Thanks to DaniMarieDraws for this art piece!
The Mighty Nein’s trip to Shadycreek Run has been going on for a while and has gotten more complicated in the recent days. What started out as an easy way to get out of conscription has turned into a quest for revenge. Ahead, we'll lay out what the stakes are for the Nein as they breach the Iron Shepherds’ stronghold.
Way back in episode 2-05, Beau intercepted *cough* stole *cough* mail from the Baumbauchs, one of the three big families that run breweries in Trostenwald. She did this as revenge on Demedan Baumbauch, who had hired Beau, Fjord, and Jester pre-stream for a job. The three faced off with some kind of a serpent, and then cheated some of the dock workers out of some money. Demedan wasn't kind to them and Beau held a grudge.
Among the letters she stole, Beau discovered a mysterious letter to Demedan from The Gentleman, who was sending her a shipment of bloodroot, a known toxin. Pleased that she had potential blackmail on Demedan, and curious about the identity of The Gentleman, Beau continued on with the Nein into Zadash. While on a mission from the Lawmaster Orentha Stonegrasp to clear out the sewers, they encountered a halfling with an intense set of neck tattoos. He provided them with the password to see The Gentleman, which The Nein did. They ran a job for him clearing out the laboratory of Siff Duthar, earning his trust.
When the Dwendalian Empire declared war on Xhorhas, the Nein accepted two missions from The Gentleman. The first was to go to Berleben, seek out his contact there, figure out what was causing his safe house in the Labenda Swamp to go offline, so to speak, then fix it. The second was to go to Shadycreek Run to find his contact, Ophelia Mardun. She had been, “unable to enact on any partnerships at the moment, as her current business is tangled up in some of the local riffraff and she [had] requested aid in stabilizing her situation.” The Nein were to “travel northward [...] to parlay with Ophelia. Help her in absolving her from her current mire of complications and return with her here to Zadash. For this task completed, [The Gentleman offered] an advance of 500 gold pieces and a purse of 4,500 gold pieces upon returning with Miss Mardun within the month.” After succeeding in clearing out the safe house, the Nein traveled to Hupperdook and then moved even further north towards Shadycreek Run.
Just north of the Dwendalian Empire border is the town of Shadycreek Run. Described lovingly by The Gentleman as “a haven for criminals, thieves, murderers, but really, it’s home to the truly free entrepreneurs of Wildemount… and criminals, thieves, and murderers.” The town is outside the law, literally. As the Nein learned from Keg and discovered upon arriving, there are no Crownsguard. The closest thing to law enforcement are the Taskers, whose primary goal is to prevent pure anarchy. They’ll stop a riot, but not someone from stealing someone else’s purse. The town is really run by several families, including the Marduns and the Jagentoths. Each family has employees and underlings who do the day to day work of their businesses and provide protection for the family and said businesses. The Marduns run a brothel/hotel in Shadycreek Run, which, while still one of the nicest buildings in town, has seen better days. They are diametrically opposed to the Jagentoths.
Thanks to @AlexielApril for this art piece!
The Jagentoths employ a group of cutthroats called The Iron Shepherds, a group of slavers who kidnap impressive looking individuals, break their will, and sell them into slavery (destinations unknown). While out on a late-night stroll, Fjord, Jester, and Yasha were taken by the Iron Shepherds, locked in a cage, and wheeled away. The slavers seemed particularly happy with the capture of these “two divine-blood and one half-beast” victims.
The next morning, the remaining Nein met Keg. Keg is from The Run, and used to be in The Iron Shepherds, but left on bad terms. Keg and the Nein stumbled upon Jomda, a firbolg, and learned of her clan's massacre at the hands of the Shepherds. They were told to look out for a woman named Nila, who had gone off alone in search of her kidnapped son and partner. Based on this, as well as the bodies the Nein discovered left along the side of the road, it seems the Shepherds are perfectly happy to capture more common races, such as humans and half-elves, along with the more exciting tieflings, half-orcs, and firbolgs.
After unsuccessfully attempting to rescue their friends and and getting their blood hunter handed to them, TM9 realized that they had no chance against the Iron Shepherds as an entire group, at least without significant back up. After taking time to grieve, the aforementioned Nila approached to offer her skills and to join forces.
By name-dropping The Gentleman to the guards at the Mardun Estate, Sybaritic, the remaining Nein and their current allies were admitted inside. During a meeting with Ophelia, she revealed that The Jagentoths had killed her most trusted team of smugglers, which had caused the interruption of her business with The Gentleman. To prevent further interruptions (and get revenge for her murdered employees), she tasked TM9 to “cut one of the limbs of their business: Kill [the Jagentoths] best handymen, hunt The Iron Shepherds.” It was crucial that TM9 not be connected back to the Marduns, as the Taskers’ monitoring presence in town has made open justice difficult. The Nein didn't mention that The Gentleman requested she travel with them back to Zadash, at least not yet. However, Ophelia did mention that his kindness in sending the Nein would be paid in-person.
What Nila Learned
Thanks to @TheRequiemMan for this art piece! (Side note: How awesome is it to have a wildshaping druid and potential healer in the party again?)
After being dropped into The Iron Shepherds’ stronghold, Nila skittered around under the cover as a mouse. She discovered the trapdoor where the captives were kept underneath. She learned the layout of the building, which will be crucial if/when they attempt to break in. Equally interesting is what she discovered about their leader...
Lorenzo is a terrifying individual. He wielded a glaive, cast Cone of Cold, had no problem just staying on fire, and enjoys torturing captives. Oh, and eating children. Did we bury the lede here? It's entirely possible he's a cannibalistic human with a strange set of abilities, or some powerful items. There's also the possibility that he's an Oni, a giant creature that can do all of those things and typically only serves someone else when it's profitable.
The Nein are trying to kill five birds with one stone:
- For The Gentlemen: Get to Ophelia, helping solve her problem, and bringing her to Zadash within a month. They're on day 19, and a month lasts between 27-32 days in Exandria.
- For The Nein: Rescue Fjord, Jester, and Yasha. According to Keg’s experience, the Shepherds will take a night to celebrate and regroup, and start torturing the captives tomorrow. From Nila’s scouting expedition, however, it appears Lorenzo has spent some time in the basement already today. What this means for the captives is unknown.
- For Keg: Kill all the Iron Shepherds.
- For Nila: Kill all the Iron Shepherds. Rescue her son and partner.
- For Ophelia: Kill Lorenzo and hunt The Iron Shepherds without it being tied to the Marduns.