DRAMATIS PERSONAE:Vegarious (Changeling 3)
Ranza (Changeling 3)
Jonesomon (Specialist 4)
Jonesomon (Specialist 4)
Gnarl (Wood Gnome 4)
Hobbs (Hedgefey 4)
The party now felt they'd spent more than enough time in Wickerwood, and started to prepare for their interrupted journey north to Fortress Iacarta. Unfortunately, their sojourn in the town and keep had depleted their supplies and they decided a return to Brackenrae was necessary to resupply, rest and pay their rent and the henchmen guarding the cottage. One last stop to see Thorguld was unsuccessful in obtaining any further healing poultices, the gruff woodman grumbling something about being treated like a mass production line for the party's needs. Gnarl and Jonesomon also mad a trip to see Vora; Gnarl hoped to learn more about his vision of the twilight path standing stones from the well travelled trapper. Cantankerous as always, she insisted Gnarl turn over the rime wolf pelt he carried (and insulted his pelt dressing skills in the process) in return for info. Gnarl agree, and she told him the first standing stone was located on the other side of the River of Sorrows, beyond the swamps [Hex 13.08]. Now knowing the location of two stones, the wood gnome was confident he could find the others, and he started to plan a journey to follow the path.
For now though, they travelled south under a hot summer sun along the riverside trail towards Brackenrae, the three days passing without incident. There they fanned out across town to shop and take care of various business:
- Ranza and Hobbs went to see Jaskin the alchemist, to look for healing potions and have the sniveling man check out the red goo from Lithilith's lair. They obtained three potions of healing, and learned the goo was a jam made of some sort of fairy berry from the twilight realm. He did note it was often used by the fey to make magical potions and such, but this sample obviously no longer held any power. He did give Ranza a few silver pennies as he liked it on his morning toast;
- Ranza also went to see the sage Timpanious to follow-up on their inquires into the Vernal Manor. She some additional detail about it and the Lady Vernal, and duly tucked that away for possible future need as Hobbs continued to blather on about going back to rescue Granya some day;
- Jonesomon, having taken the rumor of Earl Olfric's fey blood to heart, inquired discretely about town into the matter. He heard the same vague rumors repeated many times, plus one slightly more specific note from a drunken ex-servant of the Earl: 'you can see the answer in his eyes!'. At that, Jonesomon recalled the Earl always ware an eye patch over one eye;
- They all heard troubling stories of Gnarl and Jonesomon's 'time paradox twins'. It seems the old/original adventuring party was still spending time in Brackenrae (though away at the moment) and there had been several examples of mistaken identity between Gnarl/Jonesomon and ur-Gnarl/ur-Jonesomon. The party took steps with a system of signet rings to minimize confusion with the people that mattered, especially the guards Angor and Beck, and their landlord.
- Gnarl spent some quality time with his Goblyn Fair kitty, noting that it was growing quite fast and at this rate would likely be the size of a mountain lion rather than a house cat. Those curious knobs on it's shoulders were likewise growing longing and more tentacle like; what curious creature could this be?
The most shocking and significant event in Brackenrae was Ranza getting hauled before the Earl by a posse of his huscarls. The Earl was in a rage at her, and threatened execution and torture to the bewildered changeling. She eventually figured out he was enraged by the shield she carried, the one recovered from Wickerwood Keep. For it carried the arms of the treasonous Thayn Lorgan. And the Earl suspected Ranza of formatting some sort of rebellion or trouble in the name of the dead Thayn. She was able to talk her way out of it by discounting any interest in the shield; which unfortunately cost her the shield itself. Hoping now to be let free, she was further shocked when an old hag was lead out from the shadows behind the Earl. She was obviously a witch, tall, thin and emaciated. Foot long nails grew from her hands and her eyes were sewn shut. As the huscarls held Ranza tight, she stopped to the fire and hauled out a brand, which she applied to the changling's neck. That done, she whispered in Ranza's ear: 'now I see what you see' and was lead away. And at this point, the thoroughly traumatized Ranza was hurled form the room and scurried off the meet the rest of the party, who in the meantime had gathered outside the castle to see is they could do anything to rescue her.
Now thoroughly wary of the Earl, the party opted to immediately leave town. And started to make longer term plans to return later to get all their stuff and move their centre of operations to a less hostile location such as Wickerwood. Once out of town, Gnarl hauled out his silver flask of true water, and gently washed the brand on Ranza's neck. To everyone's relief, the anti-magic properties of the water washed away and negated the brand. Now at least they would not have to worry about the Earl tracking their every move. They then hired a boat to get them across the river, opting to help Gnarl find the first twilight path standing stone while at the same time taking a less than obvious route north in case the Earl decided to pursue them.
The party cut across a landscape of open woods interspersed with farms before approaching the edge of the Forest proper. Following a series of old game trails, they came to a clearing in the forest just as the sun was starting to set. In the centre stood, or rather leaned, the dilapidated and moss covered remains of a log cabin. Ranza cast invisibility, joining Hobbs and Jonesomon to creep up to the cabin and look inside, while Vegarious and Gnarl covered them from the trees. At first they saw nothing, but as the twilight darkened further, they noticed the faint glow of flames forming in the fireplace. And then a quartet of ghostly figures appeared, huddled around the fire as if trying to warm themselves. Jonesomon noted they were dressed as woodsman or hunters, and in an old style. The trio pulled back to confer with the rest of the party, then Hobbs and Gnarl approached the cabin and tried communicating with the ghosts. They responded, despondent that they were cursed to sit shivering before this fire for all eternity. They offered the wood gnome and hedgefey a silver torc, asking that they kill the Frog King who'd cursed them and release them from their bondage. Once more offered the torc, Gnarl and Hobbs declined and moved away. The party discussed it, and decided to do as the ghosts asked. But only after a good nights sleep somewhere less creepy than the haunted cabin.
Next morning, Gnarl used his speak with animals to strike up a conversion with a passing crow, offering shiny objects to the bird if it could lead them to the Frog King. It agreed, and the corvid led them on a convoluted path west towards the marshes that bordered the river. By mid afternoon, they'd arrived at the point where forest started to give way wholly to bog. There, in the middle of a watery pool, stood seven standing stones, leaning drunkenly at extreme angles. Sitting on top of one was an enormous frog, on who's head sat a bejeweled golden crown. After a few moments of discussion, it was determined preemptive attack rather than attempted parley would be the best option. Assuming the ghosts were telling the truth, this Frog King could be dangerous.
Jonesomon and Ranza (invisible again) slipped around the bog to get as close as possible to the regal amphibian. Jonesomon slipped quietly into the water to stab the scaly king in the back. That, unsurprisingly, removed the element of surprise for the party, so Ranza splashed over the help and the rest of the party prepared a rain of arrows. The Frog King, shocked by the attack started to yell for his guards. As almost immediately, a half dozen frog-men emerged from the bog to protect their liege. Gnarl cast entangle to hold his majesty in place, but the Frog King burst into song and dispelled the growth. However, sword and arrow soon cut eliminated many of frog-man guards, as well as seriously impacted the health and well being of the King. He called for the last guard to protect him, and jumped off the stone and into the water to escape, singing another song and dropping a fog cloud behind him to interrupt the party's line of sight. Alas, it was too little to late, for with a final volley of arrows, the party finished off the King as well as the last of the frog-men. They immediately grabbed the crown, and after a quick search around the base of the stone circle for any other treasure, climbed out of the bog and headed back to the cabin.
Reaching there again just before sunset, they first watched to see if the ghosts and the fire would reappear. They did not; all that could be seen was the silver torc sitting on the hearthstone in from of the fireplace. Carefully entering , they picked up to torc and started to poke around. Ranza discovered the hearthstone was loose, and lifted it aside to uncover a hollow space. In it was a box with a sliding lid, and an onyx and jade earth mother statuette of great antiquity. The changeling picked up the box to slide it open (inside which was a pile of silver pennies and a potion of extra healing), and noticed stinging in her right hand and arm, which immediately began to swell to grotesque proportions. Thankfully Gnarl was handy with a slow poison spell, which kept the swelling under control.
Golden bejeweled crown of the Frog King [1500sp]
Silver torc [35sp]
Onyx & jade earth mother statuette [800sp]
The Frog King
The Frog King
6 Frogling Guards