Rasennan Summer

4 - Poison at the Roots

A disturbing disappearance leads the group into the woods, where they discover even more foulness than expected.

Roberto rejoins Ettorio, Vesper and Opilio over a late breakfast, where they relate to him all their findings. Before they leave, a young peasant — one who was dispatched to the windmill with the job of burying the Scarhawks’ bodies — reports to Andelac Borsari that said bodies were all missing when they arrived. The group immediately grows suspicious, and goes to track the missing corpses. A trail leads into the woods.

Opilio is able to follow the trail, which is no small feat. Some glamour lies over the wood, tangling most of the others’ sense of direction. Further signs that the wood is in disarray come when several animated chunks of vine, wood and detritus attack the group. These entities are dispatched after a quick skirmish.

The next cause for consideration comes when the group discovers a small “V” shape of white stones laid across the trail. When they pause to examine the stones, they hear laughter from an unseen source. Soon several invisible beings (fata of some sort) begin to question them in circular fashion. From the fata, the four are able to learn that the dead passed by on their way “to church,” and that someone named Quercinnarra (likely a dryad) has been poisoned and is going mad. They manipulate the invisible fata to guide them to Quercinnarra, using reverse logic to satisfy the perverse creatures’ reluctance or inability to give honest advice.

Quercinnarra is indeed a dryad, both ill and on the verge of madness. Through careful analysis and courtesy, they are able to clear her mind somewhat and learn more about the situation. Opilio in particular swears righteous vengeance against the forces of corruption, and asks an oak-sprig token to carry into battle. The dryad tells them that the forces of the poisoned orchard are moving against her, and points the direction to where the stream has been polluted.

The four find a scarecrow there, set above disturbances in the earth. It is, of course, a particularly spiteful trap: the scarecrow is an animated construct, several reanimated rotting corpses lie under the earth, and the scarecrow’s shirt is full of pale, emaciated stirges. The conflict is vicious, but in the end the Phouthites’ tools are destroyed and the four are able to excavate and burn the ritually enhanced plague-corpses that were poisoning the stream.

They return to following the trail of the stolen dead, and cross over into the woods on Potifol Whiteknees’ land. At the top of a hill, they discover a small depression filled with a blighted orchard that surrounds a small stone temple. Ettorio goes to scout, but is not quite as stealthy as he would like, and draws the attention of a particularly ambulatory fruit tree-turned-guardian. After he retreats (and the tree returns to its post), the group deliberates on their next move, and finally decides to go attempt to find Dorego.

Their timing is excellent, finding Dorego just as he leaves the Falcon and Goose after dark. Ambushing him, they learn that he is aware of much of the plot but not of the existence of the Phouthite temple; he’s been only two years in Potifol’s service, and doesn’t know all his master’s secrets. He reveals that they set a green lamp in a window facing the woods when they wish to meet with Salzar, and surrenders a message that he had gone to pick up. The four take him into custody, and decide to lay all their findings before Andelac Borsari to see what he may wish done next.

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