The Dracholt party finally finds the next seal after Nick finds a new friend.
Cast of Characters
Goliath Paladin – Red’s Husband
Nick “Pyro” / “Gandra Nox”
Human (Gold Draconic) Sorcerer – Tyrone (older teen girl)
Half-Elf Rogue – new player Red’s friends knew
Half-Orc Barbarian – Kildrak (new but experienced player McFadin knew)
Kildrak unfortunately got kidnapped by some real-life brigands who snatched a bunch of D&D stuff.
Elven Ranger – new player Red and husband knew from Warhammer 40k
Aldin screwed up his face as they all followed Nick, who wove through alleyways ducking this way and that. They had all just come from an orphanage in Everwinter’s more affluent part of town, and the noblewoman running the show had told Nick to go look through the homeless population if he was so desperate to find a new sister. So here they were, but as Nick wandered, he had passed plenty of urchin children.
He only stopped when he caught sight of a little Tiefling girl. “Hello, small child!” he called out as the group approached.
The child’s eyes widened in fear, and she raised her empty hands, almost tripping over a sleeping old man as she backed away quickly. “I swear I didn’t do anything! Don’t hurt me! I didn’t do anything!”
“We’re not here to hurt you…” Nick comforted.
“You didn’t come to beat me up?” the little girl asked, her voice barely a squeak.
“No! You’re just a little kid! Why would somebody ever do that?” Nick exclaimed.
“Well… the other kids… they say I’m a demon… and the guards don’t like me much because of it…” she whispered, touching one of the tiny horns poking through her hair.
“You’re not a demon!” McFadin stepped in. “No matter what they say, you’re not a monster. They’re just afraid of you because you look different. What’s your name?”
“Krizia,” the little girl beamed.
“See,” Nick started. “Ever since I was young, I was always on my own. My parents were not around for very long. I was different, but I have always wanted a sister…”
“Smith have mercy on us,” Aldin swore, shaking his head. “Once you all’ve finished this nonsense, I’ll be in the tavern.”
The little Tiefling looked at Nick curiously as Aldin left the alley. “Do you have anyone looking after you, Krizia? It’s a bit dangerous to be out in the alleys by yourself,” McFadin interrupted the awkward silence.
“My brother Erin takes care of me… but he left on one of the boats and hasn’t come back for a long time.”
“He was a sailor?” McFadin grinned. “See I do that too.”
“You do? Have you seen Erin?”
“I’m sorry, but I haven’t. I’ll make sure to look out for him though. What happened to your parents?”
“They died in one of the mines. Erin said the tunnel collapsed in on them…”
“Since you’re out here all by yourself,” Erevan interjected, “do you want to come travel with us?”
Nick nodded. “Maybe I can teach you a couple trick along the way,” he grinned, conjuring a small globe of flame within his hands.
“Thank you so much! Oooo, I can do that too!” Krizia exclaimed, her little eyes alight as she conjured her own, tiny flickering tongue of fire. “Fire’s hard though. I can do a lot better with this.”
She squinted in concentration and the fire morphed into a sphere of pure darkness as black as starless night. “Wow! That’s really good!” Nick smiled in response. “Maybe you can help us – we’re looking for one of these.”
He pulled out the paper with the sketch of one of the seals on it, and Krizia studied it for a moment before sprinting off around a corner, the group following her to a tiny little hut of sticks and blankets. From under a pile of ragged clothing, she withdrew a large book, ancient and battered but the cover inscribed with a number of characters similar to those on the peice of parchment Alpharius had given them.
“This is mom’s. And it was gramma’s before that, and great-gramma’s before that… but… I guess it’s mine now. It has words like that in the front!” She opened the cover and held it out for them to read.
“Is this where you stay?” McFadin cringed, the little girl nodding in answer.
After helping Krizia pack up what little she had, the group returned to the tavern to be met by an incredulous Aldin. “No! We’re not bringing a little girl with us!” the goliath shouted. “I don’t need anymore children to look after! This is madness.”
“She can do magic already,” Nick deflected. “I’m sure she’ll be no burden. It’s not like Dog does much.”
“I won’t stand for putting a child in needless danger!”
“Since when do you even care?” Nick demanded.
“How dare you…”
“She can stay aboard Trumpeter,” Aber shouted over the ensuing squabble. “There’s plenty of room there, and she’ll be plenty safe.”
“With all the sailors around?” McFadin sneered.
“I resent that,” Aber growled. “My sailors aren’t just carelessly chosen vagabonds. But if you need any extra assurance, my cook, Kara, does plenty well keeping them in line. She could use the help anyway and will do plenty good to keep her safe.”
“Does that sound good to you?” Nick asked, to which Krizia nodded.
Four hours of trekking later, Aber led the group through a tunnel hidden by illusion that was nigh invisible until her approach. As they walked through, she withdrew an amulet from beneath her tunic and her appearance morphed into that of an incredibly short – even more so than Aber had been before – and sharp-featured person before telling them all that where they were going was incredibly different than anywhere they had been before. Its people were suspicious things connected to the Fey creatures of the world, and Aber had only been accepted by them since they believed she had been a child to return to them after being abducted long ago. Apparently, the fey took little ones, some of whom would come back while others would not.
“Now, don’t take anything they offer to you,” Aber went on. “No food, no drink, nothing they seem to be selling.”
“If you take anything, you owe a favor to the person you took it from, and they get to decide exactly what the payment is if you don’t broker it up front. It’s not a thing you want to be getting too much into.”
As she turned around, the tunnel opened up, coming out the side of the mountain they were travelling through. Before them, surrounded by steep mountians on all sides, was a sprawling forest, and a strange one at that. Roots wrapped into boulders and plunged into the ground, but they were long and spindley, stretching up to hold onto trees that floated in air, holding up large boulders all with doors carved into the sides. Tiny people scurried whence and hither across thin rope bridges and up curling ladders, and little boats with sails of many colors floated through the air between everything.
As the group approached, all eyes turned to them, the flurry of movement stopping for a heartbeat before a hurricane of bodies flooded about their feet. A chorus of calls reached out, and all manner of things were shoved upwards.
“Soup! Fresh soup!” one shouted, holding up a cauldron filled with stewed vegetables.
“The best hats in all Glen!” another shouted, thrusting forward a marvelous red felt tophat with hundreds of brilliant feathers poking out of it.
“Care for a pie?”
“Tricks and trinkets!”
“Care for an enchantment?”
“Please, please, let them breathe!” Aber insisted over the raucus, but the sea of tiny people followed them through the wonderful stone streets. Careful not to trip or fumble anything, the group eventually came to a stop to stare up at a white boulder the size of a castle. Giant roots, bigger across than a man’s barrel chest, snaked all across the boulder before plunging into the ground around them, a faint blue glow emanating from the bark. Where they came together atop the boulder, a tree so massive as to all but block out the sun looomed above, it’s shimmering golden leaves rustling in the faint wind. Hundreds of rope bridges connected at the base of the tree, and from the windows carved within the rock, it was obvious that the floating monolith was of great importance.
“Why have you come here? No outsider has stepped foot within Glen for hundreds of years,” a voice cut through the clamoring crowd, which quickly parted to reveal an ancient man, his white beard so long that it trailed behind him on the ground.
“We are looking for this,” Aldin responded, withdrawing the sketch of the seals and handing it to the miniscule man.
“Hm… this thing you seek – it is buried within the bark of the Feyoak,” the old man began, indicating the massive tree floating above them. “This great tree holds up our society and lends its magic to our illusions and magic. I cannot give it away lightly. If you truly want it, you must do something for us.”
“One of the caves at the base of the mountains has been infested with giant white spiders. We need them to be cleared.”
“Deal! Now where are these spiders?” the party clamored excitedly.
After being led to the caves in question and setting almost everything within on fire, the group ventured back laden with strange baubles that had been buried beneath layers of webs. It seemed that a number of other brave souls had already tried to clean out the cave, but their corpses and equipment were all that remained of their valient efforts.
As they cleaned the viscera from their weapons and selves, the group was greeted by the swarm of little folk again, although this time, it was obvious that the clamor was for a party. Food and drink had been set out along giant tables, and when Nick turned to Aber to ask if they should avoid anything, he found the captain downing a goblet of drink and swinging around in dance. With a shrug, the group joined into the festivities, although as he sampled the beverages Nick found them curiously strong. Within a meer hours, the rest of his compatriots were passed out under tables or sprawled across tiny chairs. Only Nick continued to dance, his little displays of fire and music illiciting amazement and wonder from onlookers.
As one such display whipped him around, his goblet of mulled wine nearly tipping its contents onto the flagstones below, a quick movement caught his eye. Some of the small folk were moving some innocuous, ground ingredient into the drink.
With a frown, Nick put his goblet down and determined not to pick it up again, although as he whisked up a particularly scrumptious-looking meat pie from one of the plates and bit into it, the world around him began to spin. The shadows around the plaza began to twist and dance. The little people blurred together. The food began to look less appetizing, morphing into strange piles of goo.
The flagstones beneath Nick began to roil and buck like the deck of a ship in a violent storm, and as hard as Nick tried to keep his footing, he found the ground rushing up to meet his face. Still, it seemed to take too long for the impact to come, and when he found himself lying flat, none of the pain he associated with falling assaulted him. Instead, everything was simply numb, and while he did not recall closing his eyes, everything went black.