The longest winter

Biological cleaning

if you go down to the woods today....

In Flint-Harrow

With Elden still in the glass house after his AWOL fro the guard, the rest of the party are at a bit of a loss regarding continuing their mission to find Zoastrian. Marellian is looking through his uncles old journals, trying to discover anything regarding his uncle’s deathbed confession, while Frank, Rayne and Elana are in the kitchen, being fed by an attentive Wilson.

Suddenly, there is a knock at the front door. Wilson opens it, and calls to Marelian that one of his friends has come to talk to him. Marellian wanders to the door, where the Halfling Druid, Hibbing Thorne, waits. Hibbing tells Marellian that he has recently returned from visiting the peat cutters (As Marellian had asked him to look over the place and try to ascertain why the dryad was so twisted) . He was on his way back home, but strange and unknown trees had refused him entry to Shelter Wood. Worse still, when he attempted to make contact with his teacher and superior in the Druid Circle, he was unable to reach him. He asks Marellian if the party can help him, as something is seriously wrong in the Wood.

The party are quick to agree to Hibbin’s request, and they set off at once. However, when they get to the township gates, they are accosted by Orcs from the embassy. The Orcs are reluctant to let Marellian leave town while there is still the matter of his trial still to clear up. Frank solves the problem by insisting he will bring Marellian back, on his honour. Given Franks word, the Orcs allow the party to leave.

In the wood

The party and Hibbin quickly reach the outskirts of Shelter Wood, where Hibbin points out several strange trees. He swears that these trees were not there a few days ago, but they look to the party as if they had been standing for decades. Rayne sends her Raven familiar off to see what it can find further into the wood, but it is shortly attacked by a flock of larger, violent, Red Ravens, and has to beat a quick retreat. These birds circle the party, guarding the tree tops so that neither Raynes Raven or Marellians Owl can scout ahead.

Sighing, Marellian starts to traipse through the trees, only to stop suddenly when he spots an unusual looking vine snaking it’s way towards him. Before it can reach his feet, he blasts it with his burning hands spell, setting it ablaze. The trees all seem to lean away from the heat, and the party manage to advance further into the wood.

As the foliage of the wood changes to yet another strange looking set of trees, the party notice that all the branches of these trees seem to be shaking, although there is no sign of wind. Suddenly, the branches whip forwards, throwing sharp dart like needles at the party. Hibbin, Marellian and Frank are hit, but only take minor wounds, and the party skirt around this area without getting too close to the trees again.

After working their way around the dart throwing trees, the party come across a tree whose girth is a tremendous size. Hibbin swears that this tree was never there before, although it looks centuries old. It bears strange large pods which darken as the party watch. From these pods emerge strange human-like shapes, but without proper faces and brown skinned. These pod people attack the party, some using whip-like arms as weapons, while others fire sticky sap from knotty holes in their heads. Once again, Marellian uses his burning hands to great effect, setting fire to the pod people and their mother tree. The party leave, behind them sounds of dying pops from burning pods and their occupants.

As they near the center of the wood, which Hibbin informs them holds the druidic circle, the party discover a large nest, in which are a couple of very large eggs. All thought of climbing the tree to retrieve these eggs are lost when the parent bird comes back; it is an enormous Gore-Crow, with a 30’ wingspan. It settles over it’s eggs and watches the party, but makes no attempt to attack them, so they decide to leave it alone, and continue onwards to the druid circle.

The Druid Circle

The trees around the Druid Circle are covered with some unknown glowing fungus, and blobs of slime cover the ground. In the center of the grove, where once the standing stones stood, is now a sickly green glowing gateway to another dimension. Trapped in this portal are the figures of a druid and a wolf. Hibbin tells the party that the Druid is his mentor, Gorlaus Bitterleaf

Standing just to one side of the portal is another Druid, this one seems more like a wild man of the woods than Hibbin and his mentor. He is accompanied by his animal friend; a huge Dire Bear, which lumbers around the grove. It is soon obvious that this wild Druid is responsible for Hibbin’s mentor being trapped in the portal, as he taunts Bitterleaf, who is unable to reply.

At Hibbin’s distressed urging, the party rush straight in to attack. Frank pits his strength against the Dire Bear, while the others fire missiles at the mad Druid. It soon becomes obvious that Frank has met a fierce opponent, as the bear grabs him in a hug and squeezes. Meanwhile, the others realize that the mad Druid has protections of his own, as their arrows fail to penetrate his bark-skin defence. Hibbin creeps around the grove, trying to find a chink in the enemy’s defences, while Rayne uses her Death mask to inflict damage on the mad Druid. It seems he will be no easy take down, as he is still able to cast a spell to enlarge a patch of entanglement that he had put in place earlier. This makes it harder for the party to get to him, but Marellian uses his burning hands once more to burn through the patch. Rayne uses her sorcerous powers to summon a snake to attack the Druid, but he replies with a summoned creature of his own, and she realises that his powers outstrip hers.

With all his strength, enhanced by his rage powers, Frank is able to throw off the Dire Bear, and attacks it with his axe. Although it manages to swipe him with it’s paws and open up deep gashes on him, his axe bites true, and he kills it. Severely injured, he can only watch from afar as Rayne goes toe to toe with the mad Druid, backed up by Hibbin and with Marellian and Elana giving support with missiles. Luckily, Raynes speed and shadow armour keep him at bay, while she slices and her raven pecks at him. Finally, the mad Druid falls, but upon his death, the gateway falls in on itself, taking Bitterleaf and his wolf with it. Hibbin cries out in shock, but his mentor is gone.

With the gateway gone, the strange plant and animal life from the other dimension quickly fade away, and the last of the green slime is eaten by a white pudding that ambles around the grove cleaning up. Hibbin informs the party that he had better stay in the grove a while until tings get back to normal, and thanks them for their help. The party return to flint-Harrow….

Back to Flint-Harrow

The Orcs are happy to see that Frank has kept his word, and Marellian is back in town to face trial. However, the Township is restless after the death of Head Councillor Ore, and various firebrands and agitators are stirring up the populace. With elections of the new council only days away, old rivalries are rearing their heads, threatening the peace tha Ore forged in all his years of office…..

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BarryParker

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