The party spent the majority of their hero’s welcome in Courwood convincing Sir Juffer, Countess Tillahi’s war chief, that they had no idea of the whereabouts or activities of the fugitive from justice known as Murfles. Not fun! But at least they received their reward, which took an unusual form: They were invited to drink of the magic waters of Courwood, which increased their choice of power, fortitude, or finesse.
They also received Countess Tillahi’s assistance in completing the second leg of their journey. Hessa suggested that the party ride the river through Courwood into the Welkwood for as far as they could and then close the remaining distance to Highport on foot. The countess outfitted the party with a raft and a fresh store of supplies, along with her advice to avoid the direct gaze of a basilisk. Apparently the Slave Lords, whatever else they might be, are keepers of basilisks. The ability of these creatures to turn living flesh to stone simplifies the logistical problems of transporting cargoes of slaves long distances.
The journey grew more dangerous the closer the party came to the Pomarj. War bands of orcs led by ogres and trolls attempted to ambush the party but soon learned not to underestimate their strength. Some water-going ghouls would have learned the same lesson, if they hadn’t been obliterated by Father Dominco’s glyph of warding and Devil Pancake’s wand of lightning.
At the very edge of the Welkwood, the party wiped out a humanoid garrison and rescued three children from a combat pit. The orcs had been entertaining themselves by forcing unarmed goblins to fight the children. To the party’s surprise, the children had been winning. The children also provided information: Every couple of days, they said, a company of orcs passes by, singing a song about “going to the temple.” Concluding that this could be the same temple where the Slave Lords are rumored to be, the party resolved to track these orcs using Hessa’s wilderness skills, but not before Father Dominco sent the children to Hommlet under the protection of Lancet du Laird.
The party tracked the orcs to the temple grounds and gained access to the main building through a magically concealed portal in the roof. They found themselves in a partially collapsed guardroom with what seemed to be a storage shaft for ghouls and ghasts. No sooner had the party destroyed the undead than they came to the realization that they would need to make camp somewhere in this ungodly place.