Friday, September 25, 2015

The Lost City - Fife takes a swim

 Sometimes patience can be a virtue. Longevity lends itself to patience.

Previously in our story...


After reaching the gates of the ruins of the gnomish city, the party rested for a while, but then decided to travel on, ultimately heeding the warning that the two dwarves had given us. Fife expressed a curiosity about the city, and Shalev walked up to the great doors and knocked to see if they would open.

Jaeger, seeing Shalev's action, muttered something in dwarfish, then walked away a short distance. He made motions as if he were casting something, and then pulled something out of a bag at his belt and rubbed it across his face. As he did so, he physically began to change appearance, shrinking down and shifting until he looked like a dwarf. I made note of this ability, and reminded myself with a silent warning that we still did not know much about this strange new party member.

There was no response to Shalev's booming knocking, and so we continued to move north. Jaeger cast the spell that would speed up our travel, but this time something went awry and instead of moving more quickly, it simply removed our tracks from the road. I cast my Whispers of the Way spell once again, and realized as I listened to the odd language that the roads were speaking in the Fae language that I had heard Lan speak occasionally. I asked her if she would be willing to teach me how to speak her language, so that I could better understand, and she agreed. I tried to repeat to her the words that I heard the road mumbling, and was able to get a basic translation about people and pumpkins, though it did not make any sense to me. When I mentioned the word "pumpkin" Fife perked up and tried to enthusiastically explain that a pumpkin was some kind of edible gourd that was often a bright orange color. He said that they were quite delicious, and that if we ran across any we should gather them to add to our stores.

Shalev looked ahead and said that he saw some orange patches on the horizon. A short time later, we came to a patch of ground that was covered in prickly, curling vines with broad, heart shaped leaves, large yellow flowers, and rounded orange fruits. Fife pointed them out and said that these fruits were pumpkins, and that the ones that would be the most delicious would be the medium sized ones. The vibrant fruits were plentiful, some of them reaching as high as 18 feet tall, and the patch of vines stretched out for a good distance ahead of us so that we could not see the end of the garden. I picked one of the smaller ones, noting that it was a good bit heavier than I had expected it to be. I looked over to ask Fife a question about how to eat these, and I saw he and Shalev arguing about whether or not to pick more of the pumpkins to add to our supplies. I tossed the small pumpkin to Fife, forgetting for a moment that he was still affected by the curse. Thankfully, he caught the gourd without incident, and Shalev began muttering to himself darkly. He stalked away in a foul mood, grumbling about traps and hostile vegetables and being attacked in our sleep, and I wondered at his uncharacteristic reluctance to supplement our provisions.

Fife took a look at the pumpkin I had tossed to him and explained that the slightly larger ones would be better. He pointed out the correct sized ones, and he and I gathered several of them as he explained how to prepare the pumpkins to eat. After we had gathered a number of the pumpkins, I performed a general blessing on the pumpkin patch, as a way of thanking the plants for the rich harvest provided. I heard Shalev, still muttering grumpily, say something about checking to see if the gourds had mouths, and I saw Fife smirk suddenly and begin to carve a face into the pumpkin I had tossed to him earlier. I chided he and Osman about antagonizing Shalev any further, though I doubt they listened to my admonition, as they continued to chuckle and Fife put the carved pumpkin over his head like a helmet.

Shalev looked up then, and saw a similarly carved pumpkin resting on top of the largest gourd in the patch. He immediately pointed it out and began venting at us about knowing so and being more careful. Jaeger said something quietly in dwarven, and then the carved pumpkin head rose up, revealing the lanky body attached to it. It appeared to be some kind of golem, and it spoke then, saying that it.. his.. name was Jacque and that he was the Pumpkin King. Shalev instantly began to speak, but the pumpkin king shushed him, turning to Fife, who still wore the carved pumpkin on his head and asked if we had any decorated paper. Fife and I worked together to craft a design on some paper that we had, and then Jacque nodded approvingly and asked if we had a small box. Shalev handed him the empty cinnamon box, and again the pumpkin king voiced his approval, and asked if we could wrap it.

Jacque jumped down from the top of the tallest pumpkin without any effort whatsoever, and placed a lantern gently inside the box. He repeated his request to wrap the box in the decorated paper, and Fife did so. The pumpkin king then asked us to carry the gift through the pumpkin patch, past the castle with the shiny men, through the forest of the brownies, to the tower to give to the lady of the Tower who was named Locasta. Shalev asked about how to avoid the dragon, and Jacque responded with a negligent shrug and the statement that the dragon did not come over this direction because of the flying monkeys that lived in the cliffs nearby.

Shalev then began to question the gift we were asked to deliver, asking what it was, what it would do, and why we had to deliver it. I stepped up to him then and cautioned him quietly that it was not for us to question when we had already been tasked to make the delivery. He subsided then, but I could tel that he was still unhappy with the entire situation. Later on that evening after we had traveled through the pumpkin patch a good distance, we stopped and made a basic camp. Jaeger showed us a way to make a soup out of the pumpkins, using the gourds themselves as cooking vessels, and a way to roast the seeds over the fire to make a quick and delicious treat. I found the taste of the pumpkin to be unique and pleasurable, with an almost nut-like quality in taste, and I took a handful of the seeds that had been scooped out to add to my personal stash of plants that I had gathered from our travels. Fife and Osman huddled together in discussion over how to make a pumpkin beer, and I spent some time in meditation, once again casting a simple blessing over the patch. Shalev staunchly refused to try the strange meal, and I wondered again at his sudden reluctance regarding the orange gourds.

The following morning we traveled on, and after another week of uneventful travel, we finally came to an open area with a mesa off in the distance to the right, and a forest looming ahead of us. Following the instructions that Jacque had given us, we moved ahead to go through the forest. Fife began to tell us what lore he knew of brownies, and Lan and Osman both indicated that they could speak the Fae language. We ventured in a short distance, and came across a row of spikes along each side of the road with carved pumpkins impaled on them. As we ventured closer to the edge of the forest, the tree behind us suddenly exploded as a giant pumpkin struck it. We looked behind us and saw that it was lobbed from the castle on the mesa, and that another was headed our way. We scrambled to take cover in the trees, and Fife shouted to KelLyn to roast it. She cast her fire spell, and Fife threw a spear through the molten ball, hitting the pumpkin squarely and causing it to explode in a shower of flaming pumpkin bits. No one took any damage, thankfully, and we warily made our way further into the forest. There were no further attacks, and we saw several brownies in the trees ahead. When we started to slow down, one of the brownies spoke up to say that we would get hit if we did that. We looked behind us again to see 20 men on horseback galloping our direction. Shalev sped the cart back up again, and Osman began praying and casting his spell to create pitch.

He was able to successfully create about 5 barrels worth of the viscous liquid in a pool behind us, and we continue to move ahead. A brownie appeared on the cart between Lan and Shalev, and before Lan could greet the brownie, Shalev spoke up to ask it directly if it were hostile. The brownie looked very confused at the question, and Lan asked Shalev to refrain from asking the fae any other questions, lest he cause more trouble.

The first wave of knights reached the pool of pitch and slowed to a stop. KelLyn stood up in the cart then and motioned to Fife before casting a spell. Jaeger also stood up and did something that seemed to amp up the power of the spell KelLyn was casting. Fife threw a spear through the ball of white hot flame, and it hit the pitch which ignited with an explosion into a solid wall of flame. Fife then quipped sarcastically at the knights "see how YOU like having something big and orange thrown at you!"

Lan and the brownie chatter back and forth in the fae language, and Lan translates the conversation for the rest of the party, saying that the brownie was telling her about Lake Momboi to the east and the large spike of dirt to the north where the lady lives. The lady, Locasta, fishes there, but she does not eat the fish she catches. Lan speculated whether or not the "fish" were merpeople, and the brownie confirmed her suspicion. It went on to say that there were centaurs that lived in the colored forest, which was across the lake and past the glass forest, and if we kept going north we would run into the tall people that lived in the wall.The brownie confirmed also that everything here spoke the fairy language, except at the mountain and the university. The green city that we were looking for was where Omer lived.

Lan thanked the brownie for the information by giving it some of the espresso infused moonshine from the farmers. The brownie tasted the moonshine, and then makes a face, saying something to her in fae. She turned to Fife then and asked him to drink some as well to show the brownie that it was ok to drink. Fife happily agreed, downing a shot of the potent liquor without flinching. The brownie followed his lead and then sits down as the moonshine makes his face go pleasantly numb. Shalev handed over some of the cinnamon infused moonshine to give to the brownie, and the brownie gave him an emerald encrusted platinum goblet in return. Then the brownie took the bottle of moonshine, and jumped out of the cart to go show the new drink to the others.

We continued traveling through the forest without any additional incident. Shalev asked a constant stream of questions to his compass, and among those questions were contemplations on whether or not the woman Locasta would attack Lan outright or try to capture her if it were discovered that she were fae. The compass replied in an affirmative to those questions, and Shalev continued to try to find out more about what we faced. Jaeger spent some time using one of his spells to sharpen Fife's spears, and he agreed to sharpen the rest of the party weapons as well. After about a week of travel we have no further sign of brownies or knights. The trees here in the part of the forest were maple, and we saw Jaeger chewing on some of the bark. He offered us a piece of a green limb, and we discovered that the bark had a slightly sweet flavor. I took one of the green limbs to examine further.

A few days later, as we are traveling along, Fife suddenly grabbed a spear and jumped down ahead of the cart just as a boar came charging out of the woods in front of him. He had heard the animal crashing through the brush, and leapt at the chance to do what he does best. He threw two spears in quick succession, and then set a third one in the ground where he braced it with his foot for impact. The bright green boar charged but then it stopped right before it would have impaled itself on the spear, which caused Fife to look in confusion. The boar opened its mouth and breathed sparkles at Fife, who managed to leap out of the way.

Tobias ran at the boar wielding both of his maces. I used the dragonbone bow to aim straight for the boar's gaping mouth. Fife also aimed a spear for it's mouth, and we both hit successfully causing some serious damage. Fife's spear caught fire, and the flames wounded Fife slightly. Shalev then hit the boar with the bronze spear, and he also caused noticeable damage. Tobias struck the animal with both of his maces, and the beast finally went down, though with a strange effect of deadening all sound within a 15 foot radius. KelLyn walked up and broke off a piece of the tusk of the boar which she had concentrated it's essence down into. Shalev and Fife carved up the boar, and we discover that it was not just the skin of the animal that was oddly colored, but the whole carcass. Amit refused to eat the oddly hued meat, and I agreed. Shalev asked Fife for the hide of the animal, and Jaeger asked for the skin of the head. A search of the guts of the animal revealed the corpse of an unfortunate brownie, a silver ring and a silver brooch, both with a sapphire bar across each, 4 gold pieces, and a silver filigree necklace. Lan said that the ring and the brooch were likely a clan notification and recommended that they be left with the corpse of brownie and the boar.

Three brownies with capes and brooches that matched those we had discovered ran up then and started viciously stabbing the boar, claiming the kill and taking revenge on the beast that had apparently eaten their companion. We wisely left them to their vengeance and continued on with our journey. Shortly after that, we saw a huge tower made of stacked granite, with a lake off to the right. Around the tower, there were smaller brightly colored buildings and wheat fields. As we approached the tower, we saw a woman open a door at the bast of the structure. She stepped out to the lake, and threw a huge silver net into the water. When she drew the net back in, she had captured a merman which fought being taken out of the water fiercely.. She drug the captured being inside the tower, closing the door behind her. Lan jumped into the water then to speak to the merfolk that were cowering further down in the lake. After a few moments, she emerged from the water saying that we needed to destroy that net. Fife told the party to wait where we were, and taking the package that the pumpkin king had given him to deliver, walked up to the door and knocked.

The woman answered the door and spoke to Fife briefly. He handed her the box, and she handed him something that looked like a cookie or pastry in return. He turns back to the party and takes a bite of the cookie, but instead of returning to where we waited, he walked to the edge of the stairs and jumped into the lake. Lan immediately jumped in after him, but could not find him. She searched for several moments, and after making several dives, finally finds Fife under the water. He had been transformed into one of the merfolk.

As we were waiting for Lan's return, and worrying about Fife, we heard an explosion from the top of the tower, and looked up to see the windows all fly open and papers float everywhere. Wave after wave of magical energy comes out of the tower, and we all scrabble for cover. Jaeger attempted to create a wall of protection out of earth, but it turned back into mud almost immediately and sank back into the ground.

Lan came back up then, and informed us what had happened to Fife. She handed us his belongings and asked us to put it on the cart to keep safe until we could figure out how to reverse the transformation. We told her about the explosion, and some of the papers float down close enough to grab. We hand them to KelLyn as we pick them out of the air and off of the ground, and she notes with some great interest that these are scrolls and potion recipes. She asks Tobias to help her gather as many of the notes and pages as we can, and put them into a box. One of the papers had an odd symbol and something about a cup and a table written on it, as well as a potion recipe for a potion of immortality. Tobias and KelLyn grew very excited about this information and told the rest of the party about the orcs and how this tied the regenerating orcs into the quest to heal Grand Tier and eliminate the regenerating orcs that KelLyn had been geased to complete.

The door at the base of the tower opened then, and the woman emerged looking rather worse for wear, with smoke pouring out of the tower behind her and wisping off her her robes and hair as if she had been at the center of the blast. She threw the silver net into the water once again, and when she drew it out, she had Fife entangled. She exclained "Oh, you're the new one!" to which Fife angrily replied that he was indeed, before he stabbed her twice with the poisoned assassin's daggers that he carried with him. She grabbed at the net and started to chant, but the poison was taking quick effect, making her breathing labored, and her speech slow and slurred.

Tobias took off running, carrying Shalev with him to go attack the woman and attempt to rescue Fife from the net. Lan and Osman began working together to summon a Fairy, forgetting possibly, or perhaps counting on the fact that they stood in the center of one of the largest fairy rings anyone had ever seen. The moment they finished their summons, every mushroom in the grove began glowing brightly. The enormous ring glowed and pulsed with the rhythm of footsteps, and a wave of silver appears. A woman with otherworldly beauty steps out of the gleaming wave and looks at Lan. She asks in quiet tones if we had found her net, and Lan, with a moment of inspiration, exclaims "Yes!" and points directly at the woman from the tower who held the silver net in her hands. The fairy woman's eyes narrowed dangerously, and she prowled forward will the indisputable inevitability of all of the force of nature moving behind her. Each footprint she left in the ground smoldered, and she made her way over to where the woman and Fife still struggled. The rest of the party followed mutely in her wake, thinking it best not to interfere in any way unless direly necessary.

Tobias and Shalev had also engaged in the fight with the woman, and their strikes hit the same time that Fife stabbed her through the lower jaw, effectively pinning her mouth shut. Shalev's unerring strike took the woman's head clean off her shoulders and Tobias' strike knocked it flying to land at the angry fairy woman's feet. The silver woman picked up the head by the hilt of the iron knife impaling it, completely ignoring the searing effect that the iron had on her hand. She looked calmly at the woman, who we realized with some trepidation was still living, saying "No one steals from me and gets away with it. Besides, men should be frogs, not fish, and you are NOT dead. Yet." She then looked directly at KelLyn and asked "Who among you knows how to open doorways?" KelLyn, wide-eyed, quietly asks for her book, and Jaeger agrees to help her with her spell. They work together to craft a circle of power, and KelLyn asks the silver woman where she needs the door to open. The silver woman bends down and whispers something that only KelLyn can hear. A black hole opens up in the ground. The brownies who had been trapped inside the tower appeared then, and picked up the body on the ground, bringing it to the silver woman. Both the head and the body were dropped into the hole, and the brownies bowed and vanished.

The silver woman then dumped Fife out of the net, untangling him from the strands, and looks at him for a moment before saying that he would make a terrible frog. KelLyn pulls out one of her wands and casts a polymorph spell to bring Fife back to his human form, and the silver woman looks at each of the party in silent contemplation before stepping into the black hole which snapped closed behind her. The brownies reappeared then, and spent several moments thanking us for freeing them. They inform us that "once we let them know, the Gilken people will receive you with happiness. Go to Youp castle and let them know that we have removed their queen." Then they vanish again, and we all look at each other with bemused expressions, deciding that it would probably be best not to mention the pumpkin king directly.

Lan stepped into the lake again and told the merpeople that they no longer had anything to fear from the woman in the tower, and told them what had happened. KelLyn went back to studying the sheafs of paper that we had gathered from the earlier blowout of the tower, and suddenly sat down with an exclamation. She muttered something about "undoing" and starts to rustle through the papers quickly to try to find more about whatever had made her so excited. Shalev approached her then and asked if she wanted to look into the tower, and she looked up with a happy expression and a ready agreement.

We checked Fife over thoroughly, and he seemed none the worse for wear for his time as a merman. His minor wounds had been healed, and other than being cold and wet and grumpy, was otherwise unharmed. Shalev asked if Lan would be willing to check the lake to see if there were any other belongings that had been left behind by the poor souls that had been transformed into merfolk. She agreed to the search, and we made camp there outside the tower.

Shalev after a moment of writing by the fire, handed me a piece of paper with  a recommendation for distribution rights to the treasure, in an attempt to head off any potential arguments about what we discover inside the tower. I agree with his reasoning, but have some doubt as to whether or not it will prevent arguments or cause them. I must admit to being slightly disappointed thus far with our discoveries. This whole place has been more magical in nature, and I am beginning to wonder if there is anything druidic at all in this forgotten place.

As I meditated on these things, KelLyn studied, Jaeger studied, Osman prayed, Fife enjoyed being human again, Tobias sat in watchful guard, Shalev and Amit sat together and we all made our preparations to explore inside, for who knows what traps... or treasures.. we may find within.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Search for the Lost City - Ishmael's Farewell

Aa' lasser en lle coia orn n' omenta gurtha. 
(May the leaves of your life tree never turn brown.)

Previously in our story...


 We stayed with the dwarfs helping them around their city as we could for a few more weeks, and then made our preparations to depart towards the enchanted forest and the home of the Crescent Witch. I found out that the Crescent Witch was rumored to live about 5 miles around towards the enchanted forest, so that is the direction that I recommended we travel once we decided to head out. As the Summer Solstice was near, I also spent some time in meditation and ritual for the sacred space. During those meditations, I asked my god and goddess what I should know about the dragon that we faced. A young dwarf child wandered over to me and sat down beside me. She played with her little doll and began speaking to me about the boogeyman. She showed me her doll and told me that the boogeyman had yellow eyes and walked around wearing a green robe. She said she was afraid of the boogeyman, and asked if I were going to get rid of him.

I reassured her that we were going to do our best to get rid of the boogeyman, and she nodded once and then continued to chatter and play beside me for a time. It was only after she had wandered away again that I realized that I should not have been able to talk with her at all, since I do not speak any form of the dwarven language. I ruminated on what I had been told, and later on that evening shared the knowledge that I had been given with the rest of the party.

Osman spent some time praying to his god as well, in a supplication for more living animals to leave with the dwarfs here. His god answered him and another goat appeared. The one he had previously called forth wandered over to him to greet it's companion, and then suddenly went into labor, delivering 12 healthy kids, much to the amazement of any who witnessed the births.

Shalev also prayed, and was also gifted with a new spell. His goddess granted him the ability to see the measure of a soul. He told me later on over our afternoon tea that it was his hope to be able to use this ability to help Fife with his curse. He asked if he could try the spell out on me, and I agreed, though I warned him that because of my long life, and because I was an elf, he might not be able to get a read on me as he would a human.

On a whim, Shalev donned his white dragon armor, and discovered that it would allow him some additional perceptions. He was able to clearly see the dragon flying overhead in the distance, and discovered that the dragon always flew in a counter-clockwise pattern. As we were planning to head to the forest, that would mean that we traveled opposite the dragon's flight path, and would also mean that we would perhaps have some extra time before having to deal with the dragon face to face.

Hearing that bit of information, Lan looked closer at the giant mushrooms that grew along the edge of the bowl shaped valley. After a few moments of examination, she told the party that the entire valley was one gigantic fairy ring, with the mushrooms acting as a border. She also said that the dragon was of fairy origins, and was likely trapped inside.

As we were packing our things, Ishmael approached the party solemnly. He told us that he wished to retire here and make a life and a home as the Forgemaster, as the dwarfs currently did not have someone to act in such a capacity, and he felt like this place had been waiting for him to arrive. The dwarfs accepted his request to stay with much enthusiasm, and agreed to help him set up a house near the great forges.

The party accepted his decision with some sadness, and that evening we held a feast in his honor, toasting his accomplishments, and giving what blessings we could for him. He gave us three of the water skins filled with the restorative waters from Martek's tomb. He also requested to keep the layan chain mail rings that Lan had, in order to try to find a way to craft them into something, and she agreed to let him have them. Ishmael offered to watch over the bulk of our supplies and belongings so that we could travel minimally encumbered, and we agreed, consolidating the necessities down to a single cart and our individual packs.

The following morning we set out, and it felt strange to leave Ishmael behind. I am sure that he will be happy there, surrounded by accoutrements of his faith. I hope that he lives long and his fires never die out. I cast my Whispers of the Way spell to see what the road ahead might tell me, in hopes that I can continue to refine my understanding of the spell, and also in hope that it might give us a fraction of a warning of potential fores. Travel was somewhat subdued, but after about a day we managed to make our way over to the Crescent Witch's house without incident. The house was actually a massive tree, stretching nearly 50 feet across and 250 feet high. Awestruck by the giant, I touched the bark to feel it humming with life. I could also feel some kind of enchantment, but could not discern what it might be. The door to the dwelling was 12 feet tall, and located in the center of the trunk. I looked back at the part members to see that they were nearby, and then knocked on the door. I glanced at the window near the door to see an orc peeking through the window at me. He opened the door and asked something in an odd gutteral language.

Seeing that none of us understood what he asked, he repeated the question in a language that sounded much like the one that I  had heard the dwarfs speak in the city. When Shalev stepped forward and answered the orc in the same language, it confirmed to me that it was indeed dwarven, as I knew that he had been studying it fervently while we were staying with the dwarfs.With Shalev acting as translator, we found out that the orc was asking if we wanted to come inside and eat. He seemed desperate for an answer, which made us all extremely wary of the circumstances. Fife, not understanding the language, and seeing the orc in front of Shalev, reacted as a trained bodyguard would, and leapt in front of Shalev to try to tackle him out of harm's way.

Or that's what he would have done, had he not still been affected by the bad luck curse. Instead of tackling Shalev out of the way, he lunged off to the far left of the tree and fell to the ground, landing on his face. Thankfully the fall did not do any damage to him, and as he lay there for a moment to catch his breath, Lan peered around Shalev and noticed that there were brownies working frantically inside the tree. She warned us all in the party common language not to accept any offer from anyone, and to let her do all of the talking for the time being.  She then turned to the diminutive fae inside the tree and began speaking to them in their own musical language.

As they conversed, I notice that the orc tried again to convince us to come inside and have something to eat, and when we again ignored his request, he attempted to intimidate Shalev into doing what he wanted. Shalev looked at him once, and then shrugged off the glare as if it were nothing, turning to the side to look more directly at Lan. The orc seemed taken aback by the casual dismissal and visibly slumped a little, finally resigned to the fact that we would not cross the threshold of the house, nor eat anything he offered.

While Lan continued to converse with the brownies, I helped Tobias move the cart off to the relative cover of the giant mushrooms growing nearby. We disguised the cart as we had been practicing, and once that was done, we set up a basic camp. After another few moments of rapid dialogue between them, Lan turned to us and said that the brownies had been cursed to work for 10 years making baked goods that were addicting to consume. If anyone ate one, they would immediately crave more and more, and if they could not pay for what they consumed, they became indentured to work along side the brownies in servitude. She then turned to KelLyn and asked her to confirm the nature of the geas on the fae, and she verified that it was a spell that had been cast by a secular druid, but that the power level was impossible to overcome in it's current state.

I made a note here of the power levels that I had seen before, with the ever-growing grass, and wondered at just how much the crescent witch had done to the balance of this place in her efforts to make things as she saw fit. I also began to see why the secular druids were seen as a menace, and contemplated further discussion with my god and goddess about the differences between secular and sacred. Those prayers would be for another day, however, as my mental reverie was broken when I heard Shalev began speaking once again in the rumbling dwarven language. He asked the orc at the nature of his debt to the fae, and then handed him 9 gold pieces, declaring in dwarf and then again in common, that his debt was paid. The orc cheered and promptly handed the gold to the brownies before stepping out of the house with an audible sigh of relief. He told Shalev that we could call him Jaeger, and Shalev offered him a space in our camp, should he wish to travel with us for a time. He accepted, and the rest of the party warily welcomed him to the group.

I cautioned Shalev to be wary, and to remember that none of the rest of the party could understand their conversations. Just because Jaeger seemed friendly at the moment, did not mean that he could be trusted immediately. Shalev noted my concerns, but I know that he is instinctively trusting, and expects others to be the same way. Time will tell with Jaeger.

During the third watch that evening, Osman encountered two ragged looking dwarfs coming from the direction of the gnomish city of Ehru in Damazen. They were wearily making their way towards the dwarven city in Quadling, and seemed surprised when Osman called out to them. They drew weapons, not understanding, and Osman called out to Shalev who then woke Amit and I. The three of us went out to greet the weary travelers, and seeing that they were sore in need of some rest and some healing, we escorted them back to camp where we offered them bread and salt, a meal, and what healing we could provide. They gratefully accepted the offer and as we tended to them, the apparent leader of the two spoke to us. He told us that they had come from the war, and that they were all that remained of the forces that had been sent out.

He went on to say that they had been fighting against the Ros Babans, and that the city had fallen. The forges were cold and closed, and the outer walls had been destroyed. I hear Tobias curse under his breath, and remembered hearing about the Ros Babans in descriptions of some of his previous adventures. While the dwarf spoke, Lan worked at healing him and his companion, and she asked him about the fairy ring and the history of the valley we were in. He told us that the fairy ring had been here for 400 years or more, and that the dragon had been here long before that. The dragon arrived shortly after the death of Savoyez - the duke of the central city who had tried to keep everything running after the second wizard of Emer, Liamond, had blown everything up. Liamond was Deuxson's grandson, and had been known to meddle with magic that was beyond his capability to control. His greatest desire was in striving to revive ancient orders, and at that statement, I heard KelLyn snort softly under her breath. He had been attempting to craft an artifact when the power went out of control and exploded, causing all of the walls of the city to shatter. In order to contain the energy, he summoned a great one over the well in the center of the city, and the great one surrounded the city making it a sacred space. 

After they had been healed, fed, and moderately rested, the two dwarfs said that they would take their leave and continue toward the city in Quadling.  We told them about Ishmael and they seemed surprised that the city once again boasted a Forge singer, saying that they were keen indeed to meet the newcomer. We wished them well, and they departed to complete their journey. We continued on as well, at first light. 

Seeing that we were making slow and uneven progress on the remains of the path, Jaeger stood on the cart and made hand motions as if he were casting a spell. Shalev quickly reassured us that he was not attacking but was attempting to help move things at a more efficient pace. KelLyn looked on in amused disbelief, saying something about watching an orc try magic being good for a laugh. She swallowed her words quickly, however, when after a moment, the ground beneath the cart rose up in a gentle swell, and our rate of travel noticeably improved. 

With Jaeger's aid to our travel, it only took us another day to reach the edge of the enchanted forest. I recommended that we make camp here, and I offered to scout ahead into the forest.  The trees here were unusual in their enormity, and I had never seen anything like them in all of my years. The outer ring of trees had bark that peeled away like paper. I got an overwhelming sense of enchantment here, and the moment I stepped foot into the shadowed depths of the trees, my skin began to prickle as if a thousand ants were crawling over me. It was not painful, but it gave me an urgent sense of warning about this place that I heeded warily. There were wide avenues between the strange trees, but aside from those I could see no path. I noted that the second layer of trees was different than the first, with shredded brown bark. The ground here chattered away at me, but I noticed with some interest that it was in a language that I did not understand.  I decided then to make my way back to the camp, lest Shalev and Tobias grow concerned by a longer absence. Distance was not what it appeared to be here in this place, and when I finally emerged from the odd forest, I found myself 300 feet away from where I had originally entered the grove. I made my way back over to the party and told them about what I had observed. 

Once I was safely back with the party, I decided to cast my druidic power out in an attempt to call the keepers, but it seemed to have no effect. KelLyn offered to cast her Nature of Things spell to tell me what she could find out about the forest. After a moment or two of concentration, she informed me that the forest here had a massive Create/Modify Spirits and Demons enchantment over it. I tried again to sense where the keepers might be, but once again only got the general sense that the lived here.  

Shalev insisted that if we were going to go into the forest, that we should all be tied together, and immediately began working to secure everything and everyone with rope. Tobias and I took point and gave ourselves an extra measure of rope so that we could continue to scout ahead.  The ground here was still chattering away in that odd language, so  I paid it no additional heed. We scouted ahead about 100 feet or so, and I noticed that each layer of trees was different than the one before. None of the trees were familar to me at all, and when I used my druidic powers to try to tell me what they were, I got very strong sense that I should actually taste the tree in front of me. Confused and extremely wary about this, I tried perceive again, and again got the sense of "taste and see." So I stepped up and tasted the tree.. only to discover that it was not a tree at all, but rather an enormous stalk of celery. The entire forest was actually a vegetable garden of gigantic proportions. 

Alarmed at the realization and what it might mean, I quickly found Tobias and told him that we needed to find the rest of the party. We followed the rope only to find that it had been chewed through by a white deer. It bounded off gracefully, and Tobias tried to go after it, but the rope that tied him to me prevented it. We knew then that the rest of the party had been separated, and we began making our way back the way we came. We heard a crashing sound, and saw a 9 ft tall white rabbit with a rope tied around its neck come stumbling into the area where we were. Fife was holding on to the other end of the rope, wide eyed, and Tobias shouted at him to let go of the rope. Seeing us there, he tried, but ended up falling into the trunk of the celery stalk and getting stuck. Tobias climbed up and managed to cut him out successfully, and Fife was not injured, though he said that he could not feel his arm at all. I took a look at him, and could see no injuries at all, but his entire arm was completely relaxed and numb. We gave him some water to try to wash the sap off, and I took a closer look at the excretions from the celery stalk. I could not discern anything specific about it, however, but bottled a small amount of it for later study, making a note of it's apparent numbing properties and being careful not to touch any of it myself.  I said a quick prayer to my god and goddess to ask them if there was a specific way to call to the keepers, and they answere me telling me that the keepers can be called by doing something exceptionally good, or exceptionally bad. 

I tired to use my ability to destroy plants to create a safe path for us out of the garden, but the grass immediately grew back in. I noticed that the trunk of the celery stalk where Fife had landed had not repaired itself, and so I decided to try to heal it as a way to draw the keepers attention. I created a spell that allowed me to heal the plant successfully, at least partially, and with that done, we decided to  make a basic camp here and try again to make our way back to the party after some rest.   As we settled in, I performed a ritualized blessing of the garden area in general. As soon as I had completed the prayer, I felt a minor earthquake, but could not discern the source or reason. 

During first watch that evening, Fife fell asleep briefly and woke up to see a large white boar staring at him. It headbutted him unconscious and he woke up later screaming about a large pig. During second watch, Tobias encountered a group of very large birds. They were completely silent, and had no heat signature at all, and after watching for a moment flew away on soundless wings. On my watch, the birds returned and perched on one of the giant vegetables. I greeted the bird, but got no response at all. As we broke our camp the following morning, I felt another earhquake, and then suddenly we were all picked up off of the ground by a tangle of green vines. It felt like we were flying in the air, and then at the apex of whatever had lifted us, I looked down to see the enormous hedge maze of vegetables stretching off in the distance. Then it felt like we were falling, but being gently held by whatever this tangle of vines was. We were set gently on the ground next to the rest of our party, and I realized that a giant green man had picked us up out of his garden like weeds.

I looked up at him in wonder, for I had never seen such a being before, and I heard him tell Shalev that he had a strange association. I realized then that Shalev must have encountered the giant and asked him to retrieve Tobias, Fife, and myself from the gardens. Shalev responded to the giant that he was on a last adventure before going home to get married. The giant then asked him to wait a moment, then walked away, returning a few moments later with a pouch which he handed to Shalev. The pouch contained a green gemstone earring which was described by the giant as being able to strengthen his personal resolve. He gifted the earring to Shalev as a wedding present, and then blessed him directly with fertility. Shalev thanked the giant for the gift and the blessing, then asked him if he would like any additional plats for his garden. The giant accepted one of the strawberry plants that I had been cultivating, and I asked if there was anything that he needed. The giant replied that he had lost his fork some time ago, and went on to describe a trident like object. Tobias offered him the trident that he had taken from Sacatha's tomb, and the giant accepted it gratefully, giving Tobias a large box in return. I asked him if he could tell me anything about the druids that had been here once, and he said that while there used to be druids here, he had not seen any in a long time.  He then bade us farewell, and walked away with the minor earthquake following his every step. 

I was disappointed that he was not able to tell me more, but resolved to continue my hunt for more information about this place. We gathered our things, and started traveling once again. The orc made that same motion with his hands, and the spell that he used before started up again, making our travel much easier and faster. After a while, we stopped to camp, and covered the things per Shalev's request. He asked KelLyn to take a look at the earring, and she said that it had a powerful protection spell for vitality on it. He asked about how it was worn, and she offered to pierce his ear. He agreed to let her, and she did so quickly, placing the earring in the lower lobe of his right ear. I did a minor healing spell on the wound to prevent infection once the earring was in place, and taught him how to care for it until it completely healed. 

Shalev asked Jaeger if he knew of any enhancements to the senses, and Jaeger did something which improved Shalev's eyesight for a time. Watches all happened thankfully without incident, and we continued to make our way aorund the forest. Shalev, acting as a translator between KelLyn and Jaeger, asked KelLyn if Jaeger could look at the staff pieces that she carried with her. KelLyn, suddenly realizing that her goddess was the goddess of orcs, said a prayer to Leilanna in hopes that she would be able to learn how to speak orc, and be able to communicate directly with Jaeger.

Leilanna actually manifested in front of KelLyn, and said quite sternly that she was very cross with KelLyn about things. They got into an argument with one another, and as a result, KelLyn's request to learn orcish was granted, but her magic was partially blocked for a time, and she was geased into killing the orcs that are doing bad things in Leilanna's name. As they argued with one another, I saw Tobias make a rude gesture at Leilanna, and wondered at why he would dare such a thing. I then looked over and saw Shalev step in front of Jaeger, and say something in dwarvish. I heard Leilanna's name, and Jaeger suddenly lunged forward to attack Shalev. Amit immediately picked Lan's body up, as she had fallen over dead when Leilanna manifested, and moved her over to the cover of the first row of trees.. onions.. in the garden to protect her. Shalev tried to stop Jaeger, but ended up being knocked over.  Jaeger tried again to attack, this time by beginning to cast something, and Fife threw a spear to stop him. It bounced harmlessly off of the base of Jaeger's neck, and Osman also tried to shoot the orc in the foot. His arrow also bounced off, and Shalev managed to move out of the way and over toward Amit and Lan. 

Jaeger's spell completed, and suddenly 22 oak trees sprang up in a circle 100 feet across. They grew up 84 feet tall, some of them emerging in the middle of the giant's vegetable garden. Leilanna and KelLyn continued to argue with one another and Jaeger moved to attack again, but suddenly stopped when he realized that they were speaking in a language that he could now understand. Leilanna tuned then to the orc, and cast something over the entire party, saying that we all needed to just chill out and relax. Then she disappeared, and Lan woke back up, seemingly unaware of what had just occurred. 

Shalev, Amit, and Lan appeared to be unaffected by the spell, but the rest of the party was in an almost drugged state of euphoria. KelLyn and Jaeger seemed to be best friends now, and were chatting back and forth in orcish. She cast her spell that allowed her to talk through fires, and the trees all fell towards one another, crashing together and igniting into one giant bonfire. An orcs face appeared in the flames, spoke to KelLyn briefly, and then disappeared. Jaeger looked awestruck by what he had seen, and he and KelLyn then started reading books to each other. KelLyn read her book of Fyrewerian to Jaeger, and as she read, the stumps of the trees turned into deep metal and sank into the ground. Realizing the dangers of having two apparently drunk mages reading from a magic book, Shalev handed them both a drink that he had spiked with the powerful sleeping potion he had picked up several months ago. They both slumped over in a deep sleep, and Tobias and I decided to separate ourselves from the party and spent some rare time alone together.

The next morning we woke up still feeling the effects of the spell that Leilanna had cast, though not as strongly as before. We broke camp, and moved out toward the ruins of the gnomish city. Another two weeks of travel passed uneventfully before we were finally able to make our way around the edge of the vegetables and back to the ring of mushrooms on the outer edge. As we made camp that evening, we examined the box that the giant had given to Tobias. It was unassuming on the outside, being only about 2 ft across. When we opened it up, however, we saw two metal rings with a rope ladder strung between them leading down into a 10 x 10 x 10 room. Only Fife and Tobias were able to fit through, and they climbed down inside to see that it was a large, empty space. They asked us to try moving the box, and we could do so easily. There was no change in weight or mobility, and we all instantly realized the benefits to having such a container with us. After a brief discussion, we moved the box up onto the cart, and then transferred all of our most valued things down into the room for safe keeping. 

Shalev took the time to ask KelLyn to look again at the piece of paper that I had snagged from the lizard king's temple for some reason. She agreed to do so, and confirmed that it was most likely the name of the demon that she had imprisoned in the gem. She pocketed the piece of paper again, and went back to studying her magic.  A moment later, she looked up with a huge smile on her face and said "that's it! I know them all now!" and suddenly a raven appeared in front of her to squawk "We are watching you arch-mage. The council of Fyrewerians does not appreciate your presence on this contin..." but it did not finish the declaration, as Amit pounced on it at ate it whole almost as soon as it had appeared. He swallowed the mouthful of bird, then spat out feathers in distaste and looked plaintively over at Osman who laughed and created some goat meat for him instead. 

We continued to travel, and we observed the large birds we had seen in the gardens flying in groups of 10. They would fly into the mountains, and then fly back, carrying animals of various kinds which they would haul over towards the broken city of Emer. When they left the city, they did not carry the animals with them, and we speculated that they were bringing food for the dragon. I made a mental note then, of the white animals that had watched us in the gardens, and thought that this was probably how the dragon always seemed to know where people were on the roads. 

After a few more days of travel, we finally reached a huge stone gate much like the pass through the mountains at the dwarf city. There was no city here, however, only large carved figures and battlements. The entrance was completely sealed off, and the statues were wearing battered gold crowns that looked like they had been chewed on and clawed at in an attempt to remove them. 
We paused here, and found some cover to make camp while we discussed whether or not to attempt to go into the gnomish city. We recalled what the two dwarfs had told us about the Ros Babans, and the constant battle that was waged behind those doors. After much discussion we decided that it was not worth trying to break through the doors, and that we would continue on around the circle of the valley in the morning. 


So KelLyn is an arch-mage now. She seems quite pleased with herself, and as powerful as she is, I have no doubt that this will only fuel her desires for knowledge. I still do not trust Jaeger yet, though he seems to have mellowed out considerably. Having another competent magic user in the party has definitely been useful, though I can not overlook the apparently causeless attack on Shalev, depsite Shalev's reassurance that no harm was done. I am still wary. 

The dragon knows we are here, and knows that we are coming. It would be foolish to assume otherwise. It is possible that the dragon simply longs to return to the fairy realms, though I do not begin to think that it would be that simple. 

I am no closer to discovering anything about the druids who were here before, but the more I learn about them, the less I am liking what I hear. Either they were not druids at all, though the spells I have sensed here have a secular druidic cast to them, or they were druids who were so power hungry that they did not care about the repercussions of their actions. 

I still need to talk to my god and goddess. There is much that I do not understand about sacred vs. secular, and much more I do not understand about what can be done about our present situation. I am still awestruck at having met the Keeper that the dwarfs told me about, but can not deny that I am disappointed at myself for not knowing what questions to ask him. I have been feeling rather useless to the party as of late. I do not know enough about sacred druidry to provide more than minimal help there, and even my archery skills pale in comparison to others. The adventures ahead still call to me, the desire to see what lies ahead is still strong.

Much to do. Much to learn. 
I just hope that it will be enough.