The party headed out of Gallows Hill and across the old bridge, past the Wall and the border between the Reach and the Great Forest. With Callum leading the way (having hunted along the borders for many years) they followed the old path that led through the ancient forest, North to the old Waystone that marked an overgrown and faded crossroads. There they rested for the night, surrounded by beautiful and peaceful woods. The stone itself, worn and weathered, was surrounded by freshly cut flowers only a couple of days old at most, and a swathe of dandelions ready to burst.
After a restful night, they headed East towards the treehouses marked on their map, looking for the first of the keys that Ratkin said his fir darrig were looking for: keys that, once collected, would allow the Raven King himself to be returned to life. This came as news to the party, since the little rat-goblin had not volunteered the information before: “You never asked,” he replied to their questions.
As the day wore on, the Spring weather pleasant and cool, Callum spotted tracks in the ground: wolf prints, larger than the normal wolves he was used to. Soon afterwards they came across a pond, where two large wolves were drinking. They turned out to be not only intelligent, but able to speak, and after a brief discussion about food (and a few threats from the larger party), the pair of worgs allowed them to pass unmolested.
They reached the treehouses shortly before evening. The round huts nestled in a dozen or so ancient oak trees that towered overheard, the treehouses themselves sixty foot off the ground. Many looked ruined, all looked abandoned. A pair of rope ladders, the ropes frayed but intact, led up into the trees. Aside from the buzz of insects, the woods were quiet. Thinking that maybe there was someone home, they called out, and were answered by someone on the ground: a woman, a hunter from her attire, stepped out from behind a tree. Attractive, red-haired, with a charming smile, she introduced herself as Scarlett and struck up a conversation, persuaded by Callum to join them while they explored the trees above. She agreed, having nowhere else that she urgently needed to go, and one-by-one they climbed up the first rope-ladder and made camp in the empty treehouse.
During the night, they saw motes of coloured lights darting around the trees and huts to the south, something that Scarlett had seen before. They questioned her about the land and she told them that the Raven King was a good man, ruling wisely, until he was forced to wage war on the invading soldiers of the Empire (to whom the party are descendants of the colonists), and that if someone were to bring him back, it wouldn’t be a bad thing.
In the morning, they began to explore. Alf tried to cross one of the rope-bridges crossing between the trees, but the ropes and planks proved rotten and too old to support his weight. Despite his attempt to hold on to the ropes, he fell, plummeting sixty feet to the ground. Old Man Willow, Jacob and Magnus headed down to tend to him, and thanks to the magic of the mage, he was brought back to consciousness and helped back up to the tree-houses to recover. Callum, soon joined by Jacob and Magnus, climbed up the other rope-ladder and started moving across the bridges and branches, checking out the abandoned huts. It went well at first, but then the bridge Callum crossed also collapsed, and he fell too, but managed to grab hold of the edge of the bridge and pull himself up. Jacob wasn’t so lucky at the next bridge, and he fell along with the snapping ropes and splintering planks, crashing unconscious to the ground below. Magnus again saved his life with his magic, but exhausted his spells for the day. Callum trapped on the other side now, had to be pulled across on a rope.
Callum took Jacob back to the others to rest, while Magnus headed off by himself, jumping between branches and using his own rope to build a makeshift bridge between the branches, allowing his to cross safely. He used the rope to cross a bridge too, which also snapped free, but he merely swung against the trunk and climbed back up. After he had set up ropes to cross, he returned back to the others. Now joined by Callum, Ratkin and Scarlett, the foursome made their way further through the trees, using more ropes to cross another bridge (which also broke), then tied off the ropes to allow them to reach a larger treehouse, wherein they spied what looked like a huge hornet’s nest, large bees buzzing about with coloured abdomens. Also, sticking out of the nest, an object: a statuette of a raven, which Ratkin identified as one of the keys!
They decided to tackle it the following day, and made their way back to the others, resting for the rest of the day and through the night. In the morning, everyone feeling much better, they broke camp and planned what to do next.