After resting the night in the cave, the PCs decided to follow the Haven road northwest and eventually north around Crystalmir Lake, the better to avoid pursuit from Solace and still head east to Xak Tsaroth.
They hadn’t gone far before they encountered a group of heavily robed and hooded pilgrims travelling out of Haven. There were four surrounding a simple ox-pulled cart. One of the pilgrims hailed them and, in a muffled voice, asked if they had heard news of a staff of blue crystal, claiming that one of their number was ill and that only the staff could heal him.
The PCs, exchanging glances, claimed not to know of such a staff. The pilgrims, clearly disappointed, indicated their wish to continue down the road, and the PCs stepped aside. As the pilgrims passed the PCs, Thorim attempted to pickpocket one of them. He had failed to note a loose stone on the road and instead tripped, falling into the pilgrim. As he did so he heard the unmistakable chink of armor under the robes, even as the pilgrim hissed and backhanded Thorim, knocking him to the ground.
As Helrak stepped up to defend him, the pilgrims ripped off their robes (they appeared to have been designed for easy removal), revealing scaly hides, wings, and reptilian faces. Draconian? Such a race had never been heard of on Krynn. Whence had they come? Unfortunately, those questions were to remain unanswered; the dragon-men attacked. Some launched themselves in the air, but they could not remain aloft long and quickly returned to earth. The fight was difficult for the PCs, and was compounded when the PCs discovered that the dragon men turned to stone when killed, frequently encasing the weapon of those who had killed them.
Eventually the PCs prevailed. Soon after the combat was over, the dragon man statues crumbled to dust, allowing the PCs to retrieve their lost weapons. The equipment of the dragon men had similarly survived, and the PCs decided to load it onto the cart (the ox had remained calmly chewing its cud throughout the entire combat) with the intent of selling it, along with the cart, at the next village they encountered. They continued on their way.
Less than half a mile down the road, the PCs encountered a white stag standing in the middle of the road. When they attempted to go around the stag, the stag moved in front of the cart. It then bounded to the side of the road and turned back to watch the cart. As the PCs attempted to move on, the stag bounded back in front of the cart. This sequence repeated itself several times and eventually the PCs decided that the stag wished them to follow it. At this point Silentstorm recalled that the white stag was, according to certain lores, good luck and that those who followed it would be blessed. Thorim, on the other hand, noted that the stag was clearly headed toward Darken Wood and that Darken Wood was rumored to be haunted by undead and that none who entered it ever returned. After a long argument, it was decided to ignore the stag and continue on their way.
The stag stared at them until it was no longer in sight. After an hour or so on the road, it was by this time still before lunch, the light woods through which the road ran opened up into rolling farmland; Crystalmir Lake was now fully behind them. The PCs found a small track leading north and began to follow it. Soon they came upon a small village, but a quick investigation determined that it had been hastily abandoned either last night or the night before. Silentstorm, investigating the road, discovered strange tracks reminiscent of a lizard near the track of a cart; he determined that they must have been the tracks of the dragon-men they had fought earlier that morning. The tracks led from the north.
After lunch, the party released the ox, abandoned their hard-won gear, and continued north up the road. After a couple hours they were now firmly north of Crystalmir Lake, so they began to trek east across farmland. As they continued east they noticed a column of smoke which gradually revealed itself to be the smoldering remains of a lonely farmstead. Investigating the fire revealed more dragon-man tracks, this time coming from the north-east but eventually leading away to the east.
The party chose to follow the tracks east and barely a mile further they crested a small hill that provided a very interesting view of the farmland below. Marching slowly (almost lazily) in a narrow file that stretched as far as the party could see in either direction was a large army of dragon-men. The party quickly hid and watched the army as it progressed. After an hour dusk began to come on in earnest and the army stopped for the night. Campfires sprung up in a string from horizon to horizon.
The party quickly realized their way east was blocked, and retreated to the ruined farmhouse to rest for the night. It was debated and eventually decided that the party would wait for the army to pass and then head east.
That night, Silentstorm and Helrak dreamed of the white stag they had seen earlier that day, looking forlorn and somewhat annoyed. How they knew this they couldn’t tell. Believing the stag was perhaps a sign from the Gods, the party decided to return to where they had last seen the stag rather than push onward east.
They arrived that afternoon at, more or less, the spot where they had last seen the stag, but it was not there. They waited for a fruitless hour and were just on the verge of heading north again when the stag stepped from the woods to the south. After waiting barely a moment, it immediately bounded back into the woods to the south. The party followed, frequently losing sight of the beast but always catching a flash of its tail to lead them further south. The land began to slope up and eventually they came to a near-vertical wall of stone 20 feet high. At the top of the wall stood a further column of stone that from most viewing angles looked like two hands pressed together; the peak known locally as Prayer’s Eye peak.
Directly under the column of stone was a narrow crack in the wall about three feet wide that stretched all the way up the wall and continued all the way up into Prayer’s Eye peak. The party watched as the stag disappeared into the crack and quickly followed.
After several hundred feet, the crack opened up into a large clearing of hills rolling down into a dark forest of very twisted and knobby trees. Darken Wood. The party watched as the stag disappeared into the woods.
Thorim warned that he feared the stag was leading them into ambush, reminding the party of the ill rumors surrounding Darken Wood, but Silentstorm and Helrak merely shrugged and continued down the hill. The fading sunlight quickly turned to blackness as the party plunged into the woods. After stumbling blindly about they came upon a track and began to follow it; there had been no further signs of the stag since they entered the woods.
The track shortly entered a large clearing in the woods, but the party stopped short as a dozen spectral beings stepped into the clearing from the other side. They appeared to be warriors with skeletal faces, but were translucent and spectral; clearly undead. Thorim immediately looked over at Silentstorm and said “I told you so!”
Before the party could react further, one spectral warrior stepped forward and demanded in a thin voice: “Who dares enter Darken Wood?” The party stared at one another and provided their names, at which the warrior stated: “Welcome; you are expected. The Forestmaster awaits you.”
The other specters faded into the woods while the speaker led the party further into the woods. The woods shortly opened up into a large clearing, revealing the Forestmaster—a white unicorn. With a melodious woman’s voice, the Forestmaster invited the party to dine and relax before their quest was to continue, explaining that she had been visited by “an old friend” who required that the party be in Xak Tsaroth within two days to obtain the greatest treasure on Krynn.
The Forestmaster provided a hearty meal to the party; they were served by centaurs, fawns, nymphs, and pixies. During the meal the Forestmaster explained that the forces of dragon-men (whom she called “Draconians”) were on the move and that she feared that Darken Wood, which had always been a force of good despite the evil rumors that surround it (evil rumors, she explained, that were cultivated by her for their safety), would fall to the approaching armies. She would hold out as long as she could, but eventually the fey creatures would need to retreat or be destroyed utterly.
She explained that the fey creatures were willing to do their part and, gesturing with her horn, she indicated the edge of the clearing, where a large tiger had stepped out. “This is Muffin. He is more than he appears. He will accompany you on your journey, to represent all of the fey creatures of Krynn. For now, rest. Recuperate. Your journey is only beginning.”
The party spent some time conversing with the Forestmaster, particularly Thorim, who was very interested in the history of Krynn (especially Xak Tsaroth and the eras before the Cataclysm), and the Forestmaster was an expert, having lived through much of it. The Forestmaster said that she would be glad to discuss the era but feared that it would help the party little; the magic of Darken Wood would prevent them from recalling anything that had happened within it after the party left. They would simply believe that Muffin had always been a companion. After a relaxing meal, the Forestmaster clopped her hoof on a stone three times and soon several Pegasus flew into the clearing—two carrying a large leather harness between them, obviously meant for Muffin.
The PCs saddled up and, with a final farewell from the Forestmaster, found themselves in the air over Solace. As the PCs noted the line of the draconian armies advancing on Solace, a wave of lethargy swept over them and they were soon all asleep. Only Silentstorm was able to hold off the lethargy for the entire flight; he watched as they flew over his home village of Que Shu and despaired as he noted another army approaching his homeland in the distance. Only when they had finally landed on the outskirts of a dark swamp did he finally succumb to the clearly magical sleep, but not before his Pegasus mount had explained that they could fly no further and that Xak Tsaroth was within the swamp.
When the party awoke, they awoke as from a dream, believing they had traveled around the draconian armies to the north; their original plan before they chose to return to follow the White Stag. The events of the previous night,the Forestmaster, the flight, the introduction of Muffin—all were forgotten entirely. Why, Muffin had always been a pet of Silentstorm; they were sure of it.
As they approached the swamp, Silenstorm noted draconian tracks all over the only trail into the swamp, both coming and going. The party entered with caution, but soon found themselves ambushed by a group of spellcasting draconains. Several members of the party were overcome by sleep and web spells, but Silentstorm, Thorim, and Muffin managed to overcome the draconians. Unlike the draconians they had faced yesterday, when killed, the flesh of these draconians crumpled away, revealing glowing bones that then exploded.
After the fight the party did what they could to recouperate.
Here ended Session 2.