The reappearance of the villagers of Schlagenhügel was a troubling prospect, but Rigor resolved to settle it in a calm, logical manner. First, he attempted to rule out that these were ghosts or apparitions by finding a nearby cow – which had appeared along with its owners – and patting it to confirm that it was indeed solid. Mistaking his intent for interest, he was approached by a woman politely inquiring if the Warden was looking for resupplies for his journey. Engaging the farmer in conversation for a few minutes, Rigor was able to confirm that for this woman, it was as though no time had passed: to her, the forest appears to had suddenly and instantly encroached on her homestead.
Unwilling to put off her growing panic any further, she made her excuses to the Warden, and headed for the Town Centre, where much of the village had already gathered and was haranguing the mayor for an explanation as to what was happening to their town. Initially blaming the events on the perfidious nature of Elves, she promised that their town would not yield, and that Schlagenhügel would begin removing this marauding wildlife without delay. Remembering the warnings of Yarandir, Rigor quickly made an impassioned speech that, as a Roadwarden, he would be investigating this issue but urged everyone restraint and not to act without knowing the true nature of what had occurred. Fortunately he was soon joined by Bissil and Halion from the forest, and together they made a direct appeal to the mayor.
Though the mayor was relentlessly disinclined to believe them, she nonetheless could not refute that something unusual had happened, and as the town guard was needed to keep the village from falling into panic requested the adventurers to consult with a local Priest of Taal and Priestess of Rhya who lived in the forest, as well as to check in on a pair of nearby Dwarven lumberjack sisters who kept a small logging camp a short distance from town. Bissil felt that the task of talking to some isolationist Dwarven sisters who may not have seen another dwarf in years was best handled by him alone, so Rigor, Halion and Carmella went to find the Initiates. Bissil’s journey to the lumber camp was swift by war pony, but upon arrival he found the sawmill was in even poorer repair than the town, but worse one of the Dwarves lay dead in the ground, apparently stabbed from behind. An inspection failed to turn up the other sister, leading to him to race back to town to try and intercept his friends.
The trio who had set off for the small woodland shrine also arrived unmolested, but to find their destination empty. The shrine was in quite good repair, doubtless from the intervention of Yarandir, but there was no sign of either the Priest or Priestess. Faintly, Rigor thought he heard a cry for help in the woods, and beckoning his companions they set off silently in search of it. Though they lost track of the calls for a moment, Halion’s keen hearing eventually picked up a renewed call, and they stumbled upon the bloodied Priestess of Rhya. In shock, she said that she and her husband had set off in the woods sensing a disturbance, but had been ambushed by a mighty troll which had killed her husband and she had only barely escaped from. Urgently heading back to the village, the group filled her in on the events that had happened, and were met with the same disbelief they had found up to this date.
The debrief with the mayor and town guard was a troubling affair. A follow-up inspection by Halion confirmed that the Dwarven sister was dead by a sword point to the back, but any other clues were washed away in the intervening time. The mayor had accumulated enough evidence that she was prepared to believe their story, as not only was their town in disrepair, but it appeared to have been thoroughly looted seemingly in the blink of an eye. As the captain increased the guard, the Mayor and Priestess appealed to the people for calm, and to wait for further developments. The Priestess left for her shrine to pray for guidance, and the group turned in for the evening.
Come the morning, Bissil and Halion set off into the woods in search of more evidence, while Rigor and Carmella interrogated the townsfolk, certain that someone would share something of note. The Elf and Dwarf attempted to find the Priestess, but discovered her shrine showed no evidence that anyone had been at it since Halion’s visit yesterday. A further investigation by the river did reveal the horrible sight of a troll, devouring a freshly dead deer with its bare, bloody hands. Not wishing to tangle with such a beast, nor wish a confrontation, they circumvented the thing and moved deeper into the woods to try and find more evidence, but failed to find Yarandir, the Priestess or any sign of what had happened – though Halion worryingly noticed the Wind of Azyr was picking up again.
Back in the town, Rigor and Carmella were relentless in interrogating the town, and hit upon asking not for anything recently unusual, but anything of note. The villagers dredged up the memory of some odd standing stones that hunters would pray at for guidance sometimes, but those had been there since the founding of the village, and surely they couldn’t be important could they? Managing to resist the urge to kill them, Rigor ran to meet up with his friends to share the intimation that this was the location they sought, just as the Priestess emerged from the woods, saying that she had received a vision of these stones, and was convinced they were the key to this whole affair.
And so, united in the mystery of this standing circle, the group set out to either save, or doom, the townsfolk…