Meanwhile, back at the tavern, Syl handed the potion of invulnerability and the red gem to Igneel and wandered over to the barkeep, Karl.
By this time, the tavern patrons had mostly left for the evening. Karl wiped a section of the bar and raised his eyes with a brief smile to the elf wizard as he approached. “So where did your friend get that armor?” he asked, tilting his head toward Kaven.
“Fine elvish craftsmanship. Dragon scales. Et cetera.” Syl filled the disbelieving barkeep in on their adventures and then leaned close. “So. How did you get yourself mixed up with the Thieves Guild?”
The amiable expression vanished from Karl’s face. “I think it’s best you leave now,” he growled.
Karl did not answer save to call out, “Tomas!”
A hulking human with red hair approached from the corner. Karl waved at the inquisitive elf and the rest of the party. “Help these fellas out.”
Syl attempted to backpedal and convince Karl to get him in touch with the guild to no avail. At last escorted from the inn, despite Kaven’s apology, the party returned to the dark streets of Haré. Behind them, they caught a glimpse of Karl pour himself an ale with one unsteady hand.
“Welp. That could have gone better.” With a sniff of disapproval, Syl produced a gleaming bead of crystal and muttered a few words. A tiny wooden cabin popped into existence just outside the inn. “Shall we rest?” He led the others inside to a cozy, small interior.
“You were asking the wrong questions,” Kaven growled, dragging a drunken Igneel in with Foradjinn. Any further conversation was interrupted by a pounding on the door.
Opening it revealed another man, as tall as Tomas but with raggedy brown hair and in plain clothes. His breath stank of drink and his manner of belligerence. “Whadderya doin’ here?” he bellowed.
Through his extended, rambling rant, the party learned this drunk was named Colin and he was the nephew of Sharil, the deceased sawmill owner. “You screwed it all up,” he grumbled, shaking his finger at the group. “I shoulda inherited the mill and Ferrin woulda said all I hadda do was ignore stuff and it would have been fine.” Now, Colin worked as an enforcer for Ferrin. He tried to demonstrate his skill upon Syl and failed due to the elf wizard’s arcane ward.
Despite a possibly favorable attempt to convince him to sell out Ferrin, the resentful man decided to leave and collapsed in a stupor. Foradjinn dragged him off the road and out of the road. Then the party slept.
As the dawnlight beamed through the stained glass of Helm’s Temple, Alston Tumbelly was awakened by a shuffling, then a gasp, then a splash of water upon his face.
“YOU HAVE NERVE, ALSTON TUMBELLY!”
Scrambling fully awake, Alston was aghast to find a furious Allie Hollysharp before him. Memories of an evening out, a sly offering of one drink too many, and a theft of a wedding dress from her shop surged to the fore. As she continued to shout abuse and throw the contents of a cold brazier at him, he attempted to explain himself. Dodging between the pews until at last she fell short of breath, Alston produced a gold bracelet and handed it to her, filling the opportune silence with explanations upon apologies.
To no avail. “That’s quite the tale, Alston Tumbelly. My mother warned me about men like you. While your friends are welcome in my store, you are not.” And she flounced away.
Yenen appeared with a sympathetic smile. Further conversation with him revealed Kiethri slept later than normal those days due to her tree ordeal. Also, the weird happenings at the sawmill included some engravings upon trees in the area.
Also, Sir Targen was absent from the town. A meeting of provincial governors was taking place in Port Cecil to discuss the dragons and Captain Moros was ruling in his stead.
Alston left the temple and rejoined the others, discovering the curious hut Syl had conjured for the evening previous. Following exposition by all parts of the group, Syl exited the hut, intent upon starting the day.
This caused his hut to dispell and dumped a certain half-elf bard and elf monk out of their bunks for a rude awakening.
Fortunately for Foradjinn, the shock solidified the laborious lessons and frantic studying over the past week attempting to learn Syl’s sending spell. He immediately put it to use.
“Anaya! This is the half-drowned cat. Are you all right? I’m trying to get to Port Cecil. My allies will help me to free you.”
“Foradjinn! It is so good to hear from you. I appreciate it but I don’t know I need rescuing.”
Disconcerted, Foradjinn sent back, “You’re free then?”
“I’m not free but I live a good life.”
Falling silent, Foradjinn followed the rest into the town, heading for the hall to talk to Moros.
Igneel gawked at everything around him, never having been in Haré before. He caught sight of a man striding east to west. As the man past behind a statue in the middle of the town square, the monk witnessed him turn into a bird and fly away.
Inside the town hall, after greeting their old friend Wilford, the group soon met with Moros. A long discussion ensued in which they tried to convince Moros to arrest Ferrin or investigate him. The various plans suggested, however, did not meet Moros’s unflinching, law-abiding tendencies. It seemed the party hit a dead-end until someone mentioned the tunnel leading under the wall of Haré from (presumably) Ferrin’s house.
“Now, THAT,” said Moros at last, “Changes everything. Give me a day and I shall work up a plan.”
“Great!” Syl rubbed his hands together, visions of spell books within Ferrin’s stash dancing in his head. “Deputize us and we can assist you in bringing this rascal to justice.”
Moros flatly refused, a migraine from dealing with them all well underway. Before booting them out, he paused, staring hard at Kaven. “Where’d you get that armor?”
“Yondalla’s been good to me,” the halfling replied with a pious expression.
Their dismissal abrupt, the group exited and split up. Foradjinn headed to Kartrana’s smithy and commissioned a scimitar which incorporated one of the green dragon wyrmling fangs. He then headed, after asking around for a tailor, to an elf called Jamross. Despite the flamboyant tailor’s disdain for the heavy, cumbersome material, he reluctantly consented to making a warm cloak for the half-elf bard out of some of the owl-bear fur.
Igneel appeared and asked Jamross to fashion a fox mask for him, hoping to look more intimidating. Jamross found it a more exciting job and promised it would be so.
Then Igneel and Syl headed to Allie’s store to pick up some odds and ends. The gnome sold them most of the items requested and proceeded to stare, agog, at the bag of holding into which the elf wizard crammed it all.
Alston and Kaven returned to the temple and asked Kiethri to come along as they investigated the woods around the sawmill. She eagerly accepted, in awe of Kaven’s steed, and rode along with him, the heavenly horse easily accommodating both riders. They joined with Syl, Igneel, and Foradjinn, and proceeded to the sawmill.
In working order once again, the sawmill was a bustle of activity. Andrim, the seventeen-year-old half-elf son of Sharil, welcomed them. He could offer little more information beyond what they had already discerned from Yenen and the others. The workers only glimpsed strange things in the trees, weird shapes and shadows.
So into the woods the group traveled until reaching the first of the marks. High up on the trunk of a tree, what appeared to be a silver “X” joined to the top of a “Y” was embedded. Upon casting Detect Magic, Syl identified the school used as that of Necromancy. His pixie dispelled the magic of the mark; the silver faded, leaving only the indentation in the bark. Farther on, they discovered a second rune, the same as the first but on its side. Aside from the runes, scratches marred the bark six feet up on a few of the trees.
Triangulating, Igneel discovered the center of the runes and also the greatest number of clawmarks as well. Taking out the scythe, Kaven used it to commune with nature. In doing so, a vision came to him, one of wavering, shambling shapes scratching at the trees in the night. His vision followed them away to the east to a vine-covered stone edifice. The reek of death emanated from within the shadowed entrance.
Before he could see more, Kaven snapped out of the vision, interrupted by a humming “wooor” sound. Heading off to investigate, Foradjinn turned too late to deflect an attack from a hulking tree creature who materialized out of a tree next to him. Thankfully, Syl projected his Arcane Ward to soften the surprise attack.
Two more tree creatures wielding clubs and shields joined the fray, demonstrating they could transport from tree to tree to great effect. After a tough scuffle, Kiethri landed the finishing blow upon the final foe.
In the aftermath, Alston studied the bodies and identified the creatures as Wood Woads, creatures born of a blood sacrifice. The sacrificed one would live on in the Wood Woad, protecting a place for years afterwards.