Having asceratined that the dwarf (who we had now discovered was called Smordin “Smokey” Ironhammer) would be able to fix the axle if we were able to lift the wagon up, we generous heroes set about working out how we could do this. Beiro and I located a decently sized tree to chop down using Beiro’s handaxes. Baldwin hefted the tree down in a handful of mighty blows and then I was able to fashion it into a useable pivot with a modicum of my woodwork skills.
Melech and Beiro had delved into the woods further in search of some kind of rock to roll underneath and soon returned triumpantly with a large boulder that they were only just about able to roll. With our powers combined, lifting the wagon and propping it up with the rock was now a trivial task and Smokey went about fixing the axle. He seemed happy to chat, so I asked whether he had heard the Brightwood name before, hoping that his travelling profession and longer life might’ve meant he had heard of the name before or bumped into someone with that name more recently. Alas, he had not, but he quickly worked out why I was asking and kindly offered to pass on the message if he ever bumped into my mother.
With the axle fixed in about an hour, we hefted the wagon out of the ditch and were able to send Smokey on his way. In return for our help he gave us some sort of masterwork token. It seems as though he is one of a number of travelling forges, a bunch of highly skilled metalworkers (I would presume majoratively dwarves) that travel the lands with their forges, set up shop temporarily in different towns and sell their wares. He was on his way to Coombesgate and said he would honour us with some masterwork if we were passing back that way. Even if we were not, any of the other travelling forges would be willing to exchange some of their craft for the token. As he departed, he remembered one last thing. He showed us a mysterious metal that he kept on a chain around his neck. It was something called adamantine and, noting that we were heroic adventures, asked that if we ever came across any, to bring it to him. He would be honoured just to put his mark on anything crafted from it.
Only about an hour’s trek from leaving Smokey behind, we crested a small hill and saw the farmland and village of Westpine spread out before us. Rolling farmland converged into a handful of houses with a thickening woodland spread out behind. Just as we were enjoying the view however, we heard a commotion from down the path. A raging bull thundered towards us down the path. “Bessie!” a distraught farmer yelled from far behind. I whipped out my flute and started playing a soothing melody, meant to calm the cow and let it know we meant it no harm. As it drew closer, the rage and panic started to fade from it’s eyes and it drew to a more steady canter, pulling up just in front of us. I petted the now docile cow on the head and it mooed contentedly. The farmer finally caught up with us and breathlessly thanked us for catching the cow. We inquired as to what and where the local tavern might be an he directed us towards the The Moody Cow at the entrance of the village. We thanked him and he led the now calm Bessie away
We arrived at The Moody Cow just after lunch and I offered to buy a round of drinks. Melech and, surprisingly, Beiro reckoned it was too early to start drinking and instead went out for a walk, presumably to check the village outskirts of the woods. Baldwin, however, took me up on my offer and we sat up at the bar drinking our ale. We got talking to the barman and tried to gather some information about the Fey Woods. The innkeeper seemed uneasy about the whole idea of the woods, flicking between warding us off of entering, but declaring that all of the stories were a bunch of rubbish. When I called him out on this he stayed quiet. His heavily pregnant wife warned us of something called the “Roaming Cottage”, a cottage that appears in different places in the woods from which anyone who entered never returned, something else that her husband rubbished. He seemed to be more concerned that any mysterious happenstances, including people going missing, were being caused by some group called the “Crimson Riders”, not that he or anyone had ever seen them. We asked about routes into the woods and he mentioned an overgrown path that led from the north of the village to some old hall (probably the hall that the painting is supposed to be in).
The general consensus seemed to be that most of the villagers don’t go into the deeper woods for one reason or another, although almost entirely down to superstition and hearsay these days rather than down to any particular threat. I requested to perform for my keep again and we all had a very merry evening, with many of the local farmers staying for extra drinks. It wasn’t enough to pay for my allies’ keep, as they were only a small family run business with limited clientelle, but they were still grateful for the increased footfall that my performing had brought in.
We set off early in the morning and, following the path the innkeeper had mentioned, found ourselves quite quickly at the hall. It was in an obvious state of disrepair, with the smell of rotting wood cast out over the local area, but it was still standing proud in it’s little clearing. We gave it a once-over from the outside: a long and fairly thin building, two stories high, a small river flowing in, to what looked to be a fountain of some description. It warranted an inside look and we carefully made our way through the front and only door. Inside, the state of disrepair was all the more obvious as the rich damp smell was thick in the air. The second floor consisted of a stone walkway that ran around the edge of the room, although some of the wooden props had given way causing it to have crumbled in one corner. The room itself narrowed to small gaps with doors on either side and we could see that the fountain at the far end of the room was cracked, spilling it’s flow of water off into the walls.
As we carefully proceeded, I called out in common to check that there were no denizens that we were disturbing. In response, we were greeted by an unending ear-splitting screech. This disturbing sound was emanating from a group of fungi located about halfway along the hall. “They’re Shreiker Fungus” yelled Melech, above the din. “Harmless themselves, but we should be careful, they’re often located near Violent ones”. We paused and instead opted to check the doors on either side of the small openings and found they led up to the higher stone walkway. Once on the walkway, we could see that was some sort of separate room located above the fountain, or at least two doors leading off of the walkway. Neither door yielded to a sharp push or tug, clear that something was blocking it the other side. Wielding Beiro’s axes yet again, we got to work on the doors, the sodden wood peeling away like paper. Even so, on both sides we were met with piles of rubble. We had failed to notice that part of the roof had collapsed in our initial investigation.
Of course, with the roof collapsed, it should be accessible from outside and having spent so much of my childhood climbing up and down trees (even if it was a little scary at times), it made perfect sense to me to scale it from the outside. As we turned to go outside, Melech asked if anyone else could hear giggling. Somewhat bemused, the rest of us slowly shook our heads, but then I felt a tap on my shoulder. Turning to look, I did not see anything. Melech called out, searching for a response in one of his many languages, but did not get a response. I knew I had a language that perhaps would get a response, but decided it was worth keeping this knowledge hidden at the precise moment.
It’s worth mentioning what I’ve read about the Fey before. They are tricksters by nature, not specifically malicious, but enjoy playing pranks on unsuspecting adventurers to keep themselves entertained. Obviously being in the Fey Woods, we were likely to come across some, and I was concerned that we might need to come to some sort of arrangement to take anything away, painting included, from the woods. The fact I knew their language, Slyvan, would likely prove to be a boon, but when dealing with tricksters, it’s worth keeping such advantageous cards close to your chest.
We headed out of the building and we noticed a chest in the rubble, that no-one could remember seeing before. Seeing where this was going, I ignored it, at the very least it was something we could investigate later. Beiro and Baldwin on the other hand seemed to be determined to deal with it now. While they started scrabbling about in the rubble, Melech stepped outside the hall and with a splash was suddenly soaked by an invisible force. It was clear he was starting to get quite grumpy about the whole situation. Beiro and Baldwin also exited shortly afterwards, confirming my suspicions that the chest was a mirage.
Darting around to the back of the hall, I made short work of the outside of the building, hoping up to the roof in a handful of deft hops and steps. I turned around to find Beiro had also followed me up, clearly also confident of his climbing skills. We inspected the hole in the roof and could see inside the small room, although with no clear way back up, we decided to lower a rope in first. I lowered myself down and started exploring. The room seemed to be some kind of small alter room with a door leading off to the side. Contained within the room was a small alter with a rotting cushion on it and a suspiciously empty picture frame on the wall. A small search unearthed a little coffer with a handful of gold and trinkets. Last of all, I checked the door, which seemed to offer a staircase to the floor below, which would lead us to the other side of the shriekers. As I checked this out, I heard a voice, in Sylvan, say “Most people would’ve taken the front door”. Still wanting to keep my language skills hidden, I did not respond, but turned to find the the creature finally trying to address me.
Perched in the rafters, I saw what looked to be a small dragon seemingly the source of the voice. Chances our this is our little fey friend, as dragons don’t tend to speak Slyvan. Hopefully I can get some useful information from them, although I’m not holding my breath.