Ranza (Changeling 5)
Gnarl (Wood Gnome 5)
Hobbs (Hedgefey 5)
Hobbs (Hedgefey 5)
Thrax (Fighter 4)
Once on the other side of the gate, Hobbs was disappointed to see Hoppy the frog had not come with them; the frog steed must have munched his lunch in Faerie. At least Hobbs was able to retain the saddle. The party, resolved now to leave the valley and Fortress behind, and to follow the paths laid by Eya, stopped first at the tower of the Queen of Ravens to recover their mules and say their goodbyes. She was somewhat unamused by their inability to recover her Ravensguard and from what little they'd accomplished under their alliance. But she let them go without molestation.
The party headed back to Mikan and Allisan's cabin to rest a day before taking care of their final task in the valley; bringing the Book of Seven Souls to Ygrite and have her petition her Samnuha the Watcher on their behalf. The party headed out on cold windy day and reached the witch's tor by mid afternoon. She greeted them cordially and gladly accepted the gift of the book. She told them to return that night when the moon was high in the sky and she would call on Samnuha. This they did, and watched as the witch built a blazing bonfire on the bare hill. And then she stepped into the flames! Moments later, a deep masculine voice emerged to ask: "What would you ask to see of that which the Watcher has seen?" The party had three questions ready (after shouting down Thrax, who tried to ask about his sister):
- How to Free the Prince Who Would Be? Requires the Crown of the Forest, located in the tomb of the Half Blood King.
- Was Eya Telling them the Truth About the Seals? Mainly yes. The dark fey do want the caverns to remain sealed and the shadow wyrm imprisoned; but could very well renege if the circumstances change to their advantage.
- How Does One Close a Fairy Gate? Usually by destroying that which anchors it in the fey and mortal realms. This can be the same object, or different items. Destroying it on one side of the gate stops passage only from that direction; both must be destroyed to close the gate completely. There are exceptions to the rule; some gates are tied to a person or creature; so the person/creature must be killed to close the gate.
The next day was a sunny one, and they loaded up the raft and pushed it out into midstream, headed downstream towards those lakes known as the Witches Fingers. Progress was swift and unimpeded on the river, and they turned north into the Western Finger before the sun was at high noon. Skirting the eastern shore, they were headed for the town of Upland for news and supplies when suddenly there was a disturbance on the nearby shore. A white stag burst out of the undergrowth and, charging into the water, swam towards the raft. Moments later, a trio of dire wolves followed, likewise diving into the lake to follow the panicked deer. The stag reached the raft, and all feared it would overturn them as it struggled to climb aboard. Gnarl cast a charm mammal and convinced it to swim around to the other side and let the party deal with the wolves. Hobbs meanwhile hauled out the saddle of domestication and slapped it on the animals back, thereby replacing his frog mount with a white stag. Meanwhile, on the landward side of the raft, Ranza had cast colour spray and momentarily took all three wolves out of the fight. Two soon regained consciousness, but the third had drowned in the meantime. The two survivors, sensing they'd lost their easy prey, turned to swim back to the forest under a hail of arrows from the rest of the party. Both were able to escape, through each was struck by arrows multiple times.
The rest of the day passed without incident, and by late afternoon they pulled the raft out of the water at the base of one of the innumerable bluffs that lined the shore, just below the town of Upland. They climbed the steep hill via a faint path, reaching the top amidst flocks of sheep and scattered farms. Upland itself was a crude motte and baily structure of wooded walls and wooded buildings, while to the north of town they could see the image of a woman in robes carved out of the turf on the chalk hillside. Asking a passing shepherd for directions, they were directed to the Inn of the Tiny Moon where they took lodging for the night from the chipmunk hedgefey proprietor, Sqizzle. Questioning the hyperactive fellow and, later that night, a few other patrons gleaned a little information about the area:
- The townsfolk were vaguely aware of the Autumn Maiden, and confirmed the information received from Eya. She dwelt in a garden hidden under a crystal dome some ways north of town, overlooking the Middle Finger. The dome sat on a hilltop, but could only be seen in the light of the setting sun. There was a cave at the base of the hill where the simple folks would sometimes go to ask a simple boon, which was often answered.
- The figure on the hillside was St. Danu, the patron saint of mothers and children. Further questioning revealed forms of worship the Church would probably consider somewhat heretical, all led by a trio of women know as the Maiden, Mother and Crone. The party also gleaned connections between St Danu and the Autumn Maiden, but decided to not point that out to their guests.
- North towards the mountains was all boggins and bears. Look out for the boggins of the hidden Lethean Well!
- Looking to change their coin into portable treasure, they learned their best bet was to seek audience with Thayn Thorfin Bluefeather.
Business in town complete, they stayed one more night and then headed back to the raft and points north, all under a light wet snowfall. They travelled quickly, reaching a point west of the cave/dome before noon. One more beaching the raft and climbing a hill, they found at the crest a faint path and a curious signpost labelled 'Court of the Warbelowe'. It pointed to the east, down an even fainter path. Curious, they none the less decided to ignore all side treks and headed along the path towards the location of the cave. As they searched the base of the hill, Gnarl noted there were some unusual tracks in the snow. And at about that same time, those that made the tracks emerged from the adjacent pines. Two strange writhing vine creatures, and Nibblewick, the annoyed little s**t who'd dogged their footsteps since the first Goblin Fair. The malicious fairy turned the vine things on the party, and soon Hobbs and Thrax were lashed tightly and immobile by the creatures. Gnarl tried using entangle to neutralize Nibblewick, but for some inexplicable reason the spell failed. He then used his plant control potion to have Thrax released, who in turn used his growth potion to turn into a massive killing machine. Hobbs also broke free and used Stonethorn to hurl boulders, while Ranza blinded Nibblewick. One vine creature as cut down, and the second charmed monster was likewise neutralized. On the edge of defeat, the fairy disappeared, and an immediate search of the area could find no trace of him. So the party turned their attention back to the hill and soon uncovered a cave entrance ...
1 Dire Wolf