2 Pharast, continued
The party takes a different route back to Oleg’s, just to see some new terrain. The weather is warmer than it has been lately, and they appreciate the respite from the cold. Khofnaak forces the two captives to do a lot of the heavy labor in setting up the campsite. They comply but clearly resent it.
The last of the trek to the trading post occurs uneventfully. As the party arrives, however, they are startled to realize that the guard towers of the fort are manned. Approaching warily, they discover that Mallister has contracted with Kesten Garess’s mercenary company to provide security at the fort while the party continues its mission of exploration.
In addition to Kesten’s company, there are four other new arrivals at the fort: the halfling trapper Wyllis and the half-orc carpenter Irfan with his two apprentices. Wyllis is a regular customer at Oleg’s, while Irfan and his crew have been contracted by Oleg to begin repairs to the dilapidated buildings of the fort, starting with the stables.
Svetlana pulls Cyra aside to request her aid in acquiring an herbal ingredient to help with Oleg’s stress. She is looking for moon radishes, a hardy vegetable which she says grows in a patch about sixteen miles south of the trading post. She offers a couple hundred gold worth of herbal reagents in exchange.
Meanwhile, Kesten and Oleg pull the Ugazkull brothers aside to request aid in ridding the fort’s wooden keep of an infestation. Kesten’s soldiers attempted to the do the job themselves but were stymied when they encountered some monster capable of creating magical darkness.
The party (mostly) clears the tower, engaging four darkmantles across the various levels but deciding to leave the bats roosting on the observation deck to Kesten’s company. While the tower had obviously been looted before, they party discovers a few treasures here and there in the main tower and bashes into a locked vault in the basement. The basement turns out to contain a jail, where the captive bandits are quickly stowed and handed over to Kesten’s men to guard.
The guesthouse is crowded that evening. Kesten’s group has taken the northern room as their barracks, while the southern room has only one bed free between the party, the carpenters, and the trapper. In the close quarters, the party has an opportunity to mingle with the other inhabitants.
Khofnaak learns that one Kesten’s former soldiers, a Varisian named Falgrim Sneeg, is known to be in the employ of the Stag Lord. During a recent caravan guard job, Falgrim murdered his partner-on-watch and absconded with a lockbox from the caravan. Kesten wants Falgrim to face justice – preferably at his hand. He offers the party 1500 in masterwork gear if they can capture the Varisian or half that if they return with his dead body.
Aust, meanwhile, chats with the halfling trapper and learns about “the Little War”, an ongoing conflict between the local tribes of mites and kobolds. Wyllis advises Aust that he sticks to Narlmarch forest – the hills are just too dangerous between the bandits and the Little War.
The next morning, Marcus – one of Kesten’s men – reports that a couple hours before dawn a solitary man on horseback came down the New Stetven road and continued directly onto the South Rostland road. As the party prepares to head out for the day, another group of four mounted humans come riding into the fort.
One identifies himself as Sir Andre, castellan of the White Keep in service to House Khavortorov. He inquires whether anyone has seen a man on horseback come through. A ward of his house has turned run-away and they are attempting to reclaim him. It turns out that the man they are looking for is Baron Silverhall, heir apparent to the duchal House Lebeda, which controls western Rostland. The party denies knowledge of any such person but notes that 2000 gold piece reward House Khavortorov has placed for his safe return.
As the Khavortorov knights head out, the sole woman in their number hangs back. She introduces herself as Dame Anastasia, attendant to Lady Katarina, one of the daughters of Baron Khavortorov. Lady Katarina has designs on Lander Lebeda, and her knight offers a doubled-reward if the party returns the young man in the following condition: (1) alive, (2) in good spirits, and (3) unlikely to go wandering off again. She warns that the arrogant aristocrat is prat who fancies himself a heroic adventurer and rides off to join the rest of her party.
The party decides to pursue this reward and heads off down the South Rostland road watching for signs of Lord Silverhall’s passage. Twenty miles down the road, they discover tracks where it appears a lone horseman headed off into the plains. Near dusk, the party is charged by a riderless horse. Khofnaak successfully calms it. Given its gear and armor, the party surmises that it is the horse of Lander Lebeda. It eventually grows too dark to continue, and so the party makes camp for the evening.
The next morning, the party continues to follow Lander’s tracks, quickly coming across a small pond where three bandits are searching the reeds. A short battle ensues, with Aust and Shokeen competing instead of cooperating in taking down their nearest target.
The party captures the bandit sergeant Wiccent alive. The interrogation is short and swift: he captured a young dandy the day before, he is in service of the Stag Lord, his local superior is a bandit captain named Aldona, she is a werewolf, their camp is a ways down the Shrike, he thinks that there are only three people currently at camp (four if you count the wolf). After forcing what information they can from him, the party executes under the terms of the group’s charter from Restov.
Following Wiccent’s directions, the group heads east until they hit the Shrike River and then follows it south. Along the way, they discover why Restov’s waterfront has so little traffic – there are two sets of water falls in the way of travel from the south – the Crooked Falls and the Shrike Cascade. The hilly terrain slows travel, and the party camps for the evening near the southern falls.
Following the Shrike south, the party spots the bandit camp on a hilltop a ways off. Aust goes into to scout and verifies Wiccent’s information. The party attempts a pincer attack, with the main group coming in from the north while Aust sneaks back in from the southeast.
Aust successfully draws off the dire wolf pup, but then chooses to lure it back towards the main group to get help Shokeen’s help in confronting it. Meanwhile, Cyra and Khofnaak charge the camp. Aldona storms out of her tent in hybrid form and proves a fierce combatant. Mihalis attempts his daze strategem again, but it works less well against the willful lycanthrope. In a long and tense battle, the wolfling and one of the brigands are brought down, and eventually Khofnaak scores the killing blow on the bandit captain.
The remaining brigand surrendered and was interrogated in standard fashion. Yes, he works for the Stag Lord; the other half of their camp has gone on an expedition across the river; the only bandit camps he is familiar with are this one, the Abbey Camp, and the Thorn River Camp.
The party searches the camp’s tent, finding Lord Silverhall bound and unconscious inside a locked chest. Cyra heals him and the party suavely introduces themselves. Not letting on they came specifically to rescue him, they act as though they just happened across this bandit camp. Learning that Lander Lebeda considers himself an enterprising adventurer, they announce that they too are adventurers and invite them to join their mission. Khofnaak presents the charter from the Lord Mayor and then invites Lander to execute the captive bandit – he does so with gusto.
The group decides to pursue the bandit expedition that cross the Shrike, but as they head upstream, they discover that although the bandits did cross the Shrike at a relatively narrow point, they did so on canoes, which they left on the far bank. They grudgingly give up their pursuit and ultimately make camp back on the pond where Wiccent’s crew was killed.
During the morning activities around camp, Lander approaches Khofnaak to inquire about his fine sword and hears the story of the Ugazkall brothers’ mentor.
The session ends as the party starts to begin travel for the day.