Late in the afternoon, Valkur’s Wake neared the port of Phlan. Professors Aidern and Drummons pulled the party aside with the captain and Nat to inform them that the plague had spread to most of the passengers on the ship, which was packed to triple capacity. After some hemming and hawing, the captain agreed to weigh anchor on the shore of Thorn Island, rather than risk spreading the disease to the city.
They unloaded all the passengers on the island and set up a quarantine zone. Captain Stormhammer cast cure disease on the party, so they would be well enough to care for the others (at the expense of them passing up their cut of the passenger fees). The Maid in the Iron Mask (who finally introduced herself as Tvoja Rabota, which means “none of your business” in orcish) passed on the healing, instead taking a small rowboat they found on the island and disappearing for a few hours (returning hale on whole). Traithe, Grimnir, and Melastasya explored the island, finding a source of water and “orc-meat” (they corpses were only 4-5 days old), and making sure there were no active threats. The professors set to work treating everyone.
They stayed on the island for almost four days, tending the sick and cleaning everyone thoroughly of fleas, until they were sure the passengers were not contagious. Grimnir, meanwhile, worked on decoding a book he had found in Hillsfar, which turned out to be a Tract of Teratology. He was not able to interpret the entire thing before leaving the island, but figured that the proper ritual involved scalping the victim, then slowly boiling them alive in a cauldron filled with pure water, six grams of gentian, and six grams of tormentil dye, could be done with up to five other celebrants, and that the end result should be large and crocodilian…
After a short trip across the bay, the party disembarked in New Phlan. The halfling harbormaster was stunned by the number of “settlers” that the Wake had brought in, and more stunned by the 7500 gold that he had to pay Captain Stormhammer. Tvoja, as the only one who had not passed up a cut in exchange for healing, was handed three bags of 50 gold each.
The party quickly made their way to the Bitter Blade, where they learned that Councilman Mondaviak had passed away the night before. They went up to his rooms to “pay their respects” and managed to pull Markos briefly away from the many yellow-cloud mourners and deliver Rudolfio’s affidavit. An hour later, Markos met them downstairs, and quietly handed over the deed to “Kryptgarten Keep”, including all lands to a distance of 1 mile from the keep, and the attached vinyards. He also passed them a sack with 5 gems and a map leading to the keep (including a handwritten note indicating the location of a “secret entrance”).
They took their leave and made a few stops before preparing to leave town immediately: by Cockburn’s Grocery to check on Martha (who had not been seen for four days), by the Tyr’s Waiting to inquire about Lyrathwen (who also had not been seen for days), and by the Clerk’s office to make sure their deed was on the record and properly notarized. They headed out through Traitor’s Gate, made a quick stop by Jerome’s for supplies, and then booked it out of town.
It was late evening, almost dark, when they reached the keep, eight miles north of Phlan. They spotted two sentries on the walls, outlined by the fading sunlight, and decided to strike out into the woods to the east, towards the indicated “Secret Entrance”.
Some five hundred feet into the woods, they found a small clearing, the trees kept at bay by a wrought iron fence, surrounding an old stone mausoleum, a small shrine to Mystra, and two graves. Melastasya, on seeing the silver bands and hinges binding the door of the mausoleum, immediately broke out her crowbar and began disassembling the door, making quite a lot of racket.
Once the door was opened, they found an open stone sarcophagus, also silver-bound, with a pile of bones and torn armor in one corner. Professor Aiderns immediately made his way over to the bones to investigate, only to get jumped by a clawed, fanged, undead monstrosity that was crouching behind the sarcophagus. A few swift bites put him down, then the thing was hacked apart by Traithe. Grimnir and Melastasya provided some quick medical attention to get the professor back on his feat.
Meanwhile Tvoja discovered a secret passage beneath the shrine without. The party climbed down the shaft she had discovered and traversed the long tunnel until it ended at a brick wall, which was clearly also a door. They heard grunting from the other side, and Aiderns sent his familiar in to investigate—informing everyone that there was a hobgoblin and a gorilla on the other side of the door.
They kicked open the door and neutralized the hobo and the ape in moments with a sudden hail of missile fire. They used some boards to cross the pit that inexplicably divided the room, then moved quietly and with tactical precision from room to room—Melastasya checked the doors, Aiderns’ familiar scouting what was on the other side, and then whatever was inside being subjected to a hail of arrows as the door opened.
They cleared a corridor, feast hall, and kitchens. Killing one more hobgoblin and complaining about the hobos breaking their crockery. A hobgoblin with a broom came up behind them, to the door where the professor was waiting, and quickly indicated that he was “surrendering”. Grimnir had a bit of a chat with the hobo, who introduced himself as “Grinkle” and informed the party that he had no desire to continue working for the hobgoblin lieutenant who was running the keep (since he has a poor fighter and got all the shit cleaning jobs). The party agreed to take Grinkle on as their cook in exchange for information about the other hobos in the keep.
Their first stop, after talking to Grinkle, was to murder the Lieutenant, who they found flexing and admiring himself in a mirror in the master bedroom. A few arrows in the back did for him, then Melastasya decided that she was really beautiful…until Grimnir blew up the mirror. They looted the Lieutenant, recovering a note that Grinkle read for them which indicated that a unit of Hobgoblin reinforcements would be arriving in about a month.
They then moved on to a door that the Lieutenant had said was “off limits” to the rank and file hobos. Beyond they found a room with a strange pit, spanned by illusory bridges. They made their way across safely (aside from Tvoja who discovered the illusion the hard way), and heard two more hobos arguing on the other side of the door. Grimnir busted in with his eyes flashing dramatically and commanded the hobos to bow before him, but they apparently did not speak the Common tongue and charged.
The battle was long, but not particularly bloody, as neither the party nor these hobgoblins could hit the broad side of a castle wall. Eventually Melastasya downed the two hobos with a couple of well placed punches and the party tossed the room, finding a secret door in one wall, behind which was a small empty room with a pair of gauntlets laying on the floor.
Melastasya poked about the tiny room with a spear, discovering something about three feet tall and roughly box shaped, that rang like metal when struck, in the back of the room, somehow not visible to the naked eye. She probed about some more and opened the invisible, but unlocked, chest, revealing a king’s ransom in gold and gems, as well as a ring of shocking grasp, a handful of magical arrows and darts, and the Sword of Halfrek.
After some looting, Grinkle lead them upstairs. Traithe used an illusion to make himself look like the hobo Lieutenant, calling the sentries down from the walls (where they were promptly ganked by the two lady-rogues). Traithe and Grinkle then went into the barracks and called the remaining three waking hobos to come out and downstairs, only to have the rogues botch the quiet execution and wake the rest of the barracks.
Traithe sprung into action, calling upon the spirit of a dwarven ranger which was trapped in the sword they’d found, and slicing through the barracks with a whirlwind attack. Three of the hobos died while trying to pull on their pants, one disappearing into the sword, causing a dead, naked old dwarf to spill out onto the ground. A barrage of spells and missile-fire wiped out the rest before they could mount a counter-offensive.
The party searched around a bit more, making sure that Grinkle was the only hobgoblin alive in the place, and then settled in to discuss what it would take for them to hold their new home.