The heroes bear the burden of Katelina’s fall like a cloak sodden through with rain and debris. With spirits dim and scowls on their faces, they make their way closer to the smoking hamlet, what they presume to be Wildcrest. As they draw closer still, they pause to reconcile a plan of sorts, a desire to scout before charging straight in. Wend’l reaches out his slender hand and calls forth a simple raven, who alights upon his wrist as if it were nothing at all. The Witchblade brings the bird near and appears to speak to it then, with a call to the skies, the raven leaps into the air and flies far above and beyond. Wend’l pauses to consider his companions with only a smirk.
The raven returns and engages Wend’l briefly before flying away for good. The Witchblade reveals the layout ahead: smoking ruins, a nest with blood and death and but one moving creature.
The party moves ahead and came upon a ruined hamlet, not the remains of Wildcrest but a different locale altogether. Strewn amidst smoking and ashen buildings lies the bodies of women, children and farmers. All had died wicked deaths, a veritable slaughter. In the middle are the shrouded forms of four bodies – clad in dark armour, cloaks and the markings of the cultists from Wildcrest or Selestria’s crew. Standing among the carnage, his thick plate spattered with blood and gore, is a single armed man. He bears a shield and flail and his great warhorse is not too far off with a great sword stuffed into the saddle. The armed man offers penance and prayer to the slain cultists and the heroes approach with all caution and senses alert. Michel sneaks to the side, bathed in shadows and approaches from the darkness. Wend’l catches the mutterings of the prayer, and mention of Heironeous. He is quick to alert Iosa to the fact.
Iosa and Fenris approach boldly. The combination of Iosa’s self-assuredness and clarity offers the man some comfort. Fenris has an open countenance, matched by his girth, arms and swagger. Together, they are able to determine the the man is called Xavier Thraxes. He is a kind of armored warrior following the path as laid out by Heironeous. He admits to coming upon this scene too late – yet he offered the souls of these vicious blood-letters to the gods and avenged the fallen. Xavier stiffens at Michel’s approach and does not take well to being watched from shadow. Michel offers peace in the best way he can, through charm and half-truth. After a time, Wend’l begins to gather the fallen innocents in piles in order that he can offer their souls reprieve through the cleansing heat of Witchfire. Iosa aids him in this, offering prayer. They find a young girl in the ruins, sick and pale from fright and disease. Iosa heals her of an apparent blight and presents her to Michel to be carried. At length, the party agrees to bring Xavier along as they seem to be headed in similar directions – destruction of the cult and the hunt of one known as the Butcher, a necromancer of dark and horrible power.
The party follow the cultists track further into the mountains where they find a cavern to rest. Within the cavern, Wend’l reveals a new disguise, that of a young woman with soft skin, delicate features and a lithe physique. Some members of the group are taken by surprise. Iosa offers divinely summoned food and drink and tends to the young girl, allowing Wend’l to keep her with Whisper for the night.
They rise at dawn and make their way out into a cold and snowy morning. They construct a makeshift saddle and palanquin for the girl, strapped to the lean body of Whisper. Wend’l has done away with the young woman disguise in favor of that of a middle-aged black man of nondescript appearance or features. Fenris and Michel appear refreshed and alert, both offering their own versions of swarthy yet charming smiles and laughter to the rising sun.
It is cold outside. When the party passes through the rocky passage, they come upon a small clearing covered in bright red flowers. An odd feeling taints the air. Whisper sits as voices passes on the breeze. There is a narrow path that passes through the middle of the grove and the suggestion of a figure in the distance. Fenris strides boldly ahead, sword and shield aloft. Wend’l draws his bastard sword and Michel brings the words of magic to his lips. Iosa very nearly sighs with apparent disappointment and summons the blessing guard of his divine patron. There is laughter in the air and Wend’l suddenly shouts words in the cryptic Sylvan tongue. A crack of lightning streaks the sky and a mass of red flowers coalesces and merges in the air above them, becoming a great swarm of red and spinning leaf-blades. Fenris wades in, enveloped by the swarm. His body grows suddenly rigid from some nefarious effect. As Whisper barks in rage, her hackles rising to a frightening state of anxiety, Michel moves forth and calls forth a blast of swirling colour. The rays hit the swarm head on but their effect is unknown. Wend’l throws a ball of green Witchfire and engulfs the swarm in flame. Inside, Fenris is surrounded by the fire and his teeth and eyes gleam.
Iosa enters the fray, offering to remove the paralysis from Fenris. He does so, yet is stunned to be the recipient of an attack. The Prophet is frozen in venomous paralysis. Both Fenris and Xavier swing mighty blows into the mass. Whisper moves forth to drag Iosa back from the melee as Wend’l throws another Witchfire blast into the flowers, igniting the remaining ones to ash and dust. As Xavier heals Iosa of his wounds and venom, the Witchblade sets the entire grove afire with his magic. Without risking a backward glance, they race ahead and continue on towards what they presume to be Dew-Acre.
Dew-Acre is not a town at all; it is a fortress in an isolated part of the mountains. It resembles Wildcrest in some ways – ominous and verboten. The heroes are greeted by an armed entourage. They are less than friendly, surprised to see these interlopers advance so far. The warriors mention their brethren, lost to the wilds. The heroes grow restless. The young girl in their care is frightened and they resolve not to leave her here in this place. Michel is charming but these thugs are wary. They think only in terms of hit and miss. Negotiations grow tense, fingers fondle the tops of weapons and horses dig at the earth in readiness for a charge. Then, quite unexpectedly, the saddle straps of the lead warrior dissolve and the man topples clumsily to the ground. With much muttering and cursing, the warriors drag him to his feet. The armed men of Dew-Acre promise Hell and Fire to the saddle bot who has ostensibly failed in his duty.
The heroes are ignored and they enter the Lion’s Den that is Dew-Acre.