Varros says: "I agree with Duran's assessment. I suggest we equip the company with the best gear available and leave the worst and least valuable behind." Varros gathers himself and slips on Swede's vambraces. They feel exceptionally sturdy and light (OOC: The vambraces are +1 to AC).
Varros also offers to try out the sword if no one else wishes, and seeing no volunteers, he picks it up and gives it a few swings. The strong light-weight blade curves a graceful arc in the air, and makes no sound whatsoever, as if the air doesn't even touch it (OOC: +1 Longsword).
"Duran I'm not an expert but that elvish leather might serve you better for now." Duran picks up the finely crafted leather armor, eyes it, and puts it in his pack for now.*
Gaven concurs with the others: "We should make straight away to Belloc. Since it is almost nightfall, we should gird ourselves with the wolvesbane."
Gaven distributes the wolfsbane he acquired earlier and makes sure everyone is wearing it before leaving the cave.
While not overly excited about the prospect of travelling at night, Oloc agrees that staying in the cave doesn't appear a better option. Oloc shoulders as much of the loot as he can, and makes sure he gets some wolfsbane...just in case. "Let's go!" he says.
You arrange yourselves in a marching formation and begin heading down the path by which you came in order to get out of Blackleaf as fast as possible. True to their name, the dark leaves of trees make the forest seem more shadow-steeped than other places you've seen in your lifetimes. Occasionally you hear a rustle in the underbrush, or spy the faintly glowing eyes of some small forest creature as they catch the occasional ray of silver moonlight that manages to penetrate the canopy.
About halfway down the path out of the forest, you hear a mournful lupine howling. Judging by the sound, it is some miles off. But you still can't help but feel the urge to press your pace as much as the load on your backs allow. At one point, you could swear you hear Ollie's teeth chattering. For a second Stan opens his mouth as if to say something to the porter, then furrows his brow and clenches his jaw shut without saying a word.
Despite your fears, you manage to exit the forest without incident, and you cannot help but feel relief as you enter the open fields spreading out west of the woods. While you know you may still be at risk, just being out of the trees, where you can see clearly into the distance by the full moon's light, makes you feel much more secure. At least if enemies approach, you should spot them in time to react.
Looking at the land ahead of you, you realize that you have a couple main ways** to follow Gaven's suggestion of heading with all speed toward Belloc in Fairbrook.
Blue Cross = Party's current location
Red Cross = Where party spotted the giant earlier
One hex = one day's march (roughly ten hours with periodic rests)
The fastest and most obvious route, heading northwest to the Ham's Fork road and from there to Fairbrook, would take you north of the town of Ham's Fork (with some small chance of encountering Alanna and any loyal followers she might have if she's out and about that side of town). Contrarily, you could go cross-country all the way, staying well east of the road and heading due north, giving you even less chance of encountering Alanna, but staying longer in proximity to Blackleaf, as well as running nearer the giant you saw earlier.
Time is now 8:30 p.m.
Dienekes, please make a note of the two magic items and their bonuses on your character sheet.
*I didn't want to just assume that Duran would put on the armor without Dan's say-so. If he wants to give it a try, just let me know, and I'll retroactively work that in.
**You're not limited to these main options, of course. I thought I'd toss them out there, with a rundown of the most relevant pros and cons (proximity to Blackleaf and its possible werewolves, to Alanna, to the giant you passed on the way down east of the road north of Ham's Fork). But obviously you can mix and match or do something completely different.
Since one hex = one ten-hour march, it would take you about ten to twelve hours to get to Fairbrook from where you are now.
Regarding what you're carrying: the least valuable cumbersome item is the lot of 500 cp (worth all of 5 gp); next would be the sets of leather armor (each worth 7 gp, 5 sp at resale). Leaving the 5 least valuable cumbersome items behind to avoid movement penalty (the coppers and 4 sets of leather armor) results in a sacrifice of a total of 35 gp/35 xp (or less than 9 gp/9 xp for each of you). Professor P suggested taking items up to encumbrance limit, which I took to mean before a penalty sets in. If my reading is incorrect and you wanted to carry those 5 least valuable cumbersome items, let me know and I'll correct this. For now I've assumed you've taking everything except the 5 least valuable cumbersome items.