Three days later as they are nearing Gauderia the Caravan is ambushed by Goblin raiders, who do some damage, but are otherwise easily rebuffed. They alight for a day in the hometown of the Twilight Academy for trade and repairs, counting it just as well given the thick, cloying fog that settles on the town. From there they push north again, taking another day to reach Wolf’s Ear where they pause, again, to do a little business – though Kaitlinn has her work cut out for her herding Khoren & Atem when they realize there might be Werewolves stalking about the legendary town. From there the Caraan travels another day along the Lempblack River, before they split off following the north road through the Churlwood to Rodric’s Cove while Kaitlinn, Khoren & Atem continue following the river east to Ravenmoor to fulfill their missing persons job for Magnamar.
Though the mosquitoes and Ravens dogging their steps put them a little off, the haunting child’s cry of “Apppplesause! Where aaaaare yoooou!” right before the sudden appearance of a Styrge flying right for them nearly pushes them to violence. Especially when the insect latches on to Kaitlinn.
And nuzzles her.
As she begins shrieking, a young boy runs out of the tall grasses and begs them not to kill his beloved pet. As he carefully removes the creature, he reveals his name is Ornigaard, but runs off before they can ask him more questions, saying only they should ask his father, “’cus he knows everything!”
As they make for the river for their final crossing into the town proper, they are again accosted, this time by the boy’s father, who properly introduces himself as Viorec Korzha, who apologizes for the distress Applesauce caused. Walking them to the ferry, he gives them directions to both his own home and the mayors, both good paces to swing by if they need a place to sleep, but also points out there’s plenty of fields to camp in. He mentions the mayor may be a little distracted though, with the Founder’s Festival being today and all (to which he invites them if they’re staying in town anyway). As to the missing taxman, Elias Kyle, he remembers the obnoxious red-headed fellow who swung by several weeks back (about the same time as the last festival in fact), but as he understood it the man collected the taxes and moved on – rumor has it though he may have just taken the money and run off to Riddleport, as he seems to be the sort to do so.
Leaving their new friend behind, they hire the creepy hunchbacked ferryman to take them across, who teases them about swimming across and running afoul of some creature called the “Water Wolf” that has been haunting the river of late. In town they take a leisurely stroll towards the town square, pausing briefly for Kaitlinn to buy (poor quality) clothes from the old crone managing the Weaver’s shop. At the square they pause, taking in the squalor of the village and noting it has seen better times. Atem notes the ruined church, and poking around notes the ill-cared for straw-and-squash effigy of Desna inside. Kaitlinn and Khorin strike up a conversation with Shel, a beautiful young lady mending a dress in front of the local Trading post who seems to take a fancy to Khoren and happily tells them more about the Founder’s Feast and how she’s in the running to be the Feast Queen, at least until her gruff father shoos her inside. Continuing onward they find a stone circle and amphitheater with yet another ill-tended effigy to the Goddess of Dreams.
Eventually they reach the mayor’s home, where they are threatened by his brother Leonard, but before he can chase them off Mayor Andretti Kriegler comes out and apologizes, assuring them they are more than welcome and ask that they stay and enjoy both his hospitality and the coming festivities. As they walk back to the festival grounds he happily tells them what he can of the time the missing taxman spent there, assuring them he gave Elias the funds, but eventually admitting he suspected (as so many others apparently did) that he may have run off with the gold. The Mayor swears though that if they’ll stick around another day he’ll scrounge up what he can and send it with them to pay the debt Ravenmoor owes, though it won’t be as much. More than that and they’ll likely have to chase down the missing man in Riddleport. The three agree to take him up on his hospitality, secretly discussing amongst themselves their suspicions that the mayor is not being fully truthful. There seems to be a coverup, they ask themselves, but why?