Thank you Kyle for doing the write up for this! You Drock!!
Escaping the Tree
After Erydeni completed the ritual, whatever was keeping the peace in the tree seemed to fade. We needed to make our escape and find a place to rest. We snuck past the fighting kenku and kobolds, and made our way back to the elevator vines.
In just a few minutes we were in the cavernous hollow with the strange music and crowd of dancing creatures. Only now they were not dancing, but fighting with each other. Feywin told us she would see us at the bottom and she jumped out of the tree. She fell as slowly as the kenku’s feathers, which were now raining down on everything like some kind of morbid blizzard. We tried to follow her lead, but the strange potion vines, which previously let us fall like the feathers, were shriveled and empty. Looks like we were going down the long way.
While we were coming up with a plan, the kenku and kobolds had surrounded us. They asked for healing from the emerald eyes. It was obvious that the eyes were useless in our current state, but Erydeni healed a few of them with her own divine magic and was able to buy us some time to get to the next level down the tree. (Surprisingly quick thinking for a brainwashed cleric).
On our way out of the great hall, something entirely unexpected happened. At first, I thought I was seeing a ghost! Caspar, the halfling who started on our first adventure so long ago! But no, it somehow turned out to be his brother, a cleric named Carmine. A chance meeting that seemed a little contrived, but we were too busy running to question it. As we neared the exit we heard a terrible shrieking that reverberated in the hard wood under our feet. Only a fool would stop to ask a halfling about his origins in a situation like that. Still, it was almost hard to stomach the reality that another damn cleric was joining our party.
Feywin was waiting for us at the entrance. A quick glance where we tied up our horses revealed a pool of blood and some giant claw marks from (I’m assuming) whatever creature was shrieking above us. We decided to head to the nearest town of Grunwald to get horses, supplies, and much-needed rest before taking on our next foe at the Ruins of Gunthar
As we neared the town, we met a man who very clearly hated halflings. We would soon come to understand that most of the town’s residents felt the same. But for now, our party went separate ways to get supplies.
Feywin, Eramyr, and myself went to the magic shop. At the time, the man and his wares seemed very convincing. Feywin bought a ring that was said to make her better at discerning people’s intentions. Eramyr bought a ring with a spider on it, a simple piece of jewelry to make its wearer better at climbing. Truthfully, I wish I had been able to buy the spider ring, but alas my gold purse was feeling rather light. After a fruitless attempt at bartering the man down, I decided to keep my small purse. A stroke of luck for me since the rings turned out to be less than genuine. But it was (perhaps) a painful lesson for Feywin and Eramyr. If we ever return to the town, I will help them get their gold back.
Meanwhile, Villag visited the smith to repair his armor. I don’t know what money or services were exchanged, but he emerged with a strange snake helmet that he said was “for Kobar.” He also emerged amorless, leaving it with the smith for some “standard repairs”. A phrase that apparently means different things in different towns (but I’m getting ahead of myself.)
The clerics of course went to the temple, since mindless devotion is their thing, but it seems that our new friend Carmine is as good at getting himself into a bind as he is at paying respects to our deaf deities. He crossed the proprietor of the town bar. Bob.
Now I’ve met racist jerks before. My own high elf father-in-law did not approve of my wedding with Alais. But Bob… Bob takes the cake. This man’s hatred for halflings borders on the pathological. Carmine’s mere presence ruffled Bob’s feathers, but I think the halfling spit in his eye (a disgusting, but not unjustified retort to Bob’s verbal abuse) probably didn’t help either, and he was chased out of the bar.
It turns out our small friend is more than capable of taking care of himself though. With Bob refusing to give up the chase, Carmine simply stopped, turned, and reached out a hand to touch his pursuer. Bob stopped in his tracks and appeared to be wounded him with something nasty. Carmine’s a bit more powerful than his brother I think. Hopefully he sticks with us for a while.
After the long day, it was time to eat and get some rest. Sensing the less-than-welcoming nature of the townsfolk, our clerics decided to play mom and son. A ruse that would have unraveled in any other town, but I guess they breed them different in Grunwald. I asked for a different inn, hoping to give my coin to a more deserving proprietor, but I was overruled (and to be honest, knowing the people we’d met thus far, probably wouldn’t have been any better.) We at least avoided dining at Bob’s for our dinner, although the place we ended up at was still full of the same folks. Carmine continued to go unnoticed as Erydeni’s son, and the bigger cleric managed to win some money in a dice game. (What kind of clerics are these anyway?)
That night at the inn, we overheard Bob and his wife next door. The man was plotting to round up some townsfolk to go after Carmine. I was contemplating slipping out the window to intercept him before he could do any damage, when Erydeni knocked on his door and offered to heal his wounds. The healing seemed to calm him down, and he offered us breakfast the next morning. I guess I should give the cleric more credit. Along with buying us time to escape the tree, this was the 2nd situation’s she’d diffused that day without resorting to violence.
The following morning we made our preparations before heading to Bob’s place. We stopped by the livery for horses where we met another of Grunwald’s finest citizens. A lecherous old man whose backwards beliefs seemed to crumble with a single kiss between Feywin and Erydeni. If he were an elf, I might have pegged him for Kobar’s dad.
We left the stables with haste and met up with Villag who was retrieving his armor from the smith. He exited the shop and revealed some interesting modifications to his mail: 2 shiny brass rings, which I can only assume are for better protecting the fighter’s nipples. Or maybe they are targets? The craftsmanship was solid, but by the look on Villag’s face, I don’t think the “artistic elements” were added at his request.
At this point, we were all anxious to get our breakfast over and leave this town and its people for good. We tied our horses up and went into Bob’s place. We convinced him to retrieve his brother, and to sit down at the table with us. They obliged, completely unaware of the Erydeni-and-Carmine mother-and-son ruse. Our group began to make puns and jokes playing off the word “short” for what seemed like a very long time. Too long, some might say. But our hosts were still oblivious. I’ll admit that I inwardly chuckled a few times.
After our party had its fun, Feywin decided to teach the men a lesson. With the same magic she used to shrink the bear in the tree, she reduced Bob’s brother down to halfling size. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but at the same moment, she glowed as bright as the sun. After a momentary stupor, Bob regained his precious few wits and claimed she was some kind of devil. He screamed and shouted for help, so I calmed him with the sleeping touch of my quarterstaff.
At this point, it was very obviously time for us to leave, so we grabbed our horses and made haste out of the backwards, Podunk town.
We headed down the road toward the ruins of Gunthar. All was fine until we crossed the river and a few in our party started suffering from the mental intrusions of Vitor, the vile presence that has been spreading across the land. At nearly the same time, we noticed the taloned tracks made by some kind of giant bird, or maybe a lizard. As we continued along the path, the forest started changing around us, and we began to see strange humanoid statues made of mud.
Curious, I poked one with my staff. Nothing seemed to happen at first. Then out of nowhere, one of its hands swung at me and knocked me off my horse. I lay there on my back as I watched the mud men do the same to the rest of our party. After a few rounds, the mud men joined us on the ground. They didn’t seem to mean us any real harm, which is good because it was nearly impossible to damage them. Something tricky was afoot.
Further down the path, we eventually came to a place where the forest encroached over the road, forming an impenetrable barrier. The wind picked up and forced us and our horses off to a side path and right up to the mouth of a cave. With literally nowhere else to go, Carmine offered to investigate (after taking a bit of invisibility potion that we had saved from the tree.)
We waited for what seemed like an eternity, when without any warning, Villag was suddenly lifted up in the air. His undergarments seemingly trying to make their escape from his backside. Must’ve been quite a discomfort with the added weight of his heavy armor trying to pull him back down to the earth. It was a wedgie the likes of which I hadn’t seen since my days of drunken bar fights all those years ago. If it weren’t for the uncertain fate of our new halfling friend, I probably would have laughed out loud. But I held my emotions in check and only let a slight smirk befall my face.
As the fighter returned to the earth, a black dragon emerged from the cave. A wave of panic briefly washed over the group before it changed form to reveal a faerie dragon.
In the monastery, I was taught the ways of metallic dragons, but I was warned that dragons like the one before me can spell trouble. It seems that they delight in playing tricks on people. I remembered something Master Fat said when I asked more about these creatures. His tone was flat as his mind recalled a memory that it seemed he’d rather forget. His advice was short:
“Try to part ways as quickly as possible.”
Fortunately for us, the faerie dragon seemed interested in the closed-minded, racist people of Grunwald. It giggled gleefully as it headed back down the road.
There was a part of me that wanted to follow the creature and watch the chaos ensue. But I quickly quieted such thoughts. We have a mission to perform. A duty to protect the people of Succumber. It is time to see about some witches in the Ruins of Gunthar.