Our Heroes find themselves in a remote, forested region on the road between Meridian and South Bend. The fight is over; four dead thieves are looted of goods, and heaved into the underbrush as vulture food.
Lester makes awkward apologies to the Fiendish Apes before they unSummon; it would appear they were interested in a gratuity for their services, but the Halfling Conjurer hasn’t any to offer. The Dread Pirate Wobberts is wounded, so Lester Summons a Bralani Eladrin to appear and dispense healing. The Eladrin does so, and Lester runs down the summoning-clock appearing to dig through his beltpurse for compensation until the Eladrin blinks out of existence.
Mounting up, the Heroes press on and reach South Bend by evening. South Bend is a village aspiring to double itself into a town some day. Its local garrison fort is a two-storey wooden structure loosely in the center of six or eight other buildings. Here they find Corporal Anderton; the Heroes’ visit will be his most exciting log entry for the month.
Anderton is not able to provide much information. He has a sealed copy of the mission contract which had not been given the Heroes at the guild house in Meridian. A duplicate of the document seen previously, this one differs in that it carries the blue wax seal of Sir Vendec and the green wax seal of Sir Ashburne.
The bored Corporal informs the Heroes that they would do best to find SERGEANT DELL when they reach the town of Ridgeway. Dell will provide a map of the layout of Moonwatch Tower. In conversation, Lester is annoyed that Anderton believes him to be a Dwarf. The area is very rural and the Conjurer chalks it up to provincial ignorance.
Anderton mentions, in conclusion, that two associates of Drake’s Dragoons, are waiting at the Blue Ox tavern across the road. They are fellow adventurers who have signed on by answering the Creggan sisters’ letter.
The Heroes swell the tavern’s clientele, easily find their new team members, and take seats. The longhaired, slightly wildman-looking fellow is FALDORN (played by B.P.) – a Druid and Master of Many Forms. The reserved, attractive woman gives her name as GENIVE (played by C.H.) – a Rogue and Spymaster.
The group gets acquainted, old and new members vouched previously by affiliation with Drake’s Dragoons. They splash gold on the tavern, ordering ales which are not hideous and food which is not entirely unpalatable.
As they relax, three well-dressed merchants approach them. The merchants sheepishly ask if they might hire what is obviously a capable band of adventurers to deal with a problem for them.
A road leads due west of South Bend, and a single bridge crosses a river to trade points beyond. Unfortunately this bridge has developed a slight troll problem.
(At this, the Dread Pirate Wobberts rolls his eyes and says, “Trolls…at a bridge. Really? Really?”)
The merchants find that their trade caravans have had to divert a half-day out of their way, north to a ford point or south to a smaller bridge, to avoid the harassment at the main bridge from the trolls. The merchants have sought the aid of the military, but the soldier’s single scouting of the situation did not resolve the issue, and the military dismissed the situation as not their problem. Teamsters and caravan-masters reported between two and four trolls making trouble for passers-by. Now, all traffic avoids the area. This diversion presents a considerable expense and inconvenience for the merchants, and they hope the Heroes are capable of taking out the threat.
To the issue of payment for services, the merchants are hesitant, offering up no figure without knowing how much the Heroes want. Genive asks some time to discuss the deal with her fellows. The merchants politely withdraw to a corner table and await her offer.
A shrewd negotiator, Genive sets about Gathering Information about the merchants from bar patrons and people in other taverns. In two hours she has a considerable assessment of all the relevant and irrelevant details about these three merchants, and knows that they have about 2000 gold in available cash.
With this in mind, Genive offers a deal; the Heroes want 200 gold each, and will deal with the trolls at the bridge, which is said to be about an hour’s ride out of town. Because this is due west and not in the direction of Moonwatch, the Heroes will not be returning to South Bend afterward, so the merchants agree to send along an agent to observe and confirm that the trolls are dealt with.
The Heroes finish their night in the tavern, renting rooms upstairs. They will ride out next morning.