The fight with the assassins continued. Roondar found himself surrounded by a trio of of rogues, but a resurgent Yunaan soon arrived on scene, vaulting over a wagon and setting to work with his flame-enchanted axe while Torash advanced towards the fight. On the western end of the battlefield, Luthiana brought down an attacker with a vicious bite to the neck. Her master, however, was soon felled by an arrow that seemed to materialize out of thin air, wounding him severely and knocking him unconscious. Meanwhile, a signal fire appeared in the watchtower overlooking the fort.
While Glithas franctically alerted Torash to Bjorin’s state, Roondar and Yunaan dispatched the trio and prepared for the next incoming squadron of assassins dashing in from the northeast. Torash was forced to drop his offensive enchantments and move with great haste through the battle while Glithas, Roondar, and Yunaan covered him with axe and a flaming sphere. Another rogue broke free of the entangling vines but Luthiana intercepted him to leave Torash free to revive Bjorin with a powerful healing spell.
Another arrow materialized and struck Yunaan in the back but the barbarian was undeterred, continuing to rapidly dispatch attackers while an exhausted Roondar withdrew. The attack was petering out, and the party began to try to track down their apparently invisible attacker, leaving Luthiana, Roondar, and Glithas to finish the last couple of assassins. They caught the sound of footsteps and Bjorin sealed off the northern escape with an Entangle spell, but Torash was unable to find anyone caught in it. The druid then found tracks where the arrows were coming from but was forced to wait until Luthiana, the party’s sole tracker, was free from combat before he could follow the trail.
By then, it was too late. Luthiana was able to follow the tracks with amazing accuracy northwards, stopping right before the entanglement and doubling back to the south, then out the fort’s main gate. The tracks then went around the rear of the fort and up a small incline to a copse of trees, where Luthaina stopped and snarled. A search of the area did not find the female rogue, but Bjorin did find talon-like marks in the dirt in a broad flattened patch of grass.
With the fight over, the party regrouped. Yunaan, Torash and Roondar hailed the military portion of the fort and found no one inside beyond the lieutenant and a handful of ill-equipped men. He was reluctant to talk, but a menacing Yunaan loosened his tongue, and he revealed that the Captain had left under the command of a newly arrived colonel, taking almost the entire garrison with him, mounted and ready for combat. The lieutenant had sat out the fight, having no men to send to help and focusing just on keeping the military assets safe. He was suspicious of why assassins were after the party; Roondar tried to explain it away as the consequences of being in King Siggard’s service but the lieutenant remained unconvinced. Bjorin went to inn Elsa’s Regret to investigate the green gas that had emanated from it, and found broken vials in several of the rooms. Glithas determined they were not magical; Bjorin theorized that they were alchemical.
Meanwhile, Glithas recovered some of the spent arrows and found their fletchings matched those that killed the Cadrian guardsman at the caravan. He showed them to the lieutenant, informing him that some sort of conspiracy was afoot. The lieutenant responded by sending a guardsman to the next fort with a message and deciding to relieve the captain of command if he returned. After a brief retreat to discuss their options, the party decided to stay and see if the lieutenant was successful despite the risks. Most of the Ravennans were leaving the fort, no longer trusting its safety, but the group decided to try to get the guards to shelter the remainder in the barracks. Roondar failed to convince the lieutenant, so once again Yunaan menaced him into compliance.
Not long after the refugees moved into the barracks, the captain arrived with the garrison and was angrily confronted by the lieutenant, who accused him of abandoning the post. The captain angrily refuted the accusations and when the lieutenant announced he was relieving the captain, a scuffle broke out between a handful of the two sides’ supporters. The lieutenant ultimately prevailed, the majority of the troops tiring of the captain’s erratic, glory-seeking behavior, and the captain was arrested and locked in his office. The party took advantage of the situation to quickly slip back into the civilian section of the town and commandeer a room at one of the now-empty inns. After a quick rest to replenish their power, they left.
They spent another week and half travelling, passing the Golden Citadel then swinging south into Ravenna and hugging the coast of the Bay of Batal. The country was largely empty since the bay is inhospitable to ships. They found a small town near the Dellian Swamp which was their destination, and boarded their mounts before continuing on into the thickly forested, water-soaked swamp. Bjorin acted as guide and leader, using his eagle form to lead the party through the trecherous terrain and around patches of quicksand.
As they prepared to make camp on a small island the first night, Bjorin spotted an approaching raft from above and alerted the group. While they attempted to hide, Torash foiled this attempt by accidentally positioning himself in such a way that his shield reflected light back towards the boat. Its occupant, a sole human male, steered towards them and landed on the island. He introduced himself as a potential guide, Melick, who had seen a group with a ‘wagonful of undead’ moving into the swamp a day before and figured the next group coming along must be the good guys here to stop them. He himself was an exile who needed cash to start a new life in Ravenna, and the party offered a way to get that cash by guiding them to the only thing in the swamp worth seeing; the sunken castle. The party talked him into taking them on his boat for 15 gold, plus 20 if he managed to get them to the castle before the other group, and they immediately embarked on the boat, but not before a tremor rippled through the area and Melick commented on how frequent they were becoming.
Now, the party finds themselves racing their adversaries to the location of the next crystal, floating through an inhospitable swamp at night and passengers on a boat piloted by a convenient stranger…