Chapter 4: Old Growth
Part 1: The Sawmill Trap
After recuperating for a week at Est Abbey, Father Hubbins meets the party in the stables and warns them that the Vermese army is searching for a party of their description. The same day, a message arrived at the Abbey asking the party to meet at the sawmill outside of Lakewood for a mission that promises to pay well.
Hubbins sends the party on their way, with parting gifts including horses. The group takes the road west to Lakewood, with a stop at a roadside lodge known as the Halfway Inne. The Innkeeper presents the party with a message that is identical to the one at the Abbey, asking to meet at the sawmill, signed “-B”.
The party arrives near the sawmill at nightfall. From the surrounding trees, the Rangers Bordin and Orik get the group’s attention. The rangers and their men, along with Loricone the head of the teamster’s guild, have intercepted identical messages aimed for the party, and are waiting to warn the group of a trap. While Orik recommends leaving for the woods, Bordin convinces the group to head for the sawmill to spring the trap, with the rebel band waiting in reserve to help them.
The group is greeted at the sawmill by the foreman, Rennik, who is clearly nervous and anxious for them to enter. When they do, the trap is sprung by 2 Vermese guards, a hobgoblin captain, and a sorcerer (bandit from chapter 1). After a pitched battle in which soldiers outside are preventing from assisting the trap due to the Ranger’s help, the party is victorious (with the sorcerer escaping). Rennik confirms that the evil-doers were holding his family hostage and forcing him to trap the party.
In the aftermath of the battle, Rennik and Loricone reveal that the Vermese have been forcing townspeople to harvest larger and older hardwood trees from the forest at a faster rate than ever before. Over the last weeks lumber has been streaming into the mill by lake and wagon, until two days ago, when it mysteriously stopped. Rennik reveals that someone high up in the Vermese army forced the traitorous Sargeant Goodwin himself to organize a squad to find out why the forced labor teams have stopped delivering hardwoods to Lakewood.
Part 2: Trailing the Traitor.
Bordin recognizes that, with Goodwin away from the town and in the woods, this represents the best opportunity to capture the Sergeant alive and interrogate him about the Vermese forces in Lakewood. His information could help free the town. He convinces the party to assist with a promise of a reward if they can get Goodwin alive back to the Honeycomb.
With the bridge clear of Vermese soldiers, the ranger’s party tracks Sargeant Goodwin’s “brute squad” into the woods for the better part of a day. At one point, the tracks seem to diverge amongst three paths. The rangers decide to split the hunting party into three groups, and to send word back to a scout at the path if any of the group spots Goodwin.
Clinton leads one party into the woods, following tracks past an Ogham stone with druidic warning symbols. At one point, riderless horses are seen fleeing in the other direction. After traveling into the dark old growth for several hours, the party finds a clearing that was used for recent logging, not far from the river. The large clearing still has a few wagons, half loaded with timber. There are severl tents in the encampment. Exploring the clearing, the party discovers a bloody stump and a blood symbol on a tent. Also, one of the wagons is revealed to belong to Porkin’s dad, Pappy Shankweed.
From behind a tent in the large clearing, Goodwin reveals himself and seems to blame the party for the fleeing of his horses. He attacks the party with a Vermese guard. Shortly into the battle, an archer (Cherra) attacks from the woods, and a Gnoll tracker rampages out of the forest atop of a giant hyena to join the fray.
After a furious battle, the gnoll, hyena, and guard are dispatched but the party is greatly weakened and Goodwin is barely touched, harmed only by Radcliffe’s magic missles. Clinton finally dispatches Parquinryde to try to get help from the rangers. At this point, the forest itself come alive as first a mysterious woman enters the clearing, casting spells, then two druids (the haughty Vayama and the somewhat deranged Thistle) soon join the fray and trap Goodwin and Cherra in an entanglement.
Vayama convinces Clinton to tell the group to disarm to be spared his wrath. Since Clinton is a fellow Greddic, Vayama says he will likely allow the party to live, but Goodwin and Cherra must be sacrificed for their role in destroying the old growth hardwoods.
The party is placed in holding pits while Clinton confes with Vayama. Clinton is unable to get Vayama to change his mind about releasing Goodwin. Meanwhile, the party unsuccessfully attempts to escape. Finally, Radcliffe is able to get out of a pit and encounters Orik, who was led to the clearing by Parquinryde. Orik frees the rest of the party as well as Goodwin and Cherra, but the party is stopped by Thistle who has been watching the pits from the woods.
At this point, Thistle goes from bloodthirty to compassionate, and helps Bordin convince Vayama to release Goodwin and Cherra into Bordin’s custody. Vayama reluctantly agrees for the greater good, but extracts an unknown promise from Bordin for payment.
Thistle also confirms that the workers in the clearing that weren’t killed by the druids were captured and traded to a clutch of lizardmen upstream in the marshlands known as the Fens. The captured included a halfling that must be Pappy Shankweed.
After resting for a night, Bordin and the rangers leave to bring the mercenaries to the Honeycomb, while the party proceeds to the clutch of the Lizardfolk.
Part 3: The Clutch
The party proceeds upstream to the Fens and finds the mound that serves as the home of the Lizardfolk clutch, where Thistle indicated it would be. The party enters the clutch trying to bargain with the lizardmen, but are simply attacked by the lizard folk guards. The party encounters a lizardman druid guarding a gem encrusted lizard skull and defeats him, taking the skull. After further exploring the the caves, the team finds an exit guarded by a crested lizard champion and defeats it. Soon the party finds the hideous food chamber were men, both living and dead, are tied up waiting to serve as food for the lizards. The party rescues six of the men and is able to escape after being surrounded by lizards by returning the gem skull which they seem to regard as an idol.
After Pappy confides that two of the rescued are Vermese guards, the team, weakened and weary heads upstream to leave the fens and meet up at the Honeycomb.