A half-dozen more wild Chasind, and few friends of Sothmere turned rager were intercepted and put down in time to save Fiala, Strom Kasrgard, and Ser Vilem Richta from infection, but not quick enough to help Lazlo, Ser Richta’s lieutenant.
When the village finally grew quiet, Sheriff Milo Kovic called for a town meeting for everyone. While some visitors picked up their things and left Sothmere as quickly as they could, the people of the town were quick to gather at the town hall that doubled as Milo’s home. Baranti’s Wolves attended the meeting as well.
Milo was able to convince Ser Richta that it would be safe to move the uninfected to the new stone Fort Sothmere. They could wait out what needed to happen next. Old Stoyanka had Ashalla help her treat the wounded and infected. After examining the poison on the rager’s weapons and the yellow blood and bile from the infected, she concluded with horror that what afflicted these people was something called the Amber Rage, an ancient and powerful poison of Chasind origin, thought to be lost to time. She immediately ordered that the bodies of the dead infected be burnt, along with their weapons and gear. She even got the Wolves to heat their gear over a fire, leaving their armor and weapons with a harsh black burn.
The bodies of the infected were burned in a pyre, along with anything they brought with them, and any yellow blood found on the ground was also carefully burned away, leaving Sothmere appearing as if an explosive war took place. Old Stoyanka then had Asha help her feed the infected with a foul brew that would stave off any further affects of the Amber Rage.
When the conversation topic of the town hall meeting moved to the infected villagers, the mood took a dark turn. Ser Vilem Richta demanded that the infected be put to death, fearing what would happen should they be allowed to live and carry this strange and virulent disease. Milo, shocked by the knight’s sudden cruelty, objected. His daughter was among the infected, and she would have to be put to death along with many whom he had come to know as family, like Linnea. This would also mean that Baranti’s Wolves would be killed, so objections to this idea were many and loud. Bogdan, the blacksmith in town, argued that they had no recourse to cure this disease, and they would eventually become one of them in time, so it would be for the good of all.
Stoyanka said it may not be so, for she knew of a cure for the Amber Rage. She admitted she had most of the ingredients, but required one last vital compnent to a brew she could create that would erase the disease: shadowmoss. Bogdan asked her if it would really work, and Stoyanka solemnly admitted that it was a legend, and she could not know until they tried. Stoyanka and the Wolves argued that it was the only option and chance they had to save the people of Sothmere and others from this disease, while Bogdan and Ser Richta asked what they would do if the brew didn’t work. They claimed that by the time the heroes got back, even with the shadowmoss, how did they know that the brew they just gave out would even hold the infected?
As if on cue, Lazlo began to foam at the mouth and scream a bloody war cry. He threw himself at the Wolves, who quickly put him down to the screams and the hushed whispers and curses from the crowded town hall.
While Vilem stood in horror, Bogdan turned to the townsfolk, shouting that it could happen at any moment, and that we weren’t safe until they were all put down. The Wolves finally had enough, and gave Bogdan his ultimatum: he would oppose them from saving people’s lives, they would stand against him and anyone else.
The Wolves cowed both Vilem and Bogdan. Both fled the scene in fear and anger, respectively, but not before Linnea caught Bogdan’s treacherous grin.
Milo and the Wolves secured the aid of the farmers Alora had wrestled with earlier in the evening, and they loaned their barn as a place for the infected to stay. Linnea promised Wanda she would be back with a cure, and warned Milo about Bogdan’s possible reaction to these events. Milo held his daughter tighter than ever before that night.
The next morning, as the precipitation went from a drizzle to a hard rain,. Old Stoyanka gathered the heroes together to tell them of their journey. They would follow the path of her enchanted raven, into the heart of the Korcari Wilds, feeding it carrion beetles once per hour, directly to the shadowmoss’s domain. When the raven stopped, they would boil a pot with a foul-smelling powder added to the mix to call beings known as firesprites, ancient and nearly extinct forest-dwelling creatures. They would guide the heroes to the grotto where shadowmoss grows. Then they must fill an empty sack of Stoyanka’s choice to the brim with shadowmoss, otherwise the brew may not work. Stoyanka also made sure to warn the heroes of the guardian serpent that watched over the grotto and the firesprites, warning them that they must take the utmost precaution.
She provided the heroes with several curatives for the journey, with several homemade healing salves and vials of her brew that would stave off the infection’s affects for another day. They had until three sunsets passed to bring the shadowmoss back to Sothmere.
The townspeople came to the Wolves with sandwiches, wine, and vegetables for their travels, and Strom gave them a flameless lantern for their journey. The sky seemed to get grayer to the south, but the WOlves pressed out into the hills on horseback.
The hills came to a sharp decline that the horses refused to go down, but the raven was intent to cross the wide and raging river, circling above as it waited for the heroes. The river had grown in size because of the rain, and looked a bit deep to swim. Alora indicated that their map of the hills showed a small village nearby that could have a way of crossing the river, so the heroes took their horses to Wichford.
The rain fell in sheets as the heroes looked upon the quiet and village, as if it was trying to bury the corpses beneath the mud. The village had been slaughtered down to one man, and a flock of bloodcrows dove at the heroes expecting fresh meat.
When the crows bled into the mud along with the townspeople, the Wolves found a man named Josef calling from his second story window. They found he was infected with the Amber Rage, his kneecap shattered and his arm marred by a bite wound that was jaundiced and bloody. Asha quickly fed him her brew vial and gave him another day.
Josef shared with the horrid news: ragers had attacked Wichford that morning while most of the townsfolk were still in Sothmere for the festival, leaving the few remaining villagers easy pickings for the ragers. He managed to escape into his second story and pull up the retracting stairs to escape the attack. Normally the retracting stairs and second stories kept Wichford folks safe from beast and Chasind from the Wids, but they saved him from a Chasind beast this time. The ragers who attacked and turned several Wichford folks then turned north, in the direction of Sothmere.
After healing his arm and leg with magic, the Wolves lent him their horses to get back to Sothmere where Old Stoyanka could brew more soup to keep him sane for another day, and he could hopefully beat the ragers back and warn those in Sothmere that another attack was coming. He took the horses and rode as fast as he could, thanking the Wolves once again.
As the rain pelted the heroes, they muscled their way across the ford, as the rope between the two banks had been cut. They tied themselves together and swam across, swallowing water at times but making it across. Cold, wet, and tired, they pressed on into the Wilds.
Not too far into the Wilds they found a local trapper from Wichford named Branik, accompanied by his two hunting dogs, Bog and Ipa.
He invited the Wolves under his tent to eat at his fire, as his trapping was going well, too well he thought. He knew something was going on in the woods, with Chasind and animals alike being pushed out of the forest by something. The Wolves told him of the Amber Rage, and the fate of Wichford, to Branik’s horror. He offered them to take as much meat as they wanted, and told them that a Chasind village called Dosov would be on their way, and would make an excellent place for resting on their journey. He knew nothing of Shadowmoss, but wished the Wolves luck all the same.
Bog and Ipa, a pair of great wofun hounds, warmed up to the party quickly with a healthy dose of scritches while the rain died down. Bog nearly showed the group Jack’s lyrium pouch, but Jack quickly deflected the attention.
The heroes continued on into the Korcari Wilds, happening eventually upon the village of Dosov, and it’s witch doctor Baba Zorya, who welcomed them into her home. She offered them shelter for the night, but her negotiation-through-drink worried Linnea, who wished to keep moving unhindered if they were to save her hometown. Jack remained behind with Zorya, drinking until the stars came out, and then spending a magical evening with the shaman.
As morning broke, Alora, Linnea, Kallian, and Asha woke from a soggy tent they pitched for the night, while Jack woke up next to Zorya. Before Jack left to find her comrades, she was given a package of salted leaves that Zorya promised could help with addictions. With a knowing wink, she seemed sad as Jack left her home.
Jack rejoined with the rest of the Wolves, and they continued to follow the raven into the dark woods. The raven finally landed on a small stump on a tiny hillock in the middle of the swamp. It looked at them one last time before falling over dead. They decided to call the firesprites here.
Gathering firewood and a pot, they boiled water and added the foul concoction to the pot. Holding in their breakfasts, they were then turned about by a pair of giant swamp crabs who seemed eager to eat the contents of the pot. Quickly thinking, they sliced off the claws of both crabs, sending them retreating into the swamp water.
Sighing with relief, the morning daylight was joined by dozens of tiny yellow lights from the forest, each coming from a tiny flying humanoid figure with insect eyes and antenna. The creatures danced through the air with grace and seemed to speak in song, their melodies touching the hearts of a few of the Wolves, and granting them fleeting and strange visions and feelings. They could feel that they should turn back, for the price of the shadowmoss would be too great. They did not know why they felt this, but only that this was true.
Eventually tiring of the Wolves, the firesprites retreated into the forest, and the Wolves followed them through the deep waters and thick foliage of the swamps until they finally came to a grotto. A small pool of water was fed from a sporadic and weak waterfall that ran over a large wall. The wall was clearly constructed by a truly ancient civilization, one that perhaps even predated the Tevinter Imperium in Ferelden. It was mostly grown over by moss, but not any special moss.
The firesprites sang their huanting song as they plunged into the pool and disappeared through carved tunnels. Swimming after the firesprites, the heroes broke the surface of the water in a large cavern, and were set upon by an enormous green snake-like serpent with wicked horn, tiny arms for movement, and thick emerald scales. The serpent hissed loudly and drooled slightly at the new prey in its den, and the firesprites became worried an agitated, but floated nearby to watch what would happen.
The serpent was fast for its impressive size, and it’s horns and teeth seemed to shear stone in half. It scooped up the Wolves as it attacked, choking them and continuing onto the next prey. The serpent would have been a bloody opponent, but Jack and Asha thought quickly and offered the crab claws to the serpent, having kept them for food or using the shells for armor. The serpent, who happened to favor eating the swamp crabs, swooped across the room simply to scarf down the shells. The four shells they fed the serpent distracted the creature long enough for the persistent Linnea, Alora, and Kallian to injure it.
While the serpent bled, and after Jack had run out of claws to offer it, she offered the dead raven they had followed for several days, but the serpent had had enough and elected to eat her along with the raven. Before the serpent could take her in its powerful jaws, a surprise strike from Ashalla on the temple sent the beast into unconsciousness.
The firesprites cried out in anger and pain and retreated back into the tunnels of the caverns, leaving the Wolves worried and confused, hoping to explain themselves to the creatures. They began to climb to the tunnels.