The party are, broadly, exhausted when they finally arrive in Brethald. The fight against the Bugbear was swift but still trying, and the long walk from the cave to Brethald was filled, not with relaxing silence, but with Sildar’s painstaking descriptions of how he would have fought it, if he’d had a sword.
Newly formed, the party almost decide to split up for the night and find their own accommodations, but practicality and the promise of a good inn have them sticking together.
In the morning, the party diverge to follow their own interests in town. Mirimë respects Erulissë’s desire for a private reunion (or possibly confrontation?) with her aunt, and instead goes her own way. She finds the stories of the Redbrands they overheard the night before as distasteful as the rest of the group, but something about the thought of harming humans doesn’t sit quite well with her… She leaves that to Wizzard and, promising to meet up with Brum and Caladhiel at the town hall, she heads off to the supply shop where they exchanged their cargo the night before. The gentleman who owns the shop won’t take her hefty, unused war hammer – he deals mainly in food, he says – but he does point her in the direction of the trade house down the road, where she gets a respectable 7 gold for the thing. Her feet literally lighter, Mirimë meanders on to the town hall. As she’s walking into the grand building, a sturdy looking mastiff catches her eye across the dusty square. A quick enquiry later and Mirimë enters the town hall with one hand in her gold purse, wondering whether the money from her war hammer might be well spent on a war dog…?
Inside, to Mirimë’s pleasure, Caladhiel’s discomfort and Brum’s stoic acceptance, their party had become an officially sanctioned adventurer’s guild!
The night is spent eating far too much pie and drinking even more sweet halfing wine at the farm of Erulissë’s aunt. The stout halfing woman strokes her dimpled chin and muses that the man most likely to know where Gundren has been taken is back in the direction of Fort Lakeside.
In the morning they set off once more. Brum, Wizzard and Erulissë take to the disreputable tavern that lurks at the end of the street on which they had previously stayed. With a stern glance at her halfing friend who is already weighing out weighted dice in her small palm, Mirimë and Caladhiel head to the house of the woodworker they had heard had been murdered. A search of his house stirs Mirimë’s heart – his son’s toys have been left abandoned on the threadbare rug, and she imagines that the small, rippled looking glass that lies shattered on the floor was once used by his daughter to comb her hair. Just as they are about to leave, Mirimë spots a small piece of torn red cloth, snagged against a key hook.
On their way back to the others, the two elves run into Erulissë, who excitedly tells them of both the money she had won and the impressive riding dogs her aunt had told her the local orchard keeper bred and trained. Recalling the fine mastiff she had seen the day before, Mirimë is eager to seek out this man. His smallholding is not at all far, just far enough removed from the town that the constant barking of many dogs is not immediately evident. The owner of the place is impressed by their official charter but his eyes are canny. They’ll need more than a flashy bit of paper from that Sildar fool before he’ll sell them anything more dangerous than a jug of cider.
Meeting back at the town hall, the party decide what to do next. Brum (who for some reason, is eyeing a singed, whimpering man in a red cloak) asserts that the first thing to do must be to track down the Redbrands. After all, they’re terrorising the town and they might know something about Gundren’s whereabouts.
However, Mirimë’s mind is made up. Something, whether it be a gut instinct or the gentle persuasion of Protius guiding her, insists that clearing out the Redbrands is not the task to do now. Her mind goes again and again to the mastiff she had seen the day before… Its collar had been embossed with tridents, she recalls – what greater sign could be needed?
The next morning, elves, halfling, human and dwarf set out into the wild once more. It is a two day journey to the old well watchtower they’re aiming for, and luckily it passes without incident.
When they arrive at the edge of the forest and see the ruin before them, it is almost sad in its lack of grandeur, so evident is the majesty that must once have looked out over the surrounding hills.
What catches Mirimë’s attention, however, is the sense of extreme wrongness. The figures that she can see moving around the base of the tower are shuffling, stumbling, disorganised and deranged in their movements. She clenches her hand around her holy symbol – a trident carved from bone-White driftwood washed up on the shores of a distant sea, framed by tiny shells and sea glass. Undead unnerve Mirimë. She cannot look into their sightless, empty eyes and not recall the inanimate movement of the corpses on the shipwreck, so long ago…
Almost without realising it, she has drifted close enough to the corpses to sense the necromantic magic that surrounds them. Above her head, four vivid lights dance in the sky.
The flap on the royal blue tent she has found swishes to the side and a short, portly, clean shaven human wizard marches out. The undead lurch to obedience around him. He casts sharp eyes over the landscape and calls out with unnerving calm that he knows they are there…
The image of dead bodies in water rushes through Mirimë’s mind and she knows that she would rather die at the end of a hostile spell than in the arms of an undead. Erulissë gives her a nod from where she crouches, feet away, and readies her short bow. Mirimë stands, and calls out.
It is not long before the whole party has been revealed and Wizzard is talking easily if not amiably with the other wizard. Later, Brum will furiously insist that the necromancer was glaring at him, that one of the zombies was edging towards him the whole time, but Mirimë doesn’t see it.
It is not until they depart with the possibility of a new quest on their hands that she allows herself to release her holy symbol.
The journey back to Brethald is uneventful – until they are woken in the night by Wizzard screaming and choking, sparks flying impotently from his fingers and a giant thing attached to his neck.
Mirimë leaps forward, not noticing the three other enemies circling their party, and grabs for the creature on Wizzard. Its body is hot and rough yet damp and cloying under her fingers, like a healing scab or a festering wound. Magic and the power of Protius surge through her – with a sharp pinching noise, the creature explodes into nothingness.
By the time Mirimë has caught her breath, only the charred remains of two more creatures and the bloody remains of the fourth reveal that they were even attacked. Unsettled, the party get no more sleep that night and set off early to return to Brethald.
It is past noon when they reach the orchard. The orchard keeper hears their report gratefully and commends them on their wisdom. He is either going deaf in his old age or he is tactfully ignoring Brum, who mutters about that being an awful lot of trouble for an evil racist wizard and some flees.
Nonetheless, when the party at last gain the city centre, they are accompanied by two slender, lean hounds whose coats gleam dull red and soft purple in the evening light. Mirimë rests her hand upon the back of her mastiff’s head. He is assuredly a sign from Protius that she is on the right track with this adventure group…and she has always loved dogs.
The party settle down to rest. In the morning, there’ll be Redbrands to fight!