Looking to pursue the bandits raiding trade caravans south of Vinne. To that end the party began making preparations before venturing south. Jace, on her own accord, went to visit some of the merchants hold up in the city. There, she spoke with Kiang Xiaoli, a Xianlian merchant who has some recent knowledge and contacts. With some persuasion, Jace was able to make an agreement with several merchants; an investment of sorts. With a small down payment, Jace offered to clear the bandits from the crown road, and open the roads for the merchants. In exchange, they would be given advance notice of the clearing, and would leave a small bounty for Jace upon her return.
Also, while haggling with the Merchants, Jace learned of a Muscovan Federation merchant, Mikhail, who was part of a small entourage. He had set out to a Xianlian outpost ahead of the rest, and was cited as missing by his compatriots. Jace agreed to look into the matter if convenient.
Meanwhile, Kazamir and Sorin returned to the town hall to gather info on the bandits from the town officials. They were directed to speak with councilman Enrique, the trade magistrate. Terse, and skeptical, Enrique provided scraps of info on the bandits activities, operations. Between their visit, and some additional intel gathered by Mithrellis, they learned the bandits seem to be waylaying caravans crossing the crownroad that are week and undefended. These tend to me more independent or sole proprietor merchants, not guild merchants. There appear to be a mix of unscathed, wounded, and dead as a result of these ambushes. Also, while reports seem to indicate that many of the bandits were likely exiles or criminals prior, there is sense of coordination in the attacks.
While hesitant, Enrique did agree to offer the party a warrant for the capture or death of bandits in the region. With legal protection, the party was given license to defend and attack outlaws that did not submit to local rule. Since much of the region is fairly unsettled though, the effect is more a de facto bounty, provided the party don't leave cause for retribution.
Lastly, the party, through the merchant Kiang, was given a contact that they could 'escort' and travel with – a Xianlian iron merchant named Leng Xiang. Expecting to leave with the Xianlian the following morning, the party learned that the caravan had left ahead of them, with no hesitation or delay.
Confused and apprehensive, the party set out quickly to gain ground and reconvene with the caravan. While the party did well to move quickly, Mithrellis eventually gave way to the rest of the party, falling behind. He would gain on the party again, but only just as they were ambushed only a few hours outside the city.
The ambush was far from a surprise, the party spying an obstacle in the road just past a bend. Jace and Sorin snuck their way forward through the underbrush, Sorin being spotted only a few feet away. A brief struggle ensued as the bandit attempted to pin Sorin, though he was able to nimbly escape the clutches. From there, pandemonium erupted as bolts flew through the trees and strange fog appears, masking the approach of several others in the trees. The party fought a harrowing battle, leveraging their magic against the cunning of the bandits. Sorin's flame and Jace's mental torments managed to sow fear and chaos in several bandit bruisers, while Boyd and Kazimir would fight a skirmish with a mage and skilled swordsman. All this took place under pinning sniper fire.
Slowly but surely, the party would kill or injure a handful of the assailments, pressuring them to a retreat. The bandits were able to leverage magic to escape, but only just. Battered, but alive.