Having taken care of the problems presented by the Scythe tree, the party traveled north into the forest. This part of the Narlmarches was also somewhat depleted of resources, though not as heavily as other areas that the group had seen. Not long after they began their trek, they came across a small pond with a large old coach tree sitting at the edge. Next to the pond, the form of a woman was kneeling, crying into the pool. Gavriil the Human Arcanist was quick to move over to her, offering her comfort and asking what was the matter. The rest of the party fell in behind him, occasionally chiming in, though mostly they remained quiet and let their Grand Diplomat do the talking. The crying woman introduced herself as Tressia, a Dryad whose profound sorrow was caused by the ‘great evil’ that was in the forest.
After a bit of talk about this great evil, the Dryad named it– and to the party’s surprise, it was the Scythe Tree! With a grin, the Arcanist informed her that the Scythe tree was dead– slain, in fact, by the efforts of Noruas the Human Gunslinger and Elysia the Half-Elf Ranger! Tressia was overjoyed at this revelation, and it was at this moment that from the edge of the clearing a Satyr jumped out, rejoicing as well! The Satyr, Tressia’s dearly beloved, also proclaimed his joy for his friend’s life saved, as the Scythe tree had developed quite the taste for Dryad trees and would have delighted in devouring Tressia’s home. The pair of them were quite thankful, and offered some of their belongings to the group in a show of good faith. Gavriil spent some time trying to convince the pair that they should help the kingdom defeat the trolls that had been seen in the area, and indeed the duo were able to inform the party that the trolls were responsible for the overeating, overpicking, and overhunting that had caused so much devastation in the Narlmarches. Nonetheless, they stated that it was the balance of things for the strong to be undone, and that they need not take part in this shifting of balance– clearly, those before them were part of this balancing force!
Leaving the grove behind, the party continued onwards. The next day they found a pool, dirtied and fouled by the body of a majestic unicorn, its horn having been cut off near its base. Though there were no obvious signs of death, the Arcanist was able to detect faint traces of magic from the area. Elysia began examining the body, checking it for any hint as to how it died, but could only determine that it’d been dead for some time, that the normal bugs and decomposers had for some reason not touched the body, and that the horn was removed post-death. With some magical knowledge, Eneko the Human Bard/Cavalier was able to ascertain that the unicorn had been slain with a Finger of Death spell, a high-level Necromancy of a sort that he’d only read of before. After some debate, Gavriil decided against his first instinct of casting Create Lesser Undead upon the unicorn, instead favoring the burning of the body.
The next few days brought the group along the edge of the Narlmarches, where they could see at one point a great swamp to the west. The forest continued to look depleted and grim, moreso in some places, less in others. Travel continued down to the south-east, and finally the party reached a ruined keep, overgrown with plants and vines and crumbling inside and out. Four towers marked the four corners of the circular keep, and a central tower rose above the rest of the keep, though it was about as ruined as the rest of the area. An iron portcullis stood raised at the entrance to the keep, and the Gunslinger and Ranger decided to take a look around. Gavriil on the other hand began circling the walls, and found that the southern edge had crumbled sufficiently to allow people to climb over the walls if they were so inclined. Meanwhile the duo at the front gate found a trap, a mechanism that would close the portcullis after some had moved through! Noruas disabled the trap, and the party moved inwards.
The first thing noted on the inside was that much of the courtyard was overgrown with shrubbery and trees. Next noticed was the sound of vermin squeaking softly in the north-east tower, and then Gavriil’s Detect Magic pinged something in the tower to the south-east. Deciding to send his rat familiar in to speak with the vermin, Gavriil released his little pal from underneath his hat, and sent him on his way. What he was able to learn from his familiar was that there were masses and masses of rats inside the tower, and that they were extremely hungry– not likely to come out of their tower home unless presented with food, but would very much pose a problem if intruded upon. Deciding to come back later with some rat food, the group moved on to the south-east tower, approaching it with curiosity. It was then that Noruas, bringing up the rear of the group, got a nasty surprise in the form of a knife in the back! Turning, she barely glimpsed a blur of movement before it was gone, out of sight!
Thus began an interesting running fight, which had the amazingly fast Quickling Fey darting in and out of sight, Noruas and Elysia attempting to shoot it when it appeared, Eneko attempting to reason with it, and Gavriil reasonably focused on trying to find the magical item he detected inside the tower. After several rounds of failed attacks upon the Quickling (120 move speed, Spring Attack, a miss chance due to a blur effect when moving at his incredible speed), the group decided on a more strategic way to deal with the Fey. Noruas and Elysia placed themselves with their backs to the crumbling walls, aiming down their weapons and preparing to attack when they saw the Quickling appear. Eneko laid out two Grease spells on the most likely approach to the party, and Gavriil prepared a Deep Slumber spell to cast upon the creature when it charged. As the Quickly charged in, cackling at how he couldn’t be hurt, he was able to shrug off the Sleep spell, but as he struck at Eneko he was in turn struck by the Baron’s whip, sending him crashing to the ground! Elysia’s arrow and two loud blasts from Noruas’s double-barreled musket quickly ended the life of the creature, removing the issue he presented.
This taken care of, and a small stash of valuables recovered from the Quickling’s tower home, Gavriil decided their next stop should be the central tower. Entering in and examining the area, they found a staircase going up, but before they could get any further a noxious gas filled the room! While most of the party was able to fight off the slightly intoxicating effects of the poison gas before it dissipated, Gavriil found himself being drug into slight madness for a few moments before he too shook off the effects. The Arcanist was left with a bit of Wisdom damage, but other than that no one else was worse for the wear. With that taken care of, Elysia decided again that she needed to take point to keep an eye out for more traps, and the group ascended the stairs to find a small room, carvings etched into the walls, and a beautiful woman laying on a bed. Cautiously approaching her, they engaged in conversation, and the woman, who seemed very happy to see everyone. So happy in fact, that she began to dance, moving in quite the sensual way as to attract the eyes of everyone present. Noruas would have none of it and immediately turned herself away from it, while the rest of them remained non-plussed; the behavior extremely suspicious, many in the party began to ready their weapons…and then the woman danced over next to Gavriil, and grabbed him aggressively!