In order to save Riff you’re going to need to do more than simply follow the trail of the drake on a hunch. Like most dragons they fly very swiftly and even a fast horse couldn’t keep up for long. It will take some knowledge of the local land to know exactly where the drake was likely to go; presuming that it had not flown a great distance to reach the woods.
DC 16 Knowledge Geography
There is an area known as the Briar Marsh about half a days ride to the north east, which is little more than a boggy cluster of trees, run thick with thorns and nettles that protect a small, silty lake at the middle. Of all the places you can think of, this seems the most likely that a creature such as a mist drake might nest at.
There is one unfortunate truth to the situation you now find yourself in however. The road you are traveling does not pass near to the Briar Marsh, and a carriage such as Lady Serafina travels in was not made to traverse the wilds. If you are to continue, it must be on horseback. Perhaps fate has smiled on you that Riff’s horse remains, for that leaves just enough horses for you to ride on… although it will leave poor Peter stranded.
The ride takes you across wooded glens and down into misty gullys, before you begin to see the trees thickening into a forest hung with grey and dripping lichens which sway in the cold wind. A thick, stagnant smell fills the air as you draw closer, that is not so much foul as it is heavy with natural decay – such as the scent of rotting wood and leaves.
Fog and mist are dense here and coil through the thicket of thorns like an unnatural shroud, making the branches appear like grasping fingers reaching through. What a fitting place to encounter such a fell creature as this.
You can see that you’ll have to leave the horses here, as the tangled briars only become thicker from here out and bringing them will only cause them harm. Beneath your feet the ground is soggy and moist, and where you step you leave small puddles of mud and murky water in your wake. High above you a solitary raven calls, watching you with beady black eyes from the bough of a dead tree. Again it calls, then spreads its wings and flies overhead towards the brackish lake. No choice now but to take the low road in the same direction.
The thorns tear you clothing as you proceed, leaving you covered in dozens of small scratches and somehow even seem to work their way under the heaviest armor plating. Soon too the ground gives way to putrid sludge which gives way to muddy water that rises to at least your ankles, if not higher. The thickets become more and more dense around you, until you are reduced to cutting your way through and then suddenly… they clear.
You find yourselves standing on the edge of a shallow lake, enshrouded by mist and concealing at its center a small island with a rocky crest upon it – what appears to be the remains of a long abandoned tower. This must be where the drake lairs, for if it is king of this domain, than this stone throne would seem appropriate. Almost in confirmation than you hear the shrill cry of the drake again and see its leathery wings part the mist as it lands upon the tallest reaches of the ruined tower, wrapping itself around the stone to steady itself as it disappears down into the ruins from view.
Above you the raven calls again, watching you with keenly observant eyes as it tilts its head to one side, almost as if to urge you on to your confrontation. Before you can think much on it though, it takes to flight again with a quick flapping of its wings and several black feathers fall into the water around you. It caws as it flies, disappearing into the gathering dark with its harsh cries.