Once back at the castle, there were some questions about what to do next; a discussion ensued. A few things were clear: Strongwülf felt that he had bonded with the adjutant and that the elf may be more on their side than the rest of the party believes.
Arādan spoke with the party about his clan of dark elves and their accompanying clans. They came over on one of the lesser ships, with no exposure to any of the detailed plans beyond the immediate. The Huregoths were supposed to meet up with some more experienced warriors and sail down the river, but the party had destroyed that plan with the successful Battle of the River Mouth. He’s not sure why the Huregoths are after the party with such vehemence. He thinks this may have something to do with the party’s reputed effectiveness.
Our heroes wonder whether the rest of the dark elves that the party had brokered a tentative truce with will stay that way. Arādan feels that there may have been some mind-control magic involved. (Impressively, no one in the party snickered at the thought of Sauron’s Shadow working him like a puppet as he has done multiple times in the party’s presence.) Arādan’s evidence is that a number of the four clans are discovering that things that they had previously accepted on flimsy evidence are proving to be untrue, and they’re not sure why they believed at the time.
Arādan isn’t sure where the teleported enemy elves might have gone. They were supposed to rendezvous with other elves here and the moat battle showed that they hadn’t arrived yet.
At least 500 of their strongest mages and warriors aren’t here. The four clans’ patrols haven’t found them, so the assumption is that they’ve withdrawn. Where they’ve gone is anyone’s guess.
Utilizing the knowledge of the castle’s master of the hunt, they were able to gather some ideas on where some nearby hiding places might be, so that Stormdancer could be deployed to try to find them.
Nwalme also looked over the effects and equipment that had been gathered from the bodies of the elves killed in the moat battle. He spotted a few things that may prove useful in using his magics to find the other elves: knickknacks of the sort that are shared between lovers or family members. He also found a beautifully made poisoner’s blade, perfect for assassins. The mysterious green stone, however, he set aside for another time.
Nwalme cast History on the blade and found that it had been given by a high-ranking Huregoth clan leader to another of the clan. The blade was used to kill one of the other clans’ leaders.
Nwalme also used Seeker ineffectively in search of the Huregoth clan leader. Since it’s been a week since the last casting of Seeker on the remaining Blue Wizard, he was able to use it again. He located the maia practically on the castle’s doorstep: in the woods near the Huregoths’ camp, about 2½ hours’ ride away.
Nwalme contacted the Empress to apprise her of what we’d learned and where we were heading. They found that Sauron’s Shadow was again able to jump onto the telepathic conversation.
When the information about the assassin’s blade was shared with Arādan, he revealed that the person murdered was a prince of his clan. The clan thought that he had been assinated by the Empress – or by our heroes. Their clan had formerly been the least enthusiastic about the war, and with their prince’s death they fell under the command of the higher-ranking military leaders.
Nwalme decided to leave the staff at the castle, as the maia can sense it. Then the party rode out toward the forest camp and the wizard.
Through Stormdancer, Araphor is able to spot a camp of dark elves. There seems to be three or four dozen – no more than a hundred, surely – with fifty horses. There are hints that they may have been in contact with the Huregoths.
While Strongwülf counsels falling back to the castle to gather a larger force to try to rout the camp, it’s clear that with the woods are dense enough to keep a large force from being effective. Instead, the sneakier members of the party, Araphor and Bo, are going to sneak in to do some recon, while leaving the bulk of the party about an hour away. Araphor spends a few minutes helping to camouflage the horses as best he can, just to keep the party from being quite so easily spotted while they wait.
Araphor and Bo sneak forward. When they see an elf walking back in the direction that they wanted to go, they realize that they’ve managed to get behind the camp’s patrol lines…