Back at the Iron Axe Inn, the party members were introduced to two recent arrivals in town, Elessar the elf and Ka Giplou the druid. Having traveled a great distance together from the Hamwood, these two began by inquiring after a friend of theirs named Creswell, who hadn’t been seen or heard from in a very long time, but whose last letters were enthusiastic reports on explorations in the Tanglewood. Once they were caught up on the ominous news concerning that very forest, they offered to join the party in their investigations, anticipating an opportunity to explore the likely scene of Cresswell’s disappearance along the way.
The assembled company was quickly joined by Syreel and Arlen Steinfell who were eager for a report on what had been discovered beneath the ruined oak. Evincing great interest in the silver locket recovered from the child’s skeleton, Syreel identified its cherry-tree standard as belonging to House Lensing and related the local legend concerning the fall of that house’s last scion, Lord Albert Lensing. A consensus was soon reached to return immediately to the tunnels so that Syreel, Arlen and the newcomers from the north could all explore the scene for themselves. Emil and Martin however, weary targets of suspicions of some of the local folk (particularly the warden), decided to remain behind at the inn.
In the course of this second exploration, the lowermost cavern was more thoroughly searched, and another “statue” roughly similar in appearance to those found near the entrance was discovered. This one, however, was many times larger and more menacing in appearance, and was found reclining upon a nest of various items (toys, picture books, locks of hair, bundles of pretty ribbons, antique coins, etc.) that all bore disturbing implications regarding the rash of child disappearances associated with the fall of House Lensing so many years ago. After weighing the evidence at hand, Ka shared some half-remembered lore concerning the ‘’Grombel" — an sinister faerie creature known to shun daylight and to kidnap small children for its own sustenance (although she could not recall anything about their assuming forms of stone). Reeling with horror, Syreel urged the party to leave the complex and seal the entrance as quickly as possible and to deliberate on further action afterward. This was soon accomplished, and the group retired to the Iron Axe Inn for the evening to discuss their next step. In the course of the evening, Toby Kolb pulled Mabe aside and related in hushed tones a version of Lord Albert Lensing’s story that the young warrior had never heard before. In this account, Lord Albert’s own child had been among those who were mysteriously taken, and his actions in the Tanglewood supposedly involved heroic efforts to end the crisis. These efforts were perhaps close to fruition when he became a victim of the mass hysteria gripping the town.
Early the next day, the party decided to enter the Tanglewood at a point where Willem Tanting had discovered odd-looking tracks, resembling somewhat those of a mountain lion, two days prior. The trail proved difficult to follow, but was not lost before the party found themselves on a faint path through the trees, which they began to follow deeper into the forest. The Tanglewood began to reveal its strange character almost immediately, beginning with the path itself, which seemed to show no signs of traffic or maintenance, but was indicated only by a distinct parting of the trees. After a startling encounter with a snake lurking on a tree that had fallen over this “path”, a chorus of inarticulate whispers began to sound from some hidden point off to the side of the path. When Mabe had pushed through the undergrowth to its apparent source, he found only three creatures — a beaver, a turtle, and a frog — perched together on a long floating in a small pond. They seemed to regard him almost intelligently before sliding off their perch to disappear beneath the water’s surface.
That night, as the rest of the party slumbered during her watch (the first of the evening), Ka succumbed to a strange and powerful urge to sleep. The party awakened the next morning in an unfamiliar environment. While they were still in Tanglewood (presumably), they seemed to have been transplanted during the night to a small clearing, about which were spread the ancient, almost vanished foundation of an old ruined manor house. Emblazoned upon one of its crumbling hearths was a stylized wolf’s head, which Elessar recognized from one of Cresswell’s sketches. As the party investigated the clearing, Ka caught a glimpse of movement in the trees and deduced the likely presence of one or more Treants. Another path, similar to the one they were following the day before, was then soon discovered originating at the clearing’s perimeter.
After some deliberation, the party decided to resume travel along this path. Around noon, they stumbled upon another clearing, this one dominated by a large house in a pristine state and of strange architecture, surrounded by a horde of topiary monsters. As they approached the front door, they came across what appeared to be the petrified form of a gnome oriented in flight away from the house. Alert to danger, they peered into one of the windows on the front porch which revealed a well-appointed parlor with a roaring fire in its hearth. Trusting to courtesy rather than stealth, Ka mustered her courage to use of one of the molded knockers (unnervingly shaped in the form of medusa heads) mounted on the doors. In response, the doors opened inward upon an entry hall, apparently of their own volition…