○ The party enters the ancient and overgrown wilderness of the Kryptgarden forest, following the tracks through the rugged undergrowth. The way is slow as the party struggles to stay on a trail obscured by the dim gloom cast by the thick canopy of the woods.
○ Hours pass uneventfully until Darth and Ellywick spy something moving through a distant thicket. It appears humanoid and seems to be spying on the party. Darth, a Wood Elf at home in the wildest, untamed forests, slinks through the underbrush, unseen and unheard. He apprehends the spy only to find that it is a young, human boy, frightened and alone. He is gaunt and filthy, his common clothes torn and threadbare. The party arrives and questions the boy. His name is Howden Wrightwater and he says he fled the village of Winstock when it was attacked in the night by a force of merciless raiders. His mother and father forced him to flee, leaving his parents behind, presumably to die. He fled into the Kryptgarden and has been in the forest for many days, struggling to subsist and avoid the dangers that stalk the ancient wood.
○ Howden agrees to lead the party out of the forest and into the Brightmeadow valley where his village sits on the banks of the Emerald River. The group leaves the trail behind, heading southwest for hours, eventually emerging from the Kryptgarden and into a sea of tall, moonlit grass. They spy a copse of trees in the distance, like an island in the ocean of undulating grass. The party decides to make camp there for the night and trudges through the meadow, exhaustion setting in.
○ The party takes shelter in the small, isolated grove. Orryn, Ellywick and Howden share a meal around the campfire and the boy inquires about how and why the party was travelling through the Kryptgarden. Orryn, never missing an opportunity to cause mischief, lies and tells Howden that his parents are still alive and that they sent the party to find and bring him home. Cor overhears the falsehood and attempts to intervene. Yet, Ellywick uses her magic to erase any of Howden’s remaining skepticism. She mimics the sound of Howden’s father calling out from the darkness beyond the fire. Having never heard the voice of Howden’s father however, she makes an educated guess that hits the mark. The boy races toward the sound and when he finds nothing he shakes his head, letting out a low and chilling laugh. He curses himself for being a fool and falling for such simple magic. And then a change happens, revealing that Howden is more than our heroes had originally suspected.
○ A cold shadow seems to pass over the grove. The grass shrivels into a brown scruff and the trees grow gnarled and wicked, their skeletal fingers reaching. And Howden is now clad in black robes, his skin pale in Celune’s silvery light. A powerful burst of magical energy cascades through the party, filling some with an overwhelming and crippling fear. Rage flows from Howden as he accuses the gnomes of tricking him and ruining his plan. Yet, the boy says that the party’s feeble lies can’t work on him and then reveals that he knows his parents are alive, not because of Orryn and Ellywick’s attempts at deception, but because he’s the one who kidnapped them from the caravan the party was protecting! He regrets that his soldiers did not kill the party when they had the chance and warns them to leave the valley and not look back. Howden then dematerializes into a cloud of billowing mist that flees into the sea of grass.
○ The next morning the party decides that it is worth continuing their journey to the village of Winstock. Along the way the group chances upon a group of skeletons half-buried in ground. They are revealed to be a dwarf and a mountain orc, armed and armored though they perished years ago. While the party investigates a patrol of goblins and wild dogs passes close by! The party decides to mount an ambush rather than let the patrol continue on, unaware of their presence.