Time for a travelogue!
Once the scouts realize that the group is lost, they adjust their course to the northeast (or so they hope). Dark skies, dense woods and cloud cover make it difficult to accurately gauge direction. The group makes another mile or so before the sun drops below the horizon. They camp for the night in thick evergreen woods.
[November 29] The weather clears off the next day. Clear skies mean an accurate look at the sun, so the scouts can adjust the party's course. They spend most of the day toiling across a range of low, wooded hills. Rough going for both animals and adventurers. Strom and Durego, in particular, are dragging. Neither has felt quite up to snuff since suffering icy contact with the shades in Pillar Vale. Finally, the group breaks out of the hills and trees into open, grassy terrain. As the sun sets they make camp near a small spring, letting the mules graze on the winter-browned grass.
[November 30] The clouds roll in once again during the night. The next morning is foggy and dark. Rawon and Mordikarr believe these grasslands are just west of Tragor's, so the group heads east. It's easier going for a while, but near noon the ground turns soggy. The scouts turn the party, hoping to skirt the north edge of the swamp, which seems to work out. Shortly after the midday break they find a narrow footpath. This leads them east, then southeast. As afternoon turns to evening the group stumbles into the clearing around Tragor's Hold. The gates are closed for the night, but after Maro and Durego announce the party, Tragor, Cabola and a few others come out to greet the group with the now-familiar mix of friendliness and caution. Tragor agrees to let the party camp in their usual spot. Once the party settles down, the emissaries head back into the settlement and agree to meet the party the next morning.
[December 1] After spending a quiet night outside the palisade, the party prepares for the next day's journey. After a long discussion, they've decided to offer one of the mules to Tragor, in hopes of stretching their remaining grain supply.
The usual suspects come out to greet the party shortly after dawn, bringing along a kettle of breakfast, some diced root vegetable with bits of fatty bacon mixed in. During the conversation, the party shares a bit of their story, glossing over some details. Mordikarr works in a few questions about the inhabitants of nest tower, and Tragor says they haven't seen any of the flying creatures in the weeks since the party left. Cabola tells him that her bear was once attacked by a small group of the things, but that Ironclaw killed one, and the rest fled. From her telling it sounds like it happened a while ago.
Ingvild and Durego ask about possible goods for the next trip, indicating it may be a while before the group returns. Tragor says they could use more arrows, another saw, wool cloth, and drink (apparently the beer and liquor was a hit). Talk turns to building, and when Rawon describes hinges, the villagers are intrigued (most of the huts in the village have hanging hide doors). Maro promises to bring some along next trip.
Finally, Maro brings up the mule. The village leaders and several group members examine the beast and explain how it might be used. Finally Tragor says, "We could not feed this fine beast," and declines the party's offer. Discussion ends, and the party says their goodbyes. They begin trekking southeast, toward the old roadway. Nightfall finds the group in dense evergreen woods, perhaps near the end of the old roadway.
[December 2] The weather remains cloudy and breezy, but there's no appreciable precipitation. The party heads out early, pushing to find the roadway and a clearer path to follow. They finally find the roadway mid-morning and follow this track southeast. They're still in thick evergreen woods when they camp.
[December 3] The group reaches the end of the roadway, near the ruined building, about midday. From this landmark they turn eastward, bypassing the battle site they discovered on their trip out. The woods are thinner here, so they make better time. They camp in a small meadow near a little stream, and the mules take full advantage of the grass.
[December 4] Another day, another hike. The weather continues to hold, but it's cooler than the last few days. There is heavy frost on the grass when the party gets up. They travel through lighter woods, making good time and striking the roadway mid-afternoon. Pressing on, they cover another five or six miles before night falls. They camp on open ground, and the mules can graze once again.
[December 5] "The road goes ever onward," mutters Strom the next morning as he staggers out of his bedroll. There are murmurs of agreement from the others as they prepare for the day's march. The more open ground near Vostat's Shrine speeds progress, and the party reaches the huge grassy meadow beyond the woods as night falls.
[December 6] After crossing the north edge of the meadow, the party's pace slows when they hit the wooded hills. When they pass the site of Urúvion's grave, Durego can barely muster the energy to say a few words of remembrance beneath the tree that holds his now skeletal remains. Nightfall catches up to the group in the plain east of Rabbit's Tree.
[December 7] The next morning is cold and clear, and most of the party is glad to be moving on. It keeps them warm. They push across the grasslands, into the woods, and past the church ruin. No one wants to spend the night near the haunted battle site there. The rough hill country east of the woods defeats further progress, and the party camps for the night amid scraggly trees and heaped boulders.
[December 8] "Cold is here to stay," says Dagmarten, as the group prepares to head out in the morning. The others mutter agreement and Durego says, "I can't wait to sleep in a real bed again." More agreement. The group heads east, following the old roadway. They're hoping to camp at the broken bridge that night, and none of them are looking forward to crossing the river in this cold weather. They reach the ruined village late in the morning. The scouts note signs of recent passage, both booted feet and horses, passing in and around the site. The trail heads off to the northeast, along the old roadway. "Looks like at least eight or ten riders," says Rawon, and Mordikarr agrees. "Hounds too," he adds.
Durego eyes the surrounding scrubby woods nervously. "This is pretty far out for hunters, and that's a big group. Who do you think they were? How fresh are the tracks?"
"The tracks are only a day or two old," says Rawon. "As for who they are..." The elf shrugs.
"Maybe they're a patrol from Auslaug. We saw those mercenaries in town last time we were there," says Maro.
"Could be," says Raúguey. "Or it could be refugees who've taken to banditry. We need to be extra careful."
"Do we stick with the plan? Head for the ruined bridge?" asks Grendor.