5th of Sunwane
Next morning, the Party rises early and heads through town to see Ardadan’s friend. Bern (Ironside) lives at the south end of town along the river near the quarry where he is employed. Originally from the Sawback Mountains in the East of Kalifaa, Bern, along with many other Dwarves moved west during the Great Western War some 65 years ago. (While not engaged in the war itself, Kalifaa experienced a large economic boom during this time, and, consequently large portions of the Dwarven population moved west to take advantage of the new job opportunities.) They find the taciturn, chocolate-loving dwarf at home, and Ardadan explains the opportunity to his friend. It doesn’t take long for Bern to agree to join the party. The group returns to Saroyans to eat and discuss their plans. They agree that they want to present their ideas to the Constable and hopefully dovetail with his orders (they are now, per the contract, provisionally under his command).
While at Saroyans, the group is surprised to encounter what is either a large Hobgoblin or a short Bugbear accompanied by a rail-thing scholarly looking fellow. The two are; Bigulf, an exceptionally (for his species) intelligent runt-Bugbear who has attempted the clerics path, and his Elven companion, Antalante, a rare wizard. A conversation ensues, and it is revealed that the previous day they too suffered an attack along a different route to Riverhills. Hearing this, the group tells the two about the Constables offer and suggests they accompany them to the Constabulary and sign up as well. Bigulf and Antalante agree and the enlarged party continues developing their plan of action. Concluding their arrangements, the band returns to the Constabulary to introduce Bigulf and Antalante, as well as receive their orders and supply-chits for the armory.
Constable Harrick is more than willing to sign on the new arrivals. He informs the party of a few new developments, mostly pertaining to other groups and their areas of responsibility. He then gives the party the orders specific to them. He has had reports of encounters to the west, northwest, and north, and has patrols scouting in those areas. There are several areas that have had no ill reports, (or no reports at all) and he needs those areas scouted as well. He wishes our party to head to the outlying eastern/ north eastern areas starting near the point where (coincidentally) Bigulf and Antalante had their encounter and then conduct a fairly broad sweep first to the east, and turning north in order to discover the extent of the outlaw bands and whether or not they are connected to each other in any way or, if instead, these are spontaneous, unrelated incidents.
The party is pleased to note that these orders are not too different from what they, themselves were inclined to do, so the party is happy to begin the undertaking. They depart and head toward the armory across the river on the east side of town. This is on the way to their area of responsibility, so, again, no time is wasted.
Properly supplied for a week or so in the wild, the party now moves out along the road to the south-end of town. They plan to travel south by the East Road for the better part of a day or two before turning north-northeast and striking off overland.
As the town recedes behind them, a clearer view of the eastern hills greets them. The group can now get a preview of the terrain they’ll be scouting through. The hills are gentle yet tall with broad and deep valleys between their arms. Trees fill nearly each valley suggesting small streams draining towards the river. The crowns of the hill-spurs tend to be bare, while dense oak covers the main portions of the hills. Several farms and ranches can be seen here and there, separated by wide stretches of golden grasses turning towards brown (this being late-autumn). From time to time, Ardadan or Lassidil point out important features of the area, such as Gold Hill Vineyards, near where they will turn into the hills, or the beautiful cypress lined Pegaso Ranch, home of an important horse-breeding family, a short way beyond. It is over the pastures of this ranch that the party will cut overland. Bern lets his fellow locals do the talking.
They travel at an easy pace, conserving their energy as well as attempting not to draw undue attention. It is estimated that around sunset they will have reached Goldhill Vineyards. Shortly beyond lies The Joint, an intersection where Hill Road (along which Bigulf and Antalante were attacked) branches north over the hills. From there, they will proceed for a while as if they mean to continue on the East Road but, instead, after a short time, the party will cut overland north eastwards. They intend to use the dark and the folds of the land as well as the presence of the Ranches own horses to enter the tree line unobserved. Once inside and secure, they will bed down and set their watch. The next day the party means to begin its true mission.