Heading for town, the party decides to fill in a bit more of the blank space on their maps.
Start Date: September 21, morning
Start Status: Hmm, what's over there?
Start Location: The Wilds
Rawon's argument that the group should cut southeast and explore some new ground on the way back to civilization brings little comment from the group. In the morning, when he leads the way, everyone follows. An hour of hiking sees the group past the ruined church / graveyard, and then they're off the trail and into the scrubby hills.
Two hours later the rank and file are grumbling about plowing through trees again. Southeast of the ruin, the trees thicken, though it does flatten out a bit (the hills run off to the south a ways, out of sight). "Oh stop complaining," says Rawon at the first rest stop. "You could have spoken up last night. No one said anything, so deal with it." The normally laconic and lackadaisical elf seems on edge, perhaps because his flasks are mostly empty.
The group presses on, and an hour or so later they find a stream, which runs generally southeast. after following this occasionally soggy course for a short distance, they find ruins, crude stone foundations. A little poking and searching shows two structures, likely a small house and a barn, swallowed by trees, undergrowth and time. There's a circle of blackened stones in the house foundation, old and cold, so someone has used the place in the past as a camp. The party has a bite and waters the mules before pressing on.
The stream continues southwest for another half-dozen miles before joining up with another running in from the southwest. The joined streams continue to the northeast, so the party crosses and goes cross-country southeast. Beyond the streams, the ground slowly rises,and several ravines cut the slope, making travel even slower. More muttering from the party, more glares from Rawon. As they traipse through the ridges and woods, they notice signs of life, cut trees, a charcoal mound smoldering beneath a layer of earth. "We must be close to the road. No one would burn charcoal out here without a way to get it back to town," says Ohwatoo.
"Unless they're making it for their own use. We don't know who's around out here. Don't assume they're friendly," warns Durego.
The group finds the road as dusk darkens to night, the rough corduroy surface is easy to spot. Rather than continue walking in the dark they find a convenient place to stop (the verge is cleared along the Westwalk) and camp, sure that they'll be in a comfortable bed tomorrow.
The delay means the party reaches Hustwood mid-afternoon. They're greeted by stares and worried looks, and a militia sergeant with a trio of guards at his back. As he approaches the party, Mageta grumbles again, but Maro silences her. "Here now! We don't need troublemakers here! State your business or be off with you!" Beyond the sergeant, villagers in the market square watch, and one or two edge closer. You note several of these are carrying staves that could easily serve as weapons. On the broad porch of the Red Oak Inn, someone ducks inside.
End Date: September 22, afternoon
End Status: Strangers in town
End Location: Hustwood