8 Deadtree 6934 EY: Arnold awoke in a cell, having spent the night in the stockades. Unsure of his fate, he had passed the time annoying the jailor with his harmonica. Eventually, a mysterious benefactor entered and paid Arnold's hefty fee of 5,000 gp. When Arnold was let out, he learned his benefactor was none other than Cal Cabboway and the Beasts for Peace. The money used to bail Arnold rendered B4P mostly broke, but they handwaved Arnold's concerns, claiming they were done with Molentius and ready to travel south to Dalorene to make it big.
Arnold met up with the gang at the Blackened Bones inn and caught up on the goings-on. Tomren let slip about Ubah's encounter with Ruzazel, but the team took it in stride, understanding that it was just an additional threat to be aware of.
The team plus Moras traveled to the menagerie to meet the Black Circle druid, who turned out to be a hard-headed halfron woman named Malory Fairgold. Malory was reticent to help the group, but when it was made known that contact with the Black Circle had been entirely cut off, she grew concerned enough to agree to accompany the group to the Black Circle territories.
The trek was uneventful and unpleasant. Moras had a conversation with Haseya about how they became druids. He then asked her about Ahiga and his health, and then entered a heated debate with Ahiga about which parts of a chicken are the tastiest.
As the group traveled westward, the bogs and swamps gave way to dryer marshes interspersed with islands covered in tall savannah grass. This marshland marked the transitional lands between Molentius and Perilar. The soaring mesas and plateaus of the thragg'ar lands could be seen from this location.
It was here the group discovered the Black Circle refuge, and that it had seemingly been completely abandoned. The Black Circle lived in huts of straw and mud, and as the group explored the Circle, they were suddenly attacked by human and ursith zombies. After a long battle with the particularly resilient ursith druids, Moras made an emergency trip to the Throgswald via a tree stride scroll and an old thorn acacia tree.
When Moras returned, he was accompanied by Archdruid Thro'gok of Clan Ulgar, more colloquially known as Throg, a living legend and arguably the most powerful druid in all of Pryme. Throg was accompanied by his animal companion, a beast of legend, the lioness Lya. Throg was shaken by the state of the Black Circle. He commanded Malory to take the reigns and become the new leader, but Malory declined, citing her work at the menagerie as her excuse, and that she would make a poor leader in general. This irritated Throg, who sent Moras to return to the Throgswald and return with Lyra Sprig and 2000 gold pieces.
While Moras was gone, Throg exchanged much wisdom with the group. He admitted that he knew Haseya's parents, particularly Sani, her father, and that Sani had been instrumental in regrowing the Throgswald. He spoke to Taegon about his question and that the soul of the planet had only told Throg that Taegon must look "beyond the storm." Throg was also impressed by Lya's apparent affection and subservience toward Taegon, and mentioned it may be a clue to his answer.
Regarding Haseya's peoples' sickness, Throg could only say that such maladies are common in Ethovan folklore where fae are involved; the fae enjoy curses of sterility to harm shepherds and farmers. He admitted it wasn't much help, but to remember that kernels of truth exist within folk tales.
Throg had rather harsh words for Tomren, as Throg has little patience for the undead or necromancers. Tomren began to defend himself, but Throg was quick to make it apparent that he was not in the mood to bandy words with a justicar, and Tomren wisely accepted that he should pick his battles and remained silent.
Throg warned the party that the Towers were the lapdogs of the Empire of Realm, and the Empire of Realm had zero interest in anything other than the wellbeing of the Empire itself. When Haseya defended her friend, Throg pointed to the undead corpses of the ursith which had unsettled the ursith druid, and commented that, in time, Tomren would be capable of creating such creatures, and would likely not hesitate in doing so, and urged Haseya to meditate on that information.
Moras returned with Lyra Sprig, a vibrant but aging beauty of a human druid, and a satchel with the requested money. Throg explained the money was for Moras that he might continue his mission, and then asked Lyra to take command at the Black Circle. Lyra was ready for this, and accepted. Malory and Moras offered to stay and help rebuild as they could, and Throg, using his instincts and heightened senses, confirmed Haseya's suspicions of an unnatural cause for this atrocity. Throg said to travel east of Harubel, and to follow the insects.
The group did as Throg suggested and were eventually assailed by a group of giant maggots and flies. After a repulsive battle in which Taegon found himself overwhelmed by the overgrown vermin, the group was victorious. Haseya, in tiger form, heard a droning from afar, and made a beeline to a small hold in the ground mostly obscured by moss. This hole led into a cavern system. After a short rest, the group ventured in.
Cutting straight to the heart of the cavern and circumventing most of its horrible denizens, the group found what appeared to be a bedroom that was unoccupied. They ransacked the room of its valuables, which included a strange green worm held suspended in formaldehyde yet still twitching with life, or perhaps unlife.
Records recovered by Tomren detailed the ascent of a man originally named Kai Johannson who, after being diagnosed with a wasting disease, traveled to Molentius for answers. Dissatisfied with the healing the druids provided, Kai sought more immediate answers. This attracted the attention of Shuddemal, an outer plane entity. Kai took Shuddemal as his patron which caused some manner of physical transformation in him. He then returned to the Black Circle and killed them all for being inefficient and not providing Kai with the answers he needed.
The notes then described that Shuddemal had commanded Kai, now calling himself the Father of Worms, to awaken one of Shuddemal's ancient servants: a horror entity known as an ulgurstasta that slept in a crypt beneath the Great Croc-Arena. This awakening would kill everyone in the arena, reviving them as an undead army that the Father of Worms could use to usher in a new age of horror and despair. Panic overcame the group as they realized this ritual was happening tonight, at the apex of the festivities of Crocomania, which was due to begin in mere hours. Without further hesitation, the group fled back to Harubel, hoping they could make it in time.