(post-dated for chronological order)
After finding The Orphanage abandoned (see No Longer Home) and uncovering clues that point to the twin plateaus, Khaelyd’s Drums, the party ventures north towards the towns of Fahrnsworth, Keitlyn and Branton, as well as the Deepdown Mines. Along the way, they encounter refugees from the Frontier heading south to Jasper and Talonton. With the Guard of the Land pulling back to the cities, the Goblin Menace has gotten more troublesome, and the bandits have been emboldened. Attacks on the people have only gotten worse. The people flee to the safety of the cities.
The party looked for a guide to lead them to Khaelyd’s Drums but to no avail, so they headed north on their own. Arriving in Keitlyn, they found it overrun with refugees looking nervous and anxious.
Information gleaned from the townsfolk of Keitlyn:
-The Guard of the Land have abandoned the Frontier. Many refugees have come to town, to escape the goblins.
-The goblins have raided our houses and our farms, and have killed several people. Food is starting to get scarce as the farming village of Bia can’t safely get her wagons here.
-Townsfolk from Farhnsworth report that the Dwarves are worried about their iron shipments from Deepdown, the Iron Mine.
-“The Hill Bandits will get braver now that the Guard are pulling out. They’ve been a minor annoyance, nothing like the goblins, mind ya, but they’re still out there, they are…”
After resupplying and bumping elbows with the refugees in Keitlyn, the party heads north to Branton. They run into a few groups of very nervous refugees who would rather avoid strangers on the road, but the party talks to each one as they allow them to pass.
Information from the refugees on the road fleeing south from Branton:
-“The Guard of the Land have abandoned the Frontier and left us to our doom.”
-“The goblins are already more threatening, and have raided our houses and our farms. They have even raided some of the ore wagons from the iron mine.”
-“And now bandits have come out of hiding. We can’t stay now.”
-from a child: “Please save my dada! The big one had a whip, and was hurting him.”
-“The Branton Bell has been taken! It must be returned or the village will cease to exist!”
Approaching Branton, the sound of a battle can be heard. As the party nears the outskirts of the town, they can see on the far side of town two groups in combat – humans within the village and goblins attacking from the edge of the hills. The party decides to join battle to help the humans and together the goblins are despatched. But as the party begins to assess the damage, they see several carts and wagons laden with all manner of goods from the town, as well as a man tied up in the town square apparently being tortured, and come to realize these humans are actually bandits plundering Branton. Azuel is cornered and knocked unconscious, bleeding out of sight of the party. He had found a pair of bandits readying a wagon with a large bell upon it, and tried to warn the party before being knocked out.
The bandits are beaten and run off, but not before getting away with a couple of large wagons worth of goods – AND the Branton Bell.
Azuel is found in the nick of time and his wounds are treated by Cordelian Araxie, just keeping him from the edge of death.
Kratos “Twigsbane” realizes later that the lead bandit was the same bandit he had let go on the road weeks before.
The party finds that the tortured prisoner in the town square is the mayor of Branton, and that he was captured while watching the last of the townsfolk leave Branton. The bandits tied him up and beat him, and took all that was left in the town. However, he expresses the greatest remorse at the empty bell tower. He moans that Branton can not exist without the Branton Bell…
The party tends to his wounds and decide that they need to resupply, so they escort him to Keitlyn, there in hope to reunite with his family.