Putting off the planned raid on the bandits for a good night’s sleep, the party is joined by Kaashnagh. He has good news and bad news – he got everything the party wanted him to shop for, but at the cost of nearly all their coinage. Also, he recognized and was recognized by a member of the Imperial Army’s intelligence division (a spy).
Waking up after four hours, they use the token given to Gitz to get past the Goblins. They arrive, ready and eager for combat – only to find that the mercenaries have moved on – into the tunnel toward the orcs. Tracking them through the tunnel (which they are able to identify as ‘artificial stone’ made by the Iron Lords), they discover a split – the mercenary squad exited the tunnel near Milbourne, where they were waiting outside the gate with some river traders. Rather than squash the underlings, the party sets out after Captain Orik van Kaskern.
Miles later, they emerge near Bellfast, decide not to warn them, and set off on the chase. They emerge in the basement ruins of an old [[Iron Lords] fort, one of the reasons Harranshire was able to hold off the orcs a generation ago. Surprising two guards (who were convinced the party would NEVER walk for a day under the earth), the party makes short work of them. They notice that the orcs have been using a professional spyglass to observe Bellfast. Counting banners, they realize that Red Pass is held by about 1200 Orcs, including an advance force of Deep Orcs. They wait until dawn, and then ambush the relief patrol.
Unfortunately, this activity is observed by the orcs. The nearest camp, containing ‘Dawn’ orcs bearing Lightbringer symbols, begins assembling a catapult and sends a force of about eighty warriors. Although the party splits between the ‘bug out’ and ‘we can take them’ factions, the catapult’s ammunition is destroyed. Before leaving, they dump bodies down the well – and are thanked by something speaking Ancient Elvish. They briefly warn Bellfast, their warnings made more potent by the booming of orcish war drums. Leaving just barely ahead of the first evacuees, the party also warns Milbourne, Thurmaster, and Lord Parlfrey. Leaving to the north to warn Drellin’s Ferry, they notice that the town of Milbourne is about to be seiged, and Bellfast has already been razed.
With tangible evidence of danger, Captain Anitah Sorana dispatches a pair of riders for assistance. Suddenly realizing that during the last war, the orcs hit Drellin’s Ferry first, they realize there must also be a path directly into the Elsir Valley. Talking to the Dwarves at the Hole in the Wall tavern, they discover the existence of Skull Gorge Bridge. They set out to see if the orcs have moved into advance positions there, as they had in Harranshire. They trick the dwarves into naming an outrageous price to demolish the bridge, which they then pay – including the horses they took from the bandits.
The Hydra of Witchwood takes offense to the large group of people tramping across its swamp, and attacks them en route. Ignoring all the snapping heads, the party strikes mainly at the larger, easier target of the hydra’s serpentine body. Lasting longer than most squads of enemies, the hydra goes down, inflicting only minor damage to the group’s melee fighters. The party proceeds, to see what they can see.