The trip back to Phandalin took several days but was uneventful.
“We need to get some horses,” grumbled Fizbo when they were about half a day from the town. The others ignored him, as he had said this several times during the journey.
They finally arrived and took themselves to the Stonehill Inn. The proprietors, Toblin and Trilena Stonehill, were glad to see them and set about preparing their rooms.
“We’re only here for a couple of days,” advised Bonnie.
“How has the town been?” asked Guinne.
“Much better,” advised Toblin. Despite being a human he actually wasn’t much taller than Bonnie. His wife was a head taller than him.
“With the Redbrands gone – at least as a group – things are better. Those Redbrands that survived are being used as mercenaries and guards by Halia Thornton,” said Trilena. “It’s actually worked out well, they’ve protected merchants from bandits. We hear that the number of bandit incidents has dropped considerably after the first couple of skirmishes.”
Guinne resolved to meet with Halia, who was the area contact and coordinator for the Zhentarim organisation, and update her on what had been going on with the party as well as pass on the messages the Zhentarim contacts in Neverwinter had given her. They all had a quiet night at the inn.
The next day they were meeting up again in the afternoon after their various errands – Bonnie met with Darran Edermath who was the Order of the Gauntlet faction coordinator in the town, and Guinne had met with Halia Thornton. Igo had visited his sister Garaele at the Shrine of Tymora, and Tai Ni Dong had procured some supplies for their trip to Cragmaw Castle. Tai Ni Dong and Goldi spent time studying and writing in their spellbooks, and Eric blessed fields and vegetable patches and held services on farms for the faithful of Chauntea, the agricultural goddess.
As they went past some shops, there was a commotion and a dog ran out of the butcher’s sh op with some sausages in its mouth. It was being chased by a red faced butcher wielding a cleaver. Bonnie felt like she was watching a comedy skit. The dog ran to the party and hid behind them.
“Whoa,” said Guinne to the butcher, patting the dog, a small brown dog completely unremarkable in any way, except for the sausages hanging out of its mouth.
“We’ll pay for the sausages,” added Goldi, fishing out some copper coins from a pouch. The butcher accepted the coins and returned to his shop without a backward glance. The dog wolfed down the sausages, and when the party went to move on after giving it a last pat, the dog followed. It followed them all the way back to the Stonehill Inn.
“Shoo, dog,” said Bonnie. The dog refused to move and looked at the dwarf with big eys. Bonnie shrugged and let the dog follow them inside where it sat at their feet under a table in the common room.
“We’re leaving tomorrow for Cragmaw Castle,” the dwarf announced. “Get yourselves ready. First light.”
“We ride – at dawn!” said Fizbo, dramatically.
“Are we actually going to use horses this time?” asked Tai Ni Dong.
“We don’t need horses,” said Bonnie. “I don’t really like them.”
“They smell, and you can’t be stealthy,” agreed Igo.
“But we’ll get there quicker,” argued Fizbo.
The discussion about horses continued for some time, but in the end it was decided not to take horses. They made ready and had an early night. The dog slept in Guinne and Goldi’s room.
The next morning the dog was still following them out of town, resisting all efforts to dissuade it from following them.
“Persistent little thing,” said Goldi.
“She can be our camp guard,” suggested Guinne. Bonnie and Igo were disapproving, but the others seemed happy to have the little dog along.
“We’ll call you Sausage,” said Guinne. Sausage cocked her head. They continued on the road out of Phandalin and towards Cragmaw Castle.