Adventure Log: Desnus 13-14, Year 4712 AR, Firesday
After some debate, the party decided to let their prisoner go his way in peace. Maurit and Guy dragged the bodies to the undercroft of the church and disposed of them as quickly and discreetly as they could.
That having been dealt with, Hugh, Egon, Guy, and Maurit agreed that they should take their leave and press on towards Falcon’s Hollow. Egon heard some muffled moaning and banging noises coming from the general store on their way out of town, but decided that he wasn’t feeling particularly heroic and refrained from informing the others.
The party trudged on through another long, wet day. Around nightfall the party reached Falcon’s Hallow, and, at a recommendation from Hugh, sought lodgings at the Rouged Lady, a local house of ill repute. Within they found that half the patrons and the doxies all had signs of sickness: ashen skin, rasping coughs, and blackened lips. They took two rooms at the back of the upstairs hall and had Hugh De Payen sleep on a chair in the hall to keep watch.
After an uneventful night, the party woke up and made their way to “Roots and Remedies”, the home and shop of the local herbalist, which also served as the local pathfinder chapterhouse. Seeing a small mob of sick people lined up outside the door of the shop, they circled around to the rear entrance where they met Elarius, the proprietor and local venture-captain, who was busy concocting various herbal treatments for the sick people outside.
Elarius was pleased to see them and quickly explained to them that the village was suffering from Blackscour, a water-borne fungal infection which had contaminated the village’s wells. He claimed to have found a purported cure for the disease in an old book he had borrowed from the lodge in Magnimar when he visited their to request additional resources from the Pathfinders. He apologized for using the party as errand-boys, but asked them to search for a number of rare ingredients needed for the remedy: elderwood moss (said to only grow on the oldest trees in a forest), ratstail (a tuberous annual currently out of season), and seven ironbloom mushrooms (“stunty little things that only grow in dark places thick with metal, a favorite among dwarves, or so I hear”).
Their mission clear, the party headed to the home of Ray Stanz, a local scholar and Egon’s cousin, to see if he had any ideas where such items might be found. Ray, who was also clearly infected, informed them that preserved ratstail was often used as a component in polymorph spells, and suggested that they inquire at the hut of Ulizmila, an old witch who dwelt in the Darkmoon Wood. For the ironbloom mushrooms, he suggested that they look in the old dwarven monastery on Droskar’s Crag. He claimed no knowledge of any “oldest tree in the forest” but directed them to inquire of Milon, an old woodsman at the Lumber Consortium camp on the eastern edge of the woods.
They took their leave of Ray walked the twenty miles to the Lumber Consortium camp. Thankfully, it was only drizzling most of the day, rather than the heavy downpoor of the last two days. At the camp they spoke with Jarlben, the foreman of the camp, who was also infected, and got Milon to draw them a map to the largest tree in the forest (herring not included), as well as maps to the Ulizmila’s hut and the dwarven monastery. Not wanting to enter the forest at night for fear of woodchucks (or worse), the party stayed the night in the logging camp’s bunkhouse and set out in the morning.
Deciding to look for the tree first, the party headed off into the woods. Egon managed to spot a giant mosquito and scare the creature off before it could attach itself to Guy. Guy quickly whipped up a pair of citronella torches for the party.
Eventually they came to a place where the dense trees and thick brush of the forest gave way, parting seemingly in respect for the titanic darkwood tree that dominated the clearing. Several times taller than a temple minaret, in one direction the obviously ancient tree reached into the sky with branches like a giant’s arms, while in the other it plumbed the earth with roots thicker than a man’s waist. Its limbs broad and strong, its bark thick and so richly colored as to almost be black, and its leaves the size of bucklers, the giant thing
was less a tree and more a cathedral of boughs and branches.
Egon and Hugh spotted a patch of the moss they were searching for about 35 feet up the side of the three-hundred foot tall monstrosity of a tree. Hugh also pointed out a trio of decaying human bodies dangling from the lowest branches, though even these were a good fifty or sixty feet above the forest floor. As they were looking for a way up, a thing, bearing resemblance to a large snake with a pair of puny tyranosaurus-like arms, leaped from the tree at Hugh’s head. Unfortunately for it, it only managed to get a mouthful of mail before the party hacked it to pieces.
Guy the proceeded to harvest the poison glands from the thing’s throat, while Maurit clambered up the tree to collect the moss and throw down the bodies. They found a small handful of useful gear on the corpses, though some of it was damaged by the fall, and found an interesting signet ring bearing the mark of House Mondavik on the hand of one of the bodies.
The moss acquired, they pressed on, following Milon’s map to the witches hut. As the gloom of evening settled on the forest, Egon noticed a dim phosphorescence coming from beneath a boulder off to the right-hand side of the trail. Hugh approached cautiously, poking his citronella torch in just enough to see three small bodies crushed beneath the large stone, the glow apparently coming from their blood smeared on the rock and splattered on the ground around it, and not from, as Egon had suggested, some form of terrestrial anglerfish. Guy pointed out signs that the stone appeared to have been thrown to its current location from a point farther off the trail, and wisely suggested that the party should ignore the bodies and move on…
After another hour of walking, the sounds of the forest at night become suddenly distant as the trees part, opening into a small, almost perfectly circular glade. The nearest stands of pine, eyln, and darkwood—all typically sturdy woods—appeared to have twisted away from the clearing, as if bent by some impossibly strong wind or seemingly in an attempt to flee despite their paralyzed roots. At the glade’s center squated an ugly cottage, little more than a pile of twigs, shoots, and ivy stacked upon mud walls. From the thatched roof dangled bundles of gnarled roots, old dried beast carcasses, and knucklebone bangles, all clattering together like gruesome wind chimes. A dozen small thatched fetishes—each shaped like a tiny man, imp, or rearing serpent—stood propped in the yard, keeping guard before a rickety plank door.
Not one to be deterred by such theatrics, Hugh De Payen marched up to the door and knocked. The old, rotted door collapsed in splinters at his first blow. Inside the cottage was dank, reeking, and filled with shadows…
To be continued…