SUMMARY: The heroes follow Master Rankins, but don’t catch up. Master Rankins was expecting them and warned the villagers along the way about them. They meet up with Gammy Mae, who joins them. At the town of Lobe, they give up on following Master Rankins and agree to take a message to Concord instead.
The heroes set out west, following after Master Rankins. There isn’t a lot of traffic leaving Old Town since he left the night before and his wagon is bigger than any of the halflings’ wagons. The fresh snow makes the tracks very easy to follow.
It’s late in the afternoon before they come to another settlement. Salica is a tiny human village with no more than 50 people. It’s a single extended family spanning several generations. The buildings are all ornately painted and carved wood in the style if the local human clans. The Yugos are a fair-skinned northern race of humans that has been firmly within the Dragon Empire for centuries. Along the northern borders they often clash with Asger’s people, the northmen.
The patriarch, along with a dozen other men (brothers, uncles, sons, and nephews) meet the heroes as they enter the city. They are clearly not friendly and the meeting is tense. Master Rankins came through recently and warned them about the heroes. The heroes are polite and cautious and pass through quickly without incident. They know Rankins is aware they’re following him (or perhaps just playing it safe).
They camp just off the road when it gets dark, since Salica wasn’t willing to let them stay.The next morning they set off again. It’s frigidly cold and even with their new warmer clothes from Old Town, they’re all frozen. The snow on the ground becomes brittle and crunches under their feet.
Mid-morning they come to a crossroads. They can see a band of mounted soldiers coming up on the crossroads from the south. It’s a band of a few dozen Imperial cavalry.
The two groups reach the crossroads about the same time. The leader of the cavalry, Sergeant Alucard, stops them and interrogates them where they’re going. He’s clearly suspicious of the elf, the northman, and the goblin traveling together. Things are touchy at first, but Moira charms him and he warms up.
He tells them his band is heading north. There are rumors of frost giants in the north of the Empire. It’s suspected that the two blizzards are their work and that an invasion is imminent. He bids them to be safe and the band rides north.
Master Rankins tracks continue west, so the heroes continue following them.
They come across another village, Oesel. The buildings look similar to Salica and they’re probably a family from the same larger Yugo clan.
Remembering their reception last time, the heroes decide to scout out the town stealthily before making their presence known. Master Rankins is traveling by wagon, so they’re hoping they’re catching up with him. He might even be in this town.
Moira sneaks to the top of a hill overlooking the town. Zelu follows her. In the town they see that there’s no wagon like Master Rankins, so he isn’t there. They also see warriors from the family seemingly on heightened alert. They decide to sneak around the town and avoid it entirely.
The group skirts around the edge of the town, but they’re spotted by a young lookout. Soon, a dozen men and women with spears, axes, and crossbows come running out towards the party.
The heroes talk to the town, assuring them they’re just passing through and mean no trouble. The villagers look skeptical, but a young woman seems to recognize the group (a goblin, northman, and elf are an unusual group). She runs back to the town and comes back a minute later with Gammy Mae, the half-elf druid they met in [[Book 1, Chapter 1: A Cold Beginning… | chapter 1]] outside of Wellcrest.
She tells them that after the second blizzard, she’s been looking for them. She asks them to come with her to Concord. She needs to get news to the High Druid and there’s a druid grove in Concord where she can do that.
They tell her they’re chasing Master Rankins, but they can travel with her for a ways. Teh villagers are mollified and let them pass through.
They continue following Master Rankins. They’ve entered more populous roads and there are now other tracks, too, but they keep the trail.
Then they stumble across Master Rankins’ wagon. It’s been abandoned. Master Rankins has taken the horses and left the wagon. Carefully, using Witch Sight to snoop for sorcerous traps, they search the wagon. They find some marionette-like figures made of sticks, like the one that attacked Zelu in Old Town. They burn them.
They continue on until they come to another crossroad. The north-south road leads to Concord to the south and eventually to Nomad to the north. It’s a major road and they recognize it.
Because it’s a major road, there’s a medium-sized town at the crossroads: Lobe. It’s a fortified town, surrounded by high wooden walls. It’s a trade and government center for the region, serving the local villages.
They’ve been following Master Rankin’s trail (now two horses instead of a wagon) and it leads into the town.
Inside the town, everything is a bustle of activity. There are a large number of soldiers and they’re clearly readying to ride out. The group asks what is going on and finds themselves directed to Mayor Eriqua. She’s busy signing papers and giving orders at the center of the controlled chaos in town.
She’s straight to the point and brisk, but polite. She hasn’t seen or heard of anyone matching Master Rankins description. Zelu tells her that he’s dangerous and has been causing trouble. He tells her that Rankins is an assassin. She puts the word out.
Then she asks them if they’re willing to be soldiers. The pay is mediocre, but the work is steady. They decline. She then asks if they would carry an urgent report to Concord for her telling them the intelligence they’ve gathered.
They discuss and decide they’ve lost Rankins trail and might as well head south. Concord was their next destination anyway, hoping to find a solution to Asger’s beserk frenzies as well as to get to the bottom of the assassination jobs being coordinated out of Concord.. It’s also where Gammy Mae is heading. They agree to take the message.
The mayor gives them a letter stating they’re on official Imperial business and sends them to the stables to get outfitted with horses. They’re also given some gold as payment with the promise of more when they deliver the message in Concord.
At the stables they see Rankins’ two horses. He sold them and bought a single riding horse in exchange.
The group leaves, along with Gammie Mae.