After their encounter at the Inn and the introduction of Kella Darkhope, the party, after some squabbling reluctantly compromises on investigating the stables. Alas, the stables are empty, but Lelah’s ear for trouble, honed by years behind the counter at the Golden Eagle, senses something in the loft upstairs. One shish-kebabed Goblin later, Lelah runs her hands over the stinking carcass looking for any bit of petty coin or treasure she can find. Dresden looks on with a mix of amusement and disgust while Lelah manages to scour a box of 10 silver darts and a dirty pouch of coins from the vile corpse. Lelah pockets the darts.
The party then makes s a quixotic decision and instead of searching something obvious, like the keep or the store, heads straight to the windmill, Dwarven Harri and Kella Darkhope still in tow. The doors to the ancient grainary appear to be knocked clean off the hinges, as though a drunken giant had mistaken them for an old west saloon.
The story of the party then takes a dark turn, as the interior is extremely poorly lit, something that will surely dock a star from Anakis’ future Yelp review of the Knightstone Windmill.
As the eyes, or in some cases, darkvision, of the party adjusts, the giant cogs and non-mysterious gears (they’re for grinding grain) of the windmill become apparent in the dim. It is then that they hear not only a snickering and hooting but also a mischievous cackling from above, and look up to find several Goblins aiming crudely made bows down upon them. The short stature of the Halfling allow Dresden to shoot a bolt directly into the crucial artery of a Goblin’s crotch and it falls to the ground. A Goblin who has leapt to the ground is delivered a single and deadly killing blow from Djeruk’s warhammer. As Djeruk begins his 10 minute ritual of praise for the war god Tyr, Harri interjects “Kella Darkhope just took off! Toward the square!”
“Kellah! Wait!” Lelah cries, and she, Harri, and Laylyn run after Kella, leaving the remaining three standing in the empty windmill. Kella puts on a burst of speed and, with the element of surprise, distances herself from the trailing Laylyn and Lelah. The natural berm on which the windmill was constructed allows the three to spot Kella’s destination: the Nightstone Inn.
Dresden, Djeruk, and Anakis feel confident Kella won’t get far and turn their attention toward the south-end of village and it’s building-guardian, the keep. The tower stands on its own island created by the figure-eight shape of the river. A drawbridge connects the village side and the keep side. The heroes strut up the shredded end of the wooden bridge. Peering over the side, a large boulder can be seen just beneath the water’s surface. “The jump is a solid 15 feet across,” says Harri. “At least you’ll have a couple of inches of water to break the fall.”“Tyr won’t fail us,” with a running leap, after tying a rope around his waist, Djeruk clears the gap and lands heavily on the other side. The ruined span creaked under the robust half-orc’s settling but withstood the new weight.
“Hello there! We’re in the keep,” shouts a human guard from the top of the keep. Quickly, Anakis and Dresden make use of the rope and scramble to the keep side of the bridge. A gatehouse roughly 2 stories tall stands before them. One tower has been crumbled under the collision of another massive boulder. The impact has twisted the mechanism for the portcullis sending the gate askew and allowing easy passage into the circular, grassy courtyard around the keep building.
Meanwhile, across town. “Kella!,” shouts Lelah and Laylyn as they attempt to chase down the squirrely survivor. THey burst the through front of the Nightstone Inn in pursuit, the main common bar area is deserted. A thumping comes from overhead along the upper floor’s hallway. Harri, Lelah, Laylyn bound up the stairs and find themselves at the business end of a crossbow blot that tracks their twitching. Kella stands squared-off, to the hole in the floor made by the boulder, her head cocked and sighting down the length of the bolt in her crossbow. Poised, finger on the trigger, “get back,” she shouts. “Come any closer and I’ll drop the closest bag of horse-puckey, NOW GET BACK!” With the warning, Kella edges closer to the hole in the floor. Lelah explains the group had nothing to do with the devastation of Nightstone, instead they we fleeing from an unwarranted attack on the Golden Eagle Inn from a red dragon and murderous cultists. Kella’s face shows no sign of softening. Harri and Laylyn approach her with hands open. With cape whipping up, Kella deftly jumps into the hole in the floor, fleeing the Inn, and leaves the group in the guest room empty-handed.
Laylyn, Lelah, and Harri rejoin the rest of the group in the courtyard of the Keep. The manicured grass encircling the keep is embedded with boulders and a handful of dead bodies dressed in guard livery. Lelah investigates the corpses eagerly, but crushed bodies yield no loot. The adventurers scramble into the keep traversing the pile of rubble that used to be one of the 4 towers. Inside the great hall, four guards are stationed around the dinning table. A tapestry-shrouded body lies on the table supine. The face is uncovered, an older woman with ash-colored skin lays here after death. Annikis says, “What happened here? Who is that?” The guards are shaken and despondent, Djeruk recognizes the trauma of violence in their eyes. One says “This is Lady Nandar, the magistrate of Nightstone. She died in the attack.” His eyes overflow with tears, but his voice is steady.
“We were attacked, Nightstone raided. FIrst, the stones came from above, then a flying fortress arrived over the town. At least six sky giants disembarked and tore the Nightstone from its hallowed resting place in the center of town. The bridge was demolished, and Lady Nandar died as the keep sustained the damage you see before you. The guards cut-off in the town attempted to round up the villagers and flee. Nowhere in town was safe. I saw the villagers and guards flee towards the north. The giants took no notice of them. There’s some caves in that direction. Maybe they found shelter, but they haven’t returned. This a tragedy rivaling the loss of Lady Nandar’s husband and many villagers five years ago when wood elves attacked Nightstone.”
Djeruk breaks the solemness, “What can we do to help?” The guars are at a loss and have no answers. Lelah, hoping to score some quick loot, climbs the stairs to the upper levels of the keep and the others follow. The second level was Lady Nandar’s domicile, a quick search of the kitchen and library revealing nothing of interest. Lelah pockets a book from the shelves and the guards, having followed the adventurers up the stairs, share confused glances. Lelah will not be deterred, she sprints up the last flight of stairs. This floor holds the chambers of Lady Nandar. The hallway is hung with beautiful, framed renditions of Waterdeep and it’s most prominent architecture. The guards catch up and demand the heroes stay away from Lady Nandar’s personal affects which they promptly ignore. Lelah impetuously attempts to rifle through a set of drawers in the Lady’s bedroom. Swish! The air is parted by an animated sword brought to life by the thievery. Weaving through the air it cuts Lelah’s cheek open before she has a chance to defend. Djeruk leaps into the fray, and clangs his warhammer off the flying sword. Dresden and Anakis pick up where Lelah left off and fiddle with drawers hoping for loot. Laylyn aties to distract the guards from the scene of her friends’ attempted robbery by mouthing the enchantment for a illusion in the opposite direction, but the sounds of battle are too much. Just as the guards ready their spears, the theft is too much for them to ignore, Lelah’s maul clubs the flying sword to the ground and bending it in half.
Laylyn stops the groups with her reasoned plea to maintain peace. “We are not simple thieves, please allow us a chance to prove it. The villagers are missing, there is no Nightstone without it’s inhabitants. We will travel to the cave and bring them back. There is no need to fear us.” The guards all settle their spears, and suggest the party makes haste and gives them directions to the cave.
Back in the center of town, the guards choosing to remain in the keep, the heroes happen upon Kella. This time she’d just finished lowering the drawbridge to the main road. Seven armed men and women ride up. They are dusty from travel, their horses frothing from the ride. A half-elf dismounts and greets Kella warmly. The miniature winged snake transfers from Kella’s arm to the new-comer. “Greetings, you merry band.” His smile slick like his hair. “I’m Zolkin Alasander, we are the Seven Snakes of Daggerford. Professional bounty-hunters.” He appraises the devastation and asks who else is still alive. Laylyn speaks in elvish and informs him that the keep is housing the rest of the guards of Nightstone. Zolkin suggests for the party to get rid of the guards and align themselves with the goals of the Seven. Lelah retorts, “To get those guards, you’ll have to go through me,” a curious 180 degree turn from just moments before when she led the reckless loot hunt in defiance of the Keep’s guard.
The heroes break for a huddle out of earshot from the Seven, who finger their weapons in a casual and relaxed fashion. Dispersing, Anakis says, “Sure, we’ll get rid of the guards for you.” The heroes then make their way back to the Keep and inform the guards of the Seven’s presence. Lelah makes a good point, “Kella and her husband may want to kill us.” The heroes promise the guards no harm will come to them and stay low.
Back in the center of town, Zolkin asks if the guards have been removed. Laylyn says that Lady Nandar is dead, cautiously leaving out mention of the guards. Lelah tries to pry some info from Zolkin, but the only response is a whispered message to the winged snake. It disembarks from Zolkin’s arm and flies to the west. The bounty hunters have spread out, two are posted at the main gate towers and have recently drawn up the causeway over the river.
The group sees that the Seven have no interest in them and so loot the remaining building, which houses the general store and a lone goblin. Anakis dispatches the goblin handily with a swift magic bolt through it’s chest. The adventures gather the leftover goods from the store and return to the courtyard as the one of the snakes watching guard yells out a warning greenskins are coming. Lots. The Snakes man the towers and immediately find range plucking a handful of arrows into the dozens-strong riot at extreme range.
The orcs close the distance to the town walls quickly and jump into the river to scale the town’s defenses. They led by a particularly massive leader who’s festooned with arrow shafts and sword cuts, none of which are slowing him down. The orcs take a few more casualties from the adventurer’s and Snakes ranged attacks. The dead float swiftly away. But the orcs have now found a way in: the shattered bridge between the keep and town.
The heroes and Snakes line-up on formation and meet the initial wave head-on as they scramble from the water into the gap in the wooden walls. The two battle lines crash into each other at running speed; Lelah swiping her maul back and forth, cracking orc jaws and sending teeth into the sky. Djeruk fells an orc with his warhammer, and another one steps forward to counter attack. Dresden calmly and drunkenly engages in hand-to-hand with his crossbow, blasting the nearest orc in the face and relying on his shortness as camouflage. The Snakes show their acumen and drop orc bodies left and right with their slim swords flashing. The melee is now spinning like a hurricane with dead and injured left in its wake. Laylyn’s confrontation goes awry as her wild magic takes control, delivering a judicious blast of etherial acid that burns down the nearest orc and causes her hair to instantly fall out of her head. But the other orcs press the attack. She attempts to ward off the onslaught with a magical shield of protection but it’s not enough; she is pummeled into the ground and left unconscious by a savage greenskin. The enraged leader of the warband faces off with Anakis who lays a protective freezing spell on himself moments before the orc lands as strike. The orc’s weapon rapidly encrusts with ice from coming into contact with Anakis. She then follows up with a strike to the same are, shattering it into ice cubes.
This is the final straw for the orc band. They run screaming from the village, beaten and bloodied and armless. The shaman orc shouts a few parting curses. The party mops up the dying orcs and Djeruk resuscitates Laylyn with healing gestures and prayers. Zolkin notes the orcs had been reduced in strength from a recent battle, likely elves given the arrow shafts found in some of the orc bodies.