A few days travel brought the group to the village of Oakhurst.
The rumors the group had heard of goblin activity turned out to be not quite accurate.
The townsfolk spoke of recent attacks by unknown assailants. Strange needle-like wounds left on bodies of victims. Many of the attacks were occurring north of town, near the ruins of an ancient stronghold.
The group offered to help a local business owner and noblewoman. Two of her grown children, along with two other companions, a month ago, entered the ruins, seeking adventure and reward. There never returned. She offered a reward for the return of her children or, at least, proof of their fate.
Not far from town they found the ruins – an ancient fortress sunken deep into a chasm in the earth.
Decending, they encountered a tribe of goblins, at conflict with a group of orcs. The goblins offered the group safe passage and reward in return for the return of their prize wolf, recently stolen by the orcs.
The party encountered the wolf, an evil and intelligent Winter Wolf, that turned out to prefer its place with the stronger orc tribe. A fight ensued, and the heroes were able to subdue the wolf and return it to the goblins.
Exploring further they encountered, Muchi, a traveler held prisoner by the orcs. After freeing him, the group invites Muchi to join them in their exploration of the ruin.
The group defeated the orc chieftain and scattered his people. In the chief’s crude throne room they found a vine choked shaft, leading deeper into the earth. A violet glowing light shown from far beneath.
Decending the shaft the group encountered twig blights, orcs, ogres and bugbears, all seemingly in service to a druid. The lower level was covered in soil and rot. Lit by glowing purple fungus, supporting, if barely, the growth of pale and spindly plants.
Their path eventually led them to a grove, choked by thorns. A tall blackened and twisted tree, limbs bare but for a single white apple, lay at the center of the grove. The druid, Belak, stood, apparently waiting for the group, who’s passage through the citadel had not gone unnoticed. At his side an armored knight and robed woman, both with roughened grey bark-like skin. Near the tree several twig blights silently waited.
Sneaking forward unseen, Longrod raised his bow and let fly an arrow straight for the corrupt druid’s heart. The shaft flew true, dropping the druid to the ground before he even knew he was not alone.
The ensuing melee was brutal but eventually the heroes prevailed. As the last of their foes fell, Yeme paused for just a moment, then stepped towards the twisted tree, reached out, and plucked the white apple.
His lifeblood spilling into a larger and larger pool around him, the dying druid Belak choked out his final words…