the party began to get anxious as they waited for the raven-haired paladin of Iomedae, Helennas Corvina, to arrive from Absalom. As the evening began to get late, Russ, Svala, and Zenari, along with Lupo, decided to check the south road going from Copperwood to Absalom, to see if the paladin might have been delayed. And indeed, as they walked the dark road almost 5 miles south of Copperwood, they could see flashes of light and the ringing sound of battle on the dark road ahead! Off they ran, and came quickly upon the young paladin, who was surrounded by a small group of 4 gnolls, and fighting for her life! The party stepped in to assist, and between the five of them killed off the gnoll raiders ; Helennas informed them that she'd been attacked on and off by a group of gnolls almost as soon as she'd left the city and headed north along the road. She said that she'd killed several others, whose bodies lay on the road back towards the capitol. A quick look at the bodies revealed some gold and silver, and also note the fact that, once again, these raiders seemed to be fighting with shiny new weapons. Before they returned, the paladin cured those wounded in the fight, and, more importantly, laid hands and cured Russ of his greenscale disease.
Russ, meanwhile, went to the Blackhawk Livery & Stable to meet with Ink and Stink, the twin halfling rogues who were rumored to sell illicit drugs from behind the stable. The twins gave Russ some information about the missing halfling mage and her paramour, and after some convincing they showed Russ where the two had been hiding (in the apple shed at Locust Grove). The paltry belongings did indeed prove that the pair had been on the run from enslavement in Cheliax, and probably had been pursued by Hellknights. They seemed concerned and anxious about their halfling bretheren, and asked Russ to pass any word about they, should they discover any. While with the twins, Russ also purchased a bag of purple mushrooms for 30 gp, in order to 'see stars'.
While Russ dealt with the halfling twins, Svala and Zenari maneuvered the town constables to overlook their breaking of the Copperwood curfew by buying them drinks at Apple Jack's, a low-brow, dingy tavern that sells cheap fermented apple cider. There they met the owner and operator of the tavern, the tough-looking, one-armed Guard veteran Crogue Garrack, as well the pitiful goblin 'bard', Pipsqueak.
The next day was spent almost entirely by the party investigating the disappearances of the children and halflings that seemed to plague the town over the past 6 months or so. They spoke with elven druid Elias Fernwood at his locust tree shrine to the Green Faith, Locust Grove, and learned that his 'little birds' had told him of a red shape that had flown over the town several times over the period when children were missing – they could not identify the shape, and when asked where it was flying the answer was 'up', as though it was trying to avoid being seen, even by birds.
They also went to Bede's Alembic, and spoke with the Andoran herbalist and alchemist, Cirhann Slovak, who was unable to discern what the flying red shape might be. Russ did, however, purchase two vials of Alchemist Fire from him, and Svala paid him to brew a potion of Reduce Self for her.
The group then headed to the Town Dump, and thence to pay a visit to the strange fey creature known as Rumpletweezle, who lived in a fairy hawthorn bush nearby, to see if he might aid them (and not curse them). They spoke to Eustis Purdle at the Dump, who did not have much to say other than mention in passing that a body had been dumped there several weeks back. They spoke, more or less, with the slow but good-hearted half orc, Gort, who confirmed the story of the dead body, and who would enlist Svala's aid in killing 'critters' in the dump, especially ROUS.
Before that, however, the party was able to successfully gift Svala's magic brooch to Rumpletweezle, who favored them with magic rings before vanishing.
Before the day ended, the party went outside of town to visit the town Burial Grounds, and met the priestess of Pharasma, Argenta Fosse, and her tiny talking fey bird, Pix. The bird also noticed the red shape that the other birds saw, but said it came from the north east of the town, towards the Spire of Nex.
It was decided that the group, along with the paladin, would go to the Spire the next day. That night, however, Russ tried one of his purple mushrooms, and had a very colorful and enchanting 8 hour 'trip'. Unfortunately, the next day Russ experienced a 'backburn', or a very dark return 'trip', which Zenari had to utilize the healing kit in order to revive the investigator. The content and nature of Russ's return trip have yet to be discussed among the party.
Having exhausted all other ideas, the party began the trip out to the Spire of Nex; about half way there they were attacked by a trio of perytons, who seemed to focus on Svala and Karla. The group drove the winged creatures off, and the party now had to decide if they were going to continue on to the Spire or chase down the perytons into the Cairnlands.