The party spent a few days around Volg Keep, preparing to answer Vani's invitation back to her village. Yuna kept busy, visiting many old contacts including:
Claire Volg: Thinking about moving to a city and starting a career in music. Taught Yuna Violin Basics
Beth: Gave up magic, joined the militia and took up archery.
Aimee: Sleepless and losing weight, but focused on becoming a powerful wizard under the tutelage of Natalia Volg.
Dewbloom and the Pixies: Yuna received a congratulatory High Medal of Valorous Achievement for seeing to the arrest of Megga Mundt, the woman who captured Dewbloom for her pixie dust.
Concerned over Jandar's brusqueness towards her as she inquired about the Drow House La'Frei, Yuna spoke with the party about her suspicions about the enigmatic elf. Yuna wasn't sure how Jandar knew she was a princess, remembering the elf that had betrayed her in her first run-in with the Drow. They also brought their concerns to Claire, who promised to keep an eye out and inquire with her parents as subtly as she could.
Uli suggested she send her old traveling buddy, Giovanni Bagni, to the Outer Realms rift. Giovanni was dispatched and will send correspondences in invisible ink back to Volg Keep to keep tabs on Jandar.
As the party left for Vani's hometown of Ghosla, Uli reared up her horse and dashed back into town. She returned with a baby pit bull dubbed Maximus the Second.
On the way to the village, Vani let Yuna and Ireni know that they would probably be met with a rough atmosphere in town due to Ghosla's incredibly tense past with the nearby settlement of Mountain Elves. The village, close to the west where the orcs had spilled out of the mountains, had been well-fortified with tripwire and sturdy walls.
Vani had a heartfelt greeting with her grandparents, Odo and Alandria, and had a slightly tense reunion with her friend Cabe, who disapproved of her striking out for such dangerous quests without asking for more help. It seemed more out of worry than pride. Vani's family grudgingly accepted Yuna and Ireni with their granddaughters' vouching, and Alandria agreed to mingle a bit and calm the more suspicious members of the village down.
A small festival had been arranged in honor of Vani's return and victory against the orcs at Throughway Keep. The party participated in a number of fun activities, most of them while drunk following a drinking contest with some farmers. During this event, Yuna noticed a family of halflings known as the Bodifumps wearing elven jewelry; when she pointed it out, they looked perturbed and took it off.
A brief rundown of the activities:
Turtle Racing: Bet won by Vani, taking 10 gold from the rest of the party. Pie Eating Contest: Won by a very full Vani Drinking Contest: Uli was a close second, won by a farmer. Archery Contest: Won by Vani after a close tiebreaker round with Yuna, receiving a well-made belt with a gnomish buckle. Bear Wrestling: Vani cuddled with Honeysuckle, who enjoyed the attention and petting.
The group also drunkenly performed a <s>smash mouth cover</s> for the tavern, just managing to avoid making clowns of themselves. Odo was very tickled by the performance by his very un-musical granddaughter, and tossed some gold onto the stage. Uli had a nice drum solo that earned her a few silver pieces.
Vani made Cabe challenge Honeysuckle in the wrestling match to make up for his argument with her. To her surprise, he succeeded with flying colors. They spent the night talking and catching up, and Vani asked what was up with the Bodifumps. Cabe replied that they claimed a merchant really liked their shoes in the capital and had been showering them with riches, a good chunk of which they used to help the people of Ghosla. The party resolved to talk to them in the morning.
The hung over (save for Yuna) party recieved a rude awakening in the form of a surprised mob at the north gate; a unit of mountain elves had approached with weapons and seige shields, holding a halfling trader and her bodyguard hostage. The elves claimed they'd found them carrying elven jewelry. The captain explained that he did not think them the theives; a mountain elf named Fossa was suspected of hiding inside Ghosla. A former ranger, he had been murdering his own kind for weeks until he was spotted in the act and forced to run.
Vani, Cabe, and the party filled in the mayor about the Bodifumps. Heading to their home, Cabe found them in their wine cellar…along with Fossa. The elf politely requested to be let go, promising he would let the wood elves know he was no longer in the village. The party wasn't sold. He then suggested that they go with him to kill the mountain elf unit and recover the kidnapped halflings. At that point, Uli stepped forward to restrain him.
Fossa was difficult to hit, even when backed into a corner, and as blood was drawn his neck bulged with veins and his eyes took on a dilated, glassy look. Yuna landed a stunning strike, letting the party pounce on him and restrain him very, very well. Checking under his cloak, Yuna was horrified to find that he was wearing a jerkin sewn from the faces of elves he'd killed. When he came to, Fossa insisted that he only ate elves and had caused no trouble in the village.
Dragging him out of town, Fossa shouted that the Bodifumps were complicit in harboring him, stirring up chaos amongst the townsfolk. Yuna and Uli tried to get more information out of Fossa before the mountain elves took him to be put on trial. The captured halfling trader and her bodyguard were released to the village, as promised.
Fossa mentioned a 'Great Cat' that had been devouring people in Astaroka for a century. Stumbling upon it feeding one day, the creature apparently saw 'potential' in Fossa and granted him a drop of his blood, heightening his abilities and stoking a supernatural hunger. He also implicated the captured trader in harboring him.
The guilty halflings explained that they helped Fossa because he never hurt a halfling and was funneling his loot into the village; they had no idea he was doing more than robbery and the occasional murder. The village leader exiled the 6 guilty townsfolk from Ghosla permanently.
Before leaving, Odo and Alandria passed on an arrowhead to Vani, crafted by her father from the feathers of a griffin he'd slain and given to her mother. The arrow was in Maja's hand when the orcs attacked Ghosla in the past. Fighting back tears, Vani accepted the gift.
Vani also made up with Cabe, who had decided she would be fine venturing out into the world on her own. Vani slipped some owlbear meat into his pocket, which he would later discover before his nightly bath. Yuna painted a portrait of the party and presented it to Vani's grandparents, who could not decide where to put it. It was decided that it would move location monthly.
The party returned to Volg Keep to find that Natalia and Alfonzo had created a device that used the strange 'compass' found near the portal to pinpoint other rifts to the Far Realm. Using it, they generated vague locations on the map. They presented the party with small magical jars that could contain small bits of the magic of the portals for further study; the more they know, the better they can control the rifts. They also gave the party a sending stone to communicate with them while they're traveling.
Arriving at the docks, the party met with Pule Volmi, who explained that Argus Forsythe had funded the construction of a small ship for the party to use. Volmi presented Ireni with a spyglass made by his family's workshop. An ecstatic Ireni boarded the ship, named Yuna first mate, and declared that they would be setting sail immediately to track down the other portal rifts.
The wind is strong enough to give life to the sails. Adventure awaits.