What follows is a FAQ and tactical analysis of what you know so far, and the actions the party has taken.
Q1: How did the Iron Circle take control?
A: The Iron Circle took control of Harken Keep approximately six weeks ago, dubbing it “Iron Keep.” As a military force, they are well-armed and well-disciplined. It is likely that they would have spent a fair bit of time gathering intelligence in order to know the lay of the land, and would have planned their coup carefully. Dar Gremath and others observed Iron Circle mercenaries “just passing through” as caravan guards from the south over a time period of at least a year before the coup. It is also very likely that the mercenary group employed spies, whether plying a unsuspecting local, or using a professionals, to provide them with information that they needed.
What is apparent, but not officially confirmed, is that the Iron Circle gained enough knowledge to negotiate an arrangement with Daggerburg. The Goblinoid force had always been a threat to eastern Harkenwold, but only in regard to low-level raids. While the precise location of Daggerburg Fortress is not known, it is at least two days walk on foot to the west of the western boundary of Harkenwold.
It appears that forces from Daggerburg staged a daring high-threat raid on various farms around the village of Marl. Upon receiving the cry for help from Marl, the Baron dispatched approximately forty soldiers to help the villagers repel the raiders. No sooner had the soldiers left Harken Village, than the Iron Circle forces struck. Surprising and killing the remaining handful of guards at the keep and capturing the baron.
It appears that while the force that the Baron had sent out to repel the goblins were successful in doing so, the returning guards were ambushed. They fled back to Marl, which sheltered them, and made an early attempt to rebel against the Iron Circle’s rule but it appears that Nazin Redthorn chose to make an example of the village. He personally led a force that destroyed the village. Some of the survivors of that fight fled to outlying farms, while others went further north across the White River and took up refuge in Druid Grove.
Q1a: Why didn’t they kill the Baron?
Unknown. Quite often a coup-d’etat involves killing the incumbent ruler quickly so as to eliminate any attempts to reclaim to the ruling title. The Iron Circle have been shown to be ruthless in stamping out resistance, so they would certainly would have killed the Baron without a second thought. The best information coming out of Iron Keep is that the Baron is still alive but imprisoned somewhere in the keep. Why they haven’t killed the baron remains a mystery, but it seems that he is more value to them currently alive than dead.
Q2: What are the current estimates on Iron Circle forces in Harkenwold?
Current estimates are that the Iron Circle has approximately 200-240 soldiers under their command. Even at a full compliment, Baron Jonn Stockmer only had sixty soldiers, plus whatever local soldiers that could be raised from the townsfolk from each village as the need would arise. It is estimated that only 10-15 of those original guards are still alive, but Dar Gremath is keeping their location and health quiet.
Q3: What are the strength of the rebellion’s forces?
In terms of the rebellion’s forces at the time you arrived in Albridge, Dar’s rough estimates are approximately 140 locals who would be able to function as able-bodied soldiers. Most of these are drawn from Albridge, as well as quietly from Harken itself. However, he is in process of trying to draw additional forces from the surrounding villages. Reithann the Druid recommended sending a group to Tor’s Hold to see if any fightitng forces could be raised from this westernmost community.
Others have suggested that the Woodsinger Elves might be worthwhile pursuing an alliance with.
Q4: What about Daggerburg Forces?
This remains unknown. Certainly the goblins could raise well in excess of 200-300 forces if the entirety of Daggerburg was brought to bear, but their interest only seems to be in raiding at this point rather than controlling territory. In all, the goblins may number up to 60-80 in areas both north and south of the White River. Raiding parties appear to be approximately 10 individuals, some of whom are mounted on Dire Wolves or Battle Worgs.
Q5: What did we find out about Tor’s Hold?
Tor’s Hold is led by a Bran Torsson, eldest son of the village’s founder. They are a close-knit family village who all have strong histories of adventurers. They are certainly able bodied, but they have been left to fend off very aggressive raids from Daggerburg. They have asked you for assistance in repelling the goblin forces from the north side of the river. If you are successful, then Torsson will be able to free up sixty able-bodied soldiers to assist Albridge when the time comes.
Q5: What’s the current plan?
The existing plan is to set up several tempting targets as ambushes for the Daggerburg raiding parties, while those raiding parties are away from the main encampment at Toadwallow Caverns, the players would strike the encampment, destroy the leadership, and the means by which the goblins are resupplying across the river.
At our last gathering the party watcehd the patrols leave, and sprung into action. You took out the six guards (5 goblins, 1 hobgoblin) at the entrance of the caverns. You had expected others to come out of the deeper parts of the cave, but during the fight, nothing. Leaving you standing over the bodies of the fallen goblins, weighing your next step.