With the vampire seemingly destroyed and Orithur returned to health the party took a well earned rest, and spent the week visiting Holg’s Locker, wandering about the village and generally reflecting on their experiences. While some of his friends rested Johann found work at Itokonen’s. Sadly, though, the party discovered their friend, Veronwe, was leaving the party. Veronwe had come to Ashlar to observe humankind and to learn more about the short-lived folk of the duchy, but now living among the humans had become too much for him.
With his departure, the party was reduced to but six individuals. However, in a stroke of luck, a mere day later a strange gnome arrived in Coldwater. Seemingly an exact lookalike for Addabar, Coldwater’s gregarious apothecary, it turned out the newcomer was Addabar’s identical twin Genobar. This development was met with surprise by the party, but the newcomer was quickly welcomed into their ranks. However, Addabar was less pleased to see his brother. When the party visited his shop to pick up certain alchemical items they had ordered the apothecary took one look at it his brother and demanded they leave. Warg wouldn’t take no for an answer, however, and tried to force the two to speak. Addabar was having none of it and in the ensuing argument (and scuffle) it transpired Addabar blamed Genobar for the death of their brother, Davobar. Addabar was intractable on the subject and the party left wondering if their nascent friendship with Genobar had irrevocably damaged their relationship with the apothecary.
During the rest of the week the party rested, but also managed to have an audience with the local ruler, Elina Vuolle, This old woman rarely came into the village and instead sent her chancellor to interview the heroes. After the interview, she invited them to her manor for a late supper and some of the party broke bread with the woman—who confirmed she was looking to sell the village and move away. It transpired she was not a local, but married into the local family forty years ago or so at her father’s insistence. With the disappearance of her husband, Einar, decades ago, she had grown increasingly lonely and miserable and wanted to live out her last few years in comfortable luxury (elsewhere). She was obviously a spellcaster of some small skill. During the meal, she noticed Thangrimm cast detect evil—which she declared a poor show and rather rude—and she bore a staff of brass-bound black wood, which was almost certainly magic. Thangrimm’s semi-secret casting of detect evil, however, did reveal something of interest—something in Orithur’s backpack radiated faint evil. (This was later confirmed as the lapis lazuli shard they had found at the bottom of the old Purho well.) Dinner was a pleasant, if slightly bland affair, and culminated in Elina showing the party the Vuolle’s ancestral sword—a plain steel longsword almost completely with adornment. However, the sword radiated a faint heat and when Thangrimm drew the weapon from its plain scabbard small flames began to flicker along its blade. This was clearly a magical weapon of some power and Thangrimm seemed loath to return it to Elina.
The rest of the week passed uneventfully and the party laid their plans. They had planned to head into the hills to investigate rumours of bandit activity, but Warg overheard in the Stooped Man one evening that a particularly low tide would soon occur—the party wondered if the tide might be low enough to reveal the stairs they had discovered in Devil’s Cove.
With this in mind, they decided to postpone their bandit-hunting plans and instead head north to see the hermit Naitheror (if he still lived) before returning to Devil’s Cove.
They travelled north, through the Blight—which to their chagrin seemed just as vigilant and odious as before; Orithur mused that perhaps the vampire they had slain was not its source after all and that—further—the shard of lapis lazuli in his pack might instead hold the key to reversing its fell effects on the land.
The party reach Naitheror’s wooded valley without incident, which lay about one mile north of the village. Both Johann and Orithur felt strangely at home under the valley’s moss-wreathed trees, which felt peaceful and primal to their finely tuned senses. By a river flowing through the valley, near a waterfall which Genobar seemed strangely reluctant to approach, the party encountered Naitheror himself—an elderly half-elf who was clearly a druid of some power. Naitheror was friendly and welcomed his visitors. The party fell to chatting with the druid and discovered they had found an ally for Naitheror was also worried about the Blight and its spread. He related how his prayers to the Mother along with his spells had kept it from encroaching on the valley, but that he was also worried as he felt his life was fast approaching its end. The elderly half-elf dropped several spectacularly unsubtle hints about Orithur or Johann taking his place as steward of the valley, but the heroes had more immediate goals and had to decline (politely).
During their pleasant chat with Naitheror the party discovered several things of import; notably that several darkwood trees grew in the valley and that—as long as they worked to undo the Blight— Naitheror was happy for them to gather up ay fallen pieces of wood they could find. Orithur and Johann leapt at this chance—Johann dreaming of armour wrought from a darkwood’s leaves! While several of the party began to search the woods, Grogor, Warg and Genobar returned to Coldwater to purchase the half-elf some wine—it seemed wine was one of the few things he missed about civilisation.
Thus it was that late in the evening, the party gathered again at Naitheror’s cottage for a simple meal washed down with wine brought back from the village. Both Johann and Orithur had found a small amount of darkwood and dark leaf in the valley and were confident they had found enough to craft a heavy shield and a suit of armour. However, they both lacked the skills to do so. No matter, they now had the raw materials and tomorrow high adventure beckoned!