Once inside the church the party was greeted warmly by an elder priest who led them into the main hall. Once inside Lorentz spoke to the priest about Brother Shamus, who was currently in the church's study. While the priest was fetching Brother Shamus for the group, they were led downstairs to a simple dormitory where they could leave their gear before returning back upstairs to the dining hall to have a meal of pottage, bread and wine (and ale for Broak).
Eventually a heavy-set priest came in and greeted the party as Brother Shamus. They laid out their plan to him (without giving too much away) and they enlisted his help after a small donation to the church.
They then went to bed for the night, enjoying the modest comfort and protection of the church.
* * *
The next morning, after breakfast, they went out to find their horse and mule fed and watered, and their carts washed. They said their goodbyes to the priests, and set out north up the road with their new traveling companion.
* * *
The next few days saw better weather and an empty road. After three days of travel they saw the forest to the west start to become withered and dead looking. Eventually and old road broke off from the main road, marked by several iron cages with the long dead remains of prisoners inside—this was the road heading up to Cauldron Keep. In the distant forested foothills a small plume of smoke could be seen rising from the thick forest ahead.
They made their way west up the old road, although there wasn't heavy traffic, Ander was able to find several groups of tracks, only a few days old moving up and down the road towards the forest. They past by several more cages with their grisly contents, and the occasional sun-bleached skull on a stake along the road.
As they entered the forest the two elves noticed an unnatural aura about the forest—the trees seemed to be dying, or in a perpetual state of autumn, there were no birds chirping, and there seemed to be no sign of wildlife, but they pressed on.
As they got closer to the keep and the sun passed below the mountains, they thought it best to move off the road and make a plan. While they did this, Ander scouted ahead and made his way to the keep, where he saw the old keep, and a handful of sentries armed with crossbows walking the walls. Not wanting to risk detection, he returned to the group to pass along what he had seen.
When Ander returned the party noticed torchlight flickering between the trees coming up the road. They swiftly moved back to the road to flank whomever was coming up the road towards the keep, waiting for a signal from Boots if they should attack, leaving Gerhardt and the carts back at their camp.
After a short wait a large group could be seen making their way up the road. Leading the way were four armoured mercenary-types armed with swords and crossbows, three bugbears (two of which were pulling a wagon laden with goods, and three tied-up humans with bloody sacks over their heads), followed by 12 filthy, crazed-looking men dressed in tattered robes, all carrying massive flails, all muttering to one another. Ander could make out the bugbears speaking in Goblin to one another about "not trusting the pale-skins," and "asking Grakk what he thinks they should do."
Greatly outnumbered, they decided to hold back and let the train pass by in the dark.
Once safe, the party took their time marching around to the rear of the keep—which seemed to be the least guarded area. Grabby and Ander silently climbed the old stone wall and made their way onto the parapet where they kept low to avoid detection. They then secured ropes for the other to climb up and join them. Once everyone was up they carefully opened the door to the nearby sentry tower.