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Recap 20: Behold! Here Endeth the Quest

September 20, 2008

Flower Head

Having explored the entirety of Yerraterra's basement, there was only 1 place left to go - down the southern passage. According to Lashtal's journal, this narrow corridor was laced with acid. However, the group found the walls to be covered in some sort of moss-like mold. Lashtal's journal also mentioned an encounter with mold-men. Perhaps they were responsible for this growth. They proceeded with caution, but encountered no enemies. They continued down the spiral staircase, leading to the cottage.

The cottage looked like it had been abandoned, the windows boarded up. Flerm announced to the group that his sentient sword detected evil outside the cottage. Unfortunately, with the windows boarded up, there was no way to prepare the group for what might be waiting beyond the door. It was probably a safe bet that whatever it was, it would involve more trolls. Peering under the door, Josy was only able to see some shadows of movement.

Taking a chance, they cautiously exited the cottage. Things had certainly changed since the last time Snow and Malouf had been here. Gone was the pastoral scene that once graced this cavern. What was once a lush forest was now nothing but dead trees sticking out of marshy swamp, the river had dried to a muddy bed, and the sky was red. No woodland fauna populated this dead place.

From the direction of the bridge came a horrible scream. Looking over, the party saw trolls emerging from the mud then shambling north, disappearing over the bridge. As they watched this, another group of trolls became aware of them and attacked. These trolls were unlike any they had seen before. Their skin was strangely vegetable-like in texture and their heads resembled giant flowers. Their arms hung loose at their sides like dead weights. Instead of using their claws to attack, they opened their flower-like heads and unleashed tentacles from their mouths. Flerm and Malouf were swallowed by these flower-headed trolls, the tentacles pulling them in. Lieralyn and Snow tried to dispatch the 3 trolls quickly and save their teammates while Alana did her best not to fatally shoot anyone. Josy cast a cone of silence around the area so that the noise from the fight wouldn't attract even more trolls.

In the end, they prevailed, but not without cost. The group was in bad shape. They were low on resources and energy. Malouf and Flerm were sprouting moss all over their bodies. Luckily, a combination of soap, beer, and rolling in the dirt managed to kill the mossy mold and keep the two from turning into something akin to shambling mounds. At this point, it didn't seem like a full-scale assault on a troll army was a good idea. They decided to regroup in the cottage and decide what to do from there.

Better Press On

Snow opted for returning to the pixies, resting, and returning at full strength. Others wanted to stay the night in the cottage. After a fruitless debate over the pros and cons of such a retreat, it turned out the decision had already been made for them. While they had been down in the cavern, the mossy mold in the corridor above had been growing at a high rate and now filled the narrow corridor completely, threatening to overtake the spiral staircase next.

Josy was able to halt the advance of the mold by casting Continual Light in an area on the spiral staircase. Alana went outside the cottage to see if this spell could be detected even though the staircase itself was invisible from the outside. Thankfully, it could not be seen. With no other option open to them, they stayed in the cottage, taking turns on watch. Only once was their peace disturbed. A troll approached the cottage, sniffed at the door and climbed onto the roof, but never attacked. The rest of the night passed uneventfully.

Feeling rested, the group decided to head north towards the swamp, hugging the west wall and trying to avoid as many trolls as possible. Before they started, Josy cast another spell of Continual Light on a torch. Now the group would always have a source of light without needing fuel. Malouf, having the most experience with swampy terrain, led the way. They only attracted the attention of one troll and managed to keep the encounter secret by another Cone of Silence from the cleric. As they got closer to the muddy river bed, they saw a troll kneeling at the edge, using its hands to cake mud on its face. The group watched as a flowerhead sprouted from the mud. The troll shambled away, its arms hanging loosely. Clearly, the mud was responsible for this vegetative transformation among the trolls. Unfortunately, they would have to walk across this mud in order to reach their destination unless they wanted to follow the troll across the bridge. Loathe as they were to touch the mud, the latter choice was even more distasteful.

Brecaryn cast a grease spell so that those with soft boots could coat theirs, thus water-proofing them. They hoped that avoiding contact with the mud on their skin would be protection enough. The area was shrouded in mist. Flerm cast a darkness spell to help further obscure their presence. Carefully, they made their way across the swamp. From Lashtal's journal, they knew that even if they managed to get to the swamp without attracting attention, there were still large, vicious monkeys and possibly a spellcasting faerie ahead.

Guys Always Dig the Faeries

Upon entering the swamp, singing could be heard and Malouf immediately took off at a run. Lieralyn gave chase while Flerm teleported to tackle him. Snow told Alana to begin singing the same melody. It brought Malouf back to himself just as Flerm brought him down. Too bad the chase had very much attracted the attention of the monkeys. These monkeys were not like the ones Snow and Malouf previously encountered. They were now some sort of troll-monkey hybrid. Was this part more of the same troll augmentation the group had experienced already? The troll monkeys quickly surrounded the separated party members. Snow ran to aid Lieralyn. Flerm took a hit from one of the troll monkeys before teleporting away, leaving Malouf to fend for himself. Needless to say, the barbarian didn't take kindly to this tactic.

The alpha male was part of the group facing Lieralyn and Snow. When Snow first encountered the non-hybrid monkeys, killing the alpha male caused the others to run away. Hopefully, this was still true with these troll monkeys. Bearing this in mind, they concentrated their attacks on it. Little Josy dealt a fatal blow to one of the troll monkeys with her mace, its body flying several feet before slamming into the wall and falling limply to the ground. Snow's flying kick and punch combinations ended the fight with the alpha male. Seeing their leader dead, the rest ran away.

With the troll monkeys out of the way, the group was able to approach a dammed up pond where the music had originated. In the pond sat the faerie Malouf and Snow had previously encountered. She remembered them. She had been using her charm magicks to keep her safe from the trolls. From her description, it appeared a Beholder was controlling the mutated trolls. She said that his gaze would negate any magick, including magick items. This was very troubling news to many in the party as much of their armor and weapons were magickal in nature. She could not help directly, but offered them each a gift to increase their chances of defeating this evil. Except for Snow, each of the party members suddenly found themselves "bettered" in some way - stronger, smarter, more persuasive. The faerie could not offer Snow the same gift having done so the first time they met, but did tell her to say "Lux" to the pixies, and they would bestow a boon on her. The faerie also warned that the trolls had been tampering with the hilly mound to the south so if that was their destination to be careful.

Last time, Arkospixi was severely injured by a trap on the door in the hill. Instead of testing Snow's trap disabling abilities, they instead tied a rope to the hatch's handle and pulled it off. A fireball went off, but nobody was injured. It was also safe to assume that their approach had been noted and the enemy would be prepared. This, sadly, was nothing new for this group.

Don't Come Down! You'll Die!

They dropped the lit torch down the hole first and saw movement as whatever waited down there stepped back from the light source. Malouf, Flerm, Snow, and Lieralyn dropped down only to discover they were surrounded by trolls, owl bears, pixies, and shambling mounds. A charmed human ranger and elf magick user were also part of the group waiting to attack the party. In the back a Beholder floated, aiming it's many eyes in all directions. All magickal weapons and armor the group was carrying immediately went dead. They had to rely on their skill alone. Flerm, ever confident, shouted up to Brecaryn, Alana, and Josy, "Don't come down! You'll die!"

His assessment of the situation wasn't too far from the truth. Surrounded and outnumbered, it didn't look good. Snow hoped her teammates could survive long enough for her to get to the Beholder with the Beholder fork she'd picked up in the Kopru temple as she left them and went directly to the source of the problem. Unable to help while magick was negated, Josy and Brecaryn stood fretfully at the top. Alana chose to heed Flerms warning and decided to wander around the hill in search of a doorway.

She managed to get to the Beholder and clamp him with the fork but wasn't sure what to do with him next. Unfortunately, capturing him with the fork was not enough to break the charm he placed over all the creatures in the cave. Before she could think to cover his great eye (and stop his magick negating ability), a shambling mound walked over and engulfed the monk. The Beholder was free.

The situation was getting desperate. At first, it seemed they might be able to hold out. Malouf killed several pixies in an arcing swing. But before he could do more, the owl bear attacked, tearing his arm right off. Lieralyn, also inundated with pixies was severely crippled when a pixie plunged a dagger into her shoulder rendering it useless. Despite this, seeing Snow engulfed by the shambling mound, rushed forward to help her. She managed to do this but then succumbed to the Beholder's gaze and was turned to stone. Alana returned from her wanderings and jumped down to help her team, but with her Gloves of Clumsiness, she missed as many shots as she managed to get off successfully. Flerm held a defensive position and his dog Turtle helped keep the enemies at bay. Brecaryn, knowing her magick would be negated if she went into the hole stayed up top, opting instead to cast a spell conjuring stirges. She ordered them to harry the trolls and pixies. Then thinking better of it, sent them to attack and blind the Beholder. It looked like they might fail, but two managed to cover its eye and stab it with their long beaks. Once they did this, all magick became active again, although, it seemed like it had come almost too late to help the party.

Josy and Brecaryn, now able to use magick, entered the cave. Josy quickly began healing what wounds she could. Though she could not reattach Malouf's arm, she at least was able to staunch the bleeding. Brecaryn conjured more creatures - giant frogs and gnolls. These additional allies helped turn the tide in their favor. The frogs swallowed the pixies one by one. The gnolls, though no match for the charmed creatures, were at least able to take the focus off the party members long enough for the trolls and owl bears to be defeated. The elf and ranger were knocked unconscious. While everyone was focused on their survival, the Beholder slipped away down the tunnel.

With only the shambling mound left, the entire party focused its efforts on it. Flerm's sword chose this moment to coerce Flerm into aiding the unconscious ranger, detecting that he was not evil, only charmed by the Beholder. Flerm roused him. The ranger was slightly disoriented but quickly realized the shambling mound was a threat and tried to attack it with little result. Meanwhile, having previously experienced that electricity strengthened shambling mounds, Brecaryn held back on attacking it. Snow suggested she try her fireball spell. Yet, even this was no match for the shambling mound's damp, vegetative body. In the end, it succumbed to brute force.

Alana, seeing the elven magick user was of her people, helped her up and saw to her injuries. After hasty introductions where the ranger introduced himself as Oliver Green and the elf as Keendra, they turned to the most pressing problem at hand. Josy examined Malouf's injury and Lieralyn's petrification. She could not do anything about Lieralyn, but with Keendra's suggestion, combined her cure spell with the troll blood Alana was carrying to reattach Malouf's arm. It appeared to be completely healed. Fortunately, Keendra was able to turn Lieralyn back to flesh and Josy was able to heal her arm. With everyone whole again, they could now pursue the Beholder.

Snow knew time was of the essence. The longer they delayed, the more time the Beholder had to heal its injuries and regroup unknown forces to take them on. She quickly recruited Lieralyn and Malouf to move the boulder blocking the doorway and they all rushed into the room. Here they found the Beholder bathed in what appeared to be a pool of troll blood. Four vats of some blood and nutrient mixture filled each corner of the room. Each had been breached so that the mixture would leak out and feed the pool. In each vat was a mutated troll.

Flerm teleported in with the Beholder fork, paralyzing the Beholder. Snow finished it off. They pulled the corpse out of the blood mixture, suspecting it had regenerative properties. The trolls in 3 of the vats were awake and attacking the rest of the party. These trolls seemed to regenerate even more quickly than other trolls they had faced. Though unskilled, Oliver bravely attempted to engage the troll with the help of Alana and Keendra. Malouf took on a second troll and Lieralyn went for the third. Keendra used her cone of frost to immobilize the troll. Flerm ran in to help dispatch it. Malouf grabbed the second troll and dropped back, flipping the troll backwards and out of the vat before finishing it off. Lieralyn had some trouble with her troll. It grabbed her, pinning her to its many-headed body. Snow jumped in to help her, managing to free Lieralyn from the troll's grasp and they killed it together.

Looking at the setup, they hypothesized that this pool fed into the swamp and by poisoning this source, they could effetively take care of the troll problem. Luckily, several of the party members were hoarders and had a couple of vials of poisonous drider blood. They poured these into the pool. It was effective right away, the fourth troll dying in its vat.

Weary, injured, and sick of trolls, they left the cavern. The poison caused the mossy mold blocking the narrow passageway above to die, as well. They met up with the pixies where they could finally rest. Snow told the pixies of the faerie and the phrase "Lux". The pixies performed some magick and Snow immediately felt her life force grow stronger. While they had been fighting the trolls, the pixies also honored a request by Alana and presented her with arrows of sleep. Now that the unicorn was safely installed in Malta Wood, it was once again safe to travel the land at night.

Now What?

When they were rested and fed, the party made their way back to Roesh where they received a hero's welcome. Everyone was given an honorary rank of "Captain" by the Knights of Phantar for defeating the Red Bull. Alana found a priest who could remove her cursed gloves. And as usual, once a moment of leisure was to be had, thoughts turned to shopping for many in the group. Some had letters waiting for them. The rest were glad to finally get some much needed relaxation and revelry.

Keendra was anxious to get back to her homeland. Alana spoke with her kinsmen, asking her to relay a message for her. Oliver Green, on the other hand, had come from Warrensville specifically to seek these heroes out. He ended up in the hands of the Beholder following their trail. Oddly, when the Knights of Phantar offered to help with the problem in Warrensville, he did not opt to return with them. He wished to stay on with the group. Why? And how did he, an inexperienced ranger, manage to travel from Warrensville to Roesh and from Roesh to Malta Wood while it was still dangerous to travel at night? When pressed, he demurred.

Beeblebrox had assembled the group to fight the Red Bull. It was the only reason they had stayed together all this time. Now that this was done, what would they do next?

Documents Acquired: Letters of Captaincy in the Knights of Phantar

Tags: Alana, Brecaryn, Flerm, Josy, Keendra, Lieralyn, Malouf, Oliver, Snow, Turtle the dog

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