Nothing like a chase scene at night to bring some focus to the party...
"I wish we could move faster," mutters Raúguey as Bert the mule slowly traverses a thick patch of undergrowth, the thorns and vines catching on the pack saddle.
"Mordikarr wish Ava would hurry back." He looked back at the lights, less than a half-mile away, but still little more than flickering spots of brightness between the trees. Ava should have been able to reach them and return by now.
The party continues to bend their course north, away from the the river. They cover another half-mile and are finally free of the wet river bottom. The trees here are bigger, oaks and elms and maples, with an occasional pine here and there. There's less undergrowth, and the group makes better time. The lights are closer.
"Something's not right," says Rawon, peering along the back trail.
"What is it?" Raúguey pauses near the elf.
"Those lights, they keep changing. They were yellow, like lantern light before. Now... look. That one's greenish, the other is orange, and there's no sign of the third. They're moving wrong too. Up and down as well as sideways. It's unnatural."
"Wish Ava would come back," mutters the fighter, with a glance at Mordikarr. "How far back are they?"
"A few hundred yards, no more. If we're going to set an ambush it needs to be soon."
The elf nods and the pair start moving again, keeping an eye on the lights. Ten minutes later, movement close at hand catches Rawon's eye. "Mordikarr, it's Ava I think." He points.
The owl flaps her way into the clearing, but it's obvious something's wrong. Usually her flight is smooth and silent, but she is struggling to stay in the air, wings flapping with an irregular beat. She drops to Mordikarr's shoulder, but can't maintain her hold. He catches her in gentle hands as she falls. Rawon crowds close. "What's wrong?"
"Something burn her," Mordikarr points to dark stains on Ava's wings.
As the beastmaster strokes and calms his companion, Raúguey looks back at the lights. "They're close now," he whispers. "We better get ready."
Mordikarr chirps and hoots a few times, and the owl gives a weak response before going silent and still. He frowns, and then looks back along the trail. "Ava say no one carry lights."
You're out of the bog and on solid ground in thick woods. There's little undergrowth here, and you can make slightly better time. Maro, "Invalid", and Tesso are up front with Jonquil, Gorvil, Saurabh, and the mules. The others are trailing a few dozen yards, with Rawon, Mordikarr, and Raúguey at the rear.
At least it's not raining.