Our group found a female human paladin and her trusty steed stranded on a rock in the middle of the TItus River. After some fast negotiations, the captain anchored the vessel, and our heroes helped pull the two out of their predicament. She gave her name as Michaela and her horse Ann. She willingly parted with her stocks of trail rations with the adventurers, helping stave off their hunger (save for Del who was racked with more sickness from her pregnancy) as the boat drew near the Withered Woods.
As the ship docked it was already nightfall, and the crew withdrew to the inside of the vessel and closed it up, fearing what could be lurking in the woods at night. Michaela decided to join the quest that our group had set themselves on, deeming it to be noble. Locke was able to find sufficient shelter in the woods in a small cave. Irene and Theren chose to watch the camp in shifts since their elven trances would only take them each four hours while the other adventurers would need eight hours of sleep. Theren heard noises during his shift, and quickly woke the others. Michaela determined there was an evil presence, and Irene detected that there was magic among the interlopers. They were soon set upon by orcs alongside a krenshar, a strange predatory creature that attempted to scare the party by peeling the skin off of its face. Michaela helped her new friends keep their resolve, and they battled the creature and the band of orcs until they were all killed. Irene discovered that the source of the magical signal was a wand which she kept for later use.
The next day, Locke continued to lead them through the woods until finally stumbling upon Dapplebark, his treant mentor in the ways of the druidic practice. She was meditating with her dire bat animal companion, Moonleaf. She began to warn the group about the orcs that had been scavenging the nearby area, until Locke informed her that they had just disposed of them. Dapplebark was somewhat torn about the news, for she hated the orcs in the forest for their overharvesting of lumber, but still respected them as living beings. She decided it would be best to gift the group with armor from a nearby elven settlement that would serve to protect them against any further attacks, but she knew she would need them to defend her grove while she traveled. Our heroes agreed to protect Dapplebark’s grove and wait for her return.
Goran soon pointed out to Krakkel that there were markings in the nearby trees, which Michaela identified as the marks indicating an orcish god. Goran knew there was a stronghold in the Withered Woods where the orcs were operating out of. While many in the party chose to stay in the grove and keep it safe, Irene, Locke, and Michaela decided to investigate the symbols further. They followed the marked trees until they came upon a series of tents outside of the mouth of a large cave. Irene used her treewalk ability to shift into a tree within the camp, but she was spotted by a pair of blood hawks who began to attack her relentlessly and cause her to bleed. Locke was able to summon a dire hawk to dispose of one, but Irene had to strike the other one down with her magic. Locke has patched Irene’s wounds, but what will they discover in the camp? Will they be able to find the orc chieftan as they hope?