Episodes 78/79: Into the Feywild, Parts II and III
From the Treant the party confirmed Magnus’s earlier insights regarding travel in the Feywild – it requires intent, and foreknowledge of the location. It also said the location must wish to be found, suggesting the intentionality of the space goes both ways. The Treant suggested the party acquire a map, which it seemed to think was a type of song or poem that contains a description of a place and how to reach it. Whisper, a cartographer with decades of experience, proudly displayed to the huge creature some of her own maps of Northeastern Telisar. But the display of paper enraged the Treant and it seemed for a moment that its hospitality might be revoked. A calming word from Yuna deescalated things, however, and the party thanked the Treant for its kindness.So impressed was the creature with the party’s politeness that it bestowed upon them a gift: a guide, of sorts, in the form of a leaf. When Yuna picked up the leaf, it disappeared, seeming to sink into the flesh of her palm. A deep emerald green spread from her hand through her body, briefly coloring her shimmering skin. The effect dissipated except in her eyes, which now were the deep mottled green of the forest.
The party continued their trek, still attempting to travel towards the Freeling Hideaway, hoping to learn of the fate of the 9 guards of the Zu Yexa Keso Tiefling tribe from the Outpost. Yuna had gained an intuitive grasp of her surroundings, and soon took the lead with the party following; Ara continued to guide them step by step through the deep woods.
Travel continued to be difficult, though, and after some time Ara called a halt, noting the low orange glow of a campfire a ways off to the right. Keen crept forward to investigate, and discovered the campfire was little more than a clearing in the woods with a fire ring in its centre. On either side of the fire were two bickering individuals. Vaguely elvish, with long pointed ears and slender features, the pair were both arrayed in a foppish finery. One’s raiment was all gold and brown and copper and orange, matching his odd complexion, while the other’s was cherry blossom pink and mint and yellow and white. Between them on the far side of the fire from Keen’s hidden location was a large bird, bulbous and round and many-hued. From the top of its skull Keen could just barely make out two small horns. The bird appeared to be asleep, upon a simple wooden perch.
Keen called back to the party using the Risidium Binding telepathy, and Whisper soon joined him, followed by Sirlius. Whisper wondered whether the horned bird might be one of the tieflings they were looking for. As he listened Sirlius was able to translate the pair’s heated argument, which seemed to range across a host of obscure Fey political concerns, interspersed with baroque and complicated insults. Whisper wondered whether they could use this to their advantage, and snatch the bird without the figures noticing.
The rest of the party soon joined the three in the underbrush outside the firelight, and a plan was concocted: Yuna would create an auditory distraction leading the two away from their camp, while Sirlius would dim the firelight using thaumaturgy. Whisper would circle around to the back of the clearing and use the confusion to rush in and grab the bird.
Yuna quietly cast her spell, and the plaintive call for help from a woman in distress filled the air. The two elves stopped their bickering and turned to face the apparent source of the yelling for a moment, before ignoring it completely and resuming their argument. As Whisper crept quietly around the camp perimeter, Sirlius dimmed the firelight, reducing the area to near darkness. This had an immediate effect on the pair, who both drew long knives, turned back-to-back, and began hunting the darkness for attackers. One – the one colored liked spring – stalked the edge of the camp while the autumn figure stood nearest the bird, yelling insults and threats. The lead elf spied Yuna in the undergrowth and quick as lightning loosed a dagger at her. It hit, sinking deep into the flesh of her shoulder, and even as it did so the figure disappeared, reappeared behind her and slashed at her with his second knife. Magnus was able to push between them, taking the second hit, and battle was then truly engaged.
Whisper called forth a magical overgrowth of thorny vines and plants around the autumn elf closest to her, but was surprised to see the effect blocked by some invisible force. The plants grew and writhed along an unseen barrier, partially enscribing a sphere. The elf scoffed, and continued to hurl threats. Keen attempted to sneak his way across the open ground of the camp, trying to close the distance. Whisper dashed into the camp and thrust the froghat down on the head of the surprised bird, which instantly turned into a frog and made to leap away, but the hair-thin silver chain about its leg which secured it to the perch would not give, and the frog enscribed an awkward arc before the hat slipped its head. The bird reappeared and with a loud squawking fluttered back to the perch.
As the rest of the party engaged the spring elf, Yuna attempted to reason with him, to convey they were not a threat. She was met with scorn, but some comment from the autumn elf irritated the spring elf, who seemed to forget the party, pushing through them to stalk back into the clearing and resume his argument.
As quickly as the battle was joined, it was forgotten. The pair seemed to be stuck on some obscure point: One asserted Dreams Made Flesh hates the Snake and the Moon more than the Cardinal Sin hates Dreams Made Flesh, with the other argued the inverse. The autumn elf pointed directly at Keen, still crouching and hiding in the middle of the camp, and demanded he cast the deciding vote. Surprised at being seen, Keen reluctantly stood up and approached the pair. The whole party was soon engulfed in the debate; the elves seemed to want them to take one side or the other, but the questions kept changing and anyway made no sense. Sirlius and Keen hedged, trying to avoid committing to any one position.
At length someone suggested a contest of skill to decide the point(s). Keen convinced the autumn elf to engage him in a game of wits. The elf suggested riddles, and the pair negotiated terms, the canny halfling managing to convince the elf to play not to decide the debate but for possession of the bird. The elf agreed, and asked his riddle: “How do you turn a prince green when he lies in darkness, sight unseen?” Keen and his friends considered this, and it was Ara who said, over their telepathic link, “You could just wait, and when he dies, he’ll fertilize the grass.” This was so astonishingly clever from the normally-confused elf that the party was momentarily taken aback. But Keen answered thus, and was right, and won possession of the bird. However, their terms had not included freeing the bird from its silver chain, and the elf laughed his scorn as the party realized their error.
Keen challenged to the elf to a card game to play for the freedom of the bird, to which he haughtily agreed. Both players cheated repeatedly, but in the end Keen was successful and the bird was freed from the silver chain. Keen began to challenge the elf to yet another gain, to play for the chain, but the party dragged him away as the spring and autumn elves resumed their arguments.
As they made their escape, Yuna broke the spell on the bird, which reverted to its true form – that of an emaciated, sickly tiefling. The man introduced himself as Gatreous Laiustro, and recognized the party for his freedom, though he did not thank them outright. Indeed he expressed a deep suspicion about the group, and was openly incredulous when they explained how they hard bargained with the two Fey and won his freedom. Gatreous explained the two strange elves were in fact Eladrin, a race of ancient high elves that had lived in the Feywild for millenia, and, “If not insane, certainly alien. They can be petty, cruel, indifferent, and changing, and bargaining with them usually ends in your own misery.”
The party offered the man healing, and food, and Magnus provided him with his remaining Twisted Sister, one of a matched pair of throwing axes. Gatreous was reluctant to accept the aid, and did so only with great hesitation and offered knowledge of the Feywild as payment, so that no debt would exist between them.
Gatreous said that the Eladrin consider the entirety of the Feywild to be their domain, though not all denizens of the plane share this view. The two major factions are the Seelie and Unseelie Courts, known also as Summer and Winter. The Summer Court is ruled by Titania and her consort Oberon; the Winter Court by Mab, the vicious and cruel Queen of Winter. The Feywild is maintained by the careful balance of these two opposing Queens and their Courts, but recently some malign influence had taken hold in Winter. Mab, it is whispered, has gone mad – an idea Gatreous found most alarming, given the unstable nature of Eladrin generally. Summer had closed the gates to their realm, and nobody has seen or heard from members of the Court for some time.
Worst of all, The Wild Hunt had started anew. Embodied in the form of the Enigma of the Absolute, an archfey second only to Mab in the Winter Court, the Hunt Gatreous described it as a thing of nightmares; when you hear its howls you either succumb to its influence and join the hunters, or you flee in terror and become prey. To his shame he left his post at Wendell’s Rock to search for his missing brothers and sisters from the Outpost, was captured by two Eladrin the party had encountered, and remembered nothing else.
Gatreous was determined to stand his post, despite his weakened state. The party reluctantly left him at Wendell’s Rock, saying that they intended to try again to find the Freeling Hideaway. Gatreous told them then such a thing was not possible; Mab hates the Freelings, for they account themselves as members of neither Court and free folk, and has been trying to root them out for centuries without success. “If She cannot find them, certainly you never will either,” he said.
Instead of using the Freelings to find the missing tieflings, Gatreous said it was likely they had fell victim to the Hunt, and were now, if they lived at all, somewhere in the realm of Winter. To get them back, they would have to treat with The Enigma of the Absolute, or even Mab herself – confronting the Court directly would be suicide. The party would need something of value to trade. Gatreous suggested they make their way to the ruins of a great elven city, Amouranthian, in which they may find some way to ingratiate themselves to the Unseelie Court. But Gatreous was openly skeptical of their chances, and said the party’s plan was folly.
The party realized they would need help to go up against the Court of Winter. They debated whether to follow Gatreous’s advice and search for the ruins of Amouranthian, or to instead strike out for Vakaralithien or some other Fey location to look for help. In the end, they decided to venture to Rillifane’s Respite, based on nothing more than the vague promise that Ara might find divine aid from his patron.
Though the travel was treacherous and tiring, Between Yuna and Ara they were successful in finding a forest summerwise and duskward that seemed to remind Ara of his youth in the Forest of Stars. As they explored, Ara found himself retreading paths not just reminiscent but literally identical to those near his boyhood temple. The party crossed a ravine, scrambling down one slope and up the other, and found themselves before an improbably immense oak tree. Its trunk was a hundred feet or more across and its branches covered the sky.
Ara settled in to meditate and try to connect with his God. For a long time nothing happened, but at length he was met with an ominous stillness from which emerged a deep, guttural whispering, saying WHAT DO YOU SEEK, LITTLE ONE. Ara responded “I seek to understand. For long have I wandered, and collected the words of the Holy Books, and tried to do good, but I do not understand what is required of me. Why things are as they are.”
UNDERSTANDING, said the voice, YES, ARA AM AKIIR. YES, I THINK IT IS HIGH TIME YOU BE GRANTED AN UNDERSTANDING. The light around Ara darkened then and a wind began to whip up; soon he was all but lost from the sight of his companions as leaves, dust and earth whirlwinded around him, lifting him off the ground. The whispered voice began to laugh, then, and said LET US GIVE YOU AN EDUCATION, THEN.
Fey bargains struck: 2
Main Quest Focus Level: Distracted
Feywild Lore Status: Dumped
RP Rating: Awesome!