Our heroes chose safety over comfort and encamped on top of the tower despite the chill. It was well after midnight when Sendaros heard a howl on the wind during his watch. He woke Ongewasgone for his shift early to see if his cousin could hear anything, but all was quiet again.
A bit later, light flared up at the standing stones in the distance. Someone had started a decent-sized campfire, it seemed. For a time nothing happened, but as dawn crept closer more howls were heard in multiple directions. Ongewasgone’s early life in the Feypines told him the calls were not from wolves.
The sky lightened as a steady rain began to fall and figures could be seen moving among the standing stones. The group decided that if forces were approaching from multiple directions, they could not hold “Judah’s Tower” for any length of time. Sendaros recommended heading for the huts by the river and looking for a way to cross.
On the way to the “village” the group spotted a scouting party of beast-men on a hill. Fortunately the creatures’ attention seemed fixed on the tower, so the characters managed to hide in the tall grass and creep down the slope to the river.
There was a rope ferry at the tiny dock, with a line stretched across the river. Recalling the Baron’s maps back at the encampment, Judah believed the water to be the Bogbeast River. It was over 100 yards across at this point, the water deep but not too fast. The group boarded the ferry and began hauling themselves across the water.
Nearing the halfway point several things happened at once. A group of beastmen arrived at the huts and saw the ferry, two began firing arrows. Judah shielded the others as they pulled on the rope, but the range was too great for the monsters’ bows. Then the rope, nearing the point of maximum strain at the midway mark, gave up the ghost and snapped. Ongewasgone made a frantic grab for one end, but was not strong enough to hold it against the current’s drag. The ferry barge began to drift downstream, picking up speed.
The beastmen paced the boat from the shore, calling to their fellows. Ongewasgone and Ralf the man-at-arms volleyed arrows at them, even wounding a couple. The creatures had less luck with returning fire. Those without missile weapons brandished their axes in anger. Judah found a bargepole and used it to fend the boat off obstacles like submerged logs and to keep their distance from the shore. A couple of gnolls ran ahead of the boat, farther downstream.
After a few minutes, Judah spotted white water ahead. Calling to his comrades to hang on, the ferry entered the rapids. Judah frantically worked to keep the unwieldy craft from dashing itself to pieces as the elves tried to help by throwing their weight against the opposite side of the boat so that Judah could shove off the rocks with the pole.
The boat was well into the rapids when Judah spotted the two gnolls that had gone ahead; they were standing on a large rock that stood out in the water, nearly in the boat’s path!
Ongewasgone and Ralf threw knives at them, and Stendaros tried to fry them with lightning, but the tossing of the ferry must have spoiled their aim and casting respectively. As the craft drew even with the boulder, the beastmen leapt at the boat. One fell into the water and frantically swam toward the shore. The other landed neatly on the deck, axe in hand.
For a few minutes, all thoughts of the rapids were forgotten as the party tried to knock the interloper overboard. Finally Ralf finished it off with a sword thrust. Judah took stock of the situation and found that while the rapids were largely behind them, the current was much faster and the boat had taken several hard knocks while he had been fighting the gnoll instead of fending off rocks. The group also found that the rapid’s spray had distracted them from the fact that the rain was now a hard downpour.
The barge still floated (for the moment), but was obviously in rough shape. Judah decided to make for shore. The group searched the gnoll, finding only its armor and weapons plus a crude stone pendant with a triangular marking. Ongewasgone kept this. Before disembarking on the far (eastern) shore, they lashed the gnoll’s corpse to the battered ferry. Then they shoved it back out into the current as a potential diversion from their own path.
Clambering up the bank, they saw no signs of the beastmen, but did find a muddy track that paralleled the river. Following it downstream, they eventually came to a ramshackle town on the water called Drummond’s Bluff (according to a roadside sign).
The streets were empty, which was hardly surprising given the weather. The main cross-street was marked with a large, unmarked obelisk in the center of the intersection. There was a inn on the corner with light and voices coming from inside, so the party made its way there and entered the Felonious Panther.