The party headed east along the coast road of Fife, the views across the silvery Tay and out into the Northern Sea obscured by a low grey haze of cloud and fog. The road quickly became little more than a rutted track but the journey was uneventful until an armed rider was spotted closing fast from the direction of Newport. The party quickly realised that is was Sir Arthur who, having obtained information about which way the group went from the peasants in Newport, quickly closed the distance with the group with his horse. His arrival lead to a somewhat tense standoff between the noble warrior and the rest of the group but, once they were assured of his intent, the frosty atmosphere warmed a little. The group decided to camp where they were since evening was upon them. With the exception of a slightly embarrassing slip in the middle of the dark night by Cid, as he visited the jakes, the evening passed uneventfully. The next morning the day was cold, damp and grey; a fine Fife day. They travelled in relative quiet along the coast road until, shortly after midday, slinking out of the greyness ahead of them, was the edge of a large, wild old-growth forest, packed with Scots pines, Birch, Oak and Yew trees – the Tentsmuir forest.
As they entered the forest thei[Elara[:agnes | Agnes]]r horizon shrunk. The branches of the trees knitted into a roof above them, the leaf mulch and pine needles that carpeted the floor deadened the small sounds of the wild and lent a damp, woody living smell to the world. Agnes quickly took charge and shortly led them off the road and through the forest proper towards her home. She had instructed them to remain on the path she broke for them and not to stray but, as the afternoon wore on a heavy mist began to rise from the warm earth of the forest, deepening the shadows of the trees and making the place feel claustrophobic, cold and a unwelcoming. Agnes, of course, thought nothing of it – it being perfectly normal weather for the damp Fife forest – but some of the others were not so comfortable, and as the afternoon stretched on and Agnes finally called a halt for a break, they discovered that two of their group, Cid Sitron-Blodåre and Sir Arthur, were missing. A swift search ensued that threatened to result in even more of the group isolated and lost, but some clever tracking from Fen and Murdo, a little cleverness from Cid Sitron-Blodåre with a guards bell, a little persistance from Sir Arthur, combined with a little magic from Orion, and they were recovered in pretty short order. Sir Aruthurs steeds were not doing well with the dense forest ground, but they were close to Agnes’ home now and it was agreed that Ages would lead them there and stable them while the rest continued their journey deeper into the forest on foot. At her home, Agnes picked up a few supplies after tying up Angus’s horse. She noticed while she was there that a few bits had been moved – nothing taken, but definitely things moved.
Rejoining the rest of the group Agnes led them further into the forest until, at last, through the creeping mist they came to one of the black trees. The trunk was thick, gnarled and a charcoal black. Above, twisted branches bore a crown of leaves like shadows and below a carpet of fallen leaves pooled like ink on the ground. As they approached the leaves on the ground crumbled softly as they stood on them and several members of the group picked some up, wrapping them in cloth, despite Agneses protestations that they touch nothing to do with the tree. The parties curiosity grew and, after some study, they decided to attempt to summon any spirits that might be associated with the tree. Elara and Agnes began a ritual summoning and a few minutes later the profile of a small, spikey, olive-green figure began to emerge, twistingly, from the ashen trunk. The figures liquid black eyes flicked from Elara to Agnes and back again before it began to speak urgently in a language they didn’t recognise much of. Soft, round and guttural the language sounded exotic and fluid and a few of the group recognised a few familiar sounding words; ‘help’ ‘hurry’ ‘coming’. Worse, the creature did not seem familiar with scots or english. After a few increasingly frantic attempts that seemed to focus on Elara the figure finally tugged a spindly thin arm loose from the trunk of the tree and held it palm out, five twiggy fingers up, inviting Elara to touch its hand. Elara did just that and as their palms touched, with a jolt, the creatures soft sibilant voice echoed in Elaras mind with the words, “Hurry! Prepare yourself! They’re coming!” Relaying this to the group, tensions were suddenly raised and defensive positions taken, even as movement was spotted through the swirling light mist and the tangle or branches. Ever the first to the fore, Murdo was closest to the creatures and two of them flew at him even as his knives flashed out at them. The creatures were small, no more then three feet tall, fine-limbed and spiky. In many ways they resembled the figure half-protruding from the tree, but darker, malevolent, twisted and hungry – a lot like the trees themselves. Murdo almost cut one of them in half even as the tow of them struck and tore at him with thorny protrudances. Fen went on the defensive, while Agnes and Elara hung back by the ritual circle. The others rushed to engage the creatures when a third appeared behind the others. This one moved lithely, using all fours as she swept through the forest before stopping and thrusting its hands into the cursed leaf mulch as the echoes of magic span through the mist – and suddenly the floor of the forest was alive. Insects, bugs, spiders all of them fled from her magic and, in their magic they swarmed over everything in their path. They sought out every nook and crany, got into every chink in armour, and sought out every orifice as they sought to get away, and in their flight and pain they bit, pinched and stung driving the people in their way wild and making it almost impossible to concentrate on anything else. Only Murdo and the two creatures escaped the swarm. Despite this, several of the party managed to act – Agnes summoned a protective water spirit and Cid Sitron-Blodåre summoned an earth spirit, a mossy overgrown tortoise that more resembled a bounder than any living creature, to come to his aid. Fen rushed to assist Murdo and and Arthur tried desperately to form a defensive line in fornt of the ritual.