The Red Plumes had an outpost near the Moonsea Ride, the main trade route to and from the Dalelands, Cormyr and Sembia which cut through the Cormanthor Forest. It was a walled outpost with stables and three buildings.
The plan was a simple one. Minimus, as being the most stealthy, would have invisibility cast on him by Maire, and then sneak into the compound. There was a well there, but they had been told by the captive Red Plume there was a problem with it, and they had to bring in their water in large barrels. This was why this particular outpost was rarely used, and perfect for Captain Erlich as a base for his illegal scheme.
It went as well as could have been hoped. Despite a tall warrior type with a greatsword strapped to his back brewing some kind of potion nearby over a fire, Minimus eased the lid off the water barrel and tipped all of their sleeping potion into the water without being detected. He then moved to a hidden position where he could observe. The halfling noted there was also a live boar in a cage, no doubt meat on the hoof for later.
The tall warrior finished brewing his potion, carefully cleaning his hands. Minimus saw that there were many ingredients, including some orange headed, moist looking toadstools. The man poured the potion into two vials, put out the fire and moved inside. Two guards were on the battlement over the main gate, and one patrolled the inside of the compound. At intervals a guard would take some water inside, or put it into his flask or waterskin. About an hour later the guards on the battlements slumped over, as did the patrolling guard. The party waited a few more minutes before scaling the wall and entering the Red Plume outpost. Cundall used speak with animals to ascertain that the boar would help them if released, and let the creature out. It charged out, frustrated it had no one to attack.
“Gip is fiesty,” said Cundall.
“Gip?” asked Zelda.
“Pig backwards, that’s what I’ll call him I think.”
As they explored inside the building it turned out everyone they could see was asleep, including the Tinfellow halflings locked in a room. Minimus was dispatched the sleeping guards. Just as he was doing the last one, the tall warrior attacked, dispelling his invisibility. He was a strong, agile warrior, who could also cast spells. He used a misty step spell to get onto the roof where Maire and Zelda were using ranged attacks, but was surprised when Zelda with a heroic effort grabbed him and threw herself and him off the roof, landing on the ground almost at the feet of Minimus, Cundall, the boar, and seconds later Zelda’s spiritual dire wolf was summoned and joined the fray. Along with Cundall’s heat metal spell they wore the man down, who tried to escape but spells and arrows saw him put down. It was then his body changed back to his true shape of a tall, muscular elf with horns and bat like wings.
“Fey-ri!” exclaimed Maire.
“Daemonfey,” corrected Zelda. “Taller, more powerful than fey’ri. This one was nasty. It must have been that Breex Vandermast the Red Plume mentioned.” Indeed the creature had been tough, they had all taken damage from the daemonfey’s weapon or spells, and it was resistant, but not immune, to the fire damage that Cundall’s heat metal spell had been inflicting.
They looted the bodies, taking all coins and jewellery. Maire’s detect magic spell showed that one of Breex’s rings was magical, as was his wand. The daemonfey also had a scroll with the spell dimension door. Cundall opened the front gate and released Gip back into the wild. The pig trotted off with only happy thoughts on his mind.
They woke the Tinfellows who were grateful for the rescue. The patriarch, an elderly halfling farmer named Elbus Tinfellow told them the following information:
- The clan raised sheep and farmed roots and hardy grains, and as their small farm prospered, other halflings flocked to the valley to join their farm.
- Twelve days age a patrol of Red Plumes raided the farmstead, riding in from the south and setting fire to the homes they kidnapped the families and hauled them off to a Red Plume camp just inside the forest.
- Oddly a human spellcaster named Breex had been working with the Red Plumes who were under the com-mand of Captain Erlich. Elbus thinks that the Red Plumes were more afraid of Breex than Captain Erlich.
- He heard one of the soldiers say that the Red Plumes were kidnapping nonhumans and selling them to the Arena where they serve as slave gladiators in the games there.
The party looked in the stables and found a draft horse, some riding horses, and a cart. They took these and escorted the Tinfellows back to their farmlands. The halflings were dismayed to find their homes burnt, but somewhat mollified to find their crops undamaged, and most of their toolsheds and barns were untouched, perhaps so that Captain Erlich’s brother Deirk and other humans could make use of them.
“We’ll make do,” said Elbus. “It’s summer, thank Chauntea, so we won’t perish of cold. We can rebuild using the stones in the burnt houses. But we will be needing some wood.” The old farmer looked at Cundall.
Cundall just nodded, and turned away. While he hated seeing trees cut down, it was Chauntea’s will that civilisation and nature co-exist. Sometimes one had to sacrifice for the other. He would mark out trees for the Tinfellows to cut, old trees, or ones that harboured no animal nests or lairs.
“What about these intruders, and the Red Plume,” asked Zelda. “What is your will?”
“There is plenty of room in this valley,” replied Elbus. “Holding grudges just poisons your heart. The trick is to make something good come from something bad. They can stay where they have built their cabin, and work this end of the valley. When their boys come of age and have families they might need more land, but we can accommodate them.”
“You are generous,” said Minimus. “And the Red Plume?”
“I know your feelings towards the Red Plumes,” said Elbus. “I fear you have not lost any of your rage towards them. However he can work off his debt to us in the field and help us rebuild. There is justice in working hard for those you have wronged. And I think he cannot return to Hillsfar anyway. Questions will be asked, and he cannot answer them without incriminating himself. Who knows, in time he may be another settler in Tinfellow Valley.”
And with that it was settled. They spent a warm summer evening around the fire with the Tinfellows and the Widow Miller, and even the red bearded carpenter and Deirk and his sons. They still cast resentful looks at the party, but were happy to be free and to have a future away from the poverty they endured in the city. He would grieve for his brother, but as Elbus told him, the future was his to shape. They had a vegetarian meal of potatoes, beans and spices taken from the gardens. The only one who did not appear hopeful was Deriel, the elf who had betrayed the party for a chance to have her lover, Arrizz the drow, returned to her. In the morning she had gone, but left a note thanking the party and stating her intention to report what had happened to her superiors of the Elven Court, an elf community in the Cormanthor Forest who were coordinating patrols and attempting to rebuild the Cormanthor elf community after the disasters of the last few years.
The party took the draft horse and the cart, but left the other horses for the Tinfellows to use or to trade. They returned to Elventree to talk to their faction contacts about what had happened.