Freeday, Sunsebb 21, 552 CY (50 AN)
Making their way to the drain pipe on the western edge of town, Nasrin and Whislyr are confronted by the rusty grate Whislyr attempted to open earlier in the week. Nasrin, thinking quickly, lights a torch and holds it against the various bolts in turn, recalling that heating metal sometimes helps it move. After a handful of minutes of this, Whislyr pulls out her thieves’ tools and gets to work on the bolts again, this time managing to move them. A few more minutes’ work, and she unthreads the bolts from the grate, dropping the whole assemblage on the ground. Once they are certain no guard patrols were near and nobody heard, they slip into the Wyrding Wood surrounding Vonseloth and begin heading south towards Castow.
They make their way south for a couple of hours before finding an appropriate place to camp for the night. As they prepare the camp site, they spy someone heading towards them. A voice calls out, giving greeting, and as the person approaches, they recognize Arwellas, the willowy half-elf with the pet ferret whom they met between Castow and Husa Valley last week. Upon recognizing them, she again asks if they are lost and if they found the caravan they sought. (They reply that they did.) Since the woods are dangerous and they appear wounded, she offers to stay with them for the night and says she did not prepare any healing spells today, but could possibly aid them in the morning. Whislyr asks if she can have a moment to confer with her associate and Arwellas stands a respectful difference away while they discuss matters. Knowing that they have a piece of stolen (and highly-valuable) property with them, coupled with the fact that they’re both tired and injured, Whislyr doesn’t feel particularly comfortable inviting a near-stranger along with them. On the other hand, as Nasrin notes, there is safety in numbers, and they can take longer watch shifts so that neither of them are asleep at the same time. Whislyr agrees, and Nasrin lets her sleep, saying that she can stay awake most of the night.
The rest of the night is largely uneventful. In the early morning, Nasrin is awake while the other two sleep. She is starting to gather and prepare breakfast when she hears a giggle nearby, although she sees nothing. A small cloud of gas appears next to her, and although she catches a large whiff of it, she manages to shake off whatever effect it might have. (She notes that the colors of the surrounding forest briefly become “runny.”) She next notices the creature, whatever it is, untying her boots. She tries to be polite, not wanting to offend the Fair Folk, but she also tries to move around so that the wee folk cannot tie her boot laces together. Finally, she hears a noise (a voice, perhaps) as a flash of rainbow-colored light erupts in front of her. She is briefly blinded, while her companions are awakened by the flash and the commotion she makes. The creature giggles again but bothers them no more. Arwellas and Whislyr briefly return to sleep before beginning their day.
When Arwellas and Whislyr finally awaken, Nasrin has already prepared started morning porridge. Arwellas contributes some gathered berries and roots for it. While they eat, they become aware of movement through the forest — three large trees, moving slowly in their direction. As they approach, it is clear the trees have limbs and faces as the folk of the world do, albeit with the trees approaching twenty feet tall. Arwellas gives greeting in a language Nasrin and Whislyr don’t recognize, and the trees respond in kind. After a brief conversation, the trees continue on their way. (Arwellas explains that the trees — likely treants — merely wanted to ensure that all was well in the forest, and that these travelers were respectful and not letting their cook-fire out of control. Arwellas pledged to make sure no harm was done and that they would leave the forest largely as they found it.)
When breakfast is finished, Arwellas offers to accompany the pair to their destination, but Nasrin and Whislyr decline. Arwellas offers one final piece of advice: last night when they stepped away, she couldn’t help but overhear their situation. (She notes she has sharp ears.) And while she doesn’t much care about any of their troubles with the law, the guards at their destination might very well be searching bags and pouches when they arrive. They should probably figure out how they want to secure their stolen goods and get inside without being discovered.
Before leaving, Arwellas hands Nasrin and Whislyr a handful of berries, which she explains should provide them enough nourishment for the day. (Nasrin recognizes them as the goodberries sometimes prepared by itinerant holy men.) With that, Arwellas takes her leave, heading deeper into the forest as Nasrin and Whislyr begin heading south. While discussing their story, they decide to approach Castow from the south, claiming to be traveling from Husa Valley.
Scarcely an hour passes before the travelers hear the soft tones of panpipes wafting through the trees. They happen upon a satyr sitting upon a stump, and as they approach, a strange sensation overcomes them. He bids them to approach, to dance and revel and drink, for it is the day after the winter solstice! He pours them wine and continues playing his song, and after only a few moments, they snap out of their reverie. Introducing himself as Pylosel, he reiterates that the forest is dangerous and asks where they’re headed. (While Nasrin introduces herself by her real name, Whislyr merely calls herself “Lee.”) Nasrin responds that they’re heading to Husa Valley to meet some friends, and he asks if they’re headed to some manner of party. Nasrin replies that they are, and Pylosel insists on accompanying. Nasrin, again not wanting to offend the fey, doesn’t argue much to Whislyr’s chagrin.
After a relatively uneventful day of traveling through the forest, albeit with the pair suffering through Pylosel’s antics and near-constant supply of wine, they find a spot to camp for the night. They adopt the same procedure as last night: they both agree to take extra-long watches so that only one of them is asleep at a time while Pylosel is about. (Whislyr lets Nasrin sleep first since she barely slept at all yesterday.)
To her surprise, Whislyr finds Pylosel potentially useful in the night. After dinner, while Nasrin is asleep, a group of five elven hunters — forest folk by their mode of dress — with two hunting hounds approach the camp, and Pylosel greets them by attempting to play his ensorcelling song. The elves seem unaffected and give the camp a wide berth.
Just before midnight, a group of eight fur-clad hunters wielding greataxes also approach the camp, demanding some sort of tribute, but a discordant blast from Pylosel’s panpipes sends them scattering into the surrounding woods.
The rest of the night is uneventful, although since Pylosel is asleep by the time Whislyr awakens Nasrin to switch watches, they decide to briefly concoct a plan. They agree that they should probably ditch Pylosel when they have the opportunity, and they also agree that traveling through the forest is slow going and they should make their way to the road instead.
The rest of Nasrin’s watch is uneventful, and Pylosel and Whislyr awaken on the morning of Sunday, Sunsebb 23, without incident. After breakfast, they head towards the road and continue south. Shortly thereafter, they encounter an armored wagon, heavily guarded. (Based on the look, Nasrin and Whislyr suspect it is a prisoner transport.) Pylosel steps forward to address the guards, seeking to bring them into his endless revel, and Nasrin and Whislyr wordlessly look at each other and take the opportunity to slip into the surrounding woods, leaving Pylosel to whatever fate he is about to meet.
Once they are well past the prisoner transport, Nasrin and Whislyr return to the road. After an hour or so, they find the ravaged corpse of an elven man that appears to be fresh and partly eaten. (Nasrin briefly examines the body, but cannot determine the cause of death — there are too many wounds and too much blood to determine if this person was alive or dead when something started eating them.) They quickly examine his pack, finding a pouch with 18gp (which they divide among themselves), a diary in what appears to be Elvish script (although neither Nasrin nor Whislyr read Elvish, they recognize the dates across the top of entries), and a printed book in an unknown language. They take the pack and quickly take their leave of the scene of carnage.
As they round the bend, they are fairly certain they see shapes creep out of the underbrush and snowdrifts, surrounding the corpse and dragging it into the woods.
Within a couple of hours, they catch sight of the walls of Castow and so again slip into the woods, take the long way around, and emerge on the south road heading north. (When no one is watching, they enact their plan: Nasrin will tie the infernal puzzle box in her sash and wear it around her waist, claiming it has religious significance in Nadhi and is not to be disturbed during any search.) Arriving at Castow’s southern gate, Nasrin recognizes the guards on duty as the same guards present when she returned Pryllia. As they recognize each other, Nasrin briefly engages them in conversation, learning the following news:
- Settlements in the area are still seeking the perpetrators of the burglary in Vonseloth. It is believed they probably slipped the city’s lockdown.
- The same night, Scandshar — the largest city in the region — was attacked by an invasion force of dark elves. The situation is under control, but the city is still grappling with the attack.
Under the circumstances, everyone is still jumpy. As such, the guards have to search the pair’s bags, along with any other containers or cloaks they might be wearing or carrying that could reasonably contain something. They agree to this, but when the guard asks about the bundle at Nasrin’s waist, she explains that it is an item of religious significance in Nadhi and should not be touched. The guards seem to accept her explanation and offer their sincere apologies, letting the pair through the gates.
Making their way to The Drunken Bishop, the pair reserve rooms and note the locals — the only people currently in the common room are a merchant and a cloaked human man with a scar across his right eye, accompanied by two guards; he matches Nunalael’s description of Owyn Parre — before getting lunch and addressing their business. Moving to Owyn’s table, he asks how things are going over drinks before inquiring if they wish to move this to somewhere more private. He agrees to meeting them in his room. Leaving his bodyguards outside, he asks to see the puzzle box, and then asks if he can borrow it for a few minutes while he takes it to authenticate it. The ladies reluctantly agree, and he says he’ll be right back. (Once he leaves the inn, they can see him through the window, heading to a nearby shop.) He returns a few minutes later, saying the goods check out, and he hands them a pouch of coin.
Before they leave, he also makes them an offer: Nunalael has an additional job to offer them — 2,000gp for retrieving another ring from a ruin — but that job isn’t time-sensitive. He has a job that is: his sister lives in Husa Valley, just a day to the south, and his nephew has been missing a week. Things are a little too chaotic in town for the guard to investigate — and the town is small anyway, so it’s not like they have a large constabulary — so would they be able to investigate? He can offer 100gp, and he and his guards will accompany them to Husa Valley and make introductions if they agree. They are interested, and agree that they can meet with him tomorrow morning to leave for Husa Valley.
Leaving Owyn’s room, they return to their own room to count their gold and rest before tomorrow’s journey.