The Road to Phandalin
The remainder of the journey passed by uneventfully, the group wary of any noise from the surrounding forest. With the sun making its' way towards the horizon, dusk beginning to settle in, the town finally came into view.
The town of Phandalin was quite small, forty or so simple log houses with a handful of stores scattered amongst them. Surrounding the town, however, were ages old ruins and crumbling buildings, relics and reminders of the towns' glory days, when mining and trade boomed. To the east of town, set apart from the rest of the buildings, a large, somewhat dilapidated manor house stood, looking down on the fields and streets below.
The muddy streets were busy as our group entered into town. Locals going about their errands, or heading home before night set in. It didn't take long to ascertain where the wagon was to be delivered, Barthen's Provisions was well signed, and positioned right at the town entrance. With Zinovia, Freddie and Rowina handling the delivery, Windsweeper and Turtle decided to try and find some lodgings for the night.
A little ways further into town, nearly at its centre, stood the Stonehill Inn, a rather new building that was full of folk taking their evening meal and drink after a hard days work. Entering the inn, the two companions were met with the smells of meat and bread cooking in the large ovens of the kitchen, spilt ale and cider, and curious looks from some of the villagers. Heading across to the bar, they were greeted by a short and upbeat human. Introducing himself as the proprietor, Toblen Stonehill, Windsweeper organised rooms and a couple of drinks while they waited for the rest of the party to arrive. Mug in hand, Turtle looked around the room, before heading off to sit next to a lonely figure seated a large table. With Windsweeper in tow, the large Tortle cleared his throat and gestured to an empty seat. "Do you mind if we join you?"
"Not at all," replied the stranger, "some company would be nice, instead of the stares I'm getting from the locals."
Introducing himself as De-Kere, the newcomer and Turtle quickly got along. Sharing tales of battles won and lost, comparing scars and old wounds. All the while, Windsweeper sat, slowly nursing his drink, and listening to the sounds of the tavern around him. Conversations rose and fell, mostly dry rural chatter, although occasionally some small tidbit or other would catch his attention. Talks of the Redbrands, a group who seemed to be causing some trouble for the town and Orcs spotted to the east. When Pip, the son of the innkeeper delivered them some more drinks, Windsweeper quietly asked the boy what he knew of the Redbrands.
"Well, they been causing mischief and trouble for some time. Hiding out and threatening the locals and travellers. Mum seems extra worried of late though. My friend Carp, out on the Alderleaf farm, he nearly got caught when he found a secret tunnel into their hideout."
Windsweeper thanked the boy, and slipped him a copper for his troubles, before heading up to the bar to try and get some more information.
As he approached the bar, the remainder of the group entered the inn. Again, a hush briefly fell over the crowd, as if the room itself held its breath, releasing back into normalcy and raucous noise when it was clear that the newcomers posed no threat. Zinovia began first, handing Windsweeper his pay for the delivery.
"So, Barthen and Gundren are good friends. He was able to confirm from the map case what we first thought. Gundren and his companion never arrived here, and so it seems have been captured or killed by the goblins. Apparently they have a cave hideout somewhere near where we were ambushed. Gundren also has two brothers, they're due back into town any day now. There's also a local gang causing some trouble around town, threatening the locals."
"The Redbrands," Windsweeper replied, "Yes, they seem to be the talk of the room tonight. I was just heading up to get some more information from Trilena, the innkeeper's wife."
Trilena came out of the kitchen on Toblen's bequest, speaking quietly to the group. "The word was, that when Thel Dendrar, a local woodcarver, tried to stand up to the ruffians, he was murdered. The remainder of his family haven't been seen since."
Thanking her for her time, the group conversed quietly. It was clear that something had to be done about this group, but first, they must try to find Gundren. Whatever the goblins took them for, if they were still alive, it was unlikely that they would stay the way for long. Ordering meals and more drinks, the party all joined Turtle and De-Kere, before retiring for the night. They would leave at first light to find the Dwarf, dead or alive, and bring him back.
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