On the way out of Val Royeaux, the two mages, Marius and Corryn, the dwarf Broga, the Avar Tyree and the Nevarran Armon encounter a large caravan making preparations to leave. Armon is nominated to speak with the leader of the caravan to see if they would like some additional guards. He approaches the most decorated looking soldier with his offer. Upon questioning Armon about his credentials, the soldier decides twenty-five elite Chevaliers are enough to guard the Empress, and they do not need any additional help, especially from unqualified, inexperienced adventurers. The party decides to strike out on their own; Corryn on a horse on the Circle’s silver, the rest, begrudgingly, on foot. They decide to take a shortcut through the Heartlands, thus avoiding the Imperial Highway and the caravan.
The adventurers soon discover that the journey will be much longer than anticipated, and that they are woefully under-supplied. After assessing that their hunting and gathering abilities will not suffice to sustain them without resorting to petty thievery, they decide to stop at the first village they come across to stock up. In a farming village too small to have a name, they enter a general store with a surly looking shop keep that has the rations they need. Unfortunately their wallets are nearly as empty as their stomachs. Derin, the shopkeeper, recognizes the look of concentration on Armon’s face as one who is trying to calculate how to buy something he can’t afford. He also notices their arms and armor and decides to offer them a deal. He claims an apostate has poisoned the river nearby and made his livestock ill. If the adventurers can dispose of him, he will gladly give them the rations they need. Corryn checks the animals and determines they have indeed been poisoned, and that they have are no visible injuries. He also determines the poison is animal based rather than plant based. Derin describes to them the last known location of the apostate, who was seen by an old gnarly tree near the riverbank a few days prior.
After the group leaves the general store, Corryn lets them know that common folk often blame mages for any of their woes and not to jump to any conclusions. After searching the area near the old gnarly tree the shopkeeper described, they discover no problems with the river. Armon is skeptical that the river could have been poisoned, since the water is moving. Corryn, still unsure that an apostate is to blame, bravely tastes the water. The water tastes pure and clean, and the mage suffers no ill effects. Everyone notices that the riverbank is silent, but no one suspects that that might be unusual. Meanwhile, Tyree discovers some human tracks leading away from the river into the forest.
After a few minutes of following the tracks in the pleasant shade of the forest, Tyree leads them to a small stagnant pond. Armon declares that this must be where the animals were poisoned, not the river. However, no one is brave enough to taste the pond’s foul smelling water. Broga and Tyree notice some movement in the trees to the north of their position. Corryn declares it’s probably the apostate, and greets it in a stern but non-threatening manner. A spider the size of four men saunters out of the trees. It does not seem calmed by Corryn’s words of peace.
After a short and sticky battle, the spider proves no match for the combined might of the party. Once defeated, it transforms into a short, disheveled looking, naked man. Taking the corpse as proof of their victory, they decide to follow the spider’s tracks leading deeper into the forest. The spider tracks change to human tracks after a time, and the human tracks lead to a small cave entrance. They proceed single file into the narrow crevice. Only the dwarf Broga is short enough to not have to crouch due to the low ceiling. The crevice unexpectedly leads to a locked, solid wooden door. Broga checks for traps and attempts to pick the lock, but has no success. Everyone shuffles against the sides of the hallway to give Tyree a chance to “pick the lock.”
With the door clean off it’s hinges and flat on the floor, everyone enters the small well furnished room. It appears to have been decorated after the fashions of the Orlesian nobility. A very shiny, gaudy shield hangs on the wall, the floor is covered with several small Orlesian rugs, and various books are strewn about the room. A handful of moderately valuable jewelry, a few books, and five vials of colored liquid are taken from the premises. The rest is left undisturbed.
Although the shop keeper is happy to see the apostate has been disposed of, he is still upset that his animals have not gotten better. Corryn tries to heal one of the cattle through magic, as he is wont to do, but there is no change in it’s disposition. He assures Derin that his animals will be fine in a few weeks (except for that one mule). Derin reluctantly parts with the rations he promised and sends the mage and his friends on their way.