The next morning saw the rain, only to be replaced by heavy, oppressive fog. The only person whose spirits weren’t diminished at all was Professor Togren. Even Gedney was subdued.
After breaking camp, the expedition went deeper into the forest. Along the way, a few artifacts were found, including a short, carved, stone monolith. Brimstone became very nervous when the professor dismissed the concerns that it might be cursed and moved to examine it closely.
Ziggy found a dagger of much more recent make, its blade encrusted with dried blood. Further investigation revealed evidence of a battle, probably involving the bandits from the previous day. The party continued on. Two or three times during the day, there was evidence of something moving in the forest, though no one managed to get a clear view of whatever it might be. After several damp hours of trudging through the wet, muddy forest, the expedition made camp.
The morning, the fog had drawn back some. It was discovered that some of the baggage had been rifled through, with a few small items missing. Shockingly, Brimstone didn’t punch Regis in the face again.
The day brought more wetness and mud, as well as a few small items that made Togren very happy. As the day approached late afternoon, Ziggy, acting as advanced scout, made a horrific discovery. Well, horrific for everyone else; he seemed to simply find it interesting.
In a clearing, the mutilated remains of five or so bandits were found, positioned around a monolith about twice as tall as the previous one found. Blood was splashed on the monolith. Keeping most of the group back, so as to avoid a panic, a few came forward to investigate the scene.
Sterling Silverforge determined that the bodies were very fresh and more than likely were the bandits. He also discovered some evidence of small burrows that had been filled in. Sigra Ironshoulders determined that the burrows had most likely been collapsed from the inside. Maiesse Tolivant was able to put together that this had been a last stand, and that the bandits had been battling small, non- human creatures of some undetermined sort. She also found a bone dagger, with evidence of some sort of green substance on the blade.
Professor Togren & Nymea Goswynn examined the monolith, which depicted scenes of humans or possibly elves with smaller, gnarled humanoids. They appeared to be worshipping some large, central rat-like demonic figure. On seeing the depiction of the demonic figure, Togren became strangely lost in thought, until Nymea shook him out of it.
Togren decided that the situation had simply become too dangerous and that it was time to head back to the Avauntz Inn. As the party turned around and began backtracking, small fetishes made of twigs were noticed hanging from the trees here and there. And then there were the ever present crows. Ziggy attempted talking to them, but all he got as a response was “Danger”. So no real revelation there.
At camp that night, Sylva approached Pewter Silverforge with some information. He, in turn, brought her to the rest of the Silverforge clan. She reported that she’d secretly read through Togren’s books and found that the people who had lived in this area weren’t the Ancients, but were actually outcasts from the Ancients who had practiced demon worship. The passages also talked about strange, inhuman creatures that these outcasts found living underground in the area who shared forbidden knowledge. She suggested that these creatures might still be around and might have killed the bandits. Pewter also admitted that the portents he’d seen kept indicating dark things in the group’s future.
The night passed normally enough, but come morning it was discovered that Drew was missing. Worse, one of those filled in holes was located right outside his tent. Having no other options, it was decided that the group would press on.
As the group made its way through the forest, the rain started up again, more of those twig fetishes were seen, and stacks of stones started marking their path. And always, the crows. After a few hours, the group came to a tree with hundreds of twig fetishes. Examining the tree, a severed finger was found tied to one fetish. The finger was freshly severed, and it was assumed that it belonged to Drew.
One last discoverly was made before the group finally made camp: three more monoliths with another mutilated body amongst them. Closer examination revealed that it was most likely another bandit.
In the middle of the night, while Brimstone, Sigra, & Gedney were standing guard, all hell broke loose. A number of hairless, rat-like creatures erupted from the ground and attacked.
Once the fight was done, there were six dead rat creatures, one dead pack mule, with the other having run off into the forest, and Professor Togren, Nymea, and Regis were missing. The remaining members of the group got themselves sorted out, Brimstone & Maiesse Tolivant tracked down the surviving mule, and once the sun was up (such as it was), the group began to press on. Before long, they came to a lone fir tree, on which were hundreds of crows. And then a single white crow appeared, transforming into a white raven. It indicated that the group should follow, so they did.
The raven eventually led them to a giant, gnarled tree with a sizable hole admidst its roots. After some discuss, the group descended down beneath the earth. The first thing they encountered was a chamber with 5 idols of some unknown substance, depicting unknown demonic entities. The roots sealed the exits from the chamber, and it became quickly apparent that the idols were both magical and dangerous. Even as the group was assailed by the idols’ magic, they all worked to destroy the stubborn things, eventually succeeding. They then set to cutting their way through the roots that sealed the three exists.
The next chamber they found appeared to contain individual nests. It also contained the partially consumed bodies of a number of local farmers and woodsmen. Most of the group showed little interest in the remains, while Ziggy’s interest was only if there was any loot (there wasn’t). No thought was put to whether or not the families of the deceased might want to know the fates of their loved ones.
The second chamber was a foul-smelling larder, with the butchered remains of various animals and still more people. The third chamber appeared to be an even worse-smelling cesspool. A gilded sword of ancient design was spotted in the pit, which Pewter was able to retrieve through his magic. Ziggy showed a shocking lack of sense and desire for self-preservation, wanting to jump into the pit to look for more treasure, despite the evidence that the cesspool was home to dangerous vermin. And it smelled really, really bad. The group managed to talk him out of this possibly self-destructive path.
The group finally paused when they came to a large chamber that was full of roots and rocks. They could see another exit across the room, but decided to take a moment to assess the situation.