Leaving the butchered and skinned owlbear behind them, the party moved on through the woods. They lit no fires and covered their tracks as well as possible, attempting to evade their pursuers. At the top of a hill, they came upon an old fort, in which they found a camp. There was a fire pit tucked into the building that held a fire two days before, and bones left from a meal for six or so. It seemed their hunters had somehow got ahead of themselves, and the party could now come upon them on their own terms.
Observing from the broken walls of the fort and searching for tracks, the party estimated the lay of the land and the paths through it that their enemies might have taken. A few miles off there was a town, seemingly unoccupied, and figuring that their pursuers might not be able to pass up the opportunity for another sheltered fire, the party marched to the town.
Scouting ahead into the town, Kalyani discovered, in the ruins of a shrine that had been overgrown by a huge willow, a spirit of the forest in the form of a woman made of living wood. The dryad welcomed the party to her domain with bowls of clear water from the roots of the tree, and was met by mixed suspicion and enthusiasm. She thanked the group for not lighting fires in her woods, and offered them assistance in catching their pursuers. In exchange, she wished only a small favor: travel to the next town, and plant a seed there.
Further investigation revealed that the bones of the people of this ruined town were at the root of the willow, and the party became worried about the promise that Raymond had made for them. Nevertheless, they held their tongues and formed a plan. They asked to meet their enemies in a valley, with brambles to constrain their movement, and the dryad agreed. They marched through her wood toward the location she had selected as she guided them, her arms and face appearing in the trees to direct them, and the plants clearing a path in which they could walk.
At the valley, the party concealed themselves around the stream, hidden in the foliage by Narayan’s skill and the dryad’s assistance. When the Northmanu approached, Kinaa broke first, attacking their scout when he was just in the center of the hidden circle of heroes, and the scout fell in moments so quick that his companions had not yet reacted. A hard battle ensued, but was over soon, as the party killed most of the Northmanu and subdued one, a great big warrior who fought well to the end.
When the warrior came to, Amata questioned him about his mission. He said that they were after the egg, sent by the Arcena, and that they had pursued Hillalum and his companion south all the way from Riggsland before following the party here. It was generally acknowledged that this implied that the Arcena had some sort of spy operation which was able to find out of the mission for the egg while it was in its planning stages, or while it was being deployed.
When the Northmanu warrior begged for a better death than having his flesh included in a tree, Amata offered hanging. The man’s wish to die in battle, though, was close to fulfilled, when Raymond put a sword into his bound hands, to offer him suicide. They struggled with the sword, and as the Northmanu turned its point toward Raymond, Amata crushed his throat under her boot. Hillalum stumbled back toward the party from the hill where he had hidden with the egg, and the party contemplated their next move.