As usual after an expedition into the dungeons of the mad mage, Lord Aldenmier gave the players some time to relax and recover. They put it to good use, healing wounds and recharging spells, and meeting with the proprietor of the local magic shop. Lord Aldenmier had called in some sort of favor for him, making available a variety of magical items at 100 gp each -- well below their actual value.
The monk arranged to have his sword enchanted. The dark elf rogue acquired Slippers of Spider Climbing. The cleric swapped their plate mail for a set of mithril plate, keeping their protection but substantially improving their ability to move quickly and quietly. The Dragonborn Sorcerer claimed a Jug of Alchemy, which ought to prove useful in a variety of circumstances. The Halfling rogue... we're not sure yet. The cleric's player has made a couple of suggestions, but we haven't been able to connect with the halfling rogue's player to ask him about it.
We did, however, get Skype working for the cleric's player, so we had a quorum this session.
During this time, the Dwarf announced that she'd left home because she was tired of being underground all the time, and Lord Aldenmier decided that he could find other work for her and released her from her banner contract.
A couple of days later, Lord Aldenmier joined them at dinner. He had, he said, a new proposal for them. He had invested in a logging expedition on some lands he had acquired, and currently had a team out there cutting a road into the trees (and hauling out some lumber for sale in the meantime). The team itself seemed to be fine, but they kept losing horses - about one every other day. Since it was not part of their banner contracts, they would keep any loot they found -- but since he didn't expect them to find much out in the wilderness, he would also make it worth their while (depending on what they found and how hard it was to deal with). The group decided that Lord Aldenmier had been honorable so far, and accepted.
Two days later, in the company of a pair of carts (each led by one of Aldenmier's guards) they found themselves approaching a bridge. Just in front of the bridge was a group of four human bandits, led by a half-elf. The bandits attacked immediately.
Firstborn's Dragonborn sorcerer was in front; he stepped up, cast Burning Hands, and took down two of them. Shadow took a shot with his crossbow, but missed; but then, he was at the back of the group, behind the carts, and a pretty good distance off. The monk had slipped under the larger cart when he first saw the bandits, and was hanging on its botttom; he decided to emerge, and annoy them by playing cymbals as he advanced into attack range. The Halfling rogue (who was being played by the Monk's player, since we couldn't get ahold of his actual player) took a longbow shot at another bandit and wounded him.
At this point, the remaining two bandits fired their crossbows at the sorcerer, doing considerable damage. Their leader tried to cast a spell, but instead of a nasty bit of lightning he stumbled back, cursing and shaking out his fingers. (Critical fail on his attack role.) The cleric went last, casting a spell at the wounded bandit - who managed to shake it off.
The dragonborn sorcerer suddenly remembered that he wasn't a front-line fighter, and retreated behind the larger cart. From there, he tagged the spellcaster with a bit of poison damage, but not nearly enough to take him down. Shadow tried again with his crossbow, and this time took out the wounded bandit, leaving only the spellcasting leader and one henchman. The monk decided that the spellcaster had no business being on the bridge, and tried to throw the bandit leader into the stream; unfortunately, he slipped just as he started to grab the guy, and wound up in the water himself instead. (Sometimes critical fails are catastrophic, but sometimes they're just Vaudeville.)
The cleric switched over to her crossbow, and put bolts in both of the remaining bandits, taking them out.
The group continued on, and early the following afternoon arrived in the camp, where they found a fist-fight in progress; a woman and man were squaring off, while a gnome and several other men and women watched them.
The pair stopped at the party's arrival, shook hands, and came strolling over. One of the other men bent down and said something to the gnome, who waved him away with a talk-about-it-later gesture.
At this point, a man in purple robes came strolling out of one of the larger, nicer tents at the back of the camp. A longsword was floating along behind him, bouncing here and there at his heels. He introduced himself as Bobilis, the man in charge of the expedition -- at least, the one in charge of making sure they were following the map and logging the right sorts of trees and like that. The woman who'd been about to get into the fistfight was Katra, who was in charge of the workers -- both making sure they worked, and making sure they were working safely. The gnome turned out be named Jou (Joe); he was responsible for tools and equipment: mending, sharpening, repairing and suchlike.
A single horse was grazing in one corner of the camp; apparently that was all they had left.
The sorcerer immediately asked Bobilis about the sword. He explained that several years ago, on another logging expedition, he'd stumbled across some old ruins and found the sword on some sort of altar inside. Curious, he touched it... and it rose up as if held by invisible hands, then made a slow circle around him, and then just sat there, bobbing in the air. When he left, it went with him, and it's been with him ever since. While he spoke, the sword made a quick circle of the nearest members of the group, then settled back beside Bobilis' feet.
Neither the sorcerer nor the cleric could think of any bit of history that involved floating swords, though the thing was obviously magical and appeared self-willed. The dragonborn sorcerer decided that it was cute little sword-boy, and they moved on. The monk tried to ask the horse about what was going on, but the horse only snorted and went back to grazing. The Mousefolk Cleric can, by virtue of being mousefolk, communicate with small woodland critters -- but she couldn't immediately locate any around the camp.
So, with the logging camp introduced, the group decided that their best plan was to stand guard over the remaining horse tonight and see if they could figure out what was happening and stop it. The loggers began unloading the carts, and the characters settled in to rest and make ready.
The party spent 500 GP on magic items, leaving them with a total of 221 GP and 15 SP.
Searching the bodies of the bandits also yielded:
-4 light crossbows
-78 crossbow bolts, which the cleric claimed for future use.
So their total is 246 GP and 15 SP, plus some weapons they can probably sell when they get back to town.