The party of adventurers joins the main road a few miles north of Vandalin, arriving at the old town walls in the late afternoon. It’s a small little place; the town used to be much larger, but was ruined centuries ago. It’s only been re-established a few decades ago as the trade routes grew more stable and prosperous, with Vandalin’s locals relying on merchant caravans, miners and adventurers for income.
Built on a small hill, the village is surrounded by the ruins of the original, much larger settlement. The town walls are so ramshackle to be almost non-existent, and there are no guards at the gate. The party also notices what appears to be a shantytown of tents and makeshift huts, about half a mile south of the village.
Erol enters town first, spending time at an inn named Stonehill’s. He listens in on a few conversations between locals, and chats with an elderly man. Key elements discussed include:
- People have been going missing – ‘Rosie’ hasn’t turned up to work
- There is a group in town named the Redcloaks
- There’s a church under construction in town that appears over-sized for a village as small as Vandalin
- “Strange things” are happening up at The Mire (several days north, closer to Lastlight than Vandalin)
- There are goblins at Redpeak, which is about two days south-east of Vandalin
- The old man says that there are “stormclouds over Thunderfell like I’ve never seen, and the Dezinry are on the move”.
Erol returns to the group a couple of hours after nightfall. Uncertain on how elves will be received in this backwater, Taerus disguises himself as a human for the duration of his stay. Gwendalyn leaves the group in search of her brother. She’s frustrated by the lack of leads; her brother Gundren is missing, she’s been delayed two days from a meeting with two potentially untrustworthy gnomes, and the only contact she has in town is a man named Elliyas, who she hasn’t met before. Someone needs to pay for what’s happened!
The four adventurers enter town under cover of darkness and settles in a tavern named The Goblin’s Head. They strike up conversation with the owner, a human named Durnin Highhill, as well as a fellow group of adventurers named the Six Swords Society. Key elements discussed include:
- There have been orcs and gnolls seen up near Widowsreach and “Daril is paying for scalps”
- The church is so big due to legends about Marianus (a god of the Triumvirate, the pantheon of this region) having manifested at this site hundreds of years ago. The church is still under construction, and is only half-built.
- Altamar used to have a garrison here, of about six soldiers, but they all either walked out or disappeared around four months ago.
- Two gnome brothers named Futhir and Thrannir were in The Goblin’s Head couple of weeks ago, talking excitedly about a map and a mine “buried high up in the western mountains.” They were last seen leaving town with a lot of canvas. They come from the east of Vandalin, a day or two away.
- The Six Swords Society have only been in town for a couple of days. They’re not aware of the map, but are instead off to “the lake” because they have “the proper equipment”. (The Society is seen leaving town at dawn, heading north with what appears to be a diving bell.)
The next morning, the group visits Stonehill’s for breakfast. According to Tobias Stonehill,
- “The town’s been different lately. You’ve got to watch yourself more. Worzel’s son got in a fight with one yesterday, they beat him up and dragged him off. Hasn’t been seen since. Then Rosie doesn’t turn up to work. Something’s up.”
- “The Redcloaks are a group of bandits who’ve been here for a few months, who base themselves out of a tavern named The Sleeping Giant, near the old Manor.”
And, according to the barmaid,
- “I was talking to Rosie the other day, and she said that her boy had seen Little Mucky – that’s Carl Muckel – down by the Manor. And he’d seen or heard something that made him go chalk-white.”
- The Muckel Farm pigs have been well fed lately. Carnacki and some of the others believe this means someone is feeding people to the pigs.
After breakfast, the group visits The Sleeping Giant, and Taerus successfully disarms and binds one of the Redcloaks while he sleeps. Talking to the owner,
- The Redcloaks split their time between The Sleeping Giant and the Manor. They intimidate local businesses and don’t pick up their tabs.
- There’s about a dozen Redcloaks across the countryside.
After an unsuccessful attempt to deceive the three other Redcloaks, a savage street-fight breaks out. The party is badly wounded in the fight, as the Redcloaks seem almost fanatical, muttering phrases like “blessed with wings I cannot fall” and “blood as cold as acid, breath as hot as flame, eternity for vengeance, all lives as mine I claim.”
After the fight, the group meet Daril Wester, the local grocer turned townmaster, and Talia Thornton, who runs the nearby Miner’s Exchange and helps them stow the bodies. When asked by Talia, the party identify themselves as the Six Swords Society.
The remaining Redcloak is taken into the Townmaster’s residence and interrogated, with new information being that the Redcloaks use the basements of the manor as their base, and they’re led by ‘Boss Blackstaff’. The party set up camp in the abandoned Altamarian garrison and lock up their prisoner. They meet Daril’s son, as well as Carl Muckel. Some coins change hands, and Carl agrees to show them a secret entrance to the ruined manor. He saw some Redcloaks use it two days ago, holding a sack that may have held a small person.
Using the tunnel, the adventurers find themselves in a cavern under the manor’s foundations. There’s a horrendous smell of decaying flesh rising from a small chasm in the cavern floor, but the party take a side passage. Erol listens at a door and hears the sound of groans and a goblin’s voice saying “stay back” and “don’t touch me”. The party try the second door, where they break up a group of gambling Redcloaks. Rastus uses his Burning Hands once again, but the bandits are more resilient than the goblins he’d faced a couple of days before. One of the bandits flees to another room yelling “Boss!,” while another protects the door until slain by Carnacki. Having warned his boss, the fleeing bandit escapes the party but stumbles in the dark, falling into the chasm and being consumed by the two needle-toothed ghouls who live there.
Lead by Taerus, the party searches the boss’ chambers and discover he must have been a wizard of some description. While Rastus stuffs his backpack with scrolls, Taerus finds a mysterious letter, some jewels and coins, and a secret door. It appears that the leader of the Redcloaks has fled. A search through adjoining rooms – which include an armoury and old crypt – contain no sign of the fleeing boss. They do find Rosie and her son in a holding cell, as well as a couple of zombies under lock and key. The cell holding the prisoners is successfully lock-picked and the adventurers return to the newly-liberated town, keen to rest up and have a lunch.