Recovering from the previous nights battle, the party awake fresh in the morning. The essence of time slipping further and further from their grasp, they gathered their belongings and quickly proceeded with their plans to explore further north.
Scouting ahead as was his usual behavior, Grunthar used his keen senses to navigate the party to a stream flowing through shallow cliff-sides. Several boulders lay on either side of the river and a thin, decrepit rope and plank bridge was the only way to cross the expanse to the forest on the other side. The party exchanged knowing glances and took up positions behind the boulders, knowing full well that there was an ambush waiting for them on the other side of the ravine.
As lightest member of the party, Tayle volunteered Shera’s services and has her cross the bridge to test the amount of weight it would hold. Shera stepped onto the bridge, and step after step, she slowly crossed. Once on the other side, she looked back at Tayle with a plainly disapproving lupine expression.
Grunthar looked around at the rest of the party, nodded and as slow and silent as his padded feet would carry him, made his was across the bridge safely to the other side. The twang of a bowstring was heard from the side of the bridge that Grunthar had just crossed to, and two arrows darted out of separate locations in the forest; the first ending its flight buried Shera’s hide, the second hitting Aydin with enough force you pierce clean through him. Aydin staggered as blood began to ooze down his enchanted tunic.
Barthram: (steps out from his hiding spot) We have fought and killed many of your brethren. We seek only Kressle, let us pass and you do so with your lives intact. Continue to stand and fight and none of you will live to see the rising of the moon.
Dull mutterings can be heard coming from the other side of the bridge, but they are quickly stopped as another arrow flew from an unseen location in the woods, this one barely missing Tayle as he ducked behind the boulder.
Aydin: (bolstering himself from the bleeding wound caused by the arrow) Come out from hiding, fight us like men!
Clearly firm in their new found resolve, the attackers did not begin conversing in regards to this newly issued threat.
Tayle quickly leaned out from behind he boulder and called out to Shera, who quickly ran back across the bridge despite the arrow sticking out of her back. Having no desire to be isolated from all of his allies, Grunthar began back tracking across the bridge to the relative safety of the boulders.
Out from the shadows of the trees stepped a man wearing similar garb, and standing with similar authority to the captain of the bandits that the party had faced in Kennet’s Trading Post. The bandit captain quickly severed one of the ropes holding the bridge together with an upward slash of his blade, causing Grunthar to lose balance and tumble into the rushing water below.
Trifus leaped out of his safe haven and cautiously moving out onto the bridge, threw a rope over the side to Grunthar. Following the suit of his long time friend, Draxxus sprinted out to the edge of the ravine and threw a backup line out into the river.
Caelynn rushed out to Trifus’ aid, she pulled more rope from her pack, secured the line and tossed the other end to Trifus. The bandit captain seizes this opportunity and issues a command to fire to the his men hidden in the forest. A volley of arrows exit the treeline; the first two came to a halt resting deep within Trifus’ side, while the third flew long and hits Barthram. Staggering from the unexpected blow, Barthram righted himself, walked towards the bridge, and pulled the arrow free from his arm. An air of purpose surrounded him as he squared himself to his target, his eyes began to glow a faint hue of gold, and with his Rod of Office outstretched, he unleashed a torrent of crackling, black magical energies directly into the chest of the bandit captain.
Bandit Captain: (still reeling from the punishing magical assault he just received) KILL HIM! Kill the warlock!
Three arrows shot out from the forest, and all three converged on Barthram, two of which passed nearly through his body, leaving him almost dead and oozing blood onto the ground beneath him. Aydin dropped to his knees, removing his merchant’s pack in the process, and began digging through it looking for some kind of potion for his new ally, but was unable to find anything of worth in this situation.
Tayle swiftly moved to Barthram’s aid, and prepared his Life Seed to bring him back from the brink of death. Fully aware of the punishment his allies are taking around him, Trifus quickly pulls Grunthar to shore, and issues a command for a full retreat.
Draxxus: (pulling the rope out of the water) Stand tough, my friends! We will pull through this!
Renewed confidence and motivation poured into the party from Draxxus’ words of encouragement, and they fight on. Caelynn dropped her rope, and at the behest of Trifus, retreated to the safety of the boulders once more. The bandit captain, fearing a full retreat from his foes, ordered another volley be fired across the river; arrows flew, hitting home in both Grunthar and Draxxus.
Barthram rose to his feet once more, his body glowing a heavy golden aura, his eyes entirely gold and pupil-less, and began to chant words of power. The wind whipped around him, blowing his cloak around. Across the river, the bandit captain howled in obvious agony, grabbing at his head, all the while Barthram continued his chant. The force of Barthram’s magic turned the bandit captain’s mind against itself— he reached down to his belt and hastily grabs his dagger, turns it on himself, and buried it into his own chest up to the hilt; he then sank to his knees and tumbled down the ravine and into the rushing waters below.
Tayle channeled healing energies to Grunthar, before urging his allies to move forward. Grunthar, still adjusting from his earlier swim in the river, fires two arrows up the ravine, but misses both of his targets. Shaking off more water, he quickly fired two more arrows at the same two targets, one hitting home, and drawing the attention of the other bandit. Seizing this opportunity, Grunthar fired one final arrow, striking the bandit that he had previously missed.
Trifus, seeing his opening, lowered his shield and charges at the nearest bandit, bashing him into a boulder with enough force to break bones. Trifus stepped back, leaving the bandit crumpled in a pile on the ground and then swiped his axe at a nearby bandit, sending him reeling into one of his comrades. Trifus spun, reversed the direction of his axe’s swing, and brought the blade down on the bandit’s head at his feet.
Draxxus started to make his way across the bridge, switching his shield for his Dragonborn battle standard, and quickly charged through the carnage left by Trifus, bringing his bastard sword down and cleaving open another one of the bandits. Aydin, Caelynn, and Barthram all crossed the bridge in the opening granted by their two heavily armored allies. As he went to step off the bridge, Barthram lost his footing and tumbled down onto the bank of the river. The remaining bandits each figured arrows at their closest targets, hitting both Trifus and Aydin.
Grunthar readied an arrow from the opposite side of the river and fired it at one of the bandits. The arrow narrowly missed, but Grunthar called on the spirits of the wind and redirected the arrow to find another target, missing again, he called one more time on the wind spirits and directed his arrow at another target. The arrow struck the bandit with such force as to pass straight through the bandits head, leaving it instantly dead in pile against a boulder. Trifus maneuvered around one of the bandits to a better position, avoiding an attack, and swung with his axe but misses the bandit.
Draxxus roared, unleashing icy dragon breath out over two of the bandits, before turning on his heel, slashing his bastard sword into another bandit, and taunting him to attack. Aydin tried to move around a bandit, out of the line of direct combat. The bandit slashed out at Aydin, landing a glancing blow, to which Trifus quickly counterattacked using the bandit’s lack of attention to the greater threat. The dark metal battleaxe slammed home, knocking the attacking bandit prone. Aydin then called on the power of stars, creating an aura of shining starlight burning the bandit.
Caelynn unleashed a volley of flashing swordplay; first attacking the starfallen bandit, spinning around him and attacking him two more times, before nimbly leaping on one of the boulders. From atop the boulder she unleashed two more attacks, lightning dancing down her rapier on her final attack.
Barthram climbed his way out of the ravine, channeled the power of his father into a solid force and unleashed it at the bandit surrounded by Draxxus and Caelynn. The bandits scrambled to attack anyone around them, but are unable to land a hit— the tide of battle had definitely turned against them by this point.
Tayle positioned himself and Shera around one of the bandits, before thrusting his spear almost clean through the man’s body. Likewise, Grunthar fired an arrow at the final bandit standing, the arrow found its target, lifting him off his feet and pinning him to the boulder behind him.
The party agrees that they must be close to the bandits hideout, and that there is no time for searching these bodies. They continued on as fast as they could to hunt the bandits in their lair.