15th of Sunwane
This night passes restfully and uneventfully. Nothing disturbed the campsite, and nothing was seen by the observation post. The Party gathers itself and prepares for the tedious, but essential effort of watching. Little transpires for quite some time, until, in the late morning, some figures can be seen off in the distance to the south. Three or four figures seem to be moving from the Highway, to a path running between a marsh, and the hills to the south. They are moving east and, if they continue, they will eventually reach an old, long disused toll tower on the banks of the river. It is at this point that Bern and Lassidil realize something that has been right in front of them. Instead of a crumbling ruin, the tower has clearly been hastily repaired and is habitable, and, more importantly, defensible. Now under greater scrutiny, other figures are occasionally visible along the walls and atop the tower itself. This is a stunning, yet, in retrospect, obvious development. Cross-checking the captured map, the Party members notice that a hole (with traces of red ink) has been scratched in the area corresponding to the tower.
Clearly, THIS is where they should be concentrating their efforts. They decide to move even closer to better observe the tower.
As they are doing this however, there is a sudden flurry of activity at the tower. A small boat has raced up to the tower from further up the river, followed minutes later by a good deal of commotion. Fearing, for a moment, that they have been spotted, the party hits the ground and freezes. Nervously watching the tower, they notice that all of the guards have disappeared. Instead several figures can be seen running to the repaired portions of the wall and tower. To the surprise of the party, a few seconds later, all traces of the repairs disappear; leaving the toll tower once again looking ruined and abandoned. Bewildered for the moment, the Party decides to risk moving a bit into better cover. Minutes later, a possible explanation for these strange events appears on the river. The masts of a southbound boat can be seen approaching.
All is still for quite some time as the boat makes its lazy way down the river, past the tower and out of sight. Not until long after the boat has passed is there any activity to be seen at the tower. Even then, it takes another hour or so before the repairs begin to slowly re-appear. This is a stunning development, clearly worth reporting. While some of the Party continues with the task of establishing a close observation point, the rest return to the main camp to discuss the events and decide how to proceed. Eventually, they decide that while definitely important, it’s better to wait until the whole day has passed before sending any messages in case any further developments occur. As it transpires, this is a wise decision.
After the incident with the boat, there is little activity for quite a while. After several hours though there is again a commotion. Another mast appears, this time coming north, from Aurelian Bay. From the tower shoot two fast-oared boats, full of dark figures. They rapidly intercept the inbound vessel and escort it to the tower.
For the better part of an hour there is no more to be seen. Eventually, however, the river trader and the two escorts leave the tower and continue up the river. They continue towards a bend that will hide them from view, so Amrun, and some of the others hastily scramble through the marsh to find a point from which they can continue to observe the convoy.
Once situated, they watch as the smaller boats continue to escort the trader through two loops of the river, coming ever closer. One of the loops brings the convoy within a hundred yards of the Party members. At that distance they can make out more details. It seems the two small boats are less crowded than before, and that the trader is currently being crewed by the brigands. This observation is soon confirmed as, shortly after passing, but before rounding then next bend, faint cries can be heard from the convoy. The vessels slow to a halt, and, one at a time each of the smaller boats lays alongside the trader, taking aboard the brigand crew. Once all are aboard, the two boats swiftly row away, back down the river. After some time (and long after the two boats are out of sight) a stirring can be seen aboard the trader. Here and there, men can be seen standing up and looking around, bending below the gunwales to rouse their companions. After a short time, and some confusion, the trader again sets out north towards Riverhills.
There being nothing more to see, the group heads back to camp to inform the others. Once all are gathered and have shared their information, the Party agrees to send another messenger to town. Vindle will head out this time.
Afternoon is growing towards evening as they have been discussing this and are preparing for the coming night. As they are doing this, the party is abruptly interrupted by the unmistakable sounds of something approaching from the north.