The party comes to a consensus and agrees to head off to Blackwell to help Filbert recover his stolen goods.
Duran undertakes his training with Sergeant Ragnar, and spends a fortnight on that. He returns to the inn each night soaked with sweat, bent with aching muscles, and thoroughly exhausted, but it's very clear that the payoff from Ragnar's training is worth the rigors Duran endures.
During the course of Duran's fortnight of training, Gaven and Oloc prepare the party's expedition. Old Bob Barley is delighted to show his gratitude for the party's efforts by providing Gaven with a good deal on a very sturdy mule, named Buckeye, along with a set of saddlebags. Oloc is able to hire the services of a local lass, Sophie, to serve as animal handler for the mule.*
Additionally, while Duran trains, Gaven helps at the church. The brothers and sisters are delighted to have a humble helping hand from a warrior priest like Gaven, and during meal times they are eager to hear stories of the adventures he has had.
For several days, Gaven neither sees nor hears any news of the abbot. However, around the end of the first week, he learns that Cuthbert has returned to Fairbrook, and that the abbot is receiving no visits. A few days later, Gaven finally gets to talk to him. Gaven notices that the abbot has a bound injury on his left arm, but Cuthbert insists it is nothing, merely a scratch from an accident on the road. Gaven is also told by the abbot that Brother Abraham's efforts against the werewolves are going quite well, and that a soldier named Sergeant Bertrand has been given temporary command of the garrison at Ham's Fork, replacing Lieutenant Alanna until another officer can be selected.
Gaven also visits Belloc to learn any new rumors.
With regard to Alanna, the Captain confirms the temporary assignment of Sergeant Bertrand as commander in Ham's Fork to replace her, but he has received no further reports of any sightings of the traitor. For the moment, she seems to have simply vanished. That she might be up in or around Blackwell with the Grey Fox Band is as likely a scenario as any. But he simply doesn't know.
Captain Belloc does inform Gaven of a strange mystery involving the giant the party spotted off the Ham's Fork road. The giant is now gone. When Belloc's men arrived, they found the giant's house half built, with tools and materials left scattered on the ground. They also found massive blood stains on the ground – so much blood that his men surmise that it could only have come from the giant himself. Belloc admits: "I have to say I'm a touch nervous at the thought of something nearby that could take out a giant like that." Beyond that worrisome speculation, the captain has no addition information to offer.
As these preparations and fact-finding conversations take place during the day, the party also meets with Filbert in the evenings to begin discussing plans to enter Blackwell. Gaven says to Filbert: "I hope you can wait a few weeks more while my friends train and we all rest. We will journey to Blackwell Keep soon enough."
Filbert seems to have no problem with this.
About a week into Duran's training period, Filbert rushes into the common room all a-flutter one evening as you are finishing your dinner. He is decked out in a fine set of halfling-sized plate mail, and he jumps and skips as he runs to your table, flailing a piece of paper around in the air.
"Great news, great news!" he exclaims. "Remember how I said I couldn't trust any hired help from around here?" This indiscreet exclamation draws a more than one sour look from the locals in the Red Tankard's common room. Filbert seems not to notice.
"My cousins! I have two cousins who often do merchant caravan duty. They were away on jobs in the east, but their work out there finished early. I had word sent to them that I – we – could use their help, and I've just gotten a reply that they'll join us!"
He gleefully shows you a letter from his cousins, Almo and Wally, who say they will be in Fairbrook three days before Duran's training is to be completed. Before you can even ask the question, Filbert puts up a hand and says "And don't worry, I'll take care of paying them out of my own pocket." He grins impishly: "I'm sure I can talk them into a family discount."
It appears that your excursion to Blackwell will be bolstered by the presence of two more experienced fighters.
With these matters settled, Gaven pays a few visits to Elsie to attempt to convince her to join the cleric ranks. "Miss Elsie, I notice you have a burning passion and yet emptiness due to the loss of Bill. The Light can help heal your wounds and give you a calling to repress the chaos of the land. If you wish to start training, please let me know..." Before Gaven can even complete the sentence, Elsie throws herself into the cleric's arms and sobs uncontrollably. Gaven senses she has been holding this in for quite some time, and it all comes out in a flood. When she finally catches her breath, she simply nods and says "Yes, I would like that."
Elsie discusses the matter with her mother that night, and the very next day she accompanies Gaven to the church where she is taken in by the brothers and sisters of the Light.
The only thing that goes awry for the party in this time of rest and recovery is that Varros seems to suffer still from some malady. While Gaven's prayers have clearly healed his wounds, there appears to be some lingering after-effect of the poison that infected them. Feeling that this weakness will bring undue risk to himself and his companions, Varros also accompanies Gaven to the church so that he might be brought under the care of the master healer of the church.
Varros bids an emotional goodbye to Karnak, shakes hands with the rest of the Free Company, and promises Gaven that he will look after Elsie's well being from time to time while he is residing in the church infirmary.
After a fortnight, Duran's training is complete, and as the night of July 28 falls, the Free Company enjoys what will likely be their last hot meal for some days to come, shared with Karnak, the hirelings, Filbert, Hazel, Almo and Wally. Hazel sheds a tear or two at the thought of the risk her husband is about to run, but she also looks quite proud of him, as well.
Basically, not a lot to decide here, more just a final chance to buy any last gear take care of any other last-minute items on the way out.
If you're good to go in terms of heading off to Blackwell after the Grey Foxes, just say "OK" and I'll post the journey out there this weekend.
I'll get the three halflings (Filbert, Almo, Wally) statted up this weekend too. I plan to make Almo 2nd level to compensate for the loss of Varros. Filbert and Wally will be 1st-level each.
Total Cost to the Party for the Mule and Saddlebags: 35 gp
Cost of Search for Animal Handler: 10 gp
Cost of Wages for current mercs: 5 gp x 3 mercs x 2 weeks = 30 gp
Cost of Wages for current laborers: 2 gp x 2 porters x 2 weeks = 6 gp
Cost of Wages for new Animal Handler: 2 gp x 1 handler x 1 week = 2 gp
Total Group Expenses = 83 gp
Share per PC = 20 gp, 7 sp (I divided by 4, purchases made while Varros is still in party)
Individual Living Expenses = 1 gp/day/PC=14 gp*
Total cost per PC: 34 gp, 7 sp
The total cost per PC includes individual shares of group expenses (mule, saddle bags, new hireling search, hireling wages) as well as individual living expenses.
For shares of the group expenses, I divided by 4, ruling that these expenses are paid while Varros is still in the party.
For individual living expenses, I ruled it 1gp/day (first level rate), since you were all first level at the start of your stay. We'll shift to the 2 gp/day second-level rate for those of you at level 2 with your next stay in town (the rate is 1 gp/level/day).