At least one powerful Hag has found Cerisey and knows the Vale of the Mother Tree is nearby. She has attacked and nearly murdered a druidess names Zoé, taking her form to infiltrate the town, lure the party in, and ultimately try to either destroy them or use the women as breeding stock and the men as dinner. Luckily the hag underestimated Elimix’s overconfidence. However, even defeated and retreating into the etherial plane, the Hag survived to fight another day.
There was a real Zoé, a midwife from a nearby village. She is a member of a Druid’s Circle, a group of people on the Periphery that have held onto their interpretation of the Old Way, also known as the Drúidanaë (wise of the children of Danae). A minor spellcaster compared to the party, she had suffered untold torture at the hands of the Hag. In her freedom and with the party’s support she called on her mentor Maedoc Hÿn (Hin), an elder teacher of the Old Way, to help protect the Mother Tree. Mara possessed Emmeline and a conversation occurred which is unknown to the party. The ramifications were that A) Silverleaf left to search for clues about his people, B) Zoé joined the Mother Tree and succeeded Silverleaf, taking the title Protector of the Vale, C) Maedoc sent off animal messagers to call on the Circle to gather at the Vale, D) He plans on worshiping at the Vale, E) He hopes to reignite over time a belief or at least a respect for the Old Way, hopefully with the blessings of the Aarithine, F) He agreed to treat Mara as a being, not a god – respected and honored but not worshiped. Time will tell if any of this works out.
In the winter blizzard, the party was met by Jeminy & the Man in the Black Hat. Emmeline and Jeminy agreed to a truce. Jeminy is Thea (Gosvinthea) reborn, and while much of her memory is lost for now, she is not happy about her death and the experience. However both agreed to a truce (Elemix refused to trust them), acknowledging that if they both knew what the Aquila led to they may have joined forces. Despite this, Jeminy claimed that the hatred and strife of Tyaa made the party powerful as much as anything else, and the goddess is glad that all those that lost created such powerful people. She also claimed that their particular job here was done and what was started (they didn’t claim they started it) was going to be trouble, so they are moving south. Jeminy also warned that they know that a new enemy wants the party dead and is looking for them.
The party arrived at Calder Keep, under command of Lady d’Uzec. There Elemix and Emmeline’s timely magics helped drive off the latest goblin attack of the day, a fourth one that had left most of the defenders wounded. Emmeline (w/Renee) flew off to help the rescue party Baron Roland had sent out to bring the townsfolk safely to the Keep. Meanwhile Rivanon and Elemix sallied forth with the remaining men (and a few crazy little elementals) to try to break the besiegers. While the goblins were temporarily driven off, the rescue effort left the Castelian beheaded and Baron Roland dead as they both held off dozens titanic bugbears.
Extremely distraught, Emmeline preserved Roland’s body as a stoic Rivanon ordered Sister Jocelyn retrieved from Uzec and as many of the surviving troops prepared in case a fifth assault occurred. A survivor noted that the enemies boats were destroyed and the brief freezing of the river had allowed some to cross. With the evening’s chill it was certain the river would freeze solid and the whole goblin army of at least a thousand (likely more) would hit the Keep. Other witnesses said that the rescue force had sighted a stele on a guarded wagon across the river being worshiped by the goblins. Elemix and Emmeline theorized that this was what was bringing the ill weather that aided the goblins. However, Elemix was wounded and fatigued. Emmeline is despair called on Mara. A deal was struck that allowed Elemix to regain his power in an hour, not eight. Elemix knows Mara helped, but not how or why. Soon after the party crossed secretly and destroyed the stele along with dozens of goblins, hobgoblins and several bugbears including a goblinoid priestess thanking the dark goddess and the favor of Bhalkor the Deathless. The destruction of the stele caused the weather to break and moonlight lit the fields as goblins fired endless arrows after the escaping party.
False Zoé (The Hag): An unnamed hag who knows that the Mother Tree exists in the Vale. She was very open to being changed by Mara and by exchange, changing her.
Zoé: The new Protector of the Vale. A midwife and novice druid, she suffered immensely in the clutches of the Hag who tortured her, stole her blood, ripped into her mind, and used her form to kill unknown numbers of people and search for the Vale. She turned to Mara to take that pain away. In exchange she has chosen to serve her and invite her teacher and their Circle to use the Vale.
Maédöc: Zoe’s teacher and a patient evangelistic believer in the old ways. Where he comes from is a mystery, but his accent is Danaean. He is known as possibly an enemy of Magus Titus and a believer in the laws of nature, learning through practice and growth through discipline and patience, and order.
Sir Etienne: Son of the late Castilian of Calder Keep. He was the one rescued by the party in their early adventures along with other men (most of which are at Calder Keep now.