As dusk approaches on the second day of the journey, Il-kor and Mike (who are acting as the group’s advance scouts) notice a group of gaudily painted wagons up ahead. Mike sees banners advertising them as a traveling group of performers, so the party rides up to meet them.
The performers are a strange lot – more of a “freak show” than a performance act in truth, but they seem friendly enough, and the party is welcomed by their ringmaster, an albino named Kaleb Hesse. He explains that The Crooked Kin (the name of their troupe) are headed to Lepidstadt as well, intending to make some easy coin from the crowds gathered for the trial. Unfortunately, when they stopped to repair a wagon wheel, one of the performers – a young woman with a tiny head – disappeared into the surrounding swamp.
The Kin are scared to venture into the swamp, but don’t wish to move on without her, so Hesse asks for the party’s aid – if they can find Aleece, he will reward them with a rare piece of equipment. Never ones to pass up adventure or gear, they agree, and set off into the swamp.
John quickly picks up Aleece’s trail, and they follow it into the swampy underbrush. Eventually, they lose the trail in a small clearing surrounded by tall grass. They begin searching for a new trail, when they hear faint cries from the grass to the south. They rush toward the source of the cries, only to find that it was a trap as a phase spider materializes behind them and savagely bites Negrodamus!
The group struggles to deal with the spider’s attacks, as after every attack it shifts to the Ethereal Plane to avoid blows. Eventually they huddle together with weapons drawn so that any attempt the spider makes at an attack will bring it face to face with readied weapons. The group manages to drive the spider away just in time for Viktor to heal Negrodamus with some antivenom and a lesser restoration spell. A further search of the grass around the clearing reveals the body of Aleece, apparently slain by the spider.
The group returns the body to the Kin for burial, and Kaleb Hesse provides them with a +1 shapechanger-bane dagger in return, as well as proposing that the two groups travel together for the remainder of the journey. The party agrees, and they continue onward, reaching Cortaud after nightfall.