In addition to the legend of the Fellnight Queen, Beles learned something else during his time being tormented by the will o'wisp. He learned that the strange mist originates from several stones within the upper pool at a waterfall known as Dead Man’s Drop.
Beles then asks to be left alone so he may mourn his animal companion’s death.
The heroes know that Dead Man's Drop is far off, but they still feel that they cannot stop. The will o'wisp escaped. They cannot risk that Rhoswen will crush Elderwood--and the heroes themselves--if they take time to rest.
Vinroot leads the way. The forest parts before them, clearing a straight path to the north, making an easy road out of otherwise impenetrable forest.
Early evening, on the verge of exhaustion, the heroes hear the falls of Dead Man's Drop in the distance.
By the time the heroes have reached the waterfalls, though, their numbers have dwindled. Sebastien, who has run heroically into the night wearing his plate armor, has been forced to stop in exhaustion.
Vinroot has also stopped, partly to protect Sebastien, but also because in his drunkeness, he is also tired and disoriented. The treant did, however, manage to open a path through the forest nearly all the way to Dead Man's Drop.
Despite the thunder of the waterfalls, Alliama can still hear the song of the forest around Elderwood, distantly. The heroes' journey has not brought them closer to the source of the song - they have gone quite some distance away from it.
But this journey does more than take allies from the heroes. At the same time, a new companion appears without warning.
Kyler is at the Enclave, walking home from work at the museum. He hears someone speak his name, and as he turns, he sees the Enclave similarly to the way that David saw it after exiting the sewers. Kyler sees the Enclave widen without moving, revealing a garden place with tall buildings, a pool, and a glorious lotus tree on an island.
It is the tree that spoke Kyler's name. And that tree sends him away, telling him that his friends need him. His vision blurs, and when it clears again, his feet are coming down on grass near Dead Man's Drop.
His friends greet him, but his sister Beatrice leaps on him in a warm hug. She cannot believe that her big brother has arrived here, in the heroes' time of need.
Alliamas seeks a forest bird and begins a conversation about what has been going on in this area. The owl explains that the mists pouring off the Drop first appeared fourteen days ago. The owl also describes the thorny gnomes that turn into giants. These creatures arrived three days ago.
When Alliama asks for more information, the owl explains that the gnome creatures are not of this forest. They want their forest to replace this one--and everything in it.
The owl says that the creatures make "human noises. Angry human noises."
More are coming. The first have moved on as others have begun to arrive.
The owl says that the creatures ride "goblin wolves" when they are little.
Alliama thanks the owl for his counsel. She returns by way of the trees, touching them and speaking to anything that might hear from within the trees. She seeks help; says that they are in danger, and that all of Nature is in danger.
Kyler did not expect to be in the Forest of Shadows facing danger tonight, but he did bind two vestiges today. Fortunately for the heroes, one of the vestiges he bound allows him to conjure a crow and see through its eyes. While Alliama speaks with the owl, Kyler scouts the waterfall.
During Kyler's description, Dechan suggests using the ladder amulet to climb to the top of the ridge, some eighty feet overhead. His goal is to be able to look down on the basin of the waterfall, and have the high ground over anyone or anything that might be waiting there.
The heroes are in favor of this idea, but Carrie expresses anxiety over falling eighty feet to the water below. Dechan adds his own concern that the enemy might already be on the high ground, and that they might attack when the heroes are at their most vulnerable.
A short time later, Kyler's bird scout spots an old, slick game trail, strewn with boulders, leading up the side of the waterfalls.
The heroes decide to take the game trail to the top. Before going, Carrie takes her spellbooks and Dechans, and also Kyler's journal, and casts a spell to turn them to cloth that is easily rolled up and stowed.
When preparations are made, Alliama finds an easy way across the stream at the base of the falls, and then she searches for tracks, spotting a number of gnome tracks. She continues to talks into the trees, seeking help on the way to the game trail.
Kyler continues to scout ahead using his crow; he is led over the slick rocks by Dechan. Not only does the bird look for the safest route and unexpected risks, it watches for an ambush.
As Beatrice reaches the base of the trail, she glimpses movement in the waterfall. She sees a patch of water that flows upstreamagainst the current.
At first she expects to see the shape return, or continue to flow in reverse, but when the shape does not reappear, she and the others consider that they may have just been spotted by a water elemental that is now returning to the basin to report.
Alliama leads the way, carefully picking the best route for her friends to follow. She also follows the tracks of the gnomes that Kyler's crow saw. She estimates that a few dozen have passed this way, all wearing boots.
Having studied the basin for such an extended time, including from above, the heroes have seen that the steam rises at intervals of 4-6 minutes from the northernmost corner of the basin.
They need to examine that corner, but to do that they will have to cross the rapidly flowing nearer waterfall.
Alliama takes the form of an alligator to lead the way. In addition, Kyler ties a rope around his waist to swim with Alliama's help.
Rather than plunge into the churning water, Alliama sinks her head into the water. She peers about, and she sees a large, humanoid figure floating nearby. She cannot see any sort of facial features, but she has the distinct impression that it is watching, and waiting for her to get into the water.
Alliama tries to intimidate the humanoid thing. When the fails, she uses a claw to draw a warning in the mud. The heroes assume that it is a water elemental, waiting; likely, the same one that Beatrice spotted earlier.
When the elemental just watches, Alliama realizes that she must move to get to the far side of the basin. The water elemental reveals itself at once. At first, it becomes a vortex, and it attempts to draw Alliama over the falls.
When Kyler helps Alliama pull free of the vortex, it rises up, larger than an ogre, and begins raining powerful blows down upon the heroes. Dechan is nearly dropped, kept standing by a potion of healing that Beatrice slips out of Alliama's pouch. Carrie is less fortunate; she falls with a lasting gut wound.
The heroes have injured the elemental many times, exhausting several acid arrows, Dechan's few arcane spells, the kukri of bloodletting, and other maneuvers. The elemental falls at the moment Carrie does; its blow on her triggers a wild surge that blasts it with twice the lightning she was attempting to invoke.
The heroes make their way to the island. After Kyler and Alliama reach the wet earth, they tie a rope, and Dechan zips the heroes' gunbelts across. Then, secure in the safety of their books, they others use the rope to drag themselves across the current at the base of the waterfall.
The heroes find stand overlooking the water in front of the second waterfall. They have seen definitively that the blinding steam rises from this corner of the basin. They have observed the rise of the steam multiple times, from the base of the falls, the basin itself, and from above via Kyler's crow.
But the heroes fear another elemental might await them. Alliama prays to Sylvanus for any help before the heroes explore the source of the steam.
Kyler ties the rope around his waist and leaps into the water.
Alliama sees the tracks of the gnomes she has been following; they walk to the edge where the stam rises, and then they turn back to leave the basin.
Alliama becomes an alligator again using her druidical vestments. She swims down past where Kyler went, and there she finds a mass of broken rocks. Each rock is about three pounds, and each rock bears the same rune.
Alliama brings one stone to the surface using her mouth. The heroes study it. It is intricately carved, part of something bigger. She throws it back.
Frustrated, Dechan activates the Bartholomew Medallion. He calls upon the insight it can offer: He realizes that the rune stones are part of something bigger. They are finished and intricately carved. So, they must have been brought here and thrown over the edge.
While Dechan is thinking this, Alliama moves the rocks and turns up an old, waterlogged wooden chest.
Dechan goes on, thinking aloud: The stones may be compiled to make them more powerful. Also, he thinks that Beles said that the Fellnight Queen was bound in her realm, and that something--nobody knows what--has happened to bring them into contact with the Lands of Mist.
Kyler, upon studying another stone, shares that these stones are not natural, or at least not native to Darkon. The runes were carved in a fashion that predates modern means, and the stone itself is hard with glistening flecks that at first appeared to be waterspots but cannot be wiped away.
A few moments later, Alliama brings the waterlogged chest to the surface.
Kyler realizes that this chest is unrelated to the rune stones. He has pieced togethe that this is Dead Man's Drop. The chest, then, is the treasure of the bandit for whom the falls were named.
Years ago, before the reign of Azalin Rex, a bandit fled the rangers of the previous Magarch. He fell to his death from the falls, and they were named for the event. His treasure was never found.
Inside the chest is that missing treasure: 1,200 gold crowns predating the Iron Crown, and a pair of boots that have not been damaged by the passage of roughly two hundred years underwater. The tops of these leather boots are folded over to make cuffs, revealing the arcane symbols that are woven with golden thread into the boots' lining.
Dechan studies the boots and sees that the thread takes the shape of runes invoking both "motion" and "glamor."
Dechan tries the boots on, and they fit.
The heroes turn their attention back to the rune stones.
Some heroes still wonder whether the stones might be part of a gate that is located right here at Dead Man's Drop. Using quarterstaves, they plum the recesses behind the waterfalls--There are no passages.
They are able to determine that the steam that is blanketing the Forest of Shadows for miles around Elderwood comes from the stones. The rune stones build up heat and then release the heat. But when they are brought out of the water, the heat dissipates immediately.
Alliama brings up a mouthful of stones during the conversation. Only a few remain below. The heroes temporarily wish to leave some behind, scattering the stones rather than keeping them all in one place.
They lay the stones out separately without being submerged on the island. They stay cool.
The next puff of steam that rises from the basin is slightly less than what was there previously.
Kyler continues to experiment with the stones. He tests what happens when the stones touch. They remain cool. He submerges some in the water on the island. They still remain cool.
Alliama brings up a few more rocks.
Dozens of small figures rise from the shrubs lining the rim of the ravine. With a shout, each one quadruples in size and raises a wooden dart, poised to throw.
"Well done!" the familiar voice of Tenzekil Braybittle calls out, "but the wardstones will do you no good! The first army of Queen Rhoswen has already arrived. She will claim this forest, and you can do nothing about that. Now put the stones back, lay down your weapons, and perhaps we’ll let you live!"
The hum of thousands of bees punctuates his warning as a rising swarm fills the sky.
From the sheer size of the force gathered upon the ravine’s edge (easily 40 giants), the heroes recognize that Tenzekil has them surrounded and vastly outnumbered. Standing against such odds would lead to death.
The heroes make efforts to stall, but they know that the gnome wants them dead.
Fortunately, the arrival of Rhoswen’s army also coincides with the arrival of the good creatures of the forest. The singing of Vinroot the drunken treant accompanies the gallop of hooves so loud and powerful that they can be heard over the waterfalls.
A group of unicorns rushes to the heroes' aid, charging into the ravine at the bottom of Dead Man’s Drop and temporarily routing Tenzekil’s forces there. Palombier leads his fellows into battle, calling out, "Kindness repaid, friends! Leap down and we shall carry you out of here!"
Amid a hail of spear-length thorns, the heroes dive into the water and swim for the drop. The fifty-foot plummet into the churning mist below carries them to an escape. Though they are wounded, and a spear nearly places Carrie on Death's door for a second time, the heroes reach the unicorns and race into the Forest of Shadows.
The unicorns carry the heroes to a forest glade untouched by the strange mist that has blanketed the forest for the past several days. Faerie lights illuminate the clearing, dancing between the trees.
Several creatures look up at the heroes' arrival—a host of centaurs, satyrs, and sprites—all part of an encampment clearly armed for war.
The conclave includes representatives from each faction of the forest. Oreius (male centaur) leads the Riders of the Verduran. Maligorn (satyr), along with his consort, Aripha (nymph covered in a maple-leaf gown), represent the local fey. Though the heroes will not see her till later, Fira the dryad is here, and Vinroot catches up sometime later.
Unfortunately, this diverse group still hasn’t agreed how best to oppose Rhoswen’s army. Even worse, some suggest siding with the fey-queen to raze Elderwood and drive out the encroaching human invaders instead.
The heroes argue passionately and convincingly, calling upon the history of the Enclave, the nature of the Goblinslayers' legacy, and the goals of the humans in this region to sway enough of the fey that Oreius relents.
The heroes are given a rare respite. The armies of the Fellnight Queen are mobilizing, but armies mobilize slowly. The heroes can take a full 24 hours to rest.
This time allows them to overcome fatigue and heal their injuries and prepare spells and prayers.
Sprites bring food and drink and get supplies. The little fey also forage for firesnap for the heroes; two pieces per person (fresh for four weeks).
Vinroot comes during this time to visit and drink with the heroes.
At dawn, Fira reveals herself.
Fira brings a sword that was brought into the Forest of Shadows by a ranger intent on slaying the dryads. He spent his remaining days rediscovering the pleasures of a simple life dwelling within the forest. He never drew his sword again.
Though the sword is made of hateful cold iron, Fira wishes Alliama to have it. She asks Alliama to deliver it to Rhoswen, and Alliama promises that she will.
The heroes set out ahead of the fey army. They must find the break in the Faengard while the fey army battles the fellnight spriggans that have already entered the Forest of Shadows.