The town crier wandered into the marketplace where people hoping to trade with the reclusive elven nation gathered, and announced that he was looking for heroes to aid the elven council with a problem. Five brave and/or stupid souls stepped forwards to answer the call:
Kalrea, a minotaur druid, with a noble heritage that no one in the party recognized.
Gennal, an elven ranger once of the forest, returned after serving a long prison sentence in human lands.
Loki, a dragonborn warlock with distinctive white scales.
Malik, a human warden raised by shifters. A 'wifter'?
Rain, a shifter cleric of Sehanine who'd fallen in love with civilization and magic.
Once he'd pulled them aside, he told them that the task they had wasn't really anything very difficult. The elves could handle it themselves in an instant if they wanted to, but they were too busy, so the pathetic, barely trained outsiders would be given leave to enter the forest and attempt to investigate the situation. The situation being a bunch of game animals slaughtered, but not eaten, by mysterious canine creatures that the elven trackers could have tracked down in no time if they weren't all so damn busy.
They were given badges to let them into the forest. Score!
Technically, Gennal was already an elf and didn't need the badge, but he'd volunteered, and having a real elf along to save the outsiders if they got in trouble -- and to keep them from doing anything totally out of line -- seemed like a good idea.
It was a half day's walk to the elven fort where they'd get more information from the elves on the scene, but that half day was measured in elven travel time, and the party moved a bit slower -- especially since half of them had only agreed to help as an excuse to get into the fabled elven forest and plunder its natural treasures. Mmm, berries. Mmm, magic mushrooms. Ooh, some valuable and rare herbs! Right right, moving on...
Gennal stayed hidden for most of the trip, surrepetitiously watching the party. "I'll be nearby. If you need my help, scream."
At the fort, the captain told them where they could find the scene of one of the attacks, an hour or so farther into the forest. But BEWARE! For farther into the forest in that direction was into the bad part of the forest, where they needed to be careful to move quietly, or else!
Yeah, that wasn't going to happen.
Gennal tried to talk to the captain to find out why all the other elves were looking at him strangely and making vague references to his family, but the captain begged off with a vague reference to his family and told him to ask the council, if he succeeded in the task.
Then they clomped out of town, moving too slowly to actually reach their goal in an hour, and too noisily to avoid attracting attention. The nature of the danger was clear, at least -- giant, phosphorescent spiderwebs lining the trail to either side. Rain wanted to toss a rock in front of him every few steps to make sure there were no invisible spider webs across the path, but Gennal convinced him it was unnecessary -- the spiders didn't make invisible webs and wouldn't attack anyone on the path anyway. Besides, they were deathjump spiders who leapt directly onto their prey, not the sort to trap prey in webs.
They also hunted by tremorsense, so when Loki tripped and faceplanted, JUMP! The spiders had hard shells and easily dodged Loki's blasts, but the party was persistent and worked together, more or less, so the only person who was seriously hurt was Malik, who got two saves a turn against the spiders' venom, and while he was chewed on to within an inch of his life, Rain managed to heal him up without draining his energy too far. Gennal was extremely annoyed that one of the spiders kept leaping around the forest after him, faster than he could run. "Stand still!"
At any rate, they were only attacked by spiders once during the two hours or so that it took to find the trail of blood crossing the path, where the elven scout had recovered the mutilated body and taken it for a proper burial. Kalrea was the best tracker, so they followed the trail back to the scene of the attack -- which was just outside the wards protecting the path.
Rain: "Is the ward omnidirectional, or is it protecting something?"
GM: "It seems to be radiating energy back towards the path."
Rain: "I'll try to walk past it."
GM: "You feel uneasy, like something's trying to convince you to turn back."
Rain: "Then I'll smash it!"
GM: "What?! You're going to smash the elven rune protecting the path?"
Rain: "What? You said it was pushing us back towards the path, I figured it was set by whatever we were chasing."
GM: "No! I said it was --"
Yeah, okay, there was some confusion, but with a diagram drawn out to clarify things Rain did NOT smash the rune since it was obviously set by the elves they were working for and protecting the path.
Instead, since it was getting dark, they decided to set a trap for the creatures. Kalrea would turn into a deer, and hang around in the clearing looking stupid and weak and tasty, and the rest of the party would lurk nearby to help her when she got attacked by the thing they were hunting. Since there wasn't any good campsite nearby, Kalrea used a 'create campsite' ritual, which created a campsite up in the trees, in the elven style. Yay!
A little after dark, they heard a noise behind them, back towards the path, and Gennal went to investigate it, since he was the only person with any sense of stealth. He found a young elf wandering through the woods, who claimed to be tracking a mysterious magical power. "Yeah, that was us. We used a ritual to make a camp." The elf tried to interrogate them about what they were doing, but Gennal sent her off home. Rain and Loki thought he'd let her off too easily -- it was obviously suspicious for her to be out, alone, after dark, in the worst part of the woods, when the person who'd sent them on the quest specifically said that elves didn't do that. But, too late.
An hour later, Kalrea heard a noise, and managed to get peoples' attention with body language, but didn't manage to fool the creature into attacking her. Gennal went to investigate again.
Gennal: "Okay, who's my backup?"
Rain: "Just scream if you need our help."
Gennal did not need their backup that urgently -- the tracks he found *were* canid, like the attackers', but they were already gone. The party decided to abandon the ambush, which hadn't worked, and instead track the monsters immediately while the trail was still fresh.
Afterwards, most of the people decided to play a little poker. I'm not really a fan of poker (okay, I'm *really* not a fan of poker) so I just headed home, and watched one of the Futurama movies.