The next few days after the hobgoblin ambush are an uncomfortable time on the road, as several waves of storms roll overhead, leaving everything drenched. Despite this, Green Imsa is able to prepare a laxative as Garrett had requested. The rogue then waits for the cruel nobleman Gilas to visit Beyd’s wagon for some ale and quietly spikes the man’s drink.
Raeyanne, meanwhile, flirts with Green Imsa, which cheerily responds in kind. She is a scribe’s apprentice from Baldur’s Gate and has never traveled this far north before. She is finding the whole trip exciting, and was impressed by Raeyanne’s role in talking Gilas out of abusing his animals, as well as the battle with the hobgoblins..
After three days of rain, the caravan wakes up to find the ground covered with fungus, which releases black spores and moans in pain when stepped on. Raeyanne and Imsa misidentify it as poisonous, but Garrett realizes that it is harmless miniature shriekers. Hurk eats one.
After Raeyanne convinces the merchants there is no danger, she, Hurk and Garrett work to clear a path through the mushrooms, which are growing at an alarming rate. Beryl uses ghost sound to muffle the disturbing screams so as not to spook the horses. One of the cultists, Larion, joins them in clearing out the mushrooms.
They salvage as many as they can, and for days afterwards the caravan dines on cream of mushroom soup. Garrett also hangs onto a personal stock to plant in people’s beds as pranks.
The Golden Stag
After passing the ruined hamlet of Trollclaw Ford, the caravan comes across a heard of deer featuring a stag with a brilliant golden coat. Many in the caravan are interested in hunting it for the valuable skin, but a few warn that it is clearly a blessed animal and killing it would bring misfortune.
Raeyanne manages to talk most of the caravan into leaving it alone, but a few reckless souls insist, including Hurk’s employers, despite his own misgivings. Beryl uses ghost sound to warn the stag and it manages to elude the would-be hunters.
That night, while on watch, Beryl is visited by the stag, which addresses her in broken and heavily accented common. Thanking her for saving it, the stag says she and her companions must continue to follow the river of gold to the castle in the sky. To help them along the way, it leaves an enchanted longbow, though it warns that “not all will survive.”
Beryl is excited to receive the bow, but disappointed once she realizes she lacks the expertise to use it and instead hands it over to Hurk.
The Way Inn
The caravan stops next at the The Way Inn, a fortified compound that has grown into a de facto village along the Trade Way. Beryl proselytizes about Bahamut at the tavern, only attracting a rapt crowd after she starts getting into the ale and loosening up. Unfortunately, she is stricken with a sharp hangover the following morning.
The cultists largely keep aloof from the rest of the caravan and the villagers, except for the half-elf Larion who seems a little more outgoing. Garrett gets the sense that he is less invested in this whole “cult” thing than his fellows.
Garrett has an opportunity to get closer to Larion a few days later, when one of the cult’s wagons breaks a wheel and spills out some of the stolen loot. Garrett volunteers to help with the cleanup, accompanied by Hurk. the rogue fumbles his approach to the half-elf, but Hurk helps to turn the situation around. Just as Larion seems to be warming up, however, another cultist, Zora, intervenes to send the half-elf back to the main group.
A few more ten-days into the journey, the caravan comes across a man buried up to his neck in the road with the word “oathbreaker” written on his forehead. Some of the merchants, including Garrett’s boss Beyd, want to leave well enough alone. However, the party investigates.
The man, Carlon, spins a story about having broken off an engagement when he learned his bride’s family were bandits, but the adventurers are having none of it. The man then claims he has friends at A Pair of Black Antlers who can vouch for him, including Ontharr Frume.
The party grudgingly digs him up and he quietly explains that he is with the harpers, also tracking the loot shipments. he was spotted passing information along, and the cultists claimed he was passing information to bandits. This led the caravan he was traveling with to leave him buried so that providence could determine his fate.
Carlon says he has contacts in Waterdeep who can help them, once they reach the city. Beryl convinces the rest of the caravan that he can be trusted, and he offers to pay his way by doing various odd jobs.
The Spider Woods
While the caravan is traveling through a small stretch of woods, it comes under attack by a band of ettercaps and their giant spider companions. Two ettercaps try to steal horses while the rest run interference. Garrett manages to suppress his fear of spiders long enough to defeat one ettercap, while Raeyanne cuts down another.
Stuck in place by webbing, Hurk uses the Bow of the Golden Stag to bring down one of the spiders. Beryl alternates between calling down a sacred flame on the raiders and healing the other guards who rush to assist them. When the last spider and ettercap attempt to flee, Hurk hunts them down with the longbow. Beryl then roasts the spider.
That night, while most of the caravan dines on spider, a disgusted Gareth eats along, watching Larion. The half-elf has gotten strange looks from his companions, but is otherwise welcome in their company.
Garrett, however, realizes that another cultist, a rugged man with a scar on his face, is watching him intently. Garrett recalls encountering the man at the raider camp, when he was posing as a mercenary.
The rogue consults with Raeyanne, who doesn’t care for spider meat, about what to do,. She advises playing it cool for now and talking his way out of things if push comes to shove.