Well, the good news is that Stones End wasn't destroyed by demons…probably.
In addition to Benmor, Amatus, Malik, and myself, there was one other who volunteered to go. I don't think I've ever seen Darvin not in the Rooster telling stories to whoever will listen. He's similar to Benmor, I guess. I don't know if he truly wanted to help or if he wanted to have a new story to tell. Our group of five left Corkirk early in the morning. I was a little upset that Kevin didn't show up to go with us. He may prefer to live in the forest, but Corkirk's still his home.
Stones End was a couple of days ride from Corkirk. The first day was mostly uneventful. Just a quiet ride through the Grimarden. Malik and Amatus really looked out of place surrounded by forest. It was getting dark when I made the decision to try to find a place to camp off the road. While that would mean camping in the Grimarden, it was probably safer than camping in the middle of the road that demons could be marching down. I found a small clearing with the help of Benmor, and we set up camp. We made a quick watch schedule and I turned in for the night.
Only for Benmor to wake me up a few hours later. I had the last watch dammit, not halfway through his own. He claimed he heard singing. I listened as hard as I could, but the only sounds around us were the sounds of the forest. But he was convinced something was singing nearby, so he climbed a tree and said there were lights too. By that point, I was awake and a little curious, so I climbed up with him. Sure enough, there was a group of lights just over a hundred feet from camp. As I was climbing down, I noticed that we had set up camp in a fairy ring. I'm really glad they turned out to be the little annoying kind of fairies and not the other kind.
When we both were back on the ground, we woke everyone up to try to figure out what to do about the lights. Apparently Amatus could also hear the singing, so maybe Benmor wasn't making that up. I decided to try to see what the lights were. Benmor and Malik joined me. Malik has a lot of drive, but he couldn't sneak up on the dead. Those lights kept moving further away. Just close enough to stay in sight, but never close enough to see what they were. I'm pretty sure they were taunting us. Eventually, Benmor and I split apart to try to circle around the lights. According to Benmor, the fairies used magic to make a root trip him. Honestly, I believe him. He may not be a tree mapper, but he's a damn good climber and can see in the dark better than any of us. It was when he started running off after them that I got worried. You don't just run off in a forest, especially the Grimarden. I called out to Malik, and we chased after him. We were able to catch up to him and convinced him to head back to camp without much trouble though.
The camp was scattered across the entire clearing! Hearing Darvin and Amatus tell it, the fire went out in a blink, and when Amatus used his magic to make a light, all of our gear was everywhere. We collected everything and I decided to go back to sleep. Darvin took next watch. We woke up to find the camp scattered again and Darvin fast asleep at his post. By this point, I just didn't care anymore and was glad to leave. From now on, I'm bringing honey with me whenever I have to stay overnight in the Grimarden. I'm pretty sure fairies like honey.
The second day was also uneventful, though we did notice wolves were following us. Luckily, they stopped once we left the Grimarden. We eventually made it to Stone's End. It was, horrible. The only signs of the town still standing were a few charred stumps. Ash covered everything and bones were everywhere. I suppose it was some comfort that the smell had abated, but there was so much death everywhere. In what must have been the center of town, the bones were laid out in a pattern. Amatus says that they make a demonic symbol, but there were little mistakes in it. Mistakes that demons are unlikely to make. He also noticed that several of the skeletons had their arm bones cut and chipped, which probably meant that whatever killed them was using weapons and the fire happened after. I'm not sure which would be a worse way to die.
While Amatus began work gathering the bones to give them what rites he could, Malik and I searched around the remains of the village. Something felt off, and eventually, we realized that there was only bones and ash. No warped plows. No singed drapes. Even the smith's anvil and tools were gone. Whatever came through there took everything it could possibly use and torched the rest. Benmor found some tracks to the east of the village and we followed them to the coast. Whatever made them was wearing boots. It was at the coast that we realized that all the villages we'd heard about being destroyed were all south of Corkirk and close to the coast. While there was another village a few days north, we decided to head back to Corkirk and warn them about what we found. We spent the rest of the day collecting the bones of the villagers and having Amatus pray over them.
Our third day out, we left Stones End and headed back to Corkirk. It seems the wolves decided to wait for us. We were in the Grimarden when they surrounded us. There were too many to keep away, and a few got to the horses. It was a lot of quick and brutal fighting. I think I got three of them before Amatus went down. There was also a loud noise while we were trying to defend the horses. It reminded me of thunder, but there was no lightning and no clouds. Maybe the fairies were still playing tricks? Maybe they were trying to help us? I don't know.
Some notes about our group.
-Apparently Benmor gets better at fighting when he's angry. I should keep that in mind.
-Darvin is pretty good with his narrowseax.
-Amatus may not be the best fighter, but damn if he doesn't go down swinging.
-Again, Malik has heart, but he's not that great with a blade. He is smart though. Maybe he'd do better with a bow or sling than with a seax. I wonder if Kevin would be willing to teach him?
Speaking of Kevin, he finally decided to show up. Honestly, I don't know why he didn't just leave with us. If I find out he was following us just waiting for a dramatic entrance, I'm going to beat his ass from one side of the village to the other.
After the fight, Darvin went over to Amatus and used some healing magic. I never knew he was blessed by Laenau also. He certainly doesn't seem priestly. Maybe he found a trinket like my necklace? Luckily, none of the horses died, though Hester was very close. It seemed like another fight was going to break out between Keven and Amatus when he started healing Malik instead of focusing on the horse. It was getting dark by then, so we settled down after tending as well as we could to the horses. The next day, Amatus healed the horses and we were able to make it back to Corkirk peacefully.
To sum up, whatever destroyed Stones End took everything of value before reducing it to ash. They also used weapons to kill the villagers and arranged their bones to look like a demon symbol, though there were mistakes that should not have been there. They came from the coast and wore boots. The town's barn nearly burned down before we left. And the closest town other than us is also on the coast and may have already been attacked. I get the feeling that we are heading to Finnmaela once Amatus finishes searching through Father Dake's library.