Harlon is happy to see you and you enjoy a second breakfast on the house. Harlon shakes his head at mention of the Grey Fox bandits, and tells you they have increased their activity in the area. More than that he really doesn't know, though he expects that they are indeed holed up in the ruins of Blackwell. The dwarvish inkeeper laments how bad it is for business, and is glad to hear that your expedition with Filbert is likely to do the bandits a bad turn. You notice that there are no other patrons in the Northstar inn this morning.
Another three hours of travel bring you to the hill on which the ruins of Blackwell can be seen. By noon, you find yourself on the trail leading away from the road and up to the main gate of the outer wall.
This is the hex immediately north of Fairbrook from the main map.
The trail from the road takes you up the hill to the crumbling outer wall surrounding what must have once been a magnificent fortress. Little of the outer wall now stands above shoulder high to a man, though you judge from its thickness and the amount of rubble on the ground that the walls were once at least two to three times higher, maybe more.
Virtually nothing remains of the outer gate house facing westward, overlooking the road. The trail narrows once inside the outer wall, and leads eastward toward the inner gate. This smaller gate house is in much better condition, though it holds nothing particular of note. Once you pass the inner gate, you see a broad open space overgrown with weeds and sparse thorn bushes. The wide open space is spotted here and there with bits and pieces of stone foundations left over from wooden buildings long ago collapsed and rotted away.
Upper Ruins of Blackwell; party is just inside the Inner Gate.
Immediately to your right, south of the inner gate, are the stone remains of a Church of the Light. The style is somewhat archaic, structured in the form of a cross, rather than square with a dome as the modern churches are built. The walls stand some twenty feet tall in their highest remaining spots. From outside, through a gaping hole in the church wall, you can just make out the form of an altar still standing in the western wing.
To the north, you can see the main keep, Blackwell proper. Although it certainly must be the oldest structure in the ruins, it is in better condition than any other building you can see. It measures 75 x 30 feet, and stands some four stories high. Very little of the outer wall of the main keep has crumbled – from where you stand it appears almost entirely intact.
There are clear footprints – made by human-sized boots – leading along a thin path cutting north through the weeds and thorn bushes from the inner gate toward the main keep. No path of any sort leads to the old church, and it appears that there has been no traffic to or from that building in years.
Apart from the footprints, you neither see nor hear any signs of life.
Time is 12:00 noon.
I've statted up the halflings and your new hireling (the animal handler) over on the PC information page. Also, I've put a possible marching order up on that page. Let me know what changes if any you wish to make to it. (I've put "light" next to one of the hirelings in anticipation of your eventual descent; and of course, if Sophie and Buckeye don't accompany you underground, we'll remove them from the order).