The parties’ enjoyment of seeing an enormous tree emerge from out of the roof of the rope store was cut short when the store owner’s shrill voice called out accusingly, “My store! What’ve you all done to my store!?”
A crowd was gathering to gawk at the giant tree. Townspeople were running up and pointing at the sight, shouting for friends. Through the bustle, four lightly armored guards carrying spears ran up. Their wonder at the tree was cut short when they heard Corbett’s cry.
Som Tawyer, the three-quarterling bard, made an impassioned appeal at innocence, trying to cast blame for the tree on Corbett’s nephew Rufe, the man who had earlier swindled the group and slipped off with a hefty purse. Despire Corbett’s distrust of his nephew, he was not moved to forgiveness and told the guards that the party was responsible for this travesty, that he had caught them in his storeroom and that they should be arrested.
Som made one last half-hearted appeal to blame Rufe before submitting to the imperious guards.
The party was led through streets of rough construction through a new neighborhood of the town. Wooden buildings of various sizes and purposes cobbled together in a somewhat haphazard fashion. Hawkers were selling goods of all sorts, many targeted towards explorers, gold-panners, lumbermen, and others trying to eke out a living from the wild continent around them. Most of the townsfolk were walking to see what all the commotion was with the giant tree that had just emerged.
Soon the group were walking along a cobblestone road and surrounded by finely crafted wooden homes. To the West the party could see heavily wooded mountains looming behind the buildings in the near-distance. The party was led past a stone wall and approached a heavily reinforced guardhouse. They were led into cells and removed of their possessions.
Som Tawyer and Kjango made jokes at the guards and began singing, while Maeve the goliath slept off his drunk. Som convinced the guard, named “Gard” to share his favorite song, “The Waves Crash Harder.” Fortunately, both Som and Kjango knew the tune and gave it a hearty rendition to win Gard’s tentative approval. After a few hours, the druid Xanadorf was begging for exile to get away from either the prison or his teammates, he didn’t specify.
That evening, they were visited by the town mayor who apprised them of their situation. He told the party that he had been investigating the occurrence all afternoon and that the blame seemed to fall squarely on their shoulders. He informed them that the tree-seed had been stolen from the elves, who were bringing it from the old continent to their settlement. The tree growing in the middle of the city was sure to be the beginning of a long and fraught land dispute between the elves who sought to be near their tree and the inhabitants who were already in the town.
The party proclaimed their innocence and, again, pointed their fingers at Rufe as the real cause of all the mischief. The mayor acknowledged that Rufe was likely involved and informed the party that Rufe had not been found despite a thorough search. He also reminded the party that they had been seen by witnesses to murder some town ruffians in a bar brawl. He told them that they would face trial the next morning and told them to prepare themselves.
In the trial, the party was told that Rufe had fled during the night, stealing supplies and a horse. The party was exiled from the town for their crimes, but if they could return with Rufe in tow, they would be exonerated.
An elf lord was present and spoke out against the sentence, saying that the party should be handed over to the elves for the theft and misuse of their most precious possession. The mayor dismissed these concerns and the elf stormed out of the courthouse, promising that this insult would be avenged.
Searching for Rufe
The party had their belongings returned and set out to track Rufe. The horse tracks were easy to follow North as the rain-softened earth made the trail visible to all. After a few hours of passage, a heavy storm approached. The party took cover under a protective tree canopy while the druid went ahead in animal form. The druid was able to discover where Rufe had left the road, also presumably to find cover. Xanadorf returned to the group and led them to the spot.
The party proceeded into the woods from off the road. They soon stumbled onto a grisly scene, the stolen horse had been hacked apart and strewn across the clearing. After carefully inspecting the area, the party discovered a torn loose belt and bag containing some gold pieces and a badly damaged map.
The party was unable to make sense of the map, not being familiar with the terrain, and decided to head back to the road when they heard the sounds of incoming wolves.
When they arrived at the road, the party beheld a man approaching from the North. He wore a brown road and had a long unkempt beard, matted in some places and with beads and other objects fixed in at random. He carried a tall staff from which hung a lantern.
The party hailed the man and asked him his business. He identified himself as a wanderer and map maker on his way to the town of Safe Harbor.
The party asked him if he could help them identify the map, he showed them where they were on the map and identified two nearby landmarks, a fortification or outpost of some sort, and some sort of dangerous location.
The party spoke with him at length and they were loath to let him get on his way down the road.
The party trekked back into the woods and to the clearing. Use loud noises and fire to scare off the wolves, they made their way through the western trail. Soon they stumbled upon and startled two roughians sitting around a fire. One grabbed for his spear and the other for a crossbow.
They called out for the party to halt and identify themselves, their noise brought plenty of support out from inside the longhouse that they had been guarding.
Some quick talking defused the situation, and when the party indicated that they had been exiled from Safe Harbor, they were welcomed as fellow exiles. The party said that they were looking for Rufe and the leader, Nelson Williamson, said that Rufe had been expected to return that day. He had stolen some elf artifact as part of a job that they were working from the elves.
The party indicated that they had tracked him to the clearing, where he had disappeared. Nelson cursed and indicated that he had probably gotten nabbed up by the orcs that lived in yonder caves.
The party and the highwaymen set out to rescue Rufe. They led a daring rescue and lost a few good men in the attempt. Finally, they entered the room of the chief. Rufe was shackled to the back wall. After a bitter combat, they unshackled him and paused to catch their breath.