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!


Monday, December 11, 2017

Luck Rabbits

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

     Stuck between an irate rabbit and the poison barbed arrows of the unseelie sprites, the dirty, exhausted group of littles make their way toward the side tunnel. Upon closer inspection of the hare, Falco and Cawyn realize it's magical nature, deducing that it is in fact a Hare of Rhiswyn, a golden furred luck rabbit. They advance up the side tunnel and don't get far before they are jumped by a pair of evil looking weasels.

     Though Harrick takes some injury, they manage to vanquish the first weasel. Instead of dying, it reverts to its true form, becoming a Kudra minion and filling the small tunnel to over capacity with it's goblin bulk, smooshing several of the little fighters into the hard packed dirt walls around its head and shoulders. On the plus side, it neatly blocks the passage and prevents the other weasel or sprites from joining the fray.

     Pain and a little time sees Cawyn, Harrick and Falco free and the group continues along the tunnel, leaving the wounded and cursing kudra behind. Eventually they come to tunnel's end, an exit from the burrow. Unfortunately, the group's exhaustion and thirst is quickly growing to be too much. Huddled near the exit, they wait for Falco and Snap to scout out their path.

     The two scouts quickly realize the Luck rabbit's fur must be helping to keep the den entrance hidden. After taking some back to the group, they find another entrance within the rock pile where they hide from a sprite scout, and then are nearly killed by the second weasel. "Luckily", they are saved by a mysterious wingless faelinarie who skewers the weasel and kills the kudra which it reverts to.

     Returning and explaining things to the group, they take their savior's aid and climb into his ruck sack, being carried swiftly away from the scene and through the forest. When they emerge from the pack, they find themselves on the treetop front porch of the Faelinarie's arboreal home. They are led inside, given food and water and allowed to clean up.

     They learn their savior's name is Arys. He is a lone survivor of his tribe's war against the evil Laird Turath. It was the arch fey who took his wings. They learn from Arys the following bits of information:

1. Laird Turath has been setting traps for airship crews and lone travelers at the temple for over thirty years.

2. A band of Air pirates collect the ships after their crew has been shrunken and enslaved. Arys knows little about the pirates.

3. The temple is ancient, and was once dedicated to a demi-power of Gleeve, a powerful gynosphinx named Sharhad Hasul. The flying cats are a small, remaining vestige of her power.

4. Arys rescued another micro-slave two months ago. He is addled in the brain and simple-minded and goes by the name Grello. Dennia recognizes him as Denrick Fallhollow, the escaped Gleevian pilgrim.

     After a restful night's sleep, Arys offers to gather components for Cawyn and Falco. He informs the group that there are still a couple patrols of Kudra in the valley, and a group at the temple. Otherwise it seems the manhunt has been lessened.

    Thankful for the Faelinarie's help, and at least temporary respite from being hunted, the tiny crew of the Maven sip hot soup from acorn cups and discuss their next steps.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Mr. Rat's Wyld Ride

Dec. 17, 572pfk
The Manse of Laird Turath, Mar Nan Os - The Fey Wild

     Time is pressing and plans are hurried along. The group gathers what minimal supplies they can and make their way to the wall, where Harrick and the officers help the less athletic in their climb. Cawyn and Falco rush down, where they meet up with the rats and re-establish relations.

     Yellowtooth, the rat who appears to be in charge of the other rodents, offers to carry the group outside, and none too soon, as the fey household is beginning to wake for the day. As the crew and slaves ride the rats, some three our four to beast, the first casualty occurs in the dangerous jump from the pillar to the bookcase. Erru Dorsett, the slave scribe, falls from the rat's back and to his death.

     After making their way into the crawlspace between floors, they finally come to a narrow crack that leads outside. In honor of the last portion of their deal, Yellowtooth gives the group a whole emerald, which he claims came from the fey master's drawers. The stone glows with warmth and actually hums with power.

     Outside of the crack is a wet, crisp fall-ish day in the fey wyld. They get their first good view of the raised hill on which Laird Turath's mansion perches, surrounded on all sides by a dense green forest. Following the simple directions given by the rats, the group finds a dangerous "stairway" of loosened stone in the outer tower wall which they begin to descend. They are headed to the front of the mansion and to a pillared circle where the rift gate is.

     A quarter of the way down, they are attacked by one of the huge, toothy frogs camouflaged against the tower wall. Wanting nothing to do with the dangerous threat, Cawyn wastes no time Moonbeaming the amphibian, sending it flailing into the vine covered hillside.

     From inside they all hear the sound of Master Moonshade raising the alarm. Deciding it's a good time to test a theory, after getting a little distance from the Durin, Harrick gives Cader the emerald. With a magical pop, the tiny slave reverts to his true size and slides off the wall and into the ivy below. Gathering the rest of the littles, hairy, naked Cader runs across the causeway and toward the portals.

     When confronted by a troupe of unseelie sprites, he only pauses a moment before rushing forward and diving through the stones. Unfortunately he's not quick enough to avoid at least one enchanted arrow in the cheek. Like that, they find themselves once more in the Tiger vale of the middle realm. After a brief look around at the unfamiliar clearing, they choose a animal trail and begin running.

     While they do, another unhelpful situation becomes apparent as more than half of the crew begins to quickly forget the details of their time in the Fey Wyld.

     Cader's natural Durin resilience to the sleepy time poison begins to ebb also and he stumbles off the trail. When he drops two of the crew, they get him to stop. Snap brings up the somewhat heartbreaking realization that they will have to abandon Cader if they have any hope of escaping pursuit. Lying to the naked, drugged Durin, they send him off into the forest on his own.

     No more than a half candle later they hear the sound of fey pursuit from the gate. Horns and hounds begin the chase as the tiny escapees make their way to a mound of stones and earth, steering clear of spiders and making their way into the pile.

     In the distance, they hear the sounds the faerie hounds attacking someone. Most likely Cader.

    Deep into the muddy stones, they also hear the sound of hounds digging and snorting at their path. Snap finds a burrow of some sort and they drop into it. Choosing a direction they set off. Behind them they hear the eerie voices of the Unseelie sprites in pursuit. Ahead, a pair of eyes peeks around the corner and they are faced with a huge, furry, hare.

    A side tunnel breaks away between them and the burrow maker. Armed sprites approach from somewhere behind. Several of the crew are fatigued from the arduous run through the undergrowth. Most only have a vague idea where they are, and no idea why they are so small.

To be continued...

Monday, November 13, 2017

Levers, Pulleys and Big Big Bullies

Dec. 17, 572pfk
The Manse of Laird Turath, Mar Nan Os - The Fey Wild

     Falco and Harrick watch Calder and Cawyn make their way to a cabinet at the base of the shelf, then begin to explore the sparse desktop.

     In the first book they're able to make out dates and quantities. The most recent dates are from yesterday, noting a pending sale of 16 stones, selling each item for between 1000 and 5000 gold to a person or entity named Rolsten Cam. There is also a note under the entry: “Heavily Damaged Cog with War Crystal - auction pending. Awaiting Seahand’s word.”

Upon further investigation, Falco also notices some kind of scaling system of 1-10 next to the sixteen items. As well, there are two small letters next to each entry, (MN, MT, MN, MD, MK, FN, MK, etc.)

The next book appears to be of better make, and is clasped shut with a leather and brass tab which the two tiny heroes have some difficulty opening. After several failed attempts, they finally rig a lever out of the Laird's quill and ink pot that does the trick, but breaks the quill.

They quickly open and scan the book, finding it to be yet another ledger of numbers and things sold to people or estates. Sylvan titles like “Glaurfynial Keep,” “Hall of the Gloomlord” are present, along with something about the skill and quality of the slaves. Older entries have a “Sold status” with the exception of four: Two female Nerans and one male Neran. There are fourteen new entries with simple descriptions:

Autumn/Durin/Male - Manual Labor
Summer/Neran/Male - Gladiatorial?
Summer/Neran/Female - academic
Summer/Orokan/Male - Gladiatorial “Moonshade”

Meanwhile, in the cabinet, Cawyn and Calder have discovered a glass-like sliver of orange crystal which will work quite well as an improvised shortsword.

Everyone freezes when they hear the sound of footfalls on the stairs. Falco and Harrick quickly scramble to return things to their original positions and run for the wax draped skull, their legs disappearing into the eye sockets as the Kuranani known simply as Master Moonshade enters the study, makes a tour of the room and investigates the slave village and the desk before returning up the stairs.

Serious exhaustion is setting in now, as is proven by Harrick falling off the desk during the climb down. Only another clutch Featherfall by Falco saves both of them from serious injury.

While heading back across the floor to the Village table, they are surprised by Moonshade once more. Falco and Calder barely make it out of sight when the giant nabs Harrick and Cawyn. Harrick uses his splinter sword to good effect jabbing it deep into Moonshade's palm, and once more when he's dropped and the giant tries to grab him. He's too tired to evade the second slap, which leaves him badly injured on the carpeted floor. It is only Cawyn's calming words describing Harrick's obvious value that save the Oroka from a nasty end.

In quiet angry tones, Moonshade awakens the village and questions the captured slaves. When it becomes apparent he's going to do a head count, Falco comes out of hiding as well, to prevent a search that might reveal Calder. The three slaves are put into one of the magical golden cages until the morning, when Laird Turath will deal with them.

As Cawyn, Harrick and Falco talk with the rest of the crew, Cader and the remaining slaves, Calder finds the rest of the orange gem in the cabinet. It is cracked and partly shattered, but retains a magical warmth. He takes the time necessary to study the gem and eventually deduces it to be a slave gem, containing the remaining magical essence of a slave's missing mass. He then makes his tired way back to the village.

Up top, Cawyn turns aside a scared Erru's plans to spill the beans. A plan is hatched to speed up the escape. The miniature livestock are slaughtered to feed the rats and Calder, Snap and Wall make yet one more foray to the desk, to retrieve the jade key that will open the cage. This again requires some interesting uses of levers and pulleys to open the drawer. Calder's tail proves clutch.

Leaving the desk a mess, they return to the village to find that the rats have already begun collecting the meat from where it has been thrown to the study floor. They use the key to free the caged prisoners, Cawyn takes the pain of a healing ritual to fix up Harrick's busted ankle and arm and they ready themselves to talk to the rats.

There can be little more than a candle before the residences of the house begin to wake. The tiny slaves nervously watch as the crew begins to enact the final parts of their rushed plan.

Will they escape in time?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Rodents Of Usual Size? I don't think they exist.

Dec. 17, 572pfk
The Manse of Laird Turath, Mar Nan Os - The Fey Wild

     The meeting consists of the group plus Hennesey, Bosun Delver and Snap. Hennesey is unable to give any more detail concerning her theory on "artifacts of missing mass" in alchemical arcana. When Cader joins them, Harrick takes a chance and reveals the Captain's presence after the slave boss expresses an interest in coming with them should they decide to make an escape attempt.

     Cader also warns them that Master Moonshade, the Kuranani who oversaw their training, was very interested in Harrick, and might snatch him away in the next couple days. This is enough to hurry their plans. The officers plus Snap make a dangerous climb out of the village in search of rats.

     Investigation of the shelf, after a close call with a kudra servant, reveals a rodent's path up a stone serpent statue in the corner, across the top shelf and then along a narrow ledge around the room. While Cawyn preps a ritual, Falco makes his way to the top shelf to hopefully track down a rat.

     He finds two and narrowly escapes becoming their dinner, then narrowly avoids becoming a pancake when his concentration waivers from the spell pain of a feather fall spell. The rats race after him, coming down the statue quickly. Harrick keeps them at bay with a sword given him by Cader while Cawyn concentrates past his own pain and casts a Speak with Animals spell. The rats nearly run away, suddenly fearing the little adventurers, but the tiny druid is able to convince them to stay and listen, through the tried and true lure of "sweet, stinky meat."

     Over the following conversation, it is learned that Denrick Fallhallow apparently befriended and used the rats to make his escape to the "magic hole" outside the mansion, but caused them to lose several of their brothers and sisters to the dangers of outdoors. Though the rats are loath to go outside again, they eventually agree to bring the group something shiny, and to show them a hidden way outside in exchange for large quantities of said sweet, stinky meat.

     This deal made, the group says goodbye to the rats and heads toward Laird Turath's desk. This climb proves too much for Calder and Cawyn, but Harrick and Falco see two large books on the desktop that look promising, if also taxing to open.

     It is here that we rejoin the adventure.