After their exhaustive research, the heroes purchase horses to take them down the North Road en route to Ardyn, their first suspected region of draconic activity. Along the road, however, they chance upon a gnoll slaving band, of which they quickly dispatch. To their surprise, Raleria and some of the slaves recognize each other: one introduces herself as Jocelyn, a childhood friend of Raleria’s from her hometown of Hillcross, and the others are Hillcross residents as well! Apparently the town has been subject to a number of hostile raids by the gnolls, and the most recent attack had seen most of the population taken captive. The heroes escort the civilians back to the ruinous remains of Hillcross, where the townsfolk are in disarray as the constable tries to evacuate them to the nearest city and petition for aid from House Harlow. Raleria, a past friend of the constable, convinces him to fortify the town’s defenses instead while she and her companions pursue the main gnoll raiding party to recover the rest of the slaves.
Niamh tracks the gnolls north to a makeshift campsite in a small valley, fortified by a palisade wall and three gnoll soldiers, one mounted upon a massive dire hyena. Surveying the site, Niamh determines a strategic vantage point for the party to strike from, and the heroes descend upon the hyena-folk in force. Raleria suffers an unexpected assault from her adoptive father, Royce, whom she finds among the captives: Royce, in his state of despair, accuses Raleria for causing his enslavement, and attempts to grab her mid-battle despite her efforts to rescue him. In the confusion Royce is brought close to death by a gnoll spear, but Raleria stabilizes him with one of her own healing potions, suppressing her bitter memories of the man’s horrid treatment of her for the greater good. Ultimately, through a combination of Niamh’s tactical manipulation of the battlefield (tricking the gnolls onto the receiving end of their palisade), Rognar‘s notable battle prowess (single-handedly fending off the dire hyena with his axe), Raleria’s impressive magical aptitude, and a rather extravagant display of pyrotechnics on Eoleo‘s part (two alchemist-fire attacks to engulf the palisade in flames plus a potent use of the burning hands spell), the heroes utterly defeat the gnoll raiding party and return the slaves to the newly-fortified Hillcross. The adventurers are lauded by the townsfolk, and put up for the night in the very inn once owned by Raleria’s late mother. A final head count reveals that three Hillcross citizens are still missing, and discussion with the constable addresses that the increased gnoll activity implies a local buyer of slaves, possibly the current lord-general of Ardyn (who would need slaves to augment his dwindling workforce due to the supposed “curse” on the town’s disappearing laborers). On that bleak note, the heroes depart for Ardyn, wondering what kinds of atrocities would await them in the commandeered city.