Naturally, neither James nor Michael could make it to this session! We were joined by David, though, playing a Human Thief.
- +Annette plays Snowfall, a Human Paladin whose family owns an apothecary in Stormhaven.
- David plays Ret Inas, a Human Thief from the village of Dryfield.
- James (absent) plays Angus Arrowbeard, a Dwarven Archer/Rogue from a hold to the North.
- Michael (absent) plays Novim, an Elf Ranger who has sworn fealty to the local Lord.
- Sasha plays Kae Swiftfoot, a Monk/Rogue who owns a corn farm North of Stormhaven.
- Shane plays Typhus, a Wizard who seeks to make his fortune.
Unbeknownst to the party, when they left the small farming village of Dryfield they were being followed by Ret Inas, a local lad with skills not usually fostered by farmers, and with an itch for adventure - or profit, perhaps, from these well-equipped travellers from the South.
After defeating the orcs who were guarding it, the party camps in the old Elven shrine. Novim keeps watch but drifts off to sleep. Ret sneaks in to check out their stuff, but as he does so reality shimmers; the forest swells and grows, sprouting hedge-walls and thorny brambles, and the sky changes to an eerie aurora twilight. A cool breeze wafts through the open structure, and everyone awakes apart from Novim and Angus.
Ret remains hidden while the party checks out their new surroundings. Typhus believes they have been shifted into some sort of alternate reality, such as a pocket dimension or faerie world. Although the shrine itself appears to be the same, everything outside it has changed. The shrine is obviously the key to coming and going, but Typhus is fairly certain that they won't get stuck if reality shifts back without them being in the shrine.
Kae does a quick lap of the clearing to get a first impression of their new environment. The thick hedgerows have created four passages. From the North and the South, he hears the sound of flowing water. They decide to go North first, and notice Ret sneaking after them. Since they're all in the same boat he joins the group, although they keep an eye on each other.
The Northern path leads to a dead tree with a face carved in it, spewing black water out of its mouth into a basin formed by twisted roots. Kae takes some in his wineskin. When he pours a little on the ground, the grass shrivels and dies.
They next head South, and find a fountain of pure crystal-clear water. After some experimentation, they discover that it causes plants to rapidly sprout and grow, and that mixing it with the black water creates regular water. It doesn't seem to have any special effect on people, although they are not currently injured or fatigued.
West of the shrine they find a clearing with a large statue of an Elven archer in the centre, twice the height of a man, his bow drawn and pointing North along a forest pathway. Half-dead shrivelled vines cover the pedestal. They investigate the statue, discovering that the bow and arrow are a mechanism, implying that the arrow will be loosed under certain circumstances. They also discover holes or channels around the Elf's flowing stone robes, leading up into the stonework. Kae pours pure shrine water on the vines, and they spring back to life, growing and entering the holes in the statue. As they do so, the statue relaxes its bow-arm and lowers the bow.
The party heads North along the trail. After a short distance, they come upon another clearing, although this one is darker and surrounded by more dead plants. The remains of a fragmented skeleton lie at the end of the path, its head pinned to a tree on the far side of the clearing by a three-foot-long arrow obviously fired by the statue behind them. Half a dozen skeletons are milling around armed with longswords, so the group engages them. Typhus makes sure Ret gets out there and fights, so he can keep an eye on him. Kae tries pouring some of the pure fountain water over one of the skeletons; it has no effect on the undead directly, although as the water hits the ground the grass grows up and entwines the skeleton, restricting its movements. The skeletons are quickly destroyed, and the group moves on to the North.
They discover a large clearing surrounded by dead trees, the forest wall choked with enormous thorny vines. At the North end lies a paved square pond, from where the black water appears to be bubbling forth. It runs out of a channel and forms a vile stream flowing South. Next to the pool stands a massive gnarled tree; despite having its roots in the stream, it appears to have some semblance of life.
Kae approaches the tree, and one of its branches - long, jagged, and spiked at the tip - lunges from the foliage to stab at him. He evades it, and as the others follow he dashes over to the stream and pours pure spring-water from his flask onto one of its roots. The tree shudders, and the root turns crystal-white. More branches reach down and attack as Snowfall joins in. The paladin pours holy water onto the remaining roots, with similar effect! Typhus lightning-blasts the trunk and catches a couple of the branches, but has little effect. In return, he is stabbed by one of the mobile limbs and passes out, the tree also draining some of his life-force.
They use the last of the water on the roots to cut the tree off from the dark stream, and some of its spiked limbs start drooping. They fight the two remaining branches until Ret manages to split both of them with his dagger! Now disarmed, the evil tree slumps and dies. Disappointingly for Kae, his giant axe had little effect.
South-East of the dark spring, they find an area of foul-smelling bog. Run-off from the dark stream has created a poisoned swamp. They decide that it's not worth the trouble, and head back around the other way. Kae suggests they try using the pure fountain water to revive Typhus, but it has no apparent effect on people (other than making him very clean). Snowfall uses medical and magical skills to return him to health.
East of the shrine, they find a clearing with a strange tree in the centre. It appears to be living, but the branches have grown into a tangled sphere, as though woven around something. The branches are woven too tightly for them to see all the way in, although there does appear to be a mysterious glow inside the tree. Typhus advocates using the black water to make the tree wither and die, thus revealing the item within. Kae protests, saying he would rather respect this Elven place and not kill the tree unnecessarily. Ret volunteers to worm his way through the brances into the heart of the tree, and does so without getting stuck. There he finds a beautifully carved Elven bow of golden wood, and climbs safely back out of the tree with it.
To the South lies a hedge maze. Kae tries to mark a trail by dragging his axe along the ground, but Typhus realises that the maze's walls are shifting around them. The wizard takes the lead and guides the group through.
On the other side of the maze lies a clearing with a square pool, the mirror opposite of the one to the North. The plants are all in fine health, and the tree overlooking the pool is massive and green. As the party approach, however, a wall of brambles springs up across the clearing, denying them access to the pool. A booming voice tells them they should not be here. It turns out the tree is home to a dryad, who is the guardian of the Tomb of Eladrin, buried under the pure spring. They coax her out so they can talk face to face, and convince her they only want to leave. Once they tell her they've slain the dark tree, she agrees to help them leave if they can purify the black spring - the Tomb of Laguna, Eladrin's lover, who was cursed by a necromancer. They do so. In the newly purified pool, they find a Wand of Vines. They return to the dryad, who rewards them with Eladrin's Cloak of the Marksman. She gives them herbs that will awaken their sleeping comrades.
They return to the shrine and awaken Novim and Angus. Everyone returns to the normal world, where it is dawn, and discovers the shrine is being approached by an orc warband who must have been using the shrine as a staging post!
The orcs are suspicious because the sentries they left at the shrine haven't answered their calls. They fan out and approach as the group hides to varying degrees, but some are soon spotted and the orcs rush in. Four archers take pot-shots from a distance, but most of the fighting takes place inside the ruin. Typhus blasts lightning as the orcs rush him. Kae engages the orc leader, and fights him toe-to-toe for the whole battle in an epic struggle! Snowfall provides melee support, and uses the Wand of Vines to entangle a few orcs who are then fried by Typhus. Ret sneaks through the forest and assassinates one of the archers, then engages his partner in close combat and strikes him down as he attempts to flee. Typhus uses the Staff of Skulls to raise one of the fallen orcs. The two remaining archers turn to flee when one of them accidentally hits their leader with an ill-aimed shot! With the rest of the orcs gone, everyone gangs up on the war-chief and he finally falls.
The party is now thinking of returning to Dryfield, to see if they can get any more useful information out of the bard.
>>> Session 4