After acquiring the surrender of all of the bandits, the party searches the caves to find a large food store hidden off of the remaining tunnel. Moonchaser proceeds to interrogate the rat men and discovers many useful facts, such as the purpose behind some of their magical items. He reveals that the skull Bill holds is a powerful device used to boost magical power, but is convinced that the party has no one of skill to use the item. Bill proceeds to use the skull to try to bend the emotions of the rat man, but the rat man proves stronger in magical prowess despite the use of the skull, and Bill is forced to back down. The rat man also reveals Red Earth’s necklace is for the storing of energies.
Continued interrogation of the rat man reveals that his people are in league with a human called The Commander who is recruiting the rogues who have been attacking the roads in the north and south. The Commander is apparently camped out in the swamps a few days from here, but has a moving camp that the General’s men have never been able to find. Rat man says that his leader, a mighty magic user, is able to warn the rat man attached to the Commander’s group when guards are coming and that this leader can see all and knows all that happens. He also reveals that the reason behind the attacks is supposedly so the rat people can get food, all of which the “tall men” take normally. The rat man finally says he knows the current location of The Commander.
The party decides to take the rat man and captured bandits back to the General’s camp so that a plan can be formulated for an attack on the swamps. During a second interrogation where the General is present, but clothed as a normal infantry member to protect his identity, the rat man says the Commander’s camp is in a fixed location currently because the bandits there have been attacked multiple times by a creature from the swamp, and this has pinned them in place. The General decides a staggered deployment of men towards the swamp will raise less attention and allow the men to get in close to the Commander before attacking, but Bill convinces him to force march his entire battalion together based upon the fact that they may never get intelligence this good again about the location of the commander and haste is required in this case rather than subtlety. The General relents, and the camp explodes into activity as everyone prepares to move out.
It is decided that the mercenary party will be accompanied by Bear’s Rage and his men as well as a fifteen man squad of soldiers from the General’s battalion. This group will be the forward recon force and will attempt to find and pin the Commander’s force of a few dozen men while the rest of the General’s battalion moves up to strike as the hammer against the anvil of the party, crushing the rebel in between. The mounted group led by the party leaves out ahead of the rest of the men, who are on foot and carrying supplies via wagon for the raid. The rat man rides sitting in front of Bill, and directs them towards the Commander’s camp.
Moving quickly, the platoon of cavalry led by the party moves down the mountain towards the swampy area, but on the suggestion of Eagle decides to cut across the middle ground between the mountain and swamp where the land is rugged and hilly, but more easily passable. The platoon continues on this course for awhile before running into a mini-ambush of a small group of archers. Bill initially has the group move up to higher ground to survey the situation, but once Red discovers that the attackers were only six in number and were on foot a charge is ordered, and the men are caught, questioned, and killed. They reveal the bandit camp to be nearby and fortified against whatever creature is attacking them from the swamp.
The platoon again moves out towards the direction of the bandit camp, and soon stops once smoke is noticed nearby on the horizon. Bill directs the platoon down to a temporary camp while sending Eagle up into the mountains to try and get a better look from up high at the camp. Bill himself will recon up near the camp.
Eagle manages to sneak into the mountain area and gather intelligence on the palisade the bandits have constructed around a hut. There is but one gate, and the walls of the palisade show damage from attacks. It appears that the bandits are packing up to leave, and in a hurry. He leaves and makes it back to the platoon’s camp unhindered.
Bill manages to sneak up close to the camp without attracting attention and recon, but is spotted as he turns to leave. A fight ensues and the bandit manages to put up a good defensive fight before falling to Bill’s spear. But the game is up as the fight was noticed by the guards inside the bandit camp, and Bill retreats back to his camp in haste to try and avoid any pursuing bandits.
Once back in camp, Bill and Eagle exchange information with the rest of the party, and it is decided that the bandits must be prevented from leaving the palisade until the battalion of the General arrives. Red and Moon will take rat man and go up into the mountains where Red will attempt to drop some boulders down the mountain at the palisade, while Bill will lead the rest of the platoon and fire a few volleys of flaming arrows into the palisade area trying to pin the bandits in place and give them something to worry about while also letting them know a large group of men is outside the walls waiting for them. It is agreed that the rally point will be back at this camp location in case anyone gets split up.
Setting out in their different directions, both groups arrive and prepare to wreak havoc on the palisade. The cavalry group, showing themselves plainly to those keeping guard from the palisade stop at a good distance and begin lighting arrows for the first volley into the palisade. Flaming arrows strike out from the group on the order and into various locations both on and around the palisade walls. A few screams can be heard from inside the walls, and the platoon prepares and fires a second volley at the palisade. Eagle manages to land a shot on the thatch roof of the interior building, which immediately catches fire. Bill halts a third volley as he sees a VERY large rolling rock headed down the mountain towards the palisade.
Red was successful in his attempt at shaping a boulder and pushing it down the mountain and begins working on a second one as his first creation rolls away. Moon, awestruck by the awesome powers bent in front of him and watching the boulder, is nearly caught off guard as the rat man sees his opportunity and tries to get a spell off on Moon. A short fight ensues and Moon manages to knock the rat man off their horse and pin him in place. The rat man admits defeat and remains on the ground where Moon pins him with his foot. The rat man then watches Red shape the second boulder and is awed by the magic that this “tall man” can perform.
Meanwhile, Bill has the platoon mount up and move to an angle away from the incoming boulder strike. They stop there and unleash a third volley of flaming arrows just before the boulder rips into the palisade. Men pour out of the palisade and prepare to charge the platoon, but Bill orders a mount and charge, and the men flee back into the palisade, only a few being cut down before they flee to safety. Bill and the closest platoon members cut back away from the palisade just as the boulder strikes it. Wood flies in all directions as the boulder breaks through the first wall, destroys the hut, and comes to rest on the front side interior of the palisade. Bill disperses the platoon in a circle around the palisade to catch any survivors trying to make a run for it, but in doing so, spots two men who apparently slipped over the wall during the fighting.
Bill, Marble, and Eagle turn and give chase to the two men just as Red’s second boulder begins careening down the hill towards the palisade. Bill, the most skilled rider, makes a pass-by and skewers the head of the most heavily armored of the two men. The second man throws two daggers at Bill and gives him a slight head wound before he makes it into some brush, but the three party members manage to finally dislodge him after some brief fighting. Captured and bleeding, the bandit is revealed to be the lackey of the Commander, whom Bill killed with the spear thrust to the head just moments before.
About this time, the second boulder can be heard coming, and the party decide to make a run for it away from the area where they are now. Emerging from the woods with their detainee, they find their platoon still surrounding a semi-burning palisade with two large holes driven into the back of it. It is at that moment the rain starts, and the Commander’s lackey begins to panic and tells the group the swamp things come out when there is rain and they will all be killed. Bill, convinced that something odd is going on in relation to the swamp thing orders the platoon up the mountain to Red and Moon where a better defense can be mounted if needed. The platoon sets off quickly, the detainee sharing a horse along the way.
Just before reaching the ridge where Red and Moon are, screams can already be heard from the palisade, and everyone is pretty sure that, for once, they are not the cause of these screams…