The campaign began with four players; two pairs of people who know each other from outside of the game but none of whom have ever played together. Their characters are:
Legolast, a Wood Elf Ranger 2 (Outlander) of the Emerald Enclave
Dorrin, a Hill Dwarf Druid 1 (Folk Hero) of the Emerald Enclave
Torgo, a Duergar Rogue 1/Fighter 1 (Urban Bounty Hunter)
Ember Hawkwinter, a Fire Genasi Wizard 1 (Noble) of the Zhentarim
13 Mirtul 1491, midmorning
Having met at a campsite while northbound on the Long Road, four travelers walked together into Red Larch. It was a hazy, overcast day, and the traders’ and farmers’ wagons on the road are seen to have extra guards riding along with each proprietor. The party walked past many storefronts to the Swinging Sword Inn, but Torgo instead veered off to the Helm at Highsun tavern to the right. As it was midmorning, very few patrons were there. Torgo bought ale, introduced himself, and Garlen the barkeep told him to seek out the constable Harburk, at the butchers, for work that a traveling bounty hunter might be able to pick up.
At the Swinging Sword, pleasant innkeeper Kaylessa Irkell welcomed the other three and hoped that as adventurers they might deal with some of the tension around town and “fell magic” that she feels is centered around the landmark Lance Rock. Legolast decided to walk back down the street to look for her friend Holg Ironhead’s shop, and Dorrin walked over to the two gaffers playing dominoes by the fireplace. Meanwhile, Ember negotiated his stay with Kaylessa, who showed him his rooms and agreed to get his lunch prepared. Dorrin introduced himself to the farmer Mikhail and his friend a goatherd. The weather this season had been so unpredictable Mikhail worried for his crops this year, though his friend hadn’t had any problems with his goats. They said there would be more of their friends and colleagues meeting at the Helm at Highsun for lunch, and they’d introduce Dorrin to them there.
Ember sat down to an unenjoyable lunch of grilled meat (although the bread was surprisingly good) among a few merchants and locals. While eating, he noticed the barmaid Ghileeda was surreptitiously attempting to listen to two middle-aged men huddled in a corner talking in low voices. After the men left, Ember cast Friends on Ghileeda and learned that the two men talking were named Ilmeth Waelvur and Marlandro Gaelkur, and the only phrase she’d managed to hear was one of them asking the other “Should the entrance be moved?”
After promising to meet Mikhail and his friends at the Helm, Dorrin walked back to the butcher’s shop, to see whether the animals were healthy or not. Stepping into the shop, he saw happy customers and the proprietor, Jalessa Ornra, told him that the live animals were outside the third building behind the store. Dorrin went back out to survey the status of the few hogs.
Legolast was welcomed warmly by her old friend Holg, who runs the well-regarded inexpensive Ironhead Arms in town. He had asked her to come because all of his caravan guard and mercenary customers had noticed an increase in banditry in the area, but what was especially worrisome was that some of the bandits had flying mounts. He wanted Legolast, the best archer he knew, to come see what could be done. Holg suggested she should go see the constable Harburk, working in the slaughterhouse across the street. Legolast asked “the constable is also the butcher?” and Holg laughed gruffly, “No, the butcher is also the constable. He can’t do much more than break up bar fights and ask around when a traveler robs one of the shops in town. But people talk to him, and he’s probably got good information on bandit hideouts.” Holg asked Legolast to meet him again for supper at the Helm, and he’d put together some friends to share tales over supper.
Dorrin could see that the hogs were healthy and clearly from prosperous local farms. They were being slaughtered by Harburk and a couple of other workers. As Dorrin introduced himself to Harburk, Torgo and Legolast also converged at the yard. When Harburk learned he was being addressed as the constable, he took a break from work and sent his trusties inside to render the fork from the slaughtered hogs. Harburk admitted to the party that there was worrisome bandit activity in the area, but was surprised that Ironhead lent credence to the stories of bandits on giant vultures and such. He was able to describe a likely bandit hangout in a shallow cave about ten miles out of town on the Cairn Road. He’s willing to pay 50 gp for proof of ending bandit activity, preferably by bringing back a live bandit for questioning.
Having learned all they could, the group walked back up the street; Torgo stopped in the Swinging Sword’s stableyard and met the taciturn, one-eyed stablemaster Iraun. Torgo asked to rent a horse and wagon, and Iraun allowed that the merchants from Belliard were planning to stay a while, so there was a horse and cart available for a day’s rent. Torgo successfully deceived Iraun into believing Harburk would pick up the tab for the rental, so Iraun asked only for a 5gp deposit.
Following up on his lead, Ember walked into Waelvur’s Wagonworks, seeing a half-dozen carpenters working on repair jobs while tipping drinks from their hip flasks. One of the workers, a halfling, sidled his way over towards Ember so that when Ember flashed a gold coin, the halfling smoothly palmed it, muttering under his breath, “If you want some information, meet me at the Helm. We can’t talk here.”
As it turned out, all four travelers went to the Helm just at the end of lunchtime, as most people were cleaning up their plates. The locals surveyed the travelers as they entered, with most lingering on the noble and on the duergar, before turning back to their ale. Having basically missed lunch, Dorrin shared Goodberries with Legolast, while Torgo settled on a gallon of ale. Dorrin sat with Mikhail and his friend ranchers and farmers; Legolast sat with a dozen sullen, worried workers; Ember lounged near the fireplace, and Torgo took a seat at the bar.
Legolast heard that her seat mates all worked at the quarry, and were vowing to each other that none of them would work that night’s shift. It was time for them to go back for the afternoon shift, and Albaeri Mellikho would give them hell if they don’t make quota for the day; but one of them lingered to tell Legolast that masked and hooded figures had been watching them work after sundown, standing just outside of their torchlight, and it was very unnerving, although Mellikho herself seemed not to see them at all.
Dorrin met Larmon Greenbelt, a shepherd, who did allow that his sheep were doing poorly; Dorrin agreed to follow the farmer group to Gaelkur’s barbershop for the afternoon, and then out to Larmon’s homestead.
Ember, looking around, saw the halfling in a dark corner, who beckoned him over. The halfling introduced himself as Stannor, intimating that he had dark information to sell. Ember put a gold piece on the table, but Stannor was offended by the paltry bribe and started to leave. Ember cast Charm Person on him and Stannor came back and sat down, more than ready to share that he had been working late one night when he saw, at midnight, Waelvur himself (the owner of the shop) lead six hooded and masked figures through his shop. Stannor knew something underhanded when he saw it. The halfling was grateful for the 5gp that Ember then tipped him, and left feeling goodwill. Ember returned to lounge by the fireplace.
The most noticeable person who stared at Torgo across the room was a female half-orc, apparently a caravan guard, but he couldn’t tell if her glare was specifically directed at him or just an habitual expression. He decided to approach her directly, but she took offense at his advances and backhanded him across the face. When he gave her another line, she was so enraged she hauled back to punch him again when Garlen (the barkeep) put a hand on her shoulder and said, sternly, “Take it outside, Zomith, please.” She picked Torgo up by his shirt and carried him towards the door. As they passed him, Ember cast Friends on Zomith and suggested just go home for a nap; she put Torgo down and headed out the door. However, Torgo ran after her and tackled her on the street. They grappled as a ring of children gathered shouting “Fight! fight!” Zomith broke away, but not before Torgo lifted 9 gp out of her purse! When her swing went wild, she gave up in disgust and walked away, Torgo letting her go and returning into the tavern. Ember went back to his rooms at the Sword, wanting to get a long rest in before midnight. Legolast settled in to wait for her friend Holg Ironhead.
Dorrin left with his new farmer friends and walked to Gaelkur’s barbershop at the northeast corner of town. Larmon was first to get a haircut, and while waiting, Dorrin noticed the rest of the men waiting around were in no hurry to get their own turn in the seat, but instead whiled away the time one-upping each other with gossip so outlandish it seemed like tall tales. But after his haircut, Larmon hopped right out of the chair and led Dorrin an hour’s walk out of town to his homestead.
Dorrin did indeed find a few sick sheep, and was able to help some of them but not all. While administering to them, he cast Speak with Animals to ask about unusual happenings in the region. He was able to learn a lot of information, and because sheep are generally afraid of anything more threatening than a blade of grass, corroborated some of the information he got with Larmon himself.
During his walk back to town, Dorrin spotted three orcs starting to spit roast some animal over a fire pit in a nearby field; back in town, he met Legolast and Torgo at the Helm and the three of them decided to return and ambush the orcs, after a discussion as to whether they could return by suppertime. Ember was still resting at the Swinging Sword and didn’t want to join the expedition, rather he wanted to consider the information he already knew from Waterdeep in light of what he had learned today..
Sneaking up on the group, Dorrin’s Thunderwave did a lot of damage and combat was quickly joined. Legolast’s quick bow work and Hail of Thorns almost finished off two of the orcs, but the third laid Dorrin low with one critical swing of his greataxe. Legolast did more damage to the standing orc, and Torgo’s two handaxes finished him off. The third orc tried to run away at this point, but Legolast brought him down from fifty feet away with another arrow (aiming to disable, not kill). Torgo then put manacles on the last living orc while Legolast restored Dorrin with one of his own Goodberries, and the adventurers decided to bring that orc back to Red Larch and turn him over to Harburk for questioning. Dorrin ate the remaining Goodberries while on their way back to town in the late afternoon.