“You mean I’m free? Truly free? The old goat is dead and I’ll never have to listen to him again? Oh joy, oh happiness, oh wonderful release. I could just sing ...”
It seems that Duncal didn't think much of his Dad, or the idea that some day his would become March Baron of Westmist. He`d been a prisoner of the trolls for about 8 years, captured in Stonehell becasue he`d run away from home so he wouldn`t have to listen to his parents and become March Baron someday.
Kern, his aplomb slightly ruffled, recovered quickly and laid out the reason why the party had rescued him. He told Duncal about Sir Janus and the plan to overthrow Lord Merdwyn. The lad wasn't really interested in becoming Baron, but he did have a shrewd core beneath the whiny exterior. After a little thought, he agreed to go along with their scam, at least for the time being (the hill giant lumbering over him probably helped with that decision.) His price was to be looked after in some style in the interim, at when all the dust was settled from the coup d'etat, he expected a nice payout and would then disappear to a playboys life somewhere far away from the mud and boredom of the border town.
While not exactly the outcome they had hoped after investing so much time, blood and treasure into Duncal's rescue, it was a win of sorts for the party (although a few considered the best option at this point was to decorate the end of a pike with Duncal's head). Now the trouble was what to do next. There was some thought of taking the lad and heading straight into the mountains to find Sir Janus right away. But everyone soon realized they needed horses and supplies before doing so. And also needed to know what had happened in the two months they'd been gone. After discussing a variety of hair-brained schemes to get into town unnoticed (with Kern muttering something about "losing that damn ring" under his breath the whole time), they figured it best to just march up to the gate and go in the usual way. They left Duncal in Gurruk and Booh's care for now, and headed for town. Challenged at the gate by the guard, they noticed the guard now consisted of a mix of town guardsmen and men in the royal livery on white, not blue. The town guards recognized them though, and for a slightly usurious fee of 50gp, they were allowed in. Concerned about their house, they headed there first. It was still there, but a sheet of parchment was nailed to the door. Reading it, they found that due to two months of unpaid taxes, the house was about to be expropriated by the Crown. Tearing the paper off the door, they headed inside. To a quiet, dusty home, with no sign of Riker. Concerned, they combed the structure from roof to cellar, but there were no signs of foul play or intruders.
The party hustled home to meet Riker, who arrived no worst for wear after weeks in a cell. He had a roof over his head, and three meals a day. What hardship is that? Worried that Jax might have planted a spy in their midst (especially when they found out the shadowy seneschal had spoke to their manservant several times while he was imprisoned), Rylee discreetly cast dispel magic on Riker, while Erijay cast ESP to read his mind. Which was thankfully blank as always. Apologizing for leaving him high and dry, they left a small trust fund of gold in Rikar's care to cover expenses should they ever again be absent for an extended time.
That taken care of, everyone headed out to beat about town and get more news. They learned that the king had withdrawn his company of troops to deal with some sort of issues on the kingdom's eastern borders. They were replaced by a half company of the King's White Company from the citadel of Amrath on the Great River. They also learned that a steady stream of new settlers had been passing through town, headed for Lord Merdwyn's new County of Overmarch, lured by the promise of free land and a new beginning. Wandering through the town square, they noticed a merchant set up, shilling wares from the far western lands. Intrigued, Darnorth went to talk to him. The merchant, Hallix by name, had taken advantage of Lord Merdyn's partial pacification of the Untamed Lands to push a heavily armed caravan in the strange land to the west known as the Land of 1000 Wizards. He brought back many odd items, but what caught Darnorth's eye's was a strange pair of weapons. Small metal tubes with a wooden handle. Asking for a demonstration, Hallix picked up the thing, pointed at a nearby wagon, and with a gout of flame some sort of missile shot out, struck and splintered the wooden vehicle. Impressed by the shiny metal and loud noise, Darnorth decided he had to have them, and managed to get the pair plus 35 missiles from Hallix for 1500gp. He also picked up as part of the deal, hidden among a pile of metal junk and widgets, a round power source similar to the one that ran Kern's armor. Darnorth then took one of the weapons and a few missiles to Slate, to see if the dwarven inventor could figure out how to make more of each (for a fee of course). The other he kept for himself.
Headed back to home to prepare for their journey to find Sir Janus, they noted someone was following them. Wondering who it was, Darnorth used his ring to cast invisibility, then slipped into a side alley while everyone else continued on their way. As the shadowy figured passed, Darnorth reached out to grab him. Unfortunately, the dwarf stumbled and missed, and the figure turned and fled.
With town business done, they gathered supplies and horses and headed north into the mountain. Taking Duncal but leaving Booh (figuring Sir Janus wouldn't want to see the hill giant every again), they started at Janus' old camp and headed into the mountains. They followed a small stream that flowed in a pass between two massifs. Coming to a junction, they followed one stream into a hanging valley on the flank of one mountain. There they saw a small log cabin, in good shape but with no sign of inhabitants. Gurruk approached the door, and as he knocked, he caught in the corner of his eye something moving in the woods above the cabin. Which he quickly found was an arrow, which nearly took out his eye! Maniacal laughter followed, as did another missile. Kern had Bjorn cast invisibility on him and slipped up the slope to find their assailant. Darnorth meanwhile took out his newfangled weapon, aimed up slope and fired. When the smoke and noise cleared, they could hear cursing and swearing,and a squeaky voice saying "stop, stop!!". Kern watched invisibly as a halfling, followed by a huge cave bea,r walked past him and down towards the rest of the party. The little guy, obviously shocked by Darnorth's weapon, surrendered. He was also obviously not all there, twitching and groaning and very paranoid and crazy. But they did learn that Janus had passed by here several months ago, but the halfling had driven him and his men deeper into the mountains.
So further into the Western War Peaks they went, encountering old and odd things along the way; an old stretch of dwarven highway, a giant skull with an axe stuck in it, a freshly fallen meteor (from which Darnorth removed some strange silver-black metal). Exploring an old dwarf ruin, they encountered a group of dwarves from the Stonehead clan.They were searching this old dwarven delve, once the home of their clan. They were a bit evasive when asked what they were looking for, but when asked about Sir Janus, they noted they too had encountered the knight and his party. Sir Janus had tried to move into the old dwarf hold, but the Stoneheads had driven them off and further into the mountains.