Chapter 21 - The Enchanted Forest
Having packed the bear meat onto Druvvaldis' mule, the five unlikely trekkers through the The Otherworld finally depart from the temple. The recently freed Vasya, as the person who has spent the most time here, is put in charge of leading the group through the dense woods. It is difficult progress – the tree roots are craggy, and the absence of heavenly bodies makes traveling in one direction difficult, so the bear-man does the best he can with the aid of his companions and the occasional appearance of the three riders, which all seem to travel in the same direction. By nightfall, the group comes to a lake. There is a small island with a single tree a little ways offshore, and Vasya insists that if they continue traveling left from the standing stone, they have to keep going straight, and through the island. After some discussion, the rest of the group agrees, but for this, a vessel must be fashioned. Chonkorchuk finds a suitable tree, and begins fashion a dugout from it. After resting for the night, the work resumes, and by late morning, the dugout is ready (in the meantime, Plamen summons up restorative magic to rid Chonkorchuk of his festering wound, and his lockjaw, to boot). Finally, after dispelling the mule, the group climbs into the dugout, and paddles to the island. After arriving, the discover a sleeping man, dressed in leather, and armed with a spear, snoring away behind the tree. After being awakened and questioned, the band discovers that the man is named Khurshid ibn Ali, and that he is a noble and courtier from far-off Rakhman lands. The last thing he remembers is being waylaid in the mountains by bandits, and he has no idea how he came to appear in this strange land. Having martial gifts, he agrees to accompany and protect the band while he searches for answers. After taking refreshment, the group of six continues rowing across the lake, until reaching the opposite shore. Here, they disembark, and continue on foot across particularly difficult terrain. As they travel upland, Chonkorchuk discovers a copper necklace with a green stone hanging from a thorny bush. There is no indication how the item got there, but the hermit soon discovers that the item possesses magics that aid their wearer against noxious gasses and other dangers. During that night, Plamen discovers another arcane item nearby the group’s camp – it is a shepherd’s pipe that seemingly whistled to him. In the morning, he attempts to play it, and succeeds in frightening Katarina and Vasya, who have to be restrained by their companions to prevent them from fleeing into the woods. At the end of the night, the White Rider seemingly charges the band as it breaks camp, but instead of attacking, he just rides by, and accidentally drops a fur-lined hat. When Druvvaldis examines it, he discovers that the hat allows the wearer to magically disguise himself. The group sets off with its new finds, and by dusk finds itself before a body of water. A brief investigation reveals that they have circled around and returned to the same lake they crossed not two days earlier.
- A copper necklace with a green stone that has protective magic
- A shepherd's pipe that plays frightening tunes
- A fur-lined hat of disguise