With all of them mourning the loss of their two friends (Solon perhaps the worst because the blame could be laid squarely on him and his rash actions) the remaining companions bravely went forward to complete the mission instead of returning to Shadowdale in defeat.
They buried their slain companions and set out following the Tehyamar Trail once more.
As luck would have it, they encountered a battle sight where a large force of Zhentarim and Freedom Riders had battled. It seems the Zhents had won the day (with the help of a powerful wizard) although they suffered heavy losses. The companions came upon the carnage as the few remaining Zhentarim soldiers were going around executing those wounded and unconscious Freedom Riders that were still alive.
In a brief but bloody fight they killed all but three of the Zhentarim, who fled into the concealing undergrowth and escaped. Only two of the Freedom Riders survived, one Davarr Red Tiger and Arimarius.
Natham was very suspicious of the two despite the Freedom Rider tokens they carried, and vowed to keep a close eye on them. For a time tensions ran rather high as mistrust was apparent on both sides.
One other thing of note that was rescued was a small black cat with six legs and two tentacles sprouting from it’s shoulders. The strange beast could speak the Common tongue well enough, and seemed very greatful for being rescued. It seemed to be quite attached to Solon as he made the most effort to befriend it, but also seemed to like Kahlsala and Morikas since they both helped it escape the cage it was being held in and healed it of a spear wound it has received during the fighting.
With their two new companions and a strange beast, the group set out again after repairing one of the Zhent’s carts and loading it with all the weapons and gear they could salvage.
Not long after they were alarmed when a medium-sized dragon buzzed overhead and came back to land near the wagon. Snapfire the brass dragon had spotted their little group and wondered if they had anything interesting to trade and any stories to tell.
Snapfire traded them for a few arcane scrolls they had, and pointed to a village called Briarwood on their map that would be a good stopping point for rest and supplies. They also learned Snapfire sometimes helped the Freedom Riders against the Zhentarim, and could count him as an ally.
Several deadly encounters (and two days later) they at last located Briarwood and found a place they could rest in comfort and sell off some of the loot they had acquired in their journey from Shadowdale.
Kahlsala discovered a romantic interest in the local blacksmith (who also happened to be a tiefling) and the two seemed to hit it off very well (she ended up spending the night at his place instead of the local inn with everyone else).
Solon was going to search some local ruins for Snapfire who had said he lived there, and ran into the lovely Holly Huldane on the way. Holly is the local Sheriff of Briarwood, and the last heir to the Huldane family line that used to rule over Briarwood and the surrounding lands.
Holly was a skilled hunter and tracker as well, and Solon was smitten from the start. She seemed rather aloff and was more interested in their mission to find Randal Morn, as no one knew anything had happened to him.
She marked a safe trail through the area that would lead them to the Giant’s Craw (a landmark on the map that was supposed to be near the tomb they were looking for). Her trail would not only save them a day’s travel, but would avoid some of the traps she had set up around Briarwood to ward off Orc and Zhentarim patrols.
Natham made himself at home with the tavern’s two serving wenches for the evening, and the rest settled in for a good nights sleep in warm soft beds.
In the morning they would set off for Shraevyn’s Tomb and hopefully find Randal Morn and the Sword of the Dales.