We rejoin our party of adventurers as they accompany the nervous trader and his caravan through a steady rain to the tiny village of Hillshadow. As a dismal drizzle falls upon the land, Ashandir and Nalla notice that something has been following the caravan. When Ash investigates, she finds nothing but the prints of a large carnivore, perhaps a dire wolf (or a gnoll, or something else?) but no sign of human bandit activity. The party accompanies the trade caravan to Hillshadow without further incident.
Upon arriving in Hillshadow, they find the place recently and repeatedly harried by bandit attack, and its inhabitants simply thrilled by the idea that the PCs have been grinding through the Scarhead Band like hot motorized knives through butter and that they intend to continue until said bandits are no more. Ash, Nalla, and Quinn find themselves unable to pay for food, drinks, or lodging in Hillshadow without an indebted villager buying it for them or a thankful shopkeeper offering it for free, and the grateful trade-caravan leader cheerfully pays Quinn 100gp of his local profits before the party leaves the next day to hunt down the bandits. Quinn insists that the party split their reward evenly, and donates the remainder (1gp) to a lucky beggar (who is perfectly thrilled by this result).
As the party ventures into the more heavily wooded region of the Bloodseep Hills, out of sight of Hillshadow and crossing through a cluster of ominous standing stones, they come under sudden fire from trained bandit archers and desperate outlaws wielding clubs charge in. The party keeps its cool and shifts to the eastern flank, dispatching the melee combatants while coming under only sporadically effective fire from a number of distant archers. Nalla charges to the southwest as the remaining bandits try to escape and her comrades try to keep up, and ends up in single combat with a fearsome gnoll which, once the tenacious goliath closed to melee range, dropped its greatbow and set to work with a vicious axe. Nalla hung on through sheer mental toughness, the rock-hard tenacity of her people, and the timely intervention of the bard Quinn, while the rest of the party harried the bloodied and enraged gnoll and eventually slew the thing after preventing its retreat. Nalla claimed its enchanted armour while Ash could make use of its magically-enhanced greatbow.
Continuing towards the bandit stronghold in the ever-heavier rain, Ash and Nalla catch sight of the watchtower on a dismal hill cleared of ground cover, its western side ruined by previous attack and its outer walls barely protected by makeshift wooden barricades. The elf ranger leads the party up a narrow gully out of sight of the tower’s ramparts, and discovers a small door built into the side which appears to lead into a basement or catacomb beneath the watchtower. The party enters, happy to be out of the rain and no longer under threat of crossbow fire from the walls.
Upon investigating, Ash nearly runs straight into a recently-woken zombie; she replies by piercing it with a pair of arrows, and Nalla finishes the job with a powerful blow from her long sword. The zombie, thus damaged, explodes in a shower of noxious fleshy giblets, but none of the party is affected and Nalla celebrates with a bite of boar jerky. Upon further investigating the catacombs, the party finds nothing but a large basement in the small dungeon’s southeast, crawling with zombies; as they approach, they hear a shrill scream and discover that the rain
- and perhaps their actions - have provoked the catacomb’s zombies to advance on the bandit camp above.
Swiftly dispatching the zombies in the basement, the party advances up the stairs to the tower’s second floor as bandits and zombies slug it out at ground level. They come upon the third of the gnoll Scarhead brothers on the upper floor, his attention split between watching the undead menace below and keeping an eye on the tower’s stairwell, and the PCs quickly defeat his guards. The fearsome gnoll charges into combat, but leprous tentacles, attracted by the blood spilled by the dying bandits above, snake their way through the rotted tower and lash at the creature, restraining him even as he tries to fight off the adventurers. After a desperate three-sided battle, the party manages to slay the gnoll, destroy the tentacles, and drive off what remains of the bandit force. As the last of the undead things is vanquished, the rain abates to a steady drizzle.
Flushed with success (and having reached Level 2), the party returns to Harphaven without incident, claming their 300gp reward from the merchant Buruk Goldenhand and receiving his guarantee of a 10% discount on any item his caravans are able to provide. Other merchants passing through Harphaven, en route to the northern reaches of the Dragoncap Thanage and beyond, praise the PCs and shower them with free drinks, but other adventures await!