Quintus Meridius arrived not long after to claim The Bone Butcher on behalf of the Arcane Academy. He brought a contract that the party signed, pledging to obtain a scrying glass from the Deorai Goliaths. He also brought a new party member, a shade warlock who called himself Nyrineab. With the nomadic goliaths set to move their camp in the next few days, it fell to the party to find a caravan out of town with which to travel. The options were three:
Would it be Slatewright’s Stonework, the team of dwarven masons who would show the party an underground route for a nominal fee?
Would it be Kragor and Sons Salvage, an orcish disposal team who were paying gold for bodyguards?
Or would it be The Goldomain Family, a family of elvish bakers, moving back to the countryside?
The debate went back and forth for a while, but in the end, the thought of delicious baked goods swayed the heroes, and they left with the Goldomains the following morning.
Travel was easy enough, thanks to the quiet roads and ample wagons. Dashiel gave some staggeringly unhelpful archery lessons to the family’s eldest, Zed fended off the wine-soaked advances of aunt Lorastine. Newcomer Nyrineab kept to himself mostly, but his shadowy countenance prompted youngest son Davian to ask if he was a wizard. Davian had designs on being a wizard someday and proudly showed off a pair of dowsing rods that he called his “magic wands.” The shade humored the boy for a little while, before his parents retrieved him.
The peace lasted until the third day of travel, when a panicked shout rose up, rousting the heroes. Davian had seemingly wandered off into the woods in the wee hours of the morning, prompting a hasty search effort. As the heroes combed the woods, they heard distant cries for help. They charged in the direction of the shouts, even as the forest grew progressively more unnatural. They soon found themselves in a clearing full of supernaturally large magpies that squawked “Help! Help!” at them. The lingering traces of magic in the air suggested sinister forces were at work, which was confirmed when the trees twisted themselves into humanoid shapes and attacked alongside the birds!
The feytouched creatures were a formidable fight, and the birds’ wicked screeches made positioning for the battle nearly impossible. Dashiel was knocked sprawling from a tree, and Visok weathered a pounding from one of the treants before they struck their attackers down. The treants’ passing had opened a trail, which the party wearily followed.
At the end of the path lay a serene little campsite. In the rear, Davian sat in a mystic bubble. The tyke seemed no worse for wear, and indeed seemed to be enjoying himself. Approaching the bubble triggered a glowing ball of light that flittered around the site, chanting “You don’t belong here!” in an impossibly annoying sing-song voice. At that point, the campsite rose up and attacked, because why wouldn’t it.
The bizarre security system wasn’t particularly formidable, but between burning campfire logs, flying tools, and a murderous tent, the party took a very strange beating before the wayward camp gear was put to rest. Davian seemed to enjoy the spectacle, and said that he’d followed “the little man of the woods” after he’d snuck into their camp the night before and stolen his magic wands. He said that the little man thought no one could see him, but Davian evidently could. He’d dropped the boy in the bubble “for safekeeping” and said he’d be back shortly. Where was this little man now? Why, he went right down that path there…