The party begins and guests start entering the ballroom at the Alvenwoad Estate. To start with the heroes remain together, but they soon separate to deal with the party in their own manner.
Nortrix, of course, was very sociable to all he encountered and he spent his time remaining in the main ballroom, listening to the string music and talking to the various people who came to meet him. One of those people was, unfortunately, his uncle: Althur Marbleweaver. Finally catching up to his wayward nephew, Althur gave him a long lecture about family responsibilities and so on. These were things that Nortrix had all heard before. Eventually Althur left Nortrix alone and he was able to go back to enjoying the party.
Kysmer had decided to try and avoid people, as he was more accustomed to solitary walks through the forest than crowded functions in a noble’s estate. However, despite his best efforts guests kept cornering him and talking at him. Just when things were getting particularly claustrophobic, Captain Karath (resplendent in his official dress uniform) swept in and walked with Kysmer out into the gardens. In the gardens they could see acrobats and jugglers entertaining some guests in the dimming dusk light. Servants were moving about lighting lanterns to provide light as the sun set. As they walked Captain Karath managed to question Kysmer about the kidnapping, particularly the cause. Kysmer had no new news to share on this however and so Karath eventually left to circulate.
Grax and Kara, the two former orphans, had both gravitated towards the buffet table where they were doing their best to eat and drink without having to entertain. This was working out quite well for them. Grax in particular tried to overcome his social awkwardness with copious amounts of wine, to varying effect. They were approached at the table by Ranger-Lieutenant Throon who was very friendly towards them. After crushing their hands in his massive grip, the burly, ageing half-orc happily entertained them with tales from his younger days, such as the time he had to track down and kill a rogue shard beast while wounded. He even showed them the wounds from the beast’s shards that he still bears. Throon may have kept this up for much longer, but he swiftly left when he saw Lord Goldseam approaching. Lord Urliak Goldseam, a fancily dressed dwarven noble, then briefly addressed the pair. He was very dismissive of them both and left without allowing them to verbally defend themselves. Grax, being somewhat inebriated at this point, called him a dick behind his back, but this seems to have been heard by one of the dwarven servants following Goldseam around, as she turned and glared at Grax after he had spoken.
Hoatzin had been enjoying himself, while not being quite as sociable as Nortrix. While he was in between conversations, one of the estate servants sidled up to him to pass on message: there was a dwarf waiting to meet him outside. Cautiously Hoatzin entered the gardens to see who was so eager to meet him, only to discover that Geel Stonefist had snuck into the party somehow. Geel was here to report that in the course of snooping around Zentoun Fortress he had discovered a bloodied cloak in the officers’ halls. The cloak was not an Imperial Northern Ranger cloak and it was highly unusual to just find a cloak, let alone a bloodied cloak, just lying around. Hoatzin paid him for the information and then Geel snuck back out of the party. A short distance away Kysmer had noticed Hoatzin meeting with someone, but he hadn’t recognised Geel.
Having eaten quite enough for the moment, Kara accepted some invitations to dance from some of the younger noblemen and merchant’s sons. She dances with a few of them, all of them too flustered to do more than smile and stammer, before a grizzled one-eyed ranger asks for a dance. The ranger introduces himself as Ranger-Lieutenant Harn Durlis and while they dance they make small talk; he is quite charming and flattering. As they continue dancing, he begins to suggest that they should meet up again, at a later date, at a tavern he knows. Kara, realising where this is headed, gently rebuffs him but he then gets the wrong idea and believes that she is romantically involved with one (or more) of her adventuring companions. As he leaves, he assures her that the offer is still open should she tire of her current company.
Eventually, as the night wears on, Lady Alvenwoad calls everyone together in the ballroom and announces that Ranger-Commander Jorlas Braveheart is going to say a few words. Jorlas, an aged man who still stands straight and proud in his uniform, praises the efforts of the five heroes, and then makes them an example of how everyone should be seeking to do more for their community. If only more people helped one another, or had community spirit, etc. etc. His speech lasts for about ten minutes and ends to much applause.
With the speech done partygoers start leaving and all too soon it seems that only the heroes remain (with the obligatory few late stragglers who are still making the most of the free food and alcohol provided). Lady Alvenwoad thanks the heroes directly for being such good guests of honour. Grax almost embarrasses himself due to his excessive drinking, but Eleanor makes sure he is led away to his sleeping chamber. Kysmer and Hoatzin have realised, during the evening, that jugglers always seem to be right near them, and always the same jugglers at that. Hoatzin is able to make one uncomfortable and then he makes his exit, while Kysmer begins unsettling the other.
Soon they all retired to bed.
The following morning they all gathered for their usual sumptuous breakfast. All aside from Grax, that is, who was suffering the after effects of having consumed so much wine the night before.
While they eat they discuss what they should be doing next, as the party from the previous night was most likely all that Lady Alvenwoad had wanted their presence for. During their discussion they all talk about their experiences the previous night, with Hoatzin remembering to mention his strange meeting with Geel Stonefist in the gardens. While there had been some thought of perhaps heading back to Rannon’s Hill, this news did remind them of the unresolved business about a possible traitor within the Imperial Northern Rangers.
Shortly after this Eleanor arrived bearing some messages that had been dropped off for the heroes. One was addressed to Grax, which she held on to for later, while the other two she handed to Nortrix and Hoatzin.
Predictably enough Nortrix’s message was from his uncle Althur, informing Nortrix of when they would be leaving Lanarell and heading back to the south. The clear expectation being that Nortrix was to finalise his affairs and join them. Nortrix threw the letter into the fireplace.
Hoatzin’s message wasn’t signed and was mysterious as well. It informs him that a friend of his has made it to the guard’s garrison and that he should go and check him out. A little perplexed by this, as all of the other heroes were accounted for, Hoatzin and the others all decided to go off and check what this was about (leaving Grax to sleep off his hangover).
Reaching the garrison the four heroes see a disgruntled guard trying to mop up a large dried pool of blood. The guard complains about a grubby, drunken dwarf getting his throat cut the previous night. Inside the garrison Hoatzin queries the duty guardsman about any recent arrivals. They find out that the only recent arrivals are a rowdy elf bard and the dead dwarf. The guardsman on desk duty informs them that the dwarf had a distinctive stone fist. Realising that this can only be Geel Stonefist, Hoatzin and Kara tell the guards that he was a member of the Imperial Northern Rangers. They also arrange to carry the news to Zentoun Fortress.
By this time Grax has awoken back at the Alvenwoad Estate and has managed to eat a less than sumptuous breakfast. While eating he received a note from Eleanor, which was also when she told him that the others had all headed out to check on something at the guard garrison. The note is from Priest Lorith, the leader of the shrine to the Old Gods in Lanarell, inviting him to come visit as they didn’t get a chance to meet on the previous evening. Grax decides to wait until Kara and Hoatzin can join him for this as they know more about theology than he does. To fill in time while he waits for everyone to return to the estate he then goes to check on the progress of his armour. The smith informs him that they are waiting for the mithral to arrive, though he does stay a while and talk.
Having reached Zentoun Fortress, Hoatzin and Kara are allowed to go and meet Ranger-Commander Jorlas Braveheart. His young elven assistant, Ranger Lina Oakfriend, shows them into the elderly ranger’s office where they are able to pass on the terrible news of Geel Stonefist’s death. Ranger-Commander Braveheart thanks them for bringing this news to him straight away, yet hints that Ranger Stonefist was not the best example of the Imperial Northern Rangers. Hoatzin, without Kara’s approval, then begins telling Ranger-Commander Braveheart about the possibility of there being traitors within the Imperial Northern Rangers. He also mentions that Stonefist had brought them information in relation to this the previous night. Ranger-Commander Braveheart grows stony-faced as this all gets mentioned, particularly in relation to “spying within these halls” and he eventually dismisses the two adventurers quite abruptly. Ranger Oakfriend then escorts them back to the main gate and, despite her superior’s now disapproval of these two, expresses her appreciation for everything they have done.
Everyone soon meets up again at the Alvenwoad Estate for yet another sumptuous lunch. Grax broaches the subject of Kara accompanying him to meet Priest Lorith and Kara agrees. Hoatzin also decides to come along. As neither Kysmer nor Nortrix are feeling particularly religious, they decide to go check out The Braying Donkey and see if the wine is as good as they remember.
At the Shrine of the Old Gods Grax and Hoatzin feel a sense of peace and contentment that Kara does not share. The Shrine is far larger than the Shrine in Rannon’s Hill. They enter through the main hall, which is lined with tall, round columns, and enter the large circular main chamber which has a small shrine devoted to each of the Old Gods. A staircase leads up high, to where the Shrine’s bells are located. The three heroes are introduced to Priest Lorith who, it turns out, is quite eager to meet them. They all sit in his study and they talk about his vast book collection (which gets Kara excited), the official collection of the Priests of Lanarell. This collection has been accumulated over the centuries and fills the walls of Priest Lorith’s modest study. He has hot tea and cakes brought in while they talk. Eventually they get around to asking the kindly Priest about the journal they had discovered when they rescued Kysmer. He is interested in seeing it so they let him have a look. Immediately he can tell that it is written in the language of the lower realms, the Infernal language. Since he knows the Celestial language he can read a word here or there, but he cannot understand the meaning. The heroes thank him for this valuable insight before getting ready to leave, however before they can leave he does make an effort at swaying Kara over to the worship of the Old Gods. He recommends Boccob in particular, as he feels that she might find that deity most appealing.
From the Shrine of the Old Gods the three heroes travel across the river to the main guard garrison. They wish to ask Captain Karath about the hobgoblin mystic who aided them earlier, Rag’azzahd, as he seemed like the sort who might know all kinds of hidden things (like the Infernal language). They are able to get in to see Captain Karath fairly easily (he’s walking through the garrison common area when they arrive) and is quite willing to direct the heroes to where his men were able to track down Rag’azzahd: a lowly tavern called The Grey Hood.
Being already a little familiar with The Grey Hood the heroes are able to get there pretty swiftly. Asking around the almost empty (it is still during daylight hours after all) common room for “the hobgoblin” gets them no answers. They do learn, however, that a “mysterious hooded man” had been lodging in a room at Rascoe’s Den. For some coin they are even able to find out where to find Rascoe’s Den.
Upon reaching Rascoe’s Den they find that it just looks like a house, not a “fine” establishment like The Grey Hood at all. As they approach, a man sitting outside the house denies that there is any such establishment there (although Hoatzin can tell he’s lying). They let it be known they are looking for a “mysterious hooded man” and that they will be waiting at The Bull and The Wench use up the street.
The Bull and The Wench (which, from the picture out the front, doesn’t look like any kind of normal relationship) is a slimy kind of tavern, which is, like The Grey Hood, more than half empty. After a few minutes of waiting the heroes are approached by a halfling who questions them briefly before introducing himself as Rascoe and inviting them to come to his establishment (after they pay the cover price). Inside Rascoe’s Den (which is located in the basement of the house they were standing out the front of earlier) Rascoe gives them a mug of ale each and points them towards the hooded hobgoblin, who is sitting by himself in the corner. As they cross the dingy, crowded “common room” they can hear the sounds of gambling: the rattle of dice, the flip of cards, the clink of coins and the snarl and whine of dogs. The pursuit of vice does not care that it is still daylight apparently.
Rag’azzahd greets them courteously when they introduce themselves. They cut to the chase and he cautiously admits to knowing the infernal tongue and then leads them to a nearby copse of trees just inside the city walls where they can talk privately. They come to terms about how much he will charge for his services and they agree to arrange for him to come to the Alvenwoad Estate to work on the translating. He is happy to be able to move out of Rascoe’s Den.
When the three heroes get back to the Alvenwoad Estate Kara immediately seeks out Eleanor so as to make sure there won’t be any problems with inviting a hobgoblin in. Eleanor is at first quite happy to have a travelling scholar coming to the estate to help the adventurers with whatever they are currently in the midst of doing, but she soon cools upon learning that this scholar is a hobgoblin. She says she will go and check this with Lady Alvenwoad and the Captain of the Alvenwoad guards before giving the all clear.