After clearing the goblins from the town, the group decided to visit Nandar Keep and see if it was also infested by goblins or if anyone had survived. If nothing else, they could see a cart atop the smashed bridge to the keep that they figured they could use a wheel from to fix the one in town to haul away any loot they found.
Kanut of the Whalebones cleared the 15’ gap in the broken bridge with plenty of room to spare, and built a quick rope bridge for the rest of the crew to cross safely. In the keep, they found that Lady Nandar had been crushed by one of the stones, but four of her guards survived. The guards (Sydiri, Torem, Alara, and Kaelen) had no leader, as the captain of the guard also perished in the cloud giant attack, and had been debating what to do about their current situation.
Countess Kessa found this to be a problem she was used to, and quickly put the guards to work in the kitchen, as a good meal and a rest seemed to be in order.
The group’s rest was interrupted by the arrival of a group of unsavory-looking characters on horseback. They rode into the village square and called out for Kella Darkhope. Kella came down out of the inn to meet with the leader, then pointed toward the keep.
The half-elf leader of the band, Xolkin Alassandar, approached the bridge to parlay with our heroes. Finding himself at an advantage, he declared to the group that he and his group, the Seven Snakes, were taking Nightstone as an outpost. Kessa objected that just because the current lady was dead did not mean the town was unclaimed, and that Baronne Shaille Alton’s claim of lordship over the whole area still stands. This argument did not strike Xolkin’s sword arm as particularly convincing. Figuring he had the heroes cornered in the keep, he offered them safe passage through the village should they decide to leave, but the town would be an outpost for the Black Network.
After posting a pair of guards at the low end of the bridge, Xolkin, Kella, and the remaining bandits took up in the smashed inn. Ptahmin strode down to the end of the bridge to talk to the two guards posted there. He found the bandits had dragged some crates out to make a makeshift table and stools, and were starting up a dice game. The bandits had been ordered not to start anything, so they allowed Ptahmin and Kanut to join them.
As it turned out, neither of the bandits had any real skill at gambling— but neither did Ptahmin nor Kanut, so while gold pieces moved around the table, the game was pretty anticlimactic in its result. That was fine by Gilraen, who used the distraction of the gambling to go sneak over the parapet to the stables. There she began a collection of equestrian tack, taking every bit, bridle, and reins out of the stables and bringing them back to the keep.
The decision was made to strike before dawn. The stealthiest of the group would set up to ambush the two guards, and Ptahmin would go out to talk with them. On his signal, Kanut and Gilraen would join him in quietly silencing the guards. Somewhat amazingly, this went exactly to plan.
The next plan was an assault on the inn. Ptahmin would lead the keep’s guards in the front door, while everyone else went around to the back of the in where a cloud giant boulder had demolished the kitchen wall. They noticed one of the rooms upstairs had a candle lit, indicating someone was likely awake, but continued with the plan.
The four remaining bandits were in the common room downstairs, but Kella and Xolkin were nowhere to be seen. As they dispatched the bandits, the other two came downstairs. Kella fell quickly, but Xolkin had been awake, so he was better prepared for this fight— he was wearing his armor, and drank a Potion of Invulnerability before he went downstairs to join the fray. He quickly knocked Hedge unconscious, but it wasn’t long before he found himself surrounded. Kessa asked for his surrender, but once Kella Darkhope fell, he wanted nothing but revenge.
Xolkin knocked out Gilraen and two of the guards before he was finally defeated. Hedge and Ptahmin healed everyone as best as they could, but everyone was pretty beat up.
A quick search of Xolkin’s room at the inn found his flying snake, which the team quickly killed. They also found a message that Xolkin was about to send out: “Objective Secured.”