Scarfell, Evie, and Frankie headed up North at the behest of Brother Runicle, the eldest member of the Order of Dun Helm. They were greeted on the outskirts of town by a convert to the order, Brother Martin, a Goliath. He guides them through the town, which is surprisingly cold towards them, to an inn which is sheltering the monks.
Brother Runicle explained to the adventurers that the abbey has been seconded by a mercenary band who seem to have come into town on a pretense and are abusing their power. It is unclear why they came initially and who helped them, but it is clear that they are now making money off the town’s parchment trade though labor tariffs and seem to be funneling at least some of that money to the town council to keep them cooperative. Brother Runicle let the party know that unless these mercenaries are expelled from the abbey and soon, there is no hope for a restoration of the order.
Sister Chanture, another newer member of the order with hints of a martial past, briefed the party on the movements and situation of the mercenaries in the Abbey. She seemed to think that there was a business ledger in the abbey that could expose the whole conspiracy. The Abbey seemed to be most well guarded in the evenings; during the day deliveries from the town seemed to come and go freely. After some thought of sneaking in during the dead of night, the party decided that they wanted more information on the so they followed the most obvious course of action: they disguised themselves as a wandering circus troop and offered their services to the mercenaries as entertainment.
They were welcomed into the camp and even provided lodging. On the second morning of their stay they dined with the rather self-aggrandizing leader of the mercenaries, Rusk Fallowfield. A generous table, but rather less than generous ale ration was provided. They were able to locate his safe, but not to gain access. They instead were able to wangle access to the library, ostensibly to research the composition of a new play in Rusk’s honor. Scarfell knew of secret passages within the library, but didn’t know quite where they were. Martin recalled that there was liquid refreshment stashed in the library too. The party decided to search for both of these things. What they found were footprints in the dust which ranged about, but were concentrated in the entomology section of the stacks. What they heard was a secret observer who fled before they could identify them. After examining the books in the entomology section, the party found the secret passage and, in a purpose build alcove within, Martin found a barrel of ale, much to his satisfaction. They explored the tunnel and found that it came out in a grotto shrine to Baervan Wildwanderer and Chiktikka Fastpaws.
The party emerged from the tunnel just in time to hear a horn blow from the town square and see a troop of mercenaries begin preparing to head down to town. They hustled back into the abbey through the passage so as not to arouse suspicion. They decided that this might be the perfect moment to retrieve the ledger, since the camp was more than half empty and seemed distractable. Unfortunately for Martin, the agreed-upon distraction ended up being him handing free beer out to the seven remaining mercenaries in camp. The others went for Rusk’s office. There they encountered one of the mercs, a quiet and somewhat diffident half-elf. After a tense negotiation, the party and the half-elf realized that they were on the same team, both trying to reclaim the ledger to present in public and expose the corruption.
Having once found and opened Rusk’s safe (by way of Rusk carelessly leaving his combination in his desk drawer), the party, through a mixture of bribery and intimidation (don’t worry, they’re the good guys), convinced the remaining mercenaries to switch sides. All, that is, save one, who cut and run. The party processed through the streets towards the town center, which they could see was roiling with a mass protest. Noting that many of the populace were still holed up in their houses, the party coaxed them out with an eloquent extemporaneous protest song.
The scene at the square was tense. The party listened as the mayor was accused of corruption by leading townsmen . The mayor protested, as did his primary councilor, Avador. The party presented their findings, and the Mayor seemed ready to talk the situation out with the leaders of the protest. But Councilor Avador and Rusk seized four hostages and escaped through the town hall back to the abbey.
Now was the time for less gentle action. The townspeople surrounded the abbey while our heroes sneaked back through the secret passage to rescue the hostages and kick the rest of the mercs out of the abbey in into the waiting arms of justice. The first part of the plan was easier than expected, as the hostages were being kept in the library without guards. They heard enough of a conversation in which Avador mocked the Mayor to realize that the Mayor was guilty primarily of blindness and poor judgement. After Avador left, the party freed the hostages to flee back through the tunnel. The party meanwhile carefully broke into Rusk’s headquarters, where the rest of the mercs were holed up. They neutralized three of the baddies who were in a side room before taking on the larger force in the main bedchamber. After some good hits, some bad leaps onto the central study table, and a whopping critical hit by Martin on Rusk, the party was able to subdue and question the evildoers.
Rusk and the initial hobgoblin attackers were both subcontracted by the Zhentarim. They staged the Hobgoblin attack so as to prove the need for mercenaries. Once the mercenaries were accepted by the town, their duties moved from defending against imaginary Hobgoblins to usurping dockworker’s duties so as to have a hand in the economy. This was aided by Avador who was skimming money off the top and had fallen in with the Zhentarim. Avador’s final words to the adventurers warned them that they were not safe; The Zhentarim Trade Empire would soon retaliate!