In which the party learns just how bad the politics of the Realm of Florin really are, and that a session without combat may be just as interesting  as one with a serious fight.
Its a mystery to me. The game commences.
House Ramsey had Nimbus Tower reinforcements waiting in Bridges so the party was released from service at that point. There was an offer of payment via Lord Faran’s homunculus Ennis should the party manage to a) Locate Jynx, Rotmind, Alpha and the other wight and b) Find out why the other houses are instereded in Alpha.
Ennis also provided a token of Guild favour as final payment for services rendered.
For the usual fee, plus expenses
Jynx etc had apparently teleported to Bridges before heading into the forests to the south west. The word on the street indicated that bounties had been raised, and that some of the troops may have witnessed the arrivals.
So the party started looking for information to confirm the sighting and pick up a lead. This started with Kozuket leading most of the party into a military bar whilst Eric organised lodgings  and a place to park the wagons .
Kozuket managed to get a reasonable amount of information without starting the bar fight that Eric had been fearing. Specifically that the Nimbus Tower were also on the hunt, and that a “poachers” guild had been helping House Ramsey organise a search party. There was also some confirmation of the sighting, and a further direction to the Bounty Office.
Eric and the party rejoined at the Bounty Office but only one representative, Kozuket, was allowed to enter. This confirmed the information available thus far, and also put a large number to House Ramsey’s bounty on the group: 150,000GP.
Yikes. This started some alarm bells ringing.
You get to meet all sorts, in this line of work
The next stop was the local Guild Tower so that Eric could pursue some family research whilst Kozuket pursued information on the bounty, and Kelain Oaksreach pursued an enchantment to his crossbow.
Kozuket again obtained some useful information that implied that someone else was on the hunt – the forests were becoming increasingly hostile with a tree trying to kill one of the mages, bears being sighted, and goblins not being sighted.
The party then visited what had been described as a “poachers” guild but actually turned out to be a fairly high class Hunting Club for the lesser nobility. Well, apart from Mr Jeffrey who runs the gamekeepers and actually organises the hunts.
The interactions with Mr Jeffrey were hilarious as he kept insulting the members of the club and then apologising (sort of). He was clearly too important to the club to be gotten rid of, and equally clearly knows it.
However the information here was similar.
Later that evening Eric visited the Temple of Pelor to do more research, and to make another discreet donation to the poor. This revealed that House Vance has an occasionally loose grasp on the concept of “paladin”. The “paladin” currently assigned to the Temple is actually a servant of Asmodeus, and Sebastian took the lead in obtaining some, but mostly similar, information here.
This is our investigation. It’s not a public enquiry
With all leads pointing to the southwest, the party headed into the forests the next day and started looking for tracks. Naturally the ranger Kelain and his wolf companion provided most of the guidance here.
Initially the party was tracking the gamekeepers from the Hunting Club but subsequently switched to some goblin tracks.
This eventually led to the Forest Warren and Sebastian picking up another goblin token  in the resulting negotiations.
The next day saw the party pick up the right tracks, and led to a meeting with a group of druids that were also hunting Alpha. 
Treachery and Treason
The conversations with the Druids, and subsequently with Jynx once the combined group got the drop on him, were enlightening in a number of disturbing ways.
It looks like the cargo that Lord Faran was moving, and the party was helping to guard, contained artefacts known as the Seeds of the Hydra, that these have awoken, and this is upsetting the balance all across Florin.
Some years ago the druids were chasing Alpha as a traitor, and hired an adventuring party to do so. This party was killed by House Ramsey, specifically by now Colonel Howell. Rotmind and the other wight  were raised by Howell.
This is when the alarm bells started getting louder.
It also turns out that Alpha, Jynx, Rotmind, and the other wight were working for House Ramsey all along, and expect to be rewarded. The bounty is a means of plausible deniability for House Ramsey, and also a means for pulling useful assets in from the cold.
Jynx is an elf that was trying to cover all of Florin with trees. He claims to be over that now, but his researches led him to Alpha and the Seeds of the Hydra. The wights were part of the deal to find the seeds and hand them to House Ramsey.
They were in the nest of a great beast in the Unseen Valley, it took years for House Ramsey to negotiate with the guardian to obtain and awaken them. The disappearance of the villages that is part of Kelain’s history was a side effect of the massive amounts of Chronomancy needed to awaken the three Seeds.
The events in Drakehold were due to a temporary desertion by Alpha with the ghouls as a distraction to enable Alpha’s retrieval.
The party made a deal with the Druids for Alpha alive but with his powers stripped, Jynx dead, and the wights in whatever condition we could take them. Separate negotiations with Jynx indicated that he expected to be raised from the dead by House Ramsey.
This was managed without a fight, but did require some careful negotiations. The wights came along more or less voluntarily as they were also expecting to be rewarded by House Ramsey
There’s always an excuse for it.
The return to Bridges was mostly uneventful. House Ramsey even paid up on the bounty in full without quibbling, although Colonel Howell disintegrated Alpha as soon as he saw him.
Previous sessions have noted the uneasy cold war between the major houses of Vance, Hewett, and Ramsey.
It appears that House Ramsey can do basic arithmetic just fine, and are currently expecting to lose badly when the next hot war comes. House Ramsey is also expecting a hot war sooner or later and probably sooner.
I still can’t get used to it.
Now that I think about it, the Bolo analogy is probably better especially as House Ramsey are confident that they can control the resulting weapon(s).
Even scarier is the reason why the party isn’t dead: Ramsey wants Hewett and Vance to know that they have the Seeds of the Hydra.
This is a set up for a mutually assured destruction scenario, and that’s assuming that House Ramsey can control the Seeds of the Hydra. Eric and several other members of the party are not convinced of this and want to be as far away from Guildhaven as possible for a while.
Fortunately Colonel Howell teleported the party to Redia, the capital of Florin, and the session ended when the party left Howell’s teleporting tower in Redia.
What have we got to take away?
This was a well run session, the infodump was handled quite cleanly and the negotiations were also nicely handled (if disturbing on occasion). I didn’t expect to level up quite so soon, but that was nice to see at the end.
It is now clear that there will be a nasty war coming, and the party has already inadvertently helped make it worse. I’m guessing that the party will get progressively involved with the counter measures of the other Houses over coming sessions, although House Hewett might be an exception there .
The out of character planning is also targeting making the party a force that might be able to negotiate a settlement and/or survive the coming conflagration. Several players, including me, are looking at taking the Leadership feat at 7th level and founding an independent adventurer’s guild.
In terms of boring mechanical bits I expect that a fairly large chunk of the next session will be devoted to shopping. With roughly 16,000 GP each, less anything assigned to party expenditures, there’s a fair bit of gear to be picked up.
Eric has also acquired the Angelic Flesh feat, but it hasn’t manifested yet. This will be saved until a fire effect requiring the additional resistance hits him, and the resulting existential crisis will probably occur during (or shortly after) a combat. This should be amusing for all concerned.
Finally Eric has been practicing making jewellery along the trip, and whether or not any good items were made should be revealed in the next session.
 Eric is smart enough to realise that his ideas of “proportionate response” and “military bar” do not play nicely together. The party had been warned that they would be unpopular in a garrison bar, and Eric chose not to find out how unpopular.