Diperan comes along with us on the back of a wyvern. It doesn't look quite like a real one though – it seems like a Free Magic creature, not a Charter Magic construct. A lot of the gear he has on the thing has Charter marks on it though.
We head toward Weylyn. They have an airship dock. Diperan and his wyvern are able to keep pace with the airship. When we land the wyvern follows Diperan dutifully. Weylyn is the seat of the local mages' guild, but it has nothing to do with the Royal mage Corps that Finn belongs to. Here Herne was trying to make peace between the local mages and the Witches of Rowan Hollow.
Corian, Muriel, and Evie go to talk to the mages while the others go to the bar. The mages' guild is the largest building in town with ornate carvings and embellishments on the architecture, including Charter marks. The guild is lively this time of day. Corian has been here a few times before. We get misdirected by a bunch of bureaucracy. We finally get to the Dean of the business office just past noon.
A person in magenta robes adorned with both Free and Charter magic symbols greets us. There were a lot of Undead rising when Herne was taken during treaty negotiations and the only witnesses are still recovering. We are given a map of the area with markings of where the Witches are and another point of interest where the mages guild was investigating something. There seems to be fair amount of animosity between the two groups. The incident was about a week ago.
The Dean says that the Witches wouldn't let them cut a single tree down if they had their way. We go visit the Department of Artifacts and Entities. Evie persistently knocks after not getting an answer. The door slowly opens on its own. Evie barges in. An unkempt man in black and gold robes is inside. She asks him if he knows Herne. The man in the black robes knows of Herne at least. Evie claims we were sent by the monks.
Corian chats up the man (his name is Squelch) and he gets up and closes the door like he doesn't want to be overheard. Squelch says there is a large tree that the guild is interested in that has an artifact in it, and it may lead to The Forest Below. Evie knows that underneath forests are a thing in local mythtologies. The reason why they might want to get to The Forest Below is an old battle created the Barrens on the other side of the island. A bunch of magical artifacts caused all the rowan trees to grow and they suspect there may be caverns underneath where the magic artifacts are still intact and the roots are feeding them.
There is a portal that may lead to the Forest Below or simply be in the Forest Below. The tree of interest is to the northeast of the village.
The whole group heads to the infirmary to examine the sleeping witnesses. There are mages with white robes with red trim. Unfortunately we forgot to ask the names of the witnesses to Herne's disappearance. Evie says we are here to see if we can wake up the "sleeping" soldiers that were brought back after the Undead attack. A first aid mage sees our Bells and happily accepts our offer to help. They say they've exhausted Charter magic based options already.
Evie and Muriel examine the soldiers. Our Dead Sense does not go off. Evie feels that Ranna has power over them right now. She uses Mosrael to wake them and both gasp heavily, gulping in air like they haven't breathed in awhile.
They don't know what happened to Herne – there was a lot of confusion. Evie tells them to start at the beginning. "What did we unleash?!" One of them starts crying, they are in extreme distress. Roxy uses some Charter marks to help calm them. "They said Sae-Oth was in the tree!!" The Witches warned them but the mages tried to cut it down to get an artifact anyway. But this Undead creature made the forest come alive and creatures attached themselves to their friends and made them turn on their allies. The parasites were like vines that wrapped around the humans. Sae-Oth was a huge shadowy creature with red eyes and a mouth that dripped fire. Herne may have gone with the Witches and ran. The Witches started singing which made them fall asleep.
The woken mages say Sae-Oth was a myth. It's supposed to be the herald of the thing that devastated the island so long ago. The last time it took armies to fight it off – and this thing was called Ashol'tha. Evie writes a note to the mages' guild about the state of the awakened's trauma.
Roxy says the Witches in her Vision that sang at her had vines on them like the parasite things the awakened mages described. Roxy meditates to look for non-infected Witches. She hears some different singing far off. She Sees a cave in the forest with three Witches. Two are speaking nervously to each other while one keeps watch. Roxy comes out of it without a headache.
We decide to send a note to the presumably uninfected Witches in the cave to warn them that we are coming and we are friendly. Muriel uses her crafting skills to fold a crane construct to hone in our targets.
We tell our other traveling companions what we plan to do. Arielle and the Disreputable Dog decide to come with us. As we go into the woods the Dog smells something "that shouldn't exist." The Dog seems disturbed at the mention of Sae-Oth. She says "that would explain the Third Kindred" and won't explain what she means. Then the Dog runs away into the woods towards the direction we are heading. The Third Kindred are from the time of Orannis from before the Charter was formed.
We start hearing the singing and like Bells we can't shut it out. Corian, Evie, and Roxy start to stumble like they are drowsy. They are under the effects of drowsy. Muriel rings Mosrael which counters it but alerts the Dead in the area to our exact location. We run away! Evie notices a hollow tree that we can squeeze into and hide. It's a rowan tree that has magical properties and will probably shield us from detection to a certain extent. Arielle seesm to be hurt by the tree to a certai extent but Evie casts a shielding spell on her that seems to help.
We hear voices outside the tree arguing. It sounds like they are splitting up to look for us. The footsteps get further away. Muriel feels the presence of a dozen dead split into two groups, plus a living person in each group.
We cower in the tree for awhile.