The trail proved easy to follow and with few turns. In the space of a few hours, the party reached a point where the tracks split up. The smell of smoke was again heavy in the air, so they knew whatever had burned must be close. Again, Cromartie scouted ahead. When he saw a clearing ahead, he began to circle. Soon he found a new trail leading away from the clearing, heading roughly southeast. As he began to continue his circuit, he heard the sound of a braying mule. Following the noise, he came upon the laden beast peacefully grazing near a grisly tableau.
Lying on the ground near the mule was a dead man with a spear stuck in his ribs. Next to the corpse was a dead goblin with a sword in its chest. The two had apparently slain each other. The man had the look of a trapper and his mule was carrying pelts as well as some outdoor supplies. The bodies were less than a day dead by Cromartie’s estimate. Leading the mule back, he told the others what he had found. The group then decided to approach the clearing.
As expected, a burnt out farmstead lay in the open area. A few flames still licking the timbers. There were several dead humans lying amidst the wreckage, as well as a few goblins. The bodies had been stripped of valuables. The characters bundled the human bodies into a still-burning building as a pyre, then set off along the goblins’ trail. They left the trees for a time, riding out onto the foothills along the northern edge of the Dymrak.
Roger asked Gergor if there was any other settlement in the goblins’ current path. The lumberjack said that there was a small horse camp to the southeast, but –as he’d only been there once– he was unsure of its exact location. The party decided to make time for that, leaving the trail hoping to cut off the goblins. After a short ride though, they realized they were heading for the camp where they’d encountered the Viper clan and recovered the white horses, so they doubled back to pick up the tracks again.
By the time they were following their quarry again, the skies split and a thunderstorm began. The trail became harder to see but –as the goblins seemed to be unconcerned about hiding their passage– Cromartie was still able to pick up the spoor.
It was nearing dark when they made the treeline. The rain had slowed to a drizzle again. Pavel cast a Light spell on Cromartie’s walking stick to let him lead the way in the gloom and keeping following the goblins for a bit longer before making camp. It appeared that the party was gaining some ground on their quarry. The spell was nearly spent and the sky was dark when Cromartie began to look around for possible campsites. Just then, a pair of red eyes appeared on the edge of his light and a huge wolf bounded out of the darkness at him as three smaller wolves attacked the party’s flanks.
Cromartie fended off the creature as he slashed with his sword, but his strokes failed to slow the beast. The archer thought he could see the cuts close as he made them. It caught his arm in its maw for a moment, but he tore free with just a flesh wound. Fyodor charged in with his blade Trollcutter and cut the wolf’s ribs to the bone.
Roger drew and fired at the large wolf but missed and ordered his hound to attack, but the dog was taken with a strange fear and fled into the woods. Martin used a Sleep spell on two of the wolves, dropping them handily as Allele fired at the third. Unfortunately, the spell caught poor Gregor in its net and the man slumped in his saddle.
Pavel rode up and jostled Gregor to wake him then dismounted next to a sleeping wolf, planning to crush its skull with his flail. Fyodor struck the huge wolf again and it fell dead at his feet. Cromartie ducked into the trees to see if he could spy any more beasts lurking beyond the light.
Roger was attacked by the remaining beast, but the wolf got tangled in his mount’s hooves and nearly got kicked to death by the panicking beast before deciding it’d had enough, fleeing into the trees. Allele pursued it on horseback for a minute, but had no clear shot. Martin and Pavel dispatched the two sleeping wolves.
As Fyodor beheaded the wolf, it transformed into a naked man with iron grey hair and beard. A werewolf! When Cromartie returned to the others, they immediately questioned him as to whether he was wounded. The bite did not look serious, and Pavel healed the damage, but a full moon was up there behind the clouds.
The party quickly made camp nearby and set the watches. The rain held off for the rest of the night and when dawn came. The group prepared to press on in pursuit of the marauding goblins and, hopefully, the prisoners the characters hoped to rescue.