After their battle with the giant spiders in the forest clearing, it is decided it is too dark to enter the forest in search of the troll (or whatever might be aligned with or controlling the spiders) so the group returns to the farm with the dual purpose of making camp for the night and staking out the farmer’s livestock from the barn. Upon morning, it is assumed to be an uneventful evening until the Ranger comes clean about some activity during his part of the watch, the last of the night. The most Sigfried will say is that he found something attached to the side of the barn. Handing it over to the rest of the group they see that is a page of parchment. It is a drawn portrait of Jeric.
The time to find out who or what is behind the livestock raids and to further their mission has arrived. The party moves past the clearing where they battled the giant spiders the previous night and proceed to enter the forest though a tight path, forcing them to move ahead single file with Jeric in the lead. In their haste the group ignores all opportunities of scouting or trying to enter the forest quietly and pay for this lack of foresight by practically gift-wrapping Jeric and turning him into a human pinata and human shield as the group is assaulted by four giant spiders. A large figure who is with the spiders and slowly approaching from the back is identified as an Ettercap by the Ranger. The sharp blades and brute force that Sigfried, Taran and Jeric (back in the fight thanks to divine healing from Santos) bring upon the giant spiders eventually turn the tide of the battle. And the smallest member of the party, Tallbottom, lands the biggest single blow, sneaking up and jumping on top of one and bringing “death from above”, finishing off the last remaining giant spider.
It’s after the Duskblade uses the full reach of his magically electrified chain to lay a huge hit on it that the Ettercap decides that putting some distance between it and the heroes might be a good idea. But Jeric is able to make up ground quickly thanks to one of his spells and slows it down long enough (getting entangled in the creatures’ webbing in the process) for the rest of the group to catch up. As the battle with the Ettercap continues, flaming arrows are fired into the battlefield from an unknown source deeper in the forest. The forest is on fire. As Jeric is breaking free from the webbing he catches an arrow in his shoulder, an arrow with a parchment note attached. Some of the web pits are burning and there are growing pockets of fire scattered near the heroes. As the fire and the battle rages on the creature gets the upper-hand on the party when he captures Tallbottom in his grasp and starts to bite down on him. With their options of attack on the Ettercap now limited, it is a teleportation spell from the Duskblade that makes the Ettercap disappear (dropping the halfling in the process) and reappear right in the middle of a large nearby fire, finishing it off.
The battle over, the Duskblade yanks the arrow out of his shoulder and is dismayed to find that it is another portrait of himself, but doesn’t have much time to ponder the implications as the Ranger is doing his best crying Indian impression in regards to the spreading forest fire. Something has to be done about it. The heroes eventually realize that they are going to need some help in dealing with the blaze. Luckily, Jeric has a not-so-useless magic item in the form of a mechanical raven, perfect for sending a message. Tallbottom quickly scribbles a note of help and directions to the fire and Jeric sends it flying off to the Shadowtheists’ library in Valencia.
The heroes make their way back to speak with farmer, who becomes obviously upset at the news of his land being on fire …oh, and he gets a little upset too at the breaking news of being knocked to the floor with the Rangers’ hands closing around his throat. Sigfried begins spewing some wild allegations of deceit and treachery before being pulled off of the farmer. The farmer still loans the party some of his horses and, as the group begins their ride to Valencia, they cross paths with Valencian Shadowtheists and Wizards on horseback making haste towards the flames. Taran engages them in dialog and establishes that it was the heroes who sent the message. Taran and the rest lead the Valencians to the fire, which they magically put out in a matter minutes.
The particular Shadowtheist from the library that gave Santos and the rest of the party the very undertaking which seemingly ended in this very spot a mere hour ago is among the group from Valencia. Accusations are directed at the party regarding the source of the flames. The party takes note of animosity between the Clerics and Wizards, the latter holding the Shadowtheists responsible for sending the party into the forest in the first place. Santos volunteers to be divinated by the Wizards which then absolves the party of guilt. The party states they’ve completed their quest and held up their end of the deal with the Shadowtheists. The Head Cleric agrees and promises the party they now have access to the area of the library that they need.
During this time, the halfling is able to sneak away to investigate a treasure chest that went noticed earlier and make his way back to the party before anyone realizes he was gone. When given a chance Tallbottom informs the group of the chest he found and what is in it. While announcing the contents of the chest Jeric decides the Rouge is not telling the whole truth and menacingly picks up the halfling until he admits he was not telling the entire truth (but for reasons that were exclusively private to Jeric). On the suggestion of Santos, the two of them make their way to have a private conversation regarding the details where the discussion was potentially overheard by one of the other party members (can you guess which furtive, and unstable party member this might have been? Hint: it probably wasn’t Santos.).
You might be asking yourself at this point “What’s Berek (real or doppelganger) been up to while in the company of the party during their battles and this entire time?” Answer: not a gotdamn thing.
Back in Valencia it was left to Santos and Tallbottom to get fair value for their gems found in the treasure chest. The group then split to do some shopping and purchase some equipment upgrades. Tallbottom went back to the library on his own while the Ranger and Duskblade returned to the Barge Wright Inn to follow-up on some leads of their own. Including meeting with a very eerie contact of the rangers, Ralg, to discuss the city’s chronic undead problem. After deciding on the next step the two decide to purchase rooms and call it a night.
The following day, after discussing what to do next, the group decides to put the library on hold for now and investigate the forest first to find out who was responsible for the fire. The group picks up their upgrades from the city vendors, including the Ranger getting confirmation (in front of Jeric) that a dagger he recently acquired is magically cursed. The very dagger used to attach the Duskblade’s portrait to the barn.
New equipment …uh, equipped, the heroes return to the scene of their victorious battle in the forest. The investigation doesn’t turn up anything noteworthy, so the entire party decides to head back to Valencia to meet with the Ranger’s contact, Ralg, at dusk in the city-square to see what can be done about the undead creatures. After questioning the city folk and the militia through the early hours of the night the only certainties the party is able to ascertain (besides that they still suck at skill challenges) is the local militia are unwilling or unable to do anything about the undead, as they are conspicuously absent whenever the undead arrive. The back side of the inn is a specific area that seems to warrant further investigation. They also learned the undead frequently appear in the city square near the Barge Wright Inn at about the same time every night. It is around the time of this discovery a far-off, low moaning and the approaching scuffle of several pairs of boots signal that time of night has arrived.
The heroes look toward the sounds and, as one, slowly unsheathe their weapons…