Making their way back through town to the north gate, they visit briefly with the guard, and then walk a short distance from the village to where Coredivae sits sulking on a boulder, with Galanthal keeping him company. The bard and the invoker explain how the village is under threat from bandits, who seem to be operating out of the ruins of the old White River Toll Fort, a structure which dates back to the time of the Bandit King. The two prevail upon the Cordivae to join the rest of the party for dinner at Aunt Nonnie’s Place, and the dwarf reluctantly agrees.
On the way back through the gate, Pieter recognizes Cordivae from years past, and hails him, exclaiming that he never expected the dwarf to return. Pieter muses that the village elders may not be too excited by this turn of events, especially following “that incident with the goat.”
Pieter asks Cordivae if he has seen his father yet, and the dwarf threatens the guard with bodily harm, should he tell anyone that Coridvae is back in town. Not taking this seriously, Pieter enthusiastically describes how excited Helja will be to see her brother again. Cordivae responds by kicking Pieter in the crotch, and then stalking through the gate.
Nuriel, Galanthal,and Kep stay with Pieter until he stops retching. When he recovers, the guard doesn’t seem particularly surprised at Cordivae’s assault. It seems there may have been other crotch-kickings in the past…
Upon taking their leave at the front gate, the three catch up with the dwarf just as he arrives at Aunt Nonnie’s Place. When they walk inside, Cordivae is greeted like a long-lost son by the proprietor, who lavishes him with affection. She proclaims that she “never believed that story about the goat,” and offers Cordivae “your usual room at the top of the stairs.”
After fending off numerous offers of soup, the entire party—including Gloria, who had been sleeping in a booth at Aunt Nonnie’s Place—sets off to the south gate, to find the farm of Varrow Dell.
When they arrive at the southern entrance to the village, Cordivae is once again recognized—this time by Jonn. Like Pieter, Jonn is taken aback that the dwarf is showing his face in town “after what happened to Baron Stockmer’s goat…”
The adventurers tell Jonn that they are looking for the Dell farm, and the guard points it out, indicating some trees less than a mile out of town. Looking slyly at Cordivae, he asks if the dwarf is going to visit Jenni. Cordivae simply walks away without speaking to him.
Telling Jonn farewell, the rest of the party catches up with Cordivae, and the entire group makes their way down the road to the Dell farm.
When they arrive at the farmstead, no one is out-of-doors. As they cautiously make their way around the outside of the small house, however, they are accosted by Cassi Dell, who emerges from the front door wielding a broomstick. She accusing them of potentially being bandits themselves, and is quite irascible and difficult to converse with. Cassi is obviously still traumatized over the attack on her husband.
Eventually, the party is able to learn from Cassi that her husband was attacked a week ago, when he went into the barn to investigate a noise the family heard late at night. As Dell lay incapacitated on the floor of the barn, the bandits broke into the farmhouse, stealing anything of value while Cassi and the children cowered in their rooms. She is unable to describe the attackers as anything other than “short.” It was too dark, and she was too frightened to notice details.
Cassi’s unpleasant demeanor softens when Galanthal presents her with a gold piece, as a gift from Pelor, to make up for the loss she has suffered. She readily agrees when Gloria asks for permission to look at the barn.
The doors of the Dell barn still swing, broken and unlatched, in the light afternoon breeze. Inside, dust rises and swirls in the sunlight slanting in through the empty window-frames, as the adventurers walk through the straw that covers the floor. It is obvious that if there ever were any clues here, they have been erased by others who have come and gone over the past week.
When the party returns to town, Gloria, Cordivae and Kep go back to Aunt Nonnie’s Place, while Nuriel and Galanthal visit others who have suffered bandit attacks. Brandis the blacksmith, Jeff Fletcher the arrowsmith, and Wil the Tanner all tell similar stories—their businesses were ransacked in the dead of night, and their most valuable possessions taken. Galanthal gives each of the three a gold piece from Pelor, to take some of the sting out of this experience.
Wil is also concerned about his reputation, as he fell asleep while on volunteer guard duty at the south gate, and the bandits picked the gate’s lock while he slept. He takes pains to point out that the gate key was in his pouch, which lay beneath him as he slept—so the bandits could not have gotten the key from him without first waking him. While this does not make a lot of sense as an alibi, Wil seems so sincere in his protestations of innocence, that Nuriel and Galanthal move on with their investigation.
They return to Aunt Nonnie’s Place, and assemble for dinner with the rest of the party.
Suddenly, the group hears Cordivae’s name shouted across the tavern, and the stocky form of Helja rushes from the front door to throw her arms around the warrior and cover him in kisses. Cordivae smiles and responds “Hey, sis.”
This happy reunion is soon interrupted, however, as talk of Old Kellar quickly drives Cordivae from the table to sulk in his room. He still refuses to greet his father.
Other notable people, places and events:
White River Toll Fort
Vaults of the Bandit King