The Planeteers are traveling southeast from Fort Dolor using a road that follows the border of a tangled wood purportedly haunted by the restless dead of an ancient war. Hence, its name: the Warwood.
Sun glistens off new snow, making a stunning contrast to the tangled darkness of forest next to the road. Ahead you spot a large group of travelers approaching, both on foot and by horse-drawn wagon. They appear well dressed in white and black robes, and in a moment you can hear the mournful sound of their distant chanting. It is a sort of religious pilgrimage.
The pilgrimage approaches to within 30 feet and their leader, Sister Naenia, addresses the Planeteers in a friendly fashion.
The pilgrims are faithful of the Raven Queen, something obvious once the Planeteers take a good look at their vestments and the skulls and ravens that adorn their wagons. There are two wagons. The first is open to the air and carries three white-haired old women and an albino girl of about eight years old. They are heavily bundled against the cold and each wears the vestments of an acolyte. The second wagon looks like a funeral wagon, with open sides beneath a heavily ornamented roof. Behind sheer black curtains, the Planeteers can see a masked figure lying atop a bed. Between the wagons walk a number of priests and acolytes, the hems of their robes stained with mud from their journey.
These people, mostly eladrin but with a few elves among them, are virtually all the faithful from a Raven Queen monastery about forty miles distant. The monastery is hidden away in a wood that has grown up around it since its construction over a hundred years ago. It’s off the beaten path because it honors a little-known hero of their order, Sir Malagant.
Sister Naenia relates that Sir Malagant fought many battles against enemies of the faith and died within a few miles of where the Planeteers and the priests have met on the road. Just over a hundred years ago, a terrible war raged through the area, with the forces of the feywild on one side, and an evil cult of allied monsters arrayed against them. On the eve of what would be the largest battle yet fought, Sir Malagant challenged his foes’ leader to single combat, with the loser vowing to abandon the field and disperse his army. The two combatants killed each other, however, and thus both sides lost the conflict. This stunning result led to some fighting but the leaderless armies did soon disband, and peace has held sway over this wilderness since those days. The penitents of the monastery are making a pilgrimage to the scene of their hero’s death. There they intend to anoint and bury his effigy to honor him as their order was instructed by Achreisis, exarch of the Raven Queen, a century ago.
Olwick remembers a slightly different history for the era, keeping to most of the story told by Sister Naenia, but differing in that Sir Malagant was certainly no hero. Still, opportunity for something interesting has presented itself, and Olwick offers the Planeteers services as protection for the remainder of the priest’s trek to their ritual place.
Just then, a heretofore unnoticed flock of crows raucously rises from the woods and flies overhead to the west, interrupting Naenia. The three old women cluster around the albino girl and in rapid succession, each takes a turn looking toward the wood over the head of the girl. Sister Naenia looks startled and rushes back to the wagon to question them.
The albino girl simply says, “They’re coming.”
- Tiefling bandits suddenly burst out of the forest to attack the caravan, killing several priests
- A hippogriff-riding tiefling swoops in and steals the effigy from the funeral wagon
- Darth Machismo leaps atop the hippogriff, puts it in a headlock, and forces it out of the air, but its rider escapes with the effigy
All traces of the calm confidence Sister Naenia possessed before have fled. She is clearly distraught over the harm that has come to her followers, but there’s more to it than that. You see fear in her eyes.
“They took it! That bandit ran teleported off with his bones! Sweet Lady! Please you must help us. You must get the effigy back! It holds Sir Malagant’s bones and the Fiend’s Horn. If we don’t bury them…I don’t know. I just don’t know.”
Sister Naenia spins in a panicked circle, starting toward the wrecked funeral wagon, then toward a wounded pilgrim, then toward the woods. She seems incapable of deciding what to do.
Jym heals as many of the priests as he is able. Dave calms Sister Naenia down enough for her to relate what she understands of the situation. She believes the attack at the front of the train was a distraction for someone to steal the valuable relics they placed with the effigy. She begs the Planeteers to retrieve the bones of Sir Malagant that were placed within the effigy and the relic they call the Fiend’s Horn. If they do this, Sister Naenia says they can keep the adornments on the effigy, including Sir Malagant’s armor and sword.
She’s desperate to bury his bones and the Horn so that they can fulfill the order of her deity’s exarch. She doesn’t know why it must be done, but she’s certain something grave will happen if it’s not done soon—within a week at most.
Sister Naenia describes the Fiend’s Horn as the actual horn from the head of Sir Malagant’s foe, struck off with Sir Malagant’s dying blow. It looks like a foot-long bone horn with a bit of skull attacked to the end from when Sir Malagant’s sword clove through the Fiend’s head. Sister Naenia knows that Sir Malagant’s longsword was magic, but she doesn’t know how. She doesn’t think his scale armor held magic.
When the Planeteers agree to recover the bones and horn, Sister Naenia asks them to swear in the name of the Raven Queen that they will return with the bones and the Fiend’s Horn. When all the Planeteers (except Jym) swear, she seems relieved and blesses the Planeteers, saying “Fate be with you.”
Olwick is furious at being outpaced by another teleporter and has already traced the path of the tiefling who escaped into the Warwood. The forest is too thick and tangled for horses, but the pilgrims offer to watch over them. Sister Naenia remains behind to tend to her followers and then travel on to a hill where the burial will take place. There she intends to wait with her followers. The hill is visible from further along the road, and the Planeteers would be able to find it easily.
As the Planeteers are leaving, the albino girl runs after them to tug on the crystals of Dread, motioning that he should bend down to hear her whisper. Dread responds that he speaks by transmitting thoughts and the little girl, whose mind seems flavored with chaos, replies back to him:
“Those who dream beneath the stars cannot yet be seen by the blind one who waits beyond them. The stars are safe for now.
The girl then runs back to the three old women who are standing some distance away and looking at the Planeteers with inscrutable expressions.