The trip upriver was long and slow, but after the adventure with the raiding goblins, no further issues arose. Over the last few days, the travellers had seen a large group of humanoids camped along the river. Each time they were seen, the encampment broke and left the sight line of the boat, continuing to follow the river north.
On the morning that the boat entered the mouth of the lake, Dracor caught site of something amongst the band on the shore which sent him scurrying to talk to Jacoby. Dracor believe he had seen the Emblem of the Red Tower mingled with the earth tones of the band's clothing. This didn't bode well for the adventurers. The Red Tower was responsible for Dracor's existence in the group and his relationship with Jacoby. Should they run into General Sephera, Lady Protector of the Coast, the sailors and adventurers would be in for the fight of their lives.
The boat was just approaching the entrance to Bosh Ridge Lake when Jacoby's attention was drawn to the fort spanning the lake mouth. Fort Freebride had been abandoned for many years. Jacoby noted that the rope bridge which connected the two stone structures on either side of the river, had not been there in the past several trips he had made to the Fort. Dracor and Jacoby grew very concerned. Between the sightings of the humanoid band bearing what appeared to be the General's standard and the obvious reconstruction of the fort, they feared that their past had come back to haunt them. Unfortunately, it was impossible to determine if the fort was occupied at all, either with friend or foe and it was unsafe to continue under the rope bridge without more information. Jacoby cast the anchors and Alistair, Caelyyn and Dracor disembarked for a closer look at Fort Freebride.
After many long, tense moments of heated debate, Caelynn knocked on what was obviously a newly hung door, bark still covering the outward facing side. The trio was greeted by a large, red haired man of Skaulish descent in a formal red tabard. He Brings their request for an audience to his boss and warns Caelynn that there may be a toll involved in allowing the ship to pass unaccosted. He returns and leads the group through the fort. The building itself is old and the stones worn. Very few comforts or accouterments remain in the rooms. Many doorways are bare with only the metal hinges remaining. Their path took them past a room designated as sleeping quarters by the furs on the floor and the sleeping bodies scattered among them. They counted have a dozen or so sleepers and pass another handful of armed guards on their way to see the boss, a well armed and armored Captain Yvette.
Their guide required them to leave their weapons behind and so Alistair, the most obvious threat, was left outside the chambers with the Dracor's and Caelynn's weapons. The door to the captain's chambers was also new and bark lined. Within her quarters, at a long rectangular table, sat the Captain, her close faced helm at her left hand and two more guards, her lieutenants. Behind her, kneeling as if in prayer, were 5 small children. Yvette, herself, was a middle aged human woman with fine robes over her armor. She arched an interested eyebrow at Caelynn upon her entrance into the room and a swift glance over Dracor without any obvious signs of recognition. Before Caelynn could introduce herself, the Captain assumed that Caelynn, Dracor and Alistair had come to join her gang of marauders. Caelynn politely declined, saying they were do in the north for before the winter began in earnest. With little time left, Caelynn and her group were requesting they be allowed to pass the fort. The captain requested 50 gold pieces for this favor. Upon further dickering, the captain allowed that they could pass the fort on land un accosted for 25 gold pieces. Caelynn agreed to the proposal pending a discussion with her travel companions. With a promise to return within an hour to share the outcome of that discussion, Dracor and Caelynn rejoined Alistair in the hall and were led from the fort.
While The rest of the group was haggling the Red Tower for safe passage, Anna was on the boat, trying to convince a young Teifling from Jacoby's crew that adventuring was not her immediate calling. Edolia had spent the better part of the voyage with Caleynn and Anna. Whether it was their natural charisma, their stories of adventure or the fact that they were strong, independent women, Edolia was drawn to the two adventuresses and had taken it into her head that she would leave Jacoby's employ to join the women on their adventures. She declared her intentions to Anna who tried to firmly, yet gently refuse her. Edolia proved too stubborn, however, and Anna, resignedly agreed to take the matter up with the others upon their return and let Edolia know of the group's decision.
When the trio rejoined Anna on the ship, both parties were quick to share their tales. It was agreed that they would continue overland with the chest, rather than pay the 50 gold and risk Jacoby and his ship. Caelynn and Alistair would return to the fort with payment and require writ of passage from the "Good" Captain. Dracor and Anna would remain on the ship and begin unloading their belongings and, of course, the cart with the Ironwood box. It was decided that the box and the supplies would again be covered in the tents so to protect them from the weather and from prying eyes. It was also agreed, although the men were ambivalent to the decision, that Edolia would not be welcome on their trip north, but that they would consider taking her with them to Kayala in the spring should she still wish to join them. Edolia, was not happy with the decision and hid herself away from them for the remainder of their time on the boat.
Alistair and Caelynn returned to the fort, payment at the ready and were allowed to freely walk the halls to return to the Captain's chambers. The Captain was very interested in the fact that Alistair was traveling with Caelynn. She was impressed with all she had heard about The Wanderer. She also made it apparent that she had been watching the activities upon the boat. Caelynn told her that the rest of their party was preparing to disembark as they wanted to make some forward progress before dark. It came as quite a shock, therefore when Alistair accepted the Captain's invitation to dinner. Unable to contradict him without raising additional questions from the Captain, Caelynn requested the writ of passage to ensure that Yvette's troops would not hinder their travel. With writ in hand, Caelyn and Alistair left the Captain to her business, promising to return in time for supper.
Alistair could not explain to Caelynn what brought him to act so out of character and completely contradict the plan they had set forth before rejoining the Captain. He simply believed it the right thing to do.
Alistair's acceptance was also a surprise to Anna and Dracor, the latter feeling suddenly as if a noose were around his neck. The peril that they and their cargo were about to be in weighed heavily on the group. They decided, as Anna had not been introduced to the Captain, that she would not join the dinner party, but stay with the cart. Dracor, Caelynn and Alistair seeing no other way to avoid unnecessary violence, would attend the meal and hope for the very best while preparing for the worst.
Anna used her time guarding the cart to try to get more information about the fort from her guard, a skaulish warrior named Bardoff. She chattered about her family and her life until she drew him in and he relaxed enough to speak with her. Not long after the rest of the party entered the diningroom in the halls above, Bardoff was replaced with a more focused and serious guard. Before taking his leave, Bardoff whispered a plea for help to Caelynn, begging that she help "them".
Dinner was served in the large dining hall around a rough hewn table with 15 of Captain Yvette's soldiers. Her lieutenants were on either side of Yvette, who, naturally sat at the head of the table. Her bevy of children knelt behind her ready to serve at her whim. The trio sat at the end other end at the table a group of Skaulish warriors in ragtag uniforms sat between them and their hostess.