The next morning, rested up from a night in real beds, Peribold and Hornsby set out to deliver their grave message. Their classmate, Darcy Gilt-hearth, an aristocratic but ultimately pleasant young chap, was ambushed and murdered by goblins as part of what appears to be a larger operation to strike a blow against the Golder Order Magical Society. His parents, Eloise and Ronald, are fairly well-to-do and make their courtly home in Wood-and-sea, a cultured coastal city where, coincidentally, Hornsby’s uncle Jaffrey McSorrel also resides. To get there, they have to make their way through The Blue Copse, the very wood that lends Wood-and-sea half its name. The Blue Copse has proved surprisingly dangerous so far, despite its proximity to more than one population center. After a full day of uneventful travel, and passing the ambushed carriage to find it in much the state they remembered, they bed down.
That night, Hornsby wakes up from his notoriously light sleep to the strange silhouette of a small creature making its way down a tree toward the camp. Hornsby quickly arms himself and awakens Peribold from his comparatively deep slumber. The pair have hardly a moment to assess the situation before they are attacked by two very large spiders who but a moment ago were mere feet from their sleeping heads. The creature in the tree reveals itself to be a third spider, and the battle is quickly joined. Immediately, Hornsby is bitten on the leg by one of the spiders and injected with its venom. The sensation of the toxin coursing through his leg brings a sense of urgency to the battle and he is understandably focused on his immediate safety—thus, a wall of wind springs up around him and causes two of the spiders to be flung away and dazed. Unfortunately it also extinguishes the campfire, putting Peribold and Hornsby at a disadvantage. Peribold casts a weak Armor spell, but even this seems enough to protect against the spiders’ bite. He and the remaining spider face off, neither seemingly able to squarely wound the other.
Sensing that the spiders will disregard him and focus their attack on Peribold, Hornsby disperses the wall of wind and flanks the spider facing his friend. The darkness proving to be a serious liability, Peribold uses his fire magic to re-kindle the campsite. The other two spiders quickly swarm Hornsby and score a second bite. The poison has not yet affected him but he knows his life will hang in the balance soon enough. The light now restored, the schoolmates slowly but surely turn the tide of battle, scoring hit after hit until the spiders flee or are vanquished.
The duo quickly turn their attention to Hornsby’s wounds, but fail to have any luck at providing any immediate aid or drawing the poison out. Peribold runs off into the woods in search of anti-venom herbs, a fool’s errand made even more ineffectual by his agitated state. That leaves Hornsby to struggle against the toxin without any assistance or sense of what he faces. Over the course of an hour, the poison racks his body and he comes closer to unconsciousness. His leg is swollen and fiery to the touch. After some time, the fever breaks and he feels his body begin to recover. Peribold, embarrassed but glad that his friend seems to be doing better, uses his healing magic to greatly accelerate the recovery process.
The next day they continue their trek to Wood-and-sea, tired from lack of sleep and sore in the limbs (one, especially). A short while after setting out, they hear feminine cries of distress emanating from the thick woods South of their road. Without any hesitation, they head in the direction of the sound and quickly spot a very young girl gripping her leg in apparent pain and calling for help. Striding towards her, they are almost-but not quite-too distracted to notice the deep covered pit in front of her, clearly meant to swallow them up. Her plan foiled, the girl quickly leaps to her feet and sprints off into the woods on her two perfectly able, but bony legs.
Incensed at the callousness of youth but ever-mindful, Hornsby takes in his surroundings and realizes that a young boy, not more than a few years older than the girl, is standing high up in a nearby tree and pleasantly smoking on a pipe. A delightful parlay ensues, pitting Hornsby’s desire for the boy to come down the tree and face a reckoning with the boy’s desire to pass the whole episode off as youthful pranksterism with, in the present case, no obvious victim. Peribold suggests that Hornsby use Earth magics to fill the pit (an idea he congratulates himself on), but is ignored. Finding no purchase with the slippery logic of the charming vandal’s mind, Hornsby shifts his attention to details of the nearby gypsy camp in which he lives. The boy agrees to guide the duo back to the camp, where it is suggested they might find more information, as well as the opportunity to peruse the local wares.
Back at the camp, and feeling slightly out-of-place, Peribold and Hornsby are presented to the camp elder. He is helpful and patronly. Among other things, the traveling scholars learn that: 1) The goblins do not attack the gypsies, even though they inhabit the same woods, 2) the gypsies have little luck entering or doing business with the nearby towns and cities, and 3) lately a massive, greyish-blue wolf with a red muzzle has been spotted looking down from the rise above the camp. Understandably intrigued by this last detail, they secure permission from the camp elder to spend the night in the hopes of observing a visitation; they are not disappointed.
That night, both Peribold and Hornsby awaken inexplicably and come out into the night air with a sense of dread and heightened awareness. There, they come across the camp elder. All three look to the rise. There, standing perfectly still and looking down on them, is the wolf with the red muzzle. A moment later, it steps back and out of sight. They contemplate chasing it, but the degree of its head start and the possibility of an ambush convince them to leave well enough alone.
The next day, they leave the camp and return to the road, again setting out for Wood-and-sea. Half a day’s travel from finally arriving at their destination, a rustling in the tree line to their right alerts them to an ambush. A dread wells up in their stomachs as they see two goblins, a shaman behind them and a man-sized goblin-like creature leading the charge with his vicious hand-axe. “Oh no,” says Peribold. “A hobgoblin.”