From what we could see from the entranceway, passageways seemed to extend and lead off at random. It was a labyrinth. We quickly set about thinking up a strategy to avoid getting lost. Melech said that he had read a tale about a Minotaur in a labyrinth and a clever adventurer, when tasked with killing the Minotaur, had laid out a thread so that he did not get lost in said maze. Melech then volunteered up his hemp rope, which, although only 50 feet, was thick and made us of many strands. I spent the next hour or two unpicking it all, loosening the strands, then tying them back together end to end to make one long thread. Working with the rope for so long left my hands raw, but when I was finished we were left with the biggest ball of yarn I’d ever seen.
We entered the maze and took every left turn, doubling back on ourselves whenever we found a dead end. This approach meant we could cover the whole maze through our search to the centre. If we did end up going in a circle, we’d come across our own thread and could try something else.
Using this approach, we methodically made our way through the maze, but this wasn’t to be a mere wander. It wasn’t long before we rounded a corner to find some sort of creature extracting itself from the walls. Humanoid in shape, but composed entirely of wreathing vines. Another appeared on the other side of the path as well. “Interlopers, begone from this place” A voice said, echoing around the woods with no discernable source, likely the dryad in some form or another. Taking a deep breath, I announced “You have been corrupted, the unicorn protector of the Fey woods has said that you must, unfortunately, be excised.” No response. Then the vine monsters attacked. Melech started roasting them and Beiro hacked away, but the creatures reached out and one of them entangled Beiro in its vines. There was a yelp from behind, as Baldwin yelled “There’s more of them!” Grabbing one of the daggers I got from Smordin, I lashed out at the vines constricting Beiro and, surprised at my own dexterity, managed to cut him free without harming him. I shouted back to Baldwin “You’ve got our back, right?”
With a couple more attacks and spells, I could see Beiro and Melech had the situation under control with the creatures in front of us, so I spun around and threw the dagger I was holding into one of the two that Baldwin was fighting off behind us. It disappeared right into the chest of the viney mess, leaving nothing but an entry point. It then lashed out in anger at Baldwin, who had already been tangled a few times, and felled him.
I started to panic, the ones behind were bearing down on our now-open flank. I started to play my healing song, hoping it would be enough to raise Baldwin once more and as I played I could see him awakening “Come on Baldwin, you can do it, you’ve got these guys.” Baldwin staggered to his feet and lunged forwards, cleaving one of the creatures in two. Beiro rushed by giving backup now the danger at the front was gone and I whipped out my bow to fire an arrow at the other, the one I’d already hit. At short range it went straight into the hole the dagger had made before and with a gurgle the creature fell, the vines scattering across the ground.
“I think those were blights” Melech said, panting “just another sign of the corruption. I’m worried there’ll be more but, I think we need to take a rest”. So we did. It was an uneasy rest. Now that we were deep in the maze and had seen enemies come straight out of the wall, we couldn’t be sure we were safe. The sounds that filled the air were that of creaking wood, great boughs swaying in an eerily absent wind. Despite our concerns, we were able to take a bit of time to recover and started up once again
As we continued through the maze, I heard a very faint cry. “Help!” It said, in a thin weakened voice. “Hello!” I called out in Sylvan , “Where are you, how can we help you?” The same voice just came back again “Help!”. There was a corner up ahead, from which the sound seemed to be coming. We approached cautiously, wary of more trickery. The corner led to a hairpin, which led to a dead end, but sat on the ground at the dead end was a bush made of briar, from which the cry’s were emanating. On closer inspection it wasn’t a bush but a small cage, crafted from the same kind of briars present in the walls. Inside the cage was a pixie, much like the one we had ran into on our first trip into the Fey woods. It looked in incredible pain and torn to shreds by the briars, but was still alive.
Seeing it’s distress, I took out my dagger and started cutting away at the little briar bars, taking care not to tear my own hands up on the thorns. Unlike the walls we’d encountered, the bars on the cage came apart after just a little bit of knife work and it wasn’t long before I had cut most of them open.
I freed the pixie, but it continued to lay there motionless. Playing a song, I tried to coax it back to life. Bizarrely, it felt like it was trying to resist being healed, as though it didn’t want to recover. Despite this, I could see the song helping and some of the pixie’s cuts healing over. This only served to worsen its distress though and, all of a sudden there was a flash of pixie dust and it was gone. I whipped around, trying to see where it had disappeared to, but turned to find Beiro, eyes glazed over, swinging his sword towards me. I screamed out “Beiro, no! It’s me!” But to no effect. A white hot pain pierced my side as the sword sliced through. At that point, Wincing through the pain, I heard Baldwin project “Fey friend, stop” in Sylvan from around the corner.
Beiro came to his senses, but looked as confused as ever. Seeing me on the ground, he helped me to my feet. “What hurt you? Was it that fairy?” He asked. “Technically it was you” I said grumpily. “Oh” Beiro responded, then walked away. I steadied myself, then came around the corner to where Baldwin had been waiting. I saw him there, with the Fey Friend crown on show and the pixie a handful of feet away just staring at it. “Come here” Baldwin commanded “we’d like to know what you were doing here”. The pixie looked conflicted, wanting to flee but being held by some sort of power from the crown. It drifted slowly towards Baldwin and started speaking in a very jittery voice “I…err…the dryad, protector of all, commanded it, I was to…stay here, in that cage, yes”
“The unicorn sent us, we’ve come to deal with the corrupted dryad” Baldwin said, speaking very authoritatively. The pixie looked aghast and started to panic again, incredibly conflicted. “Look” I said, softly “We don’t want to harm the dryad if we don’t need to. Can you think of any other way that we can deal with the corruption?”. The pixie continued to fret and looked to be thinking very fast, but eventually slumped its shoulders and gave a very resigned shake of the head.
“I think you should get out of here” Baldwin suggested “it’s not safe for you here. If you get clear of the corruption you might feel better.” The pixie looked confused. “Out of here?” It squeeked “but how?” “We have a rope,” Baldwin said “follow it and you’ll find your way out.” The pixie looked down at the thread we had laid, fluttered down to the floor and held it. “Ok” it said quietly “follow the rope” and putting one hand over the other, it started to tread away, straight down a passageway we knew was a dead end, where the rope doubled back. “No, no, no!” Baldwin called out “That’s a dead end, you can follow the other rope now”. The fairy looked at the rope to its side, back at the one in its hand and shivered. “Nooooo” it moaned and carried on down the rope it was on. I put my hand on Baldwin’s shoulder “Leave her” I said “I think keeping it simple is the way to go”
Content there was some chance the pixie might succeed, we set off again, although I started to worry about the gash on my side