They followed the tracks to a hidden trail then to a ritual circle formed from wooden posts and a great oak festooned with deer skulls. The party decided to hide out in the woods and stake out the circle. While they were waiting, a talking rabbit wandered by. He told them that a witch and a group of cultists used the circle and some sort of box was involved in the ritual. He also told them about a druid ("The friend of the forest") that lived on the other side of the wood.
|Art by John Hower|
The party got the rabbit to show them to the druid's abode, but not before the cleric and ranger got briefly enrapted by the glossolalia of the Spouting Spring (they were saved by the frox thief throwing a big rock into the water, disrupting the sound). They found the druid's door magically locked, and the druid seemingly unconscious on the floor inside. A disagreeable bluejay living in a bird house told them after a visit from a witch who drew some sigil on the door, the druid had not been out of his house. Erkose the Figher broke a window so that Waylon the frox could climb in. The druid was still alive, but barely arousable. Waylon was able to force the door to open from the inside. Dagmar deduced that a potion--herb-based but magical enhanced--cause the druid's current slumber. She and the ranger were able to locate a plant to at least ameliorate its effects. The druid, Llailogan, confirmed that the witch Ursa had poisoned him.
In his short intervals of wakefulness, he told them that Ursa had a pact with the Horned One and was trying to return the world to a savage state. She used a ritual given to her by her lord to create manhounds. Are the "jaded gourmands" of the rumors working with her?
Since darkness was falling, the group stayed in the druid's house overnight. They hear the baying and howls of dogs in the night, and faintly, a strange music that the bards notes seems to have a rather large assortment of instruments. Passing the night without ever seeing the manhounds, the party resolved to set a trap for the cultists and set out the next day to do that.