The party convenes at a Company breakfast served up by Annabelle Cirrus, who intimates to Gronk that €œSir Sebastien” is alive, though infirm, and she must tell him about his son’s death. Since the man’s farm is on the way to the Ar’Avariel forest, Gronk informs her that the party will accompany her on the task. She parts, referring to Gronk by some name in Dwarvish that obviously gives him pause.
Lieutenant Stein briefs the party on their next mission, which is to trace down Master Sergeant Sergei Volkov and his rogue unit. Rumor has it that the team passed through the half-elf village of Faye’s Hope late in the fall.
The next day, the party sets off West, and after a day’s travel arrive at a small sustenance farm nestled between the foothills of the Masaan and the edges of the Ar’Avariel forest. The party passes two men in their late thirties who obviously recognize Gronk, and approaches one of the two homesteads on the property. They are invited in for tea by an aging man who seems to be slowly succumbing to infirmity, who greets Gronk and Annabelle warmly. They inform the man of the death of his son (Warder Joseph) and discuss a number of other points. The man and Gronk speak on and off in Dwarvish to one another. When Alton mentions that they sighted a man they believe to be the Emperor Altair, Sebastien becomes immediately agitated, and Annabelle rushes out to speak with the two men tending the farm – who appear by all accounts to be her siblings. Sebastien allows the party to spend the night in his home, and sees them off the next morning. Annabelle and the two men were nowhere to be seen.
The party proceeds to the half-elven trading post of Faye’s Hope, where the party finds an ambush in waiting at the village trading post. Six men were arrayed to ambush the party when they entered, but upon seeing the party contained two Warders and one very similarly and terrifyingly-armored old Dwarf, decided against the ambush and attempted miserably to look like they were going about their business. When interrogated, it was revealed that they were mercenaries from Clearwater hired by Volkov to intercept anyone who may be on the rogue’s trail. The party allowed them to leave. Tanis, the proprietor of the trading post and an old friend of Moriel and Poppy, informs the party that Volkov did pass through in the late Fall – there were ten of them total at the time. Volkov was asking about a fairly renown Elven thinker named Etari’sul – last anyone heard Etari’sul lived in Sidarthe’minwe, deep in the forest – which also houses the Ar’Avarial Elves’ Evarre’tenin – their Trust. The people of the village are ill at ease, most of them have a feeling that something sinister is happening in the forest, but they know not what. They haven’t heard much of anything out of the forest for a while, which isn’t particularly abnormal.
The party heads into the Ar’Avarial to Dorothea, home of Moriel and, briefly, of Poppy. They find the ancient Elven village completely empty, no people, no animals, no insects, and the structures themselves do not look as if they’d ever been lived in. The lifelessness extends in a perfect circle radiating from the center of the village, where the party finds the only sign of life – a scrape on a rock from a steel-shod boot. The next village over, J’sta, is the same. They proceed to Tir’Valar, the largest city in the Ar’Avariel forest and it too, in all its majesty, is deserted. The border of Tir’Valar is patrolled by golems taller than the trees – wardens designed by the elves to be left behind after their passing to keep younger races from their secrets. On a tree at the edge of the Tir’valar circle of lifelessness, the party finds the word “LEITUS” carved into the trunk.