Monday, April 30, 2018

Shadows and Chains

A multi-session update...

    Ever wary, Arys first takes them to the fallen tree, where he carefully picks the satchel out of the roots. Inside, Falco finds the the tinker’s rune carved lantern inside and everyone breathes a sigh of relief. When they are about to approach the temple stairs, they hear someone approaching through the trees.
    The voices are speaking in the Knock tongue and arguing about the need to keep patrolling the temple grounds, “I don’t see why the Laird cares about some tiny runaways? Or why he thinks they’d come here of all places?! These damned cats would eat them up as a snack, and that’s a fact.” A more commanding, gravelly voice responds, “I don’t care what you understand! It is said that a foul white unicorn is helping them! If Laird Turath says we check the wards, we check the wards! That’s all! Stop yer’ snivelling and keep your bloody eyes peeled.” With that, a handful of knockfar approach the temple, some going inside, while others begin checking the grounds. Thanks to Arys affinity for camouflage, the group remains well hidden, and waits.
    The Kudra take their time, carefully checking the perimeter, while the leader spends his time inside, doing who knows what. Falco sneaks forward enough to watch, and therefore notices one of the forest goblins paying special attention to tracks in the dirt. Eventually, the tribesmen go inside, then all come out and head back along the trail, leaving the way they came.
    Though the rest of the party is ready to continue, Falco has them hold a moment longer. As a result, he hears the stealthy footfalls of an invisible creeper returning to the temple. Apparently something the kudra found made them suspicious. Extra carefully, Arys carries the group to the far side of the temple, away from the entrance and their hidden lurker.
    Together, they carefully scale the crumbling wall and reach the domed roof. They can clearly see a broken section more than large enough to allow the little’s to enter. A plan is made. Arys leaves the group of littles in the most sheltered spot available on the roof, away from the nearest lounging cats and returns to the forest. Soon a commotion can be heard from the front, as the Kudra lying in ambush spot Arys with his satchel wrapped around his neck. Arrows fly and the chase is on. The newly born unicorn leads the kudra warriors and their now visible leader into the forest and away from the temple.
    One by one, and with as much haste as possible, Cawyn flies the Captain, Falco and Harrick to the statue of Sharhad Hasul. Gruellingly, he then flies the lantern down to the broken right hand, placing it carefully upon the stump. Once that’s done, he reverts to Durin form and begins repeating a litany of prayers, beseeching Sharhad Hasul and the Gray God she serves to intervene on behalf of her dedicated servant, Denrick Fallhollow, who risked much to get here. To end the tyranny of a corrupted fey who has turned a holy sight into a trap for slavers and demons.
    And with the words, a bright, pure light begins to shine from the lantern, and is reflected in the statue’s one remaining jeweled eye. With a groan of protesting stone the head moves and the face of the Traveler’s scion looks down upon the tiny druid. “By this lantern light I see you! You who come before me in need. How is it that I may serve a lonely pilgrim on this coldest of days?”
    In the next few minutes, Cawyn explains their purpose and their need. He asks that Sharhad Hasul return them to their original size, that they might seek vengeance on the Fey lord who trapped them. She is more than willing, but informs them that much like the Faelinarie Queen in the Circle of Stones, her power has been stripped and diverted. She explains that a demon of Sevos, in the realm of Cairn Nan Arq, siphons all the mana of the ley lines into his own place of power.
    She offers to use what little power she has to return the four of them to their original size. She tells them she will gladly free the rest if they can travel through the rift and destroy the source of the Chain demon’s power. But they must hurry, because she cannot keep the rift open for long, and once her power is gone, she will not be able to help.
    It’s not the outcome they most wanted, but the group quickly realizes it’s the best they’re likely to get. They accept, and one by one are touched by the half-feline statue’s remaining hand, regaining their size and power, and none too soon, as growls and yells can be heard from the front of the temple.
    Calder and Falco are the first to the door. As the captain shoot his newly enlarged bow to suppress the rush of the kudra from the forest, Falco and Harrick begin pushing the heavy stone door closed. When it shutters closed, they look down to find that Falco has taken a knockfar arrow to the throat and is quickly bleeding out on the floor. Cawyn rushes to his aid, but can only staunch the wound. Falco is dying and there’s nothing the druid can do.
    Panicked, they carry him back to the fountain before the temple, where Sharhad Hasul has revealed the siphoning rift. At the scion’s feet they plead for help... and find that she has compassion for their plight. “Take what is left of my power, channel it into healing for your friend, but do it on the other side of the rift! For I am nearly spent! It may well be beyond my ability to keep the way open. Complete your mission and return as quickly as you can!”
    With that, the sucking portal opens in the cracked offering pool. One by one they jump through, Harrick last, cradling the dead weight of Falco in his arms...

    ... With a brittle crash the four figures break through what seems like a thin sheet of black obsidian only to find themselves falling through a black sky, hundreds of feet above the ground. Below them, they can just make out a benighted valley similar to, yet different from the Tiger vale. Below them, a broken structure resembling the Traveler’s temple with green flames burning around it and within it, the vortex of mana being sucked into its heart... and approaching quicker than any of them would like.
    Thinking fast, Cawyn summons forth two giant eagles that dive to the rescue. The combined weight of four men is too much, but at the cost of some minor lacerations, the huntress summoned birds are able to grab hold of the falling men and guide them in a gentler crash to the ground.
    And once there, having glided into the woods a little ways from the temple, Cawyn ignores his minor injuries and immediately begins the ritual to heal Falco’s critical wound. As Harrick and Calder stand guard, a candle and more passes, and life returns to Falco’s body.
    There is little time for thanks. The group prepares themselves and heads off in the direction of the dark temple. After sneaking closer, they spy two malformed humanoid guards. Calder can pick up on their infernal, telepathic communications. Though they attempt to sneak around, Cawyn is somewhat less than stealthy and they are forced to fight the two creatures, putting a quick end to them before their limited telepathy can alert the rest of the temple.

    Approaching closer to the structure, they next spy a varied group of demons, hunched in the first clearing. Among them are a ten foot tall, hulking, part bear, part bull, part gorilla, a short, winged and spine covered demon, another of the lumpy ones and a small, monkeyish, bat-like creature. Retreating into the denser brush of the gloomy forest, Cawyn and Harrick wait while the two more stealthy make a quick check of the perimeter around the temple, especially the roof, where they hope to find another entrance.
    No such luck. Though they do hear the muffled screams of someone or something being tortured. When the two scouts return, they find that Cawyn has summoned an air elemental in the vague shape of himself, only much larger. He calls it Windbeard and informs the group that it will fight for them when they make their rush.
    The plan is quick and simple. Sneak as far as possible, then rush the place, hopefully locking themselves in and fighting their way quickly to the center, where they hope to find the “source of the demon’s power.”
    The sneaking is over rather quickly when Falco, in the illusory disguise of a lumpy demon, is confronted by a small imp at the temple steps. To say his ruse is unsuccessful is an understatement. With a loud screech, the imp wakes the temple to the threat and hell breaks loose.
    Some stay outside to mop up demons in the clearing, while others venture into the entrance of the temple and down the stairs. To their surprise, they find the interior to be far different than back on the middle plain. Windbeard mops up many, including the large brute with the horns. The crew lends support.
    Inside, Harrick and Falco deal with some grunts whose poison clouds of noxious breath aren’t enough to save them. Choosing not to wait for everyone, the Oroka warrior rushes ahead and takes some heavy hits when he’s ambushed by another spine demon and a black cloaked figure who reveals himself to be none other than Master Moonshade, the Kuranani warrior who watched Harrick ringside back at Laird Turath’s mansion. Behind them, hanging from spiked chains, is a nearly naked Syvani man who looks to be barely clinging to life.

    As Cawyn, Calder, Falco and Windbeard hurry to join the fray, Harrick fights to get clear of his bad position and Master Moonshade does his best to kill Harrick before he can find his footing. The temple alarm has been raised and time is short!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

To The Wayfarer's Temple

Early Morning, Dec. 20
A small glade in the upper Tiger Vale
    The unicorn Arys makes several attempts, before finally making a telepathic contact with the five crewmen. In the next few minutes, he explains that the spirit who communicated with he and Cawyn was none other than Queen Lhianna, the ruler of his tribe and village. The banshee was her sister, Shae Lors, who once looked after the young Faelinarie of the village.
    He also explains that there was some sort of power sink happening around the circle. What power they used to enact the reincarnation and the restoration of their gifts was hoarded by the Queen from long ago. Once it was gone, the undead were able to breach the circle's defenses. It seems clear to Arys that the Chained demon must be responsible.
    With this in mind, the crew transfers to the unicorn's back and they set off toward Arys's tree, figuring they need the rest of the crew before they make their final approach on the Traveler's temple. Arys gathers shadows and their surroundings seem to bend toward keeping them hidden as they proceed.
    Just a few minutes into their run they hear the sounds of arcanic engines rumbling on the south edge of the valley. Calder can tell there are two arcanicraft. His ear for engines tells him they are powerful machines. Taking note of the presence, they decide to continue on their path.
    Arys is prepared to cross when they reach the fast flowing river, but Falco stops him, noting something out of palce in the screen of damp undergrowth on the far side. By it's location he fears a hidden blind of sentries watching the forest path here. Arys retreats carefully, opting for a crossing further downstream.
    This crossing goes smoother, though Falco nearly falls from the unicorn's back when Arys slips on a mid-river stone. Apologizing for his clumsiness, they continue on, eventually passing the temple trail and coming to the area at the base of Arys tree, where they hear tiny, sprite voices raised in mocking tones.
    "Hhahahhahaheeeeheheh! Poor little Foosh! This is what comes of not watching where one is going." A second voice joins the first, "Yeeees stupid clod! Some sneak YOU are. Couldn't see the web for the trees eh?"
    A quick, cautious peak by Falco reveals a pair of the unseelie sprites bobbing about near the web of Arys's arachnid guardian. Stuck fast in the webbing is a third sprite, presumably the unlucky Foosh, who is trying desperately not to struggle and bring the attention of the web's maker.
    The group decides quickly upon a plan. Falco and Calder approach once more, while the rest of the party prepares their own round of surprises. Soon the silent image of a tiny Neran that looks a lot like the Maven crewman Kashan is crawling across the forest floor. When Calder adds a bit of his own thaumaturgy, the figure begins moaning in pain.
    The ruse works as the two sprites hoist their tiny swords and buzz toward their wounded prey. The ambush is a complete success as Falco destroys the first Sprite with a bolt of fire and Arys lunges and skewers the second on the tip of his impressive, sword-like horn. The commotion sends Foosh into an uncontrolled thrashing, which in turn brings about his own downfall when the bulbous body of the spider glides down and finishes him off. The party quickly and quietly drags their own prizes off into the bushes.
    With another pair of sprite bows and swords, and some admittedly damaged leather armor, they reach Arys's tree. Looking upward, they all realize without the Faelinarie's climbing skills, a new way of ascending the sixty daunting feet is in order. Cawyn shrugs tired shoulders and makes the change. A ten inch long wasp grabs Calder by the shoulders and carries him upward to the doorway.
    The crew is well, and delighted to see the return of the captain and officers. One by one, Cawyn brings them to the forest floor, saving the hulking Grello for last. The seventeen littles all climb aboard Arys's back and he moves off toward the temple.

    Another twenty minutes finds them peaking from the dense ferns at the edge of the clearing. The temple has an assortment of flying cats lounging high up on it's walls, but curiously none near the entrance. Across the way, Falco can see the downed tree under which he placed his pack. Cawyn, still in wasp form, rests on Arys's rump and the rest of the crew clings quietly to the unicorn's mane. There goal lies in sight.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Holy Bones

Dec. 20, 572pfk
The Tiger Vale, Northern Manawyn
Cursed Faelinarie Village

     All is quiet, but not calm. The group of tiny, weary, beaten and wounded adventurers rest from rain, wind, zombies and vines in the relative protection of the stone altar, but they can't escape the growing fear. Still, the three gifted among them haven't given up on the riddle. Cawyn remembers seeing something atop the altar as well, and sends Falco to check it out.
     Climbing up, Falco finds a wand and an old, weathered pouch. The wand is seven inches of twisted material that he first takes to be wood, with more runic carvings down its length. The pouch contains herbs, unguents, crystals, and a small stoppered clay phial with an unknown liquid inside. He drops them both down to the others before climbing off the exposed surface.
     As Harrick sees to the treatment of the still unconscious Snap, Calder takes the wand out of the magical silence, onto the sloped expanse of the fallen fourth dolmen. He tries to take the time to identify it, but he's nearly cut when a desperate dive by a winged shadow interrupts him. Frustrated at his failure, he climbs quickly off the rock and rejoins the others. While they are unable to get an exact identification, Cawyn is able to decipher the runes along the wand's length as, 'Be well and whole by the blessings of the Huntress." He also figures out the wand is actually made of bone, or horn.
     All actions by this point seem to be interspersed with a need for short rests, but the group's minds remain active, seeking clues. Cawyn spends some time going over everything he knows of the Reincarnation spell. Falco reviews what he knows of the Obsythia Manal, or ancient places of power, and how they can be used to affect spellwork. Calder ponders the warring of good and evil energies. Eventually they come to some conclusions.
     First, Cawyn realizes that the Reincarnation spell was truly, nearly complete, and has remained in a state of readiness over the countless years since it was first set up. Without the silence, it requires no more than a few short ritual phrases, and no actual expenditure of power, but whatever body it was meant to bring back has long since moved past its expiration date as far as the spell is concerned. Second, Falco realizes such a spell could be empowered by the energy of the circle to effect something older, or further away. Calder meanwhile believes there is an actual Unhallow spell in effect on the circle, causing the psychic buzz of warring energies.
     It's about this point when Harrick first notices the looming figure standing at the edge of the glade. Twelve feet tall and shrouded in an all concealing hood and cloak, the Oroka warrior can sense the beings malevolent stare. More than all the ravening undead, it's this figure that instills a growing sense of fear. Harrick looks away with an effort, pointing out the creature to Calder while wishing he hadn't seen it at all.
     When Calder takes the drawing stick from Falco and writes out his ideas in the dirt, the two begin a search around the edge of the circle. Eventually they spot them - four lumps of black wax within the writhing vines, each at a cardinal point. These must be the focus of the Unhallowing. Returning to the group, they reveal their findings as the night presses on.
     Again, Harrick spots the hooded figure, this time at a different point and closer. Like before he can sense the being's intense focus, but this time, he catches sight of features beneath the cowl. In horror he recognizes the badly healed, broken nose, the square, stubbled jaw of Ferrus Delv, his training sergeant from years ago, a man who inspired fear and awe in a young recruit. More, he can sense the hatred, the disappointment, the scorn from a mentor he once had earned the respect of. It's enough to send him into a wide-eyed, cold sweat. Enough to bring him to his weary feet and send him inching away, ready to bolt. And he nearly does, if not for the reassuring hand of the captain and solid thump to the chest that brings him around to his senses. Still, he can't chance another glance. When Calder looks, there is no one there. The purple tiefling flips off the darkness anyway.

     They are about to move onto their next plans when they see the horrible sight of a full sized skeletal warrior charging the circle. In magical silence it breaks the barrier and immediately catches fire with divine flame. Still it raises it's broken glaive and swats down at Cawyn, who narrowly dodges aside. Valiantly, if futilely, Calder and Harrick attack with arrow and sword, tiny weapons flying and hacking at a foe ten times their size. Falco attempts a spell of fire, but swoons with the effort. As the burning undead raises its weapon for a second swing, the flames finally take the last of its strength and it crumbles into a smoldering heap of broken armor and bones. Seeing an opportunity, Calder reaches into the receding flames to light an arrow and sends it into the nearest black candle. His aim is off, but the flame takes a nearby necrotic vine which catches alight long enough to spread to the candle. In a burning blaze, the black magic crumbles and melts away. In the waxes center, something falls free and disintegrates. Calder watches with tired glee, thinking, 'That worked better than expected. Lucky break.'
     With an effort, Harrick is able to wake Snap, who rises stiff and sore, but ready to help.
     Now they make a plan. With a focus for their actions, they use the sprite rope taken from the dead enemy in the rabbit warrens and tie off a few arrows. Though their arms are somewhat weakened, they eventually get the arrows into the lumps of black wax. The work is grueling, but they pull all three of the remaining candles out of the vines and into the circle. When they reach the grass inside the dolmens, they each light up and burn away. revealing jagged fragments of blackened bone. Calder is able to see one closely before it crumbles, and reads the infernal script upon it, or at least enough to see the cruel symbol of Sevos, a demon prince of pain, known as the Master of Torment. A first clue as to the evil power behind the scenes here.
     When the last candle is destroyed, sound returns in a rush. The wind, the rain, the river, the moans and snarls of the dead, the panting breath of the weary group, all return along with a surge of divine energy that pushes back the vines and staggers the nearest shambling minions. Oh how they want to rest, but there is still work to do, and everyone fears another flaming, skeletal intruder, or something worse. The three casters gather together and prepare to finish the reincarnation spell with Cawyn in the lead. Though they briefly discuss killing and bringing back one of their own number, or attempting to reincarnate the pile of bones before them, they eventually decide their surest bet is to increase the range and attempt to bring back Arys from his final resting place on the bridge. With a surge of old energy, the spell is finished and the power released. After a moment of silence, the bridge crumbles and falls. The group waits, but nothing else happens. Some literally drop where they stand and fall into exhausted sleep, yet others are able to keep watch until their turn comes.
     In his dreams, a fully restored Cawyn is standing at the center of the circle and the sun shines down from a cloudless sky. Before him stands a faelinarie woman of incredible fairness and beauty. She resembles the illusory form of the banshee, like a nobler relative of the ghost. In her hand is the twisted wand. When she speaks, it is with the voice he heard in his head upon the bridge. He as no doubt this is the spirit that aided him.
     "You have been most brave and kind. Finish the rite of the circle. Take of my body and take of my power, but only if you swear to pledge yourself to the death of the tainted Laird Turath. The Huntress demands No less!”
     With that, she begins to sag and crumble as the sun quickly sets. In a moment, she has returned to a pile of grass and moss covered bones. When Cawyn wakes, it's to find that dawn has arrived, and the clouds have indeed receded. He and his friends are rested. A vast hoard of undead, minus the shadows, ring the circle, standing silent and still, but with crimson eyes locked on the group. Far more then last night.
     There is nothing for it, but to continue. With the dream fresh in his mind, Cawyn prepares the rite. Standing at the altar, he calls out the name of his Goddess, "In Cynwen's name I Call You. By Her Body and by Her Blood I compel you!" He pours the phial across the bones. With a second surge of druidic energy the bones begin to glow with a soft, blue light. Eventually, the glow has settled into four rib bones and the rest of the skeleton grows more brittle and breaks. When Cawyn, Calder and Falco pick up a bone, the glow travels along their arm and into their chest, releasing a fresh conduit to their magic and curing some of their remaining exhaustion.
     But there is one bone remaining. Is it for Harrick? Or maybe Arys' new form? Cawyn looks at Snap and recalls his medallion shining in the murk. He thinks back on their earlier discussions and wonders aloud, "Perhaps it is for you Snap. Perhaps it is time you stop denying Her?"
     Snap hesitantly takes the rib and feels the power surge into him. There are tears in his eyes when he looks up, but also confidence.
     This moment of elation lasts a minute before a new realization kicks in. With the second rite enacted, the divine energies of the circle have been greatly diminished. The vines are reaching further into the circle and the undead horde has grown more active. When they look up they see the twelve foot cloaked figure under the nearby dead tree. It spreads its arms, revealing a gaunt body wrapped in cruelly barbed chains. Harrick flinches as it points at the circle and whispers, "Attack." With a rush the hoard advances, crashing through the vines toward the still tiny crew.
     But then, from the woods comes a sleek form in a gray and white dappled coat. An elegant creature with the body of a tall goat, a flowing mane and tail, a silky beard and a long, twined horn on its forehead. With a powerful rush it skewers a skeleton from behind and leaps high over the advancing enemy, landing with a grass churning slide.
Image result for traditional unicorn
     As the demon screams in rage, the unicorn lowers its head and offers up its nose, which the surprised crew is ready to board. As the last grabs hold and the first of the undead beasts arrive to claw at its flank, there's a flash from the horn and the circle is empty, the hoard left raking at air and stone.
     Somewhere else, in a small, cramped glade in the forested valley, the Unicorn and five small adventurers appear in a burst of light. As they rearrange themselves, finding better seating upon the graceful nose, Calder looks into the creature's eye, "Arys?"
     A vigorous nod from the Unicorn almost dislodges Harrick and the group smiles in relief. Happy to have found their reincarnated friend they breathe a sigh of relief and look about, ready to plan their next actions and follow through on Cawyn's promise.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Silent Bones

Dec. 19, 572pfk
The Tiger Vale, Northern Manawyn
Cursed Faelinarie Village

     Exhausted, with the rain starting to fall and the wind whipping the dead trees, the diminutive group looks left then right from their precarious perch at the center of the fae bridge. From one direction, the two horrid looking zombified badgers begin scuffling toward them, from the other, the clicking armor and bone of a towering full-sized neran warrior in leather armor heralds it's approach. Quickly realizing they have little hope against the skeleton, they formulate a desperate plan.
      Calder points out an area in the bridge between them and the approaching giant, a spot where the rotted, interwoven roots of the druidically crafted bridge are weakest. Giving Falco the signal, he lets loose with a barrage of arcane fire, weakening the spot further. With little time left, they all turn to face the badgers, sending up another prayer that they are strong enough for one more battle without rest.
     Harrick is the first into the fray. He hacks with nothing more than spirit, his physical strength having been drained horribly by the shadow sprites. Yet still, he and the others battle on, all the while casting nervous glances backward at the skeleton's cautious advance.
     When Harrick is brought low by the teeth of a badger, Calder focuses past the too familiar pain to channel a last spell of healing. Behind them, the skeleton reaches the weak point... and with a silent step it crashes through the floor of the bridge, only catching itself a moment before falling with a splash into the swift flowing river. Bolstered by the sight, the crew finishes off the last badger before wearily falling to the rooted floor of the bridge for a quick breather.
     They only rest a few moments, gathering their remaining strength while they decide their next course. With the whispered words, "You must reach the Circle for my aid," still rolling through Cawyn's mind, it seems they have only one choice. With weary steps they make their way once more toward the druid circle.
     After stopping at a mouse burrow along the way, where they procure dry material and pine sap for fire arrows and torches, they continue onto the circle. They have vague notions of burning their way through the necrotic thorns, though Snap seems doubtful.
     In the trees, Falco and Harrick see more shadows gathering.
     Once more looking at the imposing wall of thorns and strangling vines, they amend their plan. It's another mad dash around the hill toward the fallen dolmen - a bridge over the vines. Looking to the trees they see that another giant skeleton, this time a withered Syvani with a pitted longsword is making its way through the underbrush, Shadows circling.
     In the full-out sprint Cawyn goes down more than once, but Falco is there to support his friend. At the steepest part of the hill, Calder looses his footing and shoots toward the river, bouncing painfully off a rock before splashing in and getting swept away. Snap slips as well, but manages to catch himself at the river's edge.
     Sending Cawyn and Snap ahead, Falco races downriver, scaling a boulder and reaching out with his makeshift torch. Calder desperately reaches for the branch and his hand slips, but his tail lashes out and catches the lifeline. With a grunt and arching swing through the water, he reaches the shore.
     There's no time for breath catching now. Looking up they see the skeleton has freed itself from the tangling undergrowth and is taking giant strides across the grassy hill, the three shadows racing before it. Just as it reaches the Tiefling and the Kirith-Syvani, just as it's blade descends, it's bony foot slips in the same mud that sent half the party downhill. The pitted longsword crashes into the mud only inches from Calder as the skeleton slides down into the water.
     Again they run, hounded now by the three sprite shadows. By this point, Harrick has climbed the rock and his helping Cawyn and Snap up. Another couple acrobatic jumps and some quick muscle work by Harrick sees them all safely atop the dolmen, but not before the shadows have a last go at Snap, bringing the ex-ranger low before Calder pulls him to safety. Luckily, it appears the dolmen is warded by the same protections as the circle. The shadows hover menacingly, but don't attack again.
     One by one, the group climbs the broken monolith and plops down into the dubious and magically silent safety of the druidic circle. As Harrick tends the wounds of Snap, the more religious and arcanic leaning members of the group begin investigating the circle they have fought so hard to reach.

They learn the following key points:

- There is a Silence Spell laid over the whole circle, lending an oppressive feel to all their actions.

- Warring divine energies fluctuating between evil and good, making a psychic buzzing in those with the gift.

- There are Faelinarie remains tangled in the grass and moss at the center of an almost complete Reincarnation Spell. Stone and metal chalices are filled with spicy smelling unguents and colored gemstones are laid out in ritualistic patterns.

- There are Words carved on the standing stones in the oghm runes of the druids:

1. "by Her guardian"

2. "by Her name"

3. "with Her body"

4. "by Her blood" (on the broken dolmen)

- Sprite shadows, faelinarie and armored skeletons, as well as dozens of undead beasts gather around the edges of the circle, pressing and testing the boundaries, all while the vines writhe and twist.

The night presses on as the weary crew tries to communicate their findings, all without speaking. Have they found sanctuary, or their final resting place?

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Tainted Light, Screams at Night

Dec. 19, 572pfk
The Tiger Vale, Northern Manawyn
Cursed Faelinarie Village

     The vines reach for Harrick and Snap, along with Calder and Falco when they rush to their companion's aid. Though Falco is momentarily snatched up in their necrotic thorns, he is quickly cut free by Snap and everyone stumbles away from the circle's edge, catching their breath.

     A horrible, heart-rending scream is heard in the distance.

     As Cawyn bandages Snap's damaged ribs, Falco spots shadowy movement in the brush to the east. At nearly the same time, everyone spots a soft white light approaching from upriver, in the general direction of the village. When a faelinarie woman appears, surrounded in a nimbus of magical light, the group is wary.

     She is wearing a tattered spider-silk dress that must once have been beautiful. In one hand she holds aloft a bit of crystal that emits the circle of light, in the other she tugs wearily at a frayed and twisted bit of rope attached to a splintered slab of wood. On the slab is Arys. He looks unconscious. When she reaches the edge of the circle she looks about and cries out in a feeble voice,

     "“Is there someone there? Please? I sense your presence but not your location. The light of my queen can protect you, but only if you reveal yourself.”

The party's tiny nature can only hope to hide them for moments more, and a decision must be made quickly. Seeing the shadow sprites advance from the brush, and more of the undead creatures seemingly stopped at the edge of the stranger's light, they choose to run toward it's offered sanctuary. Though the shadows damage them, they make it.

The fairy woman reveals that she is the sister to the Village queen, and that she has a sanctuary in the village itself. She tells them of how she sensed their presence and found Arys unconscious when she came to investigate. When the group tells her their mission, she insists that the druid circle is no longer a good place, that it has been cursed like the rest of the village and will only bring them death.

Though the party is loath to leave, they can sense no false-hood in their savior. Moreover, the faelinarie claims that her protections are dwindling and they must hurry back to her sanctuary if they hope to live. In hopes of bolstering her strength, Falco hands over his sliver of healing mushroom which she happily accepts.

As they travel back upriver, things start to unravel. First, they realize that their friend Arys is more than simply unconscious. Closer inspection reveals that he is quite dead. When their savior is questioned further, Calder senses falseness in her and sees that she is paying close attention to Cawyn. As they are crossing the bridge, Harrick spies the skeletons in the river, and sees that they are well within the radius of her so called protective light. And with that, the ruse is revealed.

In but a moment, their protector sees the look on Harrick's face, the light fades as she rises into the air. Her form shifts from tattered and fair to ragged and foul and a cruel, jagged laugh escapes,

"Now to be rid of the true taint to my precious valley! New playthings for the master. New toys for the Children. New parts for my collection. New flesh for the thorns!"

Though the heroes aren't completely taken unawares, their quick shot arrows and fiery bolts aren't enough to prevent the soul-wrenching scream that issues from the banshee's bleeding lips. In an instant, Cawyn, and Falco slump to the ground, the life torn from them. Harrick and Snap are sapped of energy but remain standing as the shadow sprites dive and attack.

The following battle atop the ruined bridge is one of the toughest the heroes have faced. Without teamwork, and the healing mushrooms, they would certainly fall. Even still, it's nearly not enough. During Cawyn's brush with death he feels a presence whispering to him, "You must reach the circle for my aid and protection," though he can't tell if it's his goddess or someone else.

Calder does amazingly well dodging the shadowy blades of the banshee's minions though his sprite bow is less than optimal against them. Every chance he gets he sends magic and arrows against the undead fae herself. Harrick is more effective against the ethereal shadows with his gemstone mace, but his strength is quickly sapped by their counter-blows. And when Cawyn is brought around by Snap's administering of mushroom, he bears the brunt of another moonbeam spell which sizzles into the banshee, though a later effort to shapechange fails and leaves him even further drained and weakened.

Finally, through terror inducing visages and strength stealing shadow, and more than a few brushes with death, the group sends the banshee screaming back into the void and pummels and skewers the last of the gathered shadows. Exhausted and dizzy with pain, they gather together at the center of the bridge, over the drained body of their faelinarie friend...

.... and notice with new horror, the two gnashing, zombified badgers testing the rotting planks at one side, and the slime covered skeleton skulking toward them on the other.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

A Broken Circle

Dec. 18, 572pfk
The Tiger Vale, Northern Manawyn

     As the molded claw emerges from the greenish water, Arys and Falco are the first to spring into action, though at first it's unclear what that action should be, run, or fight? Falco, Calder, Snap and Harrick spill out of the ruck sack, weapons at hand and the choice is made!

     The stone is slippery with a thin coating of algae and the monstrous crawfish, though cracked and moldy with slime and its own ichor spilling from holes, proves a formidable foe. Arys' dagger strikes true more than once and soon tiny fletched sprite arrows are sticking from the beasts face and chitinous hide. First Calder, then Harrick are snatched up by claws, but both manage to free themselves before the creature is able to pull them into the depths of the pool.

     Through it all, Cawyn bears the brunt of the arcanic pain and calls down a slice of moonbeam that continues to fry the unnatural beast with radiant light. Together with the damage done by fairy blade and arrow, and finally, a gutting upward thrust by Falco, the smelly horror is defeated... and then more properly gutted to check it for loot. Gross.

     Back into the ruck sack, after a quick bath for Falco, and they're on their way up the rest of the falls. When they reach the top, Arys is momentarily stunned with the view of his old village tree. The rest take in the sight as well, a withered and boulder strewn, narrow cleft of a valley, with the Tiger Vale river flowing through it.

     At its center in the distance, the remains of a still impressive golden oak stump, burned and broken at a height of nearly forty feet. The trees, the brush, the grass itself somehow seems brittle and unhealthy, despite the vitality of the rest of the forest. After giving the faelinarie a moment to control his emotions, they set off, quietly and carefully toward the old bridge and the moon circle beyond.

     A few minutes and they see their next disturbing sight. A massive buck raises his antlered head from the brush, revealing a hideous gash and exposed skull. Gore hangs from the tines of his antlers and his undead eyes reflect dully in the feint starlight. Stillness and silence keep their presence hidden. When the creature lowers its head once more, they move on.

     They come to a split in the overgrown trail. At the cross path, they spy three mounds of bone and cloth, skeletal remains of standard sized humanoids near the trail head to the moon circle. There is a large clump of thorny vines with tendrils extending outward toward the dead, the same type of unnatural thorns found in the clawed horror at the falls.

     While contemplating the scene, a haunting and beautiful voice rises up from the village tree, distant and ephemeral. It's female, singing an ancient version of a more common ballad in the sweet language of the sylvan folk. Arys recognizes it as Shaeya Loris, the sister of his queen, someone he thought killed in Laird Turath's attack.

     A decision must be made. Investigate the voice or continue to the moon circle? Arys agrees to bide their decision. Everyone realizes the chances are good that it's a trap, but still the faelinarie is torn. After a short, whispered discussion, they decide for the circle, reasoning it is best they have their casting abilities before investigating the village.

     Forward they go, Arys stepping lightly between the skeletal mounds and the dangerous vines. As he reaches the tightest spot in the trail, his hand brushes a stone and a vine shifts and falls. those peaking out the sack spot two more vines snaking forward from behind. A quick warning and the faelinarie darts ahead, leaving the vines grasping behind, tangling over the path and blocking retreat.

     They find the old bridge in a crumbling state, the magic that once sustained it seeming to have withered with the rest of the village. though it is unstable, it still seems passable for the smalls and their carrier. Halfway across, they spy shapes moving in the river below. Closer inspection reveals three more skeletons, crawling over half submerged rocks and reaching upward toward Arys.

     After another discussion, they decide that Arys should remain on the bridge, maintaining the attention of the skeletons from his safe position while the others continue alone to the circle, which can be seen from here near the edge of the river downstream. They set off along the weathered stone railing and along the path. Eventually they arrive at the hill of the circle, which much to their dismay, appears to be ringed around in the same devil vines, withered bodies of forest creatures impaled on various thorns.

     Having seen that one of the four dolmens had fallen over into the river, they decide to make a wide circle around the hill and seek an impromptu bridge over the vines. Unfortunately, halfway around the hill Snap is snatched up by an undead owl. Calder and Falco let fly with arrow and spell, causing the creature to drop the ranger from a dangerous height and swoop around at them.

     Falco runs to their companion's aid while Harrick and Calder do battle with the taloned fiend. It snatches up Harrick next but he's able to slash at it enough to destroy it just before it flies over the vines and into the circle. He lands with a roll that limits his damage but leaves him precariously close to the vines, which begin to move.

Join us next time.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

The Stones Above the Falls

Dec. 18, 572pfk
The Tiger Vale, Northern Manawyn

     Secure for the time being in the tree of Arys, the group rests and recuperates as best they can. While their faelinarie host is away, they discuss their options. Some think going back to the Laird Turath's mansion is the only way to find their stones and return themselves to the appropriate size. The majority believe the temple of the Traveler is their best chance, even if neither are great. Either way, by Arys's druidic charm of non-detection, they know they only have a limited time period before Turath finds them with a scrying spell.

     When Grello (aka Denrick) sees Snap attempting to carve a bow, he gets excited and shows the group his stash of sprite weapons and armor, which they happily accept. This brings them around to discussing the Durin pilgrim's problems again. On the off chance that Grello has a connection to the splintered gemstone, Calder gives him the shard. There's a violent reaction and Denrick is knocked to the floor. When he comes around, his wits have returned, as well as several inches of his height.

    With the bard's help, they learn that Sharhad Hasul, the protector spirit of the temple, was locked away when a unhallowing was laid over the temple and the protector's holy focus was removed. The confluence of magical power that once flowed to Sharhad Hasul is now diverted somewhere else. Denrick tells them they must:

1. Scratch out the runes of the last unhallowing and reconsecrate the temple with a Hallow Spell.

2. Replace the Holy symbol focus, which Cawyn believes to be a lantern, like the one given them by the Tinker, Mathias Drumholler.

     Unfortunately, Denrick's wits fade after a short conversation.

     When Arys returns, they catch their host up on what has happened. With the new information, and the knowledge that Drumholler's lamp is possibly in a backpack left outside the temple, more than ever they're ready to go to the temple. Only when Arys mentions the druidic moon circle at his destroyed village do they change their mind.

     With the hope of the circle being able to return their spellcasting abilities, they decide the ghosts and cursed protectors are worth the risk. Arys nervously agrees to take them, but it must be at night. The rest of the crew is left in the treehouse, while Calder, Cawyn, Harrick, Falco and Snap climb once more into the flightless faelinarie's rucksack, this time at least equipped with armor and weapons.

     Across the forest valley they go, quietly and carefully making their way up valley. At the river's edge they come across Master Moonshade and a few Kudra, but are able to stay hidden. A few minutes later they stop in a hollowed out old log, where Cawyn attempts a Pass Without Trace spell. it fails miserably and he's wracked with a sharp pain that forces him to cry out. The cry is heard by a couple sprite scouts, who approach the log. Luckily, Calder and Arys are able to kill the evil fey before they escape with word.

    Eventually, without further trouble, they find a series of stepped waterfalls that lead upward along a precarious path to the ruined faelinarie village. Readying themselves as best they can, Arys begins the climb. As he hops across the moss covered rocks of a turbid pool the air suddenly goes frigid and a mold covered claw the size of Arys's torso emerges from the water, snapping at the faelinarie and jostling the little's on his back!

Stay tuned!