Part 2: Kristatanti to Birritanti
Kristatanti's inn is quiet and the village tavern, with only two other customers, doesn't seem much livelier at first. However the heroes get into conversation with a hill farmer with whom they sing a song and share jokes about Goblins. The farmer also warns them that a Witch named Alianna dwells in woodland between here and Dhumpus, the next village, and to keep their wits about them should they meet her. In the background, the village idiot periodically shouts 'Snattacats!' at anyone who will listen to him. Nremyn explains to Jack that a Snattacat is essentially an invisible Tiger; the hill Farmer and the tavern-keeper provide reassurance that there are none hereabouts – though Skunkbears and Werewolves are a different matter. As they leave Kristatanti the next morning, the heroes refuse a lift on the hill farmer's ox-cart in order to speak with a blind beggar. In gratitude for the alms he receives, the beggar gives them the key to a jailhouse in Kharé – he worked there until 'the Red Eyes' blinded him and took it over. Pleased by this stroke of good fortune, the heroes press on with springs in their steps.
The road forks halfway through the morning's walk; the heroes select the forest path rather than climbing further into the hills to their right. It comes as little surprise to them when noon brings them to a signpost marked for 'Dhumpus' ahead and 'Alianna' to the west. They take the western path, with Jack hoping aloud that the Witch may be able and willing to lift Mananka's curse. They find Alianna, an attractive young woman, trapped in a large metal cage in her cottage by Elvins two days ago. Jack tests a key he found in the same hut as Mananka and it fits the lock of the cage. Alianna tells the heroes that the cage cannot be affected by magic and she had intended to trap Mananka, still bound in its box, within it. The Witch rewards each of the heroes with a gift, including prayer beads for Jack that will help him to break the curse. She also calls Mananka a thing of malice and lies and tells them to pay scant heed to its words. The heroes remain concerned that the spirit claimed to know of their quest and they even mention the name of 'Mampang' to the Witch as their destination; Alianna chides them for speaking that word and says she must be about her preparations to recapture Mananka.
The heroes return to the main path and reach Dhumpus before nightfall. There they visit Keshav the Trader; among the various transactions conducted, Nremyn agrees to dig Keshav a new cesspit. The Elf Sorcerer magically grows to twice his normal height and is able to make fairly short work of the task – a sight that provides the villagers with great entertainment.
On the fourth morning of their quest, the heroes depart Dhumpus. The locals tell them that both the northerly roads from the village will take them to Birritanti before nightfall. One path leads uphill to the village of Gorretanti, which a recent traveller reported to have been stricken with a plague. The other way descends towards the Troll Wood, so named for the monstrous folk that prey on those who travel through it. The heroes dislike the thought of plague and decide to take their chances with the Trolls. Their chosen path forks at the outer edge of the Troll Wood – one branch leads through the trees, the other crosses the chasm by means of a rope bridge. A bizarre hunchbacked figure, who speaks only in rhyme, emerges from a hut by the bridge and challenges them to answer its questions before they will be allowed to cross. The hunchback gives its name as 'Vancass' – Yantris vaguely recalls a tutor once mentioning this as the name of a supernatural entity. While Grom accepts the challenge, it is Jack and Marie who are quick to provide the correct answers. Vancass calls out a rhyme of warning about a 'cave-demon's maze' to the heroes as they cross the bridge.
Crossing the rope bridge allows the heroes to bypass the Troll Wood and they reach Birritanti with only one further incident on the way – they meet a Minimite, a diminutive winged faerie creature that calls itself Jann. Jann speaks with Nremyn, claiming to perceive a bond of Fate between them and to sense that Nremyn has (and/or will) cast 'the Ultimate Spell'. The Minimite says that instabilities in the fabric of reality caused by this spell could endanger the very existence of both Jann and Nremyn. They must be careful not to disturb the strands of their own destiny by acting too directly upon one another. Neither should choose to part company with the other, instead allowing circumstances to dictate the duration of their relationship. Also sensing a twisting of Fate and Time around them both, Nremyn is inclined to agree with the Minimite's assertions.
Birritanti is in the midst of the Festival of the Young and the village is busy with travellers and folk from nearby hill-farms. Children run wild, drinking alcohol and fighting with each other; they even push over adults, none of whom may gainsay them until the festival runs its course. The heroes visit the Crystal Waterfall, a mystical place on the outskirts of the village. The attendant agrees to let them bathe in the cool healing water of its pool in exchange for their news of the plague in Gorretanti and the opportunity it presents for him to sell healing water there. The heroes then spend the evening in Glandragor's Tavern, being bought drinks by drunken children in exchange for providing entertainment. Nremyn magically makes the tavern keeper dance while the children stamp their feet and clap along in time. Jack's sleight of hand tricks prove somewhat inept, much to the children's raucous delight, and they take great pleasure in loudly pointing out whenever he secrets away a coin or palms a small object.
Realising that they haven't seen the Minimite since leaving the Crystal Waterfall, the heroes exit the tavern and find Jann outside playing sing-along games with a gang of children. The heroes camp for the night at the edge of the village as they cannot afford the expensive rate at the crowded inn.