Dean (Jared), Matt (Spinter Paw), Mariel (Ragash), Coby (Kyros), Jeff (Ford), Chris (Creeper), and James (Kraygen) are returning cast members.
We left the group fighting with someone or something who looked like Azza. The creature fell to their attacks quickly, and upon dying, returned to a strange almost gelatinous form in vaguely humanoid shape. It no longer resembled Azza at all by that point. Ford took the items from the body, and both corpses were dragged into the room where the party had made camp.
Splinter Paw identified the corpse of the creature as a dopplegagner, which kills and replaces people by imitation. Searching the corpse of the doppleganger revealed Azza’s old gear, including rations and a tent, along with a large sack containing gold and electrum coins, a potion, and a map. Gundren identified the map as his own, showing the location of Wave Echo Cave. Also found on Azza’s corpse was a mysterious note: “Shatter the staff and you will be well compensated.” This note bore a strange rune in an unknown language.
Jared investigated an altar within Cragmaw Keep that the goblins had desecrated. He collected a set of golden regalia, assuming it was brass from the poor and tarnished condition. He also collected a bloodied suit of armor, heavy crossbow, and longsword bearing the sigil of Neverwinter.
Creeper scouted the tower where he had previously heard strange animal noises. Finding a spot where he could peer inside, he saw an owlbear. After warning the rest of the group, Ford created a trail of rations leading from the tower out of the south door of the keep. Creeper slipped the door open and watched as the owlbear slowly lumbered out, investigating the trail of rations. All went as planned until the owlbear turned north instead of south, poking at the curtain with his beak and revealing Azza’s body (the real Azza) lying just beyond the curtain. The owlbear promptly chowed down on the corpse when nothing in the room attacked immediately. Azza was soon devoured. The owlbear then lumnbered north, sniffed briefly at the doppleganger, and left the keep while the party tried to keep out of its way.
After letting the owlbear escape, the party left the keep and traveled towards Phandalin, stopping to make camp overnight once they had gotten out of immediate vicinity of the keep. Their rest was interrupted briefly by a small wolf pack, but cleverly placed alarms alerted the party before they could be surprised. The wolves did some damage, and even managed to rip out Gundren’s throat, but fell to missiles and blades before anyone else went down. In the morning, the group returned to Phandalin.
They were met on the way into town by a roving band of the Redbrands. These bandits pressed the group for their “taxes”; Splinter Paw and Kraygen offered to sing and dance as payment, but the bandits did not accept that offer. Ragash then threw a sack of 600cp at the leader of the bandits, hitting him smack in the nose. The sack burst open and copper coins spread all over the road. While the bandits gathered up the coin, the group rode away.
Sildar provided a better description of his friend Iarno at the Stone Hill Inn, as well as identifying the set of armor and weapons the party had claimed in Cragmaw Keep as his own gear. After making a few inquiries, the group decided to check out the Sleeping Giant. A few mostly drunk Redbrands were hanging out in front of the door, but when the bards showed their instruments they were allowed to pass, and once inside the rather beat-up and filthy place, to perform. Splinter Paw took a turn at table dancing, performing Sweet Meowline, while Kraygen accompanied him on the lute. Between the two of them, three Redbrands took note of their performance and one was particularly impressed. Some inquiries of that one suggested that a man matching Iarno’s description had been seen in a group of the Redbrands – and he seemed to be leading them.
Splinter Paw convinced his fan to get a kitty-cat tattoo on his back as a memento of the show. The bartender performed the operation on the spot.
Shortly after returning to the Stone Hill Inn, Ford noticed someone from the Sleeping Giant had somehow ended up drinking at a table nearby. He mentioned it to the group, who first tried to delay the man from leaving. When they failed, Kraygen and Creeper left to follow him. He led them to the forest east of town, where a large stone covered the entrance to an underground passage.
Kraygen returned from the forest, stopping in at the Sleeping Giant by mistake. One Redbrand, bearing a particularly ugly fresh tattoo, approached him with a friend and took a swing. Kraygen saw them both off with Dissonant Words, killing neither but forcing them to flee. He slipped out of the tavern and returned to the correct one (the Stone Hill). He then guided the group out of town into the forest, where Creeper was still hiding and watching the entrance to a hidden underground passage. The party prepared to investigate the passage.