After leaving Tragor's Hold, the party headed southwest, intent on finding a path to Blackpool Maze. However the more cautious members of the party are still pushing for a return to town to restock and resupply.
"I still think we need to get back to town and resupply. It's a long hike, and we have no idea what we'll run into out here." Durego was repacking the pack saddle on Rocky. The coins the group had tried to pawn off on Tragor and his folk were heavy, and they needed to be balanced out.
Jonquil chimed in, "We're also low on grain for the mules. With all these pines we haven't found any grazing for them, and what grain we do have is getting old."
"We're close to where that cave marker should be if that old map is at all accurate though. I hate to give up so easily. We could continue southwest, head for the spire by Blackpool, and use that to get back. The distance is about the same." Ingvild clearly wanted more loot.
"I think maybe Durego is right," says Raúguey. "We're well off our know trails, and a long way from home. Restocking is a good idea. We can head southeast from here, explore some new territory, and maybe find something of interest along the way. After all, we didn't expect to profit from the nest tower, and look how that turned out."
The debate continues for some time, but the tide has turned. After the break, the party turns southeast, toward civilization and home. The rest of the afternoon sees them out of the low hills and into dense pine forest once again, slow going through monotonous terrain. They make camp in a small clearing, and keep the usual watches. After a quiet night, disturbed only by the distant screeching yowl of a cougar, the party sets off early the next morning.
The morning sees them through the pines and into more mixed and open woods. There are signs of game, deer hoof prints, rabbit tracks, and similar, but the large armored party scares off any game, so there's little to see other than trees. A few tiny streams, spring fed and flowing south-ish, cross the party's path. Here and there boggy patches break the monotony of the woods. The pines are mostly gone now, replaced by maples, ash, and sycamore.
In the afternoon, Rawon calls a halt and points off to the south. "I think that's water down there. Maybe a larger river or lake. We should check it out." The others agree, and the party bends its course a bit to the south. Half an hour later they are standing on the shores of a sizable lake, near the influx of a small river that feeds in from the east. The shore, so far as you can see, are tree-lined, but there's nothing else of note along the shore, at least not to casual examination.
"Good place to take a break. We need to refill water barrels anyhow," says Maro. The others agree, and while some refill water barrels, others poke along the shore in either direction.
"We'll have to find a way across that river if we want to continue southeast," says Ohwatoo. "It's not that deep, but the mules will have a hard time of it without a ford."