(Sorry about the posting delay. I’m going to cover the next bits quickly, but let me know if I make any egregious errors.)
For two weeks the party remained in Kelvin as Martin recovered his strength. Finally, they prepared to leave the town, hoping to follow the tapestry map north. They made good time to Rifflian, stopping at the elven trading town for the evening.
While Ollimarus was imbibing at a pub, Martin entered at took a separate table unseen by the dwarf. A bit later, some men entered the taproom then suspiciously turned around and left. Martin noticed, but Ollimarus was turned to call for another tankard and did not see them.
Martin followed, casting Invisibility on himself. He tracked them back to seedy inn and as they checked on their horses, the mage overheard part of conversation where the men planned to ambush the dwarf since they’d been told “There’s supposed to be a dwarf with them.” Martin sabotaged the men’s saddles and quickly returned to warn Ollimarus.
The dwarf had left his heavy armaments at the inn, so he “rented” a cudgel from the barkeep and he set off with Martin back to regroup with the other characters. The ambush was sprung near an alley, but Martin’s Sleep spell made short work of it. All the men bore the Iron Ring’s brand on their arms. The two characters dispatched the underlings and Martin Charmed the leader.
Back at the inn, they trussed up the unconscious prisoner and the party concocted an elaborate ruse to fool the ruffian into thinking that Martin and Roger worked for the Ring as well so they could pump him for information. When they woke him up, the playacting, coupled with the Charm spell, made the man tell them everything. The Iron Ring wanted the tapestry and had sent groups out in different directions to find them. His team was sent by a man named Darius, who was camped somewhere in the moors outside Kelvin.
Once he felt there was no more to be learned, Roger signaled Nightlie to cast a Silence spell, and killed the man. The group wrapped him in a blanket and Martin turned the body invisible, allowing the brawny Nightlie to carry the body out of the building unseen. The party later dumped it in an alley before leaving town. They decided to return to Kelvin and try to wipe out the slaver camp to prevent further interference.
The road back to Kelvin was uneventful, but attempts to enlist the city watch’s help was futile. A day or so was spent scouting the moors near town for an encampment, but other than some giant boars that were frightened off by Martin’s Fireball spell, nothing of note was found. In the end, the group decided to strike out for Threshold via Highforge and deal with the Iron Ring if they came across them.
At Highforge, the gnomes and dwarves welcomed Ollimarus back home, but were leery of the strangers. Roger had hoped to gather more information about Hutaaka (or trade for magic weapons), but little of either was forthcoming.
The next day, the party reached the outskirts of Threshold. Pavel grumbled at Baron Sherlane’s reputation as a Patriarch in the Church of Karameikos. The party was cautious, because the thug back in Rifflian had told them that the Ring had a sergeant of the Threshold Watch in their pocket.
THe group decided upon an elaborate ruse where Martin would disguise the dwarf as Golthar (via Phantasmal Force), since Ollimarus was how the slavers had identified the group in Rifflian. The hope was the sight of Golthar might throw any Iron Ring members off the scent.
Unfortunately, all didn’t go as planned at the gate, where a sergeant and the guards requested that any weapon besides a dagger, club, or staff be surrendered at the gate house. The ensuing discussion caused Martin to break concentration and the dwarf suddenly appeared in Golthar’s place. Since wizardly magic is forbidden in Threshold, the guards were obviously upset, but the sergeant was insouciant since –technically– the party had not yet entered the town.
The group turned around and left, finding accommodations in the lakeside fishing village, which had no such rules about weapons. At a dingy wharf-side inn, the barkeep was kindly disposed toward the party’s coin. When asked about ruins, etc. in the mountains, he found Mishka, an doddering crone carrying a bedraggled cat who told stories for food and drink. Amidst her nonsense, and after a few ales, she did mention a tale about a valley beyond the Foamfire Falls.
The barkeep send an errand boy to town the next day to ask about any guides willing to lead the party. Wolfirth, a taciturn man who claimed to have seen the falls Mishka had spoken of, offered to lead the group. He warned them that the road would soon become too rocky for mounts, so the Martin and Pavel led the horses and mules into town and found stabling there, paying ahead for up to month.
The party set out the next morning and reached the Foamfire (a tributary of the Shutturga, west of the lake) by afternoon, they made their way into the mountains before stopping for the night. The path was rough, but not impassable. Some stretches even appeared to have been roads once, with ancient overgrown cobbles visible in places. The next day, they continued northward.
On the trail, they spotted a thin line of smoke ahead, just then half a dozen gnolls came out of the underbrush. The fight was over quickly, and none of the gnolls escaped. Roger scouted ahead and found that the smoke came from clearing with a smoldering fire, flapping crows, and a charnel reek. Not a good sign.
The crows flew up and the party found a grisly sight: burnt and cracked human bones in a fire, broken spears, and the torn remains of bedrolls. The bones were human, but notably missing their heads. Paw tracks led both up and down the trail, but since the party had already met some gnolls to the south, they pressed on to the north.
Not far from the site of the massacre, the mist came rolling into the valley. Visibility was low and the party advanced cautiously. After a time, they spied weird shapes standing in the fog and heard an eerie wail. The shapes turned out to be the remains of dead gnolls in various states of decay, staked out in concentric circles on a low hill. Once the the party reached the hill, ghouls burst out of the ground and tried to attack, but Nightlie turned them and they fled underground once more.
As the party tried to cross the morbid landscape, several live gnolls rushed out of the fog at them. The fighting was fierce and during the melee, the wailing sound returned in the form of an ancient female gnoll shaman who cast Blight upon the party and attempted Hold Person on Martin. The heroes still managed to saly the gnolls and their shaman, but could hear the sound of more gnolls approaching from the south, and in greater numbers. The party wisely beat a hasty exit to the north.
The group came out of the worst of the fog farther upstream and saw that the sun was nearly set. Looking for shelter, Roger found a small cave entrance partway up the steep side of a mountain. The hole turned out to be occupied by a large bear. Pavel cast Speak with Animals and, through offerings of dried meat and a Cure Light Wounds spell applied to a wounded leg, managed to negotiate the party sharing the bear’s den for the night. The group was cramped, as the beast did not allow them into the back half of the chamber, but Roger felt relatively confident the bear’s scent would confuse any gnolls tracking the party. A slightly uncomfortable night passed, but without incident. As the sun rose, the group was ready to move on (and the bear wasn’t sorry to see them go).