His prayers sufficed to bring some comfort to the mutilated wizard's body, and about mid-morning he woke without the mad light that had been in his eye the day before. "Herger, my boy ..." he coughed and Herger brought him some water. "Call your friends," said Greywolf. "I imagine you have questions and I'd prefer to just answer them once. I'm not at my best at the moment."
Herger hastened to obey and soon Greywolf was sipping a broth and telling his story.
"I've long had an interest in this area, and worried that something evil had happened. Nine years ago, I came here following rumours of a meteorite fall - I feared a fragment of the Chaos moon. I found nothing.
"The time had come, I felt, to poke around again, so I returned. I was suspicious of the Falcon's Rest - then called the Drunken Bear. I had found that soon after I had left the first time, 'consumption' had struck the Inn. After that, well, one thing and another.
"I was not so subtle as I had thought. They recognized me and somehow they contrived to drug me. I feared I was doomed for the Inn was den of Barsnarg worship. They had a more cunning plan, though. They sought access to the library at the Grey College and sought to extract that information from me by torture," he shivered. "They did not succeed, and I think they would soon have slaked their frustration in my blood. So I was glad indeed when you arrived."
His story complete, Theobald needed rest and the others withdrew to consider their plans. They desired to return to the Falcon's Rest and then move on to Thistletoe as quickly as possible and resolved to leave the next morning.
Now with sufficient liesure, Rurik examined the goods taken away from the Falcon's Rest. The chest removed from the foul altar room contained 1,174 crowns worth of coin, a scroll in a language none of the three spoke, a sacrifical knife which had been heavily silvered, a jar of sulphur and another of gunpowder and a bag containing 37 left ears - mostly human and halfling.
The cask, addressed to Reiner Schon in Nuln, contained various pieces of jewelry and Rurik estimated their worth at between 500 and 1000 Crowns.
The three tried to find more mounts, but none were available, so the three companions were forced to make do with only Herger's horse. Riding in shift, though, they expected to make decent time. Greywolf had receovered enough that they felt safe leaving him at the Stone Pony with the box and cask and so they set off.
A long day's travel brought them to the ruins of the Falcon's Rest shortly before darkness fell. They made camp a short distance away and spent an uncomfortable night.
Another long day on the road, and the three arrived in Thistetoe to hard and suspicious looks, until they were greeted by Marri and Tibbo.
The fanciful halfling sent his short stout legs churning to greet them. "At last, you have arrived!" Tibbiddo exclaimed passing hugs all around. "You would not believe what we have been through," he said gesturing to the destruction adding in a whisper "tis good for Thistletoe that one as skilled as I was here."
Rurik couldn't supress the smirk as he commented, "That would explain the town's warm welcome."
"It was the bone beasts again," confided Tibbiddo in hushed tones so no onlookers would think there was a connection. He maneuvered around taking their hands and leading them on.
"Please, come find rest and help us help the fine people here," the halfling called out a bit too loud but it did get the attention of anyone stealing a listen toward the newcomers.
A tired looking Marri, whose time was still filled with healing those who had been hurt, also bustled over to the new arrivals. "Tis indeed good to see you, and all help is welcome! And perhaps you'll have some ideas to help us discern what has happened here, so that we can make it certain it does not happen again!" Then she too dropped her voice, so that her words only reached the ears of her companions, "I do hope it was not our fault."
Rurik was sickened knowing he was at the source of the undead incursion before it started - thinking he may have been able to prevent it had he been just that much more inquisitive. However, he was somewhat consoled by the fact that if he had not returned when he did, Michael and Herger's uncle would not have been rescued.
The companions shared their stories at Hayfoot's over some excellent ale, with only a mention of the loot found in the box being held back - mostly to not give a certain Halfling added incentive to immediately rush away in the guise of extending to a recently recovering wizard his 'best wishes'.
Then they held a council of war.
"There is a place," Tibbiddo began, "that Alastair was investigating not far from here. Could it be the source of our troubles?" Tibbiddo recounted his conversation with Dopey and the unusual indentations found in the wood. The halfling figured that there was some connection between the now found wizard, his disappearance, and the horrors visited on the town where they now sat.
The next morning, the reunited company set off after Dopey Picklejaeger who led them northwest for a few hours through the woods until they reached a shallow bowl shaped depression perhaps forty feet across. It was almost exactly circular and the vegetation inside was sickly looking and stunted. No trees or bushes were growing inside, only grasses and low cover plants. Around the edges some of the plants looked a little dodgy, but it was more erratic.
Tibbiddo cautiously walked up to the edge of the depression and looked down toward the epicenter at the dying plants. "This is definitely something," he said by way of analysis, "what, I am not sure." He paced around the circle and turned to the others, "I cannot see why such a thing would cause harm to your uncle."
Rurik shrugged. "Unless they wanted whatever form of.. what? ... Chaos ?... that caused this depression for themselves."
The halfling craned his neck across the field, "if something large fell here, it would take time to remove it." Shuffling off Tibbiddo sought to walk around the crater and look for any tracks, however long grown over they might be.
Rubbing his stubbled chin, Rurik opined. "Either fallen from above or sunken from below. Hard to say."
Dopey, a far better tracker than Tibbo, joined him in looking but commented, "This has been here for years, any tracks would be long gone."
"Ah," Tibbiddo sighed. "And yet the plants still have not recovered? What caused this Dopey?" he asked as they walked.
"I don't know. Alistair was interested in it, though," said Dopey. "The plants, though. Something in the soil, maybe?"
"Must be, but for years?" Tibbiddo drug his hand across his forehead in astonishment. "Perhaps Alastair holds the key to this mystery." From the far side of the unusual indentation Tibbiddo hailed his companions, "Have you any ideas what to do next?"
Rurik frowned, "When Alistair was here in person he was unable to find what he was looking for. What chance have we to find whatever he may have missed - whatever it was."
Shrugging, the Wastelander proposed, "Perhaps we dig up a bit of soil to take to him along with a dead plant."
"He could have done that when he was here," pointed out Dopey.
Rurik sighed and threw out his arms in resignation. "Very true. I'm not sure what we hope to accomplish out here without him."
Tibbiddo approached the others with Dopey in tow. "Something this unusual might attract followers, or scholars, Dopey do you know of any villages or outposts nearby that might know of this place?" Tibbiddo knew of a strange group that established an outpost in order to study a tree with an unusual knothole that resembled a long-dead hero of their land.
Dopey did not, and the company returned to the village.
With little else to go on, and Greywolf still in a dire state, they began to prepare for the journey home. They gathered their friends and belongings and travelled by coach to Nuln and thence by river home to Altdorf, arriving early in the month of Pflugzeit.