Saturday, June 14th, 758, Shudderwood/Margreve Forest, Outskirts of Karpad, Ustalav
The group reconvenes inside Grandma Babushka’s tree house. She prepares tea, and Gregore pulses to heal the injured. Grandma Babushka looks rather the worse for wear. Czerwonya is sitting with Katarzyna. Abner goes over to the window and starts rolling a cigarette. Grandma Babushka thanks them for helping. She offers to teach them a rite of the forest. The rite will allow one to understand the language of wolves and wargs, and the effect will last for several days. One uses a pouch made, a flint shaped without iron, a living wolf for sacrifice. Slit the wolf’s throat with a flint knife, and steal the voice in a pouch of wolfsbane. If it’s done on the first night of a full moon, the effect will last for three days. If the wolves learn that you speak with a stolen voice, they will become hostile. Grewen, Katarzyna and Kendra talk about the implications and drawbacks of using the rite, and Kendra and Katarzyna are both fascinated by the ritual magic.
Kendra also looks around at the books and other unique items that Grandma Babushka has in her home. Grandma Babushka speaks in ancient fey to the tree, and it starts moving in a southerly direction. Grandma Babushka speaks with Grewen, but he can’t quite understand what she is saying. He feels odd, but doesn’t sense any malevolent intent on her part. She smiles and pats his cheek. Grandma Babushka starts making food, noticing that Katarzyna’s stomach is growling, and starts preparing a hare with Grewen’s helps. At some point, Grandma Babushka pricks Grewen’s finger (with his consent), and has him pull nettles off a pine branch with his bloodied hand. She takes one of the nettles and puts it in water, and instructs Grewen to put the other nettle in his mouth. Grewen chews the nettle. Grewen sees the pine nettle in the bowl spinning, then settles on pointing in a single direction. Meanwhile Czerwonya has fallen asleep, and Gregore also seems to be growing tired.
Grandma Babushka talks about their next steps, and Grewen mentions the satyr that was inadvertently released due to their actions. They speak to each other in fey language, and Grewen is disconcerted by some of her words. Katarzyna can’t understand their conversation. Kendra makes notes with regard to the language that Grandma Babushka and Grewen are speaking, fascinated by the exchange. Grewen’s demeanor is clearly apprehensive, however.
Grandma Babushka starts going through a book, and finds some snakeskin, which she hands to Katarzyna. There is a Spy My Shadow spell somehow embedded in the snakeskin. Grandma Babushka gives Grewen a spell, and she gives Kendra a book. The tree stops, and they learn that they will be staying the night with Grandma Babushka in the tree, though the tree will not be moving. Grewen goes to a nearby brook to do some fishing. Everyone makes their way outside to enjoy the lovely setting that the tree has stopped in. The evening is very relaxing, and Abner brings out bowls of hare stew for everyone.
Katarzyna tries to figure out the spell from the snakeskin, but is unable to determine the proper sequence. She makes notes to study the spell later. When Czerwonya awakes, she and Katarzyna while away the evening with games, conversation and observation of the animals in the glade. The glade is idyllic, and everyone is charmed by its beauty and peaceful ambiance. Dragos is uncharacteristically quiet, but Abner spends some time with Grewen as he’s fishing for Grandma Babushka.
Kendra hands Katarzyna the book that Grandma Babushka had given her. It’s called Wisdom of the Old Ways. It has various curses, incantations and charms. Katarzyna is fascinated by the incantations, noting that there is a backlash to their use. Grandma Babushka makes Kendra and Katarzyna swear not to share the wisdom of the old ways with “city folk”, and both women agree.
Sunday, June 15th, 758, Shudderwood/Margreve Forest, Outskirts of Karpad, Ustalav
The night passes peacefully, and they awaken refreshed. They discover that they are in a mushroom circle, and Mother Babushka and the tree are nowhere to be seen. Katarzyna notices with amusement that Silvio has pilfered one of the fish filets being prepared for breakfast. There is a wineskin of goat’s milk with breakfast. Grewen notices as he’s packing his things the clay saucer and bowl of water with the pine nettle are among them. They gather up their things and head in the direction indicated by the pine nettle. Kendra loads the pistols for herself and Katarzyna. Dragos is somewhat churlish, clearly still affected by recent events.
The pine nettle points in a specific direction, southwest, and Grewen recollects that they had been heading in a southeasterly direction in the tree. As Grewen and Katarzyna are talking, Dragos shushes them, and they listen intently. Katarzyna doesn’t hear anything, but Grewen notices a dearth of the usual animal noises, the forest is unnaturally quiet. He sets down the bowl with the nettle, and draws weapons in preparation for whatever is heading their way. Amelia, Pearl and Silvio are all dispatched to scout the area. Everyone is on edge. As Grewen moves forward, he sees a small creature, with the appearance of a little girl. The creature starts to move toward Grewen and jumps at him and holds on tightly. Czerwonya is obviously startled by the creature. She says “myling” or something similar when Katarzyna asks her if she knows what the creature is. Kendra says it might be a creature that arises from the restless soul of the unburied dead. It wants to lead Grewen to the site of her death. Through Pearl, they learn that they are headed toward an abandoned and overgrown cemetery, and continue forward cautiously.
As they arrive at the cemetery, they notice that it is in a state of extreme neglect and the presence of a few nested dolls, probably offerings to the Margreve. Dragos points out a cave across the brook, and a rickety bridge that connects to it. The myling seems to guide Grewen toward an open spot in the graveyard, where she wishes to be buried. As he reaches the spot indicated, the girl becomes unbearably heavy, and the ground starts to feel like mud under Grewen’s feet. He begins to sink into the mud with the myling. Kendra tries to shoot the myling, and Katarzyna casts Disrupt Undead on the creature. A battle ensues, with everyone feeling very poorly for the creature, but wishing to save Grewen from being buried alive. At one point, Czerwonya tells Katarzyna that the myling doesn’t want to be alone, and points toward one of the nested dolls nearby. But before Katarzyna can act on that information, Grewen has been extricated from the myling’s grasp, and she sinks into her grave, sobbing and weeping in a strange way, having no tongue with which to form words.
After the sad end of the myling, they recall that Dragos had called out to them during the fight, and had not joined in the struggle with the myling. Gregore goes over and also becomes transfixed by whatever Dragos sees. Kendra walks over and stares as well, with tears streaming down her face. Gregore turns away and tells the others that they have to free the dead shackled children near the bridge. When Grewen and Katarzyna walk over to edge of the pit, they are horrified by the sight. Chained shapes writhe on the open ground in front of a cave, and they recognize them to be mylings, with a few barely alive children among them. Some of the children look like their heads had been shaved. When Grewen mentions that the thing that hurt the children might be in the cave, something snaps inside Dragos, and he heads heedlessly toward the cave entrance. Abner guides a traumatized Katarzyna over to the cave entrance, taking care to avoid the agitated mylings.
Inside the cave are finger paintings done in clay mixed with blood. There are broken and shattered nested dolls as well as some wicker fetish-like dolls. The footing is poor, so Katarzyna casts Spider Climb to make it easier to move inside the cave, having recovered a bit of herself from the horror she had just seen. Moving deeper into the cave they see a beautiful female shape that sits on rock out-cropping near a waterfall at the far end of the cavern, and she beckons to Grewen, who almost falls under her spell but recognizes the siren for what she truly is. Grewen tells the others that the creature is a Rusalka. A grim-faced Dragos pronounces a divine judgement on the rusalka, while Katarzyna skitters along the wall to get within spell range, then casts a Web Bolt at the creature. Katarzyna also fires off Magic Missiles at the rusalka. The rusalka Dominates Gregore, who rounds on Dragos, trying to hold him underneath the water. Dragos manages to come up for air and swings on the rusalka. Gregore lunges at Dragos, but fails to subdue him. Katarzyna fires off another Magic Missile, but the rusalka doesn’t seem too worried about her. She focuses on Dragos, using her thrall Gregore to keep Dragos at bay. She also swats Grewen with such force that he almost releases the rock he’s holding onto. Enthralled Gregore slams Kendra on the back of the head with his mace, while the rusalka attempts to grab Grewen, doing him grievous harm. A badly injured Grewen continues to attack her while held within her grasp. Finally, Grewen manages to sever the rusalka’s arm and destroys her.
Grewen uses his axe to release the rusalka’s corpse from a shackle attached to its ankle. They decide to remove the corpse of the rusalka from the cavern. Grewen and Kendra determine that if the rusalka’s corpse dries out completely, the woman’s soul will be freed. Gregore grimly carries the body out to the nearby graveyard, avoiding the mylings outside the cave. Grewen searches the vicinity of the rock, but doesn’t find any other clues to the rusalka’s purpose. Katarzyna makes her way out of the cave, back to the graveyard to check on Czerwonya. Kendra tells Grewen that Czerwonya is probably slated to become a fey creature, because she lived through the ordeal of the paths of Gamayun. Grandma Babushka had been the previous tribute who had survived the ordeal. When Kendra tells Grewen that it was Grandma Babushka’s pine nettle that led them to this site, it gives him pause. They discuss what to do about the poor mylings still tethered to the marshy ground outside the cave. Grewen tries to talk to Dragos, but he appears fixated on proceeding further into the cave.
Back outside, after determining that Czerwonya is safe, Katarzyna uses her Spider Climb to make her way over the one living child among the chained mylings who had not yet been rescued. Abner had managed to get the other two back to the graveyard, where Czerwonya helps him tend to the very sick, traumatized children. Abner makes his way over to where Katarzyna and the child are, and Katarzyna uses Disrupt Undead to slay the myling that stands between the herself and the child and the safety zone. Abner and Katarzyna are working quickly, knowing that Silvio is urging them to return to the interior of the cave to aid Kendra, but recognizing the necessity of freeing the child first and foremost. Abner has to pull on the child’s tether to get her to come close, as she is wild with fear. They finally manage to free her from the tether, and guide her over to the cemetery where Czerwonya and the other two rescued children are. Abner and Czerwonya do what they can to make sure the children are safe, and start to slowly feed the children and give them water. Katarzyna leaves the children in their care, and makes her way back into the cave to aid Kendra.
Meanwhile, Dragos proceeds into a new area of the cave, resolute and implacable. Kendra and Grewen have no choice but to follow. At this point, Kendra sends Silvio out to get the others to come help. Inside the cave room, Dragos, Grewen and Kendra survey the scene. They see the corpse of a man whose head has been twisted around, another body is slumped on the floor. There is rotted food on the table, and it appears that one of the bodies had been slain in his sleep. Another had been stabbed several times, and his throat had been slit. A wooden palisade with a gate forms part of the wall of the room. The dead men look like brigands, and Grewen speculates that their base of operations might be in a nearby settlement. As Dragos is surveying the palisade, he mumbles that they might need Abner’s expertise to get beyond the gate. Kendra decides to try her hand at it, since Abner is otherwise occupied. She uses various tools, including a small mirror, to disable a trap that would have impaled a person who tries to open the door. The threat neutralized, she enlists Dragos’ help in heaving the door away.
Gregore catches up with Dragos, Kendra and Grewen, and they proceed through the palisade gate. Dragos is focused intently on investigating the cave. They discover a cache of goods stolen by the brigands. Grewen notices large goat prints in the cave. He tells them that they might be on the track of the fell satyr. Katarzyna enters the palisade room at that moment. They wonder aloud about the current location of the satyr.
Suddenly, they all hear the sound of mournful pan pipes, and Grewen, Dragos and Gregore are all enraptured by the spell. Kendra and Katarzyna worriedly follow the spellbound men to a room that appears to be a makeshift prison. Katarzyna detours over to the area, where a man, two children and a sick, injured woman are locked up. The man appears to have gone mad, but Katarzyna talks hurriedly with the woman, then proceeds toward the pan pipe music in pursuit of her companions.
Grewen, Gregore and Dragos amble into a room where a young man is tied up, and Kendra follows, with Katarzyna trailing by only a moment. They see the satyr on the other side of a divider, playing the fell music that has enraptured the three men. Kendra looses both barrels of her pistol on the satyr, shooting the beast in the eye. “These are my boys” she says. Katarzyna uses Mage Hand to grab the creature’s pan flute, as it crumples to the cave floor. Grewen, free of the spell, pounces on the prone satyr to deliver a coup de grace, decapitating the creature. In the moments afterward Grewen notices that there is something unnatural about the satyr, that it was a blighted fey.
Katarzyna skitters across the ceiling to where the teenage boy is bound. He is taken aback by the sight of Katarzyna as she Spider Climbs, and shrinks from her. Kendra goes over to the boy, who seems almost animalistic in his nuzzling of Kendra and apprehension toward Katarzyna. Kendra tells Katarzyna that the boy had been violated by the satyr, and both women regard the severed head of the beast with grim satisfaction. They manage to get the boy out of the room, cutting his bonds and helping him shamble weakly outside.
Grewen discovers a stairwell leading upward, and investigates it with Dragos. They come to a platform, with a ladder going upward. Dragos climbs the ladder, and find that it leads out of a rather large tree. From this vantage, Dragos can see the town of Karpad off in the distance.
Kendra, Gregore and Katarzyna release the captives in the cages. The man is still muttering incomprehensibly. The children are hugging the man, but he seems unaware of them. Kendra determines that the woman had also been violated by the satyr. The woman tells them weakly that there were other children in the family who had been raped and killed by the satyr. Kendra expresses concern to Gregore and Katarzyna about the family re-integrating into Karpad society, she fears they will be ostracized. Katarzyna talks about possibly bringing the family with them to Lepidstadt. Gregore urges them to finish tending to the family, and they quickly set to work getting the family to safety and looking for things that might help them learn more about what had happened to them.
They all regroup at the graveyard, where Abner, Silvio and Czerwonya are still huddled with the children rescued from among the mylings. Katarzyna, Grewen and Gregore set to work destroying the remaining mylings. Katarzyna is especially traumatized by the necessity of the work. They set up camp near the graveyard, but well away from the cave, since the rescued people are too weak to travel any real distance. Much of the rest of the day is spent tending to their wounds and diminished mental and physical health. Great care is taken that they don’t feed them too much, as Gregore and Kendra know that it could prove fatal to the already weak survivors.
Monday, June 16th, 758, Shudderwood/Margreve Forest, Outskirts of Karpad, Ustalav
The morning breaks, and everyone is exhausted and melancholy. Abner urges Katarzyna to eat something, and she listlessly obliges. They are all feeling the effects of the previous day quite profoundly. Grewen returns from a short scouting jaunt, and informs them that the inn is only a quarter mile away. They decide to carefully and slowly bring everyone to the inn. They find the Gamayun path on their way back, and it is open to them, with no fey and no traps to hinder them. As they come out of the Gamayun, they run across two little boys playing. The lads start at the appearance of the group, and run off calling for their mother. They hear a bell tolling, and Köler runs out and searches among the children until he finds Czerwonya, hugging his daughter tight. Köler is effusive in his thanks toward Grewen especially. Grandma Babushka is in the crowd as they all gather around. The townsfolk tell them that the rescued man’s name is Frankezek, and his farm had been mysteriously abandoned only a week prior. They also talk of missing children in the area, and the three rescued from among the mylings are indentified. They are all given food and rooms free of charge. Katarzyna grows quiet, and goes up to her room early, taking to her bed. Gregore also leaves the festivities early.
The barbers are jovial toward Grewen, Czerwonya and Köler, and many among the folk gathered are jubilant at the successful outcome of the ordeal of Czerwonya. Kendra and Dragos don’t share the mood, and are drinking more heavily than usual. Abner is also not in the best of spirits. Grewen drinks quite a bit among the revelers, but he feels a bit like a fraud since he had been taken out of the fight against the werewolf that had captured Czerwonya.
Toward evening, Kendra checks on Katarzyna, who is rather unresponsive. Grewen realizes at one point that he hadn’t seen Gregore since they arrived back at the inn, but is distracted by the festivities and forgets to follow up on that realization. Eventually the celebration winds down, and everyone goes to their rooms to catch what sleep they can.
Tuesday, June 17th, 758, Shudderwood/Margreve Forest, Outskirts of Karpad, Ustalav
Grewen is rather hungover when he awakes on the couch in the common room. The barmaid cheerfully brings him breakfast.
Katarzyna is up early, thought not feeling particularly rested, and prepares her spells. She dresses in her increasingly tattered entertainer’s outfit, which appears rather incongruous with her mournful demeanor. She goes downstairs and finds Abner. They talk about the situation with their broken wagon and with Frankezek’s family. They hear a horse coming quickly past, and they see Kendra riding. Abner goes to check on the wagon, and Katarzyna goes in and sits for breakfast with Grewen, but eats very little.
Abner returns and tells them that the wagon is repaired. People from the area have left new clothing for Kendra and Katarzyna. Kendra thanks them for her clothes, but she keeps her travel clothes on for the ride. Katarzyna absently dons her new clothes for the journey, the bright colors and festive embroidery only making her appear more pale and melancholy.
Köler and Czerwonya come to the inn to bid them all farewell, and Czerwonya hugs Katarzyna, Grewen and Amelia. Dragos shakes Köler’s hand, and also bids farewell to the barmaid.
Abner has made a makeshift cover for the wagon, to keep out the worst of the rain, and placed blankets in the back for Katarzyna. Gregore is quiet and preoccupied as they get on the road. It’s a rainy day, and the wagon wheels slosh in the ruts in the road. Abner finds his way to the Northern Road, and Katarzyna and Grewen doze in the back of the wagon. Grewen’s slumber is fitful though, and he awakes from nightmares of being pulled into the earth by the myling. Kendra regards Grewen with sympathy. The rain and thunder increase, and those riding in the wagon drift in and out of sleep, even Pearl, Silvio and Amelia seem listless and subdued. Grewen and Kendra both have trouble sleeping, but Katarzyna is deeply asleep for most of the day. Abner is up front in the wagon, soaked to the skin in the unending rain as he drives the wagon.
Gregore asks Grewen about his “sleep horrors”, and offers to help him with the problem. He hypnotizes Grewen, and Katarzyna wakes up while he is taking Grewen through the dream. Gregore places the suggestion that Grewen focus on the accomplishment of helping the soul of the girl find peace. Grewen almost instantly falls asleep, using Amelia as a pillow, and his sleep is untroubled by nightmares. Gregore also tries to help Kendra, but she is far more resistant to Gregore’s efforts, and he is unable to help her. Finally, Grewen wakes from his long nap and Gregore decides to cease the effort with Kendra for the time being. She decides to join Abner at the front of the wagon, quickly becoming as soaked as him. The sky darkens toward dusk, and they continue on the Northern Road without stopping.
In the distance, Kendra sees a torch or some kind of firelight. Kendra calls out to the others in the wagon. The source of light turns out to be an inn. The inn’s name gives Kendra pause, it is the Witch’s Teat Coaching Inn. The Northern Road is one of the more civilized areas of the Margreve, so they don’t feel too badly about it. Gregore and Dragos enter the inn, and wind chases them into the room and snuffs out candles. Katarzyna and Grewen enter the inn shortly after. The clientele in the inn appear to be mainly Vistani. The barmaid ushers Katarzyna and Grewen to a table. One of the Vistani men has a prosthetic leg made of wicker, and a Vistani woman wrings blood-soaked rags into the fire. Katarzyna keeps Silvio close and tries to soothe him. When the others enter the inn, the wind blows out the candles. Abner and Kendra come in to the common room and talk quietly with each other and a few of the Vistani gathered.
They hear the sound of a baby crying, followed by screams of terror. A man draws a blade and rushes up the stairs, but he is stopped and he sits back down. Gregore and Grewen approach the woman wringing the rags, and a man asks Grewen if they want to help. The man with the wicker leg snaps at the man who talked to Grewen. Kendra tells them that the man with the wicker leg wants to kill the girl before “it” is born, but someone else says that “if she dies the secret will die with her”. Gregore manages to make his way toward the stairs with the rag-wringing woman. Gregore has a meaningful exchange with the wicker-leg man. Gregore then asks Kendra and Katarzyna to come up the stairs with him and Grewen, but Abner and Dragos are to remain downstairs in the common room.
Upstairs, they find a dark bedchamber, with an old woman on a bed soaked in blood. A Margreve man holds a knife in his hand. There is a massive gall on the woman’s abdomen, and something writhes within the growth. A ranger feeds milk to a baby in the corner. Gregore approaches the crone, and the surgeon tells Gregore that he can’t cut away the growth. There is a box containing some kind of flying insect, which draws Grewen’s attention. Grewen recognizes the ranger in the corner with the baby, so he goes over and asks him what’s going on. The ranger, Sandor, tells Grewen that “it’s the Margreve, my friend” and that the woman’s name is Jedza, and she is a witch of the forest. Jedza had foreseen great danger to her this day and so the witch was trying to stave off death, by fusing with a willow tree and hiding. The tree was tainted somehow, and it left the giant gall on her abdomen, and she couldn’t remove it with knives or magic. She felt something moving inside the gall. Sandor had gone to see Jedza, in the hopes that she could help save his sick babe. Sandor’s lady love, Nanya, had died when the baby was born. He hoped that Jedza could save the baby. Sandor carried Jedza and the baby to the inn, where he encountered the Vistani. He is worried on behalf of Jedza, the Vistani’s efforts have not helped her. A group of Vistani were dispatched to retrieve some kind of medicine from the Jedza’s sister, at her urging. Gregore doesn’t think the woman can be helped, and tells Grewen such.
Adric, the Vistani man, asks them to heal Jedza to give her a chance to survive long enough for the jug from her sister to arrive. The crone says “It’s too late, the four men are already dead, Tanya, open the window.” Tanya unbars the window, and a spindly winged creature climbs in through the window. Katarzyna recognizes the creature as a homonculus. Because it has four wings, it’s a Lepidstadt homonculus. Tanya starts crying. The crone had sent her homonculus to help Tanya’s husband and sons to retrieve the items from her sister.
Grewen asks Gregore to take a look at the baby, and Jedza calls Katarzyna to her side. She also calls Grewen over in the fey language. She begs Grewen to retrieve the jug from her sister. Jedza says Mitka, the homonculus, will take them to her sister’s house. Jedza asks Grewen to swear an oath to do everything he can. Grewen won’t swear the oath, but Katarzyna does without hesitation. Gregore asks Grewen to use a healing spell to help buy some time for the old woman. Grewen uses his healing prayers to try to help the woman. He notices that the woman is a villah, similar to a dryad. Grewen swears the oath to help her. She draws a crude map from the inn, west to a clearing, northwest to a centaur graveyard, and then north along a ravine to Mavra’s house. Jedza calls for someone named Vassily. Vassily turns out to be the wicker-leg man. She asks for his leg, and he reluctantly removes it, and hands it to Jedza. It is to be used as a cage for Mitka.