We turned our attention back towards getting to the top of the tree, to gain a sample of the fungus required for the antidote. Given the strength that would be required to reach the top, Baldwin stepped up to try and, while not being able to see how he was actually doing, I played a motivational song in an attempt to boost his abilities. It seemed to have worked however as the rustling of branches made fast progress up the tree, stopping about 10 feet up.
Unfortunately, Amabilis’s soft voice then crept out from the top of the tree. “You know, it’s just a fungus. If you throw it all off the side of the tree, you’ll solve the problem”. I didn’t think Baldwin was this stupid, but Melech’s voice indicated other results. “What the hell are you doing? We need that!” He yelled. “Baldwin’s chucked the mushroom off the tree and now it’s surrounded by a bunch of little blights down there,” I heard him say to me. “Beiro and I need to get down there now. Stay here!” “But I can help get down …” I started to object, but the receding footfalls made it clear he’d already left.
About ten seconds later I heard Baldwin’s voice next to me. “Where did Melech and Beiro go?” He asked. “They’re headed to the base of the tree, but we need to move fast to get the mushroom.” I responded hurriedly, then after a pause “trust me” and I grabbed Baldwin and threw us both out of the tree. As we fell, I sang out my high B flat note again, slowing both of our falls.
“There’s a lot of them” Baldwin yelled, as I heard him loose an arrow in midair. I could hear the chittering getting louder and it seemed to be coming from all directions. Having a good frame of reference for the sounds, I met the ground cleanly and drew my rapier. Turning toward the nearest source of sound. I stabbed towards it but didn’t connect with anything, instead of taking a hail of thorns to my leg. I then realised in the darkness how perilous a decision this might’ve been and realised Baldwin was no longer beside me. Hearing Melech yelling from behind, I ran towards him, but not without taking another barrage of thorns from my invisible assailants.
I half-tripped over a root of the tree and had a thought. If I can get back to the entrance of the tree, I might be able to get away. I scrambled to the base of the tree and started following the trunk around. I quickly hit an inlet, the entrance! But no sooner had I hauled myself inside I tripped over something on the floor. Feeling about, it was a body. Calling out into nothingness, I shouted: “Is this one of ours?”. “It’s Melech!” came Baldwin’s voice suddenly as he rushed past me and up the stairs. “What’s up?” came another voice, Beiro, this time stopping before the heap of bodies on the floor I was contributing to. “Melech’s got a health potion in his satchel, can you get it for me?” I said frantically. I heard a rustling and then “Here!” as a vial was thrust into my hands. Knowing better than trying to explain why it might not be as easy for me to do this, I felt around until I found Melech’s face and tipped the health potion in. Luckily the blights did not seem to be interested in following Beiro into the tree.
With Melech back on his feet, the three of us proceeded up the stairway after Baldwin. We can’t have been much more than halfway up though when we heard a womanly scream falling down the side of the tree, followed by a soft crunch. The sound of laughter started to drift down, Baldwin’s it seemed, followed by a much heavier crunch near the base of the tree. A wave of relief suddenly spread over me, but, it didn’t seem to be my own. Instead, a sort of spirit washed over with a message of thanks. Thanks for freeing her from the curse. It was Amabilis and the deed was done.
With the treehouse now seemingly safe from any further assault, we took the opportunity to rest up and heal our wounds. To my relief, my sight came back after the rest and I started to feel healthy again. I stretched my legs out along the walkways and could now see down below the corpse of Amabilis with the other iron boot wedging her head firmly into the ground. It was clear that Baldwin had been able to push her out of the tree and followed up while she was on the ground.
We took a look at the other buildings that made up the treehouse complex that we hadn’t had the chance to look through before and happened across what appeared to be the bedroom. Rummaging through some of the drawers, I found a stash of coin, but there was a disgusted groan from behind as Baldwin made a significantly more gruesome discovery. Stitched to the underside of the rug he’d just looked under, there was the decomposing corpse of a gnome, quite possibly the druid who’d been making the notes that we’d found. There was a flash from above and through a large hole in the roof, an owl suddenly flew in and took a swipe at Baldwin, narrowly missing, and flew back up. It perched on the root, preparing to swoop in again, it’s eyes locked on Baldwin, but as Baldwin slowly put the rug back down, it relaxed.
It was at that point Beiro started hooting. The owl cocked it’s head all the way to one side and hooted back. The rest of us exchanged awkward glances, but after a while, it did actually seem like there were having a conversation. “We should bury him,” Beiro said abruptly. “The owl was his friend and would like to see that he’s put to rest”