitting Mal and Aera. As the man ran across the roadway at an angle, Aera landed a blow with his rapier. Stark and Turin both launched arrows at the man. The barbarian flew into a rage, but twisted his ankle and fell prone.
The aaracokra ran up and stabbed him with the rapier again. Bran fired a final arrow that caused the fleeing man to tumble to the ground. Dasharra's men rushed the fallen figure and began exacting their revenge on the helpless man, wailing on him with fists and boots, killing him.
The constable ran up and asked what had happened. One of the men shouted out "this man killed Dasharra!". Stark went back inside and cast cure wounds on the dwarf. Coming out of unconsciousness, Dasharra tried to speak but nothing came out except for a raspy breath.
Turin ran up to the bird and said, "Tell me everything that happened and was supposed to happen."
Aera responded, "Later."
The men continued to desecrate the body of the man that they believed had killed their boss, but moments later, the dwarf pushed her way to the front and told them that she was okay, and that Bran and Stark had saved her.
"Was this the man that killed Red?" continued Dasharra.
The constable shook his head. "I can't say for certain, but it looks like it." The constable ushered her back inside, followed protectively by her men. The party looked around to see if they were alone.
Aera noticed some men stepping back into the shadows on the rooftops. Moments later, a crossbow bolt with a note attached landed with a thunk into the dusty ground at her feet.
Taking the note, the bird read aloud, "His wife and children will need an extra thousand." Mal suggested not discussing this in the open. The party checked in on Dasharra, who was telling the constable that she remembered a man from a few years ago to whom she refused to rent a griffon. The constable came up to the party and thanked them for their aid in bringing down the dwarf's attacker.
Grinell gave them permission to leave in the morning and then asked what town they were based in, so that if he needed to talk to them again, he could find them. Bran told him that they could always be found in Bryn Shander.
Stark found Sirac at the bar, who was visibly upset and angry. Returning to the Drunken Dwarf, Sirac told the party that he would catch the next ship out of Fireshear. Bran tried to talk him into staying with the group, but the acolyte snapped at them, saying, "Why would I be caught dead with a group of murderers?"
The party began relying the tale of Red to Sirac, with Stark saying that they merely wanted to question him.
Sirac said, "Then how did he turn up dead?"
Mal and Stark told Sirac about the Zhentarim and the fact that Red had a thunder cannon very similar to the artificer's.
Turin spoke up, saying that there were forces in play that he could not explain entirely, but what he did, he did for the greater good.
Gritting his teeth, Sirac said, "May Mielikki have pity on your soul."
Mal continued, "The Zhentarim are developing weapons of great destructive power, much like the ones that Stark wields. Imagine entire private armies using such weapons."
Sirac's demeanor shifted slightly. "And you think this man was one of those evil men?"
"We know for certain," Stark responded.
Sirac told them that he would travel with them as far as Neverwinter, but then he would find his own way.
Over the next few hours, Mal recounted the betrayal of Kella Darkhope and how the Zhentarim were able to get their hands on Stark's first thunder cannon. As the night grew late, Stark and Turin handed over money to Aera to give to his thieves' guild contact.
Stark returned to the boat and finds out from Xennia that they are ready to leave at a moment's notice. The dragonborn returned to the party with this news, and the group decided to leave at once.
That clear cold late evening on the boat, Turin slept fitfully, having a disturbing dream of a unicorn turning her back and walking away from the ranger.
Next: Unschedule Stopover