From the courtyard of the castle where our heroes had just finished fighting off a number of living plants a giant teddy bear, two great wooden doors served as the entrance into the castle proper. Inspecting the door, it was easy for Boudreaux to tell that the wood itself was still alive – not a completely uncommon material to the people of Eberron but still unique to find a living set of giant double doors.
Finding that the door had no locking mechanism whatsoever our heroes headed inside. The castle had a grand entry room though by the level of dust across the floor and on the furniture it appears that it had not been used in some time. There were signs that the dust had been disturbed by many footsteps recently – a sure sign that this is where the children had come. A grand sign stating “Welcome Friends!” had been hung along with various colorful streamers to brighten up the place a bit.
A number of Leshys in fact were still putting banners in place, occasionally falling from the ceiling and landing with a bouncy ‘plop’ before gathering themselves up and heading back to their job. The trail of the children led forward, while both Eleanor and Boudreaux could smell some animals in a room off to the left…since the animals didn’t seem an immediate threat our group continued forward.
Throughout the castle, the vines and brambles that had once covered the entirety of the island of Candlemere were similarly everywhere here. They covered the ceilings, stretched along the walls, and formed a decaying covering into the room up ahead of our heroes.
Pushing through the brambles, the next room opened into a towering cylindrical shape with a set of stone stairs leading up to the second floor of the castle. All of the desolate feelings of isolation, sadness, and anger that had been pouring out of Candlemere for all this time, enough negative emotion to draw a veritable horde of Will-O-Wisps emanated from this room. There was a square shape etched into the floor of the room as if it were marking boundaries for a secondary room and sitting inside that square was the image of a small girl with roses for hair sobbing softly to herself. Moving closer to the girl it became evident that it was a magical afterimage…not unlike a kind of spiritual imprint left by a ghost.
Dox also realized that this girl was the same one that had visited her dreams and placed a Geas on her to locate the Faengard stones…but why was she so sad? With nothing else in this room (which looked as if no one had been here in a very long time) our heroes headed upstairs to the second floor.
What awaited them above was a stark contrast from the depressing scene below. A band played lively orchestral music, the room was brightly lit and filled with indistinct conversation as dozens of people were dressed for a masquerade ball. The ball was being held in celebration of Queen Rhoswen finally being reunited with the King and Queen. Sure enough at the center of the ball there were three distinct figures. A regal looking man and woman were dancing together, and another woman was dancing alongside them with long hair made of roses looking much like an older version of the girl downstairs…
Despite appearances, there were only two people in the entire ballroom that were actually real. All the rest, including the Queen, and the dancing King and Queen were some form of programmed illusions to keep a party going on for…someone?
The only two actual creatures were also dressed for the ball – a man who looked strikingly like the gentleman named “Red” who they met on Candlemere, and a woman whose dress had a number of long black feathers protruding from it. As our heroes interfered with the ball and questioned the dancers the two ‘real’ dancers moved to intercept and were revealed to be clockwork automatons whose likeness was apparently based on real Fae that were close to the true King and Queen.
After dispatching both clockwork guards through a combination of combat and playing off of their pre-programmed responses – apparently they were designed to treat the rest of the programmed illusions as completely real. A pixie revealed itself after the battle wearing a small artificer’s outfit. Introducing itself as “Kenchlo” he lamented over the work it would take to repair the guardians and how upset the Queen would be that her creations were destroyed. Aside from being irate at how long it would take to repair the automatons, Kenchlo himself wasn’t hostile. The poor pixie had apparently stumbled upon this realm some time ago and since there was no real way out he had been serving the Princess/Queen ever since.
“Well that is who we’re looking for…that and a number of children. Have you seen any come through?”
“Not recently, but the Queen should be upstairs…” the Pixie pointed to the open door exiting the ballroom to lead further into the castle and gave some basic instructions on how to get to the third floor.
As our heroes continued on they found a number of tapestries adorning the hallway they were traveling down which slowly weaved the story of this “Princess Rhoswen”. Periodically, people, fae, animals or other random creatures slipped through the dimensional cracks and found themselves stuck in the Fellnight Realm. Every time this happened with a mortal, they remained here for some time as guests of the Princess but inevitably as the began to grow older or if they angered the ruler they were transformed into a harmless animal to join the rest of the creatures here. This did not bode well for the fate of the children…
Hearing noises at a T-Junction in the hall, Dox snuck off to the west after hearing busy noises of clanging metal and found a number of grey-skinned fae known as Spriggans busily working in a kitchen that had been hastily repurposed to double as a forge. The spriggans, all of whom were wearing aprons and chef hats were moving back and forth from handling metal in a giant forge and cooking various pastries.
Deciding not to bother the cooks our heroes followed the eastern path leading to another set of stairs and into another hastily repurposed room that had once been a storage room, but now served as an Armory. Looting what they quickly could and continuing on the path led them out onto a covered parapet covered by a lattice work of tangled limbs, vines and leaves…it provided a rather commanding view of the courtyard below and the valley beyong the palace gates back to the hedge maze. A group of Spriggans were attempting to blend into the foliage here and against a less experienced band of adventurers it may have been successful. Once again using Diplomacy as their most powerful weapon they called the Spriggans out and regaled them with how fighting them would be a bad idea…after all they had repelled the legendary Talonquake.
The Spriggans were taken aback by that…they had heard that the legendary owlbear had been on the move again and that it had been prevented from laying waste to a kingdom but these people are the ones who did that? The spriggans huddled together to discuss whether to fight them or let them pass…they had been hired by their queen to come find Queen Rhoswen and work for her – help her build an army to pour back into Eberron to wipe out any remaining resistance from that other kingdom…uhh…that one that was currently being destroyed….Valdrik! That’s the one.
Breaking from their huddle a spriggan representative stepped forward to give their answer. “After some deliberation we have decided not to engage in —” before the spriggan could answer one of the Topiary Gargoyles adorning the walls of the castle leapt down, grabbed the ‘lead’ spriggan and tossed it from the parapet towards the courtyard below. Seeing the fate of their leader, the other spriggans activated their own innate magic and grew to a large hulking size. “Sorry bro. Not gonna have that happen to us too.”
Battle was reluctantly joined by our heroes as the other spriggans charged at them, along with a number of Topiary Gargoyles from the outside of the castle. Lucius had Aurum quickly grab the spriggan leader, saving him from meeting the ground and kept him away from the battle. The enemies were again quickly dispatched and the last spriggan returned to the parapet.
“We’re looking for the Princess of this realm. Any idea where she is?”
The spriggan, understandably shook at having almost died moments ago pointed to the set of double doors leading once again into the castle. “If you can get outta this place you’ll take me with you right? I’ll uh…I’ll just wait here. Just don’t forget me!”
With that agreement our heroes opened the doors with an ominous crrreeeaaakkkk and headed inside…
We will conclude this adventure with the next chapter as our heroes finally meet the strange ruler of the Fellnight Realm!