The heroes stared in disbelief as they recognised the voice and outline of Auric. Earlier in their travels, they had encountered Auric and other Hidden Gale warriors being pursued by Lunar soldiers. As a result of their intervention in the skirmish, Auric had been turned over to the tender mercies of the Lunars whilst the companions had received the promise of a reward of 200 cattle. As they left the Lunar fort, Auric had been in the process of being crucified...now here he was, amongst the Lunar-hating Black Spear Clan.
An uncomfortable few minutes passed, with the heroes convinced that Auric would order their deaths at any moment. As Auric leaned forward, however, they realised that he had been blinded by the Lunars! Although he had received healing, his eyes had not yet reformed in their sockets. To their relief, at that Neil the promised guide arrived and, as they took their leave, Auric called out: 'I look forward to the time we meet again, when I can lay eyes on such true sons and daughters of Orlanth!'
Their guide, a taciturn shield-maiden named Henga, tersely gave them her orders: 'Follow me; if I say stop, stop. If I say lie down, lie down. If I say close your eyes, do that. If you do as I say and move fast, we may get through the Wilds in one piece'.
Thus warned, the travellers set off. On their journey to Asborn's Stead, they hid from thunder lizards and had an odd experience. Henga ordered them to stop and close their eyes. As they stood, puzzled, the sound of what seemed to be a child's wordless singing approached from the forest to the East. Each of the clansmen had the sensation of something standing close by, staring into their faces. Although the temptation to open their eyes was strong, the moment passed and the weird singing moved off back to the East. As they opened their eyes, they noted that Henga was pale and sweating. Swallowing nervously, Henga urged them to move quickly, clearly desperate to reach Asborn's Stead before nightfall.
After what seemed like an age, a well-defended stead appeared in the distance. As soon as they were within bowshot of the timber palisade, Henga turned about and headed south without a word of farewell. Clearly, the Black Spear reputation for disliking strangers was well-deserved.
By contrast, Asborn Stead held a warm welcome for the clansmen. Asborn himself was a hearty host and a firm supporter of Kangharl's predecessor, Queen Leika, now an exile in the stronghold of Whitewall. During a feast in the best tradition of Sartarite hospitality, Asborn revealed that he and Kangharl had been sword-brothers, both fighting against the Lunars during Starbrow's Rebellion. Asborn was genuinely sad that Kangharl had seemingly turned his coat almost overnight; his new-found zeal for all things Lunar was a mystery to him. The heroes mused as to the reason why this had happened, and wondered whether the Lunars had some hidden hold over Kangharl...
The following morning, the companions set off for Apple Lane, confident the worst of the journey was behind them. By early afternoon, they reached Gringle's village. After encountering the local redsmith and a merchant, the heroes found Gringle's home only to find it locked and silent. Keen to speak to Gringle as soon as possible, the clansmen entered the local tavern, the Tin Inn. Whilst waiting, they met with Dronlan Swordsharp, the local thane. Once Dronlan realised that Gringle was under Lunar threat, Dronlan took the band across to the Shop and rapidly gained them an audience with Gringle. Upon hearing that he was now an outlaw, and that Lunar forces were on the way to plunder his treasures, Gringle began to prepare to leave the village for exile. However, it would take him perhaps a day to gather his valuables together. Some of his treasures required careful preparation before they could be moved, and became dangerous if not handled properly. As Gringle disappeared into his basement to prepare, the clansfolk explored the building and made ready to defend it. And not too soon, as word reached them of a group of warriors entering the town, led by a Lunar woman whose body was heavily tattooed; one side the red of the Shepelkirt, and the other the blue of the Middle Air.