The Night Guard prepared to embark for Sindaleth and welcomed two new traveling companions: Magnolia, who would serve as a bodyguard, and Kiran, a Ranger and cartographer. The party decided to avoid the Underdark route and the river route, choosing instead to travel overland to their destination. After loading up their gear and buying some horses to travel with (including Val’s new best friend Moxy), the Night Guard set off.
Soon they passed by the now-familiar town of Elder Vale, and took the opportunity to sell some of their found treasures and buy new supplies, including some powerful poisons and positoxin. Most notably, Val managed to convince the proprietor of the potion shop to trade a mundane robe for incredibly valuable Golden Ice poison. Alfo, meanwhile, enjoyed the day of shopping immensely, particularly since the rest of the party bought him gifts to help cheer him up. Kiran slyly (but not slyly enough to avoid notice) spent some of his earnings on knockout drugs and hallucinogens, ostensibly for recreational use.
Back on the road again, the Night Guard enjoyed ten days of fairly uneventful travel before trouble appeared near the Ashewood. The party came across an ogre named Krog jealously guarding a stolen owlbear egg. Just as they managed to convince Krog they meant no harm, the egg’s mother appeared and furiously attacked. In the ensuing battle, both Krog and the owlbear mother were killed, and Manny set the forest on fire. The party raced to construct a firebreak and luckily succeeded; before leaving, Alfo adopted the owlbear egg at Shadow’s behest, hoping that the imprinted owlbear chick could make a formidable ally to the Night Guard.
The party assumed that would be the end of the owlbear problem, but six nights later they were awakened by the cry of “Danger!” from Val’s Dagger of Warning. Just outside the party’s sleeping dome, a huge male owlbear snarled and paced, swiping at the dome in rage. Tam ascertained that the owlbear might be placated if the egg were returned to him. Once this was done, the owlbear took his egg back, and with a last parting glare, disappeared into the forest.
The rest of the journey passed without incident, and soon the Night Guard arrived in Sindaleth. But the city was very different than they remembered. The streets were quiet and the population subdued; everywhere they looked, the party could see sick people, all marked with Alfo’s runes. The plague was clearly virulent, and to stop its spread the victims had been cut off from the rest of the population.
Amid the sick walked a druid of the Circle of the Land, Airic, distributing supplies and food. Airic told the party that the magical plague had first struck about fifteen years ago, was spread by touch, and was almost invariably fatal. The King himself was affected by the plague, but recovered – as had Airic – due to a strong connection to magic. After his recovery, the King went on a quest to seek the Maiden of the Woods and her supernatural powers to cure the plague, but years passed and he did not return. While many others had sought the king, none found him, and in his absence the plague continued to spread. Airic told the Night Guard that the Maiden was merely a myth, and the King’s foolishness likely cost him his life. Throughout Airic’s tale, Alfo slowly came to the devastating realization that the mark was his fault.
Tam and Alfo gained entry to the Wildwood Assembly’s library to search for clues about the Maiden of the Woods, the plague, and the forest north of Sindaleth in general. The only book referencing the Maiden was a children’s storybook, describing her as a powerful dryad who lived in the Home Tree and protected Rillifane. More information was available about the nearby woods, though; named the Cursed Woods, the area was rumored to be populated by lycanthropes and winter wolves, and rife with natural hazards such as freezing temperatures, deep snowbanks, and blizzards.
Meanwhile, Val and Manny put on a benefit concert to raise money for victims of the plague and to entertain the sick children. With drama and flair, the duo told an embellished (and tastefully altered) tale of the Battle of Glutton’s Teeth. They raised 130 silver, but more importantly, the children loved the show (although, due to the dark magic of their plague, they couldn’t get close enough to Windsinger to touch it when Val showed it off.)
After these preparations the Night Guard and their companions set off into the forest, to seek the King of the Elves. As they walked, the air began to chill – far beyond the ordinary cold of winter – and the forest loomed dark around them. Worst of all, the crescent moon had changed as well, rising now as a full moon to light their path. The woods echoed with the distant cries of wolves, and the party realized they had again stepped into a Shadow realm, and into grave danger.
In the distance the party could see a solitary figure trudging inexorably towards them. The figure raised its axe in an ominous gesture, calling out, “FOR THE MAIDEN.”
Hair and beard shot through with ice, and wearing the skin of Shadow of the Trees draped over his shoulders, this new enemy could only be Alfo…
Best Line goes to Alfo, and there were too many excellent lines to list (most having to do with Alfo’s new pseudonym, Alfalfa.)
Best RP goes to Alfo/Alfalfa, for creative problem-solving: adopting a secret identity to remain unknown in Sindaleth.
Day 1 – The party embarks for Sindaleth.
Day 6 – The party enjoys a brief break from travel in Elder Vale.
Day 16 – The party battles an ogre and an owlbear, and adopts an owlbear egg.
Day 22 – The party returns the egg to its remaining parent.
Day 30 – The party arrives in Sindaleth.
[Subsequent timekeeping loss due to Shadow realm entry]