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.