Uncomfortable with the idea of bandits so nearby and burning inns, the group decides to set up a watch rotation while staying at the Heavenly Hearth. Dorn begins the watch, patrolling hallways and checking out the windows, searching for signs of any incoming assault. Suddenly, he is attacked from behind by a dwarf wielding a blade wreathed in shadows.
Unknown to Dorn, at that very instant, each of the other party members are attacked in their sleep. The initial attack wakes the party, and they scramble to fight back. Loranys corners her opponent and slays him; Shayla pins hers against the wall using the magical properties of her spear. Outmatched one-on-one without the element of surprise, the others escape through windows or down the stairs. The team, sans Shayla, meets in the hallway as they regroup. Lazan is briefly distracted by Caelissa, who has arrived wearing only the dagger in her hand. They check on Shayla, to find that she has effectively nailed her opponent to the wall; upon seeing the group arrive in force, the dwarf surrenders.
Dwarf: “Enough! You win. I’m not going anywhere.”
Lazan: “Who are you, and why did you attack us?”
Caelissa: “Who sent you?”
Dwarf: “Forget it, I’m not telling you anything. I won’t bother you any more if you let me go, but either let me go or kill me – you won’t get any information from me at all.”
*Kevara tries to loom over everyone to see into the room.*
*Loranys considers running off to fetch her armor.*
Shayla: *grimly keep hold of the spear* “Keep the impetuous cub away. He’s going to do more damage than good.”
Loranys: “Fine by me, let’s kill him and search his body.”
Dorn: “Kill him if he doesn’t want to talk, or let me at his hands. He’ll talk when he’s missing some fingers.”
The group continues to press the dwarf for information, but he decides that he has had enough. The team is obviously not going to let him go, and he can’t fight his way out, so he spits a few epithets at the group and pulls Shayla’s spear further into his body, cutting into his heart and killing him instantly. Lazan searches the body, finding only an ordinary shortsword and a black, boot-shaped pin holding the dwarf’s cloak closed. He takes it for later identification.
Kevara: “Well, now that that’s over with… I would suggest that people start sleeping in clothes from now on, at least while we’re on a mission.”
Shayla: *looking down at her armor* “But… I do! I don’t even sleep in the beds, usually.”
Loranys: “Hey, at least I have a shift on. Have you tried sleeping in plate armor?”
*Lazan eyeballs Caelissa and says nothing*
Kevara: “I said CLOTHES, not ARMOR.”
Caelissa: “Hey, I wasn’t expecting to get shanked in my sleep, or I’d have put on something nice and just seduced him.”
Kevara: *obviously flummoxed* “Seduce?”
Caelissa: “Oh, Kev, honey… you have SO much to learn.”
Kevara: *tilts her head* “I do not understand your strange mating rituals.”
Shayla: *blinks in surprise* “There are clothes made for such things? Can I see?”
Caelissa: “Sure, Shayla. Come over the next time we have a room.” *winks*
Shayla: *nods innocently* “Okay.”
Kevara stands there looking terribly confused, while Caelissa giggles to herself and Dorn just grins knowingly.
Y’know, these guys are my friends. I know most of them very well, despite never having met them in person, and they still find some way to catch me off guard.
Lazan: “Look, could we maybe not discuss this right now? I think we have more important things to worry about.”
Shayla: “It seems like our foes know where we are… and can get to us with relative ease.”
Lazan: “Yes, but are they related to the other situation in town? Or is that seperate?”
Loranys: “Well if we can’t all leave the town defenseless, perhaps just … one of us can go seek help?”
Kevara: “I think we’re in this alone, unfortunately. Even if we could send someone, by the time they got back, this would be over one way or the other. I think we need to send out a scout. Caelissa, perhaps?”
Dorn: “Hey, if you’re sending her out like that, I’m all for it. Half the town probably would be, too.”
Lazan: *clears his throat* “ANYWAY. I don’t suppose any of you know anything about this… pin? I don’t recognize the insignia.”
Loranys: “Sagemaster might recognize it. Could we send someone to him with it?”
None in the group recognize the insignia, and they decide to hang on to it for the time being, opting to handle the two incidents separately, and focus on the immediate bandit threat. Kevara laments the possibility that they won’t ever be able to sleep in peace again, and they discuss the dwarves who escaped. Unable to come to any conclusions, they return to the more immediate task.
Loranys: “I’m sorry, but I still don’t like the idea of letting these unknown assassins escape into the night.”
Lazan: “Do you have a better option? Should we abandon the town to deal with assassins we may or may not see again?”
Shayla: “What shall we do, then? Chase our badgers into their den, or howl challenge from the middle of town?”
Dorn: “I doubt that shouting until our voices give out will do us any good, Shayla.”
Loranys: “Well, we know the names of the people who burned down the inn, and we know that they’ll be coming back. We also know where their base is, assuming that we can find it again.”
Lazan: “Yes, cause THAT worked out well yesterday, didn’t it?”
Kevara: “Hence, why I suggested a scout. The rest of us remain here, just in case.”
Shayla: “Tsk… it seems we risk defeat or further mishap no matter what we choose. If we leave, we could see another repeat of yesterday. If we stay, they could outmaneuver us anyway and attack travelers or something.”
Lazan: *nods* “It is kind of a no-win situation.”
Caelissa: “I’m ok with being the token scout,” *glares at Kevara* “just tell me where and don’t get mad if I kill someone.”
Loranys: “We could pretend to leave the area and wait undercover to see if they stage an attack.”
Caelissa: “I like that plan.”
Kevara: “I worry that it may be an undending battle, depending on how easily they can get reinforcements.”
Shayla: “So we fight an infected tree. No matter how many blighted leaves we tear off, the sickness will not end until we find the parasite and remove it forcefully… or burn the entire tree to the ground. So far we have not seen this leader of theirs in person. Do you think if we kill enough of his pack he will be forced to confront us directly? Or will we have to ferret him out of his hiding place?”
Lazan: “So… what about waiting for today’s strike, and then following them?”
Loranys: “If we do that, we put the villagers in harm’s way if we don’t rush to their defense. If we do defend them, they’ll expect to be followed.”
The group debates further on the prospect, and decides to go speak with Millia on the matter. Millia is surprised at their appearance so early in the morning, but welcomes them into her house. The group tells her about the attack, and they begin to discuss their options further.
Lazan: “How about tracking them after the attack, while some of us wait here in case they return?”
Kevara: *crosses her arms* “I refuse to leave the villagers undefended again, at least just yet. Perhaps waiting for their attack and then following them back is the best method.”
Loranys: *sighs* “Well I don’t want to wait around here and chance getting attacked again, so I vote that we go do something.”
Millia: “Well, the bandits have only been taking a single tribute each day; they awakened me barely a few hours before you got here, so we should be safe until tomorrow.”
Kevara: “Well, if payment has been made for the day, and you think you remain unmolested, then we should perhaps see about taking the fight to them.”
Loranys: “This just really means we need to deal with these bandits fast, so we don’t miss them again. If we really need to scout, then three can stay here, and three can go scout for the hideout.”
Shayla: “Millia, the surprise attack last time failed, you said, because your militia was unskilled. Can we afford to wait and spring another trap? Or is there no time for such things now?”
Millia: “We have maybe two, three more days worth of supplies and food that we can afford to give as tribute and still feed our people. We don’t have any time left.”
Lazan: “That settles it. Caelissa, Shayla, and I will go scout. You three stay here with the villagers in case any return.”
Shayla: “I am fine with this. As she says, we have no time. The decision is made for us. We must kill this Gravash and as many of his pack as it takes until they learn to leave this village alone. And we must do it soon.”
Lazan: “I’m inclined to agree.”
Loranys: “Is there any way we can quickly alert you three if they do come to the village?”
Lazan: “Hmm…. Yell?”
Loranys: “I hope you have good ears, then.”
The group separates, and the three scouts head back to the trails in order to search for more clues. Shayla finds a clear, new set of tracks, and the group begins to follow them stealthily. After a short while, however, Caelissa feels that something is amiss.
Caelissa: “Wait…. guys? These tracks feel a bit TOO obvious.”
Lazan: “What do you mean?”
Caelissa: “Well, there’s not hiding your tracks, and there’s planting your tracks. I just think we should be careful.”
Shayla: “You’re right. These make it seem like we’re to be herded somewhere.”
The group continues further, only to find that the tracks dead-end in the middle of a dirt patch underneath some trees, near a rock face. Lazan and Caelissa move a little away from Shayla in order to investigate a little more, and a trap suddenly springs. A heavy net falls toward the ground; swift as ever, Caelissa and Lazan dodge out of the way. Shayla is not so lucky, and is trapped under the weighted ropes. A flare fires into the air, a clear signal that the trap has been sprung, and prey is caught.
Working madly, the group desperately tries to free Shayla. The ropes are stout and thick, and the group tries to cut through carefully in order to avoid any risk in harming Shayla. Shayla, too, works from the inside, but unable to effectively maneuver her spear, she is not making very much headway. Lazan is forced to shift into a lynx form – he has no bladed weapons, but sharp claws and teeth will be more helpful than just standing aside.
Seconds fly by, each moment bringing the three into great danger of being discovered. In frustration, Caelissa gives her dagger to Shayla while continuing to work on the ropes with her shortsword. Lazan, too, is making little headway. Suddenly, they hear shouts off in the distance; the trappers are coming, and they know that the language they hear is hobgoblin. In less than a minute, the bandit army will be upon them.
In desperation, Caelissa begins to hack at the net, barely missing Shayla on several occasions. Finally cutting through, Shayla untangles herself from the trap, and the three make a mad dash for the cliff edge, diving off the side and into the river below. None of them are hurt in the escape, and the river is fortunately a calm one. They swim across, climb out on the opposite bank, and dive into the underbrush as the bandits appear on the cliffside. Shivering, cold, and panicked, the three wait for the bandits to disperse before moving from their hiding place and back to the village.