- Adrienne as Arden Silva, Human Rogue and Wilderness Guide
- Jay as Petrov Merrin, Human Wizard and Scholar
- Joe as Joryn Redstar, Human Cleric, Blacksmith, and Devoted Follower of Moradin
- Travis as Daxil “Dax” Loren, Human Rogue, Agent of the Librarians of Caleborn
- Wesley as Theran Lantadal (Treeskin), Wood Elf Druid, Healer, and Follower of the Spirits
Durgan’s Hearth was a small town near the Northwall Mountains on the northern edge of the Kingdom of Bandery. Those who accepted Baroness Corianna Aralayne’s invitation to serve as her agents in the Province of Winter’s Edge were instructed to gather at The Hearth, a longhouse and tavern, to meet with the Baroness.
The party met with Aralayne, who demonstrated herself to be friendly and trustworthy, but also young, inexperienced, and lacking in confidence. She was clearly a soldier, not an officer or a noble. Thus, she let let her valet, a weasely human man named Aldomir Vrasten, take the lead.
She explained that she had never been to Winter’s Edge, but she had had contact by letter last autumn with the reeve of the province, a man named Hured Junarson. He was prepared to welcome her and her entourage. Aralayne simple asked the party to scout the road to Winter’s Edge, meet with Junarson, and await her arrival. She and Vrasten had some business yet to attend and would follow the party, probably about two weeks behind them.
She explained that the only way to reach Winter’s Edge was a narrow pass through the Northwall Mountains that could be reached by following an ancient road through the Whitewood Valley. She warned the party to be on their guard as the wilderness could be quite dangerous.
After the meeting, the party learned a little more about Aralayne from Olad Durgen, the landlord of the hearth. Corianna Aralayne had been a young, inexperienced footman in the King’s Army of Bandery. During a battle with a fierce band of hobgoblins last spring, she had become separated from her unit when the main force was routed by hobgoblins and bugbears. Stuck behind enemy lines, she apparently located one of the Hobgoblin Battlechieftains, a fierce warrior named Kurvan the Bloodletter, and she managed to slay him. While it didn’t quite turn the tide of the war, it certainly did contribute to Bandery’s eventual victory by the summer. Aralayne was granted a boon by the king for her heroism and she had requested that she be allowed to reclaim her family’s ancestral holding, the province of Winter’s Edge, which they had been forced to abandon over a century ago when the family fell into bankruptcy.
Olad described Aralayne as good-hearted and tenacious, but in over her head.
The party set out along the road to the north, a road only rarely traveled by peddlers in the summer months. As the party wandered through the thick mixed forest of the Whitewood Valley, they found that the spring floods had made their journey a bit more difficult. The bridge over a fast-flowing, cold river about fifty feet wide had been washed out. The party was forced to slowly, painstakingly fell a tree with spell and brute force and discovered that they might have been ill equipped for the rigors of the northern wilds.
The Spirit of the Woods
During their second night on the road, a mysterious presence attempted to frighten the party into fleeing from the forest, but they resisted its ensorcellement and continued their journey, though they never learned quite what had tried to chase them off save for the fact that it was humanoid and slightly smaller than a human.
The Elf Corpse and the Goblins
A day or two later in their journey through the woods, the party came upon the corpse of a wood elf abandoned on the road. Thought it was several days old, it was strangely untouched by scavengers save for the crows tentatively picking at it. Examining it, they found the young elf warrior had had his left hand hacked off and a serrated dagger had been buried in his left eye. As the party tried to make sense of this, they were ambushed.
A small warband of vicious forest goblins and their hunting wolf allies leaped out of the forest and a battle ensued. The party made short work of the goblins and their wolves, save for the leader of the warband, whom they captured and attempted to interrogate.
The goblin leader claimed to be a cousin to their chieftain, but the party was unimpressed by his threats. Eventually, they learned that the goblins had not attacked the elves, but did frequently skirmish with the elves of the Whitewood. In this case, though, a troupe of a half dozen human soldiers had traveled through the forest about a week prior. They had killed this elf along with more than a dozen more up in the hills near an ancient tower.
The party let the goblin go.