Within Alanea’s personal lab the archaeologist adventurer had carefully placed the Ring of Protection that had belonged to the Stag Lord and more recently, Valerie d’Lyrandar. Forensic science was still in its early stages though there were already up and coming Inquisitives (mostly trained by her own House Medani) breaking previously cold cases by realizing previously ignored evidence.
Perhaps safely analyzing this single drop of blood that had been encased in the amber of the ring would be the evidence they need to figure out just who was pulling some of these strings behind the scenes. The amber was surgically opened and the drop of blood extracted into a vial. Now that she had access, Alanea opened up her notebook and cast Blood Biography. The spell was favored by Inquisitives though its typical use was to discover the identities of a John Doe, as if it was used on someone still living they possessed an innate opportunity to resist the magic.
(It was at this point that not only did Alanea’s player use the Plot Point Card – Revelation, but Tarvis’ player combined that with another Plot Point Card – Sudden Recollection to provide a +20 Insight Bonus on the next Knowledge skill check…)
As the drop of blood pooled onto her notepad to answer her questions something strange happened. Rather than simply writing out the basic information of “Who are you” and “What are you” the blood began forming line after line of names.
The Hollow Rose
Queen of Forgotten Time
Watcher of Dreams
She Who Sings With A Thousand Voices
The Lady of Silent Screams
Bride of Autumn Night
The Lost Grace
She the Lost
Maven of the Green
Mistress of Whispers
Almost as soon as they were written the page shuddered and folded in on itself quickly aging itself into dust like a weathered leaf in autumn.
Now that they had a clue, it was time to hit the books. Using her Research feat Alanea buried herself in all manner of books relating to the creatures of Thelanis, the First World. All these names could only point to some creature of Fae origin… (And being a Bard she used her Lore Master ability, combined the +20 Insight gave her a massive 56 on her Knowledge Nature check…)
The answer she came to was a paradox. All of these titles pointed to a powerful Fae, something on the level of the Big Bad Wolf if not more powerful – one of the Noble Fae. Rulers, for all intents and purposes, of the plane of Thelanis. But there were absolutely no references to any of these titles found in any official book on the Fae or other planes of existence. This creature was both a powerful Fae but at the same time it apparently did not exist at all. This creature, a living paradox and a mockery of what it means to be a Fae had apparently been granting boons to chosen people within the wilds of Xen’drik for a mysterious purpose.
The Stag Lord had been shown favor as an up and coming warrior that was gathering bandits to his banner, but the growth of his gang had slowed after finding himself diving deeper into the bottle.
Hargulka was gifted protection from Fire and had not only been gathering a number of trolls to create his own country but was far more intelligent than other trolls and based on his troop movements had been avoiding any local areas with a heavy fae population altogether – even at the expense of efficiency.
Then there was the third ring that had been intentionally designed as a cursed item. This Fae patron gave this ring (to either Hargulka directly or to the poor hobgoblin – the details are vague) with the intention of cursing the First Owlbear, Talonquake and cause it to seek out the closest civilization and destroy it.
Sidney mused at this information…perhaps this Fae was granting these gifts with an unforeseen price – one that would lead anyone astray that was trying to organize the wilds of Xen’drik. But what is this end goal? Does it even have one? The Big Bad Wolf was mysterious but more of a douche as far as the council was concerned…but let us table this information for now.
Perhaps there was someone more…local…who could give some more insight on the situation. That Old Beldame seemed like a fairly knowledgable curmudgeonly old woman. And she did seem to like them. Better bring more of those Black Rattlecap mushrooms as a bribe…er, gift. Yeah a gift.
The ruling council save for Cassie, Valerie, and Korin headed out to see the old woman…traveling down the mud-laden path that reached the old shack that was her home on the shores of the Tuskwater lake. Three children were in the distance hovering around the fence of the Old Beldame’s place apparently betting one another to ring the bell hanging from the iron gate.
Dox, ever the playful one shifted herself into a hag sneaking up behind the boy and giving her best creepy cackle which caused the boy to jump, and thus ring the bell at the same time – causing the Scarecrow guardian to belch fire from its pumpkin mouth as the three children ran off screaming back to town shouting “It’s true! It’s true! She is real!” All the while Dox’s smile only grew wider.
An old gravelly voice called from the inside of the hut as the door swung open. The Old Beldame invited them all in for tea (save for Eleanor whose recent growth into Large size forced her to poke her head in through the window) while discussing the nature of their recent kingdom growth. The Old Beldame wasn’t too happy that there were all these new fangled people walking be her home…caravans on occasion, even weary travelers in the night disturbing her peace! The nerve! What happened to some good old peace and quiet? Oh that old snapping turtle? Yes we’ve come to an arrangement so we’re doing fine.
A Fae Lord you say? No…can’t say these names are familiar to me…but I have dealt with powerful fae before. Be. Careful. You think it’s a coincidence these things started happening once you took root out here? Why do you think I live by myself? This place doesn’t like kingdoms. It doesn’t like large gatherings of people. From things like The Traveler’s Curse, and Xen’drik Madness this warped place repels large groups of people. And these…troublemakers, challengers to your throne…the Talonquake attack…these won’t stop. Growing stronger doesn’t make you safer – in face it’s just the opposite. The higher you rise, the more wide spread you become, the threats you face will only become greater. That’s simply the nature of power boy. It never changes.
With these ominous warnings the group thanked the old woman for her time and delicious tea and took their leave.
“That’s alright…it’s time for some afternoon reading anyways.”
The older woman bid the group farewell and shuffled into another room of her home, where a large black tome stood atop a pedestal sealed with a great lock that shook violently as if the book was trying to open itself. “Calm yourself, I know things are changing…”
Later that day…
It was time to deal with The Talonquake. The curse on the ring itself that had affected the creature would re-activate at some point in the future and the creature would return. As it so happened, Cassie had received a new divine gift in the ability to remove curses…but she would have to get close enough to touch the creature, and even then it was not a guarantee it would work.
Time to assemble a group to track it down and make sure Cassie could deliver the spell.
Tarvis, Korin and his new personal assistant the well-dressed Mikmek (from back in Book 1!) volunteered to head back to Hargulka’s lair with a caravan of wagons to retrieve the various materials gathered by the fallen Troll King.
Sidney, Ogg, and Boudreaux quickly signed on to help Cassie.
Valerie however was unsure of what to do. A warforged voice called out from behind her that made her jump. She was used to hearing the thunk-thunk-thunk of metallic steps…not the thud-thud-thud of heavy boots that this one wore.
It was Bastion her newly assigned bodyguard from House Cannith, who had a tray of food with him.
“You seem deep in thought Valerie. It is time for the second meal of the day as all flesh creatures require sustenance to continue functioning. I will join you for lunch.”
Sitting down at a table Valerie made awkward small talk with the strange warforged, who had a working mouth and seemed to be taking great…pleasure? Amusement? …at the act of ‘eating’ alongside her.
“So…do you actually have some sort of…stomach?” Inquired Alanea who had dropped by along with Sidney.
Bastion explained that he did not have a stomach and indeed could not actually taste food – no warforged was capable of that. However he hoped to learn more about what it meant to be alive by mimicking the acts of other living races and enjoying the same things they do as part of their daily routine. That seemed to explain the clothes as well. There was a special compartment added into his body that held onto the food he ‘ate’ and it required being emptied periodically as well as cleaned out to prevent any rotting or bacteria.
“You seem awfully fascinated with fleshy culture…”
“It’s true” the warforged explained in between sips of a fine wine “I began to understand that I was unlike other warforged back during the war. It was our first time on leave from the field and I found myself in a library, looking at a strange book. It was labeled “Everybody Poops”. I returned to my field commander with a five page paper explaining why the theory was incorrect.”
A pleasant lunch was had with Sidney still giving a curious stare at Valerie everytime she wasn’t looking. How had she warranted a letter, penned by THE Merrix d’Cannith no less? Finally, Bastion stood and gathered the empty plates. “It is important to get out and enjoy the weather on occasion. Leaving the city for a bit may be good for your health Valerie – therefore you shall accompany the Talonquake group and I shall come with you. Report to the field commander (Ogg) within a day. You may also have a dessert, but make sure it is no more than 6 ounces.”
Valerie huffed after the warforged left the room…she was the ruler of Valdrik! …she’d get a 7 ounce dessert! That’d show him!
Some days and miles of travel later…
The tracking skills of Boudreaux had analyzed multiple entries into the Talonquake’s lair. While Korin had managed to escape from the front entrance…there in fact was a back entrance on the opposite side of the hill that could lead into the ceiling of the area. Plans were made and debated as the back entrance was apparently home to thousands of spiders so…yeah not going in there. Finally Valerie had enough of waiting and with some Invisibility scrolls from Sidney the ruler scouted out the inside of the cave.
There were multiple smaller side paths in the cave that were traps…Valerie immediately recognized the large purple man-sized mushrooms called ‘Shriekers’ for their extremely loud annoying noise they make whenever something gets within a certain radius of it – leading it to have a symbiotic relationship with predators who have quickly learned the noise of a Shrieker means there is food nearby.
Straight ahead would be the only path. Taking Cassie by the hand they quietly made their way to the sleeping form of Talonquake. Now was the time.
Cassie concentrated…called upon her mysterious divine gifts and attempted to break the curse on this creature…with success! The sleeping earthquake would have its own mind from now on. Our heroes may have to deal with it again in the future but for now it could rest once more.
(As a personal note I want to congratulate my players for approaching a dangerous situation with patience and intelligence to determine their best way to take care of the problem – and they did. Without waking up Talonquake or running into any of the other dangers of its lair.)