Ches 12, 1372 DR
The next day, the party meets with King Emerus Warcrown, to speak with him about the barbarian attacks against the dwarven caravan and the party. Durnan Stonehollow, an advisor of the king, seeks to send a regiment of dwarves into the hills to deal with the Uthgardt. But with rumors of the orcs gathering to attack the vale, the king would rather try to find more allies than enemies. Believing the problems with the Uthgardt to be a misunderstanding that the dwarves had not yet had time to deal with yet since reclaiming the citadel, he charges the party with finding the leader of the Sky Pony tribe that they had engaged the previous day, to ask that they send emissaries to negotiate a resolution.
The party agrees, but before they leave, Tictok meets with Fromden Granitepeak, the King’s court wizard. He asks that the wizard study the drow’s box they retrieved from the goblins, to see what he can discover about it that the gnome could not. He agrees, stating he may require their assistance once their mission for the king is complete.
Returning to the spot they were ambushed by the barbarians, they notice that the bodies that had fallen were retrieved. They follow the trail left north into the foothills. Eventually, they come upon scouts for the Sky Pony tribe, who are not pleased to see a dwarf, but are impressed to note the symbol of Tempus that Gardain proudly displays. They agree to take the three adventurers to their camp.
At the camp, they are eyed suspiciously by the gathered barbarians as Jerek Wolf-slayer, leader of the Sky Pony tribe emerges. They speak of the encounter, as the wounded female leader of that group steps forward to condemn the party for attacking them. Gardain explained that the two groups honored Tempus with the battle when pride dictated that words would not settle matters. Quite impressed with the dwarven paladin of Tempus, the tribe’s own deity, Jerek agrees to send his son and his skyriders to meet with the dwarves.
As to the other matter, Jerek denies that his own people were not the ones that attacked the dwarven caravan. When Gardain describes the attackers, men with black hides and wolf allies, Jerek recognises them as not Uthgardt but the People of the Black Blood, lycanthrope worshippers of Malar, the beastlord. He knows the group lives within the Moonwood, but he hasn’t known them to outwardly slaughter such a large group of people in the open, as their methods tend to be more subtle.
Leaving the Sky Pony tribe, the party sets out for the Moonwood. Tictok, who finished building a mechanical owl, casts a spell to summon a spirit to inhabit it, giving the owl life. He sends to the owl to deliver a message to Valas, who was visiting the Mouth of Song temple further south in the woods, to tell him to meet them in the village of Birlingford.
The owl returns as the party enter Birlingford, which appears to be in the midst of a celebration. The spring fair has begun and the center of the village is abuzz with activity, people celebrating amidst a ring of booths where merchants display their wares. They notice one display that a lot of people are crowded around, where wooden carvings are sold, but the young man selling them, named Charne, has run out of wares, telling the disappointed crowd to return the next day. A “witch” that lives in the forest sells potions and baubles at her stall, telling the party that the local druids always came to the annual festival, but haven’t this year for some reason. A crazy man, mouth and teeth blackened as though with pitch, babbles incoherently about the woods and the cold and weeping caverns, but people ignore him and he ignores anyone that tries to speak with him. Reynaldo, the town blacksmith, is also concerned about the missing druids. Xanos pays tribute at the local temple to Silvanus, meeting an acolyte there named Shella. The party also hears rumors of a “night stalker” preying on prostitutes in the town and that animals have been attacking woodsmen recently.
Unexpectedly, wolves begin to attack the town! People begin to scream and run for cover and the party moves to intercept them. The wolves are vicious and unafraid. The party deals with them with few injuries to them or any of the townsfolk. Tictok discovers the wolves have been branded with an unfamiliar symbol.
That evening, the party moves inside to the Boar’s Head Inn. There, the party spots Charne the woodworker, a number of young girls, Shella among them, though she doesn’t seem to fit in with the other more boisterous and scantly dressed women. The party joins them at their table and they enjoy the evening until Charne decides to leave, choosing Shella and a woman named Lucinda to accompany him, leaving the other girls disappointed.
Sensing something fishy, Xanos follows them at a discreet distance. As the small group walks between two buildings they are all attacked by a group of a dozen men. Too outnumbered to help, Xanos rushes back to the inn to tell the others what happened. Not long after, Lucinda also bursts in, crying, explaining that she got away, but the other two were beaten and dragged away.
Wasting no time, Xanos leads his fellow party members to the attack scene. They see a body lying in the alley, and when they approach it, a half-dozen armed men jump out around them. The battle does not last long, the party dispatching the attackers quickly and capturing one when he surrenders. He tells them that about a cabin near the river that the men use as a base. The body is that of a badly beaten but not dead Charne. Sharra was taken by the other men to the cabin. He didn’t know why they were capturing women, just that they were paid to do so. Valas, returning from the temple, joins the group, and though late at night, the party sets off to find the cabin.