As the bearded korred disappears into the winter fields, you head back to your own homes to make what preparations are needed and leave directions to be followed in your absence.
The night is cold and the excitement and fear of the journey to come keeps you up for a time, though eventually you sleep. Dreams come, filled with low, grasping branches that seem to whisper with the voices of ancient things from within the Weald.
Dawn breaks bright and clear, the reflected sunlight nearly blinding as you gather again at the gate with your provisions.
Waiting for the others, @Gamil takes out the cold iron dagger recovered from the shepherd's cave and notices something strange: it's not cold. Even after he plunges the blade into the snow, it remains at a neutral temperature. Rather than generating heat, it simply seems unaffected by the unnatural chill. There's no maker's mark on the blade, and the simple bronze hilt doesn't seem to be original to the weapon. Curious ...
You set off toward the dark line of trees north of the village at a brisk pace, better prepared for the snow than you were the day before. You reach the Weald's edge, and the giant oak where the ravens roost, a few hours before noon, your breath freezing into ice crystals in the wind.
[Go ahead and make a Vigor check against the Cold. The roll is -2 if you don't have a heavy winter cloak/clothing. Failure gives you a level of Fatigue.]
As you approach the oak, Phil slips out of a hole in the tree you had mistaken for a shadow, picking bits of honeycomb from his beard.
"Made good time, I see. Well, we'll see how fast we can move in the Weald ... snow isn't so deep, but it pays to plant each foot cautiously."
He squints at you, slowly breaking into a grin. "Come along now. I won't say there's nothing to fear, but what kind of guide would I be if I left you lost or eaten by a gripplebraun on your first visit?"
Staff in hand, he leads the way into the Weald, the dark branches overhead seeming to shrink away from your approach, before drawing in claustrophobically as the snow-covered fields disappear behind you. Here the snow is lighter, coating the stones and twisted roots beneath your feet in a layer less than an inch thick.
Moving quickly for one so weathered-looking, your fae guide slips in between the trees along what seems to be a meandering route, but which you see in hindsight allows you to cover ground quickly.
"We're not going far -- only to the first toran," he says, before noting the looks of confusion at the strange word. "A gate, of sorts. A means of traveling from one place to the next, without consideration of distance ... This one will take us to my master's realm, without the need of delving deeper into the Weald than is good for such as you."
Time passes, though in a sluggish way that leaves you wondering just how high the sun might be if you could see it through the creaking limbs overhead. Unbothered, Phil trudge on, before stopping abruptly in front of a tree bent over a fork in the trail.
"Here we are. This way -- don't tarry now, or you might be left behind."
Past the gateway, the trees press in even closer. Soon, you find yourselves squeezing through a narrow path that slopes gradually downward, with carved wooden steps interspersed among the knobby tree roots. Gradually, the air grows warmer, the snow lighter, until you find yourselves on a staircase shaded by ruby leaves, the glow of autumn all around you.
"Ah, you're in the 'Tumnal King's Court, now. Have a care not to step off the path, or you'll really be lost," Phil says. "Don't gape, or a pixie'll fly down your gob and choke you."
The air smells of mead and oranges and you feel slightly intoxicated when you reach the bottom of the stairs. Ahead, you can see a clearing in the crimson forest, the flickering glow of bonfires escaping through the trees. Phil stops between two oaks hung with ribbons, which serve as a sort of gateway within. To one side stands a font of water, seemingly formed from pale living wood; to the other a tall, twisting vase of ebony, it's neck carved with tiny holes.
The korred looks at you expectantly, one brow cocked as if he's waiting to see what you will do.
Dramatic Task time!
The fae are notoriously obsessed with strange and fickle customs, which they usually refuse to explain. It's not unusual for mortals to be tested before any sort of audience, and you've heard many tall tales in the village of adventurers who were refused aid for seemingly minor transgressions, or extravagantly rewarded for stumbling upon just the right response.
Each character can contribute by making an appropriate Skill check: the number of successes (a Raise counts for two) you generate will help determine how favorably you are received by the fae lord.
Appropriate skills include: Notice (to pick up on cues Phil might give), Occult (for knowledge of faery lore), Performance or Persuasion (selling it).
Alternatively, you can use Common Knowledge at a -1 penalty, or go nuts with any other skill you'd like at -2. Want to try to impress the king with a gymnastic routine? Go for it with Athletics -2. Don't forget your Fatigue penalty if you have one from the morning's journey.
Once you've made your roll, include the results in your narration. Feel free to make up whatever customs you'd like, but some ideas are in this spoiler (once you've snagged a success):