Shortly before the party was to leave the inn in the morning, Guard Captain Roth approached them. He, (a 50+ year-old widower) suggested that he would be a good marriage match for the daughter of the Harn village chief (a 14-year-old girl), and that he would be more willing to defend Harn from the army deserters and any future trouble if he were it's de facto leader. "Something to think about," Roth said, "I'm sure the chief of the village and the daughter would listen if you were to speak to them."
Leaving Noringard, bound for Harn with a wagon full of food, forward scouts reported a group of about 20 of these deserters in the spot where they had killed eight a few days ago.
After a brief consultation with the party, the decision was made to carry the grain through the marshes to the south and out of sight of these bandits rather than fight or try to carry it through the forest to the north.
Upon return, the party broached the idea of marrying Roth to the girl and her father – and to the party's astonishment they agreed! The girl, especially, seemed to think she would be trading her youth for the safety of her whole village – a cruel choice to be made – but she felt that she would rather be alive and safe, married to the 50-year-old soldier than dead at the hands of a deserter or bandit.
It was early evening when a bedraggled, tired and injured soldier of Harn's militia stumbled in the front gates, telling of a secret entrance into the [[Deserters' Keep]] that led directly into the prison. The heroes recruited Roth, who saw his opportunity to gain favour in the eyes of his new father-in-law. They set off into the forest and found the tunnel exactly where the militiaman said it would be.
They entered cautiously and carefully, the Oracle lighting a stone and throwing it ahead, when they were nearly nauseated by the stench of rotting meat. They approached the next corner, ready for anything, only to be ambushed from behind by a terrifying caterpillar-like creature with eight facial tentacles covered in a sticky yellow ichor. It paralyzed Roth and took a bite out of his leg, but the other party members leapt forward and struck it down. The barbarian took his killing blow, chopping apart the front and back halves with his greataxe.
The threat dealt with, the party found the secret door where the militiaman described it, opening the way into the dungeon.
There were another militiaman and their leader, the girl's elder brother. There were also four of the forest elves, and one of the deserter band themselves.
They were about to leave, when they heard footsteps creak on the stairs and approach the dungeon door. The spellcasters prepared their spells, and launched them as soon as the door opened…
…paralysing and terrifying a young boy who had been pressed into working for the deserters as a slave.
The boy, the deserter and the two Harnish men in tow, they said farewell to the elves and crept back through the forest to Harn just before breakfast, their bones aching from the long day and night and the fight with the carrion crawler. The chief's daughter presented them with their reward – a leather pouch heavy with oddly-shaped dwarven coin in both gold and platinum!
They could not know that it would be only two hours before they would be awoken again by the sound of horse hooves, fire, the alarm horn and screams…