The next morning breaks and the party meets several new characters in their preparation for the trip to Thurmaster. Talman, after finding the local temple empty, meets the local shop owner Rastifer. Although Rastifer doesn’t sell weapons, he assures the group that he has or can procure about anything they could want or need. His definition of the usefulness of such items however may be up for interpretation. The current priest Semephis, and the towns lack respect for him is briefly discussed. Talman describes his approach and how he hopes to turn the favor of the town’s people. Over at the Silver Crown, Groat has gained some local information from the owner Thimpsen and his son Gergel. The group commissions a merchant barge heading east down the Churnett river for Thurmaster.
Arrival in Thurmaster is uneventful although the condition of the town is considerably worse than Milborne. Much smaller and fallen into neglect, Thurmaster sits on the East side of the Churnett just north of the NE corner of the Thornwood. The town is surrounded by a rotting, decapitated wooden wall and gate although keeping anything out is a mere formality of a day long past.
The group finds Tauster at home. He is happy to receive his chest and after checking the appropriate paperwork provided by Dain’s servants, trades the party for a notice of credit redeemable by Squire Marlen.
Tauster is asked about Jelenneth’s disappearance. He hasn’t seen her since she left for Milborne, but he wasn’t expecting her back yet either. The news is distressing for him and he asks the party to visit the ranger Kuiper at his farm along the Churnett. Jelenneth frequents the woodlands near there and if she is anywhere in the area the ranger will likely know. Tauster offers to put the party up at ‘The Hound and Tails’ for the night.
The group finds their way to the inn, along the way inquiring about Squire Marlen with locals they meet in the short distance. They are directed towards the inn. Even in the short conversations however, it’s clear there is some ill will towards Marlen.
At ‘The Hound and Tails’, the group finds Squire Marlen going through some paperwork over dinner. They discuss the note of credit from Tauster and Squire Marlen says that he will take care of it soon. Not being soon enough the group pushes him for an immediate payment. After some back and forth, he agrees to pay them after his dinner. The group doesn’t leave him much peace eagerly awaiting his departure.
Once at the Squires residence, the group is greeted by a well-armed guard in the doorway. Marlen tells them to wait for him outside. Hendell, not wanting to let Marlen out of his sight insists on coming through. Groat takes up position around the back of the residence. After a few tense moments Squire Marlen returns to the door and payment is made in full. The party knows this will not be the last time they cross paths with the squire or the guard.
Back at the inn, the group gets some local history from the owner Weismar. He tells of the Lizard men raiding parties from some 40 years past that were responsible for town’s current condition as well as the deaths of nearly half of Thurmaster’s residents. Count Parlfray eventually hired a small contingent of fighters to end the lizard terror. Sending them deep into the Shrieken Mire to dispatch with the Lizard leader. Although Lizard men still live in the mire, they are rarely seen and have not caused problems for decades.
Before heading out towards Kuiper’s farm, the group meets with Tauster again and inquires about Count Parlfray. Attempting to seek an audience with him, they look to Tauster for an introduction. Tauster only feels mildly put out by this, as he’s oft to do with most requests, and mentions that he was hired by the count for some “Celebratory Fireworks Display” the next week. Tauster agrees to discuss a meeting with Parlfray.
Now heading back up the north side of the Churnett by foot the party settles in to an easy pace. They meet a field hand along the way that gladly directs them to Kuiper’s farm. They meet Kuiper, a sturdy man with a firm handshake and a welcoming greeting. Kuiper hasn’t seen Jelenneth for a week or so, but knows that she frequents the upper Thornwood to collect different plant life for her work with Tauster. He suggests to the party that they collectively investigate the Thornwood in search of any sign of the young apprentice. The party agrees and after supplies are gathered they venture south with Kuiper.
The group heads into the Thornwood along Hog Brook. No sign of Jelenneth is found and the ranger grows increasingly concerned. The group decided to push on a bit farther. Deeper into the wood and the forest begins to close in. The path, once clearly underfoot becomes harder to follow. Just then the group is startled by two wolves. Kuiper motions for the party to stop as a new figure emerges from the thick brush ahead. A young woman, clearly of the forest, a Druid.
Kuiper and the woman talk for a short time while her wolves keep everyone mostly in their places. They speak in Druidic, although no one in the party can understand the conversation. Kuiper introduces the Druid, Oleanne. He relays her story about a frightened werebear she has been tracking. A boy from a farmstead near Kuiper wondered into the Thornwood and turned. Frightened and unaware of how to handle his new form the bear became desperate and ran deeper into the forest. Oleanne had been tracking him, afraid for what unexpected situation the boy may face, or what harm he may cause.
The group having found no sign of Jelenneth, and at Kuiper’s recommendation, decides to help track the bear. Oleanne says that they are not far behind him. Night, however, comes fast in the forest and after a valiant push, everyone decides it better to camp for the night.
Just before Dawn the party is aroused by Oleanne’s wolves. They sense danger approaching and give just enough warning, turning what would have been ambush into a fair handed fight.
At least 8 Orcs come rushing up through the trees and break into the party camp. Oleanne’s wolves rush forward towards the leading two orcs. Dain Stonebeard takes the lead, bashing through the Orc line. He takes an early heavy blow causing a tense moment but Talman is quick to action and pulls Dain back from the brink. The party makes quick work of the Orc grunts, and even the leader falls without much more trouble. Talman continues to be quick to heal and even helps Arlin, Oleanne’s lead wolf. The party’s quick action and teamwork are not lost on Kuiper who is quietly impressed.
Investigation after the fight reveals gear from the orc group is as expected for such a band, but the leaders shield and actions speak to a purpose that neither Kuiper nor Oleanne have seen in the area. This has them both concerned. Oleanne, unsettled by this disturbance, sets out immediately to track the orcs back to their origination. Confident that Oleanne can handle herself, Kuiper gets the party together to continue tracking the werebear.
Picking up the werebear’s tracks, the trail begins to loop back to the thinner area of the woods. It’s then that the party catches up to the boy. Still in bear form, the boy is seriously wounded but incredibly agitated, confused and aggressive. Kuiper insists that no more harm come to the boy and he pulls out two nets from his pack. The party attempts several moves to calm the bear while they encircle him. In a final flurry of strength the party successfully ensnares the bear.The bear is brought under control and now with a familiar face leading him home, offers no more resistance. Before emerging from the woods the boy returns to his normal form. Salyne covers the boy now exposed to the world and thoughts of her own children are at the front of her mind.
Back at Kuiper’s farm, he urges the party to return to Milborne and update Garyld. He will be keen to learn the last day’s events as well as everything the party has learned so far regarding the missing Jelenneth. Kuiper heads off to take the boy home to his family. Our party heads west towards Milborne.