Our heroes come to be aware that they are on a road in the countryside. They don’t “wake up”; they just become aware. As far as they know, the last thing they remember is going to sleep in the “barracks” the night before. At least, they think it was the night before. But here they are, on a road, with no one around.
Of in the distance, they see a column of smoke. With no other landmarks in site, they make for the apparent fire. There, they find some brigands attempting to burn out a farmer widow named Ilyana and her teenage sons. After a quick battle, our heroes come to the rescue.
They learn that a group calling themselves The Iron Circle has taken over the area and are engaging in all sorts of nastiness. Our heroes decide that their mission must be to rid the area of these brigands, so that’s what they set out to do.
After leaving Ilyana, they head for the village of Albridge to find Dar Gramath, a retired adventurer. At Dar’s urging, the party rousts a lair of bullywugs who had allied themselves with the Iron Circle, defeated the Iron Circle in several encounters, then, at the Battle of Albridge, distinguished themselves against an outnumbering force.
With the baddie defeated, the party expected to return to the property of their “mysterious employer”, but didn’t. In fact, they’ve stayed in Harkenwold as Baron Harken’s guests, helping out here and there with some of the Iron Circle brigands who had eluded capture and some of the threats from the wilderness. The party knows that there was a leader behind Redthorn, but he has not shown himself, nor has there been any word of Iron Circle activity in the Nentir Vale. Worse, everyone in the party feels…different. Some much more than others.