7 – 12 Etissa 2787
After dinner, Rahim explained that he occasionally meets with a woodcutter named Tyvek at a meeting place a couple of hours west of the Bent Saw lumber camp. Rahim brings alchemical items useful to Tyvek and in return Tyvek supplies Rahim with specialty foods, goods and information. The meeting place is beside the roots of an enormous tree outside of Bent Saw that was toppled years ago, possibly during The Coming. Rahim has not seen Tyvek since their final meeting before the snows. They coordinate these meetings in advance, with Tyvek checking at the meeting place for Rahim every day during the arranged meeting time to ensure the pair meet. The party is therefore quite likely to meet Tyvek, though they may have to wait as much as a day at the meeting place to ensure they meet him. The party is given a satchel that contains a number of sealed jars and vials to give to Tyvek in exchange for his information and anything else he has to trade.
Additionally, Rahim would like the party to gather a new sample of the fleshy fungus that grows on the trees beyond the Bent Saw camp. Rahim has always been deeply concerned about the growth and believes it to be slowly spreading. A new sample would allow him to continue his experiments into the nature of the stuff. This blight is typically found several hours northeast of Tyvek’s meeting place, but it will take some skill to find a sample as many of the trees in that area were not afflicted last year. The chance of finding the growth increases as one travels northeast, beyond Bent Saw, and nears the blighted forest east of Bent Saw. However, the danger also increases as one nears this corrupted forest and the party is warned about straying too close to it in their search.
Obosh asks Rahim about what they can expect to see on their journey. Rahim explains that forest is always changing, especially after the snows, but that the three-day journey to the fallen tree has always been safe enough. Rahim once encountered a 10’ tall tentacle rising up from the ground that whipped and moved as he approached. He could not tell if it was part of some larger beast or just a bizarre occurrence related to the after effects of The Coming. He gave it a wide berth and never learned more about it. He did explain though that no matter what they hear, they should not enter Bent Saw. The camp is overseen by Lord Simpson, a sniveling though cruelly shrewd man and his eight brutal, ogre guards. The camp contains about 80 men, women and children that do fairly well for themselves as woodcutters and hunters, though Lord Simpson demands a quota of wood from each cutter be sent to Qaet free of charge, presumably so he can profit from a similar exchange from the Lord of that city.
The next day is spent gathering needed supplies from Thridein’s stores. Rahim has never risked owning beasts of burden, so the party must distribute the load of tents, packs, food and other needed items. Many of these were crafted by the adventurers during their time at the school. Galen asks permission to take one of the school’s books along to read, but Rahim refuses the request, as the books belong to everyone and are extremely precious and therefore cannot be risked.
The party sets out on the 9th in a cold, steady rain. The trackless forest is hard enough to negotiate on dry days and the group is discouraged to see how little progress they made by the time they must make camp. The night is cold, almost freezing, and if not for the tents and blankets they brought with them, the night could have proved deadly. It warms the next day and the traveling is easier. As they move away from their camp, they realize that they are now farther than they have ever been from the school. The forest seems an almost happy place, however, and the group makes good progress toward their goal. As dusk sets, Simba is certain the party is being watched. Unsure of what to do, the party holds off setting up camp. Pearigren finally takes charge of the situation, instructing everyone else to set up the tents and start a fire while she scouts the area. Bow in hand, she vanishes into the brush around camp, but returns with no new information.
That night in the cold hours before dawn, as Fritzmaul warms himself by the fire, five disembodied hands , their wrists and forearms dissipating into wispy trails of shadowstuff, spring from the undergrowth surrounding the clearing in which the party camped. The crawling hands batter him, and he can only let out a strangled warning shout as the last claw manages to get a grip on his neck and begin to squeeze. The others spring from their tents, weapons in hand, and a desperate battle breaks out. Galen rescues the nearly unconscious Fritzmaul by blasting the claw from him with magic missiles, while Obosh claims two with his axe and Pearigren pierces one with an arrow. Once the party is sure that the camp is safe, the still-twitching claws are gathered and burned in the fire. The rest of the night is spent restlessly, but the next day dawns clear and bright, which helps mitigate the horror of the attack. Fritzmaul does, however, take the opportunity to point out to Pearigren that Simba was right about feeling watched. Pearigren can only retort that she saw nothing and the camp site certainly seemed safe enough.
The journey that day, the 11th of Etissa, was uneventful as was the camp that night. If they had not been delayed by rain, the party would have been at the meeting place by now. Instead, they had several hours worth of travel ahead of them on the 12th before they finally reached the huge roots of the toppled tree. They approached warily, and once they found that Tyvek was not there, hid themselves nearby. While everyone else found bushes to hide in, Galen sat in the shadow of the huge root ball, playing with Shadow, a small, black magical cat that was both a familiar and a living tattoo that could paint itself onto Galen’s body and even move among his other tattoo markings. After a few hours of waiting, a man matching Tyvek’s description approached the tree from the direction of Bent Saw. Upon seeing Galen, he froze. When he spotted the poorly hidden Fritzmaul in the bushes nearby, he evidently suspected an ambush and fled. Fritzmaul and Galen persuaded him to stop and eventually convinced him that they were friends of Rahim, but Tyvek remained suspicious until he met Obosh, a dwarf that had been described to him by Rahim during a previous visit. Once convinced of the party’s authenticity, Tyvek took to them warmly and they had a pleasant lunch on foodstuffs that were considered luxuries at Thridein.
The party delivered the satchel and Tyvek provided them with grim news. Early yesterday morning, Lord Simpson had his guards wake everyone and had them gather outside their cabins. A mindflayer had arrived, carried into camp on a howdah by 25 savage ogres. The mindflayer spent some time alone with Lord Simpson before examining the children of the village, presumably looking for arcane talent. When the mindflayer reached the 3 year old daughter of Padan, a young widow, the thing ran its tentacles repeatedly over the child. No one saw exactly what happened next, but Padan lept at or struck the mindflayer with her fists. The mindflayer prevented his guards from killing her and instead had them hold her as other ogres broke both of her arms and both of her legs. The mindflayer then threw the child atop her broken body. No one dare help the woman, who writhed in agony all the rest of the day, her child crying beside her and begging her to get back up. It wasn’t until the mindflayer and his retinue left camp that night that her neighbors carried her back to her hut and set her bones. Some of the alchemical items in the satchel would help mend the widow’s broken body.
In addition to this story, Tyvek mentioned that the mindflayer left to the north of the camp, presumably to visit a mining camp in the hills north and east of Bent Saw. He also provided the party with a large wheel of fine cheese and a few bottles of honey mead. Finally, he asked the party to tell Rahim that he hoped to meet him in two months time at this place. The party thanked him for this news and considered immediately returning to Thridein to let Rahim know that a mindflayer was in the region, an event that had not happened in five or more years. However, since the mindflayer left northward rather than southwest toward the school, the party felt it was safe to carry on with the remained of their mission. They asked about ruins or other interesting features nearby, but Tyvek knew of no such places. Tyvek made his way back toward Bent Saw while the party gathered their belongings and headed further to the northeast in search of the fungus sample.
About mid afternoon, Pearigren caught the scent of something foul and eventually determined that the smell was coming from a decaying animal nearby. She left the group to scout ahead and followed the increasing stench to a large, lion-sized beast that had crashed into the lowest branches of a nearby tree. It had evidently been there a week or more as a portion of its decaying carcass had sloughed off and lay in a heap of rotting skin and feathers at he base of the tree. A loop of intestine hung down from its broken gut, dangling like a hangman’s noose over the forest floor. Galen approached and recognized the creature as a hippogriff, though they could not determine what had caused it to perish and wedge itself into the tree as it had. Pearigren noted that the dead creature had the decaying hand of an ogre in its mouth and that one of the fingers on this hand glinted with gold. All of these observations were secondary, occurring only after everyone overcame their disbelief at the huge flies, each more than 3 feet across, that were feasting on the remains. The flies seemed non-threatening, allowing the party to gather beneath the tree to examine the gruesome spectacle.
Pearigren placed magic on her bow and attempted to shoot the flies from the carcass. This proved to be nearly disastrous, as her first arrow skipped off the tough outer shell of one of the flies and struck the bloated body of the hippogriff. Three giant flies buzzed angrily toward the party while the rotting body of the hippogriff split across the stomach, disgorging three huge, wriggling white maggots. The flies used their thick proboscises to stab Galen and Obosh. Pearigren continued to fire and retreat, placing an arrow through the faceted red eye of one of the flies and piercing another through the abdomen. Meanwhile, the maggots lumbered toward the group and spewed a thick stream of vomit consisting of digestive juices and decayed hippogriff intestines at Galen and Simba. The flies were eventually killed and the maggots surrounded and destroyed. The party took a moment to heal its wounded members. While the fly bites on Galen and Obosh seem to heal well enough, the skin remains swollen and tender.
Pearigren and Obosh have an impromptu archery competition, attempting to shoot the hand from the beak of the dead hippogriff. Obosh finally succeeds in knocking the hand free. Pearigren determines that the ring was magical and that it would help keep the wearer warm (ring of endure elements). Meanwhile, Galen used a stick to sort through the rotting carcass at the base of the tree and managed to find a few hippogriff feathers that were filthy, though in reasonable shape. He used magic to clean the feathers, which he hopes to use as quills. Once everyone had a chance to recover from the battle, the party gathered their gear and continued northeast in an attempt to find samples of the fleshy fungus.