Using the familiars to deliver messages to Varric, he changed his direction to intercept the scout heading for the camp and Mira. Back at the lodge Soul finish her current project of paper work and leaped at the chance for action, so she took off north meeting up with Varric later that night. Gepav, Quara and Rupert headed out north west to capture a scout for information. Erky began building a watch tower and generally fortifying the lodge for the inevitable fight.
That evening the villagers had little to celebrate, all but one of the main fighters had left. Erky’s presence held them together, he kept them motivated and focused. The evening report from the familiars confirmed the parties assumptions. Routine continued as normal except for the few that had build a simple sail raft so that Acula could follow after Lia and get her back up river quickly.
The morning report held no change, and Erky got the villagers to start a routine day, even sending workers to do logging and Quarrying. He assigned his builders to fortifying and improving the lodge, adding bunk beds and creating more personal space. But as normal and routine as this day began he knew something had gone wrong when he hear a piercing sound and saw a red light trailing up into the air from the north.
Varric and Soul had set out early and cautiously, remaining close to each out but finding their own path north. Near mid day Soul was attacked without warning, collapsing as two arrows struck her. Varric was successfully hidden from the scout who was now approaching his fallen comrade. Carefully he planned his attack and mere moments after his arrow took flight he had move and hidden again.
The scout was surprised and staggered by the impact of Varric’s arrow but still standing. Not seeing the Varric he withdrew and dropped two small statues. The two gold lion statues grew larger and morphed into real live lions. Varric saw the lions and knew his hiding was over, he quickly scrambled up a tree and took aim at the scout hoping that without him the magic of lions might fade. His arrow flew straight and true taking the scout in the chest. The scout fell but now the lions turned their hungry eyes on Varric.
Varric out number, out match in speed and with Soul bleeding out thought it might have been a mistake to attack with so few. But then the bushes beside one of the lions parted and a wolf darted out and attack the lion. The wolf was wearing armour and bags, Mira had also appeared pouring a potion down Soul’s throat while pulling out the arrows. Varric was relieved for the support, when the other lion jumped up the tree and clawed at him nearly making him fall. Soul rose to her feet gathering up Skewer her custom weapon and joined the fight.
The lions though tough had no tactics without their masters commands, quick fell to their opponents. As they would have died if alive they changed back into small golden statues, which Varric picked up. With the fight of Soul stood over the unconscious scout was without a word finished the man. As the blessing of her dark pact washed over her she was disturbed as the amulet on the scouts chest exploded with light.
This light then shot up into the sky releasing a loud piercing sound and trailing red light. Gepav, Quara, Rupert and even Lia far to the south, could see and hear this signal. Each having mixed thoughts and feeling as to what this meant but with the familiars running between the groups carrying messages they expected a report around mid day.
Mira explained to Varric in elvish that the top scouts always had at least two magic items, the amulet and a combat aid. The amulet was just as it appeared a signal that a scout had died or had his amulet removed, but they were simple devices anyone with arcane knowledge and basic magical control could attune to the device and remove it. This didn’t please Varric as their whole plan was to draw the bandits attention away from this area.
As Varric contemplated how to fix this problem, Mira suggested that they just make it look like he had been killed by the Elves. It was uncommon for them to leave the deep forest but it did happen. Mira help Varric and Soul strip the corpse and she let them take all they wanted and put the rest in the bags on her wolf. She said she would setup the rest, clear tracks and setup a trail to the deep forest, Varric and Soul thanked her and headed south. Erky‘s familiar found them shortly after they left the scene, Soul ever prepared with pen and paper already had a detailed report prepared. Erky’s familiar was a hawk and easily took the scroll and flew south ahead of them.
That evening the familiars really got a work out as messages were taken back and forth collecting data and relating the altered plans. Lia was left out so far to the south, only the next day when the new plan was finalise and Varric and Soul had returned was a familiar sent south to inform her of the altered plan.
The familiar had brought Lia a small bag in which sat two golden lion statues and a message. The message told her what the lions where, loyal servants of the one who summoned them, and that she was now to head to the south most ruins and intercept the scout there. She was not to kill him instead use the lions and her wild shape to intimidate and chase him off. Gepav, Quara and Rupert now figured that their target was going to be moving towards that signal and so changed their direction to compensate but otherwise little had changed other then Quara needing to remove the amulet.
The ambush of Gepav, Quara and Rupert was so perfectly handled it was over in the blink of an eye. Quara true understood the simplicity of the magical amulet, she had only ever know magic items made by gnome master artisans and this one in comparison was a six year old painting quality. With the amulet removed, the scout stripped of weapons and tied up it was time for an interrogation.
Once the scout was awake Rupert got his attention by slicing of a toe and saying, “Now that I have your attention, I have some questions to ask.” The information gained related mostly to location, entrances of the bandits camp and to the numbers there in. Housed up the mountain side the bandits had a ancient dwarf fort, long abandoned but still standing strong. Only one entrance was known the front gate, a second may have existed in the past as a tunnel leading into the mountain. This had either collapsed over time or been collapsed by the dwarf before they left. Gepav didn’t like this either the dwarf were incompetent, unlikely he thought, or there was something in the mountain that drove the dwarfs out.
The scout spoke of their numbers say that forty four remained in the fort, with thirty horses that were used when they raided the goblins or groups like theirs that survived long enough to get setup. The bandit lead by Skull Crunch and his four lieutenants, Mara Starag a female human wizard, Hama Jassan a female human rogue, Blath Windriver a male human dark pal, Barakas Art a male Tiefling Barbarian.
Rupert asked about what kind of response they should expect from the bandit should they not return or if they did with a location. The scout said a raiding party would be sent in either case, about twenty five strong and on horses, being lead by two or three lieutenants. Rupert made a little count thinking each lieutenant probably lead eight to ten people with a few scouts. To have any chance against such odds they needed to have a fort of their own and better trained fighters.
The short of it all was they needed time, winter storms would force the bandits to stay bunkered in but the storms might be several days or a few weeks away. Hopefully their plans would work and buy them this time. Rupert changed his line of questioning and began asking about the type of society they lived under. Turns out it was food and merit based, those who worked guard duty, joined raids, or performed a service for the leaders got food and equipment. Since only enough food for one person was given there were no children as they didn’t work hard enough and where generally thrown out to die. Those few that had tried working to feed their kid starved themselves and performed poorly getting themself thrown out with their children.
Feeling that they had learned enough and with no questions coming from his companions Rupert swiftly slit the scouts throat and recovered the rope binding him. A report of the information was sent back to the lodge and they head off home.
This information caused Erky to redesign once again, he decided to expand the lodge to twice the side and add arrow slits more outside walls, ditches and spikes. He also finalized his design and placement of the forge, but this was put at back of the list in favour for the fortifications. He also wanted to use the heat from the forge as a under floor heating for the lodge and he need tunnels dug for such. Though his plans and builds were presiding nicely the villagers were losing heart and even Erky’s best efforts made little difference, hopefully when the others returned the spirits would rise.
The weather turned bad that day driving a chill into Gepav, Quara and Rupert slowing their return, but Lia soldier on. Lia now on land was pushing the limits of her wild shape and endurance to make it to the ruins before he scout heading there left. Arriving late evening Lia had time to rest and recover before she entered battle the next morning. She was easily able to find the scout as he move quickly about the ruins looking for signs of disruption.
Lia let out a roar using magic to get the scouts attention, once he turn she released the lion statues and changed shape herself. The scout was thoroughly intimidated and as Lia expected he grabbed an object from his pouch and threw it at the ground. But she didn’t expect it to summon a such a gargantuan creature, as a roc formed before her eyes. Lia felt completely out match until the scout climbed onto its back and order it to fly home.
Lia knew her plan was to intimidated and let him go but if he was flying he was unlikely to not see the lodge from the air. This aerial advantage had been theirs alone until now, she quickly changed form and gave chase as she launched an arrow after the escaping scout. This struck home but the scout still clung to the roc, the roc was fast and Lia was at a disadvantage as she fired her next shot this one struck too but still the scout held on.
Lia drew another arrow and what she knew was her last chance before the roc and scout were completely out of range. Feeling the wind on her face, studying the movement of the roc, she breathed carefully and focused on the scouts back. She released a shot that would make Varric jealous, she heard sound thud as the arrow near when through the scout and into the roc. A few moments later the scout was tumbling from the roc’s back and falling towards the ground. With another thud the scout hit the ground and the amulet broke and activated it’s signal.
When the second signal when up many thought Lia had been careless but the Roc was so big it too could be seen beside the streaming red light. It continued on its ordered journey and flew across the valley towards the north east mountains to the bandits fort. The roc flew straight over Gepav, Quara and Rupert, giving them pause as to how they were going to it and even if Lia had survived. But the Roc pasted over without so much as a downward glance.
The rest of the day was filled with hurried travel, the true power of the bandits had been revealed and the distractions had been laid. Now they needed to get cover as a storm rolled in slowing Gepav, Quara and Rupert but putting wind into Lia‘s and Acula’s sail as they had met at the coast and where now heading up stream.
They all arrived the late next day, Glad to see that Lia had survived but also that the feather tokens that had summon the roc made the creature nearly useless in a fight. The limited magic was designed for intimidation and transport only, Erky explained as he examined the two tokens Lia had pull off the corpse. Erky was asked if he knew how to make such items, he responded with a yes though like all other times he tried to recall the exact methods his mind shifts to another subject.
Erky had been studying, trying to research and recall his training from the gnome academy but like this time it always shifts away. Erky finally realises that there must be a magical block within his mind preventing him from recalling. With everyone back and thing looking good on the distractions he turned his focus inward seeking the cracks and loose threads within his mind. Late that night he found one, with a tug and a punch the cracks shatter and the strings unravelled. His mind began unlocking like a clockwork safe, but at the same time a trap build into the magic activated.