Kingdom of Arboria, Year 6, Sarenith 3rd
Nothing overly strange happened last night, by which I mean Arboria was not, to my knowledge, forcibly invaded by strange extraplanar entities or threatened by resurrected magical beasts. Thus, we held a council this morning and decided to do some investigation into what the griffon tits is happening around here. Hence, we left the kingdom behind and flew out to the Black Forest at Pitax's western edge.
It's not a particularly unusual forest, except that we've found an abnormal number of fey. Gelros even encountered some old acquaintance named Tittertuck, and broken into a spontaneous performance that tied up the next half hour. It's hard to be annoyed about it because he's so damn good at singing, though. Besides, we learned something useful: Tittertuck and the other minor fey like the energy here, but bigger, meaner faeries keep coming from the west so they won't go further that way.
Kingdom of Arboria, Year 6, Sarenith 4th
Castle of Knives
Exploring westward, we came today on some ancient ruins ensconced in a weirdly compelling illusion spell. It appears that a glittering castle rises from the forest, shining in clean, white marble and covered in asymmetric pointed spires. On closer inspection, though, the place is a ruin: overgrown mossy foundations with nearly no structure left. The exception is a fully intact stone arch and wrought iron gate within, set into the otherwise ruined stone fence encircling the castle.
The gate itself shimmers; Gelros and Nareth concluded that it is phasing in and out of this reality. We surmise it is a portal, key-activated, and presumably to the first world. Near it, our dead swans glow brightly with an odd inner magic, but themselves will not open the portal. Gelros believes they may be a part of the key, but insufficient on their own. We might be able to go through with them, but wouldn't be able to get back.
There's something even more odd: remember that book? Zuddiger's Picnic? Well, Kris pointed out off-handedly that this castle and, specifically, this gate bear an uncanny resemblance to the illustrations in the book. And he's right; they do. It seems there's more to it than meets the eye.
Kingdom of Arboria, Year 6, Sarenith 8th
There's a tense quiet in the kingdom. We flew back to Bandit's rest several days ago by way of White Rose Abbey, where it is no longer strangely jungly but where also the veil separating our reality from… somewhere else seems to have grown thin. The air tingles with energy, not unlike being caught exposed in a lightning storm. (I don't recommend this by the way.)
On the 6th, we traveled south to consult a resident "witch", an acquaintance of Gelros and the others from before I came to Arboria. Her house was deserted and we searched for her unsuccessfully. We did, however, find a storebox with some journals, written in Sylvan. Most of the entries are filled with monotonous complaining about Arboria, it's citizens, gnomercists and anti-gnomercists, etc., but more recently she describes a weird and beautiful fey lady who she met several times. Then the journals end.
Yesterday, we checked the unicorn corpse in the forest glade. It's still there, untouched, unspoiled, and shunned by wildlife. It doesn't, however, appear to contain the same magic as the swans.
Today, we spent a restless day in the capital, pondering what to do next. We set Candlekeep's scholars on researching the black wyrm Ilthuliak, just to keep them busy.
Kingdom of Arboria, Year 6, Sarenith 10th
Finally an eventful day, but unfortunately, not a great one for Ostnend. But let me back up. This morning early, Tiressa reported a massive infestation of mold and fungus has begun to the southwest of Bandit's Rest. As I went in to tell Gelros, I encountered Kris, who reported seeing some slight movement at the iron gate (which he has been watching through the mirror). We left within the hour to respond to the "bloom" (which is the term we've decided to call these incursions).
At the origin, the entire landscape was covered in creeping fungus, which grew back almost as soon as it was destroyed (by fire, defoliant, etc.). Across the fungus ran thousands of what appeared to be be strange, stunted, mandragora monsters, chittering and crying with sounds that eerily mimic children in distress. From some depth of his memory, Gelros recalled that mandragores are vulnerable to darkness, so we continued to explore through the night. The creatures eventually settled down to sleep all around us, the carpet growing thicker as we moved inward.
We found nothing of interest all night. (I mean, except tiny monstrous extraplanar plants… there were plenty of those.) Just before dawn, we received an urgent sending from Baern that Ostnend was under assault. However, just then the creatures began to stir and attack us en masse. Their shrieks and wails hurt one's head; most of us were left retching in the opening moments of the encounter. Indeed, I lost complete control of my stomach for nearly a minute, during which I vaguely observed Narzeth and Raven burning through swathes of tiny plants, Gelros vibrating some to death with raw sonic power, and then Jaric igniting a wide swath of mandragores on fire. And me. And Haiku. Neither of us could summon enough energy to dodge the flames.
For a moment, it looked like the mandragores would overwhelm us: they swarmed Gelros and Jaric, who looked ok, and onto Evariel and Spike, who looked noticeably drained. By now, I was trying to roll to put out the flames, Haiku was flapping in a panic, and Kris was calmly sharpening Briar on one madragore at a time. Moments later, though, more fire from Gelros combined with a fire elemental that Jaric had summoned finished the creatures off. They imploded in a massive burst of energy.
When everything was quiet, the fungus was gone, replaced by bare dirt and scoured dead wood. Millions of mandragora corpses littered the ground. When I had recovered and self-extinguished, I scooped several hundred of them into a sack. We then teleported directly to Ostnend, leaving our companions with the airship.
We teleported onto the roof of the castle keep, and snuck inside. Outside the walls, a scene of carnage awaited: the castle guard were slain and a large number of two-headed giants that I vaguely recognize as ettins were guarding the parapets. Gelros tells us this is quite weird; ettins are usually loners and very rarely place themselves in the open like this in an organized force. They prefer to bash your head with a rock from the safety of a hidey hole. Nice fellows.
There didn't seem much for it except to clear the castle grounds, so we did. Evariel opened a door, Kris charged the nearest ettin while wielding Briar, and we followed. Several things then happened all at once. Kris noticed and called our attention to a satyr who was hiding behind the wall. Nearly simultaneously, said satyr noticed and called the attention of all the ettins to Kris: "There he is! Get him!" Ettins began running.
Oddly, the satyr did, in fact, appear to want specifically to eliminate Kris. He fired six arrows in rapid succession: one which Kris blocked, one he dodged, one that pinged harmlessly off his breastplate, and three that found their mark. In response, Evariel sent a destruction spell into the satyr's face, knocking him back and nearly flat. Kris followed with a charge and a swipe by briar that by all rights should have finished him off, but he still stood. I felt it was Kris's fight, so I held my fire and contented myself with a different fire: the faerie kind. Sort of a bluish purple. Quite a nice shade. I was admiring the effect when Gelros finished the creature off himself with weaponized song.
[Editor's Parenthetical Comment: Briar at this time gained another sharpness point. "Briar is so edgy it's emo" -Matt/Gelros]
The rest of the combat was more of a cleanup. Gelros charmed one of the ettins and hid him in a corner while Evariel, Narzeth, and I mopped up the others still threttining the castle. We weren't lettin' any of them get away. Kris then told us matter-of-factly that his sword was "Gettin' smarter." Gelros summoned his pocket ettin back from where it was settin. I'm bettin' you're tired of these puns now.
Anyhow, Gelros politely interrogated his captive ettin. The dumb bloke couldn't put a sentence together that contained more than two words. Who sent him? "Pretty lady." He was basically useless. Gelros sent him off to the north to hike until he found a nice place to ambush some poor, unsuspecting fools. Shooting him would have been easier, but somewhat unsporting, I suppose.
So, to summarize: a bloom, followed by a clever ambush by an archer with as much or more skill than myself, specifically designed to draw us out and expose Briar to recovery. The tactics are growing in sophistication, but luckily for us, our foe still underestimates us.
- Explore forest hex (6,-12) (150 XP)
- Explore forest hex (6,-13) (150 XP)
- Explore forest hex (5,-13) (150 XP)
- Explore forest hex (5,-14) (150 XP)
- Defeat the mandragores (76,800 XP)
- Thwarting the ettins and their satyr overlord (172,800 XP)
- +3 leather armor
- +3 seeking composite longbow
- Greater bracers of archery
- Helm of teleportation