Anhursday, Quadrember 30, 358 EK
Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, and Desire’lya call over a charming Vistani lass by the name of Katya and begin to join in the revelry while Godfrey keeps light watch in case the Voivode tries anything suspicious.
The night continues without incident.
Traveling the roads without incident, apart from a persistent drizzle, the quartet arrives in the town of Bahyrst on the morning of Isetsday, Quintember 2. They decide to resupply and rest the evening at the local inn, looking to see if there is any work to be had. They hear tale the Ermafeld Mercenary Company is offering 5 gp for any gnoll pelts and 2 gp for any orc ears retrieved on the roads or in the woods, with the warning that the orc tribes are far more organized to the northeast, all gathered under the banner of Uzgash, the Butcher of Deepwood. They decide to keep a look out as they head into the woods.
The next morning, the group enters the common room to find Niserie Woodvine awaiting them. She explains that she has spoken with Nona, whose own auguries confirm Desire’s claim that something strange is afoot in Khemenelda. It does not currently appear to affect the Wandering Styck, but as all things are connected, it will no doubt be their issue eventually. Given these events, the Styck has agreed to postpone their judgment on Dareisyn and Desire’lya so that they may set right that which is wrong.
However, Niserie continues, when Desire’s quest is complete, they will revisit this issue, and fully expect for Syn and Desire to return to the Styck. Desire asks if Niserie or any others of the Styck wish to quest with them; she declines, but indicates that they will be keeping watch on the pair to monitor their progress.
Before she leaves, Niserie delivers one last message from Nona — that she hopes she was wrong about Dareisyn and Desire’lya. With that, Niserie departs.
Somewhat relieved at the good news, Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey prepare to disembark, heading to the east in the hopes of encountering this mysterious minotaur hermit, Noostoron.
The group travels along a dirt path through the drizzle, headed east. They encounter a settlement in the late morning of Rasday, Quintember 4. The settlement is surrounded by thick walls, at least twelve feet high. The gates are open with no guards on duty; sighting though the open gates, the settlement largely appears to be wooden longhouses and mud huts. A few people are milling about, some repeating menial tasks, and all appear to be in a daze. Desire sends Roc to survey the area from above, and Timber to sniff around. The group also investigates around the walls of the settlement, searching for any clues; Desire notes that the settlement has two gates, one facing the path to the west, headed back to Bahyrst, and the other facing the forest to the east. The eastern gate bears tracks, leading deeper into the woods; these tracks appear to be heavily laden, as if carrying heavy loads, and reveal nearly twenty people. Based on the wear, these tracks were probably made in the last week.
Desire explains this fact to the rest of the group, and they decide to investigate the town. Bosabrieln enters first, keeping in sight of the gate. The smell hits him first, a smell of rotting food and human waste. He greets one of the villagers, but the man appears to not recall his name or what precisely he is doing; his eyes are glazed, and his pupils dilated. Since Bosabrieln returns, seemingly unharmed, the rest of the group deigns to enter. Desire’lya quickly recognizes the symptoms of Mindfire, a degenerative illness which causes fever and brain swelling, followed by stupor. It does not cause death on its own, but the infected may very well die if they foolishly do something dangerous, or are unable to care for themselves. Inhalation is thought to be the primary vector.
After taking additional precautions, the group investigates the town. Most everyone appears to still be alive, although there was apparently an explosion at the local healer’s shop. Based on the markings, she was evidently a worshiper of the minor goddess Gouginm; her mangled corpse and mess suggest she was mixing a potion and something went awry. Desire concludes that she was likely afflicted and accidentally mixed the incorrect potions, but Godfrey indicates that residue in her vials suggest they were mislabeled. Perhaps the sabotage was from an outside source.
The group proceeds to visit a local stream to get clean water for the townsfolk, and Desire prepares to go through her ritual cleansing to revive the herbalist and priestess. However, Godfrey wants to investigate the town further first. The group agrees, and splits to investigate. The most notable fact is to the north of the town, in the largest building. It is stone, and heavily fortified; investigation suggests it was some manner of vault or mint. It appears that the invaders, whomever they were, cleaned out the entire village’s treasury — which appears as though it might be a major treasury for the Kingdom of Hörundsflúr.
The group returns to the healer’s shop, and Desire begins her ritual. While she performs that, Bosabrieln uses his Fastidiousness ritual to make certain all four of them are clean in the hopes of preventing infection by Mindfire.
Desire finishes her ritual preparations in the evening, and with everyone’s help, the healer is restored to life. She introduces herself as Edeweil, and thanks the travelers for their assistance. According to her account, she died before the outbreak began. She confirms that the residue in the bottles does not match what was supposed to be in the bottles, and idly wonders if it was the travelers who came through a couple of days ago. She explains that she can heal these people, although it will take time; after some discussion, Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey agree to hunt down the possible bandits while she starts tending the villagers. Since they have had good relations with the townsfolk in this region, Desire’lya attaches a note to Roc, sending him away to retrieve official assistance to aid in healing the villagers.
Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey then trek into the woods, with Desire and her wolf Timber leading them along the bandits’ tracks. As it is quite dark by the time they disembark, they camp for the night. The next day, they continue to follow the tracks, approaching a camp sometime in the mid-afternoon. Fifteen humans keep watch, armed with short swords and wearing hide armor. The sixteenth, apparently the leader, is a pale-skinned woman in plate mail, carrying a massive axe and a spiked shield. The bandits do not notice the approach of the quartet.
After observing the proceedings, the group develops a plan. Desire’lya retreats into the woods to establish contact with the local wolf population. Dareisyn goes hunting for a ditch or cliff nearby. Bosabrieln and Godfrey assist with the latter activity.
With Timber’s assistance, Desire’lya finds a wolf pack and convinces them to assist her — if they can harry and distract the bandits when the time comes, she’ll tend their injured and let them eat the dead. Meanwhile, Dareisyn finds a notable enough cliff and performs a ritual to conjure a shadowy bridge over it, hoping to lure the bandits onto it in time for it to collapse. Once everyone has reconvened near the campsite, the wolves move into position, and Bosabrieln casts an illusion over the group that makes them appear as gnolls.
At the signal, the wolves begin their attack. The bandits refuse to leave the campsite, however, apparently guarding a large cache of bulging sacks. As they won’t move, Dareisyn signals the charge; Bosabrieln, Dareisyn, Desire’lya, and Godfrey creep out of the woods. About half of the bandits continue to ward against the wolves, while the other half rushes forward to engage the “gnolls.” A bloody battle ensues; Godfrey is quickly surrounded and knocked unconscious. As Desire’lya attempts to reach him, bandits manage to converge on her position and also grievously wound her. Bosabrieln revives both of them, but the bandits are quick to antagonize the avenger and the druid. However, Dareisyn gives them no respite, keeping them engaged while moving to Desire’lya to revive her with a goodberry. As the bandits’ captain determines that the wolves are just a distraction and drives them away, the remaining bandits join the battle. Bosabrieln keeps them at bay with his spells while Dareisyn keeps them engaged with sword and spell, ensuring that Desire’lya and Godfrey have time to recover. With the aid of Dareisyn’s summoned shadows, the group manages to slay most of the bandits despite the bandit captain’s fearsome axe and apparently magical prowess. Dareisyn leaves three of them alive but unconscious, including the bandit captain.
The wolves feed on the fallen. Desire’lya is intensely shaken by her brush with death, and becomes exceedingly agitated. Godfrey offers to go hunting with her while Bosabrieln and Dareisyn interrogate the bandits; she accepts, and they walk into the woods. Bosabrieln and Dareisyn awaken and interrogate one of the bandits. They learn the man’s name to be Martin, and he explains that they engineered the “accidental” death of the healer in Clegate. They also infected the town with Mindfire, returning after several days to raid the treasury. They have changed campsites every day, while four scouts have been monitoring the road, waiting for a cart to pass they can hijack. Dareisyn offers him the opportunity to work for him instead — tell the scouts they’re out of work, assist him in cleaning this mess, and he’ll put in a good word to the local authorities and see about trying to get him an honest job. Given the circumstances, Martin agrees, although he recommends they execute Bartreda, the leader, as she’ll never let it go.
They awaken the other bandit, Bartholomew, and largely determine the same information and make him the same offer. He accepts. Dareisyn offers them 400 gp apiece — 200 gp up front, and 200 gp upon their return. They accept, take their gold, and head off ostensibly to inform the others. Bosabrieln and Syn then wait for Desire and Godfrey to return so that they may interrogate Bartreda. When she starts to rouse, Syn knocks her out again.
Meanwhile, Desire and Godfrey are hunting. In the midst of Desire draining a deer, Godfrey gets her attention, asking if she is all right. He notes that she has “been having quite a week,” although Desire mishears the statement, thinking that he called her weak. She returns to hunting, contemplating her weakness in the face of peril, and the steps she can take to correct the error.
Desire and Godfrey return after about an hour, loaded with plenty of game. Despite having thoroughly searched the bandits, the group resolves to make certain she does not have a card from the Deck of Many Things, given that they firmly expect that to be the case. Dareisyn awakens Bartreda. She curses the group, and offers no information. Bosabrieln asks if she has a card; she seems puzzled, and since she has no further information, they allow Desire to indulge her rage by draining Bartreda dry.
The group then moves the sacks throughout the surrounding woods, burying them or otherwise hiding them as best they can. After some discussion, they decide to send a messenger to a nearby settlement to inform them the gold has been recovered. As Godfrey is intensely swift, they dispatch him as messenger. The group gives him the remaining goodberries, and Desire gives him her seed of healing. They wish him a safe journey, and he walks into the woods.
Bosabrieln, Desire, and Syn settle down to camp and wait.