Rounding out the Styrewood Games was the baking competition, which the party won using their accumulated knowledge, plus some underhand sneakiness. However, just as the mayor of Styrewood was about to give the party their medals during the award ceremony the next day, a page ran up and game him some news that quite visibly unnerved him. After that the ceremony was concluded without a hitch.
Approaching the mayor after the festival, the party learned that some merchants traveling home from the Games early had been kidnapped by bandits from the mysterious Iron Circle. The bandits had fled across the Western border separating Styrewood country from the Ug’Ulash confederacy, and the mayor didn’t want to anger Styrewood’s neighbors by sending an official armed party into any of the Confederacy’s territory. So he hired the adventurers to act as an independent party to rescue the merchants and bring them back safely to Syrewood. After warning the party of the rumors surrounding the Iron Circle they were led to roughly where the merchants were taken and entered the forest.
The party followed the bandit’s trail, which they didn’t seem to be trying to conceal, and came to a lonely stretch of road. The party was noticed by a gnoll patrolman, who explained that the Confederacy knew about the bandits, but did nothing about them because of the rumors that the Iron Circle had pacts with devils. The patrolman promised that he would leave the party alone when traveling back to Styrewood.
Following the patrolman’s directions, the party soon came upon a cave guarded by Iron Circle bandits and felldrakes. After dispatching these enemies the party entered the cave. Inside they found the rest of the bandits as well as their infernal allies in the form of a pair of tar devils. Also inside the cave were a pair of tar pits, the merchants and a large pile of gold.
The enemies in the cave did not provide too much of a challenge compared to some of the party’s more recent fights. The party helped themselves to the treasure in the cave, which included a mysterious ruby. After experimenting with it, Grakk discovered that it actually bounced quite high. The party finally freed the merchants and escorted them back to Styrewood. When they reached the road the party had encountered the patrolman on they found it deserted and crossed back to Styrewood without incident.