Lands of Katagma

Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [7] - Pain in my soldier

Having found the painting I suggested we should return it to the Barron as soon as possible. Amafey however seemed to think dealing with the hang and the corruption in the forest was more important. Melech agreed with me however. We were being paid to retrieve the painting and nothing else. We did however agree to search the rest of the house first.

We thoroughly searched the ground floor finding nothing of particular interest, just the usual items and rooms expected in such a house. The state of the larder though confirmed it had been abandoned for some time.

We proceeded up the stairs to the next level and entered a room filled with various ornaments. I noticed what seemed to the another copy of the painting ahead on the wall! As I stepped forward into the room, without warning, the carpet I was upon came to life and attacked me. It wrapped around me tightly and I struggled to breath, I could hear some of my ribs cracking. I heard Melech cast a spell an felt a searing pain across my body and cried out. The carpet didn’t seem that affected by the spell.

I managed to shake the carpet off but was unable to hit with my sword. It lunged back towards me wrapping itself around, crushing me again. I felt another wave of pain wash over me, Melech had cast another spell, he seemed not to know or care it was harming me also…

The next thing I remember is waking up outside the house again. Amafey explained that Melech had also been knocked out by the carpet, but Beiro and her had managed to defeat it, before dragging us to safety. As there seemed to be at least a second copy of the painting Amafey wanted to reenter the house and examine the one on the ground floor. Melech and I were reluctant to enter again but I said I would cover the stairs through one of the arrow slits.

As Amafey reached out and touched the painting I heard a strange noise and she yelled out. The painting wasn’t a painting at all, but a mimic! I sprinted around to the front and entered the house again to confront it. Amafey had been knocked unconscious and was being dragged to safety by Beiro. I let loose with my bow hitting the mimic before drawing my sword and moving into to attack. Beiro put Amafey down in the doorway before drawing his sword to join in the fight. Between us we managed to kill the mimic.

We decided to rest again while Amafey recovered and then proceeded back into the house once again.

Amafey's Notes [7] - House of Horrors

We stood there for a moment admiring the painting.
“We should get this back to the baron”, Baldwin said, breaking the silence.
“What about the forest?” I said, “We never found out how long this corruption has been going on for and how fast it’s spreading”.
“We’re not being paid for doing anything with the forest,” Melech replied bitterly.
“But you heard the pixie, we’re supposed to be heroes, saving the forest is far more heroic, will have far more prestige than retrieving some painting” I stammered desperately, trying to appeal to what I thought might count for something.
“I disagree. this painting chronicles a long-lost historic tale and we’ll be remembered for finding it” countered Melech steadfastly.
I sighed, both Baldwin and Melech didn’t seem concerned with helping the forest and although Beiro would probably be with me, we’d need their help as well to defeat whatever curse was infesting it.
“Well, I think we all agree we need to search the rest of this mansion first, maybe something else here will change the situation.” The rest of the group nodded in unison, something we could agree on at least.

We had a thorough exploration of the rest of ground floor, finding more signs of abandonment, although seemingly suddenly, dirty mouldy pots and rotting food abound. The larder had a couple of non-perishables left that could tide my rations situation over for a couple of days if we found this place was indeed empty.

We proceeded up the stairs to the next level and found a landing room with various trinkets in it, ceramic vases and the like. After taking another step into the room, however, the carpet reared up and wrapped itself around Baldwin. We needed to do something fast before it suffocated him!. Melech cast the same wave of energy spell from before, with a slight effect on the carpet, but muffled yelps told us it was hurting Baldwin too. Baldwin managed to get free briefly, giving me and Beiro a chance to get a clean attack on the carpet, but it quickly attached itself again. I tried to grab the carpet in an attempt to tear it free, but my fingers were like butter, failing to get a grasp on the flailing fabric. At that point, it went limp. Baldwin was out of air and it dropped him on the floor, unconscious. It shifted straight over and wrapped Melech, who could do little to defend himself and it wasn’t long before he succumbed to the same fate as Baldwin, as Beiro and myself failed to tear the carpet off. After dispatching Melech, it went for Beiro next, but Beiro was having none of it and beat it back with his axe, eventually grabbing it and tearing it in two.

As Beiro set about tearing the carpet into pieces, I put my ear to one of the doors to see if anything else might be coming. Listening for a moment I heard a faint bumping sound, but it was definitely coming closer. “Quick!” I hissed to Beiro “We need to get these two downstairs, now!”. I tied a piece of the carpet to the bottom Baldwin’s head so I could drag him down the stairs safely, while Beiro quickly dragged Melech down with less concern. At the bottom of the stairs, I stopped, curiosity getting the better of me, and looked back up the stairs. I waited for a few moments then suddenly one of the ceramic vases came flying past my head, shattering on the wall behind me. “Move!” I yelled at Beiro, who had also stopped and we both rushed out of the house dragging our unconscious allies. It seemed as though a rushing of air was following us and the moment we reached the threshold of the front door, it slammed shut behind us.

With everyone safely outside, I caught my breath and went back to the front door and hit the knocker again “Helloooo?!? We were hoping to talk to the owner of the house. We were worried they might be in trouble”. No response. Perturbed I pushed the door open again, still unlocked and just left it that way before going back to the others.

Baldwin and Melech woke up a couple of hours later, groggy and somewhat incredulous that they were downed by a carpet. “I have some bad news,” I said, as they stirred. There was something I’d spotted in the carpet’s room before we were chased out. “I don’t know whether you noticed, but there’s another copy of the painting upstairs, in the room with the carpet. At least one of them has to be a decoy of some kind. I want to have a closer look at the one on this floor, see whether it’s an illusion or something. It’ll give us a better idea of what we’re dealing with” “Well, I’m not going in there again right now, I still need more time to recover,” Melech said grumpily

I walked back into the house, cautiously checking around every corner for floating crockery, with Beiro close behind. Baldwin went around to the outside to keep an eye on the stairs through one of the arrow slits. I walked over to the painting with one eye still on the stairs and reached out to touch it. With a slight slurping sound my hand stuck to it like glue. Crap. “Err, we have a problem here!” I shouted as I watched in fear as a set of teeth formed and sunk into my arm. “Melech! I think it’s a mimic!” I yelled, aware he was outside and unwilling to enter the house again unless urgent. I felt Beiro’s hands around my waist as he started pulling me away from the painting and the extra force gave me a chance to wrest my hand free, but the mimic lashed out again, sinking its teeth deep into my shoulder and the shock knocked me unconscious.

I woke up in a cold sweat in a tent what must’ve been a couple of hours later. I tentatively got up and made my way outside, finding the others relaxing on the grass. Baldwin was playing cards, Melech was leafing through his new book and Beiro was staring very intently at a little colony of rabbits hopping around on the other bank. “Thank you for getting me out of there. I guess…it was a little reckless in retrospect”. Melech grunted “This is a pretty serious mage’s house alright. There’s every trick in the book guarding this place, but no sign of the actual owner. We’ll need to recover fully before we take this on” he said.

Once more we headed into the house, determined to get to bottom of its secrets, undeterred by its numerous deadly challenges.

Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [6] - The Painting at Last!

I waited for the others outside and then we made our way back to the stream. The area definitely seemed more brambly than I recalled. Maybe the corruption the fey mentioned. Nevertheless we continued to head upstream as before.

After about an hour walking along the rocky shore a worm like creature jumps out attacking me. It missed its first strike but taken off guard I also miss my retaliation. It lashed out again this time hitting me before grabbing hold and biting me hard in the shoulder. I staggered a bit but managed to shake it off. Tis but a scratch, nothing I couldn’t handle. Melech’s magic missiles struck it moments before Beiro moved in slashing at it with one of his hand axes. Why the hell is he not using his long sword I wondered. I was beginning to question his decision making…

Amafey began playing some energizing music and my focus was restored, the pain in my shoulder but a minor inconvenience! Amafey lunged forward attempting to stab it with her rapier, but was wide of the mark. Maybe she should stick to music? My next swing with my long sword struck home, cutting it deeply. It switched targets and struck out towards Beiro. It however fell short and missed before being finished by another wave of Melech’s missiles.

Amafey informed us the creature was called a Grick. Having taken quite a nasty bite it was agreed that I would rest while Amafey and Beiro searched for the Grick’s lair. Melech stayed behind and helped patch me up. Amafey and Beiro returned later having been unable to find the lair. We rested and had lunch while I regained some of my strength.

We set off again after about an hour and soon came across a large fortified house set in a clearing. Maybe the house of the fey friend? The house itself looks fairly recently built and quite well kept. Amafey walked up to the front door and tried to get the attention of anyone inside. Beiro had tried to follow but Melech stopped him. Probably best we don’t crowd the door as I could see it had murder holes above it.

As Amafey was having no luck I decided to walk over the try the door. It was unlocked! I shouted in but got no response. We decided as the door was open we would wait to see if anyone was around. After a while however I was convinced no one was going to come and decided to enter the house and look around. The others objected but I saw no point in waiting more. The door was unlocked so the owner was likely inside in one state or another.

I pushed the front further open and went In. As I did so a suit of armour slammed into me pinning me to the wall. A sword, that looked like it was flying, slashed me cutting quite deep. Beiro rather than helping grabbed hold of me pulling me back out the building! I objected but he was determined. The armour and sword did not pursue.

I wanted to go back in a finish the job but reluctantly agreed to withdraw. The others decided that we would rest till morning and then attempt to enter the house again. Melech said he needed time to prepare new spells and form a plan of attack.

We first scouted the outside of the building looking for a arrow slit that would give an angle on the armour. None was to be found however and we would have to use the direct approach. Not that I have much objection to this mind you!

I lead through the front door and was immediately set on again by the armour. This time however we were ready. Melech cast a spell I had never seen before, electrical energy pulsated through the air striking the armour and sword. The sword was blocking the way in so I struck out at it. After a couple of blows it shattered to the ground and I managed to push further in. This allowed the others to enter. After quite a few more blows and a stab through the visor by Amafey, the armour crumpled to the ground.

I looked up and noticed a huge painting on the opposite wall, it looked like the one we had been looking for!

Amafey's Notes [6] - Gricks and Bricks

As we got up to leave, the old lady said she could offer more. “If I were to have something of your mother’s, I could get a better idea of where she might be” she croaked. I had a think. My flute was the first thing that came to mind, but that was only a replica to remind me of my mother, it was my father that gave it to me. Then I remembered the trinket I had hanging from my belt. Two toy soldiers tied together, one with its head missing, had been hanging there since I set off from Kennrylatin. It’s a silly thing, but it’s probably the only thing I know my mother gave to me, back before we lost her. I offered them to Old Mother Basket and she said she could see what she could find before Melech came back to return his book. We bid her good day and she said we were welcome back anytime for more tea.

The walk back to the stream was fairly brief, but along the way, we realised that there were perhaps more brambles this way than there should be. Were we on the edge of the corrupted area already? Maybe we’d not been oblivious before and it was, in fact, spreading fairly rapidly. The brambles soon cleared to leave light forest and a rocky shore as we approached the stream.

We continued where we left off before meeting Old Mother Basket, continuing upriver. It was still late morning at this point and we still had plenty of the day left for exploring. Suddenly, after about half an hour of walking, I heard a yelp from behind me, Baldwin had been attacked by one of the rocks! As we turned we could see a grey worm-like creature that had clearly been hiding nearby. I thought I recognised it from one of the books I’d read but had more pressing concerns such as it trying to latch itself onto Baldwin. Baldwin struck back against the creature’s torso, landing a hit, but it took this opportunity to wrap the tentacles around its mouth onto Baldwin’s shoulder and sunk its beak deep into the flesh. Baldwin shook it off, but looked worse for wear, with a gash trickling blood down his arm. Melech started muttering arcane incantations, firing the now familiar missiles of magic from his fingers, hitting the creature true and Beiro rushed past me to join the fray as well. I got my flute out and started playing in an attempt to inspire Baldwin toward triumph, given his more precarious state. While playing, I walked forwards and in one swift motion, returned the flute to its pocket, drew my rapier and tried to stab it in the beast. My combat skills are still new and fairly untested and my inexperience meant I made my stab in between movements, missing it’s twisted form. My song of inspiration for Baldwin was enough though, and his next blow struck the creature in it’s assumed face, cleaving its beak in two. As it slumped to the ground, we nervously glanced around, checking that there wasn’t any other danger hiding with the rocks on the shore, but it seemed as though we were safe.

The creature was a grick, something I’d read about in a tome in the Kennrylatin library. They are typically underground beings, occasionally seen on the surface. Solitary hunters, hiding and waiting for prey to come to them. Remembering these details, I informed the others and started searching the local area with Beiro to see if there was a lair nearby. We didn’t find one, which indicated the grick was fairly new to the area, but we did find a freshly chewed deer carcass, which meant the beast had had an ample last meal. We came back as Melech was helping Baldwin tend to his wounded shoulder. “It’ll just need a short rest,” he said, so we sat down and chatted for the next hour.

During our rest, we ended up on the topic of trinkets. I mentioned the toy soldiers had been a somewhat silly keepsake, but I’d probably miss them. If they were to be useful in finding my mother it would be for the best though. Baldwin said he had something kind of similar and he took out a small notebook, followed by a pen. Writing in the notebook, he showed us that it would not accept any ink, any page would just stay blank. He wasn’t sure why he keeps it or how he got it, he just found it in the bottom of his bag one day and has just left it there. Melech said he had a withered goblin hand and just kind of shrugged.

Once we started up again, we were walking for only about half an hour before encountering a clearing by the stream. A large fortified building stood in the middle of it, three-stories tall complete with arrow slits. It looked like a relatively recent build, with the outer walls showing no sign of decay or coverings of ivy. I said we should find out if anyone’s home and cautiously walked over to the front door, making sure to not look like a threat that anyone inside might attack. I thought I heard Beiro behind me, but when I turned Melech was holding him by the shoulder. I reached the door to find a large brass knocker. I knocked three times, the knocker booming with each hit. “Hello?” I said, rather boldly. Nothing. I waited a minute. Still nothing. I made an illusory pink teapot appear near one of the top floor windows, to draw the attention of any inhabitants too far up to hear the knocker. Still nothing. Baldwin came over and pushed the door to find it unlocked. We tried the knocker again, then decided to sit down nearby for a short while to see if the owner was out and might return soon.

After a while, Baldwin grew restless. There was no sign of life from inside the house and he wanted a poke around. I was against the idea. This seemed like someone’s house and you don’t just go rifling through someone’s belongings like that. We gathered at the front door again while discussing this and despite my protests, Baldwin wanted a look and pushed through the door. Beiro went to follow as well, going where the action was to be. Melech stayed behind, but it seemed he was intrigued as well. “We might as well go in now. We don’t want to leave those two idiots to their own devices in there” Melech reasoned. “Yeah, I think at this point I’d rather go in to try and diffuse the situation if we do find the owner,” I responded, talking myself around in the face of the evolving situation. We turned to go into the house but were greeted with the of Baldwin wrestling with a suit of armour, fending off a floating sword.

We stood there, kind of transfixed for a moment. “We should just get out of here,” Melech said “try again with a plan”. “No, I think we’ve got to deal with this now, I don’t think Baldwin’s one to back down from a fight”. We needed to send in the big guns. I picked up my ukulele.
“Beiro, Beiro, it’s time to rage,
release that beast, from its cage,
get in there, kick that armour’s ass,
do it now or face my sass”
and as I strummed the final chord I smacked him on the butt. Reflexively, Beiro ran into the house, but instead of going for the armour, he grabbed Baldwin around the chest from behind. Baldwin tried to fend off the elf barbarian, wanting a clean fight against the armour, but couldn’t wriggle free and was dragged onto the grass outside. The armour and sword didn’t chase us out the door and “Ok”, said Melech “Now let’s think about this. Enchanted armour and the like are typically defence mechanism for the houses of wizards, so now I’m VERY interested”

We decided to assault the keep in the morning and set up camp outside, in an easy position to see whether anyone did eventually return. In the morning we had our breakfast and readied ourselves by the doorway to the building. I started playing a little war-song for Baldwin as he was the first to enter and I was glad to see that it seemed to be pumping him up nicely, imbuing him with bravery for the battle ahead. He opened the door and quickly hurried in, but was met by the sword halfway down the entranceway, not leaving much space to fight.

As we all crowded in the entry corridor, Melech told me to step back, he needed to cast a spell and could only shape it so much. I did as he asked and as I did so he let out a ripple of electrical energy, which didn’t seem to affect Baldwin and Beiro. Baldwin gave the sword one final clash and it shattered, shards of metal falling to the floor. This gave Beiro the opportunity to push past and start attacking the now cornered suit of armour. I saw my opportunity to dart in as well and went for a jab with my rapier, but the blow glance’s off the armour’s…armour.

Now cornered, however, the armour wasn’t due to last much longer. Both Beiro and Baldwin were landing direct hits and it was taking damage from Melech’s magic too. It was started to slow, shifting in jerkier movements. Finally, I leaned in and grabbed it by the helmet visor and using it to steady myself, drove my rapier into the gap at the bottom of the chest plate. As the sword drove through the magical energy holding the armour up, it dispelled, causing the suit of armour collapse under its own weight. Still holding the helmet aloft, I tossed it over my shoulder. With no other immediate threats, we were now free to explore the reception room that we had ended up in and it didn’t take us long for us to notice the giant painting. The one with a human and an elf, heroes, that match the description Baron Ramsgate III had given us.

Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [5] - Orcs, scarecrows and Old Mother Basket

The thing that hit Melech turned out to be a pixie. It shouted at us to hide. Suddenly I heard Orcs shouting ahead of us. It turns out that Beiro understands Orcish and told us the Orcs were hunting for the pixie. Amafey and Melech climbed up the nearest large tree. Beiro attempted to follow, but just couldn’t manage to climb and quickly gave up. Not sure what use he thought he would be up a tree in combat.

The orcs came into range and I let loose with an arrow hitting one. Magical darts came flying out of the tree striking the leading orc, downing him. Beiro let loose with a javelin. A weird glow appeared around two of the orcs. Presumably some kind of spell cast by Amafey.

I let loose with another arrow hitting another orc. The orcs then responded by throwing some Javelins at Beiro. He was hit but responded by throwing his own Javelin back. More magical darts from Melech struck the remaining Orcs with one more going down. The remaining Orcs threw more Javelins before moving forward to engage us. One of the orcs struck Beiro knocking him down. I saw the other orc to my left approaching so draw my sword and with a powerful strike cut him down. By now the orc that had struck Beiro had also been killed.

Amafey, Melech and I rushed over to help Beiro. I managed to stop his bleeding and stabilise him. I searched the bodies of the orcs finding nothing useful other than a bit of coin. I noticed the warpaint was identical on all the orcs. Not something that I had seen before. They had acted far more as a single unit than I had experienced before.

Amafey was talking to the pixie, who was explaining that a “hag” was corrupting the forest and orcs had been coming into forest frequently. We asked
the pixie about the painting from the hall. Alas though it didn’t know anything about it. However it told us of a “fey friend” who lived in a cottage further upstream.

We discussed what to do next and came to the conclusion we make camp for the night and then proceeding upstream to find the fey friend in the morning. We set off early continuing up the river at a steady pace. After some time we came across a scarecrow on the bank of the river. It turned towards us, a rather odd behavior for a scarecrow! At this point we noticed another one further into the woods from the stream. Amafey cast an illusion of her self into front of one of them. It struck out at it, clearly not something friendly.

We decided to avoid them by crossing over to the other side of the stream for a short while. Further up stream we came across an old woman picking mushrooms. She noticed us and yelled out a greeting. We went over and began talking to her and asked her questions about the fey and orcs we had encounter. We also inquired about the fey friend and painting we were searching for. She replied that she had never seen any fey or heard of the fey friend or painting.

She invited us back to tea at her cottage stating she rarely had any visitors. We accepted, though I was a little uneasy about it, maybe she was the hag? We began following her and soon came to a clearing where the cottage was located.

We went inside and the old woman set about making tea. I excused myself to use the privy. I came back in as the woman was taking the pot of the fire to make the tea. Seemingly mid conversation with the others she was stating our “true purposes”. I was beginning to grow suspicious of the woman, not all was quite as it seemed.

She offered Melech time to study some of her books, he seemed somewhat reluctant at first but was unable to resist the offer and accepted. The old woman stated she would think on a favour to ask for in return. She pointed out a particular book on a self and Melech went over to retrieve it.

I sipped the tea while Melech quickly scanned through the book. he requested he be able to keep the book for a while and the woman agreed. I had had enough at the point and stated that we should leave, making my way towards the front door. The old woman was beginning to make me really uneasy. Beiro spoke up and asked what the woman’s name was. People call me Old Mother Basket she stated.

Amafey's Notes[5] - Time for Tea

Having just bounced off of Melech’s chest, the pixie squeaked “Hide!” shortly followed by “Demon!” having glanced up at the face of the being it had run into and it darted behind Beiro. I carefully peered around Beiro. “Are you ok, little friend?" I asked, but at that moment we heard shouting in the woods behind us. Orcs! Their crazed yells told us that we had but a few moments. Melech and I quickly clambered up the nearest tree. Beiro needed reminding that he was better suited to combat on the ground rather than up a tree, but he and Baldwin readied themselves down below.

The ensuing battle was brief. With the element of surprise, we made swift first blows, Melech’s magic took the leader of the four orcs as I used some of my performance tricks to make them easier to hit. Some javelins went back and forth and I threw my dagger into the fray, lopping off part of an orc’s ear. The last orc alive, however, landed a blow on Beiro, knocking him down. Baldwin finished off the orc and we all rushed over in an attempt to stabilise poor Beiro. He was unconscious and in a sorry state, but we pooled our limited medical knowledge together to stop him bleeding out. Even so, it would be a couple of hours before he would regain consciousness.

The pixie had been flitting around during the battle and we now had a chance to stop and talk to her, after first assuring her that Melech was a perfectly harmless demon, at least not to friends. She correctly identified us as heroic adventurers and thanked us for saving her. There was a deeper problem though, what she was truly running from and pleaded with us to lend our heroics to quash evil once again. “There’s a hag,” she said “she’s corrupted the forest dryad and is defiling the forest. If I didn’t leave, I would be affected as well.” Orcs had been showing up more too, maybe related, maybe not. We assured her we would do what we could, but also asked about the painting from the hall. She didn’t know anything but said if anyone did, it would be the fey friend, who had once lived further up the stream. Unfortunately, the fey friend hadn’t been seen in years and no-one is exactly sure what happened to them. The pixie said if we were to go north, we’d know we were reaching the corrupted area by the thicker, thornier undergrowth. We bid goodbye to her, as she was still worried for her safety and sanity and needed to flee further away from the corruption

We decided to make camp where we were, to give Beiro time to recover and reflect on where to head next. After searching and clearing the orc bodies, Baldwin came back with an announcement. “There’s something more organised about these Orcs. Whenever I saw them before they were disorganised. Ragtag. Reliant on numbers and barely even allied to each other. The orcs we just killed all share the same warpaint. Someone, or something, is bringing them together and organising them”. As much of a concern as this was, there wasn’t much we could do about it, aside from dispatching any other orcs we run into along the way. We were in the fey woods and had fairy and foresty matters to attend to. The hag and the spreading corruption were obviously a pressing concern, but we agreed that if we were to do this right, we should try and enlist the help of the fey friend. They might be able to provide us with some useful information on both how to stop the corruption, defeat the hag and rescue the dryad. Maybe they’d have the painting too, but I think we heroes had now found a truer quest.

The night passed without incident, we had breakfast and set out once again, continuing up the river. After walking for a while, we came across what appeared to be a couple of scarecrows. As we approached, they slowly turned until they were facing us. Given that the slight breeze wisping through the woods wouldn’t have been strong enough to move them, there must be some magic at play. They didn’t seem to be guarding anything, in particular, so we decided to give them a wide berth, crossing the river. As we passed, I cast an illusion of myself near the scarecrow. Suddenly it came alive, swiping through the illusion, but failing to find purchase. Clearly hostile, perhaps made to ward away from an area, but with no obvious placement. We carried on up the river, crossing back a short way away.

A short time later, we saw an old lady by the riverside picking mushrooms. We started talking in hushed whispers. This wouldn’t be the hag, would it? The one that’s corrupting the dryad in the northern forest? Probably not, we’ve not been going north and we haven’t had to start wading through thorns. As we were discussing though, she spotted us and waved a mushroom at us “Hello there! Unusual to see travellers in these parts”. We greeted her and said it was weird to see an old lady like her deep in the woods as well. We got chatting, but she seemed to know little about anything we’d encountered or had been searching for. She didn’t think she was the fey friend, having never seen a pixie or any such creature in her life, had not seen any orcs and didn’t know anything about the painting. She took little time in asking us back to her cottage for a cup of tea though.

Now, pretty much every story I’ve read that features an old lady in the woods would tell me that this is a terrible idea and we definitely should not go back to her cottage for tea. She did seem genuinely nice though and I suddenly really fancied a nice cuppa. We all agreed to tea, although Beiro and Baldwin seemed a lot more cautious, and she started leading us into the woods, away from the little river. After 15 minutes of walking, we reached a small clearing with a cottage in it. It looked pretty well established in the clearing, probably not the roaming cottage. “Has this always been here?” queried Baldwin, although mostly under his breath. He was probably having the same chain of thought as me. “Well houses don’t just get up and walk away” the old lady quipped, which was oddly…well…specific, given our concerns.

Once inside, the old lady put a pot of water on to boil within the hearth. “No tea for me” Melech muttered. Maybe there was something here he didn’t trust? I kept my eye on the pot, I would be able to see if the old lady did anything funny with the water, I might even stop it boiling if I watch it hard enough. The old lady pattered around the kitchen, getting some mismatched crockery and putting a cup and saucer down in front of each of us, including Melech, oblivious to what he had said. “Take a seat!” she said, as she reached Beiro. “No, I prefer to stand” Beiro responded, rather shortly. “I insist, I insist!” the old lady repeated, but Beiro refused again. The old lady narrowed her eyes at him, then removed his cup and saucer “Well no tea for you then!”. This actually put me at ease a bit, she didn’t seem so hellbent on getting tea down everyone’s throats after all.

As the water was heating up, she started to ask us about why we had all come so far from home. I told her about my journey to play my music far and wide, in an attempt to bring joy to people. Melech told her about his trek from far-off lands in his search for new knowledge. She no longer tried to address Beiro and he was stone quiet in return, which isn’t exactly unusual, but Baldwin excused himself to the outhouse before the conversation truly turned to him.

I started playing my rendition of “Bluechaps” on my ukelele, which had proven popular since reaching Ustia. She seemed to enjoy it, saying it was nice to hear music again. Then I had a brainwave, she was quite old and could well have been somewhere more populated when my mother was around. I started to play “Amazing Mace”, an old song about a mighty Paladin, which was apparently one of my mother’s favourites. “Oh, I haven’t heard this in a while!” she exclaimed, clearly happy to hear it again. “Oh, you recognise it?” I responded, “Oh, I get about a little bit from time to time.” The old lady chuckled “Where did you learn it?” “It was one of my mother’s favourite songs,” I said, quietly. The old lady leaned in, “I’m hearing the past tense there, my dear, what happened to your mother?” I explained about my parents and the orc raid. I opened up more than I’m normally inclined to do so, but it was like something was tugging the information out of me. I took a deep gulp of the tea. It was a proper tea, dried leaves from the south, rather than some local herbal concoction. It was fantastic, I had only tried such tea once or twice before. Unusual for a mysterious aged lady in the woods to be in possession of such things, but I felt like I was already getting the hang of things not being normal here.

As I was finishing my stories, the old lady hefted a large pot onto the fire with a great “ooof!”. “Do you want a hand with that?” I offered. “No, I’m quite fine. But would you like a hand?”. Suddenly the atmosphere in the cottage changed. It darkened, closed in, grew heavy, but with a certain sense of intrigue. “I’m…sorry?” I responded cautiously. “You’re all searching for something,” she said, grinning while stirring the contents of the small cauldron. “Yes, we told you, the painting” Melech interrupted “do you know something?” “No, not that, you’re not all out here just to find some old piece of cloth, you’re all searching for something more”. Turning to me “You’re searching for your mother”, to Melech “you seek knowledge”, turning to Baldwin “You seek validation for your work defending the land“, although slightly less sure of herself. Finally, she turned to Beiro “And you seek a bath!” “I can help you all find these things” she continued, to all of us “except you”, snapping at Beiro.

Melech was clearly having an internal struggle, he didn’t trust her, but here was someone offering him an opportunity to broaden his knowledge in a rapid fashion. “What do you want in return?” Melech queried, aware that there’s no way there wasn’t a catch. “Oh, just some favour down the line, I’ll think of something suitable.” This lacked the clarity Melech was looking for and he stopped, deep in thought. “Ok,” he said, mind made up. They shook hands, but Melech came away from the exchange looking like he had been deeply wronged in some way. “Take the fifth book from the right on the 4th shelf. You’ll find what you’re looking for there”. Melech got up and retrieved it. As far as I could tell it was some sort of spellbook. Melech sat down and started flicking through it, nodding slowly as he went. “Am I able to borrow this book for a while?” Melech asked. The old lady nodded sagely “Of course, I’m sure you will return it when the time is right”

“And you can help me find my mother?” I asked, cautiously. “Not exactly, I saw her in passing, but not since she was taken to the mines” She hadn’t explicitly for a favour in return and we hadn’t shaken on a deal, but I knew her telling me that would probably still tie me to one of these ‘favours’. “Th…thank you” I stuttered, surprised I finally had some sort of lead. “Just remember who gave you the information,” she said. “Of course,” I said warmly, genuinely thankful. It’s something to look out for at the very least, although these mines could be anywhere.

As we were getting up to leave, Beiro finally broke his silence “What is your name?” he asked. The old lady smiled a toothy grin and hoisted up her mushroom basket. “Oh, people call me Old Mother Basket. I’m sure I’ll see you all again soon”

Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [4] - Crown of the Forest Queen

Amafey’s starting speaking, presumable to a fey, switching between various languages, none of which I could understand. Not being of much immediate use and with the other seemly occupied I kept watch. After a while a small dragon flew out clutching something and was out of sight before I could react.

Beiro and Amafey climbed back down to meet us on the ground. Amafey showed us a crown she had found and explained that it could change size. Indeed as she handed it to Melech is grow larger, big enough to fit on his head. We took a break while Melech examined the item. He was able to determine that it was the crown of the Forest Queen. It would enable wearer to speak Sylvan and the fey would consider it a sign of friendship. It was decided that I would wear the crown being the only human.

After some discussion I managed to convince the others we had not fully searched the hall and needed to do so. We all climbed back up the second floor and gave it a thorough second search. Nothing new was found but best to rule everything else. We then continued down a side door that lead down some stairs to the back of the hall. We had not been able to search there.

As I exited the door at the bottom of the stairs shrieking erupted and something struck me hard in the face. A fungi was just behind the door and had lashed out. I slashed back at the fungi with my long sword striking it hard. The fungi burst into flame, presumable a spell cash by Melech. It seemed dead at this point however shrieking continued and I could see another fungi up ahead.

A javelin flew over my head striking the second fungi. I whipped out my bow, shooting an arrow at it. It struck home and the shrieking ceased. We inspected the fountain seeing a statue that seemed to be of the Forest Queen wearing the very crown I had on. I thought as the crown was magic it might interact with the statue in someway. But my efforts were fruitless and met with scornful remarks from Melech. Wizards always seem somewhat imperious.

Seeing there was nothing important we had missed before we left the hall and rested while I tended my wounds. After about an hour and a brief discussion, it was agreed that we would head further into the wood. We started followed the stream up from the hall, using it as something to guide us. After sometime of uneventful walking I heard a thud as something struck Melech in the chest.

Amafey's Notes[4] - Little Friendly Dragon

Confronted with the little Sylvan-talking dragon, I asked: “Do you speak common, little dragon?” It cocked it’s head to one side, not entirely sure if it had understood, but then responded in a language I didn’t recognise. Clear that we were trying to find a language that we both understood, I tried Elvish, to which it shook its head, then finally conceded to Sylvan, just to make some progress in conversation.

Having established our language of communication, I figured my best option was courtesy. This could be his home, but if we apologised for breaking and entering they might decide we’re friendly and divulge some information about the obviously missing items. “Sorry if we’ve intruding..” I started, but the dragon cut across me, “whatcha lookin’ for?”. The jig was up and it was worth it at this point to see whether the dragon was going to help or not. Any information might be useful, even if it was in a roundabout messing with us for amusement kind of way. “There was clearly something on this cushion here,” I said, trying to take the focus off of our true goal “and in this picture frame too. Do you have any idea where they might’ve gone?” “Maybe” the dragon responded, clearly not trying their hardest to be helpful.

Realised the little dragon might have his own little hoard, I offered a trade. He’d obviously been watching for a little while. “I want what was in that little coffer”. Easy come, easy go, I thought, at least we could get a lead on the painting and perhaps something else as well. At this point, a voice piped up in my ear. Melech had cast some sort of spell allowing us to communicate in secret and wanted to check everything was fine. All he and the others could hear was babble in Sylvan. While making my best thinking face towards the dragon, deliberately over the aspects of the deal, I indicated to Melech the current situation and that everything seemed to be fine.

Turning my attention back to the dragon, I agreed to give him the items from the coffer in exchange for information, but, not entirely trusting the usefulness of the information, offered one item now and the rest later. He picked out the Ewer from the assembled items, swooped down to collect and returned to the rafters. “Try over there” it smirked, pointing towards the corner of the room, opposite the door that led downstairs. I did as it said and eventually found a secret door leading to some sort of storeroom. Still not entirely trusting the situation and half-expecting to get locked in a musty closer, I announced what was going on in elven, so that at least Melech and Beiro could understand and come help if necessary.

The room contained a bunch of fabrics and robes and a heap of dusty old incense-burners. I started sifting through the fabrics, looking for anything with a pattern or better yet, a design that could indicate it was the painting canvas. The majority of the fabric seemed to be faded ceremonial robes, but as I unfurled some more towards the back, something heavy fell out with a thunk and started rolling across the floor. Quickly scooping the object up, I found it to be some sort of ornate crown, intricately designed. As I scooped it up, it started shrinking slightly, until it reached a size that would make it perfectly onto my own head. Poking my head out the storeroom door, I motioned to the dragon “Is this what I should be looking for?” I said, waving the crown. “Perhaps” replied the dragon, launching itself off into the air from the rafters and out of sight. I guess I’ll keep the rest of the treasure…

I clambered back up the rope and we regrouped at the base of the back of the hall. I showed the others the crown and passed it to Melech. Having the biggest head, I expected that, if the crown were to change size again, it would have the most obvious effect in his hands and I was proven correct. We all watched as it grew large enough to fit onto Melech’s big ol’ horned head. Clearly magical. We took a break over the next hour, starting lunch, while Melech examined the crown more closely. Suddenly, he triumphantly announced he had a breakthrough. This was the crown of the Forest Queen, a symbol of the agreement referenced in the folk tales we had read back at the library. Once “attuned” to a wearer, it would allow them to speak Sylvan and fey would be generally friendlier to them. As the only human in our group, it seemed best to have Baldwin wear the crown and I would be able to keep my own Sylvan linguistic abilities hidden until appropriate again.

The party was split on what to do next. I was confident in my searching abilities and declared that there was nothing left for us at the hall. Baldwin, on the other hand, was certain that there was more to find and wanted a proper look himself. We all clambered onto the roof and into the back room again. After another brief search of the altar room, which didn’t turn up anything novel, we proceeded down the stairs, Baldwin first, to see where they came out. A proper look indicated that the entrance on the other side was hidden and came out just beside the cracked fountain. Baldwin burst through the door and was immediately lashed out at by a violent shroom and the incessant screeching started up yet again. Baldwin replied in part and hacked the shroom down, with a little help from Melech’s magical fire. There remained a screeching from the other side of the room, so Beiro showed off some of his cooking expertise and made a mushroom skewer using his javelin.

Seeing that the others had the shrooms under control, I decided to get my feet wet, quite literally, and examine the fountain. In the centre there was a little statue of a humanoid creature with wings and sat atop its little head was a tiny stone replica of the crown. It was clearly quite worn down from the years since its inception and did not seem to yield any more secrets. As I was inspecting the statue, the screams were suddenly silenced, leaving only the soft babbling of the water and the drip from the damp. This was shortly disturbed though by a large splash, as Baldwin came wading in to look at the statue too. He took the crown from his head and tried to put it on the statue. Nothing happened.

Back outside the hall, we took another short rest, allowing the gashes the shroom inflicted on Baldwin to stop bleeding. After a brief discussion, as to whether it was worth heading back to town (I was interested in whether any of the village folk of Westpine knew of the crown and to have a comfy bed to sleep on for the night), we started following the river upstream. After about an hour’s walk, I heard an “ooof” sound behind me, as something had careened into Melech’s chest at full pace. A clearly flustered small humanoid figure with wings picked itself and quickly stuttered “Hide!”

Baldwin Rumwald's Notes [3] - Westpine and The Fey Woods

We needed something to prop the wagon up while the dwarf repaired it. Between us we decided a boulder and lever made from a tree would work. Melech and I set off into the woods to find one while Amafey and Beiro set about finding and cutting down a suitable tree. Melech and I quickly located a large boulder and managed to roll it back towards the wagon.

We lifted the wagon and positioned the boulder just behind the front axle. With the boulder being sufficiently large we didn’t need the tree as a lever. The dwarf set about repairing the axle and we chatted to him while he worked. We learned his named was Smordin Ironhammer and that he was on his way to Coombesgate having left Westpine earlier on.

After the axle was repaired we pushed the wagon out of the ditch. Smordin refused our offer to help reload the wagon. To reward us for our help he gave us a golden token which he explained could be exchanged for metalwork from him or a number of other traveling blacksmiths.

We parted ways with Smordin and set off again towards Westpine. We had learned from Smordin that it was about a two hour walk.

As we approached Westpine an angry cow came thundering towards us down with a shouting farmer running after. I jumped aside out of its path, as did some of the others. Amafey however took out her flute and started playing. This seemed to calm the animal and it came to halt before us. The farmer caught up and thanked us for stopping the cow. We asked about a tavern to stay at and he informed us the only tavern was the The Moody Cow just off the square.

We got to the tavern in the early afternoon. Melech and Beiro thought it was too early to drink and set off for a walk around the village and nearby woods. Amafey and I however ordered some drinking and began talking to the tavern keeper and his wife about the Fey Woods. They told us numerous stories about strange events and people entering the wood to never return. The tavern keeper insisted the stories were rubbish but nonetheless cautioned against entering. It all Sounded like a load of superstitious nonsense to me. We also learned of a path leading to a old hall in the woods. Likely a good lead to follow on the morrow.

Amafey performed that evening in return for free board at the tavern, though the rest of us had to pay. That silver from those bandits is coming in handy! The tavern itself had no rooms, so we slept in the main room after it had emptied out.

We woke early, ate breakfast and then set off down the path into the woods. We soon arrived at an old dilapidated hall with its entrance at the path’s end. We scouted around the outside of the building, It was two stories high, with windows on the second level. There was a stream flowing through a grate into what looked like a fountain at the back.

We headed back around the front and made our way into the hall. We could see a stone walkway around the height of the second floor, two doors further in that looked like they might lead up to it and the fountain at the far end. As I moved towards the stairs with the others in tow, piercing screeches erupted. Melech shouted out that this sound was possible Shrieking Fungi and that they were potential dangerous. I could see them just ahead beyond the doors, looking like deformed enormous mushrooms. To avoid going past them we made our way up the stairs onto the walkway. One end of the walkway lead to a set of doors into what was a separate room above the fountain. I likely place for the painting I thought.

We attempted to enter the room via the doors, but soon discovered the doors were blocked by the collapsed roof from above it. It occurred to us that with the roof gone we would be able to climb in from around the back. As we headed out the building a number of harmless but annoying pranks were played on us. First a mirage of a chest Beiro and I fruitlessly tried to uncover. Water was then thrown over Melech, followed by much giggling! I couldn’t for the life of me see who was doing it. Amafey said it was probably the Fey.

We continued around to the back of the hall and saw the hole left by the collapsed roof we had missed earlier. Amafey and Beiro climbed up the outside and then using a rope Amafey was lowered down inside. After a short while I heard a weird voice speak out. Maybe one of the fey?

Amafey's Notes[3] - Into the Woods

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.


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