He’s planning to fortify the city and wait a few weeks for further force buildup
He expects to be able to sweep across the Freelands and finish off this Great Leader’s forces in the late spring.
He is curious about the constructs when Bert mentions them
He also asks about the force numbers and concentration
The party notices he discusses killing other-kin rather casually
That night, the party checks on Bee using the crystal ball. He’s still with the goblins, and the construct is standing vigilant over him as he sleeps.
The next day, the party once again argues with Benjamin about Jenny’s right to remain with the party. He finally gives up.
Captain John says he plans to get Creben Durgard to Major Moreau’s contact to get him to Peloria. Once he’s figured out Major Moreau’s fate (and hopefully rescued her), he’ll contact the party and meet up with them in the Freelands.
The party sells some of their magic items to the Kordians, trade their horses for faster horses, and set off North to rescue Bee.
They check on him periodically via the crystal ball, seeing that he’s remaining docile and always under the construct’s watch.
Despite their fast horses, they realize that the hobgoblins are moving faster than them
One attempt to scry on Bee fails for unknown reasons, but they successfully see the Blue
At another instance, they catch Bee speaking with the Blue in a friendly manner. For the first time, the construct and hobgoblins are out of sight.
He confesses his real name and that Captain John’s group kept Durgard
He gives it the name of the party members and some of Captain John’s people
He claims to be “very important”, due to the assassins out to kill him and his ability to transform when angry
He offers to help the Blue escape the hobgoblins, and shows him the anklets of translocation.
The Blue seems to be very understanding and encourages Bee to wait for the right time.
The Blue leaves as the construct returns, and the party scrys on it, revealing that it immediately gave all this information to the hobgoblin lieutenant.
The Lieutentant announces the plan to go to Greyshire where they can interrogate Bee further.
The party arrives in Greyshire about 2 days after the hobgoblins
Thomas and Bert enter the town pretending to be merchants. They learn a few things from their converstaions
The hobgoblins are holed up in the abandoned dwarf mine up on the mountain
The mines are home to stirges that appear and wreak havoc on local livestock a couple times a month
There are multiple entrances, including one that the hobgoblins don’t seem to know about.
The halflings and goblins currently living in the town moved in after the mostly human population was driven away.
The party chose to enter the mine via a secret tunnel that one of the halfling children used occasioanlly.
Inside, they accidentally disturb a hive of spiders that attack quickly. Bert identifies them as tomb spiders, which spawn via negative energy and undead hosts
They find that their passage is blocked by a cave-in, but they dimension door past it.
While exploring the mines, they are beset by more tomb spiders, as well as tomb mummies, which explode into more swarms when destroyed (mostly by Newton’s turnings).
They find even more cave-ins, some seem passable while others seem impenetrable
They catch some glimpses of stirges in the halls, but they don’t seem to be a threat.
The party discovers that the hobgoblins are one level above them, so they try to explore quietly.
They discover a large staircase up a level, as well as a secret ladder up. They opt not to move up.
They also find a long-abandoned blacksmith’s forge.
Down one corridor, they find a large section of the mines cleared out, and a large tomb spider using the area as its nest.
The party retreats as more mummies and swarms chase them down a hallway, and Newton expertly dispatches a great number of them with a blade barrier.
With the spawn destroyed, the party contemplates destroying the mother spider.
The mountain pass containing the gateway is also in danger of being taken by the Iron Kingdom and their allies.
The Duchess Selina del Wuunder did not in fact provide any assistance as the party had hoped, though negotiations are apparently still underway.
The orcs are still streaming out of the Wildlands, creating a third war front for Peloria to cover.
The Arcane Empire, despite their loose alliance with Peloria, has not committed their forces to the combat, and therefore are not putting enough pressure on the Iron Kingdom
The church hierarchy in Pela (occupied by the Iron Kingdom) has decreed that Roche is acting against Pelorian best interest by fighting for Arcane supremacy, resulting in a civil war.
In short, Peloria is in trouble.
He also says that Bee was targeted by Commander Locke because intelligence suggested he was a weapon designed by the Iron Kingdom
Later reports suggest he escaped a secret compound when the Iron Kingdom army and some citizens raided it, killing most. The Dwarf escaped in the confusion.
The Iron Kingdom has dispatched the death squad, the Crimson Fist, to hunt down and likely kill Bee and any of his associates.
During most of this, a halfling named Lodus sat and listened. He’s the mayor of the town and the agreement with the Captain means he keeps abreast with all the plans John and his men have.
Finally, the Captain tells the party about what he’s doing in the Freelands. Strongheart had given him the assignment to spy on the “Great Leader’s” army and report on its activities. He did not explain why.
John has discovered a dwarf named Creben Durgard that may be a missing weapons developer for the Iron Kingdom that has been kidnapped by the Gnolls in the city of Canistooth.
Apparently the Iron Kingdom has weapons they have not yet employed in the war, that they’re likely keeping secret until the Arcane Empire joins the fight for real.
Speculation is that they’re some some sort of alchemical and/or mechanical weapon, similar to the cannons that the Iron Kingdom developed decades ago.
Either way, this dwarf would be a great asset for any nation that could capture him. As such, he’s been planning a rescue (or capture) of his own.
While discussing all this, Lodus leaves under suspicious pretenses, and Thomas discovers he’s trying to find a bird feather token.
After some interrogation, the party discovers he’s been feeding John’s plans to a contact in the hobgoblin army with the intention of eventually giving the humans to the hobgoblins.
The party decides to try making an agreement with the hobgoblins in which they capture the weapon maker for the Great Leader in exchange for the safe passage for all the humans into Kordian Land.
The trick, though, is that they intend to make a switch, instead giving them Bee with the expectation he’d escape.
When Benjamin Krysa returned, he demanded to speak to Jenny in private, apparently to scold her for leaving Roche
Newton remains within earshot, and gathers that she’s sold the house in Roche and that she’s acting against her half-brother’s commands by leaving
He also infers that she’s been to the Freelands, and possibly this locale before.
Finally, it’s clear that the two are not on the best of terms. She gives her short sword to him angrily and storms off at the end of the conversation.
Also in the Freelands with the Captain are Sergeant Doug Palmer and Corporal Marcus Terennis, and a number of Pelorian rangers and some Free Men who escaped the Warband’s wrath.
After lots of deliberation, the party has formulated their plan to get the weapon-maker and fool the hobgoblins.
Bert successfully brokers the agreement when the hobgoblin envoy when he arrives in the town.
The hand-off is set to occur at a destroyed town near the Kordian border.
Bee is given an anklet of translocation with a false abjuration aura on it, with the hopes this will allow him to escape once held by the hobgoblins
The envoy sends a letter the next day identifying the group as being on official business. He also instructs them on where to find somebody who will make them appear to be hobgoblins temporarily.
The next day, Capt. John’s men steal some more horses, and the rescue is underway!
Some of the crew infiltrates Canistooth early, with the intention of setting fires and creating havoc once the distraction gets underway.
Capt. John and Newton take the main force down the main road into town to attract attention. Thomas, Bee, and Bert sneak down a parallel road and set up position behind the place where Durgard is being held.
Once the largest group of combatant gnolls leave to combat John and his group, the three enter the building.
Despite their efforts, they are spotted at this point by some guards, and they attack, including Bee raging in bear form.
The three get inside and battle a troll. They also blind the gnolls that remain.
They break into the hatch below to find their prisoner inside a magically tempered and dimensionally anchored cell.
Bee destroys the bars while the other two fend off an invisible monster.
Thomas tries to plead his position, describing the trials and tribulations the party has been through together to get here, and how Fierna’s response is unfair
Fierna is unmoved and covers the party with an entangle spell, followed by an incendiary cloud
Everyone except for Newton manages to either avoid the entanglement or quickly break free of it and move outside the burning, choking cloud.
Despite this clear act of aggression, the party tries to remain within the circle (clearly she wants them there, and they want to make peace) and focus on defending themselves
The tree stumps around the circle mobilize at Fierna’s instructions with the directions to prevent “them” from leaving the circle
In the meantime, the missing construct from Greenwell’s platoon crashes into the clearing, and Fierna directs her elemental to fight it.
Fierna continues her assault, seemingly focusing on Thomas and Newton, though she also showed deliberate effort to injure Bert as well.
Jenny (despite her agreement to remain in Newton’s sight at all times) becomes invisible and exits the circle.
Bee, after seeing his grovelling is of no use, flees the circle as well. He notes that the tree stump instructed to keep him inside made no effort to do so.
Thomas, now deciding that retreat is the right option, returns to the incendiary cloud to retrieve his former body.
Fierna deliberately burns it beyond recognition and focuses all the flames upon Newton and Thomas.
Jenny shouts for Bee to stop running and return to help the others.
He turns around to grapple Fierna, only to discover she has some spell or effect preventing him from approaching. He tries begging for their lives
Just as Fierna prepares the final strike on Newton and Thomas, a whirlwind binds and constrains her. The fire elemental, while also fighting the construct, is attacked by an invisible creature (far too large to be Jenny)
The party realizes their savior is an elf, as she flies in on a column of air, with lightning crackling off of her.
She dispels the flames threatening to kill Thomas and Newton, and Thomas recognizes her as one of the other hand maidens, Aulara.
She instructs everyone to get close to her, clearly with the intention of helping them escape.
As everyone tries to get back into the center of the circle, Thomas asks the construct to join them as well
It responds by demanding the package they stole from Greenwell’s corpse. Thomas removes the package from his bag and puts it on the ground.
He also returns the charred remains of his old self back into the bag.
The party gets to Aulara (including Jenny, who became visible once Newton could see outside of the cloud), and she transforms them all into mist and they fly away
Just as they’re escaping, Fierna breaks free of the binds and tries to strike Aulara with a ray of negative energy from her staff. Bee blocks the ray and suffers no ill effects
The group travels East, past the mountain they were trying to reach, to the edge of the rim of mountains surrounding the Cursed Forest.
They become material once again. I’ll give the gist of the conversation:
Thomas: What was that all about?
Aulara: I’m sorry. Our reactions have been far to extreme, and you deserve better than this.
Thomas: What’s happening? Why can’t we go to the town?
Aulara: You’re to dangerous to be allowed. You and your friend are cursed (she motions to Newton as well).
Newton: Let’s make camp here. We’ll figure our way out of here after we rest.
Aulara: No. Fierna will find us here soon. I’ve instructed Toodar to lead you to safety. (Thomas identifies Toodar as a stone giant that protects the Eastern pass).
Thomas: What about my body? I was hoping to have Mother provide a proper burial.
Aulara: Leave it with Toodar. I will see to it that it’s treated right. You cannot return to the town. If you try while you still have this curse, I won’t stop Fierna from killing you.
(The party realizes someone is behind them. It’s Terra, the third hand maiden.)
Aulara: I won’t let them be harmed. I’m getting them out of here.
Terra: I’m not here to enforce that. That’s Fierna’s business. You must speak with Mother.
Aulara: (turning to leave) Thomas, I’m sorry how this turned out. I hope you can figure this out and return some day. The children miss you.
Thomas: How are they? Is everyone safe?
Aulara: Everyone is safe. Goodbye.
Bee: (trying to stop her) Wait! Teach me the ways of the druid! (Aulara leaves, and Terra scoffs at him).
Terra: (to Thomas) You got her in trouble. I hope you’re worth it. (Terra leaves by stepping into a boulder)
The party walks for a short time before finding Toodar. He motions for them to follow him
He leads them into the cave where his mate, Maroonda, accepts Thomas’ old body and gives the party bread and water. Newton makes his own and gives it out.
Toodar leads the party through a cavern complex for a few hours.
Newton identifies the mushrooms being cultivated here as very valuable components to various spells, particularly True Seeing
When he tries to harvest a few, Toodar stops him, and he decides not to try again.
Finally, as the late afternoon approaches, the party reaches the other mouth of the cave, ouside the mountain ring
Toodar speaks his broken common “Your people” as he motions to a town far down the Dragonrange Mountains.
Thomas knows it’s the town of Bregerdegg, which is mostly a halfling community.
Of particular interest is the large city at the foot of the Dragonrange, Canistooth. It was once a great Arcane Empire city, but is now a dilapidated Gnoll city.
The party decides to make camp far from Bregerdegg for the moment, with the intention of scouting it out the next day.
The party members clean themselves in a stream near their camp, though Newton’s “No leaving my sight” rule with Jenny creates some difficulty.
It’s cold, but the party decides not to have a fire in order to remain under the radar at night.
Shortly before sunset, Thomas spots some Hobgoblin horsemen entering the town. There’s no indication of a struggle, but the sun set before he can see if they leave peacefully.
Newton creates a plan (involving a battery of spells) to interrogate Jenny the following day.
To facilitate this, he tries to convince the other party members to allow him to speak with her in private, as their presence may disrupt his efforts
Jenny asks what they’re talking about, and Thomas reveals Newton’s plans
Newton agrees to let them be there, but refuses to drop the subject of interrogation
The party goes to sleep, each one taking a turn on watch (other than Jenny, because Newton doesn’t trust her)
During Bert’s watch, he finds Jenny rummaging through Newton’s bag. She claims to be getting some food, but Bert makes her stop.
The next morning, Newton discovers his holy symbol is missing.
When he hears what Jenny was up to, he’s furious and blames her.
Despite searches (including a cursory body search by Thomas), the holy symbol cannot be found.
Newton decides to draw a holy symbol on the ground in order to regain his spells, but he knows he won’t be able to cast many of them until he manages to regain his divine focus.
He uses detect undead and discovers that both Jenny and Thomas have faint undead auras.
Thomas says this may have something to do with the curse, meaning Newton likely also registers this aura, but that fails to explain Jenny’s aura
Newton also casts hide from undead to see if anybody can’t see him, but it appears everyone is able to see him.
Bert offers to help, believing Jenny may be possessed. He hypnotizes her (with her permission and the stipulation that Thomas and Bee protect her from Newton while hypnotized) and uses suggestion to get her to answer questions
The party discovers that she knows what’s causing her undead aura, but she resists the question for further details. She also refuses to go into detail about why she refuses to show any part of her body to anybody.
They get a little more detail about her arcane training, apparently a family friend in Peloria taught her (meaning there is a man in Peloria that casts and teaches arcane necromancy)
As the questions become more personal, Jenny breaks the hypnosis, and the party is left with few options.
Without his divine focus, Newton is left with few options for further undead identification, so he storms off down the mountain into the town below. The party follows.
They are greeted by a halfling who treats them with a little suspicion, but agrees to lead them to a woodworker where Newton orders a new holy symbol ASAP.
She agrees to make it and instructs them all to wait in the tavern. Newton opts to wait outside her shop, while the others go to the tavern.
Halfling children throw rocks at Newton while he waits, but he opts to remain steadfast and ignores them.
The tavern owner greets the rest of the party as they enter “Hullo. You looking for you friends?”
“What friends?” Thomas responds. “What? I said what you order?” The halfling hastily responds.
They order some drinks and Thomas tricks the halfling into revealing that there are humans hiding in town.
He goes into the back of the tavern, and from the back a human emerges. It’s Captain John Thorn!
“Brian! I see you still have Thomas and the Dwarf. Where’s Newton?” he says.
Thomas goes to get Newon, who decides to go to the tavern to see this turn of events.
Captain John asks about Jenny, and she introduces herself as Jenny Krysa of Peloria. John asks her if she knows Benjamin Krysa, and she confirms she does.
He says Benjamin is in the area, though she doesn’t seem pleased to know that.
Thomas asks Captain John about the orc’s prophecy (not seeing another sunset). At first the Captain claims not to remember it, but then he waves it off as silly talk from a stupid barbarian. They drop the subject.
With the party gathered in the tavern, Captain John sits them down and says “I’m glad to have you here. We have a lot to discuss.”
Newton Lashes Out, Greenwell Dies, and Fierna is Not So Friendly
The fight continues, and the remaining bugbears fall to the attackers.
Newton and Thomas are grappled by bear-plants, while the wolf-plants flank and trip the party members.
Greenwell and his platoon form up quickly, but members are falling fast.
The archers use flaming arrows to deal extra damage to the plant creatures, per Greenwell’s observations
All three of the remaining bugbears fall to the plant-creatures’ onslaught, one of them begging for healing
Nobody is able to assist him, though, as they are still best by the creatures, and the bugbear dies of the same mysterious negative energy from before
Greenwell’s mount is killed by the creatures and he furiously besets the culprits, along with the help of the construct
The situation begins to look dire, but the party manages to fell some plant wolves and deal significant injuries to the remaining creatures.
The plant-creatures withdraw into the woods, leaving the party barely alive, but victorious.
Greenwell’s platoon has taken further casualties, but some of the remaining hobgoblins scour the fallen and manage to stabilize those who still live
Bert and Thomas heal up, as their injuries are the most dire of the party
While inspecting the remains of the attackers, Newton discovers that some of the plant-wolves died of the negative energy effects, meaning this is not solely affecting the bugbears as one theory held
Newton comes to the conclusion that the party is being stalked by an unseen (or unrevealed) undead creature that is causing these deaths
Newton performs a turning attempt (not a greater turning, as he is interested in identifying and possibly learning about this creature before destroying it)
Despite a very successful turning attempt, nothing of significance appears to happen, but Bee notices Jenny turn pale and appear ill for a moment.
He asks her what’s wrong, and Newton seizes the opportunity to call her out.
Summoning his rarely-used guile, he points out the injury to her leg that she sustained during the combat and offers to cure it. It’s black and there’s no indication of blood, a sign that Newton takes that she may be the undead creature he was seeking.
With his exemplary turning check, though, he hesitates to work her into a corner, as the party is in a rather weakened state and she may be able to overcome them if he forces her to at the moment.
Jenny insists that the injury has been healed and that would not be necessary. She “borrowed” energy from the plant-creatures to heal herself.
He again questions Jenny about the negative energy that has killed more bugbears, and she insists that her attacks have a different physical effect (a more localized dark mark, as opposed to this all-over slight grey) and that she has not killed anything.
When this apparently fails to quell Newton’s questions, Jenny fearfully confesses that she is an arcane magics user, a dangerous admission for somebody that has lived as a citizen in Peloria, particularly since she seems to use necromantic spells frequently.
She maintains, though, that she is not a necromancer nor is she a threat to the party.
Thomas notes quietly to Newton that they have confirmed that she eats, sleeps and performs other bodily functions, suggesting it’s unlikely that she’s undead
Newton is no longer interested in her deceptions and commands her respect, laying down the following rules as long as she travels with the party:
No more use of negative energy or necromancy unless he allows it (which he won’t)
No contacting of any undead (to which Jenny begins to deny ever doing, but Newton silences her)
No leaving his sight under any circumstances
He also makes it clear that further sanctions may be imposed once he is able to report to Pelorian authority
Jenny, dejected, agrees to his terms. Newton, for the time being, is not swayed by her acts of fear and sadness
During all this, Bert observes Lt. Greenwell furiously deliberating with the construct
It becomes apparent that his anger is directed at a gnoll adept and her failure to provide healing that could have saved some hobgoblins (and gnolls as well, but he doesn’t seem as pissed about that)
He institutes restructuring of the remaining platoon, and the construct makes his wishes clear to the adept that her own life hangs in the balance if she continues to disobey his orders
She sneers derisively, but doesn’t object.
One of the hobgoblins that was stabilizing the fallen members quietly speaks with Greenwell, who then dismisses him and walks over to the party.
He asks Newton to provide additional healing for the injured, and he agrees in exchange for food (in case he’s unable to magically create some in the future)
Greenwell agrees to the terms and provides 2 days of food per party member while Newton heals the remaining members of the platoon.
Bert asks Greenwell what his plans are now that his numbers are further decreased
Greenwell grabs the large parcel that the (now dead) envoy had been instructed to give to a member of the Cursed Forest, and resolves to continue his mission, even unto death.
He invites the party to join him, as there is strength in numbers, and the party discusses this in private.
Thomas does not want to go with them, as he believes they are the source of animosity in the woods
Bee doesn’t care too much, but he wants to try cutting a path directly through the woods, which is not Greenwell’s plan, so he votes against joining them.
Newton doesn’t like the idea of traveling with goblinoids or gnolls, so he opts to leave them.
Jenny seems to share a similar disgust with the group, though it seems specifically directed at the gnolls.
Bert has no objection with staying with the platoon, as Greenwell has been nothing if not cordial, but at this point he’s outvoted.
The party bids farewell to Greenwell and his men.
Before setting off, Greenwell gives Bert a letter and requests that he give it to the Great Leader or one of his marked envoys if he should make it out of the forest alive. Bert agrees.
Newton identifies that it has some sort of abjuration magic on it.
The party rests for a few hours until sunrise so that Newton may regain some spells (though he’s unable to regain some that used during the night, as the slots are still to fresh)
During the night, Thomas and Jenny speak some more and Jenny expresses her fears that Newton will try to kill her when he has the advantage, and Thomas promises that he will not allow it.
After Newton finishes his prayers, Bee concocts a plan to get to the central mountain.
Basically, he convinces everybody (except Jenny, who flat out refuses) to defecate into a bag so that Bee may be able to leave an unmistakable scent trail in the event that they double back on themselves
Using the bit of sunrise they can make out through the trees, Bee sets a course to the mountain and does his best to maintain the straight line.
Despite the appearance of the mountain moving with respect to their path, Bee insists on maintaining their current course.
The undergrowth restricts their movement somewhat, but they manage to continue moving ahead.
After a few hours, they find that their path is intersected by a long, deep ravine.
Much like they crossed the river a few days prior, the party sets up a rope to cross it, all the while aware of the wolf-plants closing in from behind.
Bert and Jenny cross to the other side without issue, but Newton takes longer than expected as his armor makes it difficult to traverse.
Just as Newton is reaching the other side, the wolf-creatures attack Thomas and Bee, tripping them and injuring them.
Thomas manages to grab the rope and begins climbing across, but Bee jumps onto the rope, causing the near side to come loose, swinging them both into the steep ravine below
Giant centipedes emerge from the wall in front of them attacking them as they climb.
The climb is made all the more perilous as both Thomas and Bee lose their grip, only to regain control just before plummeting to the rocks below.
Despite the attacks from the centipedes, and with some help from the party members that made it safely, both Bee and Thomas manage to reach the edge without further injury.
The slog through the woods continues for another hour, before their path is once again bisected, only this time by a large trail, similar to the one they left before.
The party decides to rest, as traveling through the undergrowth is a difficult task
Bee and Thomas notice that there seem to be bodies on the sides of the trail farther up the path.
Thomas, Bert and Newton go to investigate, while be sets up his magical latrine for a second dose and Jenny stays just close enough to remain in sight of Newton (per their agreement)
They discover the bodies of Greenwell and his platoon. All except for the construct (who appears absent) lay within the undergrowth, dead
Newton determines they died from a combination of the bite wounds they’ve been seeing from the creatures, as well as a significant fire
Newton finds the large package Greenwell was trying to convey to the denizens of the forest and reads the note on the front: “A gift of good will for the Queen of the Elves, Mother Llewellyn, from the Great Leader of all the Freelands Peoples.”
Thomas spits (figuratively) at the arrogance of this “Great Leader” and speculates that the “gift” is really a trap of some sort.
They opt not to open it, as it’s protected by abjuration magic, and the consequences of opening it could be dire diplomatically, as opening somebody else’s marked package is a serious insult.
Thomas and Bert scour the bodies for any useful items, but Newton decides to leave them be.
For the most part, it’s fairly difficult to pull anything from the undergrowth as it has had time to envelope most of the bodies and their gear. The following items were retrieved:
The gnoll adept’s battleaxe,
The adept’s wand
Another wand from one of the hobgoblins
A bag containing a tanglefoot bag, a thunderstone, a sunrod, 2 days rations, and a pearl
All the items seem masterwork at least, but nobody has checked them for magic yet
Wolf-plants begin to move in, so the looters move back to the path and regroup with the party without having the chance to inspect everything.
Once regrouped, the party once again rests for a little while.
Jenny finally brings up the subject the party has been wondering about: “Where are we going? Is the town we’re going to Haven?”
Thomas tries to skirt the subject once again, but Jenny insists that if he intends to actually bring the entire party, then they deserve to know the truth.
Reluctantly, Thomas obliges to tell the secret, but he first requires them all to swear an oath of secrecy.
Newton refuses to swear the oath, though, saying he will make no pact with this “deceiver”.
It’s at this point that Newton really chews Thomas out for pretending to be human for all this time, for not following his instructions about returning Mystique, and for leading them into this forest under false pretenses.
He steps away and refuses to listen to the secret while the others swear Thomas’ oath.
He reveals that they are indeed going to Haven, where Thomas grew up. It is a place of safety for persecuted “other-kin” and has stayed safe from the outside world for centuries (possibly millennia).
It is a place of great and ancient magic, coveted by many, good and evil alike.
The party continues along the original vector through the woods, hoping that Bee’s gamble gets them where they need to go.
The wolf-plants stalking them increase in numbers…
After some time, the forest ahead of them opens up into a clearing. At the opposite end of the clearing stands a huge fire elemental
Thomas notes that some druids here specialize in certain elements, and this was likely summoned by one of them.
Newton silently notes that he has Banishment prepared for today just in case…
The party cautiously crosses the clearing toward the elemental, noting that the treeline encircling the clearing is filling up with the plant creatures – more than they had seen yet.
As they reach the center of the clearing, they enter a circle of rune stones and mushrooms.
Just as they enter, a humanoid figure steps out from behind the elemental and orders them to stop.
For the moment, they do.
Thomas recognizes the figure as Fierna, one of the Mother’s handmaidens
Fierna is wreathed in flames that deal her no harm. She walks forward and sits on one of the four rotting logs that surround the circle in which the party stands. Her elemental follows close behind.
Bee asks if she’s a druid, and she confirms that she is.
He rushes forward to bow at her feet in reverence, but the elemental rushes forward to intercept him and continues to advance until he returns to the circle.
Fierna speaks to Thomas (seeming to know it’s him despite the body swap from a while back) in Elven: “You have brought something for me?”
Thomas acknowledges this and pulls the body of the original Thomas from his bag of holding and lays it on the ground.
Fierna stares at the body for some time and then speaks again: “If this is all, then our business here is complete.”
Thomas speaks up, claiming he has come home to see the body properly buried and to meet with Mother Lleweylyn, as she may be able to help him with some problems.
Fierna asks why he brought these other people, and he responds that they are his companions and they need shelter.
Fierna responds: “I am afraid you have made a mistake coming here, and bringing them. Now, I regret to inform you, you are all doomed to death.”
Wandering the Cursed Forest, Splitting the Group, and Meeting Greenwell's Platoon
The group discusses what’s going on.
Newton and the Bugbears express concern over Thomas’s understanding of the situation.
One of the Bugbears, Charles, asserts himself as the leader of the bugbears, but continues to discuss everything diplomatically. He also identifies himself as a worshiper of Pelor.
Before the group can decide what to do, the fire is abruptly extinguished, likely by magic.
Thomas sees a humanoid figure deep in the woods just before the fire goes out, but is unable to pursue it.
The group attempts to re-light the meager flammable items they had brought (none of the natural wood burns), but it seems all fires in the area are suppressed, so they move on.
The group encounters a river, but fords it effectively with a makeshift rope bridge
They lose some of the lengths of rope when they have to cut it making a hasty retreat, but they are otherwise unhindered.
The try again at a new location, and find the suppression has ended, and attempt to make camp again.
They are attacked as they sleep by swarms of biting insects.
The group is momentarily separated by the swarms and Bert covers the creatures with choking smoke as some of the bugbears are felled by the bites.
Thomas attempts to save one of the bugbears, only to see it die by the same mysterious negative energy that had killed one of the bugbears that Newton had tried to save the night before.
The party regroups and Thomas and Newton speculate in secret about the implications of this development. Newton is now convinced this is not the act of Jenny.
Day breaks, and the group tries to focus themselves and decide on a course of action
Meerkin, clearly annoyed that he can’t prepare spells without adequate sleep, decides he will turn back and leave the group.
He doesn’t object to the suggestion that the Bugbears accompany him, he just insists that anybody who wants to live needs to leave Thomas.
Most of the remaining bugbears (16 of the remaining 19, including Charles) decide to join with Meerken and see if they can join the Hobgoblin Warband (with the intention of escaping when they could).
The other 3 decided to remain with the party, absolutely refusing to join hobgoblins. Newton prepares and expends three endure elements spells so they don’t have to keep lighting fires to keep everyone warm (everyone else has cold-weather clothes).
The party convinces Meerkin to remain by the river until he has 8 hours rest to regain his spells before continuing back. He agrees.
Curiously, he also hugs Bee and bids him farewell before parting. Whether or not this was real affection or something else was unclear.
After some travel, the group send Mystique and Thomas up on a rope using Mystique’s levitation ability.
They are blown from the path by some wind, but the rope keeps them tethered down. Thomas determines they have traveled less than a mile from where they left.
They walk some more and attempt the same trick again.
This time, an unidentifiable elf shoots the rope tethering them to the path, and the two are blown away.
Mystique lowers them into the woods, and plant-wolves quickly surround them.
Thomas orders Mystique to get back with the others, and Mystique agrees and vanishes.
Thomas manages to evade the creatures and get back with the party, but Mystique is not with them.
They speculate on what happened (misunderstanding about “others”, teleportation blocks in the area put him somewhere else, etc…)
The party continues farther down the path, and decides to rest during the day, since the attacks seemed to occur mostly during the night.
As the darkness falls, Thomas notices some firelight in the forest, but can’t make out the source.
Bert recognizes the speech of the creatures as goblinoid, but can’t hear enough to make sense of it.
Somehow, the goblin-speakers are alerted to the party’s presence, and one of the speakers hails them in elven.
The speaker identifies himself as Lieutenant Greenwell, leader of the Greenstar Battalion, 18th Platoon , and Thomas calls himself simply “traveler”.
Greenwell insists they should meet up and speak in person, but the party opts to try to evade them.
Though their tricks to mislead Greenwell are very effective, they realize that the path they’ve been taking curves so that Greenwell and his men stumble upon them accidentally.
Bert opts to face him will the others hide out of sight.
Greenwell reveals that that his Platoon consists of several guisarme and longbow-wielding hobgoblins, and a ragged group of gnolls carrying battleaxes and shortbows.
Greenwell himself is mounted on a warhorse, and the platoon is also accompanied by a large, vaguely human-looking construct. Greenwell admits that he’s lost almost half his men to the night attacks.
The rest of the party comes out of hiding at Bert’s request, and Bert asks about the construct.
Greenwell claims that it’s a gift from the Great Leader, who is quite well connected.
Bert identifies the party as treasure-hunters in search of valuables in the forest, and Greenwell believes them, though he’s surprised they managed to get past the Great Leader’s army without being noticed.
Greenwell reveals that he’s figured out how a lot of the defenses work (the shifting paths, the wood that can’t be burned, some of the physiology and weaknesses of the plant-creatures, and the existence of rune-stones), but he’s not entirely sure how to actually overcome them on a large scale.
Newton and Bert explored the strange town on the other side of the portal. The people seemed to act in predetermined ways, only deviating when directly addressed by one of the members of the party.
Even then, the explorers quickly discovered that only one person at a time would acknowledge and converse with anybody. Everyone else would not rouse from their activities despite stimulation.
Thomas and Bee eventually followed them through to see this place for themselves.
Newton became convinced these people were under some strange magical spell (he identified a very powerful transmutation, but he wasn’t sure of the nature)
Thomas and Bert insisted they were in a strange place and that these were not in fact people, but automatons controlled by a single consciousness (explaining why only one person could respond at a time)
The group discovered that each person they spoke to would be interested in learning things.
Items throughout town seemed to be created in the image of real things, though closer inspection would reveal that often they were useless copies (dull knives, beer made with murky water, fake holy symbols, etc…)
Newton seemed enthusiastic to teach the head priest about Pelorian tradition, though he also planned to break these horrible curses as soon as he could.
Newton returned to the island to rest and gain spells that could help these people.
Thomas and Bert decided to speak with a street sweeper, and discovered that none of the people had names, or know why they were there, or even how they got there.
The town was surrounded by fog, and the street sweeper insisted it was a bad idea to try to see what was out there.
After further discussion, Thomas discovered that the street sweeper could force the fog to dispel and requested that just a portion be removed. The street sweeper complied.
As Bert watched, Thomas walked the mile out into this tunnel of dispelled fog, and came across a sheer, blank cliff.
He tried a few pokes, and finally jabbed it a bit with his knife. At the point, the fog suddenly returned and Thomas walked out a half-hour later with no memory of what happened after poking it.
The two returned to speaking with the street sweeper and discovered he could turn the world from day to night upon request.
They named him Mystique, and he identified each person as well as the town as Mystique from then on.
Bee ate some apples that seemed pretty close to the real thing, but still off.
Thomas chose to sleep in the town that night, even teaching the street-sweeper (and as he came to discover, all the other people by proxy) how to sleep.
Newton returned the next day (or two days later, depending on who you ask), gave the morning sermon again, and beseeched Pelor to guide his actions.
Pelor’s responses seemed to indicate that the only way to free this town of its “affliction” would to be to destroy Myria (though the people called the mists around the town Myria, so this one is suspect).
* Newton attempted to break their enchantments/magic/etc… with no effect
He opted instead to test the “learning” effects of the town by insisting it should have an apothecary, staffed by a haberdasher. A short time later he discovered that this had become a reality.
Bee convinced Mystique that the town should be able to speak to them (in hopes that it could give better answers than the people) through the statue of Pelor in the church.
It spontaneously gained that ability, and Bert requested that it recite the town’s history
The town created a museum detailing the town’s development as visitors revealed more and more about reality, thus shaping its current image
Newton, after learning about Thomas’s experience in the fog, decided to ask the high priest to remove all magic in the area. The high priest complied.
Each party member failed his save to resist what they witnessed, except Newton.
They were all forced outside the portal back onto Le Isla Muerte. They had entirely forgotten what had happened when the magic was dispelled, except Newton who had gone half-mad and screamed about a million screaming faces descending upon them.
As he regained his faculties, the he began to forget the details of what happened, but he wrote some down with the intention of understanding it later.
Once again, Thomas and Bert traveled into the strange town and found the Street-sweeper. They taught him about free-will and desires.
They convinced him to become an ambassador for his town.
Mystique agreed to accompany them back to the island. To the party’s shock, this worked.
When Bee attempted to return to the town again, he discovered the portal had closed. The party began to speculate that when Mystique passed through, they had brought with them the entire plane
Newton, upon learning what they did, chastised them severely. He refused to acknowledge Mystique for some time.
Jenny, upon realizing this, tried to comprehend the decision. It became clear that Thomas had taken on the task of educating this entity in this new world.
Jenny expressed concern about Thomas’ violent tendencies and how they would influence Mystique, but Thomas insisted he would teach it non-violent solutions, as he was becoming uncomfortable with all the death anyway.
Jenny remained skeptical, but she opted not to argue further.
Meerkin announced his intentions to complete the transformations of the half-bugbears into full bugbears.
Reuben Castle refused the transformation for his nephew, insisting his sister (the boy’s mom) would take care of everything once they were reunited.
The remaining bugbears were split about what to do, but they decided to allow the completion of the transformation (though possibly with some level of coercion from Meerken).
They completed it with the expectation that Meerken or Reuben’s sister could eventually return them to human form.
The entire group set out on the ship once the worst of the storm broke.
Thomas and Bee continued to teach Mystique things, such as how to swim (though curiously not how to breathe) and about the importance of freedom and life (heavy stuff, I know).
The party awoke to hear Jenny screaming angrily at Mystique, discovering that his curiosity led him to ask her questions she wasn’t comfortable discussing.
Thomas taught him about privacy and some people’s discomfort about some subjects.
Mystique agreed, though hinted there was something odd about her legs that had sparked his curiosity.
The ship reached Kordia, though the party opted to travel a bit farther North from their destination city, Swellburg, so that they could offload the non-humans without too much trouble
Newton, Bert, and Bee escorted the Ship Captain and the guards they captured to Swellburg to face charges of piracy, kidnapping, and slave trade.
With Bert’s guiles, they tricked the captain into confessing his crimes and the conviction was swift.
The party met back up and decided to travel to the Freelands with the expectation of dropping the bugbears off in a safe town until they could find the doppelganger blood necessary to return them to human form.
Reuben and his nephew left, apparently with their own plans to find safety.
The group discovered a large number of Kordian military units reinforcing border towns and forts. They did their best to avoid these people, knowing that there’s a good chance they’d kill the bugbears on sight.
Upon entering the Freelands, though, they discovered that hobgoblins had a powerful hold on many of the cities.
Patrols discovered them and demanded that the bugbears join their cause. The group managed to convince them to allow them all to travel farther North to meet with the “Great Leader” so they could join via his command structure.
By conversing with Freelands peoples, they discovered that the hobgoblin army had swept across the land very quickly, killing, capturing, and/or recruiting many of the people in its path. They claimed to be a non-human alliance against the Kordians.
Despite Thomas’ efforts, they were unable to find a safe place to leave the Bugbears and Meerken, thus forcing him to take him on the journey to Haven.
They reached the mountains (Dragonrange Mountains) surrounding Haven, only to discover these were the command HQ for the Great Leader himself.
They managed to sneak by via a major illusion and some expert bluffing. The Hobgoblins had managed to overcome the outer defenses of the hidden city, so they helped the party enter the inner ring: the Cursed Forest.
Once out of sight, the group shed their illusions and Thomas went to work identifying Rune Stones and performing the ritual for safe passage.
Thomas said that revealing his elf heritage now would benefit the group, as the protectors of the inner city would recognize him as a friend.
Meerken implied he could change his appearance to be elf-like as well, but Thomas said they would see through the disguise easily, so it’s not a good idea. Meerken became nervous, suggesting that his Kobold form is not his natural form.
After hours without the path becoming safer, Thomas and the others began to suspect something was wrong.
Jenny and Newton began to question just how certain Thomas was about the safety of this plan.
Thomas insisted the area can be incredibly deadly, but they were safe as long as they did not behave in a hostile way or stray from the path.
The party made camp for the night, only to be attacked in their sleep by creature that appeared to be dire wolves made from vines and other plant stuff.
Jenny became invisible, Bee raged and became a bear, Mystique levitated out of harm’s way, and Meerken transformed into a Treant.
The attack ended just as quickly as it began, but left several members of the group injured, and one of the bugbears dead under mysterious circumstances.
The exact mystery of the bugbear’s death was that he appeared alive (though dying) after the wolves retreated. He then suddenly died just as Newton attempted to stabilize him, apparently from negative energy effects.
Thomas insisted the wolves would never have any sort of negative energy effect, thereby indicating somebody within the group did it.
Newton indicated that Jenny had been invisible the entire combat, and the group had seem her in the past using negative energy. She insisted on her innocence, but had little proof.
Newton and some of the bugbears became outraged that Thomas had apparently led them all into a deathtrap that he apparently can’t control. He insisted this was incredibly odd, but that they would be safe soon, once the protectors identified and contacted him.
During their wanderings the next day, they saw the corpses of some gnolls and hobgoblins, apparently members of the Warband that became lost and died within the forest.
That night, the group was attacked again, only this time the wolves (and new dire bear plant creatures) avoided attacking the bugbears and focused on the more powerful characters.
This time, after some coaching from Thomas, Mystique became more active in the combat. He started by blinding several of the oncoming creatures (as well as some of the party) and then used strange powers to cause one of the bears to vanish.
The creatures fought more ferociously this time, but were less successful, as the party was also more prepared.
The group manages to incapacitate or kill most of the assailants, including the Guard Captain
One of the sailors turns on the others and reveals to the party that he’s infiltrated the crew to find his missing nephew, whom he believes is on this island
The party sees some of the guards escaping, and realizes they’ll need to hide before the rest of the island is alerted
Meanwhile, Bee manages to open the underwater grate and work his way slowly into the pipe
The party interrogates one of the sailors, and he reveals that the ship has been selling their passengers and some chemicals to the island’s inhabitants
They discover the village at the docks is just the front, and that the island is home to a large fortress in the center, largely buried in the mountain
The party hears bells ringing, guards shouting, and dogs barking, indicating that the rest of the guards have been alerted to the problem
Thomas tries to make it back to the huts near the docks in hopes he could identify the chemicals
He’s spotted by the sailors remaining on the ship and opted to return to the group and report that guards and dogs were likely on their trail
The party, as well as the stranger, Reuben Castle, skirt the wall for some time after claiming the Guard Captains possessions
They come upon a guard tower and Bert pretends to be the captain to get the guards to lower a rope.
The guards come down, and the group kill them, and then climb up
Jenny protests to the killing, but Newton and Thomas try to convince her they’re evil, and thus deserve to die.
Meanwhile, Bee finds his way up the pipe and finds some openings above him. He climbs and listens to the voices above.
After some time, he determines the voices are of prisoners, and breaks the lock on the grate above and enters the cell block.
He discovers the prisoners were once humans, but have been transformed into bugbears.
The party moves from tower-to-tower, tricking and killing the guards along the way, using Bert’s disguise to the fullest.
The final tower has more guards, and the party’s ambush is particularly brutal.
Bert, Thomas and Reuben take it in stride, but Jenny and Newton object to the killings
Meanwhile, Bee attempts to formulate a plan to help the prisoners escape.
Just then, a guard opens the door and asks who he is.
Bee panics, transforms into a bear, and attacks
As he knocks the guard out into the hall, he discovers three more waiting for him.
The prisoners shout for him to activate a lever to release the entire block, but he’s too enraged to make sense of the instructions
Instead, he easily kills the guards and starts breaking cells
The party climbs down the final tower, and discovers a side entrance into the mountain fortress
They find an armory, but it’s mostly cleared out by the guards searching for them
They exit the other end, finding a courtyard in an open-ceiling cave
There are a number of guards here and as the party discusses how to get rid of them, a guard runs out of a door in the back of the courtyard announcing there’s a prison break
Meanwhile, the prisoners Bee first released open the remaining cells via the levers
The party overcomes the remaining guard after the others close the main gate in the front
They follow them down, passing through another armory, and discover a mighty battle between bugbears and guards.
Many of the guards are on the catwalk above, shooting at the escapees
It quickly becomes apparent that the prisoners will overcome the guards, and Bert uses the opportunity to trick them into retreating
Meanwhile, the dwarf finishes releasing the prisoners and joins them defeating the guards on the floor
As the guards make a retreat, one of them pulls a lever, shouting he’s activated the “kill switch”
All the remaining guards make for the nearest exit and begin closing and locking the massive metal doors.
Stone slabs begin to rise from various spots around the catwalks, and the party hears a roaring and stomping from behind them
Bee notices a figure looking down upon the room from a further elevated position and hears a voice in his head giving him directions out of the room
The prisoners try to flee before the stone slab doors open completely, but they are too late
Thomas throws an expandable wall into one of the openings, preventing the creature from escaping, but its breath weapon regrettably still worked through the mesh
The creatures inside breath a horrible gas on the prisoners before them, turning many to stone
Bert recognizes these beasts as gorgons, terrible metal-hided bulls
The creatures trample and gore prisoners trying to flee on the catwalks, and the dwarf opts to rage once again, instead of obeying the voice in his head
Bert continues his “captain” act and demands to be lead to the animal handler
At the same time, Thomas, Newton, and Reuben lower ropes to the prisoners below the catwalks, cut off from escape
The group manages to kill two gorgons, but the creatures manage to kill, maim, or petrify many prisoners, as well as Reuben
Bert finds the animal handler and convinces him that the gorgons will escape the main room any time.