Start Date: July 3, Year of the Badger, mid-afternoon
Start Status: Don't split the party
Start Location: The Cat Cave
It is a tired and dirty group that returns to the Cat Cave the next afternoon. Nissa and Grit are grumpy: they find a spot outside the cave and dig into their packs for food. Dagmarten and Ingvild are less grumpy, but the cave is cramped with so many, so they stay outside and take watch. Locky, Urúvion, and Ohwatoo file in to report progress to the others. "We headed south yesterday," begins Locky, "into more rough woods and hills. We covered about eight miles before it started getting dark. Luckily the rain let up and we were able to find a good camp site. We also found an old ruin, part of a stone wall running southeast to northwest. We explored a bit around our camp, but there didn't seem to be much else to see, and it was dark and wet."
"The next morning we decided to follow the wall northwest. The wall went about a mile that way, and when it ended, we kept going. We did about seven miles total, more hills and woods mostly. We did find a small spring-fed stream leading north, and that's where we decided to turn back and try and find this place. Before we started back we found a sort of open hilltop and got a look around. Southwest and northwest looked, if anything, rougher. There were bigger hills there. Straight south looked more open though, maybe a big meadow or something there. North and northeast were mostly trees. No sign of any roads like we saw on the map. Maybe we're too far east still. What's up with the kits?"
Durego answers. "They've calmed down. I tried to speak with them, using the power of Erlinga, but their answers were confused. They may be too young to understand. We fed them a bit with the only fresh meat we had available." The cleric shudders a bit at this. "They've calmed down quite a bit. They even let Maro touch them. He hasn't slept since you left."
"Well," whispers Locky, "be sure you keep them away from Grit. He's not happy that we kept them."
Durego nods. "I noticed that. I don't know how we'll get them to follow us. They're letting Maro get close, but no one else. Anything else of note?"
Locky shakes his head. "Just trees," he says with a sigh. The halfling glances out the cave entrance to where the others are eating. "We should probably start back today. It's a fair stretch to Stonefinger, and food's getting short. How much meat did Raúguey get from the cat?"
"Not a lot, and it's pretty gamey. Rawon did manage to bag a pair of woodchucks though, and they're a bit tastier. At least the fur turned out pretty nice. Raúguey did a good job on that."
Grit's voice from outside the cave interrupts the discussion. "We should get moving, daylight is burnin' and we need to get back to base camp."
"Right. Go ahead and get people out there organized. I'll get people in here moving." Durego heads to the back of the cave to rouse Maro, Raúguey, and Rawon.
Grit and Nissa are almost out of sight by the time Maro convinces the kits to follow him using slivers of meat as lures. The party forms a long straggling line as they head east of northeast, a path they hope will skirt the south side of the thorn thicket and bring them back to Stonefinger. Once the group is moving, the kits seem to pick up on what's going on, and they pad along near Maro, occasionally darting off to investigate something in the woods or sniff at Rawon or Raúguey, they only other people they will approach. The group continues in this fashion for the rest of the day, covering about nine miles.
Camp that night is tense, as Maro attempts to keep the kits out of the way, and Grit glares at most everyone. At least the rain is gone. It's quite pleasant, in fact. Aside from a few grumbling comments between party members, the night passes quietly, and the next morning you head out at a good clip in slightly better formation. The kits seem to have gotten the hang of things, and do a fair job of keeping up with the party. One even manages to kill a squirrel before it can skitter up a tree. Maro splits the carcass up and feeds it to the kits for lunch. Mid-afternoon Grit stumbles onto the edge of the thorn thicket (well *a* thorn thicket). The group skirts the southern edge, eventually running into what you suspect is the same stream you crossed on your first day out. Using that as a landmark you turn north-northeast toward what you hope is Stonefinger.
Success. There are still a few hours of daylight left when you find the massive stone. Rather than waste time there you start back along the trail, hoping to get back to base camp tonight. Hiking fast, you reach the log bridge, and make it across without incident. The sun is dropping toward the horizon, but the trail is clear so you press on. You're very very tired when you reach the end of the trail and turn left on the so-called main road. Another couple hours finds you back at the Hol place, very very tired, and very very hungry. There's a bit of chaos when the kits get near the mules, but Maro leads them away and sets up camp under a tree along the edge of the pasture. Gorvil, Jonquil, and Saurabh report that all has been quiet at the barn. Old man Hol came out yesterday to check on things, but other than that, they've been left alone.
Exhausted and hungry, everyone eats something, splits up the watches, and settles in for a night's rest.
End Date: July 4, Year of the Badger, late night
End Status: Anger management
End Location: The Hol Place