War of Fire and Ice

The Song of the River and the Wood
"Life is a dream that has found its form. I sing these dreams that they might be born."

Gramercy 1000XP, Boots of Sand, Rust Bark, Cursed Mirror of Disfigurement,

Oh to finally rid themselves of this accursed forest and its choking smoke! With this thought at the forefront of their minds the Brotherhood of Mercy journeyed downriver in makeshift boats, eager to do whatever must be done to break free of the burning wood and continue on their quest.

While repairing a cracked gunwale, the navigators witnessed a strange chase: A lovely lady flitting through the air on gossamer wings, looking gaunt, harried and tired alighted on a boulder the center of the wide and shallow stream. She looked back the way she had come as if expecting pursuit. And even in her obvious exhaustion she sang a sweet melody.

And so The Indigo Kid hailed this fey creature with glad greetings and a song of his own and soon enough the two had joined in impromptu harmony in counterpoint to the babbling of the mountain stream. Her name was Tiljann, a Seela of Innendotdar, and she wondered if these were the pipers at the gates of a new dawn.

But just as suddenly the moment passed as more fairies appeared in the air about the girl. The held spears and they swooped at her menacingly calling her “traitor”, “betrayer”, and “criminal”.

The Brotherhood waded into the river to defend the singing lady against her estranged brethren, standing firm even when reinforcements arrived. Driemz warned them of dire consequence if they continued their attack, and Indigo added his conciliatory approach. Meanwhile Geth and Blackwolf brought their might to bear. The fairies were soon driven off, though not before one was taken prisoner.

Tiljann the Seeker thanked the heroes and explained her plight. She resided in the Lake Village of the downstream where her people, the Seela defied the horror of the everburning forest to continue to sing the Song of Forms as they had for hundreds of years. The Song of Forms was the most sacred of songs that told of the nature of life and always added verses to the melody, verses of hope and renewal. The Song of Forms told the story of Anyariel’s great crusade against the invasion of the Shahalesti after the thawing of the Winter’s Dark, and it told of Anyariel’s great sacrifice against the Indomitable Spirit that had corrupted the cycles of the land. Anyariel pinned the stag to the bottom of the lake where is it bound by the Song of Forms.

“But that was before the forest began to burn!” says the girl with the butterfly wings. “Who would burn our forest and why? We ourselves began to burn, but we never stopped singing. We have been singing in the fire for 40 years and some have begun to despair. Many have stopped singing. Only a few of us are left carrying the Song in hour hearts and on our lips. I had a vision in my sleep that soon I would be free to be the Seeker I was born to be and leave this forest and find my kinsman Entifini and so I began my journey but I did not get far and hear you are, the heralds of change.”

At the lake the heroes were greeted by the leader of the Seela, a wizened fairy named Papuvin who showed what hospitality he could before he and Tiljann were called to their weary shift of singing at the shore.

The brothers wondered the village among the despondent and vaguely curious Seela and saw that indeed most were without hope and all were exhausted from their decades long ordeal. Only some profound truth could have kept them going all this time!

They were told of monsters who lived in the deeps of the lake, and of Hag Guenwevere who would come sometimes and cackle madly at the gates, taunting the Seela with insane pronouncements and who was only propitiated with offerings of meat. The monsters of the lake are the offspring of the Hag who once loved the hero Anyariel.

Complicating things further, the brothers were invited in to the cave of Vuhl, a sad looking Seela who laid out his own philosophy of despair, “Do you sit and watch a horse with a broken back or do you step forward and cut short its suffering?”

Geth felt weak in the presence of Vuhl, becoming light headed and plagued with visions, an eye in the depths of the earth.

Vuhl implored the heroes to go to the glade of Timbre the Dryad who suffered more than most and convince her to return to the village and accept the inevitable fate. Perhaps then the last of the Seela would accept the truth and finally quite their song. “Return the Dryad, dead or alive, it is only a difference of hours is it not?”

Tiljann taught The Indigo Kid the Song of Forms.

At first the party had been adamant that those Seela who thought like Vuhl were right, but as they heard more of the story, and after encountering the unmanly depression of Vuhl himself they began to think that perhaps there was a better way.

“Why not just swim down into the lake and free the Stag?” Hours asked.

“Because we are invested with fire now and we would die. Perhaps the lady of the lake knows where the Stag lies.”

So without further delay the warriors set out with a plan of action. First they lured the hag from her hiding place with offers of food, and then, seeing her fractured state of mind applied Vuhl’s maxim and cut short her misery.

Taking the lock of Anyariel’s hair (and avoiding and cursed mirror), Hours led the trek to the flaming glade of the dryad Timbre. The glade was guarded by two hulking boar, and a pair of flaming elk, but when Hours presented the lock of hair, Timbre was roused from her catatonic state and allowed herself to be reasoned with. Here were a cadre of brave souls prepared to do what violence needed to be done.

“The Song of Forms is the song of all reality, and it is the Song that keeps the dragon’s indomitable dream manifest in flesh and allows the Living Blade to keep it bound. For as you must know, all of this is but a fragment of a dragon’s dream.”

“One amongst you must grasp Lifesong, the Living Blade, for I plucked it from the heartwood of the great Home Tree and it is bound to the spirit of the land, but it must be bonded to a mortal soul. I will show you the way and bless your possession, but you must have the courage to take the weapon.”

Courage was not lacking.

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Clairvoyance or Prophecy?
Geth pierces the veil between worlds

Now, as Geth wanders the ruins of the Elven village, words come unbidden to his mind, as if the veil between worlds is growing thin and visions dance before him:

A flock of bird-men laughing as they set fire to the forest, corrupted by a nightmare and then a shock: a cave seemingly familiar but filled with crows and one known to him, Croaker, bound to an alter as a tendril reaches from the depths of the earth to claim him… is this a vision or a prophecy?

“The blood walls course with life, and the heart
of man and beast fills with its fire. The mask
is laid bare and with the submissive spirit’s
willful release, the world’s vitality is restored.
Spring will dawn at the phoenix’s last flight
and the land shall rejoice.”

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A Dragon's Bidding
What tangled web has been woven here?

The Brotherhood of Mercy thought not a moment before bending the knee to this “Indomitable” presence. As one they felt the heat of the forest surge within them, suffusing them with the very flame that had tormented them for so many days. A tremor passed through the heroes as they realized the import of what they had done, promising to “silence the 40 tongues” and free this fiery spirit and in turn giving over of themselves their very essence. Geth’s smile was broad, and this alone made the others uneasy.

On the other hand, the fire suddenly seemed less hot, the smoke no longer burned the eyes, and each brother felt with certainty that his soul was bound more firmly to this terrestrial plain, albiet bound by chains of flame.

Now the fiery barriers created by Indomitability crumbled as the eyes faded from sight, and the way was clear to the river and the village beyond. It was discovered that the village was a burned out ruin and the bridge was an elaborate stone bridge, sturdy as dwarven work but decorated so at to appear to be a massive span of trees and vines, a literal interpretation of the wood elves’ philosophy of harmonious combination of artifice and the natural world. In the center of the bridge, splitting the current of the 20 yard wide White River, was a 3 story tower.

The Brotherhood approached this watch tower and disenchanted the arcane wards with the shatterspell vials they carried. Inside the tower was a sad tableau. Two guards lay side by side in a bunk as if sleeping, but their dessicated faces proved that these were mere husks of elves who died stubbornly refusing to leave their post. Exploring further, the brotherhood found the journal of an elven cleric named Bharisava (“Defeated in no battles”), which described the diplomatic troubles of the wood elves with encroaching Ragesians, aggressively friendly Shahalesti, shifty Kenku, and naive unworldly Seela Fairie until culminating with a firestorm that swept through the forest on “wings of misfortune and breath of betrayal”. This brave cleric would not leave his post even as most people fled, he offered succor to those who did not. Most heart-breaking were the final entries in the journal.

Also discovered in the tower were a small bag of seeds. “Dreamseeds!!!” said Hours, “I love those!”

Immediately the Brotherhood each swallowed a seed, although Driemz quickly spit his out after a sudden vision of spiderwebs and darkness. “I hate to dream,” he said.

Ahleena met his eyes. “Me too.”

The brothers descended into a hallucinatory reverie full of fires and armies marching.

... The Torch of the Burning Sky lights a web of fire that arcs over the skys over the whole of the Lands of Neradia, from Asgulan, to Gate Pass, Ragos, to Sindaire, Dassen, Ostelin, Delver’s Dale, and even the Penninsula of Seaquen, pierced only by the indelible edifice of the World Mountain, Koshtra Belorn, whose impassive peak looks down on the swaddled lands from the unassailable heavens….

Fire and Ice! Everywhere armies trudged through snow and over frozen rivers, lugging the tools of battle.
Here an orc climbs a crenellated battlement, but is thrown back by a soldier’s pike,
a drow leans over a luxurious couch,
a dragon dreams in its subterranean cave thrashing about on its bed of gold,
a king awakes from sleep with tear streaked eyes
graceful ships sail,
storm clouds gather over the sea
monks chant in their halls,
books are thrown upon a pyre and their owners follow,
a forest burns,
there a delicate gauntlet passes a torch to a crow’s beak,

a slim winged girl takes flight from her people, who stand dejected, but still murmuring a soulful tune…

It was not a restful sleep. Each man awoke describing similar visions, but each also had memories that no other could understand.

It was decided to explore the circle of trees that could be seen from the tower, overlooking the village. There, a monolith was found, a primitive primal door that opened to reveal a shining spirit, a ghostly knight of the Solei Palancis, who said his named was Eteranth, “And who goes there? For I see that the release I have long waited for has brought me not to elysium but hell, and yet the geas of my god Daladon his not lifted and still I cannot step beyond this threshold! Quick tell me your names and what is your business!”

And so the bard Indigo displayed the badge he had found as he stepped forward to tell the Tale of Mercy and the knight wept at their heroism and he cried out when told of the knightly remains in the cave (“That was Torfendar! Oh pernicious day! For I well remember his displeasure at the duty put upon him by Emperor Shaladaal! But the word of the Dragon Throne cannot be gain-sayed, not even for honor’s sake! We should never have given up on our kindred and treated with those feathered folk!”).

The knight led the Brotherhood within the Shrine of Anyarial, for that is what it was, and there they found a sculpture depicting the great elven hero in mid thrust, the Wooden Sword as a stake pinning a massive elk to the ground. At the base of the statue lay to bodies. One was that of a cleric in robes, his body clawed and torn, his hand still clutching a staff of winds. The other seemed to be a simple soldier of Shahalesti, his face drawn with sorrow and shame, not dead, but not entirely living either, as if caught between sleeping breaths. Finally, a glass box on a pedestal was shattered and empty.

Upon leaving the shrine, the heroes were ambushed by skeletal elves, whose bones burned and whose voices cried out for their children!

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Inner Dialogue of Hours
A Wandering Wilden far from Home

“A wicked and perilous day this has been. It was quite a sight to see the body of Buttercup fall back unto the earth, a most morbid reminder of my own end… all roots and water wicking out and bending into the great spirit… mushrooms shall I ever be wary of forever more I fear… and the fire rages on… the bardic young half-elf is proving to be very resourceful, we seem to be covering ground much faster since he has joined our company and begun his cheery songs of travelling as we go along… I rather like him, though he is fresh to the field of battle, I hope he will find a rhythm to his strength that we might not lose him to this fiery beasts… or me I should say for that matter! Those great stags nearly took it out of me… I am truly not meant for these climes… nor any of us I suppose.. but I being of bark and dryer stuff than these sacks of wet muscle and blood, it is I that the flames reach for the farthest!

I hope our brief side passage has done something for aid in the great imbalance of these woods!

That great dragon has spoken… and what shall we say… forever more in these woods of eternal hell and fiery damnation.. thank you no I says… no indeed. So very well dragon, you may have your liberty yet, I shall not say it is of my hand that stays the sword, if the consequence be to live the rest of my days in this nightmare of burning plants!

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If Black Wolf Could Write
This would be his journal...

_How can a tree cry? How can a tree birth a small tree that can swim? Too many new things in this wood. Choking, fire, making rituals, drinking strange brew to remain alive. This wood is not for me. Cave was nice. Kill mushroom man. He breathe stinky breath on me. He fell by my singing steel. FireDeer want to kill me. They die too. This dragonman that speaks from the sky, says the death of the fire is found in him. Sounds like a challenge, and I’m never scared of challenge. Shine the woods. Snuff the fire. Kill anything that stands in my way. _

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Freedom in Captivity
Rescued Nymphs and Caged by Flames

Indy warily entered into the ring of trees at Croaker’s request, feeling suspicious of the trees’ energy, and still unsure of the birdman’s true intent. The Kid had grown a small amount of trust for the warbler because of the gift the it had given him; a tambourine who’s song could level uneven terrain.

Almost as soon as the incantation began Indy was able to tell something wasn’t quite right. He tried with the best of his bardic abilities to find the harmonies to the birdman’s song of soothing, only to find himself in the next moment being thrashed and tossed by one willow to the next; the birdman being consumed by the earth in front of him.

A short battle ensued and the woman that had been traveling with the group was torn to shreds before being able to escape out of the circle of trees. The Kid reflected that she had constantly been warning them about taking on the Kenku’s task, and perhaps now she was gone.

Not all had been so unfortunate, the tree nymph had been taken by the barbarian to the water, and quenched, and the treeman and human would pulling the tree nymphs children to the water. He pulled out his new tambourine and was able to help the treeman over the broken earth (handy new item indeed).

After all who were burning had been quenched the mother soothed the trees of their frantic attack, Ahleena of the Torrents was saved by healing potion, a tale of a dragon was told, but alas, the tree nymph died, her children not seeing her passing with the same pain that he might have were she to have been his kin.

After all who were burning had been quenched the mother soothed the trees of their frantic attack, the woman was saved by healing potion, and a tale of a dragon was told, but alas, the tree nymph died, her children not seeing her passing with the same pain that he might have were she to have been his kin.

Then it was into the pit to find and hopefully save that blasted birdman, regardless of the deep stench of myconids. Not surprising another battle ensued, and this time the mushrooms were hell bent of poisoning. Indy used the tambourine again, this time to pull the birdman away from a bundle of little spore pushing not so fun-guys.

Eventually they were able to kill the onslaught, and even against better judgment the barbarian and treeman stayed behind to gather some of the enemies useful cousins. The gathering was abundant, but a second onslaught came bounding in from the depths, only to be crushed.

All were above ground again, and some days were taken to recover from the battles, during which time the birdman taught Indy how to play a little diddy that would help with traveling.

Finally all were well enough to travel, and the woman cast another enchantment. The birdman also gave a parting gift of one fire-potion each (not such a bad guy after all).

The group headed out on their way, only to be taken over by an attack by fire-mules. All drank their fire potions, then victory was known yet again, though the groups lungs and hearts felt singed.

The story of the dragon the nymph had shared came into the world of truth as a dragons head begged the traveling pack of worn wanderers to release the beast, or they would themselves never be saved from the peril of this fire-laden-forest.
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To Help a Bird find a Mushroom
Foray into the Cracks of the Earth

Gramercy: 366xp; Badge of the Soleis Palancis, Bag of Holding, Prison of Salzacas, 556 Silver Dukes (imprinted with the bust of Duke Naminor), Crystal Chess set(120gp), Mushroom of Perception, 4 Stonemeal Biscuits.

To aid a beleaguered magpie who may be onto the secret of lifting the curse from the Fire Forest, the Brotherhood braved the Flintrock Caverns, where the detritus of history mixed with the ever present wafts of the deep earth, crawling up like fungus on a sickened vine… See the personal narratives below…

In the cave of shrieking, Driemz quickly discovered the sorcerous source of the sound, and broke the spell. A pile of bones from an old battle were found. The Indigo Bard identified the Badge and breastplate as belonging to a knightly order of the Court of the Dragon Throne in Asgulan, warriors of the highest honor. The Badge identified the Knight as Torfendor of House Kirodel (the spirit Salzacas of the magic box named one “Tranicos” as the creator of the box.). Indigo claims that the House Kirodel is known to be a close ally of King Shaaladel the Dragonlord, bound by ties of blood and politcs. The accouterments of this knight, who seemed to have died in desperate battle with a band of kenku, were wondrous to behold, a magic box holding the patrician spirit of an eladrin servant, a checkered board of crystal for playing games of strategy, elven rations, and handfuls of silver coinage from the nearby realm of Dassen, imprinted with the bust of the late Duke Naminor, father of the current Duchess of Namin, according to the knowledgeable Kid.
A horde of horrid fungal creatures sloughed out of deep cracks in the earth to cause the heroes some consternation, but were easily sent back to the mists from whence they came. Blackwolf enjoyed the fight. Electing not to follow the Myconids back to their source, which Driemz warned against.

Returning to the rootbound home of Croaker the Kenku Wanderer, they found him prepared to begin the spell to break the enchantment and bring succor to a Dryad named Butterfly and her daughters.

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Hours of the Day
An Inner Dialogue

“The corruption heat of this vile place burns my very soul.. I can hear the forest screaming all around me.. beneath my feet with every step it calls for help…

...I awoke this mornning, calm and peaceful I found myself in the cool safety of the cave, nearly forgetting the fires raging just beyond the mouth of this small refuge.

I awoke to find the strange young indigo child meditating, and the human warrior wracked with nightmares and sweat. The others awoke and we made our way unto the fires again; passing the site of our previous battle the day before, we quickly made our way unto a clearing, where a most curious character appeared to be waiting for us! A kenku, rather bardic and whimsical he was, he told us a tale of his people who once lived peacefully in this land with the Elves, and he spoke to us of what he knew regarding the mystery of these great persistant flames..

..after some talk we took refuge in the roots of his hometree nearby. Cool and calm again, thank the spirits! I fear that I am not long for these flames… all bark and birch, my skin is like tinder compared to these fleshy bags of water I travel with! haha… I dare not speak to them of the pain I feel in these woods…

We have just returned again to his tree, after being told of a means to quell the curse put upon these woods; we gathered a rare mushroom found only in a particular cave not too far off our path. Our hope is to use these mushrooms in conjunction with flint and other reagents to brew certain dispelling enchantment against the flames of the forest. The flint was quite easy to recover, but the mushrooms were heavily guarded by a massive myconid beast and several of its minions~!

We were fortunately able to dispatch the vile creatures, without sustaining too much personal damage…

Geth stayed behind, beset with waking nightmares… it is good to see him again as we return, calmer then before, yet still very disturbed… I think the coolness of the Kenku’s hometree roots, has done some good for him this morning…

...although, we are sure to be in these words for at least another day or so…

...I hope it does not break his spirits, or burn all the bark from my body! haha!!!

With keen eyes we watch the Kenku delight in his laboratory hometree; beginning the work of preparing the reagents we have collected for this ritual… we are hoping to cure a glade of Nymphs from this fiery curse, in the hopes that they might help to lift the remaining enchantment from these demonic woods. Maybe they will even help us find our way out of this forsaken inferno… I pray to any spirit left in this land that we find our way safely through to the southern edge of the forest… and to the Tower of Lyceum beyond!

But for now, I must attend to the task at hand.. that we might do some good for these undying trees while we are here…

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Dreams of Driemz
This birdman is interesting. Not to be trusted, but perhaps joined in momentary alliance. He seems to have an understanding of the forest which will be beneficial for our crossing, as well as an understanding of magic in a technical sense. He also it seems has travelled in the fey realms, the original home of the Drow. I do not dislike him altogether. Mushrooms, he says, I know of such.. growing in the darkness of the caverns, the entrance to my forgotten home, the underdark. Ahhh.. Many years have I travelled without smelling this scent of the dark sunken earth, the blackness of familiarity. My eyes have trouble readjusting, this is strange to me. These last many moons, the cosmos have grown strong within mine spirit, my soul shimmering faintly with the dim glow of far off stars, distant worlds of power, all reflected through the eye of my dagger.

It feels good to be below ground, even it is only in the shallows. Good, but also… hauntingly painful. The treachery of my race is like the wind, both steering my course while also threatening to blow me to realms in which I do not wish to venture. The fear is fresh like the icy water seeping up from the earth. I know what would happen if I were recognized by other Drow. Where is my brother, where is Illz, and why did he betray our family? Was his cause noble and daring, or selfish and vile? Will I ever know? When I find him, will I bury him as a traitor or rejoice in our reunion? Will I ever get to ask him why he….... Myconids!!! Ahh.. I remember these creatures, farmed in the great cities of the Spider Queen, infected with the curse of the deranged giants of the deep…funny, my first instinct is no longer what it was years ago, to draw a sword and fight.. it is now to call down the heavens!! But I am below ground, cut off from the open sky with which I have become so dependent on for my power… can I summon the stars here as well, in the shallows of the deep dark?... Must find out…... Stars! blazing and falling from the ceiling of the cave! It seems the heavens follow me even into the deep! Hahahaha!

Perhaps my dreams are true, perhaps I will one day reign down the fury of the sun, and the terror of the moon against my former kin, perhaps I will open a great rift to the sky and pour the will of the darkness of the night into the darkness of the depths… perhaps then all of those who slaughtered the house of Darkblade will know true bretrayal, and will taste the true extent of treachery a Drow is capable of! Perhaps then they will be haunted in their Driemz!!! Haahaha.hah..haaa….

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Blackwolf Speaks

Four days on the road. Two days unable to escape the fire. Barely a week amongst new friends. A year in the city. Two years since he has seen home. Today in the dank cave, among the rocks and boulders, chipped flint and underground streams, BlackWolf realized how much he misses home. Misses the ability to stalk around on the a cold mountain, free like the wolf, bounding between craggy outcrops overlooking green glens, and trudging through frosty fields up to peaks, just to breathe the air and and spy on creation. Knowing that those moments will never happen again, not in his homeland causes him to grip his axe tighter, in anticipation of swinging it harder and harder, spilling more blood and smearing it across his chest.

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