Dropping Kern back at the house, Bjorn and Erijay headed to see Synthini the alchemist. After determining she had no potions available, nor salves to heal Kern's burn scars, Bjorn placed an ordered for potions of extra healing (paying 1500gp down on behalf of Kern). Erijay, meanwhile, inquired about learning some of the alchemists craft from Synthini. The tall lady was willing, but informed the elf that it would take 4 months of instruction and 4000gp. Erijay for now deferred her lessons, until things were safer in the town i.e. hopefully certified Jax-free. Gurruk, meanwhile, took some of his cash and went to visit Thuridici the Sage, looking for information on magical trees and groves, something from which he could craft a magical weapon. He too left 1000gp lighter with instructions to return in 2 weeks.
Speaking of which, Darnorth, Rylee, and Lomar (with Riker in tow), went out on a bender to gather rumors. They found that things were not quite right in the town of Westmist, and an undercurrent of unnamed fears abounded. Also learned was the fact that Jax was rarely seem about these days, usually only in the evenings or on dreary days. People feared to go out late at night as those who did tended to disappear, just like the petty criminals and beggers the party had learned of earlier. The trio decided to test the danger of the night, and choose to wander home in the wee hours, acting loudly drunk. They did not get far before being confronted by a patrol consisting of two of Jax's men in yellow and black, and a half dozen of the March Baron's men-at-arms. While matters were tense, things didn't go completely downhill until Rylee announced, in response to demands to identify themselves, that he was the "Mighty Arm of the Faith". Meaningful glaces were exchanged between the men, and the leader announced that the quartet MUST come with them to see Jax.
After a little more fooling around, Darnorth, Rylee, and Lomar (with Riker still in tow) decided it was time to run; they didn't want to end up having their minds probed by Jax. Splitting up, the four fled in a hail of crossbow bolts, one of which dropped Riker like a sack of dead cats. Darnorth and Lomar scooped him up and carried him back to the secret tunnel into the house, while Rylee led the guard off on a wild chase through back alleys and then back to the house. He got inside and barred the door just as Lomar and Darnorth emerged from the cellar, and Erijay, Bjorn and Kern appeared from upstairs to see what all the fuss was about. As the guards pounded at the door and demanded entrance, others could be heard raising the town. Knowing they would soon have no choice but to fight and kill, or surrender and likely be killed, the party gathered what they could and fled through the tunnel. On the way, Erijay deep froze Riker's body with the Wand of Cold and hid it inside the secret tunnel. Once outside in the night air, they party rushed across town under one of Erijay's haste spells, headed for the wall. Almost there, they were seen by the guard, but apart from a few crossbow bolts in Rylee's behind, they made it over and into the night. Stopping to get Gurruk and Booh at the hovel, they then headed back to the familiar halls of Stonehell, thinking that hiding in that hole full of monsters was the best place to avoid detection for now.
Entering through their still secret entrance, the party decided to hole up with their old henchmen/dungeon toll collectors. It took a few minutes to get them to open the door when they saw Booh, but eventually relented and let them all in. The party was careful not to let on that they were on the lam from the law. Darnorth went on a sweet talking mission to get them all on side first, while Lomar used his culinary talents to make the various beasts Booh and Gurruk brought back from the hunt into enticing meals for all. Kern recovered, and Erijay rewrote spells. However, the elf also cast a few well timed ESP to probe the minds of their hosts. Essentially, there was some suspicion on the part of the ex-henchman. They suspected something wasn't right for their former employers to be hiding out with them, and most harbored some level of resentment for having previously died in the party's service. So when time came a few days later for a couple of the men to go to town for supplies and news, Erijay's mind probe discovered the two planned to find out what news they could of the party and use it to advantage i.e. probably turn them in when they discovered what had happened. This info was relayed to Booh and Gurruk, who ambushed the two and ended that threat, returning with a tale of ambush by wolves for the rest of the henchmen/bandits. Meanwhile, Bjorn had cast invisibility and slipped back into town. Everything seemed back to normal, except for the wanted posters offering a 500gp reward for information leading to the party. He also discovered their house burned and the ruins tumbled into the cellars. A quick check of the secret tunnel showed that it was still intact and undiscovered, with Riker's icy body still there. He also discovered the Company of Good Cheer had arrived in Westmist, looking for the party. It seems someone had put together the coincidence of party's departure from New Breven with the disappearance of the Rathgold and Zana, and Quid and company were looking for some answers.
Back to Stonehell went Bjorn carrying the news. A council of war was held, and the party decided on two courses of action. First, recruit the henchmen/bandits to their cause and have them start fomenting insurrection in Westmist. Second, to carry through to recover the Cerebral Shield of the Gann. While it was less critical now that they were on the run, blocking their minds from Jax still seemed a good idea. Darnorth was once more elected to bring the henchman/bandits into the fold. A another rousing speech about freedom for
Scotland Westmist, a sack of gold, and promises of further reward when they'd met their goal of putting Duncal in the March Baron's brought the henchmen/bandits to their side.