As the sun was setting across the landscape of Eberron and the moons began to rise into the sky, our heroes Boudreaux, Eleanor, Ogg with his companion Spike, Lucius and Aurum, Alanea, and Dox stood upon the banks of the Tuskwater Lake along with the crochety old woman simply known as The Old Beldame.
An unsettling fog had spread across the lake, and when they paused a soft voice echoed across the waters…
Quickly pulling out their Folding Boat that had let them reach Candlemere back when they first cleared out the swarms of Will-O-Wisps, our heroes boarded and set out for the island once more, following that haunting voice. About halfway to the island the boat suddenly turned to the left and came to a sudden halt. Peering over the edge, Alanea noticed sections of the water that were burbling and shifting separate from the rest of the lake. Alanea immediately recognized the burbling as Aquan the language by water-aligned elemental creatures.
“Not invited…” One section of water burbled. “Yes, not invited. Cannot go forward.” Replied the other. “Too big.”
Ever the curious ones both Alanea and Dox (wearing Alanea’s Helm of Comprehend Languages ) tried to converse with the creatures while Ogg wanted both of them to stop talking to the water, cause it clearly wasn’t actually speaking back. Recognizing these creatures as Water Elementals (Elementals in Eberron are part of a large philosophical debate as to whether or not they truly have any sentience, or can simply ‘mimic’ aspects of intelligent life)
“Oh but we were invited…”
The water burbled. “By who?”
The group paused. If they got the wrong answer that could be…very bad. Suddenly, Dox spoke up… “Rhoswen. We were invited by Rhoswen.”
The water paused and then slowly subsided from the sides of the boat, pushing it back into its original position heading towards Candlemere. The rest of the trip was uneventful and once again our heroes found themselves at the shores of Candlemere. The island was still a burnt out husk from the last time they visited, when the numerous Will-O-Wisps all committed suicide in a great fire.
Between Lucius and Boudreaux and their incredible tracking skills it was easy to tell that numerous small figures, children, came ashore here and headed straight inland. Heading to the remains of the tower at the center of the island, there was a man dressed in a fancy adventurer’s outfit that was entirely red sitting upon a nearby rock with a fishing pole slung over his shoulder.
Dox recognized the man, she had met him twice in her travels throughout the kingdom in the past few months. A self-proclaimed ‘dandy’ and wanderer the man simply went by the name of Red (Though that is a story for another time). An alias of course but Dox understood the nature of keeping secrets.
‘Red’ introduced himself to the rest of the group, remarking on how strange of a coincidence it was that he met them here. He had been looking for a new fishing spot and wanted to try out the shores of Candlemere when wouldn’t you know it the rulers of the kingdom came wandering by. Red did see a bunch of children come through here fairly recently, and that they headed inside the broken tower to the ebony mirror.
The group was reminded of the warning signs written across the shattered tower, that the creature imprisoned here was ordered to stay there for all eternity by The Council of the First, the rulers of all Fae. Red posed the question, is a newborn innately sinful because of its own birth? Or are all infants born with an innocence of the world? The Fae had come to their conclusion already…but what of the people of Valdrik? I’ve seen the people of your kingdom and you tend to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to offering people a chance to live peacefully.
“I can tell you how to get inside that mirror, to go after the children from your country. The creature inside there is both Queen and Princess and is trying to save the young ones from your land in her own way. After tonight, there won’t be a kingdom left for them to return to anyways. I’ll also tell you what I know of her defenses and traps to watch out for, in exchange for a favor of course.”
Lucius piped up and agreed to that deal – if this Queen/Princess ‘Rhoswen’ really was innocent then bringing her out of her prison was the right thing to do anyways, and the tactical info could be useful. The two men shook hands, and Lucius felt as if a heavy weight had been placed upon his shoulders.
“Very well then. I know that she’ll have a large castle, and is likely at the top of it. She has servants that work for both the Princess and the Queen…try and focus on the ones who favor the Princess as they’ll likely be more understanding or at least easier to lie to. If you find a game, don’t try to cheat at it that’ll only make the place mad.
The place you’ll be traveling to is a demi-plane called the Fellnight. Illusion and shadow magic will be enhanced there, and the plane itself is both entirely self contained and timeless. You could walk around the entire place if you kept walking in a single line and wind up back where you started.
As for my favor, I want you to bring Rhoswen back from the other side. Get her out of the mirror – no matter what it takes.”
Alanea: “That still doesn’t answer how we open the portal to get inside.”
“Well, I believe Dox already has the method for that.” Wondering what the man was pointing at in her satchel, Dox reached in and pulled out three small stones each with a Sylvan rune inscribed in it. As she stared at the runes memories came flooding back to her – nightmares night after night with images of a young girl urging her to find these stones and retrieve them, that bringing them together would allow the little girl to finally be free. Dox clutched her head as blood streaked from her nose as the longstanding Geas she had been under was broken (Also another story.)
At Red’s instructions our heroes placed the stones – which Boudreaux recognized as being part of a planar lock referred to as a Faengard – in a triangular pattern around the ebony mirror that now sat in plain view in the center of the ruined tower. The mirror rippled and flowed as the energies from the stones seemed to open the portal within…
Red waved from the outside of the tower, never stepping foot inside. “Remember your promise. And good luck.”
And our heroes stepped inside…
The land that greeted them on the opposite side bathed in perpetual twilight. Stars littered the sky but there were no moons. Periodically there were small sconces or bioluminescent plant life that provided the only other source of light in this Fellnight Realm. Off in the distance stood a great castle of obsidian stone and dark wriggling vines covered in thorns – the very same kind of bristly vines that once covered the outside of Candlemere.
Ahead of our heroes were the same tracks of the children they had followed from outside, heading into a great hedge maze leading towards the castle. Lucius had Aurum take to the sky to try and provide a bird’s eye view of the area, but as the great bird took off the top of the hedge maze shuddered and began growing to match the height of the bird. Apparently this place didn’t like cheaters…well best not to press their luck then.
Traversing the hedge maze, Boudreaux and Dox proceeded to re-enact their Mary and Little Lamb strategy from dealing with the Big Bad Wolf since this place seemed to prefer ‘children’…the helpless animal was just to help sell the image. With Boudreaux’s scent ability following the trail it led the group to a large opening inside the hedge maze where it appeared that an adult sized person approached from the other side of the maze, stood for a bit, and then the foot prints of the children scattered in the multiple exits from the area. Following the children at large would be a bit harder now…
However Boudreaux did manage to find a small child’s toy that had apparently been trampled and broken from too much roughhousing underneath one of the hedge bushes. As the druid picked it up, one of the nearby pumpkin gourds shifted and stood up with a small plant body forming underneath it. The small plant creature wandered over to the druid and held out its hand, and after Boudreaux handed the toy over the creature popped it inside of its head and sat back down.
Boudreaux recognized this creature. It was a natural form of life known to many druids, a series of plant species called a Leshy. They were child-like and trusting and this particular type of Leshy had the habit of sticking broken items inside its head which are then slowly repaired over time. It was at this revelation that Boudreaux realized how many gourds and bulbs had been sticking out of the hedge maze and lighting the way. There were dozens of these creatures here…probably to serve as both caretakers and living traps against intruders.
Boudreaux managed to catch the attention of the many Leshys in the area after calling out to the nearest one in the ancient Druidic tongue, which these tiny plant creatures immediately recognized. Conversing with the non-plant creature that was quickly named “Brother Nature” by the Leshys, the plant guardians acknowledged that lots of guests had past through here recently and headed towards the castle. They were invited for a special party by Princess Rhoswen.
Our heroes nodded…that definitely matched with the info that Red provided. “Do you know a way through the maze?” asked Boudreaux.
The Leshys shrugged as a group. They were plants, and could travel through the natural terrain. The maze itself didn’t really matter to them. One spoke up however “We do know that Queen Rhoswen knows a way through the maze. But she hides it from Princess Rhoswen because it makes the Princess upset.” Curious at their statement, the Leshys decided to show their Brother Nature what they meant.
Peeling apart a section of the hedge maze, a small slab of stone was hidden within a section of the wall that stated in that weird tri-language written on the outside of the tower that Alanea had decoded “No one will ever love you.” With an arrow pointing to the west. The Leshys could apparently not read the language, but knew that the Queen periodically looked at these strange markings.
With a clue to follow our heroes then began following the arrows. Each time they reached the exact point that the previous arrow had pointed to, they found another stone slab and another disheartening message. “You’re here forever.” “Your birth is an unforgivable sin.” “No one will ever come for you.” Until finally our heroes made it to the exit of the maze and into the open courtyard of the castle. A great set of wooden double doors the only entrance into the castle proper. As our heroes stepped forward however the wriggling vines of the courtyard danced with a serpentine slither to them as numerous Assassin Vines attempted to latch onto and strangle our heroes. To complicate the matter, the earth grumbled and shifted and from underneath a statue in the courtyard came a huge sized teddy bear made entirely of earth!
Someone was apparently unhappy that they had arrived. These measly defenses however would not be enough to prevent our heroes from moving forward! The vines and elemental fell to the combined might of our heroes in short time, with the Old Beldame almost being dragged off by one of the vines…this was not a safe place for an old woman.
As each creature fell it burst as if a seam had been ripped open on a doll with each creature – both plant and elemental – bursting into a coal like shadowy powder. Tarvis mused over this sight…given the weird effect this plane had on Illusion and Shadow magic, these creatures appeared to be some sort of exotic form of a Shadow Conjuration.
All that was left now was to walk up to the front door and knock.
Next time on Kingmaker, our heroes progress through the Castle of the Fellnight Queen!