The farmhouse looked, empty, abandoned. The grounds weren't kept, and the barn was little more than a ruin. Windows were boarded up, and he whole place looked as though it hadn't been occupied in some time.
Yet, Logan was positive. This was the spot on the map.
The stillness of the scene almost had me believing there was nothing here, but for the map, I would have believed it.
Wren went for a close inspection of the grounds. There was no sign of recent activity outside the building. She saw nothing, except a lock on the main door. The lock on this place looked out of place. If the place were abandoned, why a lock on the door?
The whole party approached the place cautiously, wary for any trick or ambush. But none came.
"Can you pick it?" I asked Wren.
"I'll try," she sounded anything but confident. "I suck at this."
She fiddled with the lock for a few moments. And she looked at me and shook her head.
Thoram piped up. "I'll open it."
I thought, well he's a Dwarf, and Dwarves know about things like that. "Go ahead."
He stood some distant away from the door, sizing it up. Too late I realised what he was going to do.
The door crashed to bare splinters when his body, moving as fast as his legs could carry him, impacted the door. The sudden noise sounded like a fireball in the near silence.
Weapons drawn, we charged in after him. The house, naturally, was empty. The dust of neglect covered everything, except a fairly obvious trail of disturbed dust on he floor. We followed it to a part of the floor where the tracks disappeared. A trapdoor.
We figured whoever was down there, knew we were in the building, and therefore even attempting such stealth as we could was a waste of time. We smashed the trapdoor to bits.
A hole in the floor, deep and dark enough we couldn't see the bottom. Logan threw a lit torch down there, and we were able to see a ladder leading to a lower level some 20 feet below the floor of the house. There was no movement in our rather restricted field of vision.
"Who's first?" I asked, but then I probably didn't need to say anything.
Garrus had the best armour. "I am," he said, already reaching for the ladder.
I was third. Behind Ulf.
Garrus reached the third last rung on the ladder and jumped the rest of the way. As he hit the ground, quarrels shot past him, one ringing off his armour he dived out of the way. Ulf did the same thing, and bolts went wide.
When I jumped off the ladder, I immediately dived to the side. I was quick enough. Two bolts would have hit me full in the head had I been just a touch slower.
To one side of this circular room was a heavy bench, near the ladder. A short hall directly opposite the ladder led to some sort of barrier, possibly a heavy table turned on its side. From behind it, I could hear the now familiar grunting of Hobgoblins, and the sounds of crowsbows reloading.
We were caught in a trap. We were easy targets for the hobgoblins. My first thought was to my companions descending the ladder. I strung my shortbow, jumped into sight and let loose a shot.
It smacked into their cover. This wasn't going to be easy.
We decided to follow the caravan. We wanted to determine where the stolen goods were going, as that caravan may well contain Thoram's weapons and armour.
We followed it through the hills as it skirted Redhand land. There were very careful about not entering it, and we were careful not to be seen. As it approached Arlos land- the neighbouring barony, we decided to attempt to elicit information. Six o us got decked out as though we were a Redhand patrol, letting the Baron's own son take the lead and approached.
We accused them of trespass, but they, rightfully denied it. The caravan guard captain was most cagey and would admit nothing. Outnumbered as we were, we didn't dare push the issue. It would have meant our deaths. We let the caravan continue.
But we resumed following. After the caravan cleared Redhand land, we followed it onto Baron Arlos'. It entered a village and unloaded at a warehouse. I asked Garrus to blacken his shield, fearing that Arlos might take exception to his presence, especially given what we were about.
The Caravan was, for the moment, a dead end.
That left one unaccounted for location on the map. We would go there next, but first we rode back to the Troll and Maiden.
When we arrived there, Logan spoke up," We need more missile ability. We can't take that compound without it."
I agreed." How do you propose we get it?"
"We'll have to hire some mercenaries. There should be some looking for work."
I thought that this would stretch our gold, but I wanted to take that compound."I'll check around."
I went to speak to Tia. When I first caught sight of her, my heart skipped a beat. That she had become to mean that much to me in such a short time worried me some.
"Tia," I said, perhaps a little too breathlessly," It's good to be back."
"Eddard," She said smiling when she saw me.
"I'm sorry we won't be staying longer, but I'm wondering if you could tell me if you know of any mercenaries that might be looking for a short term contract?"
She frowned. "No, I'm sorry but I'll ask the innkeeper as soon as I get a chance."
The next morning we were surprised at breakfast when a rather big human came and sat with us. "I hear you're looking for some mercenaries."
Garrus replied,"We are. I am Sir Garrus Redhand, my companions and I find ourselves in need of some fighters. What weapons do you favour?"
"My men and I are longbowmen."
We hired them, despite the 35 gold pieces or a share in the treasure, whichever was greater. Four longbowmen to add to our strength. We left as soon as we could.
Two days later we sat outside an abandoned farm house, a few miles of the main road, east of the inn.
"This is the place, I'm sure of it," said Logan.
It didn't look like anything much to me. I couldn't have been more wrong.