Standing over the sleeping form of Green Imsa, Torin thought for a moment and then decided “nope”. And went off to a very late bed. He knew there was plenty of road left to Waterdeep# to figure out what to do.
The fact that she managed to steal it from Torin is an impressive feat in itself.
The morning finds the caravan about a 3/4 days ride from Daggorford, the last town on the trade way before they will make it to Waterdeep.
Torrin rounds up the party and explains to them he found the Alchemy Jug in Emma’s sack. Predictably, Ellenora starts determining how to perform an autopsy on her dead body and maybe figure out how she turned green. Raziel on the other hand is shocked at this news and can’t believe that Emma would do it. The party decides that Raz and Eöl Lang will confront Emma immediately. Torrin gives them five minutes before he decides to let his sister run free with her whims.
Raz cuts to the chase with Emma and tells her the party knows she stole the alchemy jug. For the briefest moment Emma feigns ignorance. But Raz presses ever so slightly and she breaks down rooting through her bag to find the jug and running to Torin and falling to her knees with the jug held out like some pseudo-sacrificial offering to a god. Which at that moment she likely believes he is since she thinks he is literally going to kill her.
The commotion of all this begins to attract the attention of the other taskmasters and eyes begin to turn toward the party as the scene plays out on the side of the road.
Ellenora takes matters into her hands and gets Emma up and walking with the party surrounding her.
The party debates back and forth about what to do about Emma and ultimately Torin decides that there really is only one option that will allow him to walk away from this A) without a dead body B) able to do this gig in the future C) with the upper hand – and that is to take Emma on as an apprentice. Eöl and Raz begrudgingly agree as Emma stays alive and in some way does penance for her crime to the party by having to deal with Torin nearly non-stop. They only realize soon after that it is actually Ellenora who will be overseer of Emma and Torin just tries to teach her things.
Torin and Emma spend the rest of the walk/ride to Daggerford discussing basic foot work. And then the group is on the wagon and it is quickly traveling into the largest civilized area they have seen in three months.
The caravan arrives in Daggerford and while the Cultists take up evening residence at Lady Luck Tavern the bulk of the rest of the caravan shacks up at The Dragonback Inn, a quality establishment. Enom Tobun procures rooms for everyone and lets them know that dinner and drinks are on him tonight so be back for dinner at sun down. Emma is given the option to room with one of the guys or with Ellenora, she chooses the latter and the two spend the hour and a half until dinner up in the room together. Everyone else takes time to rest given the long road they have been on.
The party gathers for dinner with Enom who toasts to their incredible work and tells them (not for the first time) that they are the best hired hands he has had on the Trade Way.
As food and drink are being served Ellenora notices across the room a door open, the motion of it catching her eye for some reason. And standing in the doorway is a tall humanoid whose shape seems rather familiar. She gets up from the table pushing past patrons to get to this stranger and as she pulls up close he turns around to look at her and it is Shimara.
Ellenora punches him in the face and immediately follows it with a huge and long hug. She brings him back to the table where Torin does the same thing. Raziel is again shocked. Eöl gives Shimara a cool reception, and while not rude, something about Shimara rubs him the wrong way.
The party spends the rest of the night catching him up, interrogating him about where he has been (to no avail) and trying to piece together what might have happened while he was gone. Shimara has no memory of anything after being pulled through the dimensional door, until finding himself in the Dragonback Inn.
But that night as he sleeps his subconscious mind comes to the surface and he relives memories of what happened, but as he wakes they slip from his mind like smoke through his fingers.
The caravan sets out at first light, but not before Torin has had a chance to go and purchase himself a fine
lute, guitar, well crafted and very dainty harp.
As the caravan sets out the party notices that two people have joined the ranks. The first is a man who has actually been taken on the by cultists which is an absolute rarity as they have had nothing to do with anyone besides themselves for all these months. He is a tall human male and wears red robes and looks to be balding, but always has his hood up. It is possible he also has tattoos on his head.
The other is a female gnome who looks like she has seen a few trips up and down the trade way. She is inquisitive as you see her strike up conversations with a few of the taskmasters within the first few hours on the road.
While curious as to why they have both picked up with the caravan at this point, nothing else about the two individuals strikes you as unusual.
The party keeps it chill throughout the day with Torin continuing to instruct Emma, who picks up on things quickly and efficiently.
As the sun begins to set the cultists pull their wagon over and one of them shouts back to the rest of the caravan “SMOKE. FIRE. BIG ONE.”. They let the caravan pass clearly establishing that they will not be helping in this situation in any way. The rest of the taskmasters who use a short hand of words for communicating along the line pull up to about 150 feet from the blaze. Before that Raz sends Freyyr ahead to scout the situation. While there was a lot of smoke Freyyr was able to see that there were two wagons at stop next to the flames on the west side of the road, and a group of humanoids to the east were volleying arrows into the wagons.
The party decided to intervene and as they got closer they found that there were women children and guards under ambush by a group of Hobgoblins. It was clear that within less than a minute the flames would consume the wagons, and unless the party could get them out, the humans taking cover from the volley’s of arrows.
The party quickly split up sending Eöl as a horse to try and ferry people away from the wagons and back to the caravan. Torin took shots at some of the hobgoblins and then conjured an illusory wall to provide visual cover for the guards to get the people out. Shimara waded into battle feeling like he hadn’t done this in awhile, throwing javelins to no avail and ultimately wading into melee. He was backed by Ellenora who went full healer mode and attempted to keep her friends alive and fresh. And Raziel stayed back highlighting hobgoblins with globes of light making them easier targets in the dim twilight and incinerating the archers with well placed eldritch and agonizing blasts.
The tide quickly turned in the parties favor as they picked off a few of the archers and pulled their focus, however as the families emerged from the wagons ready to make a break for the caravan a boy was struck with an arrow killing him instantly. At the same time Shimara, who was taking on a magic using hobgoblin, what appeared to be the captain, and another hobgoblin, critically failed as he saw how close Ellenora was to danger. And while he dropped his weapon he went into full frenzied rage unleashing his acid breath weapon upon the captain bringing him to near death.
With some more well placed arrows by Torin and the hobgoblins down to just three, the Captain executed a defensive retreat, but alas for the humanoids Ellenora blasted the captain with psychic damage from a well placed insult and Torrin took down the magic user with an arrow.
As Torin hopped up on Eöl’s back and began riding over the ridge the hobgoblin could be seen fleeing East. An dual oxen cart lay just a few min ride east and upon inspecting it Torin found a lock box containing 80gp, 9 gems (worth 10gp each), a wand, an unusually large red gemstone, and off to the side of the box was a set of leather armor with nautical symbols etched into it. On the body of the magic user Ellenora found a necklace with 7 red clay/glass balls on it, each a swirl of reds and deep oranges. The necklace looked like it had originally held 12 but some are now missing.
The party got the surviving family members back to the caravan and Torin brought the ox and cart back to them so they could use it for transport, clothing, and food. Shimara waged near the fires which by this point had nearly consumed the wagons to grab the body of the dead boy.
That night the family buried the boy on the side of the road. And as the guards sat around the camp fire with the party they explained they were traveling beyond Waterdeep to find work on the road to Neverwinter. They said that word has spread that Lord Neverember is rebuilding The High Road between Neverwinter and Waterdeep so that trade may be established again between the two cites. And word is that the pay is incredibly good, likely because the conditions are incredibly harsh as the road passes through what is called the Mere of Dead Men￼. They were on their way there until the fell into the ambush by the Hobgoblins who had dug, and then trapped, a pit in the road. The lead wagon’s horses had fallen in being killed instantly and bringing the wagon nearly with it stopping the one behind them. They told you only moments later did the flames bust up to their left. And then the arrows started raining down. Even now they don’t know how the Hobgoblins so easily and quickly lit a fire behind them only to shoot at them from the other side over a hundred feet away.
The families tell you they’ll take the oxen cart back to Daggerford and recover there, they may still head north eventually but aren’t sure now given what happened.
Everyone gets a long rest that night as other hired hands take guard duty leaving the heroes of the day the luxury of a full nights sleep.