Moonday, Patchwall 17, 552 CY (50 AN)
As Croitus walks, the ghostly form of a guard coalesces next to him — the same guard for whom he travels to Dawnslight. The ghost notes that he has ignored his duty, but Croitus disagrees, as he is walking toward Dawnslight right now. The ghost reminds him that he pledged to destroy evil creatures, and given Dhavita’s description of the mimic-thing that is Lord Key, she likely qualifies. Croitus can try to kill her intelligently, of course; the ghost notes that Croitus could probably sneak into Kiris Dahn and assassinate her, or join his friends in an attempt to take her out. Croitus decides to rejoin his friends; the shades of the dead point the way.
Thusly, Resh awakens the others at the sound of an approaching noise while Rat disappears into the shadows. Once they realize that the approaching noise is Croitus, they welcome him back into camp, and he sleeps.
Dhavita dreams of the Council of Lords chambers in Scandshar. A tall, lithe woman — evidently the guard captain — enters the chambers, finding Lord Key draped over the governor’s chair, drinking champagne. Chambers are otherwise empty. The captain asks what this is about, and Lord Key explains that the Scandshar Six were sighted in Kiris Dahn, although they managed to flee. Before they did, however, the dwarf among them apparently told one of the town’s current residents about his business in Duchy Jepson. The captain notes that they cannot go to war with Jepson, but Lord Key retorts that they can still gather a warrant and search the town now that they know what they seek. The captain asks if it is wise to send soldiers into the maw of the beast; why not just wait for them to return to Jepson, but Lord Key makes a subtle gesture and incant, crossing chambers all-too-quickly and brandishing a glowing, green sword of energy. She reminds the captain that people were very upset with her mismanaging of the whole Scandshar Six fiasco, and letting them slip through her fingers would hardly help matters. Then she might be replaced with someone more willing to work with the Peacocks. Lord Key indicates that arrangements have already been made to track them down; the captain needs to start sending soldiers through portals.
Dhavita awakens and makes certain the others are awake. She informs the others of this development and they prepare. As they do, however, they hear noise. After a few moments, two knights with hounds blunder into their camp; the knights bear symbols of Bahamut and a white flag. They explain that armies are coming from Scandshar with orders to kill, and they’re bringing wargs to hunt down the Scandshar Six. If the Six are willing to go with the paladins, they will guarantee a fair trial. Otherwise, they cannot guarantee any safety. A debate ensues; ultimately, Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava decide to go with the paladins, while Rat, Resh, and Southie decide to stay and fight. The two groups wish each other luck, and the paladins take the four into custody.
Rat, Resh, and Southie follow them at a distance to make certain they are safe.
After about a half-hour, the paladins run into soldiers, roughly fifty of them. They are riding giant goats, and a pack of ten massive, wolflike ride at the front, tracking. At the head of the group is Lord Key and her four bodyguards. She dismounts and strides forward, asking, “What the fuck is this?” The paladins cite precedent, indicating these people are under church sanctuary. Arguments go back and forth for a few minutes — these people have no rights, as they are property, and so cannot ask for sanctuary. Marguerite and Croitus indicate that they do have rights, Lord Key says they were forfeit. Ultimately, however, she sends them away with ten soldiers to guard them. Croitus subtly calls upon the ghosts to spook the goats and Lord Key adds an extra five soldiers to guard them. She tells them to kill the prisoners if there’s any trouble. She then mounts her goat and the group rides into the forest.
Deciding on a guerilla warfare strategy, Resh sets up a deadfall trap to separate the soldiers so they can pick them off in groups. The soldiers trigger it, and in the confusion, Rat, Resh, and Southie manage to separate four of them and take them out, stealing three of their goats in the process. Knowing they won’t be able to keep doing this forever, they decide to send the goats back into the throng of soldiers, maybe taking out a few and escaping in the confusion. However, in the process, Rat and Resh are forced to flee and become separated from Southie. Southie, having climbed a tree, waits as the others pass. At the back of the group is Lord Key and her four bodyguards. One trails just enough that Southie thinks he can take him out; he drops with his axe, slicing off the bodyguard’s shield arm and cutting through his riding goat. The man does not scream. As tendrils start to emerge from the bodyguard’s arm, Southie quickly cleaves off his head. However, this horrid worm-thing leaps out of the neck stump, launching itself at Southie’s open mouth. He manages to catch it and wrestle with it, although he never gets a strong enough grip on the thing to crush it. He’s forced to toss it away, but the ensuing noise alerts Lord Key, who merely instructs her bodyguards to kill Southie. They dismount and advance, crouching behind their shields. Southie moves in to cleave at one, and although he injures the man, he pops from behind his shield and vomits another of the worm things at Southie’s face. His lifeless body falls to the ground as the worm-thing launches through the air. Southie is unable to react fast enough as the thing latches onto his face and forces its way down his gullet. He barely has enough time to register the deed before an alien presence establishes itself in his mind, and he loses consciousness.
Rat and Resh manage to lose their pursuers and double back to see what happened. To their surprise, they note that only two of the bodyguards remain, but now Southie rides with them. Not having been noticed, they slink away, and decide to head south. Perhaps Resh can take control of one of the goblin tribes along the way? He and Rat have plenty of time to consider their options.
Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava have been walking with paladins and soldiers for an hour or two when Croitus subtly tries to summon a ghost. An old dwarf appears to him, and after some conversation, Croitus says he will ensure the dwarf is laid to rest if he helps him escape. If the dwarf can release his shackles and spook the goats, that should be enough. The dwarf ghost agrees. Suddenly, Croitus’ shackles fall away; simultaneously, the fifteen goats scatter in different directions. The surprised guards have enough time to launch a volley of arrows, although Croitus, Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava all drop to the ground, leaving the paladins to take the worst of it. When the dust settles, the dogs have fled, the soldiers are nowhere nearby, and the paladins are dead. Croitus says he’s going on to Kiris Dahn; Marguerite asks him to free them, and so retrieves the paladins’ keys and opens everyone’s shackles. With that, Croitus heads southeast while everybody else decides to head northwest.
Croitus manages to evade patrols, but when he approaches Kiris Dahn, he sees that it is full of Scandshar troops. He decides to let it be, cutting west to head to Dawnslight to discharge his current debt.
Dhavita, Marguerite, and Thava begin to walk northwest. To avoid the worst of the group, Thava turns into a dragon and the other two ride her. They fly over the soldiers, noting that Southie is now somehow mind-controlled by the others. They consider trying to rescue him, but decide it is too dangerous, particularly since the soldiers have definitely noticed the dragon circling overhead. As such, they continue northwest until they must land. After discussing their options, they consider trying to find a port and heading to Nadhi in the hopes that Dhavita’s father can assist them.