It is the new year’s festival in Jalmort. Many have gathered in order to partake in the festivities. Among those are Airi, who had come to surf the crowd but was unable to find any lucrative marks. She was, however, given a note to attend a meeting later on to discuss potential work. Also attending was Erica, who set up a stall to sell flowers and beans to the residents. She was approached by Halde of The Cartel, who reminded her that she had better consider their offer to become partners in her business or they would not be able to guaranty her safety. When she refused, Halde tried to buy the services of David, explaining that Erica was a threat to the public order and needed to be reminded in maintaining the public peace. David confronted Erica, but soon realized that Halde was not entirely representative of the people in the area. David agreed to get Halde off her back, but when he went to look for Halde, David found that Halde has disappeared.
Meanwhile, Patrick entered the Battle of the Bards in the festival. He competed against a band of local youths who performed mediocre, an old minstrel who performed extremely well but not for this audience, Merridn, a very young elf who froze and was terrible, a half-drunk dwarf and two half-orcs who ruined the stage, and a purple piper who was interrupted by the dwarf and the orcs as they tried to elude the local authorities. When the judges were about to award Patrick the prize purse, the Piper demanded a he get another chance since his was interrupted and he was unable to do a proper performance. The judges agreed and the Piper performed again, and this time the crowd was noticeably affected by his performance, falling almost into a daze as they were swept up in the music. While the Piper performed, Airi attempted to question the dwarf and the two half-orcs on their behavior, as she noticed them acting suspicious as the edge of the crowd. She was roughed up for her troubles and did not glean any information.
Meanwhile on the outskirts of town, Alexis was on his first contract with The Steel Raptors. Led by Thune, he was told that they were on a mission to round up “conscripts” from the town for service into the army in the great crusade against The Dominion. Even after being told that the Crown Prince had returned and the civic duty of all to help take his throne, the mercenaries were still skeptical and saw this “slaver work” as beneath them. But they were being paid well and Thune brought them into line, and the attack began after a signal from one of their agents at the festival.
As Patrick began to play, the Mercenaries attacked from three sides with overwhelming force. They took many captives from the crowd and even though the heroes put up a valiant fight, they were overpowered and either surrendered or were taken captive by force. Among the captives were the dwarf, his two half-orc friends, a wizard who was performing, and Merridan. Halde was seen during the battle but somehow managed to escape. During the fight, some of the townspeople turned on their family and friends and appeared to join the Steel Raptors. After the fight, it seemed that somehow they were put under the sway of the Piper, who was revealed to be the contact in the town. The Piper mocked Patrick and took the prize purse from him, saying he would write a ballad about him, before the heroes were carted off.