The second session started on the 23rd of Mirtul, and winter is just starting to give way its grip upon the land. Dim, Errol, and Roland were in the main hall of the Gilded Horseshoe when their three friends arrived, Spark, Tanis, and Artorius (a friend of Dim’s from the family with whom he is hiding from). Greetings were quickly shared and Dim brought the newcomers up to speed on events. An night was spent at the Horseshoe for the weary travelers to have hot bathes and rest, and then after a sumptuous breakfast the were out the door and off upon the quest, Tanis ahead by half a mile marking the trail with sticks through the snow.
Half a day out the party spied a homestead eight hundred yards from the trail and decided to stop in to gather what information they could. The Farmer Andy and his hands were suspicious at first until the party had taken their first ritual drink from them and established the peace of hospitality as guests, and then enjoyed their company for the rest of the evening. None there had ever heard of Arbor Grayle, and many were interested in what the party had to say about Master Renfrin. What could be learned of Neverwinter was a bit confusing, most warning them not to enter the haunted woods which were inhabited by the dead spirits of those who were slaughtered there two and a half decades before. Others reported that they knew folks who gathered fallen wood for firewood in the forest and came back out unharmed. Frustrated that they could not get solid information they stayed for a warm night’s sleep in the bunkhouse with the hands while Dim entertained the farmer’s family for the evening, satisfying the tradition of guests leaving a gift for their hosts.
Tanis again took point the next day, and near the end of the day had an encounter with four hunting silver timber wolves. Obviously starved from the long winter the animals circled the Ranger who was much too far from the main party to be able to receive aid from them. He successfully managed to wound the entire pack of four wolves with arrows and blade and drove them off. There were other trail mishaps before the party reached the Neverwinter wood by following the old longing road beside the Sorrow river, but all were overcome.
The wood proved ominous in that there was a sense upon entering the forest proper of being watched, critically. For two hours the party pushed through, staying upon the snow covered logging trail. They encountered remnants of logging activity in the form of immense rotting (and frozen) stumps, identified by Tanis as sequoias. The decomposing remnants of a logging wagon was seen off the side of the trail and eventually a gargantuan tree (20ft diameter) which had fallen across the river and lay upon the trail with a cutout where the it passed through.
Soon the party entered a gigantic clear cut, miles wide and deep where no trees stood at all, only brush and choking brambles. Artorius insisted that the feeling of foreboding increased in this area, though no one else could sense it growing stronger. From the edge of the tree line the group could see several buildings down in the shallow valley and decided to investigate. First the stone foreman’s house was searched revealing nothing but a giant spider which was quickly killed by the combined effort of all the group. The dilapidated and collapsed Mill and Kitchen provided little, however in the rotted bunkhouse a chest was found containing a good bit of gold and an ivory carving of the God Moradin.
Deciding to investigate a strangely unfrozen pond, the group left the lumber camp and headed over, only to be interrupted by the flight of a snow owl which landed ahead of them and transformed into a beautiful woman who identified herself as Alannah, clearly a Druidess. She elicited a promise form the party, sworn upon their Gods, to help her with the pond which she identified as the source of the disruption in the logging camp. Something inside the water was poisoning the land, allowing only brush and thorny brambles to grow in the clear-cut. It is beyond the power of the Druids to extract the malaise. This promise was given with the bargain that she would provide help in locating Arbor Grayle and the Goblin camp that she confirmed was staying there. When Arbor returned from his every other month trip to Longsaddle to sell his wares to Master Renfrin, he would always stop here to stash something in the bunkhouse (the treasure the party found), and then head north into the woods to the Goblin nest. Alannah summoned a magnificent twelve-point buck to the clearing and told the party to follow him to the Goblins. She warned the group not to approach “Wind in the Bush” nor harm him in any way, but to follow the deer to their goal. She then transformed back into the snow owl and flew off.