Episode 83: Into The Feywild, Part VII
The party – all save Keen – completed their rest, and together they made their way back through the Sphinx’s labyrinth and up the stairs to the Assembly Hall. As they went, they discussed what three questions they would ask of Azam. Realizing they had a singular opportunity to gain knowledge of the forces moving around them, they strongly considered asking questions designed to reveal who drew them together, to what purpose and whether their actions since had been in service of good. They wondered whether they should risk asking openly about the Shards of the Heart of Bahamut with the entire Freeling assembly in audience, or be more circumspect.
In the end, as they ascended the stair into the Assembly Hall, ready to face the conclave and Azm the sphinx, they were surprised to find the hall empty. Azam appeared in his alcove high above, and with a grace belying his immense size leapt and landed lightly in front of them. “You have completed the trials, and retrieved the skulls. You have shown wisdom and earned the answers to three questions Ask, and I will answer.”
The party looked to Yuna, who, clearing her throat, asked her first question: How can they rescue the missing Tieflings? Azam did not know of any missing Tieflings specifically, but Yuna explained that they had been guardians of the portal to the Material Plane, and were feared to be taken by the Wild Hunt. Azam informed her that if this were so, it may not be possible to rescue them, for prey that falls to the Hunt join the Hunt. The party would have to investigate the Winter Court to know for certain.
Yuna’s second question was, “How can we gain entrance to the Winter Court?” Azam explained that the Court was seated at the Palace of Ice, Mab’s fortress at the very heart of Winter. The party already had a map – the poem Zandilar Danced Summerwise – that would lead them to its doorstep, but that even so they would be unlikely to be granted an audience with Mab herself. The Court is a deadly political machine that prizes ostentatious displays of power, wealth, or influence, he said; they would need to earn the attention of the Court in order to be admitted. One such way might be to challenge the Wild Hunt and survive; no-one had done so in a millenium, so this would certainly earn them stature within the Court. However, even should they be granted an audience, they would be powerless to challenge Mab for the Shard of the Heart of Bahamut (for Azam was clearly aware of the party’s intentions).
Yuna despaired, but Azam suggested that their way in might be through guile: The Master of the Hunt, an archfey styling himself the Enigma of the Absolute, felt slighted by Mab, believing she favoured his sister over him and resented her inattention. If the party could find a way to convince the Master of the Hunt to challenge Mab openly, it might create an opportunity for the party to secure the Shard.
Yuna chose the words of her final question carefully, saying, “We desire to save the Material Plane from whatever calamity is befalling it, but we worry about the toll carrying the Shards is taking on Keen. Are we on a path that will lead to the outcome we desire without sacrificing Keen?” The Sphinx’s eyes twinkled, and chose his answer with equal care. “Your path is always your own, and none but you can say where your next step will fall. But while your actions thus far have had the touch of a feather, even a single feather can tip the scales of fate. Set upon this path by powers you do not understand, you now begin to gain the attention of others – attention that is not welcome, and risks your destruction. Your quest stands upon the edge of a knife; stray but a little and you will fall. Even should you succeed, the shards will consume Keen utterly, and claim his life. But do not despair, for not all in the forces in this world are bent upon its destruction. You have allies, though you know them not; help will find you when it is most needed.”
Thus answered, the party made ready to travel to the Winter Court. Azam retreated to his alcove, saying “You can come out now.” The party was nonplussed until, emerging from the shadows in a dark corner was Oberon. No longer the ridiculous gnomish figure but they had met previously but a tall, elegant Eladrin, ram’s horns curling majestically from wavy black hair, cerulean eyes sharp. He acknowledged them with a wry smile and a toast of his over-large wine glass. “Azam speaks truly: you do not have the power to challenge the Court directly. However, it might interest you to know that there is another, more direct way into the Palace of Ice, a path unknown even to the Winter Queen herself. At the base of the peak upon which her palace sits, is a cave entrance hidden amongst the rocks and ice. The cave leads to a vast underground cavern system ascending the interior of the mountain. There you can find a secret path into the Palace grounds. Perhaps, if you are clever, quick, and quiet, you can sneak in find your Tieflings, and escape undetected.” The party considered Oberon’s words as they made their way back to the Freeling market to gather provisions and supplies. Yuna could detect no deception in the archfey, though by now they had all realized that the Eladrin rarely dealt openly.
Before leaving the Freeling Hideaway, the party stopped at a stall in the market run by a tall, elderly elk-fawn with the name Bag of Grass. Her stall sold curios and curiosities of all kinds, including spell scrolls and enchanted artifacts. One such, a Ring of Time Dilation, seemed to present a possible solution to the problem of Keen’s being unable to sleep – a Sleep spell combined with the effects of the ring might be potent enough to allow Keen to take a full long rest. But at twelve thousand gold pieces, it was far too expensive for them to purchase. Instead they turned their attention to a whizzing blue quickling darting about the market trailed by a treasure chest furiously flapping tiny wings. The fairy was a potion seller, and appeared to have in stock every potion and concoction they could think of. Sirlius bargained for a few basic healing potions, and asked if the seller had any work they needed doing. The fey grinned widely and said he needed test subjects for some new potions he was developing, and would pay them 100 gold pieces per test. Magnus, Whisper, Keen and Sirlius all eagerly agreed, and over the next several minutes tested several such potions. In the end they had earned a few hundred gold, for which Magnus was subjected to endless sneezing fits, Keen the effects of a Calm Emotions spell, and Whisper with horrible burning pain in her feet and legs every time she took a step.
Not wanting to push their luck further, the party declined any further tests. The fey was disappointed, but suggested that if they wanted to earn any more coin, he required blackberries from the Laughing Swamps, and would pay them for whatever they could retrieve, so long as it was in groups of twelve.
During the exchange Whisper dropped a small bag of gold, which was snatched up by a cranium rat that emerged from the crowd, grabbed the bag between its teeth and scurried away. Whisper slammed her foot down on it, killing it and retrieving her coin. This appeared to have no negative consequences whatsoever.
Questions Answered: 3
Mystery Potions Consumed: Several
Party Judgment: Suspect
RP Rating: Awesome!