Last time, the party was preparing to leave the room with the large dragon statue when a lucky brush of the wall by Fenora uncovered a hidden cache in the wall behind the statue. They head through the door to the north where they find what looks to have been some sort of library, though the shelves have long since crumbled away, leaving behind the tattered and crumbling remains of books. A thorough examination does uncover a couple of intact scrolls, which they add to their inventory before continuing on.
They find a stairway leading down an to the east, and as they take that path, the party realizes that the tunnel passes below the fungus room above, as they see some of the room’s luminous fungi growing from the ceiling. Emerging on the other side, a long hall leads to two doors. The first of the two doors opens onto a study, its walls lined with shelves of books and handwritten ledgers recording agricultural norms for the surrounding area going back several years.
Bored, Garl picks up a book that he notices is written in Draconic, opens the book and flips a couple pages. A glyph begins to glow brightly before bursting forth with freezing cold energy, severely wounding everyone. Realizing the extent of their injuries, they decide to camp for the night, backtracking all the way to the dragon shrine. Their rest is interrupted as some goblins attempt to break into their hiding spot. After a short tussle, the party returns to their rest and spends the rest of the night undisturbed.
The next day, you awake refreshed and ready to continue on.
Erky Timbers: I feel we are getting close to the end of this cursed place.
Quinton Greymane (stretching his back): Okay, even my back is beginning to get tired of these stone floors.
Garl Auraspeaker: Haha! Exactly! It’s not just me.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: Everything hurts. My back, my neck, my p…
Garl Auraspeaker: Ha, I think she’s making fun of you, Quint.
Quinton Greymane: Well, that’s just not neighborly.
Erky Timbers: Whatever we are to face today, I would advise caution. Between Garl and I, our heals are finite, and I worry that our adversary may be more than we can handle.
Quinton Greymane: Well regardless, I think it’s about time we get moving.
Civic: Morning everyone! I feel stronger today. Like I have renewed energy and I’m ready to take on the world. Also, I think I figured out a couple of spells I’ve been toying with for a while now.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: We ready to head out?
Fenora Finnley (stands up spryly): I’m ready.
Erky Timbers: I am ready.
Quinton Greymane: Let’s get moving then.
Moving the dragon statue out of the way, they begin making their way back through the tunnels, returning to the large room where it seemed the bugbear was farming the local fauna. Realizing three doors leading away from the area remain unopened, Gishkaa begins working on one of the doors.
Quinton Greymane: Good idea, let’s check out some of these doors while we’re here.
Gishkaa unlocks the door in short order, and finds the room beyond to be filled with similar growths to that which lines the walls of the main room, only what grows within the chamber appears to be scorched and dead. The odor of burning wood and scorched earth hangs thick in the air.
Garl Auraspeaker: Smells charming. Like a burnt toilet.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat (gagging at the smell): Gross. I’m going to go check the other door.
The next door is open slightly. Gishkaa opens the door to reveal a large room that is filled with similar growths and fungi found in the main room. Buckets half filled with picked fungi sit in a small group in the middle of the chamber, as if they’d been hurriedly abandoned.
Quinton Greymane: Hmm, not sure we would want to rummage around here.
Civic (eagerly): Guess we head back to the reading room.
Erky Timbers: It would appear that these goblins have been growing their own food here for quite some time. Interesting.
Garl Auraspeaker: Well doubt they’ll need quite so much of it since we’ve killed so many of them.
Erky Timbers (shrugs): True.
Quinton Greymane: Guess it’s back to the library. <glaring> And don’t touch anymore books!
Garl Auraspeaker (puts his hands up): Hey, I learned my lesson. I’m leaving the reading to smart people now.
Fenora Finnley: Anyone else hear that noise?
Quinton Greymane: What noise?
Fenora Finnley (peeks inside the burned room): There’s a hissing coming from in here.
Quinton Greymane: Hmm. Usually when we find something odd about this place it tries to kill us.
Erky Timbers: Such is the adventurer’s life, eh?
Fenora Finnley: Sounds like a big snake or something.
Civic: Interesting. It definitely sounds serpentine. The glottis of the snake carries a certain vibrato quality to it that seems to transcend specific species and is to date completely unique to serpentine creatures.
Erky Timbers: Simply saying “sounds like a snake” doesn’t work for you, does it?
Quinton Greymane (dryly): I feel smarter everyday we’re together.
Garl Auraspeaker: Maybe so, but if we’re so smart maybe we should just close the door and walk away?
Civic: When you give invocation to your god does it suffice to say, “thanks divine thing for whatever?”
As they discuss the strange hissing noise, in the center of the room, a small hole in the ground, about 2 feet across, has begun to glow with increasing intensity, as if something was approaching. The hissing also seems to be getting louder.
Quinton Greymane (points): Well, whatever it is it looks like it’s about to pop out of the hole over there.
Fenora Finnley: I think we should leave it in there.
Fenora pulls the door closed slowly until it clicks. The hissing noise cuts off as the door closes on its lair.
Quinton Greymane: Good decision.
Erky Timbers: Probably a wise move, leaving that creature alone. If it was another of those fire snakes we encountered before…
Erky Timbers shudders at the memory.
Garl Auraspeaker: Yer, I’m glad that we left it alone.
Satisfied that nothing of further note or usefulness can be found in this area, they make their way back to the study where Garl’s boredom was almost the end of the party the previous evening. They continue onto the other door, finding it to be locked, though with a few twists of her tools, Gishkaa quickly unlocks and opens the door.
Twigs and roots are piled on the floor of this sagging chamber. The collapsed southern wall opens into a vast cavern. Luminescent fungus on the rough walls and the high roof loom over a twilight grove of sickly briars, bushes, saplings, and other woody plants. Ruined walls and hollow towers protrude from the briars.
Four goblins that seem to be sorting the fungus into baskets all look up as the door opens. With a shout, they grab their weapons and prepare to attack!
Gishkaa and Erky wade into the combat with blade and spell, but their attacks miss their targets. However, Civic and Quinton get off their own attacks, wounding a couple of their opponents. Fenora fires and arrow into one of the goblins, sinking the arrow into its eye and killing the goblin instantly. A pair of the goblins gang up on Quinton, slashing at the fighter with their weapons, but Quinton easily dodges their attacks. A third goblin fires a crossbow at Quinton, and pierces his shoulder with a bolt. Garl breathes a line of electrical energy, catching two goblins in the line, severely wounding one and incinerating the other. Civic’s weaves his hands in complicated arcane motion, his spells slamming into the chest of another goblin, blasting it backwards to fall to the ground dead. Seeing its companions fallen, the remaining goblin yells out, “Aid us, Protector of the Twilight Grove!” just as Quinton’s blade and Fenora’s arrow find their targets simultaneously. As the last goblin falls, the snound of snapping twigs and branches echoes through the area as from the south four twig blights emerge.
The party surges forward, cutting and slashing through the twig blight in their path as the head south. They destroy one group of the creatures only to encounter more the further on they travel. But still they continue on, and before too long, they reach the edge of the briar-filled area to find a walled clearing. The walls are about twenty feet high, which is less than half the height of the cavern’s ceiling. Several varieties of plants grow around the perimeter of the clearing, including a few suspicious-looking saplings, but their importance pales before that which stands at the courtyard’s center.
Beneath the fungal light grows an evil tree. Its blackened, twisted limbs reach upward, like a skeletal hand clawing its way out of the earth. Before it stand a few twig blights; a heavily armored, young human male with a shield and sword; a blonde, young human woman in a robe fit for a noble; and a middle-aged, bearded human male wearing a hooded brown robe and armed with a staff and sickle.
The younger humans have black eyes and gray skin with the texture of bark.
Garl Auraspeaker: Well, I think we found the kids…
Belak: Hold a moment, you know not what you do!
Quinton Greymane: Well, friend, what do you suppose it is we’re doing?
Belak: I am Belak, called the Outcast. My circle expelled me, the fools. Why? Because I dared to expand nature’s reach in ways they couldn’t grasp. I have found what I sought in the Gulthias Tree.
Civic: What did you seek?
Garl Auraspeaker: I’ve heard that line before. I’m sure everything you’ve done has been totally “innocent”.
Belak: I seek to spread the seeds of the fruit of the Gulthias Tree, of course.
Civic: What makes this tree special?
Belak (looks up at the gnarled tree): It’s beautiful, no? It lives, though it looks dead. In an age long past, someone staked a vampire on this very spot. The stake took root. And so grew the Gulthias Tree, reverberating with primal power for those who can tap it.
Garl Auraspeaker: Well, regardless if it’s true or not, it looks suspicious as Khyber.
Belak: Under my care, the Gulthias Tree has born much fruit, the seeds of which have been spread across the lands above. And in time, they will return.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: What did you do to these people? What’s wrong with their eyes?
Belak looks at Gishkaa, narrowing his eyes at seeing her goblin form, before answering.
Belak: They were the first supplicants. The Gulthias Tree has accepted them, and they are mine to control, just like the twig blights. You can’t save them.
Erky Timbers: You said the seeds will return. How so?
Belak (to Erky): Have you not guessed, little one?
Erky glances at the nearby twig blights in horror.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat (whispers to Quinton): Are they the kids?
Quinton Greymane (whispers): Yeah, it looks like them.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat (to Belak): We’re going to need those two back, so the tree is going to have to find some other people to be weird with.
Garl Auraspeaker: Yeah we can’t save them? We’ve heard that one before.
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: You can keep the twig things though. We don’t need any kindling.
Belak: They belong to me. As soon, so shall you all.
Garl Auraspeaker: The only person that needs saving around here is you. Can we toast this guy already? He’s starting to annoy me
Belak: Though your remains would enrich the compost, you’ll serve my needs better as supplicants. You shall retain your lives, after a fashion. Surrender and submit peacefully, or perish!
Quinton Greymane: Well, that sounds like a threat to me. I agree, Garl, I think it’s time we took care of this guy.
Belak moves back to stand closer to the tree, as the others move forward, placing themselves between Belak and the party. As the party prepares to attack, Civic speaks quietly to the group.
Civic (whispers): Based on what he said, it sounds like he loses control of the ‘supplicants’ and the twiglings if the tree is destroyed.
Garl Auraspeaker (whispers): Yer? Well, well…
As they discuss their plan of attack, the twig bligths have begun to move in closer. Seeing their approach, Fenora nocks an arrow to her bow and fires, reducing the closest creature to splinters. Belak begins to move his hands in an elaborate pattern, the motions of casting a spell. His skin appears to turn brown and rough as the spell finishes. The armored male, presumably Sir Braford, moves in to attack Quinton, but misses. Erky begins to mjutter a prayer, calling down a blessing from the Host onto Garl, Quinton, and Gishkaa, before moving behind a wall.
Garl, meanwhile, takes out another of the twig blights with his spiritual weapon as the blond female, Sharwyn Hycrule, blasts the dragonborn with a spell, wounding him. Gishkaa moves quickly along the outer edges of the battle to come closer to the evil-looking tree, hiding behind a large boulder. Sensing the armored human to be a bit of a threat, Civic casts a sleep spell, knocking him unconscious. The twig blights continue into melee, one of them scratching at Quinton to no avail, exploding into splinters as fenora’s arrows again finds its target. Belak attempts to use magical vines and weeds to hold Garl and Civic in place, but the two easily pulls themselves from the grasp of the clutching vegetation.
A giant from emerges from the tree’s branches, leaping into the fight, where Erky slams into it with a blast of holy fire. Garl attacks Sharwyn with his spiritual weapon as he simultaneously send a blast of holy fire to explode against the trunk of the tree. The wounded Sharwyn casts a spell, sending a blast of icy energy rocketing toward the unconscious Sir Braford, but the pain in her wound hand causes the spell to fizzle. Lepaoing form her hiding spot, Gishkaa dashes forward and tries to sink her knives into the trunk of the Gulthias Tree. She looks up in dismay as her attack has no affect, he blades seeming unable to pierce its bark. Quinton and Fenora focus on the strange giant frog, finally killing it before moving in closer to the melee.
Having seen Garl and Gishkaa both attack the tree, Belak himself wades into battle, swinging down with his staff in an overhead blow at Gishkaa, but his aim is off and misses entirely. Erky blasts Sharwyn with another burst of holy fire as Garl attacks the tree with his spiritual weapon, followed by a blast of holy fire. Sharwyn fires a magical missile at the prone Sir Braford, waking him back up for the fight.
Gishkaa attempts to attack the tree again, this time with her rapier, but trying to dodge away from Belak’s attack knocks her off balance, and she misses by inches. Civic weaves his hands in arcane movements, and a trio of illusory Civics appear behind him. Quintn joins Garl and Gishkaa at the tree, leaping into the air to slash his sword through its bark, scoring a nasty wound on the trunk. A shudder seems to go through the tree, its branches shaking as if in a silent scream of agony before falling still, then begin to crumble into dust.
Belak: NOOOOO!!!!! You’ve ruined everything!
Gishkaa Khesh’Shaarat: Your tree isn’t looking too good.
Garl Auraspeaker: Awww, so sad…
Fenora fires an arrow at Belak, sinking an arrow into the druid’s shoulder, and he casts a fireball near Civic and Garl before dashing across the floor to the northern wall. Meanwhile, Sir Braford slashes down at Erky, hitting the gnome and knocking hm to the gorund. The dazed gnome tries to send a blast of holy fire at the man, but the spell fizzles. Garl slams his spiritual weapon into Sharwyn, using restraint to knock the girl unconscious instead of killing her outright. Dashing after the fleeing druid, Civic and Quinton attempt to slow his pace with their attacks, but fail to hit. Fenora, however, finds her target again with her arrows, catching him in the shoulder and making him stumble against the wall. Desperately, Belak uses a healing spell on himself to stave off the inevitable for a little longer, as Sir Braford brings down his sword on the prone gnome, knocking Erky unconscious. Seeing Erky’s dire situation, Garl quickly mutters a soft prayer, returning some of Erky’s healthy vigor and mending the worst of his wounds.
With a face filled with righteous anger, Gishkaa advances on Belak, who cowers against the wall. She slashes out at the man’s throat with her rapier, the movement so quick it seems as if she may have missed her target. But a heartbeat later, a thin red line begin to form across Belak’s neck. Blood begins to pour freely from the wound across his throat, his hands pressing to his neck in a futile attempt to staunch the flow. Gishkaa watches in satisfaction as the man dies before her, as behind her, the others finish off Sir Braford.