After the night chase, the death of the giant lynx kit Jedit, and most of a day hiking through dense woodland, the party is... not sure where they are. It's a big forest, someone has to get lost in it, right?
"See anything?" Durego shifts his position slightly, trying to move off the stone poking him in the butt.
"No, not for a while now. Last I could see, it was north-northeast, heading east." Maro sounds uncertain. The cleric glances at Rawon, ten feet up a nearby tree, but he just shakes his head.
"Maybe we should get moving again. More south. I don't like not knowing where we are, and we've been sitting at least an hour."
The two elves look at each other, then at the rest of the group. Nods all around. "OK. But be ready to stop and duck if we signal. Keep your eyes open." Rawon moves to the fore, along with Maro and Mordikarr. Slowly, the party moves out, turning, as best as they can tell, south. The trees are still thick, but the pines and cedars are mostly gone, replaced by ash, oak, and the occasional sycamore. The light fades and brightens as a few late-afternoon clouds scud across the sun, driven by the still gusty breeze.
Trees, and more trees. After three hours of hiking, Raúguey calls a halt. "Any idea where we are? We should have found the lake or more open ground by now, shouldn't we?"
Ohwatoo nods his agreement. "I hope we're not completely lost. We're headed south right?"
"Yes, of course we are," says Maro, irritated. "But the way we're moving, it's no quick progress. Trees, underbrush, rocks, it all takes time to pick a path. If you want to take point for a while, feel free." The elf stalks off, and crouches beside Mageta, ruffling the big kit's fur.
Rawon watches his friend, and then shakes his head. Turning to the others he says, " I'm certain we should see the lake, if it's still nearby. I think we must have gone past its west end, and it's probably off to our east now." He looks at the surrounding trees. "No way to get a good lay of the land here. Even from a treetop, all you can see is more trees."
"It's getting on to evening. We should start thinking about camp. The mules could use a light day to recover from yesterday," says Jonquil.
"We didn't really start until noon, but the sun is pretty low. Let's keep going but stop when we find a good site," answers Ingvild. His brother nods agreement.
"Very well. We'll start looking for a place to stop. Let's get going again." Rawon walks over to Maro and puts a hand on his shoulder. "Let's go my friend. Not much further now. We'll start looking for a camp site. Tomorrow's another day, eh?"
Maro rises from his crouch, and gives a curt nod. "Aye, let's go then."
The party continues south for another hour or so, then Rawon raises a warning hand. Everyone crouches, seeking the nearest cover, not hard in the thick growth. "Listen," he whispers.
Maro and Mordikarr both turn their heads trying to hear anything but wind in the trees. Finally Mordikarr whispers, "Water. Stream or river." He points southeast. "That way."
Rawon nods agreement, and calls to the others, "There's a stream over that way. We'll make for it, see what we can see." The group moves in the indicated direction, and eventually everyone can hear the faint sound of water. There is no sign of water until the scouts nearly fall in, the stream's banks are deep cut through dark earth, the slopes overgrown with dense stands of weedy growth, head-high in places. The stream is a slow-moving thing. The only reason Rawon heard it at all is that it falls over a rocky step here. A broad pool has formed above this obstacle, and a series of rocks and gravel banks below makes for a fairly easy crossing.
"Look there!" calls Ingvild, who has moved up to join the scouts. He points across the stream. "Looks like a clearing there. If we're going to cross, it'd be a good camp site."
You could easily cross the stream here, though getting the mules down the muddy banks will be a challenge. It's smaller than the river you saw near Corpse Hill. The pool is at a sort of bend. The stream enters from the south-southwest and exits to the northeast. It winds quite a bit, so you don't see a whole lot in either direction. The trees are still thick, and there are tall weeds, nettles, jewel weed, loosestrife, sedge, and buttonbush, everywhere.
If you decide to stick to this bank, you'll either have to turn northeast or south, depending on which way the stream goes. You'll have to cross if you want to head southeast at all.
You're still very unsure where you are.