Xanthus suggests that the party doesn’t have enough supplies or spells to attempt a two-pronged approach to the temple and points out that someone already scryed on Catherine’s bag, meaning they probably already know about our presence. He does not, however, suggest the party go in swords drawn ready for combat; This makes Eupraxia more than a little annoyed but she becomes less distressed when Keidraan stumbles through a turn of phrase she recognizes as “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.” Vaunders decides to look further into the nature of the white spike and divines that it’s a completely neutral object, which confuses Eupraxia as to what that means. Before the party derails into another argument about objective morality, Vaunders attempts to have Annabelle scry upon the origin of the spike, which she fails at unfortunately.
Keidraan stays behind as the party does this, watching clouds, and investigates an out-of-place animal growl. He closes in on the animal but stops in his tracks once he hears it growl extremely close by. Once the part returns, Eupraxia and Oliver immediately realize that Keidraan is missing and has walked into the forest. Everyone heads in after him, following closely behind Praxi, but they get bizarrely split up. The party tries their best to reconvene but to no avail and Xanthus’ signal kite is hidden from site by the density of the trees. Eupraxia, however, has no trouble following Keidraan’s tracks which suddenly turn into dire lion tracks! Frustrated with the runaround, Keidraan uses the wand of detect magic to discern the origin of the magic spell confusing everyone: It’s the entire forest!
Catherine has an omniscient force take over her senses upon questioning the origin of the forest. She sees flashes of a tall, multi-monochrome haired human instantly growing the forest in a clearing next to a fairly clean and recent temple; This person suddenly turns into a giant tiger. Time elapses at extreme speeds until slowing down to current day, where she now sees a goblin and undead army surrounding the now-aged temple situated in a dipped valley with Vaunders standing at the edge. Her sight rushes through the temple, too fast to register anything distinct, until it settles on a 40 foot tall set of double doors guarded by dangerous-looking hobgoblins. This door has a magical glow and inside lies the now orange tiger.
Just as she comes down from her epileptic fit, Xanthus sends a telepathic message through the forest and catches both Catherine and Vaunders’ minds. They work through their situations together, suggesting ideas of how to get through more easily: Keidraan suggests burning down the forest which Eupraxia and Vaunders like but Catherine condemns the idea, so Vaunders tries to mark trees in number order but they get mixed up in the forest which completely disheartens her. They eventually find their way into the clearing, and Catherine insists on her vision being real yet again. No one seems to care.
The party observes the double-doors that lead into the temple and the goblins, but soon a large,red-eyed, and hairy skeletal figure floats out and then back in. Being slightly demoralized, the party decides to look for weak points of the temple of which there are no visible ones. They try their hardest to come up some sort of strategy but think of nothing beyond storming the front doors. Just before they’re ready to charge, Vaunders pops out of Xanthus’ bag, which she had been sulking inside of and starts to riffle through her bag looking for something.
Catherine knocks from a distant on the door, which summons a lady with a rune on her forehead from the temple, and she scans the tree line noticing Vaunders standing defiantly in the open. She reaches into the bag and pulls out the white spike, unaffected by it’s powers, and yells at her, asking if she wants it. Catherine is furious but Oliver quiets her, curious of what Vaunders’ plan is. Before Vaunders can take a step forward with her plan, Catherine violently blasts her with a fireball. Oliver commands Catherine to blast the woman, as he then recognizes her as Veronica Dragovic, the slaughterer of his clan. She summons her eidolon: a big humanoid cougar with twin swords named Solomon.
Vaunders picks herself back up and continues to walk towards Veronica, while she herself makes Solomon invisible. Eupraxia uproots a wide thorny vine patch, trying to entangle Veronica which she dodges easily, and Xanthus challenges Veronica to a fight directly. Vaunders jogs over to Veronica, even through the vines, and pretends to give her the white spike. She ignores the offer, politely, and hovers out of the vines slowly, which prompts Keidraan to rush towards her but he ends up getting clipped by an invisible Solomon. Xanthus plays Veronica’s game and makes Akkrah invisible and Oliver tries and fails to grapple her neck with his whip. Veronica taunts the party and legitimately turns Xanthus into a chicken and in retaliation Oliver pukes a swarm of wasps to assist them. Vaunders drops the white spike in the brambles, so Veronica seizes the advantage and grabs it up intending to retreat.
The spike overwhelms her sense of pride and she fights on, summons a black tentacle to attack Oliver. His past experiences flash before his eyes and he summons the courage to cut down the tentacle with ease. Everyone gangs up on her with the help of some inspiration and magical empowerment from Vaunders but Veronica manages to slip away by the skin of her teeth by hopping into a rift in space-time. Catherine refuses her retreat and is enveloped by impossible forces to locate her current position: Inside of the temple in a bedroom sitting next to a slumbering 153.