If you go down to the woods today…
Aetholric and Li slipped into the nearby house that the Nighthawks had entered, unobserved by the approaching squad of Iron Circle warriors, and quietly set about searching for clues as to what the assassins were doing in Llorkh. The house showed signs of regular use but nothing untoward as they moved to inspect the bedroom and storeroom individually. Li found a small iron bound chest beneath the bed, easily disabling the needle trap placed on the lock, and its contents of gold coins marked with the Netherese symbol. The storeroom held more grisly secrets however. A sealed barrel was found to contain the mouldering corpse of a townsperson, stuffed unceremoniously inside.
The rest of the party stood ready in case of trouble as the two dozen warriors formed a semi-circle around them. One of the Adepts stepped forward and with a slight tremble in his voice demanded to know why they had assaulted members of their town. The party told him they had recognised the trio as members of the Nighthawks and followed them when they left the inn, only to be ambushed here, and revealed the assassins trademark daggers as proof. The Adept looked back at what appeared to be his superior officer for encouragement before ordering his troops to gather the bodies and bring them with the party to the Iron Keep before Lord Redthorn. The party calmly agreed and accompanied them.
At the Keep they were shown into a room and left with the bodies and a trio of guards. Shortly Lord Redthorn and his elite guard entered, ignoring the party, and moved to examine the bodies. Garusk overheard them mention that one of the Nighthawks was called Memtar and sent one of his men to check his post. Lord Redthorn turned to the party and asked them what had transpired. Telling him what they had told the Adept earlier as he listened intently. As they finished, he gestured to the bodies and told them that one of them was a member of his Iron Circle and had been for a couple of years now, the other two were believed to be visiting family members who had shown interest in joining also. Redthorn apologized for disbelieving the party’s previous claims about the Nighthawks and in thanks for revealing this treachery within his ranks offered them the hospitality of his Keep for the night, which the companions happily accepted.
Having found nothing else of interest Aetholric and Li rejoined their companions at the Keep and told them and Lord Redthorn of their findings. The party were invited to dine with the Lord and his elite that evening and during the course of events Lord Redthorn agreed to supply mounts and pack animals for the party’s journey north and they discussed the Nighthawks and the rumours concerning their movements in the area. By the end of the evening a new alliance had been agreed and a glimmer of hope for the future could be seen.
Next day the party prepared to set off towards Everlund and the home of Aetholric’s mentor. Lord Redthorn had arranged to have their barge returned to Loudwater for them and any word of Nighthawk activity would be sent there for them. So it was with lighter hearts that the party departed.
Having decided to follow the edge of the High Forest up and around the companions were a little unprepared for the rough terrain but soldiered on, the swath of land between the forest and the river varying between a couple of miles and barely anything. Indeed it was as the forest seemed to block the way, the party having to wind their way through the ancient trees, that they came across what at first seemed an abandoned campsite, until the figures of muscular dog-faced creatures loped into view. “Gnolls!” advised Aetholric, “vicious fighters and excellent trackers”. Leaving their mounts the party approached on foot.
Five of the creatures were spread throughout the camp, casually tearing through the remaining tents. Taking advantage of their not being noticed, Li and Tully spread out a little as Garusk charged the nearest beast. Though this proved to be a fatal mistake; as its companions, showing a surprising turn of speed rushed to its aid; three of the hairy creatures surrounding the goliath and jabbing him with their crude long spears. Fargrim, Wrynn and Aetholric moved up to assist their comrades as another Gnoll appeared from one of the tents, this one was bulkier and wielded a huge club studded with what appeared to be sharpened teeth; with a blood-curdling howl it charged Father Tully and smashed the wicked club into the priest, the jagged teeth ripping a horrendous wound that continued to bleed profusely. Responding to their leader’s howl, the trio assaulting Garusk struck again and the mighty barbarian fell under their onslaught.
The remaining companions had little chance to mourn the falling of their towering friend as they were hard pressed by the Gnolls. The remainder of the battle was hard fought, with Fargrim falling to blows (but thankfully saved by the magic of his armour and the pure stubbornness of the Dwarf to stay down) and Father Tully also being battered to the very threshold of Deaths Door as the final beast dropped lifeless to the forest floor.