There is a phrase out in the world:
"You should be careful what you wish for."
"You should be careful what you wish for."
Especially when there is a Paladin of Law and Justice involved.
After the failed attempt to kill the Count - and the party along with him - we gathered all of our supplies and provisions with additions by the Count's blessing, and we set out on the road toward Waycom.
Although wary, and on the alert for further attacks or scrying attempts, we traveled without incident. There are several little towns and hamlets along the main road here, and Vendare was the first that we reached. The river Arda flows to just to the south, and Vendare boasted some river traffic, but not much.
We entered the little town uncontested, and used the down time to refresh and scout for rumors of the brigands we hunted. The road has been...quiet.. so far, and although we remain vigilant, there has not been any sign or hint of attack.
Shalev and Fife set out to discover what news they could find, with the cover story that Shalev was in search of new trade goods and potential waypoints for said trade for his family. Fife cautioned him in a quiet aside that while setting himself up as a traveling noble was perfectly fine, that he should be more wary with flashing money around,as most of the people we will be dealing with will have never even seen a gold piece, much less know what to do with one, and that making it openly known that he carries such riches negligently would paint a particularly tempting target on his back. Shalev agreed to the caution, and pointed out he was going to get more silver from the count, but was unable to do so, as the audience with the Count resulted in a swift departure. He further pointed out that as he was arranging things and paying for them out of his own pocket, suggestions would be more useful then complaints, and Fife offered to pay when needed.
Fife, interestingly enough, seems to have taken to his role as bodyguard rather diligently, and also seems to relish the task of acting as a go-between for Shalev.
After a night in Vendare, and no news to be found, we set back out on the road to Waycam.
The second night on the road, during my watch, I got the distinctly uneasy feeling that we were being watched. I turned quickly, but there was no one behind me. It was then I realized that what I felt was a scrying attempt. -Is this a new ability of mine? I have never been able to discern being scried on before now. Is this a new ability in my growing presence as a Sacred Druid, I wonder? It bears looking into.-
I quietly notified Tobias of what I felt, and we woke KelLyn as it was her turn on watch anyway. She cast a dispell to stop the scrying, but was uncertain if it went off successfully. It apparently did, or whatever ...whomever..was scrying made no further attempts that night.
The following day, we arrived at the next little hamlet on the road - a place called Arth. We made a very brief stop to purchase some sheep to feed Amit - much to the wide eyed disbelief of the inn keeper. We decided to continue on without stopping, however, and after another 4 days, we reached Newcom.
Despite Tobias' extreme dislike of horses, I must admit that having them with us, and being able to travel via horseback has been efficient. These are sturdy animals - built for hard work and farm labor more than speed - but they still are quite convenient for traveling on the road as we have been.
Newcom was much the same as the towns before, and we agreed to spend an evening at the inn, to do some scouting and information gathering as before. The news was that trade was extremely slow due to the constant attacks by brigands and bandits, but oddly enough, we are still unable to discern any further information about the matter.
After another week of easy travel, we come across a lonely inn, off to the side of the road. Here, at last, we are able to gather some new information. Rumors of flying monsters that come in the night. Again, the evil in the swamp is mentioned, and the terrible confirmation that these flying things are making off with children. The innkeeper there also directs us to the Robin's Breast Inn which is about another week's travel down the road. He says that there is a somewhat average bard that plays there, but that it would undoubtedly be a better place to find the information that we are seeking.
So we set off further down the road. A few days later, we encounter an old man wandering the highway. All of us are instantly alert, as this was one of the warnings we heard from the survivors in the Count's court. That an old man always preceded the attacks.
We approach the old man with caution, and he tells us that he is searching for his family - his son Merc, and his daughter-in-law Anna - who left Waycom months ago to get away from the growing evil there. This confirms the rumors that we have been hearing, and he gives us little more information other than the city is basically unguarded and that anyone there who is out after dark is never seen again. We manage to get him to agree to travel with us to the inn, where he could rest and regain some of his health.
That night, we are scryed on again, at second watch; and again, I am the one who feels the attempt. This time we woke Shalev who immediately cast a dispel evil - which caused the attempt to cease abruptly.
The next day, as we continued along the road, we came upon a large colony of ants the size of small dogs. The colony was quite active, and the ants were extremely vicious looking, although they seemed to pay no attention to us as long as we left them alone. As we started to move on, Tobias spoke up and said he wanted to grab a few of the ants to eat.
We all warned him profusely that it was not a wise idea, but he was insistent, saying that seeing the ants made him homesick for a taste of desert food. So we asked him to allow the party to travel down the road for several minutes to put distance between us and the ants before he riled them up. He agreed, and we traveled further ahead. He returned cheerfully and somewhat out of breath, a few minutes later, with a large ant carried on a spear. He laughed and said that was exhilarating fun, and even I had to just smile and shake my head. I forget, sometimes, how very young he is. I think it's part of what endears him to me. He still has the capability to be impulsive.
Later that day, we run upon a straggled group of refugees traveling the opposite direction on the road. We agree to stop and do what we can for them, and they confirm stories from Waycom about flying monsters, evil in the swamp, missing children, and the terrible state of the now failing town. It seems that they are one of yet many groups that are trying to make their way to safety while they still can. Women, children, only a few men. We build a second camp for the group, and set about to refill water skins, cure ailments, and share what food we can spare with them.
I was able to successfully cast a spell to increase the amount of grain that they carry with them. It's not much, but it will hopefully allow them to stretch their supplies until they can reach the next town, where the five gold pieces Shalev gave them should help them resupply as much as the town will permit. I also do a small blessing on the party to help protect them as best I can. We warn them of the ant colony - now undoubtedly riled up from Tobias' antics - and they also agree to let the old man travel with them.
A day or so further down the road, on a whim (or perhaps divine inspiration) Shalev casts a dispel evil. We startled into battle-ready alertness when, upon completion of the spell, a group of 12 bandits jumps up screaming and running away. Fife spears one of the fleeing bandits, and Amit brings it back to the group. It was humanoid, but with a lizard's head, tail, and skin. It reeked of evil, which is why Shalev's spell made them bolt. We were unable to find any discerning marks, or identifying paraphernalia on the body though, nor were we able to find anything among the blind where the group was hiding.
Two days later along the road, we surprised an extremely large boar - who immediately charged the party. Fife warned us all to move out of the way, and that he knew how to handle this; then he deftly speared the animal and killed it. After the boar's death throes were complete, I quietly thanked the animal for it's life to sustain ours.
As we began the long task of butchering the animal for transport, a group of farmers ran out of the brush as well. Obviously they had been chasing the boar, and were awe struck that we... that Fife.. had killed it. They offered us their hospitality, and to help us with the animal carcass, and we readily agree.
They lead us to their farm, a modest plot of land that had, unfortunately, recently been raided and rampaged through. Fife, Shalev, Ishmael, and the farmers set about butchering the boar - over a ton of animal - and as they work, Tobias takes vigil against attempted attacks and oncoming bandits; and I pull KelLyn and Lan aside and ask for their assistance in blessing the farm to do what we can to bring it back to rights.
I ask KelLyn to attempt to help with the earth, but her spell doesn't work - thankfully with no ill effect - and Lan's spell also only marginally succeeds, giving her only a few kernels of corn.
I took a breath, and focused on the effect of the ritual that I wanted. As a Sacred Druid, I am still quite the fledgling, so a lot of the rituals and spells that I have done have been gut instinct to do so. I follow my heart, and the laws of balance, the feel of the nature around me. So far, it has worked with surprising success.
I ask Sylvana for a blessing of prosperity on the farm. To allow the crops that still remain to be abundant and healthy. The ritual goes off successfully, but surprisingly with enough power that it completely exhausts me. I collapsed to the ground, and the last thing I remember is Tobias's gentle embrace as he carried me back to camp.
I awoke some time later to the sound of Lan trying to summon a fairy, and I make my way wearily over to the house - and far away from her, remembering her last ....violent success - to check on the small herb gardens and crops nearer to the house.
Lan successfully completeed her summons, and a hob... The Robin - Harbinger of Chaos appeared. Apparently Lan had a craving for fish - understandable being the sea creature that she is. However, she goes to strange lengths to get the fish sometimes. She agreed to marry the hob for a day, in exchange for some fish, and the hob sends his minions out to complete her request.
I performed a brief, gentle check on the crops to find that they were, indeed, in very good health, and I asked Shalev and Tobias to inform the farmers to expect a bountiful crop this year, despite having been raided. They looked at me with surprise. I also shared a small bag of salt with the family there, and some seedlings and cuttings of the herbs that I have. The wife of the farmer shyly offered me a beautiful piece of lacework in exchange, but I desired no gifts in return, and bade her keep it there as a memento of our visit. She named it "Cora's Lace" and laid it across her mantle with pride.
Ishmael came up at that point, and said that he had completed his work at sharpening tools, repairing pots, and improving a stil that the farmers had built for brewing an alcoholic beverage made from the corn. It smelled very much like a weak version of elven brandy, but I had no desire to try it for myself.
Then Robin - Lan's momentary husband - reappeared and his minions began building a one-ton barrel which they then promptly filled with salmon from the nearby river. Once this was done, the minions disappeared, and Robin thanked Lan for allowing him to live - as being married for that day was the only thing that kept Lord Oberon from killing him once a year. He then also faded back into the wilds, and the farmer's wives all murmured to themselves and started doing the rituals that rustic folk often do when encountering fae folk. Shalev dispelled evil once again, to add his powers to their simple charms, and the hob's minions promptly fled.
Shalev then asked the farmers if they had any barrels, as he was interested in the pungent corn-alcohol that they were making; and was informed that there were no trees, as they had all been cut down long ago to clear for farmland.
KelLyn, Lan, and I shared a look, and a thought, that if we were able to combine our power, that it might be possible. We agreed to make the attempt, and we went across the road to the fallow field there. KelLyn created a circle in the ground, and drew her power, along with the word "Tree" in Fyrewerian. I drew my power, and suddenly Leilanna herself appeared in my mind. She told me that SHE was and is the goddess of reforestation, and that the word I want was not "tree" it was "FOREST".
I take a breath, and say the word aloud. The power that flowed out from that circle was... awe inspiring. For miles and miles, oak trees suddenly grew and flourished. An old-growth forest where previously there was nothing but barren fields. I fell to one knee with the force of the power that coursed through me with the spell, and thanked both Leilanna and Sylvana for the gift.
I sadly was not able to remember the word that Leilanna spoke to me, but the knowledge that my goddess and she are able to work together in such harmonious concert has given me a shining ray of hope for saving the sylvan tree.
We emerged from the new - old - forest, and went back over to the farm and the awestruck farmers.. and the wide eyes of the rest of the party members as well. Lan had, as she does as Leilanna's avatar, fallen over dead when Leilanna had appeared in my mind, and had not yet come back to her body.
As the party members checked on her, and made her comfortable until her return, we saw three clerics approaching on the road.
As the party members checked on her, and made her comfortable until her return, we saw three clerics approaching on the road.
They approached the farm warily, and asked who the cleric responsible for the forest was. I stepped forward, flanked by Tobias and Shalev, and said that it was a joint effort to restore the area. They didn't understand me, but they understood the gesture. They blinked at me, and then at the translation that Shalev provided. They then stood aside, and revealed Ahkmar - the paladin that traveled with them. He offered his extreme gratitude and asked what they could do in return for such a monumental deed.
We point out Lan - who had still not returned to her body - and he did a laying on of hands for her. When she returned, she informed us that we were far more successful than we had ever dreamed of being. The oak forest stretched for seven days ride, all the way down to the swamp, and then continue on into the swamp as a cypress forest. She also informed us that there was indeed a great evil in the swamp.
Ahkmar said that he had also heard of the evil, and we asked him and his clerics to tell us what they could about Waycom, as well as the evil plaguing this area.
I tasked the farmers, with Shalev's translations, to care for the forest, and to replant the acorns. I taught them about reforesting, and the 10 year cycle that it would take to maintain the health of the forest. Now that the forest was there, game would return, hunting would be better; but it would also be easier for bandits and brigands to hide, so they would need to take precautions. I said that it was fine to use the trees for lumber - they could build a house with wooden walls instead of mud and wattle. Fences for their fields, and of course, barrels for their liquor; but that they must maintain a respect for the forest that provided such bounty to them.
Shalev, surprisingly, pointed out to KelLyn that these priests of Divination might be able to provide her with information regarding the pieces of her lost staff. I say surprisingly, because of the urgency that I know he still feels regarding the death of his father, and finding information regarding the matter. That, and the recent animosity between the two, coupled with the fact that she very rarely shows him thanks for things like this, made me raise an eyebrow in silent query. But they provided her with the answers she sought nonetheless. The answers were vague descriptors, but it is a far cry more than what we knew before. I wonder if she will rein in her tendency to snipe at him for a time, as a way of thanks?
He then asked Ahkmar if it would be possible to discern information about his father's death. They agreed to also look into it, but warned him it would take some time. The farmers agreed to let them stay as long as they needed, as having them there would ensure the safety of the farm for a time.
As oracles, I am interested in talking to them as well, for a multitude of reasons. They might know of someone who can help further my studies and abilities as a Sacred Druid. They might also know of a way for me to breech the block in my memories to recall who I once was, who I am still.
We do plan to return to this farm, as they have been good to us, and Shalev has an interest in setting up a trade agreement for the corn alcohol that they make. Amusingly enough, in every group that we have encountered so far, there was someone who knew him - or knew OF him, or his family - a point which made Fife display mock aggravation. This farming community is no exception, as the cloth that the farmer's wive was weaving into lace was from Shalev's family.
Shalev seems bemused that his reputation precedes him, and has made the decision that this new found fame of his means that he need always be on his best behavior. He does honor to his position as Paladin of Ma'at, I think, as he errs on the side of quite literal truth in everything he says.
In the mean time, there is the growing evil to contend with, and the spells we did here are likely to sound as beacons of forewarning to whatever is there. It knows we are coming, and now it knows that we are powerful.