- Alefa Frigeldötter, Human (Hältlander) Fighter (Sarah)
- Asanaria Quickrok, Halfling Bard (Emma)
- Baras Gouliou, Human (Tagean) Pankratiast (Sam)
- Hrodan, Human (Hältlander) Paladin of Augustus (Alex)
- Brother Solomon, Half-Elven Cleric of Toth (James)
- Wren Dre, Wild Elf Ranger (Gavin)
Unfortunately Emma was unwell this week so she and Gavin didn’t make it. As a result, Wren Dre and Asanaria were played in what can only be described as ‘bot mode (i.e. the remaining players decided their actions and I supplied information that those characters knew).
We rejoin the companions in the town of Malforten. Having spent the morning speaking to Ifon Picton, the local historian; they now have directions that will lead them to two potential locations for Griznak’s lair. A brief discussion later, they decided to make their way to the closer of the two before deciding whether or not to check the second location.
The party made their preparations, purchasing additional rations as well as stabling for Snowflake (an epihippus belonging to Asanaria) and the cart. Less than a hour later, they were ready and they began their trek northward along the Drunderry Valley. As they left the town of Malforten, they passed the open-sided temple to Wenafar but chose not to stop and make an offering.
The day was clear albeit with a slight chill to the air, hardly a surprise since it was the latter half of Lezlicht and winter was just around the corner. The companions were dressed warmly and their progress was steady as they headed along the banks of the river and into the low-lying areas of the Fallow Hills. The terrain changed from farmlands to scrubby brush and stands of trees along the river banks.
As the evening drew on, they saw a large copse of cordwood trees on the river’s edge. Wren Dre called for a halt as he examined the ground in front of him. Moments later, he reported that there were two distinct trails here: one continued northwards whilst the other headed into the copse. Aware that the light was fading, Baras wondered if the copse would make a better place to camp rather than in the open.
The Elf thought for a moment before nodding; so Baras indicated for him to lead them in. The party had barely taken more than a couple of dozen paces before the Elf called a halt once more. He pointed out that whilst there was a trail leading to the copse, there were several trails that wandered off in random directions without purpose.The companions looked at each other, wondering what this portended.
Wren Dre stood up and continued leading the party towards the copse. They were barely entering the treeline when a high-pitched feminine voice addressed them: “Kra! Si selas ine idha-jen?”
The Elf stopped in his tracks, ears pricked and listening. He replied: “Thyrillynel isosaru jen yadha relonas”
The rest of the party looked at the Elf in confusion. Seeing this, he grinned wryly and whispered that he had been challenged to identify himself and his companions: “Now we wait and see what happens.”
Before long, the first voice called from the trees: “Idhu difasa auth nidhu inadhe.”
The Elf sighed in relief and turned to his companions, saying: “Looks like we’re welcome to stay the night”
Trusting that the Elf knew what he was doing, the company warily entered the trees. As they did, the source of the feminine voice showed itself to be a woman, little more than five inches in height and dressed in green and brown clothing that blended into the foliage. On her back were a pair of iridescent wings and at her waist were a small sword and a quiver of arrows. The party stared openly at the woman who stood on the branch above their edge as she appraised them.
She grinned as she jumped off the branch to hover in front of them. She gently fluttered around them all, giving Baras a rather saucy wink as she pinched his cheek before flying off into the trees and calling them to follow her. After several minutes of making their way through the trees, the party came out into a large open area surrounding the biggest cordwood tree they’d ever seen. The tree canopy overhead shielded the clearing from any inclement weather, the sky not being visible at all.
In the branches of the tree, openly watching them, were dozens of small people, both male and female; all of them of similar height with bright vari-coloured wings … and armed to the teeth. From a hole in the tree stepped another female. This one was somewhat taller than the rest and was dressed in a royal blue gown with a gold ring atop her sparkling red hair.
She assessed the group for a moment before speaking in Vulgate. She bade them welcome to her court and invited them to remain for the night in safety. She asked only that they share their tales and use only brushwood and deadfall to make any fires. Hearing this, the other Pixies chattered excitedly in anticipation of feasting and storytelling.
Over the course of the night, the following things happened:
- Solomon used his divine gifts to create fresh water for the feast, as well as blessing one of the younger males with an insane confidence that allowed said recipient to fly through the fire tunnel that the party had built the campfire into.
- Said recipient decided that Solomon was now his new best friend and the pair spent the evening in a strange philosophical discussion.
- Baras performed his stretching exercises in his usual manner, drawing an appreciative audience of a dozen female pixies.
- After a particularly impressive flex, at least a couple of the females swooned, causing them to fall off the branch to the clearing floor below to the laughter of the others.
- The Pixie Queen ended up the same size as the party, clad in a sky-blue gown with a simple golden circlet upon her brow.
- The young female sentry was seen to be negotiating with the Pixie Queen for something.
Once the evening wound down, the pixies flew off to whatever holes and crannies were their chosen sleeping places. The queen retreated to her chambers and the party members dragged themselves to their bedrolls. For Hrodan, the night was interrupted by Alefa sneaking into his bedroll as she decided to take the bull by the horns. Although the night was spent in passion, she made it clear to him that they were not mated. In order for that to happen, he would need to challenge and defeat her in a contest of Arms.
On the other side of the clearing, Baras was awakened by a touch on his lips. He opened his eyes, only to be staring into a pair of brilliant green eyes. Breaking off the kiss, the head moved back to reveal the female sentry albeit now human-sized. When he raised an eyebrow in a questioning look, she smiled shyly and said that she’d asked the Queen for this boon, that she’d bound herself to the Queen’s service and that they only had this night together. Baras grinned to himself, silently thanking his patron gods for the times that were spent frolicking with the Dryads in Tagea. Though he was well used that night, he gave a good accounting of himself as his bedpartner was moving very carefully once she had returned to her normal size.
That morning, the companions bade farewell to the queen and her court. Having received additional directions to the first tower, they moved northwards out of the copse and returned to following the river. Under the overcast sky, they made good progress and by high sun, they had reached the bridge that crossed the river.
Placed atop two rocky outcroppings, the bridge crossed the river at one of the narrowest points in the valley. On each side, the land was bare save for small scrubs and grasses. The party swiftly crossed the river, each taking their time to negotiate the precarious structure. Now that the sun was high, they choose to eat a hasty lunch once they had crossed the river. Picking up their packs, they continued on east into the Fallow Hills.
The land began to get wet, the footing more treacherous as the ground underfoot turned from earth to bog. The party found the first of the markers described by the pixies, a small shallow stream, and turned northwards to follow it. After another hard hour of marching, they found the second marker, a large rotted tree with multiple roots like a mangrove, and turned once more eastwards.
It was not long after they started marching onwards, that the first obstacle became apparent. With no warning whatsoever, the ground disappeared under Baras’ feet. Only his prodigious strength and cat-like reactions saved his from a nasty injury. His companions rushed to his aid, pulling him clear from the hole. Soon after that, the hole sealed itself with a horrible liquid sucking noise.
The march continued on, the atmosphere got more oppressive as the heat and humidity of the bog began to make itself know. So too did a smell of rotting vegetation and meat. It wasn’t long before someone realised that the smell was coming from the packs, not from the bog. With muttered curses, the party opened their packs to see that all their food and rations had spoiled, even the hard tack and jerky were rotted through.
Reshouldering their packs and grumbling all the while, the party pressed on. Ahead of them, they could make out a pale glow and began turning their course towards it. As they made better and better time, the third and final obstacle made an appearance. From somewhere in the gloom ahead of them, they could hear the sounding of a horn; its low mournful note vibrated through their bones and turned the marrow cold. Though many of them felt the urge to make water and turn tail, their collective will prevailed and they pressed onwards, albeit with more caution and quivering knees than before.
At last their goal was revealed to be a low mound in the bog, atop which could be seen the remains of a tower. In various places, the stonework had broken away to reveal the interior and some upper floors appeared to be missing. From inside the moss-covered walls, a pale blue glow could be seen.
The party gathered for a quick discussion. The light was fading and night was fast approaching, but they had no idea what the tower held. In the end, it was decided that a small group should quickly scout the tower and mound whilst the other remained close by to aid if needed. So it was that Wren Dre, Asanaria and Hrodan made their way onto the mound and cautiously crept up to the walls.
Finding a doorway, the halfing peeked into the tower. She reported that the floor was strewn with rubble but there was still a staircase going up, a flagstone floor above them, several glowing blue stones and a bunch of skeletons. Looking at each other, the Hältlander and the Elf stepped in through the doorway. It was immediately obvious whatever happened here, took place long ago.
The skeletons were stained dark brown and were crumbling to the touch, most were of goblins but there were the occasional orcs amongst them. The glowing blue stones were found to be large stones with a rune etched into them that was the source of the pale blue light. After a brief scan of the room, Hrodan stepped outside to wave the rest of the party over.
A closer look at the tower revealed that the stonework remained the same thickness throughout the walls and that the flagstone floors were somehow pinned and reinforced to the walls. Wren Dre was examining the runes, muttering to himself. Tentatively he touched one of the stones and traced the rune with his fingers. When nothing happened, he sat back and pondered.
Meanwhile some of the party were exploring upstairs; the floor above was largely complete with only minor holes in the exterior walls whereas the floor above that was open to the sky above and the entire north face of the wall was missing. Under the stair remains on this floor, Asanaria made the startling discovery of some sort of nest. This nest of mosses and hay covered with linens, was as wide across as Alefa was in height. The companions swallowed hard and headed back down to tell the others.
Once they regrouped, the party discussed what to do. Wren Dre reported that the runes were magical and could be turned off or on. He demonstrated this by saying the Elven word “Yadha” out loud and plunging the group into darkness. This caused much consernation and he was told to turn them back on. Uttering the word “Musa” out loud, an apologetic Elf was revealed as the blue glow reasserted itself in the tower.
Baras led the way back upstairs to the nest, succinctly telling Wren Dre and Asanaria to touch and say nothing. A closer examination of the nest found it to be free of bones and other such detritus, all that could be found were several long golden hairs and large gold-brown feathers. It was at this point that several people noticed the winged shape approaching from the north.
Given that this shape was several miles away and yet so visible, the party went into a quiet panic; a creature with such a large wingspan could not be good news. Yet both Hrodan and Solomon have a wistful look on their faces. Something about the shape is teasingly familiar to them although neither of them could say why. With much haste, the party returned to the floor below and hid beneath the stairway, their weapons drawn and gripped tightly.
It was not long before they could hear the beating of mighty wings, the rushing of air giving voice to the landing of some creature. Following that, the sounds of some creature moving around above them as snatches of humming could be heard. Moments later, a deep rumbling voice called down the stairs:
“I know you’re down there, little ones. Why don’t you come up and keep me company?”
Warily and with more than a little trepidation, the party made their way back upstairs with weapons in hand. Seated in front of them as they left the stairs, was a majestic creature. Taller than even the Hältlanders, it had the golden mane and body of a lion. Upon its back were a pair a folded golden-brown wings and its head was that of a man, a man of wise and noble bearing.
“That’s better”, it said with a smile. “Allow me to introduce myself, I am Nefratel. It’s been a while since I had visitors”.
Hrodan and Solomon both grinned as they sheathed their weapons. The others looked on in apprehension as they began to converse with the creature in a strange tongue. It was not long before the creature said something to them that caused them to look over their shoulders at the rest of the party. Shaking his head, Hrodan said:
“This one will not harm us. He is a Lammasu and is a denizen of the heavens.”
Solomon chimed in with:
“Indeed, they are spoken of with reverence in both of our faiths.”
With those words, the party put away their weapons and joined in the conversation. Between the lammasu and Solomon, some of the rotted food was purified so that dinner could be eaten. Nefratel expressed his apologies that his trap had caused such a thing and would make amends come the morning. By way of recompense, he would answer what questions he could for the party.
The information he provided was:
- This tower is called Kuthrad Ondal by the goblins, “The Tower of Waste”.
- The tower was originally of Elven make (as previously deduced by Wren Dre) and predates the coming of the Horned One.
- It was built as a prophetic device, and is one of many such towers that hid the directions to the Tree of Life.
- When Unklar spread his rule over the world, he sought this place out and laid it to waste nearly a millennia ago.
- Yet after his fall, the true nature of the tower came to fulfillment.
- it is said that once all the Towers of Hithel are located, the location of the Tree of Life will become apparent.
- Nefratel does not know where any other towers are located.
- He also doubts anyone would be able to locate any others, since the armies of the Horned One destroyed almost everything they could that was of elvish make.
- The other location you are looking for is called Baleon Nakt.
- It can be found by following the old Imperial Road north into the Fallow Hills. On the road is a statue whose arm will point in the direction of the complex.
The night passes uneventfully as the party sleeps in the room below. Uneventfully apart from Alefa asserting her dominance over Hrodan, that is. When the morning arrives, Nefratel and Solomon use their gifts to restore all the rotted food to its original condition. The party bids farewell to the lammasu as he flies off into the Fallow Hills, before making their way down into the bog and eastwards towards the Imperial Road.