Thanks for the Notes, Sara!
Our triumphant cart defenders woke up to the excited chatter of a full inn and the clanging of breakfast being made at Maleik‘s Fallen Leaf Inn. Avery and Nephera made their separate ways downstairs and to Avery’s surprise, Nephera chose to sit at her table. Although, that may have been because there were no other seats available in the crowded inn. Seizing this moment as a sign of lessened hostility (or perhaps drowsiness?), Avery pulled out an old looking elven book and handed it to Nephera. A gift, in thanks for her assistance in recapturing the cart. Nephera, though harboring some questions about how this book was obtained, accepted the gift. Suddenly, bouncing from table to table, patron to patron, while somehow carrying an impossibly balanced pile of dishes, Maleik appeared before Avery and Nephera to take their order. Maleik looked as if he was having the time of his life. The upcoming Festival of Bounty meant that business had never been better! But he had a problem. All this business meant he had no time to search for a proper offering to bring to the festival. After Maleik disappeared back into the chaos of his kitchen to prepare their orders (Avery offered to pay for them both, Nephera firmly declined), Avery and Nephera decided they would go into the forest together to find something for Maleik. It was the least they could do to help this poor innkeeper, and he had been providing them with lots of delicious cake.
As Nephera and Avery entered the forest they immediately recognized signs of the kobold who had escaped last night. Following the rough trail, they kept their eyes open for both the kobold and potential offerings for Maleik. A few semi-useful herbs were found. As they rounded a bush near a cliff edge, they heard a strange rustling. Several large rats emerged from the forest and, for some reason, headed straight towards Nephera and Avery. At first they weren’t sure what to think of these rats, but quickly realized that the rats meant to do harm. Utilizing their surroundings, Nephera hurled one of the unfortunate creatures over the cliff edge. Avery quickly recognized the benefits of that strategy, and chucked another rat into the abyss. They defeated the remaining rats, and Nephera retrieved a lovely alabaster stone from their fallen foes. Continuing up another suggestion of a trail, our two heroes made their way deeper into the forest. Suddenly, brightly colored centipedes undulated into the trail and set upon them. One struck high and attached itself to Nephera’s neck! Avery pulled it away, but as she did so another monstrous centipede clung onto her leg. Nephera boldly hit it with her staff. Eventually, the centipedes were vanquished and they were able to continue into this surprisingly hostile forest. Rounding a corner, the adventurers came upon the kobold. It was hunched over the corpse of a badger. Avery quietly advanced on the clueless kobold and ran it through with her rapier. Triumphantly, she proclaimed “This is for my cart!” She retrieved a pewter statue of the god of illusion from the kobold and badger. Underneath the badger, Nephera and Avery discovered a petrified sphere of oak roots. This unusual find would be an excellent offering for Maleik. With their mission complete, they left the darkening forest and returned to the Fallen Leaf.
The inn was somehow filled with even more patrons than the morning. Avery and Nephera managed to find two seats and watched as Maleik frantically (but happily) dashed between the kitchen and tables. As they sat in their newly minted truce of sorts, the sounds of the inn surrounded them. Patrons buzzed at every table about the Festival of Bounty that would begin today; talk of games and food and gossip swirled around the room. Some said that Dorthelloth, the Master of the Carok Monastery, would be returning from the wilderness on this auspicious day. Less reliable sources also reported a caravan of dwarves traveling to Carok. Dinner was eventually served, and they presented Maleik with his offering. Overcome with gratitude and exhausted from all the new business, Maleik accepted the petrified oak root ball. Afterwards Nephera and Avery went upstairs to their beds and fell fast asleep.
The next morning brought the start of the Festival of Bounty. Nephera and Avery made their way to the fair grounds and were immediately ensnared by the calls of vendors advertising festival games. There was the ring toss, archery, face painting, fish catching and more. Where to begin? They played all of the games. Nephera was a particular fan of the ring toss and collecting participation badges. With her shirt proudly adorned with more than a few badges, Nephera followed Avery to center of the festival. They stopped at a couple of vendors along the way and bought some snacks and a few small trinkets. Suddenly, a hush came over the revelers as they realized that a wizened old elf had appeared on a ridge directly above them. It was Dorthelloth! The master of the Carok Monastery had actually come! Avery listened as he began what sounded like an important speech. It was a very nice sounding speech, but was interrupted by distant screams that were getting louder by the second. Hundreds of brutish, tall, brownish-orange humanoids carrying pale blue banners with the image of an impaled hand ran over the hill across the river and flooded into the festival. Chaos was immediate; festival goers shrieked in panic and ran, Dorthelloth began an complicated incantation. Nephera and Avery struggled to decide what to do. The movement of the crowd made their decision for them as they were pushed back towards the town of Carok. Glancing backwards, they saw Dorthelloth’s magic begin to work as tendrils shot out from the ground to entangle the invaders. Arrows began to hit people near them, creating additional panic, and their view of Dorthelloth vanished as they ran with the crowd. Impulsively, Avery and Nephera ducked out of the crush of people and into a house. This gave them a moment to catch their breaths and regain some composure. What was the flag? Neither of them recognized it. Where was Maleik? Neither of them knew. They realized they were not alone in the house; a man and a woman crouched on the floor. The woman was severely injured, past the healing abilities of Nephera. Sadly, they did not have the luxury of time to continue helping. No longer were only festival goers running past the house – the attackers were now making their way through the town. Avery and Nephera decided to make a roof-top escape. Climbing out the top window and onto the roof, they jumped roof to roof until they reached the edge of the town near the border fence. Once back on the ground, they sprinted towards the fence and climbed over. To their dismay, they realized that they had been followed. Nephera quickly cast light on a stone and threw it in the opposite direction they planned to go. They continued their mad dash into the forest.
After running for some time, they stopped, gasping for air. Had they run far enough? It was now dark, and going any further meant risking getting hopelessly lost. A snap of twigs abruptly halted their plans of getting some sleep. They prepared to defend themselves, when suddenly two elves stumbled into their clearing. The younger elf was a girl named Hurendel who worked as a servant at the Carok Monastery. The older elf was named Caini. He was a portly fellow, and said that he was a male entertainer. Avery and Nephera exchanged incredulous glances at this, but listened to their tales of escape. The immediate question was what next? Caini reported that there was a town named Illmor with armed troops within two days of travel. Hurendel was reluctant to leave Carok, and insisted that there were those who never abandon the monastery but would stay and fight. She knew of a potential resistance camp location. With these questions to consider, Nephera and Avery settled down for an uneasy night in the forest, knowing that invaders crawled through the town of Carok not far from them.