No one could survive as long as the Horsemen in such dire circumstances without being clever, and on the precipice of Queen Elvanna achieving her full power, they put their cunning to good use.
They had recovered the Crone’s fate and power, but they still needed her death, life, and blood. Using the gift given him by the Norn Vigliv’s magical deck of cards, the gift to open any one lock, the Dragon forced open the magical doll one more layer, allowing the Horsemen to avoid wasting time in pursuit of the Crone’s life. This saved valuable time but also meant the Horsemen would not unravel the mystery of her prolonged lifespan.
With each layer they could feel the Crone’s strength and will coming closer to the surface. The next leg of the journey was to recover her death, the very means by which she could be killed. It was to be found in a witch knife, inside a corpse, buried under an oak tree, on a remote island within a demiplane of the Dancing Hut. Layers within layers always with witches!
This task again was made short, this time by Midnight’s powerful magic. He asked Baba Yaga to give him a telepathic impression of the witchknife itself and using that mental image he was able to scan the island to divine its precise location.
He then took the form of an earth elemental and exhumed the knife’s container, a flesh golem run through with metallic spikes. Upon doing so he activated the golem and a hex such that his life force became linked to the golem and he would share its injuries. This did not deter the Wolf who readily felled both the golem and the ever-cursed Midnight with her singing blades. Luckily, Midnight was only knocked unconscious rather than slain outright, and the Horsemen were able to retrieve the witch knife and the Crone’s death.
Returning to Vigliv, the penultimate layer of the doll was unlocked leaving only The Crone’s blood left to retrieve in order to release her. To achieve this, they would need to confront the Crone’s 14th daughter and reigning matriarch of Irresen, the Witch Queen Elvanna, herself.
The moral of today’s tale is to beware the temptation of leaving the path for the shortcut. There may be wolves on the prowl and you may not like the end of the trail to which you hurry.