22 Month of Gifts 4228 AE, Morning
The party was in the gallery outside the arboretums, having just killed the bugbear tending to the myriad of plants in the large hallway. Stax peeked in through the eastern door, opening it silently. In the large, octagonal arboretum, he saw two twig blights and two skeletons. After silently killing one of them with a perfect dagger throw, the group quickly dispatched the other creatures. Ianos took the opportunity to gather a sample of the prolific fungus covering the walls and floor of most of the rooms they’d been through on this level. Seeing nothing else of value in the room, they all moved on.
Behind the northern door was another octagonal arboretum, filled with plants and fungi. There were no creatures in here, however, and there was an additional door to the southwest. They heard nothing beyond the door, so they ventured into the next room. A giant dragon shrine greeted them, made from red-veined white marble and with glowing red eyes. A dark tile on the floor in front of the statue had a phrase carved into it in Draconic. Saying the phrase in Common had no effect. Zorrik stood on the tile and repeated the phrase in Draconic (with Zari’s help), and a red mist enveloped him. He felt more confident and charismatic than before! Behind the statue, the group found a shadow, which immediately attacked them. Physical attacks weren’t as effective as the group would have liked, but they still did the trick, and the shadow dispersed into thin air.
The next room was a ruined library, lined with shelves that had long since been destroyed. Piles of tattered books and scrolls lay on the ground, most completely worthless and unsalvageable. They did find some more spell scrolls. Erky found two brown leather tomes bound together, each with colored markings painted on the spine: one book with red, green, blue, black, and white circles, and the other with gold, silver, brass, bronze, and copper triangles. The books were filled with handwritten notes, most of which were in Draconic, but some in a language no one could recognize. Zari examined the book with colored circles while Zorrik took a look at the book with metallic triangles. Zari said the writings were that of a madman, and they made little sense; after Zorrik handed her the second book, she confirmed it was the same gibberish contents. The group moved on from the library.
Down a long and winding hallway, the party came upon two doors. Hearing noises behind one of them, Stax picked the lock on the other door to reveal a study – likely Belak’s. A thorough search of the room uncovered some items of value, including some additional spell scrolls, but otherwise only contained notes written in Draconic. The noise they made drew the attention of the goblins outside, and the group attacked them through the other door, gaining the advantage by flanking the goblins. Twig blights from the grove beyond joined the fight. When the group attempted to rest inside the study, more twig blights came from the grove, attacking the intruders. Continued attacks left the group with the realization that they would not be able to rest here safely, and so they ventured into the grove.
Bushes, shrubs, fungus, and rubble dotted the inside of this immense cavern. In the distance, they could see the gnarled branches of a blackened tree reaching upwards. The fae in this area was heading violently towards the tree. It was indeed the Gulthias tree, sitting in the middle of a clearing surrounded by ancient ruins. A middle-aged human dressed in furs stood before the tree, flanked by two other humans: a young noble woman and a young man in armor carrying a unique looking sword. The eyes of the young man and woman were a glassy black, and their skin was gray and bark-like. They were the remaining members of the adventuring party our heroes had been searching for – Sharwyn Hucrele and Sir Braford.
The middle-aged man spoke to the party, revealing himself to be Belak, the druid. He had been using the tree’s power to create supplicants, which he offered as a “peaceful” end for the group. A fight ensued, and the battle turned immediately in the party’s favor. Ianos paralyzed Belak, and Zorrik was able to charm Braford. Sharwyn cast a magic missle at the party with small effect. Belak’s giant frog familiar jumped down from the Gulthias tree to join the battle, to no avail. The party ultimately prevailed, and burned the Gulthias tree to a crisp.
They bound the hands of Sharwyn and Sir Braford, both now unconscious, not knowing if they would still be under the tree’s influence upon waking. Indeed, they were of their own minds. They explained that they were taken prisoner by the goblins, then brought down to the grove after a while and tied to the tree, and that was all they could remember. Sharwyn asked about her brother, and the group gave her his signet ring. She also saw her brother’s splint armor on Erky.
We left our heroes with Sharwyn weeping for her loss and Sir Braford thanking the group for their help.