Kevin Vastavel & Cathy Naulaerts
Chapter 2 - If Trees Could Speak
1 Tarsakh 1372DR
A few weeks have gone by since Guormundr, Evaryan, Emnarii, Grace and Iskar have stopped Malark’s evil plan. The 4 new friends (Iskar left the city to spend some time in the woods) were having an early breakfast in “The lost Glory” when a young woman approached them. The petite brunette introduced herself as Katja and she asked the others to join her so she could discuss an important matter with them. With Malark’s threats still freshly in their minds, the friends did not trust the girl so she suggested discussing the matter with the sheriff. The group decided this was a good idea and, after finishing their breakfast, they left for the sheriff’s office.
On the way to Randolph’s office they ran into a stall with 2 merchants who were fighting over a few apples. The 2 men appeared to be brothers and their quarrel was running high. One of them took a case of apples and just threw it on the ground. Emnarii and the barbarian dwarf saw their chance and started collecting the apples with the intention of taking them with them. The second merchant noticed them and called for the city guards, after which the two started running away. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for the city guards to get hold of the shaggy dwarf and the pretty gnome, and to bring them back to the place of origin. The brothers started demanding compensation for their apples but in such a brutal way that, in the end, they found themselves arrested by the city guards. After this short intermezzo the group continued their way to the sheriff’s office.
Grak, the very stupid deputy let them into the office as soon as they arrived. Randolph confirmed Katja’s story and started telling them what was happening. For quite some time now, the Treants from the High Forest were moving closer to the city. The Harpers, a secret but benevolent organisation who was responsible for maintaining harmony between civilisation and nature, were very worried about this phenomenon and wanted to find out why they were moving. A few weeks back they had sent a few of them on an expedition with the intention of speaking to Turlang, the leader of the Treants. And since they left, a bit more than a month ago, no one had heard from them. Randolph told them this was an alarming matter while helping himself to another glass of wine. He said the Harpers were worried about the members of the expedition and they wanted Grace, Emnarii, Guormundr and Evaryan to find out what had happened to the group and why the Treants were on the move. If they managed to get to the bottom of this they would be paid no less than 2000 gold pieces.
Grace and Guormundr agreed right away but the other 2 were a bit more reluctant. They thought it was a dangerous quest for just 4 people and wanted some more people to accompany them. The sheriff could not miss any of his men but agreed to give them 1 day to find some volunteers. While Emnarii and Evaryan started looking for people who wanted to join them, Grace and Guormundr prepared for the adventure. Evaryan and Emnarii soon realised no one was willing to join them and decided that they would accept the sheriff’s offer.
To help them on their quest the heroes received some potions and supplies. They checked their bags one last time and headed off towards the forest. But before they even reached the city walls they had an unpleasant encounter with a pickpocket, fortunately they managed to stop him. The young man was handed over to the city guard and the 4 friends continued their journey.
Deep, dark, and enigmatic, the High Forest is inarguably the greatest forest in the known world. Many rumours and mysteries abound in regards to the High Forest and the secrets it holds within the shade of its trees. Folks talk of enclaves of druids, elven tribes and hordes of Treants, dryads, and other sylvan races alike. Various spruces and pines are the most common trees of this splendid forest.
Their first days in the forest went by very smoothly, not too many problems. But on the 4th day they found themselves staring into the eyes of an enormous grey wolf. The animal stared back at the party and did not move a muscle. Guormundrs hand slowly slipped to his spiked chain but a small motion of Grace’s hand made it clear that attacking was a bad idea. After all, the animal was not attacking them and maybe they could leave the animal without having to fight. It was at that time that 2 people left the shadows and joined the wolf. One was a tall, very skinny elf with a flat nose and a small mouth. He had a copper colored skin and green eyes which made the party suspect he was a wood elf. His raven black hair braids reached to the bottom of his back. His companion, a wild elf, was not as tall and his skin was dark brown. His hair was black with white locks. His face and arms were covered with mud se he would not attract unwanted attention in the wood. It was very easy for Guormundr, Grace, Emnarii and Evaryan to make clear they did not mean any harm.
The 2 elves introduced themselves as Sunimion Sarrandalion and Balmoc Navian. They were members of the missing team that left Everlund weeks ago to speak to Turlang. They told their group had been ambushed soon after they had left Everlund. Most of their group fell during the battle and one of them, Willard, was captured and taken away. Sunimion and Balmoc were spared because they had left the group to hunt for food. When they came back they saw how about a dozen men led Willard away into the woods. Afterwards they were attacked by 5 other robbers but they were easily defeated by the 2 elves. Sunimion, the wood elf, suspected that the cult of the dragon was responsible for the mysterious ambush and was looking for evidence to prove his theory when he ran into Grace and her companions. Now everyone got acquainted with each other they all decided to continue the quest together. Guormundr, who did not really know how to behave with 3 elves in his party, decided he was better of getting closer to Emnarii, the gnome bard.
Marching through the wood, the adventurers ran into one of the many dangers that lured in the forest. A giant wolfspider had sneaked up to them from behind a bush, and was ready to strike. Before they realized what was happening, the monster jumped from the bushes and it was able to cause a lot of damage before being killed by the party. They were just reminded about the fact that the High Forest was not the place for a nice refreshing walk in the woods. After they had healed themselves by drinking a few potions Grace started feeling very unpleasant. Sunimion and Balmoc felt the same and started looking around while reaching for their weapons. They soon realized that one of the trees in front of them was no ordinary tree. It was a creature that had the combined features of trees and humans. The party soon realised they were looking at one of the Treants and Sunimion started talking to it in a strange language. It seemed that the Treant had been watching them for a long time and he told them that a wood elf community lived deep in the wood. This community had recently been violently taken over by humans. The Treants wanted to help them but were not able to because the village was located in an area that was prohibited for them. It was an ancient dragon’s graveyard and the power of the Treants did not reach that far. At the request of Grace, the tree man brought the companions to his leader, Turlang who governs a lush, dimly lit forested realm. When they arrived they saw that the air in its ever-present trees-gloom glowed blue. This weird light came from amorphous, mindless and slowly ambulatory luminescent forest floor fungi, and from glowing moss trailing from the branches of dying trees. Turlang greeted them in a kind way and confirmed the Treants story. When the company asked them why the Treants were approaching Everlund he told them they were scouts who were sent to observe the humans. This way he hoped to find out if the people of Everlund were aware of the malicious events in the elven village Sulfiniriam. Humans had attacked the village and forced the inhabitants to work as slaves. After long deliberations and making plans the party decided to travel to the occupied village. The Treants gave them directions how to get to the village and even walked with them for a few miles.
They had been hiking for a few hours when they ran into a strange looking tree. Its trunk was pitch black and the tree radiated a magic aura. Although they were very interested, our friends were not able to find anything out so they decided to move on. When the ladies in the party started complaining about being tired and having sore feet the group decided to set up camp. The Treants did not allow them to build a fire and when Grace was putting up her tent, her leg was suddenly grabbed by plant tentacles. She suddenly found herself on the ground while the tentacles were wrapping themselves around her body. When she finally started screaming for help the others came to the rescue right away. It didn’t take them long to chop the tentacles into pieces and help Grace up. Worried about more attacks the party agreed to keep watch in turns.
The next morning they continued their journey and soon they reached the elven village. Balmoc scouted the area and concluded it would be a very bad idea to attack the village with just the 6 of them so they decided to wait for a patrol to leave the village. A few hours later it was time. About 10 guards left the village and started patrolling the surrounding area, the 6 heroes followed them quietly and when they were in a reasonable distance they attacked. From the bushes they fired arrows at the soldiers, Guormundr tried to reach them running from tree to tree. Part of the soldiers returned fire while the rest drew their swords and charged. It was a fierce battle and slowly the companions realised that they had underestimated their opponents. These were not ordinary robbers, these were trained killers. During the skirmish Grace was hit on the head with a sword and she fell to the ground. The soldier grabbed her by the throat and forced the other ones to surrender. Everyone realised they had no chance so they complied. Everyone, except Sunimion, because he had left the scene earlier and changed himself into a tree.
A few hours later Grace woke up with a horrible headache. When she looked around she saw she was inside a wooden shed. She saw her friends and everyone, including her, was tied up and dressed in leather rags. At the other end of the room were 2 unknown individuals staring at her. The first one was a woman, about 7 feet tall. She had a red, scaled skin and had 2 little horns growing from just above her eyes until about 8 inch behind her head. She had purple lips and snake-like eyes. She was wearing a full plate and a tabard which had a symbol of a flame with eyes burning above a dragon’s claw on it. Grace had seen the symbol before, during one of her investigations in the Everlund library. It was the symbol of the Cult of the Dragon. The second individual was a short, bald and slightly hunch-backed man. He had a dark brown goatee and strange tattoos on his head and shoulders.
With an arrogant voice the woman introduced herself as Persephil. The man next to her was Zeddicus. Persephil told the party that they had become prisoners of the Cult of the Dragon and that they had to work in the village. Any sign of disobedience or rebellion would be severely punished. Emnarii and Grace were ordered to work in the bar as servants. Guormundr and Evaryan had to run the treadmill while Balmoc had to chop wood. Soon after they received their tasks the heroes were set to work. It was hard and fatiguing work and the guards were not afraid to use the whip to make the slaves work harder. That night, they were brought back to the slaves’ barracks. The heroes and the other slaves all got a piece of bread and some diluted porridge as evening meal. The five realized they had a serious problem. They could only hope that Sunimion would find some reinforcement. After their poor meal some guards came and took Grace with them. They forced her to go to another barrack where Persephil and Zeddicus were waiting for her. Persephil started asking Grace why she was here and who sent her but the brave Aasimar refused to say anything. Unfortunately for her they did more than just threatening her and they tied her to a rack and took of her shoes. The headsman approached the rack with a burning torch and started burning her feet causing Grace to scream in pain. At last they stopped torturing her and they brought Grace back to her barrack. With tears in her eyes she managed to fall asleep. While Grace was being tortured the others tried to make contact with the other slaves. They could only tell that they were taken off guard by Persephil and her followers. Persephil intended to dig up as many dead dragons as possible and create a fortress to establish her power. The poor slaves were too afraid to say anything else.
After a way to short night’s rest they were woken up and put to work again. Grace was no longer allowed to work in the bar and had to run the treadmill like Evaryan and Guormundr. At lunch time, everyone was gathered in the village square where they were fed the same watery porridge. While they were eating, a young woman jumped up and started running towards the forest. The guards shouted to stop her but no one dared to move. Evaryan and Guormundr saw their chance and decided to flee as well. No one made it to the forest. The woman was shot in the back with an arrow and Evaryan and Guormundr were knocked out cold and detained in an isolation cell. The other slaves were put back to work immediately; they who had not finished their meal had to leave it.
Guormundr woke up and heard a knocking sound from the cell next to his. He started to shout and soon it became clear there was a prisoner locked in the cell next to his. The man’s name was Begoran and he had been locked up for quite some time. Begoran trusted the dwarf and told him he was waiting for his execution. He begged the dwarf to attempt an escape with the help of his beaver Me’lean. Then he should get help from the Hidden Folk. Me’lean had gone into hiding and only the human black smith, Willard was able to help the dwarf locate the beaver. That night, after their usual meal, Emnarii was taken for questioning. She was hung on her hands so her feet did not touch the floor. Then she was hit on her bare torso with a stick. But she also refused to say anything. Only 2 days later Evaryan and Guormundr were released from their cell. Evaryan was publicly abused when he was stumbling to the treadmill, blinded by the sunlight. Guormundr got another job. He got the questionable honour to build the gallows. A few hours after they were released the village was startled by loud noise. About 5 creatures that looked like half men, half deer attacked the village and started shooting arrows at the occupiers. The guards launched a counter-attack and Evaryan, Grace and Guormundr took another chance to flee. This time they succeeded and they arrived in the forest where Sunimion was waiting for them.
The 4 of them started brainstorming about their next actions. After all, Emnarii and Balmoc were still held prisoner, a fact that bothered Grace a lot. Guormundr told them about his conversation with Begoran, the man who had been locked up in the cell next to him. Maybe, if there were fewer guards around, they could go back and talk to the black smith. If this plan failed Sunimion could wear the clothes of 1 of the dead guards and pretend he was 1 of them. Sunimion was very surprised to hear that his friend Willard had already been in touch with the inhabitants of the occupied village. After they had made their plans the party decided to rest until midnight so they could gain strength for their plan.
Shortly after midnight they snuck back to the village and soon they saw that the amount of guards was doubled. Someone noticed them sneaking around so they had to switch to plan B. Sunimion, who was dressed as a guard, got up and led his 3 friends to the other guards. He told them he was bringing them back. After a good beating the 3 runaways were chained. To make matters worse all slaves were woken up and brought to the village square. It was very clear that something horrible was about to happen. With a sadistic smile on her face the red-skinned Persephil stepped up to Evaryan. She looked him straight in the eyes and hit him hard in the stomach. The elf gasped for air and fell to the ground. “You decided to disobey my orders and tried to run away and with this you have sealed the doom of the elves in this village. As a punishment you each have to point out 1 person who will be decapitated instead of you. Then you will feel that you and you alone, are responsible for someone’s death and this for the remainder of your miserable lives. If you refuse I will make a choice myself and I won’t choose 1 person but 3 to execute, for each and every one of you” Grace looked at Persephil with horror in her eyes. She realised she did not have a choice. Without saying a word they all made their choice. 3 men were executed in front of the entire village. Grace could not suppress her tears. Something the evil Persephil took a great pleasure in.
After the executions the slaves were brought back to their barracks. Grace, Guormundr and Evaryan were denied a night’s rest and were put to work. Grace had to clean the entire bar, Evaryan had to sort out the chopped wood in a barn and Guormundr had to clean the smithy. While he was doing his job he approached Willard, the blacksmith. He’s a short, middle aged man with short black hair. His face is mutilated by an old scar that runs from his left eye to the corner of his mouth. When Guormundr had told the tale about how he met Sunimion and Balmoc, hope flickered in Willard’s eyes. He told the dwarf how his group had been ambushed and how he was taken back to the village as only survivor. Willard also said he met Begoran many years ago and that they were good friends. Guormundr explained that he needed to find Me’lean, Begoran’s beaver. At that moment Willard showed him a secret hatch in the floor that covered a secret underground passageway. The blacksmith told the dwarf he did not dare to use this passageway because he feared for his good friend Begoran’s life. Without thinking about possible consequences the dwarf descended into the passageway. Although it was really dark he had no problem with his sight, although everything was black and white. The passageway ended inside another barrack and when Guormundr opened the hatch he saw that he had ended up in the storage room. Between all the junk he found the party’s possessions and weapons. In one of the corners of the room he saw a small beaver that looked at him in a timid way. De dwarf scratched his beard and did not really know how to proceed “You can’t really talk to an animal” he mumbled but although he felt a bit ridiculous he tried to speak to the small animal. The beaver did not talk back but started scratching the walls and it took a while for Guormundr to realize what the animal was trying to tell him. When checking the wall he found a second hatch that covered a passageway to the wood. Guormundr hid his companions’ possessions and took his spiked chains. He went to the wood and once he was there he tried speaking to the beaver again. The clever animal was clearly trying to answer by drawing things in the sand. Guormundr understood that he had to travel to the south for 2 days and 2 nights to be able to reach “the hidden folk’s” camp. From where he was standing Guormundr had a clear view over the village. Not far from where he was standing a heavily guarded Evaryan was stacking blocks of wood. One of the guards was Sunimion. The dwarf snuck up to Sunimion and managed to attract his attention. They talked for a while and agreed that Guormundr would go back until tomorrow. Sunimion would make sure they were all allowed to work with the black smith the next day. That way they could attempt an escape. Both men agreed that they could not fail. They could no longer risk other people’s lives.
The next morning, when all slaves were assigned to their tasks, it became clear that Sunimion had succeeded. All of them, except Balmoc, were allowed to work with the black smith. They acted immediately. To avoid Willard being punished by the evil Persephil and her marionette Zeddicus, they knocked him down and tied him up. They gathered their things from the hiding place and continued their journey to the “Hidden folk”. Although she knew this was the only way Grace felt as if she was abandoning the other slaves. Who knows what horrors were going to happen because of them escaping again? They hiked for a few hours and decided to build their camp. They all felt really weak due to a combination of lack of food and not enough rest. While Guormundr was setting up his tent he was attacked by a flesh eating plant. Evaryan and Emnarii pulled him free and instead of fighting the plant they just moved their camp.
They had been following the beaver for 2 days when Evaryan suddenly got the feeling they were being followed. He did not see anything suspicious and continued walking. “It’s probably just because I am tired” he thought. But Grace also felt as if she was being watched. She said a few strange sounding words and was suddenly surrounded by an invisible but tangible field of force. She felt a lot better with her mage armor. Only a few seconds after she had cast the spell an arrow emerged from the bushes. Its flight ended in a tree, only a few inches away from Guormundr’s nose. A few elves with skins tend to be dark brown, and hair ranged from black to light brown emerged from the bushes and the heroes found themselves surrounded. Grace did not need long to realize they had run into the hidden folk. She explained that they had been sent by Begoran and because they were accompanied by the beaver the elves believed her story and lowered their weapons. Mylarian, the leader of the group, explained that his people were named “The Hidden Folk” and that they were aware of the problems in Sulfiniriam. The small village was built on top of an ancient dragon’s graveyard and the presence of the Cult of the Dragon meant something bad was about to happen. Presumably, the cult was planning on reviving the bodies of the, long dead, dragons and use them to extend their powers. They had to be stopped but the community of “The Hidden Folk” was not big enough to launch an attack. Mylarian gave Grace a self-designed magic scroll which she could use to stop the evil plans of the cult. The scroll had to be read in the middle of the village and as soon as this was finished everyone had to run as fast as they could. You had a possibility to weave in peoples name’s who would then be protected from the magic which was crucial information for the one who would read the scroll. While Grace was putting the scroll away he also mentioned that Begoran was able to read the scroll. The heroes decided to rest in “The Hidden Folk’s” camp and travel back to Sulfiniriam the next day.
The journey back went a lot better and at lunchtime on 15 Tarsakh the companions arrived at the edge of the village. They hid until it went dark and took the tunnel back to the smithy. Grace handed the magic scroll to Me’lean and told the beaver to bring it to its master. Eagerly they waited for the result. Time went by slowly and just as Emnarii was saying the plan had failed all hell broke loose. The earth started shaking and the guards panicked and ran away. Sunimion tried to free as many slaves as possible. Begoran managed to free himself and ran to the safety of the woods. Then it became clear what they had summoned. A gigantic creature was standing in the middle of the village and it destroyed everything that was in its way. The creature was made from earth, sand, mud, mushrooms, plants and tree trunks. The few guards that dared to attack the monster were tossed around as rag dolls. Grace, Guormundr, Emnarii and Evaryan decided it was no longer safe so they also tried to run away. Unfortunately they were spotted and attacked by some guards and their leader Zeddicus. Persephil decided it was too dangerous to stay at the scene, jumped on her black stallion and left the village. The 4 heroes could easily handle the few guards but Zeddicus’s magic was too advanced for Evaryan and Guormundr. Grace focused and summoned some kind of fog which blocked Zeddicus’s view on them. They were making their way to the forest when they heard a horrid scream. The creature had caught the evil mage. Without hesitating any further everyone ran deeper into the woods and once they felt they were safe the party decided it was time to rest and wait for things to quiet down again.
Once everything had settled down the party returned to the village. What was left of the village lay in ruins and there were bodies scattered everywhere. There were the dead bodies of the cult members but a few of the villagers who had not been able to get away in time had also died in the line of fire. The party searched the guards’ bodies and took what they could use. They also found Zeddicus’ body and Guormundr discovered a masterwork, claw bracer which he appropriated immediately. Grace seized 2 wands. The other possessions were put in a bag and the 4 decided to look at them when it was a bit safer. After a while the villagers returned. The Cult had been beaten and now they could start re-building their village.
Evaryan, Emnarii, Grace and Guormundr decided to spend the night with the villagers and installed themselves between the ruins of the houses. It was a calm night but Grace had trouble sleeping. They had beaten the cult but the victory had come with a high price. Many innocent civilians had lost their lives and the village was entirely destroyed. What was going to happen to the elven community? It took her a few hours to fall asleep.
The next morning the party packed their things and they started heading back to Everlund. They had been walking for a few hours when Evaryan and Guormundr started arguing about which direction they should go. As Evaryan was the one with roots in the High Forest, Grace and Guormundr decided to follow him, which was much against Emnarii’s will. She decided to follow her own route but when she ran into 4 goblins she hurried back to the others. She found her companions and together they beat the 4 goblins with ease. Emnarii, who got injured because of her stupid stunt, was healed and to avoid further problems Grace and Guormundr gave in. They decided to follow her which was, obviously, much against Evaryan’s will.
The next day, after their rest, they saw the contours of a wooden building. Carefully they approached the building and soon they noticed it was a small house. It appeared to be occupied as there was laundry outside, hanging on a clothesline. About 20 white rabbits were frolicking next to the house. Emnarii could not resist her curiosity. She looked through the window. It was a very cosy house, and someone was inside.
They knocked on the door and a young, red haired woman answered. Her name was Grizelda and she had been living here for a long time. The people in Everlund had chased her and her mother away because they thought they were witches. Her mother had passed a long time ago and now Grizelda was living here on her own. She was very happy with the unexpected visitors as she had not seen any people for a long time. It was also very clear that she felt attracted to Evaryan. Grizelda was managing very well alone, but the last few days a wolf had been terrorizing the area. The wolf had already killed a few of her rabbits and although she had tried many things, she had not been able to chase the animal away. She looked Evaryan in the eyes and asked if he was able to help her. Evaryan was not very confident with the matter but the woman managed to persuade him anyway.
That night the wolf showed up and Guormundr attacked the animal with his spiked chain. He kept hitting the animal and in his fury he did not notice it changing. The wolf raised itself and transformed into a wolf with human features. “Tyr, this can’t be true, it’s a werewolf” Grace shouted while firing her magic missiles. Guormundr, who was still hitting the animal, did not realize he was not hurting the creature at all. He was bitten several times but after a heavy fight the party was able to kill the werewolf.
While Grace and Emnarii were taking care of Guormundr, Grizelda singled out Evaryan for his reward. She gave him a small leather pouch bag and started kissing him passionately. Evaryan tried to get the woman of him and to his great surprise she had changed into an ugly, skinny woman with a crooked nose and long grey hair. The little white rabbits all changed into kobolds and they all attacked the party. Barely recovered from the last fight they were attacked again, and this time there opponent was strong. The kobolds were killed easily but Grizelda, the hag, was too strong. Grace, Emnarii and Evaryan fled into the wood but Guormundr took a wrong turn and ran straight into Grizelda’s house. Now the other 3 had to rescue him. They regrouped and snuck back to the house. Grizelda came outside with an old copper kettle and shouted “heeheehee, I know you are out there in the woods. I can smell your juicy meat … Come to me my little lambs, so I can devour you” Then she roared with laughter and went back inside.
A few minutes later they saw a badly wounded Guormundr leave the cabin. He called them and said he had killed Grizelda but the 3 heroes felt something was wrong. While Grace kept Guormundr within range, Emnarii climbed a tree to see if she could see the hag’s body. Meanwhile Evaryan approached the dwarf. When he was within range Guormundr grabbed the elf. It was Grizelda who had changed her appearance into Guormundr’s. The witch swung her claws to Evaryan while shouting that she had already killed the dwarf. It felt as if sharp knives were cutting him and Evaryan screamed of pain. And just as the hag wanted to give the final blow the heroes got some unexpected help. A few deer-like creatures, armed with crossbows and a treant emerged from the woods. They managed to chase the hag away. Emnarii started healing Evaryans bleeding wounds. With fear in her heart Grace entered the hag’s house. There she found the lifeless body of Guormundr, covered in blood. Tears ran down her cheeks when she kneeled next to her good friend’s body. Guormundr was gone … The whole group mourned and just when they decided to bury the dwarf Evaryan thought of the reward he got from the hag. He opened the bag and found an old coin that did not look normal. Grace recognized the coin because she had seen it in the library. She knew you could rub it and make a wish. Evaryan tried it and when he rubbed the coin it started sparkling. Then he wished Guormundr back to live and to everyone’s surprise it worked. Guormundr was patched up with some healing potions. The treant and the deer-like creatures offered to escort the party to Turlang. Everyone agreed that this was a good plan and a day and a night later they arrived at the clearing where Turlang lived. The leader of the Treants was really happy to see the party alive and thanked them for saving the village. As a reward they were allowed to bring a visit to the Source of Truth. Everyone who drank the water of this source was allowed to see the answer to a matter of the heart, no matter if it was in the past, present or future. The one who wanted to drink from the source had to solve a riddle given by the guard of the source. He who solved the riddle could drink. He who failed would never see the daylight again.
The party left for the source that same day. After a 4 hour hike and a short run-in with a local brown bear they arrived at the entrance of the cave where the source was located. Once inside they saw a pool of dark water. The short, old guard, named Hatjepoet, welcomed them and told them they had to solve a riddle if they wanted to drink the water. The party agreed with his terms and Hatjepoet started telling them the riddle:
“A sheik from the distant land of Calimshan announced that a race would decide which of his 2 sons would inherit all his wealth. The sons were to ride their camels to a certain distant city. The son whose camel reached the city last would be given the entire sheik’s wealth. The 2 sons set out on the journey and after several days of aimless wandering, they met and agreed to seek the advice of a Wiseman. After listening to the Wiseman’s advice, the 2 sons rode the camels as quickly as possible to the designated city. What was it that the Wiseman told the 2 sons? They did not agree to split the wealth, and their father’s decree would be followed.”
Then he told them to give him the answer or they would die a swift death. The party discussed for a short while and finally agreed on an answer. “The Wiseman told them to change camel” they said. The answer was correct and 1 by 1 they were allowed to drink from the source.
Guormundr drank first and asked about the situation in his birthplace. The source showed him a subterranean, cold corridor where 2 armies were fighting each other. A pack of goblinoid creatures was attacking the dwarven army who bravely fought back. Guormundr also saw a close up of the dwarven King who was walking down the battlefield, heavily armed. Guormundr noticed the King’s beard was longer as when he left the city so he concluded that this was a future image. Upset by what he saw the dwarf sat down for a while.
In the mean time it was Emnarii’s turn to drink. She did not know what to ask so on Grace’s request she asked why Ekoj, Grace’s mentor, had left Calimshan. In her mind she saw a young, beautiful woman standing next to a fat, mean man. It was clear that the woman was Ekoj. The image changed and this time the gnome saw a harem. She concluded that Ekoj was the man’s favourite wife. But there was a lot of jealousy in the man’s house. The source showed Emnarii how Ekoj was rejected when she was pregnant and how another woman took her place. The image changed again and it now showed Ekoj sneaking away in the middle of the night, holding a baby in her arms. The child’s name was Haon. Emnarii told Grace what she had seen while Evaryan was going for his turn.
Without saying a word he drank from the source. With a tear running down his cheek and a trembling voice he asked what had happened to Aylinn. The source showed him a stretched marshland with sulphur and fire. Razor-sharp rocks were pointing at the sky which was dark with a red glow. In the middle of the marshland was a village where people were being tortured by monstrous beings. Fiendish creatures were flying through the sky and the cries of the victims set your teeth on edge. The last image Evaryan got to see was how Aylinn was tied up against a pole and how her bowels were hanging from her stomach and against all odds she was still alive. Evaryan felt miserable and decided to rescue his lover as soon as possible.
Finally it was Grace’s turn to drink. The young sorceress asked what had happened on the night her mentor was murdered and where she could find the murderers. The source showed her Ekoj, who was arguing with Cedric, Grace’s nephew. They started fighting and suddenly an amulet with the portrait of Cyric fell in the grass. Cedric hit the old woman on the head and she lost consciousness. When she woke up she was tied up and Cedric stabbed her in the stomach with a knife. In the background Grace could see some of Cedric’s friends. They were all yelling that Ekoj could only blame herself for this because she had left the Pasha. The image faded and changed. Grace could now see a winter landscape and a few men, including Cedric, walking on a road. They were about to cross a bridge. She saw a massive mountain ridge on their right. Then the image disappeared.
Everyone had now seen their answer. They said goodbye to the guard and traveled to Everlund in complete silence. Everyone was thinking about what they had just seen.
The journey back was long but uneventful and on 21 Tarsakh they arrived at Everlund’s city gates. They proceeded to the Sheriff’s office and told the Sheriff about everything that had happened. Randoph was really happy to see them and listened carefully to what they had to say. After they had finished their story he invited them to a party that was organized to honor them. A lot of noble people would also attend this party.
For the rest of the day everyone did his own thing. Guormundr visited Turikborsjt and together they revived old memories while drinking a keg of good dwarven beer. Emnarii went shopping for a new outfit for the party and Evaryan went to the library to find information about The Nine Hells, because he was convinced that this was the place where he could find Aylinn. Grace remained in her room and read the old spell book she recovered from Zeddicus’ body.
The content of The Chronicles of Grace Faylne is the property and copyright of Kevin Vastavel and is not to be published or redistributed without permission.
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