Pausing only to heal our most grevious injuries and to help the villagers restore some semblance of normality to Holdt, we marched south to investigate the fortified mountain hideout on Gast’s map and found it with little trouble. Despite being long since abandoned as a regular military outpost, much of the fort was in reasonable repair (for a human construction) and provided the bandits within a distinct defensive advantage. To overcome these foes would require brain as well as brawn, and we approached the ruined gatehouse at twilight in the guise of a group of pilgrims from Gun Gadrun seeking shelter for the night.
A group of the brigands came forth to meet us at the gate and hear our request, whilst their fellows looked down on us from the towers with readied bows. They not only refused us refuge but demanded our weapons and coin-pouches on pain of death. Well, our ruse at least got us to close quarters with the bandits and drawing battle axes we charged and made short work of the men barring the gateway. Faced with two archer-manned towers to overcome and fuelled by overconfidence from our brief triumph at the gate, we were about to learn a valuable and painful lesson. Hrothgar ordered a charge of both towers at once, causing us to split our party into two forces; an act which nearly got some of us killed. Together we could easily overwhelm each tower, but divided the archers had the upper hand. It was only through our dauntless dwarven tenacity that we survived the assault and could regroup ready to take on the keep and however many more brigands laired within.
Holed up in one of the towers we patched up our wounds as best we could, and carefully watched the windowless keep for signs of more bandit activity. Fortunately we had been swift in our attack and luckier still we had not happened upon a rotation of the guards, so those within had not been alerted. Undeterred by our injuries we pressed our advantage. Room by room and corridor by corridor we moved quickly, using the brigands own noise to mask ours as we made our bloody way through the keep. The defenders fought uncharacteristically bravely for common bandits and when we eventually confronted their leader he proved to be a warrior of great skill, although by then he no longer had numbers on his side and he fought to an well-earned death.
With our foes defeated we ransacked the keep looking for the goods stolen from the merchants and villagers of Holdt. Searching the leader’s quarters however we discovered a dark secret; these were no mere brigands and their leader no bandit king. We found irrefutable proof that these men were soldiers from Fehena in the south, probing the Farthian defences with an eye toward invasion. Naturally we returned this proof to authorities in Helm’s Watch at our earliest opportunity.