With Bruegon having returned to the Forgehammers, and Ria traveling to gain insight to her life, Lohr found himself alone, with little to do. He decided to travel north, past Kalessin and to the southernmost part of Southern Thandras. He found work soon afterwards and was standing in the courtyard of Arl Neruda’s fortress of Stenhold. The fortress had seen better days; there were gaps in the thatched roofs, and some of the stones were crumbling.
After a few minutes of standing around the yard watching the soldiers drill and masons repair the stonework, a lightly armored woman approached and introduced herself as Alenka, the Arl’s steward. She led Lohr to the doors of the main hall and as she pushed the doors open a single gold coin fell from her pocket. She didn’t seem to notice as she motioned for Lohr to follow her. As Alenka started to continue onward, Lohr picked the coin up. He intended to keep the coin, but thought Alenka may have dropped the coin on purpose. Could this be some sort of test? Curious, Lohr returned the coin to Alenka. She seemed disappointed.
Alenka and Lohr entered the main hall where a short, stocky man stood in the center of the room, being fitted into a suit of gleaming plate mail by servants with downcast eyes. He looked to Alenka and Lohr with irritation before giving a grunt of pain and spinning to cuff one of the servants on the head, pinched by the greave the servant was fitting. He turned back to Alenka and Lohr and curtly asked, “Well?”
Alenka introduced Arl Voychek Neruda to Lohr, who explained why he was a suitable candidate for employ. The Arl didn’t seem too concerned with Lohr’s qualifications and began to explain what he needed done. Most of his soldiers were away dealing with a border disagreement and he needed someone capable to travel with Alenka to escort his children from a neighboring town where they had been visiting. They would meet with Ser Bridget at a way point almost a day’s walk from here where she would leave the children in their care and return home. For this simple task, the Arl was willing to pay 100g total. Lohr, knowing the Arl had a modest library, requested further compensation. The Arl reluctantly agreed that Lohr may take one book of his choosing from the library as additional payment.
With the matter of payment settled (and Lohr being assured that the children were adolescents, and not infants), Alenka and Lohr set off in the direction of the waypoint.
They were several hours into their journey when they came to a shallow ravine. The stakes of what used to be the bridge stood solemnly, with no bridge attached. As they inspected the bridge several shouts were heard from the nearby woods. From the tree line ran half a dozen armed bandits. The Arl had said they were having trouble with bandits, so really, an ambush should not have come as a surprise. Before the bandits could close on them, Lohr sent a fireball in their direction, severely burning several of the bandits. Alenka, sword now drawn, placed herself between Lohr and the bandits, protecting the wizard from physical harm. Between Alenka’s sword, and Lohr’s spells, the bandits fared poorly and were quickly dispatched (though Bird claimed first kill in the battle). To cross the ravine, Lohr simply placed a fly spell on Alenka, and she carried him across.
Alenka noted a clearing not too far on the other side of the bridge where they could stop and rest for lunch.
Breaking for lunch, Alenka and Lohr sat in silence. Eating their food. It was then that Alenka chose to speak. She asked Lohr if he thought the Arl was paying him enough for this job. She, on the other hand, knew a way to increase their money tenfold. This got Lohr’s attention very quickly. Daring to confes her plans to someone she didn’t know very well, Alenka continued. Alenka said that, hypothetically, if they were to kidnap the children, they could ransom them back to the Arl. Hypothetically, they could do this without the children even knowing what was happening. The simple would tell the children it was too dangerous to travel back home at this time. Then they, Lohr and Alenka, would go back to Stenhold and tell the Arl that bandits had taken the children and demanded payment. They take the ransom, return the children, the Arl pays him for escorting the children and then they both disappear. She could even guarantee that Ser Bridget, the contact bringing the children to meet them, would be open to such a plan. Lohr did not object to this scenario; however, he did want to ensure that the children came to no harm. He did not give Alenka a definitive answer regarding his support.
Alenka and Lohr continued on their journey. The sun was just beginning to set as their neared the rendezvous point. It became clear that something had gone terribly wrong. The smell of burning hair mingled with blood and wafted through the air. An overturned wagon and several dead soldiers and bandits lay unmoving on the ground. Several wolf hounds had been slain; one of which had fallen into the fire pit. There was no sign of Ser Bridget or Alenka. Alenka and Lohr searched the camp for clues. Lohr checked the overturned wagon. He did not find the children, but he did find a heavy lockbox. Breaking the box, Lohr recovered a hefty sum of gold, and, since the box was ornate and well-crafted, he kept that too.
Alenka had just found some tracks and called Lohr over when they heard the howl of a wolf followed by a scream. They hurried through uphill through the woods towards the sound. They emerged from the forest on the left side of the hill, separated from the other side by a narrow gorge. On the opposite side of the gorge was a switchback trail that lead up to a small hollow in a rock formation. It was there that Alenka spotted Ser Bridget. Nearly a dozen bandits and half as many hounds were making their way up the trail, slowed by crossbow bolts from Ser Bridget. Alenka took a running start and leapt across the gorge, putting her above the bandits, and below Bridget.
Lohr let loose a fireball, scorching the bandits and slowing them as Bird made his way to harass them. Not wanting to injure Alenka or Bird, Lohr put his spell book away and took out his crossbow. Between the crossbow bolt, the claws of Bird, and the sword of Alenka the bandits and hounds fell. Alenka had taken only minor injuries in the fight. Lohr made his way back down to the bottom of the trail and went to meet with Ser Bridget and Alenka, who were now both at the hollow.
When Lohr reached the top, he could see the children. They seemed somewhat shaken, but unharmed. Alenka then approached Lohr, and out of earshot of the children, asked him if he had committed to the plan. Lohr agreed. Ser Bridget told the children they would remain and set up a camp while Lohr and Alenka returned to Stenhold and cleared the way. The children, none too happy to be staying in the wilderness, were at least pleased to know they would not be traveling again soon. Lohr and Alenka rested for the night and traveled back to Stenhold.
Before they reached the fortress, Alenka advised Lohr to let her do the talking, as the Arl is far more likely to believe her than an outsider.
They met with Arl Neruda immediately. Alenka explained that Ser Bridget’s group had been ambushed by bandits, and that the children had been taken hostage. The bandits were demanding payment in exchange for the lives of the children. Neruda did not seem too concerned about the welfare of his children, but wanted the matter resolved quickly. He send Alenka and Lohr to pay the ransom.
Alenka and Lohr left Stenhold with a chest containing 9,000gp. The made camp outside Stenhold, setting wards and alarms upon the chest—to keep the gold safe from each other as well as bandits.
They reunited with Bridget and the children the next day and made their way back to the fortress. A single owlbear, one that was incredibly capable of dodging fireballs, made their journey difficult, but a solitary owlbear against Lohr, Alenka, and Bridget stood little chance.
Upon returning the children, Alenka and Lohr received their payment and then promptly left the premise.
Shortly, after having their children returned, the Nerudas learned from the children that they had not been kidnapped at all and had been safely with Ser Bridget during the few days of their “kidnapping”.
Stenhold now has several wanted posters posted for “Lohr the Wizard”, “Alenka Corgrave” and “Ser Bridget of the Province of Corbain”. Wanted for kidnapping, treason, and crimes against Stenhold.