[Note: there is more backstory in here than what I described during the session. I left out the stuff that wasn’t immediately necessary!]
After being discovered by the elves, Vahk and his crew escorted Our Heroes to their small camp in the White Wood, allowing them to rest and recuperate while Vahk explained the situation to them, with Vall translating.
The land they were in is called Phynsia, and is home to a variety of races, just like Iro. The races here worship a pantheon of gods known as the Diandians (called this because they hail from a realm known as Diandia). They believe the world is flat. West of the party’s location is where the elves generally live; north of them is a broad desert known as the Blinding Sands, and is where the dragonborn live. The party also happened to pass between the gnolls of the Painted Hills, and the orcs of [remember name later]. There is currently a turf war happening in the Steppe due to the elves receding from guarding trade routes and roads after someone known as the Sky Lord broke apart the earth west of the Crystal City 200 years ago with the help of enormous iron and diamond constructs. (This is known as the Sundering.)
[For the record, I think Guidance and Vall would be able to put these pieces together: Vahk describes the Sky Lord as a “being who fell from the sky” thousands of years ago. The Sky Lord then wandered westward, frail and sickly, passing through the elf lands and beyond, and disappeared from memory until about 208 years ago, when he returned to the elf lands (known as Norvair) with an army of constructs. Vahk also calls the Sky Lord “The Builder.” Long story short: the Sky Lord is Covoran the Builder, the Titan who brought the Old Gods to Iro. In Irolean mythology, Covoran is thought to have died after bringing the Old Gods, as the journey was too tough for him. However he actually just traveled west. No one is sure why he returned to Norvair to battle with the elves.]
The elves, distraught at losing their brethren, withdrew from the world and into their homes to grieve. They did this for about 100 years. During that time, the dragonborn of the Blinding Sands took over the guard posts, and since dragonborn don’t live as long as elves, their sons and daughters, unsure if the elves would return*, basically decided the Steppe was theirs. Then, when they elves came back, they were like, “No the Steppe is ours,” which set off the turf war, which has mostly been minor skirmishes because no side wants full on war, but both sides want the Steppe because of trade routes with the dwarves of the Eastern Mountains (the Spine) and the mithril deposits in the Painted Hills.
*Khorrsun the dragonborn was one of an envoy of ambassadors sent to the Crystal City to investigate the disappearance of the elves. What she found was that the elves had gone into some type of unconsolable torpor in their houses and businesses, sitting with their legs folded underneath them, silently weeping, some of them with their hands over their faces. The ambassadors tried to rouse them from this grief but the elves did not respond. They apparently did not sleep or food. (And in Khorrsun’s report to the Cabal of the City of Glass, she said, “What a bunch of pansies.”)
Anyhoo, point is, Springvale and Our Heroes are situated nearly smack dab in the middle of the Disputed Lands. But the elves have a more pressing issue: Edwin Alcaster, a wizard who resides in the Wending Tree, an enormous tree in the southern White Wood which can only be found if one has a piece of it. Edwin was the robed man seen in the mausoleum in the lowest part of the kobold ruins. When Vahk learned of the blood ritual going on down there, it made him very nervous. Also in the south: a hobgoblin encampment that does Edwin’s bidding and is cutting down the supernatural trees that grow here. The goblins occasionally send offerings eastward, to an old keep situated in the middle of nowhere. Vahk is concerned about the blood and the offerings to the keep, as there is something sinister in that keep, something that no one wants to go near.
As the group rested, Cori recuperated from her grievous wounds and was visited by a large badger, who seemed to be seeking her out. The badger put her head on Cori’s lap and fell asleep. Why the badger chose her, she did not know, but she welcomed the warm friend
Meanwhile, Guidance argued with Mitcham, the leader of the Peacekeeper troop, as to how many injured soldiers he could keep to “help.” Mitcham easily saw through Guidance’s deception and only agreed to letting him keep the least injured soldier, Rowan, who had Guidance’s vine blight poultice slapped onto his leg wound. At first the poultice was bubbling, then it made his leg numb, and now Rowan’s toes are turning black—with Guidance taking notes as it happened.
Well Vall heard rumblings of the soldier whose leg was dying and went to visit Rowan. With his new paladin skills he was able to heal Rowan’s leg simply by touching it, which impressed the other soldiers (though they did grumble about not getting healing as well). Now that Rowan was safe, Mitcham rescinded his agreement and decided to take all of the soldiers back to Springvale, much to Guidance’s chagrin.
It was also decided that due to Springvale being located in the Disputed Lands, the entire Peacekeeper and soldier force would return there to protect it in case any skirmishes came their way. So in the morning the elves constructed some stretchers out of their fur-and-spiderweb hammocks, and the soldiers left the White Wood.
Overnight, Guidance, desperate to satiate his desire for research subjects, snuck into the carriage housing the five injured soldiers and began experimenting on Rowan while he slept. He tried to get Rowan to drink the baby’s blood [or kobold blood? How the hell did Guidance get a hold of the baby’s blood?], but Rowan moved his head at the last moment. Then, fed up and frustrated, he poured the lambskin of decomposing rat water into the poor bastard’s mouth. Rowan woke up vomiting. He vomited on the soldier next to him, which made that soldier vomit. A third soldier picked up a club and tried to beat Guidance out of the carriage. At this point everyone was awake. Mitcham grabbed Guidance and yanked him out of the carriage and onto the ground. He asked Guidance what’s going on, and Guidance tried to lie and blame it on the soldiers. But Mitcham had heard enough and full on punched Guidance in the face, shouting, “BE QUIET.” Mitcham turned to speak to Vall and since Guidance rolled a nat 20 on his attempt to escape, when Mitcham turned back to him, Guidance was gone, having run back into the kobold ruins to sleep in the rat cellar.
In the morning, Guidance emerged from the ruins wearing the skin of a hobgoblin he skinned overnight, trying to convince Cori that he was a hobgoblin. She didn’t buy it, even after he used Mending to remove the sewing.
Our Heroes then spent a considerable amount of time assessing the situation with the hobgoblin camp. Vahk explained that there was a hobgoblin warlord in the center of the camp who wore a wooden medallion made with the wood of the Wending Tree. Vall questioned the intelligence of a camp protecting a tree that can’t be found, and Vahk elaborated on the hobgoblin’s duties, explaining the offerings sent to the keep, the goblinoids cutting down the trees of the White Wood, and the presumed desire of Alcaster to have a goblinoid army for other reasons.
The party ends up deciding to go to the keep to find out what’s going on there. The elves remain in the White Wood to protect it from hobgoblins.
On the first day of travel the party comes across some goblins presumably returning from the keep. They attack the goblins (Vall again using the carriage as a battering ram, which works with lesser results than last time), and in the melee, Cori’s badger is killed by one of the goblins’ wolves. Guidance is also nearly killed but then in the last second one of the goblins realizes he’s attacking a hobgoblin (with horns!) and deflects his scimitar swing. In the end the party manages to defeat the goblins and both Vall and Guidance hold the goblin boss so they can interrogate him.
[And I think that’s where we ended.]