In the days following the attack on the dog-men camp, the party spends its time recuperating and collecting all of the loot from the area. Much armor and weapons can be saved from the barbarians, and it is all transported back to Charm (the newly-named tower compound) for later use. While collecting these items, the now one-armed captain of the barbarians returns to the ruins and begs mercy from the party. After much deliberation, they agree to protect the captain, provided he shows them the location of his boat and pledges fealty. He does so, and the group finds a lot of food and water on the boat, along with another green ring and a chest.
Returning to Charm, the party manages to return to a somewhat stable lifestyle full of studying and basic survival. Time passes….
And a new group can be seen approaching from the west! Initially alarmed, it turns out to be Bill with Brand and Switches and a host of other men and supplies. The newcomers are five fighter types from the northern bandit campaigns, a librarian to help Switches catalog and protect the books, and the bard who the party met in the northern bandit campaign. Hails and well-mets are shared, and the reunited party immediately begins preparations for a trip back to the ruins so they can further investigate with more hands without leaving Charm unprotected.
The entire original party heads out for the ruins leaving Brand in charge of the newcomers and Switches. They arrive at the ruins and scour the area finding little more of value than before. They re-examine the “bad vibe” rock found in the large hut and then return to Charm.
The party decides the next step should be to head into the center of the island and try to investigate the city itself. Bill works on a new spell discovered while he was away which ties a fear emotion into an elaborate series of crystals mounted on a pole. This will protect Charm from animal attacks for a week while the party is away.
Leaving out early the next morning, the party pushes over the river via the rope bridge, up to the ruins, and jumps over to a large road to the east of the ruins. Following this north for a ways, they discover the first split in the road, this one headed east. Bill summons a bird which he takes as far as he can, and the road seems to lead to some buildings in the far distance, but he cannot get close enough to tell what they are or if they are inhabited.
The party decides to continue north on the main road and decides to camp near the road on the first late afternoon. Red attempts to build them shelter via a small cave complex, but seems quite worn out and pale upon its completion. The group inspects the cave complex and finds it quite adequate, posts a guard, and falls asleep.
During the first watch, Marble is alerted to what sounds like a baby crying outside the cave entrance. He and Thirsty decide to investigate and climb out of the cave without awakening anyone else. Moving quietly towards the baby sounds in a nearby bush, both are suddenly caught in root like tendrils that grow up from the ground. Marble manages to cut himself free and rushes to the edge of the hole to the cave and starts screaming for help. This manages to awaken most of the party who scramble up out of the hole to see what has happened.
Bill surveys the situation and notices all the new plant growth in the area, but it unable to do more as both he and Thin Boots are suddenly engulfed in the root tendrils as well. The emerging group begins hacking the tendrils off of their party members, and Bill decides to strike as this new growth to see if it is the root of the problem, destroying one of the new plants.
Seemingly having no effect on the root tendril growth, Thirsty goes after the origins of the baby crying which does turn out to be a baby. When he picks it up it is shown to be connected to the ground by a large vine and to be quite demonic-looking. Bill turns and thrusts his spear through the baby, obliterating it.
Soon the party begins stabbing madly at the roots, and one of them hits the ground, causing a cry of pain from something underneath them. The ground itself moves and throws a number of the party members to the ground while others are held fast by the tendrils.
Moon plunges his hand into the soil and inflicts a massive energy strike on the ground beast, seemingly killing it. The party finishes freeing itself and decides to retire back to the hole for the night.
Continuing along the road the next day, the party comes to another split in the road but stays adamantly on the path headed north. They soon find themselves facing a large bridge over the river, but the bridge is in horrible dis-repair. Marble elects Thirsty to be the first to test the bridge, and after some slow moving and backtracking, Thirsty makes it to the other side. Bill goes next and manages to find a good path over the bridge, but as he nears the other side, he notices Thirsty is acting oddly and waves him back over to himself. Thirsty is hearing voices and is quite disturbed by the dark land to the south of the bridge on the eastern shore.
Bill decides to go back and show the path over the bridge to the rest of the party. All of them make it safely over the center, but near the last third, Ox falls straight through the damaged bridge into the water below. Quick thinking has Red whip out a rope who throws it to Bill near the edge of the bridge. It takes two throws, but Bill manages to land the rope near Ox, and the party hauls him back up to safety.
Staying a safe distance away from the black ground to their south, the party continues north and soon stops for a second night on the dangerous island.