And indeed, the sun rises (on Day 156, AKA 24th of Grune) and nothing has attacked. What do you do?
Arjun checks everyone over just in case they mysteriously sprouted wounds overnight.
Yudhisthir is leaning against a tree, staring into the middle distance.
Cyr gets up, packs, and loads her crossbow, just in case.
Thessa jumps down from the tree she was sleeping in, stretches, and starts combing out her tail.
Phaedra starts packing up all their stuff, though she doesn’t bother to take down the shelters. Who knows, maybe we’ll be back this direction.
Saluki - “So… shall we head back?”
Arjun stands and dusts himself off. “Yep.”
Presumably following the river, you make your way back to Hochoch, and arrive around noonish. The guards know you by now and let you in without too much heckling. Inside you see a largish (20 or so) group of people, all dressed like non-military types, but also pretty well armed for peasants, milling about, appearing to prepare to leave.
Thessa puts on her most bard-like curious face and asks the nearest person. “Where are you all off to? Some grand adventure I suppose?”
Random Person- “Well, we’re heading out to Mii--uhhh who are you?”’
“I am bard Thessara of Clan Leaping Rock,” Thessa says. “I’m collecting tales of brave warriors and adventurers who are fighting this noble battle against the giants.”
Random Person- “Er, I’m not supposed to talk about it, but, come here” he motions for you to lean in, “If I said we were going to the MIDDLE of the WOODS I think I wouldn’t get in trouble.”
Thessa nods gravely. “Good fortune to you and your companions then, good sir.”
As you turn away someone who seems to be Random Person’s boss starts shouting. “Hey!...Reginald! You’re not supposed to talk to mercenaries!” You get the impression that the shouting person is not used to calling Reginald by his first name.
Phaedra, to the others - “I guess these must be the people to man the station, then. More of them than I thought there would be.”
Arjun: “Good luck to them. Let’s go talk to Kratha.”
“Going to convince her to lower her prices?” Thessa snarks.
Yudhisthir, equally sarcastic: “Gotta help those poor soldiers somehow.”
In a few more minutes you’re back at the Flying Castle. As usual, Cedric looks up as you walk in. “How did it go?”
Yudhisthir bellies up to the bar and lays down a stack of coin (10, gold). “Got information, but otherwise…” He shakes his head. “You hear anything new?”
Cedric takes the money. “There’s a rumor I can’t confirm that both Zod and one of his minions are currently in either Orlane or Audley, but that’s all I’ve heard in the last few days. Care for lunch?”
Yudhisthir: “Yes, please.”
And so you get lunch, and presumably discuss plans.
Cyr- “Are we going to go look for them, or what?”
Arjun “We’d have to go back pretty far the way we came to get Orlane and Audley.”
Phaedra - “Didn’t the guards say that the woods past Audley is where Red Sword came from? So it’s the same direction either way.”
Thessa looks politely interested in that way people have when they have no idea what anyone is talking about.
Cyr is already two mugs in. “Yah, it’s not that far.”
Arjun to Phaedra: “Is it?”
Phaedra - “From my recollection of the trip here and the Duke’s map, it was 2 or 3 days from here, walking. To Audley, that is, which is on the edge of the Dim Forest.”
Arjun: So he may be traveling between the hideout and the towns….”
Yudhisthir: We’ve got what… ten days before we have to meet Navussar here? Let’s scout the road and the towns until then.”
Cyr- “Are we leaving today, or tomorrow? I have some swords I need to sell.”
Arjun: “I think we could all use rest. Tomorrow will be fine.” He and Yudhisthir will loiter near the gate to see if Zod comes in during the rest of the day.
Zod doesn’t, but after sunset the group of people whom you’d seen earlier finish their preparations (toward the last hour or so was sitting around and eating), and then they leave in groups of four or five over the course of an hour.
Yudhishtir and Arjun do their best back-country rube impressions as they watch. They return to the inn after the gates close for the night.
Cyr and Saluki are presumably playing cards, as has almost become normal. Thessa is napping in a chair in the corner. Phaedra is trying to find something dignified to do, and isn’t coming up with much.
Kratha walks in a few minutes after Yudh and Arjun, sees you all mostly gathered, and walks over. “Well, how did your little adventure go?”
Yudhisthir: “Gran March’s soldiers think your whores are overpriced.”
Kratha- “They only say that because everyone in Gran March is a cheapskate.” Cyr snorts. “Spoke to some of their fine soldiery, did you?”
Arjun “Briefly, yes. They were ...talkative, though they didn’t really say anything Cedric hadn’t already told us.”
Saluki - “Gibbering in fear tends to not give the best info I’m afraid.” He nudges Phaedra. “We need to get you a costume or something, maybe with bat wings? It’ll really bring together the whole ‘striking fear and death from afar’ thing you’ve got going on.” Phaedra blushes and looks embarrassed. “That’s not…” she says quietly before trailing off.
Thessa snorts from her chair without opening her eyes.
Arjun Ignores them. “And it was only Zod’s minion who came to the meeting.”
Kratha’s eyes narrow. “Did he live?”
Arjun “Unfortunately.” His face has gone flat and cold.
Kratha considers this for a moment, and then appears to reach a decision.
Kratha- “Cedric, dear, can you get a few bronze tokens? Cedric told me Zod is somewhere between Orlane and Audley, and since he cuts into my business, I might have a job for you.” Cedric disappears somewhere.
A few minutes later, Cedric appears with six bronze coins, which he hands to Kratha.
Kratha- “What are your plans?”
Arjun: “We plan to scout along the road to Orlan and Audley for a few days, hopefully catch Zod as he travels. Whether we find anything or not, we’ll return here in about 10 days to meet the Oytwood emissary.”
Kratha- “In that case, while you’re in the area, do something for me, would you?” She plays with the coins, waiting for an answer.
Arjun: “If it is within our power.”
Kratha- “A few days ago a couple of my girls were hired for a party some of the Gran March soldiers were having. The girls haven’t come back yet, and I know that unit has left the camp and headed east. See if you can find the girls and bring them back.”
Arjun looks enquiringly at the rest of the group. Yudhisthir shrugs.
Phaedra looks indignant. “And they just took them? How terrible! What are their names and the name of the unit?”
Kratha- “The unit is the 11th Battalion of Foot, and the girls’ names are Maya and Ophelia. Ophelia is a half-elf, and Maya is a human.”
Arjun: “We’ll do what we can.”
Kratha- “Good. Bring them back and I’ll see what I can do to get rid of Zod. Now,” she spreads the six bronze coins out. “These have my face on one side, and are blank on the other. Most of your rank and file soldiers don’t want to be blacklisted by me, so flashing this around a bit will keep you out of trouble with them...and some of the officers.” Saluki flashes a grin at that last comment.
The members of the party take the coins. Arjun says “Thank you”
Kratha- “Now you all stay safe, and come back soon.” She gets up and leaves, but drags her finger across Saluki’s shoulders. Saluki grins at her and says “Of course, we simply can’t stand to stay away from your lovely establishment long!” He adds a roguish wink.
If Kratha has no other information for the party, they’ll have dinner and retire (or play cards and carouse).
Neither Cedric nor Kratha do, so you have dinner and head off to bed without too much trouble.
The next morning, 25th of Grune (Day 157!)
After breakfast, the group heads for the river.
Cyr comes downstairs wearing a red had with a white feather in it, but she doesn’t say anything.
The ferryman is in a bad mood, and so charges you one gold, as normal, but doesn’t inquire about your business. You’re able to navigate through the encampment without any trouble and soon find yourself at the eastern picket line/ ramparts.
You get to Orlane just before nightfall; a few torches have been lit, but they haven’t closed the gate yet.
We proceed through the gate! (If they let us)
These guards aren’t too concerned, and let you through with a cursory glance at your ID cards.
The group finds an inn.
This inn (you don’t catch the name) is mostly full of Gran Marchian soldiers, eating dinner. It’s definitely organized like a military mess hall right now, with not that many civilians at all. A few glance at the bizarre cat-creature, but most have seen worse or weirder, and so ignore you.
Arjun tries to find the barkeep.
Cedric’s Uncle- “Evening! What can I get you?”
Arjun: “Dinner, and rooms if they’re available. Busy in here.”
CU- “Dinner is easy. I’ve had to knock out all the walls upstairs, so It’s one big common room, but I should be able to fit you all. One silver per night.” Arjun hand the fellow a gold piece, to pay for everyone.
Arjun “Do you happen to know which unit these fellows belong to?”
CU- “Hmmm, it’s a mix, I know there are a few from a company of fusiliers, and mostly plain foot units. A troop of cavalry also, I think. Thank you.” He hands you a stack of six bowls and wooden spoons, and points you at a large cauldron o’ stew.
Arjun: “Thank you” He returns to the group and distributes the bowls and spoons.
Cyr- “Huh. I hope this is good.” She goes to get some stew.
Arjun and Yudhisthir get in the chow line as well.
In a few minutes you all have stew, bread and ale. The stew isn’t bad; Cedric’s Aunt has become good at cooking for a lot.
The boys listen to any soldierly chatter as they eat. Phaedra actually starts chatting up some of the soldiers.
Phaedra gets quite a bit of attention pretty easily from lots of soldiers, and is pretty soon the focus of her table.
Arjun makes friends with the few women in the room pretty easily as well. Yudhisthir rolls his eyes.
Arjun and Thessa basically everyone is able to learn that the 11th Battalion of Foot is in Audley, and is prepping to move east for some recuperation followed by integrating new soldiers, and then maneuvers. They should be leaving Audley in four or five days, and right now are on the west side, away from the Dim Forest.
Having eaten, and learned stuff, the group (minus whoever is playing cards and carousing) will retire to...the dormitory.
Nothing interesting happens overnight, and you even have all your possessions in the morning (of Day 158, 26th Grune) (as far as you know). The only strange thing is that you see Cyr has started meditating in the mornings, which she has heretofore not done.
Saluki - “Hey, that’s new. Whatcha meditating about?”
Cyr cocks an eyebrow and opens an eye. With a smirk, she says, “I have figured out how to mimic other people. I’ll show you later, it’s pretty cool. Don’t tell anyone.”
Saluki taps the side of his nose conspiratorially. “I look forward to it!”
Downstairs, it’s a mirror image of last evening, just with the faces rearranged, and there’s coffee.
Breakfast done, and assuming there isn’t an early morning brawl to wake everyone up,
No brawls, just shouting sergeants. You all can get breakfast without trouble, because you don’t work for the sergeants.
The group wanders out and Arjun and Yudhisthir start browsing at market stalls and asking about Zod and Red Sword.
Without a solid description of either of them, really all they get is admonitions to kill Zod in really creative ways (and his entire family too, just in case), cause he’s kind of a bastard.
Yudhisthir “We would kill him if we knew where he was!”
Arjun gets some old lady to motion him over, and she whispers in his ear- “Have you heard that Zod’s gang is based in the forest to the north?”
Arjun “We have, honored elder, and that he keeps company with a druid who controls fearsome animals.”
Old Lady- “Oh yes, that’s true! I’ve heard they all live in a small abandoned town near where the rivers meet! I would be very cautious inquiring about them if I were you, they hire the soldiers to do their dirty work! The walls have ears!” She taps her nose.
Arjun “We will be more cautious, honored elder.” He slip her a gold coin. And rejoins the group after collaring Yudh.
Cyr- “What was that about?”
Arjun: “She wanted to warn us that Zod employs the soldiers as spies and thugs.”
Cyr, quietly- “Sooo the guys we fought might have not been in disguise. And also everyone in town knows Phaedra is here.”
Phaedra has been getting smiles and looks from all sorts of soldiery ever since you went outside.
Arjun: “They didn’t see us very well, so it’s not likely that they’ll be able identify us, unless they hear my voice.”
Cyr- “Well, we’re famous now.”
Arjun shrugs: “The good news and the bad news.”
Thessa copies his shrug. “Phaedra and I were mostly in the river, so unless the soldiers we questioned blabbed, we’re probably fine.”
The group heads out of town on the road toward Audley.
About half a day of a walking, you come to a crossroads with a sign that directs travelers south to Mellie’s Wharf or east toward Audley, and just before you halt for the night you pass another one for people passing the other direction, to either Mellie’s Wharf or Orlane. You passed a few people during the day, but nothing noteworthy.
Happily, nothing happens during the night, and after another day you are able to get to Audley, as nightfall approaches on Grune 27th, Day 159.