They made their way across the hall from the ritual room where they had fought the gibbering mouther. Hetty found the door unlocked so Henrik opened it.
A long table has been pushed into the northwest corner of this room, with three corpses of male humans piled beneath it. Each corpse is naked to the waist and wearing colorful tights. Visible on the chest of one corpse is a sigil of a draconic skull pierced from the bottom by a sword.
They went to check out the pile of humans with the intent to try to remove the draconic sigil from the chest. Jasper said that he thinks that is part of a ritual that will animate this corpse to make it some kind of undead. They felt removing the sigil would stop the ritual from completing. Kataract and Hetty were in the room with Hetty going to remove the sigil. As they approached the bodies, Riva was the first to notice the shadow coming put from under the door to the east. As they formed the shadows began to tumble across the room and then each moved into a defensive fighting position.
The group decimated the shadows.
Henrik found the door to the east was locked. Hetty picked it quick and then stood back while Henrik opened it.
A bed and a desk are the only furnishings in this surprisingly clean room. The bed is made with linen sheets and a fluffy pillow. Atop the desk are an ink pot and a quill pen.
While Henrik looked under the bed, Hetty looked at the desk. Under the desk she saw several balled up sheets of papers most of which were empty. One piece of paper was covered with ink blots. Hetty looked at the piece of paper and then handed off to Jasper and Kataract who determined that it had been under another piece of paper and the impressions on the paper which can be read by rubbing charcoal across the page or with careful study. Jasper took out a piece of charcoal from one of his pouches and soon there was a complete letter that they could read:
S- We have completed our work here. Omin’s moppets have been defeated, although the half orc and the tiefling escaped. We believe the former ran for the woods, which means she will be ours soon enough. The latter, we cannot locate. We could not find the timepiece either, and it is possible the tiefling took it with her. However, if its magic functions as erratically as does that of the far gear, there may be more searching to be done.
Everything goes according to plan, and the manor should be free to claim. Loose ends are being tied up as I write this. I am, always, your obliging servant.
Beneath the signature is the symbol of a draconic skull pierced by a sword from the bottom up.
The symbol must be the mark of this group that had attacked the Order of the Golden Mongoose. They took the piece of paper to share with Acq Inc folks. They knew Omin was the leader/CEO of Acq Inc and was the one that had asked them to come to Phandalin. This looked like a planned attack on the Mongoose. But who were the ones that had attacked?
They decided to put the human bodies into the bag of holding for proper burial at some point. As they opened the bag they noticed that the kobold that had been petrified would starting to come around. They pulled him out of the bag and did their best to keep the kobold at ease. He asked for food and water and after he had had good portions of what Hetty had offered he relaxed a little and told them the following;
His name was Patsky. He had been hired by the group that attacked the manor house to take care of the cockatrice. He was not involved with the fight that much and was pecked by one of the cockatrice. Each time he would come out of the petrification, one or both of the cockatrice would peck him again. This went on for over two weeks. He does not know when they became undead creatures. He must have been petrified when it happened.
They told him that the cockatrice were taken care of. Patsky seemed happy to know.
Patsky told them that the three humans were acrobats that were also hired by the group that attacked the manor house. This reinforced the idea that the dragon skull sigil was the mark of the group. They asked who Hoobur was. He said that was the magic guy that led the group but that he was not the one that had hired folks.
They told Patsky that he should follow them for now. He agreed. They could tell he was not used to being treated nicely, he was expecting them to bully him. They tried to reassure that there were nice people in the world. They were not sure if he believed them but he followed them.
Henrik had found a secret door near the desk in the office room. There was set of stairs going down to the south with another secret door to the east. It was easy to spot on this side. They opened it:
A dozen desiccated and skeletal humanoid corpses litter the floor of this small chamber. The stone of the north wall has been etched with intricate runes, but the pattern ends abruptly.
A closer examination of the still-intact bodies reveals that each bears tattoos matching the runes carved on the walls. The corpses wear a wide range of clothing and armor, but have been stripped of all valuables and gear. Patsky pointed out the ones that were part of the group that attacked the manor and the ones that were members of the Golden Mongoose. There were others that he did not know where they had come from. He thought Hoobur had something to do with them being there.
Jasper figured out that the ruins on the wall and the people were part of ritual similar to the one that had happened in the room with the gibbering mouther. But, then something went wrong and the victims were consumed before the ritual could be completed.
They decided they needed to go back Phandalin and hire the dwarf miner and his human friend to clear out the tunnel below to see where it led to. Was it an entrance to a mine? If so, it would be a determining factor in if they would take the franchise. It was decided everyone but Henrik and Riva would go back to town with Pixel, the kittens and Hetty going back to the inn with Kataract and Jasper going to the Sleeping Giant to find the dwarf miner. Kataract hired Patsky to clean this room, removing the runes from the walls and taking the bodies to the ravine. He would be paid 1sp a day for his work. Patsky agreed.
As you step through the door, two hobgoblins pa use. staring at you with a mix of anger and confusion. One wears an over-sized tank on her back with a hand-held hose and nozzle emerging from it. A clear, viscous liquid drips from the nozzle , sizzling and smoking when it hi ts the ground. The second hobgoblin brandishes a lethal-looking sword. Both wear leather armor branded with the insignia of Dran Enterprises.
Henrik said to them “They are not here. We took care of them.” The hobgoblin with the sword said “Is that so? Let me see you papers.” Henrik replied “Papers? We don’t need no stinking papers” The hobgoblins moved to attack. The one with the over-sized tank had been spraying acid. It was not strong but it still burned when it connected to one’s skin. The hobgoblins were getting cut down quick when a 3rd hobgoblin appeared near Pixel. It turned the battle only briefly before it too fell. They could tell they were from Dran Enterprises, one of the major rivals to Acquisitions Inc. In fact, it was led by some of the family of Omin Dran. The group began to think that Dran Enterprises may have been behind the attack. They had not seen any evidence inside the basement but they had interrupted these hobgoblins in the courtyard using acid to clean up the ruins.
Each hobgoblin has 25 gp and a potion of healing. Additionally. one carries a potion of resistance (necrotic) and the other carries a spell scroll of cause fear and a spell scroll of blindness/deafness.
Henrik took the tank of acid to see if it would burn through the rock pile down in the ravine. It only cleaned them. As Henrik was coming back to the group Patsky asked him to come see what he had found in the room he had been cleaning. He showed how the wall was not a wall and that there was probably a secret door. He said the dwarf would know. Henrik used the sending stone to get the group back inside. Pixel stayed outside with the kittens while everyone went back inside. Hetty and Jasper saw that the wall was indeed a secret door. They opened it and saw a metal door to the east and another door to the south. Opening the door to the east they saw:
This small room is breathtakingly empty.
They did a quick search and found nothing. They went to the door to the south. It was not locked. Henrik opened it and they saw:
Three smashed human-sized coffins and one intact smaller coffin lie on the floor here. The larger coffins are carved of fine mahogany and lined with rotting silk. Humanoid bones are scattered across the floor.
Henrik went straight to the smaller coffin and poked it with a 10ft pole. The 10ft pole stuck to the coffin and two pseudopods came out from the side of the coffin and tried to attack Henrik. The group attacked the mimic with all they had. Riva with her crossbow, Jasper using Ray of Frost, Henrik using eldritch blast and attacking with his pike, Kataract shooting his hand crossbow and Hetty staying in the back throwing daggers as she had had a bad experience the last time they had encountered a mimic. This mimic did not last long.
They searched all of the coffins. Jasper found a pouch sewn into the lining under an embroidered star in one of the larger coffins. The pouch detached from the lining with a sharp tug. Inside was a potion of gaseous form and a potion of frost giant strength.
Henrik checked the double doors to the southeast part of the room. The doors were not locked.
Defaced murals and metal etchings , probably once quite beautiful, adorn this hallway. An open pit divides the passage’s eastern and western ends. Hanging from nooses above the pit were eight humanoid figures , each clothed in white with a purple hood pulled over its head.
Henrik and Hetty moved into the room and sure enough the creatures came to life and attacked. Two of them swung over them to allow all of the scarecrows within range to attack at advantage to attempt to pull Hetty and Henrik into the pit they were hanging above. Once again, the group defeated these enemies quickly. They found the dragonskull sigil on the remains of the scarecrows. The pit bottom was full of broken glass. Henrik and Hetty jumped over the pit and down the hall. They noticed that a door used to be to the south. Henrik believed that the first room with the cistern in it was to the south. He called out to Pixel who heard him and meowed back. They thought about tearing the shoddy wall down but decided to check out the last door.
This door was locked. Hetty picked it and when it swung open:
This room reeks of filth and death. The corpse of a dragonborn rots in a rusty cell of iron bars to the north. To the south, a similar cell holds two living prisoners.
They went to the cell to the south. There were two half elf women that looked similar to each other. They were probably related. One of them was passed out while the other was barely able to speak, asking for the group to help her and her sister. Hetty unlocked the cell door and Henrik sent for Pixel while Riva determined what injuries that they may have. Kataract and Pixel healed them and Hetty gave them food and water. Kataract asked how they got down here.
The sister were Ebella and Ocheri Splintfig. The Splintfig sisters sell rare herbs and spell components, and were visiting the manor to see if the franchisees wanted any of their wares. Their choice to stay the night turned out to be a textbook case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time when the manor house was attacked. The Splintfigs hid during the assault, but Drahkso Blaakberz, a dragonborn mercenary (they point to the north cell) and part of the assault force, found them. Drahkso took pity on the sisters and refused to kill them , so his comrades locked him up with them. The sisters talked to Drahkso a bit, and learned he was a mercenary hired to attack the manor . He mentioned that his employer was a short, hooded person who sounded like a goblin. He never saw his face, Eventually, some thugs came and took Drahkso away. They then returned with his corpse and tossed it back in the cell.
Hetty and Henrik went to the north cell. Hetty unlocked it and Henrik stepped in. As soon as he did the dragonborn rose up a ghast and it attacked. They took it out really quick. They searched the body and the cell and found four rare platinum coins (worth 15 gp each) covered in dirt and grime, three glass vials hidden by Drahkso two potions of greater healing (4d4+4) and one potion of animal friendship.
They decided to now head back to town with Pixel and Hetty going to the inn with the Splintfig Sisters with Jasper and Kataract going to the Sleeping Giant and Henrik and Riva staying at the manor house. Kataract and Jasper were able to make a deal with the dwarf miner at the Sleeping Giant. They would be paid 8sp to check out the rock-slide and then 8sp per day to do the job of removing the rock. They went to the mine and after more negotiation, they agreed to terms with Toven the dwarf miner saying he would see if could get more workers to help with the removal. Jasper and Henrik would help with mining and rock removal. It would take 2-3 days, 4 at most Toven felt. They got to work that afternoon.
They next day Pixel visited the Shrine of Luck and talked to Sister Garaele about burying all of the bodies they had found at the manor house. Sister Garaele would talk to the priestesses of the Coinmaiden and between the four of them they should be able to take care of things. They estimated 13 bodies. They would contact Pixel when they were ready. It would probably be the next day.
Hetty talked with the Splintfig sisters, Gildha Duhn, the half-orc they rescued and Patsky whenever she could. She learned the following:
The Splintfig sister sell rare herbs and spell components up and down the Sword Coast. They had a presence in Baldur’s Gate, Waterdeep and Neverwinter. They traveled selling their wares with each city having a warehouse in a secret location. They would be willing to sell items to the group and they were planning to reward the group for rescuing them. The sisters also planned to leave in the next day or so.
Gildha was ready to be out of the adventurer’s life. She sounded ready to head back to Waterdeep and relax. She would often stare off for moments at a time and then come back to the conversation.
Patsky had stumbled upon the group that attacked the manor house in Neverwinter. He was sure they were not from there and did not know where they had originally come from. They never said who their leader was, he assumed it was Hoobur but he could tell Hoobur probably was reporting to someone else.
They had sent a courier to Acq Inc headquarters letting them know what had happened at the manor house. On the second full day of work on the tunnel, Henrik received a Sending spell message from Omin Dran. He congratulated and thanked them on their success, telling them to rest up, and informed them that a representative of Acquisitions Incorporated will arrive soon to deliver paperwork and any other information a new franchise needs. He also said that he knew that they were owners of Trollskull Tavern and that it was not a franchise within Acq Inc, yet. Omin also realized that they may not take this franchise since they had work with the Tavern that would keep them busy. Yet, they had proved themselves so he thought it best to extend the offer. They did not need to make a decision until they had met with the representative of Acquisitions Incorporated.
“Yeah, so I’m going to need you to do a little extra work for me. It shouldn’t be too taxing. I have a contact in Neverwinter who’s secured a cache of treasure. Her name is Oppal DeScart, and you can usually find her in a tavern in the Blacklake District known as the Stable Quiver. She’s a shapeshifter, so I can’t say for sure what she’ll look like when you locate her. You can suss her out with the passphrase “That’s a big hen house,” and she should reply with “Only to a small fox.” When you locate her, tell her that it’s safe to “Move the cargo along the Platinum Road.” And that’s it. She’ll give you the treasure to get out of Neverwinter safely. The whole affair should take a few hours, and then you can be on your way. You can get the goods to me when you return.”
Henrik thought that it did seem like a quick job. He would mention it to the others.
Henrik thanked Omin and over breakfast let the others know what he had learned.
Later that day the tunnel was cleared out. It led to a tree branch and shrub covered secret exit into the large forest below the manor house plateau. They did some exploring and found an old path leading out of the forest and towards Phandalin. They searched for any sign of mines in the area but did not find anything. They decided to check the Sword Mountains to the east where folks had mentioned that the legendary mines were once located. They knew that orcs had attacked the mines and destroyed them and they had been lost for over 80s. The searched the mountains and found several false starts. Riva picked up on an old wide road and started to follow it. It went high into the mountains and then low finally ending up in a large bowl like area. Jasper could tell that the floor to this bowl had been flattened by dwarfs either with machinery or magic but he could tell it had been manipulated. There were three potential places to look for an opening to the mines. Henrik said let us try the third one. As they approached they saw an area that looked like it had been excavated, not recently though, but within the last 5 years. They saw that it indeed led to a tunnel just a bit larger thank a 6ft tall human. They went inside:
The entrance tunnel leads into a large-cavern supported by a natural pillar of rock and containing three stalagmites. In the western part of the cave, behind the column of rock, are three bedrolls and a heap of ordinary supplies-sacks of flour, bags of salt, casks of salted meat, lanterns, flasks of lamp oil, pickaxes, shovels, and other gear. Amid the supplies, you see the body of a dwarf miner, dead for at least a week. The northeastern section of the cavern has collapsed, forming a ten-foot-wide, twenty-foot-deep pit. A sturdy hemp rope is tied off around a nearby stalagmite and dangles down the side of the pit, at the bottom of which is a rough-hewn tunnel heading northwest and east.
Pixel turned into a giant eagle and Hetty climbed on her back. They went to the east tunnels. After about 30ft feet:
Many tunnels intersect at this natural, thirty-foot-high cavern. The walls are carved with simple reliefs showing dwarf and gnome miners hard at work. Below them, nearly two dozen skeletons in rusted scraps of armor are scattered across the cavern floor. Some are dwarf skeletons, while others are orc remains. Half a dozen large brass lanterns stand in niches or on ledges around the cavern, but none are lit.
They can see at least 10 stirges on the ceiling of the cavern and they knew if they could see 10 there were at least 30 or more stirges that they could not see. They headed back to the makeshift campsite to see if they could identify the dwarf skeleton. The first thing they noticed was that the boots had not aged and looked like they had not been left out in the elements for 5 plus years. They took the boots and Jasper saw a dwarf rune inside the left boot. It was as surname, Rockseeker. He had heard of the family, they had a small presence in Neverwinter.
They would head back to Phandalin to research the mine and how to make claims to mines. They would start at the Phandalin Miner’s Exchange and the Town Council Hall.
Henrik received another Sending spell message - Hello Henrik. This is Viara, representative of Acq Inc. I am in Phandalin. Where would you like to meet to go over the paperwork. They decided to meet at the Stonehill Inn for a late dinner to go over the paperwork.
It took them about 3 hours to get back to town. They met Viari. He handed them each a contract crammed full of legalese and double-talk. Kataract read over it and got the following highlights from it:
Franchisees pay a monthly fee to Acquisitions Incorporated to maintain their franchise.
This fee starts at 20gp a month.
As part of that fee, Acquisitions Incorporated handles parts of the franchise’s operations, including location procurement, staff management and other benefits.
The monthly fee paid to Acquisitions Incorporated by a starter franchise covers the salaries of a majordomo, a skilled hireling, and two unskilled hirelings.
Franchisees must pay any hireling employed beyond this number.
The franchise is licensed to operate in Phandalin and within 5 miles of the town and is protected against interference in that area from other franchises.
Acquisitions Incorporated will deal with acquiring the rights to Tresendar Manor from Harbin Wester as they did for the Fellowship of the Golden Mongoose.
The next step would be to select company positions and then decide on a name for their new Acquisitions Incorporated franchise. (more information on this will be in an email. Also, the complete Acquisitions Incorporated sourcebook is available to us on D&D Beyond so you can look there for information on Growing Your Franchise which is chapter 2.)
That is, if they decided to take the opportunity.