Fully trained and equipped for the long journey across the Wynt to the swamps of ezerth, the party takes one some new hands as henchmen and hirelings. Two magic users, a cleric of Zeus, a grizzled old ranger, and a stand-offish black-garbed light fighter that many think may be an assassin, along with 4 crossbowmen and 6 hobilars join the group.
The first day out from Semarius passes without incident, but early in the second day the party spots a single wagon accompanied by a large number of humanoids. Ibn Keine‘s eagle-eyes picked out the heraldry on one of the figures’ shields; a bleached-white skull with a spiked gauntlet bursting out the top. It was a Skullcrusher raiding band, heading back into the Wynt with prisoners and loot!
A cleverly executed plan, hiding their numbers through spells and concealment, drew the orcs and their bugbear leader in for an ambush, and the party quickly destroyed them, but not before the rear-guard killed most of the prisoners.
The two surviving women, Neera and Lachais, told a harrowing tale of their capture during the raid on their now-destroyed village, and of the fact that the raiding party walked back into the Wynt right under the shadow of one of the guard watchtowers. After offering the women a paid position in the band as cooks or grooms (which they gratefully accepted), the party ventured north to the watchtower to investigate.
The tower was dark and quiet. Despite their calls and knocking on the door, no one answered. Entering through the ground floor, they found the common area empty, but heard a rustling noise upstairs. The party ventured up into the second floor, finding the barracks also empty…except for a rustling swarm of stirges that attacked them immediately.