If a creature is transformed into another creature (say, a human into a dog), then that creature will become more and more accustomed to the new form until a point is reached where reversing the spell is impossible. A second transformation is possible, but the creature will have to go through the whole process again.
An ancient, psuedo-immortal race has been manipulating something important (politics, religion, economics, etc.) for centuries. Hardly anyone is aware of them, let alone their goals.
A little way up the narrow valley, before they reach the woods, the PCs notice the squat, tumbledown buildings by the riverside. They are hardly big enough for a human to stand in, and the complex cogs and shafts that occupy the central cavity of one of the buildings are perplexing. What were these buildings? And how safe are they to explore?
Alternatively a desolate place is the perfect setting for a derelict chapel or croft. There needn't be any actual physical encounter involved, but it adds atmosphere to a place to see its dead history. For instance, in the Outer Hebrides there are whole deserted villages which were razed to the ground by the English during the Clearances. Such stories give a setting authenticity and character.