Death lurked in the hot summer nights. Emerging from the forest, the Verdant Company encountered a camp of refugees from the hamlet of Glorn's Crossing. Being generous travelers, and well endowed by the Elf Maiden, the Company plied the poor with songs of sustenance and courage and bid them make themselves secure at the edge of the forest. To go farther would invite the Lady's wrath, and surely their home would be made available to them soon enough, for the red comet was on the horizon and the Once King Returned, putting bugbear heads on his pike as he went.
Crossing into his ancestral lands, Wolverhampton knew that he would not rest again until his throne had been regained. He was quietly glad of his companions, salacious and devious as the pretty bard and dark dragonman might be, they had great potential for salvation, and the Warlord Alec was just the sort of man needed in these times, and educated as well! This would bode well, if only they could be restrained from following the darkest paths of war!
The approach to Glorn's Crossing was clear, but they had been told a road block had been erected to glean more from traveling merchants and naive travelers. An elaborate ruse was concocted. Wolverhampton did not understand it all. For a time he believed that Jetberry was going to tale the tale of the sickened Xorn, who distributed precious crystals from its bowls on midsummer nights (he was convinced), but nay, it was a more practical matter of dressing up as wounded penitents and leading a band into the woods to beat their heads and tie them to a tree. The Red Knight reborn donned his tabard and sermonized over the defeated bandits, urging them to look to their better selves and see their plight as one and the same in this village as theirs, in opposition to the corruption that sat upon the seat of Fircrest. It may take eliminating bad apples (the dragon was so good at that), but on the whole, these men were ripe for conversion.
It took a greater act of charity to forgive the Captain Devlin, but after tender ministrations, he allowed his blade to be bought for a handful of gold and a promise of more. All he need do was to take arms against his former master, the Necromancer Phil the Philanderer. And so he did.
The Company waited for the search party to leave and then surged in through the kitchen, catching the Philanderer among his pots and trollops. Said strumpets soon harkened to the Bard's words and attacked their men as the whole place erupted into madness. The bandit lord was more than a robber of living men, but a robber of graves as well, and his waves of dark necromancy made the warriors lose their footing and fall about the floor, skeletal minions rushing to the finish the job.
Though given pause by the savage defense of the necrophiliac sorcerer, the Company soon found footing and asserted their superior force of arms so that the lecher made to flee, only his insurmountable ego held him back to hurl final insults at the shadow dragon, Kage, who pursued him with furious intent. When the final blow fell, the remaining bandits were eager to tender their surrender.
Sitting back with a hard earned ale, the refugees sent for, and prisoners disarmed and held in the stable, Wolverhampton pondered their dilemma. What to do with these two dozen men, criminals all? They owed penance, that much was clear, and yet it was only the Holy promise of mercy and redemption, as exemplified by Captain Devlin, that kept them corralled in expectation rather than scattering to the woods and further disinterested banditry. The Blackburn Vale did could not stand a lawless band roaming unchecked, and the Red Knight needed an army to send against Hector, but was this too soon? Was it moving too fast? Such a rootless band required action or it would dissolve quickly enough into depredations once again. It was necessary to learn more about the situation. What dark arts were being practiced at Fircrest? Would Gattock Tieg add his arms to a rebellion's spark? What of the Witch?
Wolverhampton's head hurt. Perhaps the others could provide advice.