The day is the Eighth of Winter, the year 99 PB (Post Bellum)
Having packed the requisite supplies and convinced their companions Leia and Inigo to join them, the intrepid party bids farewell to Mesa. Goodbyes are said to parents, and Alvaro gives his son Inigo his Guards’ Shortsword, in exchange for the promise that he will be safe.
The group descends into the cold winter desert: Clause, Inigo, Leia, Adam, Roderick, and Leia’s hanger-on Eko. The meet the exiled cleric Ulrich on the lift and agree to travel together. By the end of the first day they reach the snowy mountains to the north of the desert and set up camp.
Unprepared for the bitter cold, members of the party begin to succumb to illness, which only worsens in the three day journey through the mountains. The group manages to avoid confrontation with a small pack of wolves, and they scrape by on the meager rations they have. Out of the mountains, they are forced to camp through a snowstorm until morning when they can see the trade post town of Hanbei.
The group, short on cash, spends what they can afford on warm beds for Adam, Roderick, and Ulrich, those most shaken by illness, and the rest of the party sleeps on the floor. Since their thief is too sick to steal more coin, they buy a few winter coats where they can.
Ulrich, once up and moving, spots a group of prostitutes in the town, and takes it upon himself to shame them on behalf of the church. Finding their counter-argument surprisingly convincing, he turns to soliciting services, but doesn’t have enough money. Ashamed and discouraged, before leaving he reaches out for a full two-hand grope and finds, after the initial shock, a knife slipped between his ribs. In shocked anger, he draws his halberd as the courtesan shouts for her companions. As the other girls round the corner, Ulrich’s polearm falls and slices halfway through the woman’s neck. She falls, gasping, to the snow and dies. Her backup stands, shocked, before the priest frantically brandishing his weapon. Ulrich fails to notices the soft steps behind him, and when the garrote seizes his neck he falls, choked, and is dragged into the wagon.
Inigo sees Ulrich dragged into the cart and rushes to see the courtesans, who deny knowledge. But Inigo clearly knows what happened. “Look, can I at least get a finger or something?”. The girl disappears for a moment into the wagon and returns to drop something into Inigo’s open palm. The Halfling quickly pulls back and kicks snow over Ulrich’s severed member. Eyes wide, he turns and tells the party that they have lost Ulrich. Later Clause, who has been hiding out in the inn, goes out into the cold to intimidate the prostitutes into returning Ulrich’s belonging to the party. Inigo leaves some coin behind as a sort of karmic recompense.
Looking for work to be able to afford to leave, the group encounters a small band of gang members. Anti-imperials, they plan to attack the caravan that has just arrived for supplies, and which is headed out to the Border Fort with a load of rations. The party, though some are still recovering from illness, decides to help, and they formulate a plan. The robbery is to occur on the third day the party has been in town.
The party and thieves station three groups of archers along the street, one for each group of three guards around the caravan (the thieves have assessed that there are twelve guards total, so more are likely on break). Another thief waits to give the signal to the thieves’ wagon, which will circle and pick up the group in the event that things take a turn for the worse. An unfortunate situation complicates this, though: with heavy snow, some archers have been forced to remain behind to dig out the cart and part of a path, and help will surely come slowly when it does.
Inigo volunteers to sneak into the midst of the carts once the guards are distracted, to set fire to them and then run. The archers are meant to shoot to provoke the guards into giving chase. In their heavy armor, the caravan guards will be unable to pursue.
As an alternate plan, the group first sends the prostitutes to solicit the guards, but the imperial men are steadfast, and the women walk away unsuccessful. The archers share their cue, and open fire.
As planned, the guards rush to attack the bowmen, and Inigo, waiting for them to run further, launches his own arrows.
When the guards gain ground, the thieves turn to flee as per the plan, but the adventurers decide to hold their ground and fight. Inigo, realizing he may have less time than he thought, runs at full speed into the midst of the caravan.
The guards take their first swings, and the adventurers too. Some thieves continue to flee, but most, seeing their companions in trouble, stop to continue shooting. Inigo, arriving swiftly among the wagons, realizes the mistake of his speed: the other three guards are sitting in one of the wagons, and he has run nearly straight into them. They draw their weapons and step down into the snow.
Things are clearly taking a turn for the worse. Guards knock down Eko and Adam quickly. Clause follows after felling a pair of guards. A valiant thief holds off an imperial man long enough for Leia to stabilize Adam. In the midst of the melee, Inigo takes a blow to the leg and falls to his knees, the next swing cleaves his jaw off into the snow. Grasping his mangled face, Inigo gasps as blood runs over his open hand. Everything begins to go dim as he falls for the last time.
Eko’s dogs rush to save Inigo, unaware that they are dragging a corpse. One of the band of thieves rushes in to grab Inigo’s torch and lights a wagon, dodging the swords of the other guards.
Soon Leia too falls, and the thieves’ cart is arriving in the distance. Arrows and blades have by this time slain numerous guards and thieves alike. Roderick makes a run for the bandits’ wagon. The thief in the center manages to set all four wagons ablaze before he is slain.
When the wagon arrives, it is only in time to drop off men to give aid to the fallen. By the time the conflict ends, Inigo, four thieves, and ten guards are dead, and the imperial wagons all ablaze. The dead are gathered and the wagon quickly leaves town. All the adventurers besides Roderick (who avoided the bulk of combat) are unconscious with grave wounds.
Over the next ten days, the party regains consciousness one-by-one, and find that they have been nursed to health in a gang hideout in Riverstadt, and that their companion and brother is dead.
The day is the 25th of Winter, 99PB.