With no safe haven in sight and scant hours left before Kiran became a serious hazard, the Night Guard made a difficult choice. Ruling that the most merciful act would be to kill Kiran before he had to experience lycanthropic transformation, the party put him into the Bag of Holding, where he suffocated. Magnolia, who throughout the whole adventure had repeatedly risked herself to protect Kiran, looked on in stony silence.
The Night Guard continued on through the forest and soon spotted a lantern light in the distance. Following the light brought them to a clearing, fenced with snowbanks around a single large tree, which supported a treehouse-like shelter. As Val stepped forward to investigate, he was blinded by a trap – then the occupant of the treehouse, watching from a window, promptly shot Val.
Alfo and Shadow rushed forward to attack. Immediately they were caught in another trap, and while Shadow managed to scramble free, Alfo was severely wounded. Meanwhile, the figure in the treehouse – recognizable now as the lost King of Sindaleth, Elidyr Ashebow – fired arrow after arrow at the party, injuring both Manny and Magnolia. Seeing no other recourse, Tam called out to the King, hailing him by name and ordering him to stop fighting.
Upon hearing this, Elidyr broke free of his madness and recognized the Night Guard. The King apologized for his traps and arrows, and invited the party into his tree safehouse to rest and recuperate. Elidyr had been isolated in the Feral Bosk for six months, and after a grim encounter with the Pursuer, the Shadowfell had twisted Elidyr’s mind. The King was reluctant to share any more information, though Alfo did gain his trust by sharing a drink with him.
But the quest for the Maiden Tree still lay ahead, and all too soon, the party’s relaxing safehouse break was over. The Night Guard, now accompanied by Elidyr, walked onward, towards the lake at the heart of the forest. As they neared the shore, the party was attacked by yet more ice-beings*and an air elemental. While Alfo and Elidyr were more than a match for their solid enemies, the air elemental posed a grave threat until Manny cast a fireball into it. Shadow took the opportunity to leach the elemental’s soul.
Before the party could collect themselves, they heard the nearby howling of wolves. With just seconds to spare, the Night Guard and their allies ducked into the shelter of Val’s magic, as a pack of werewolves and winter wolves charged up to surround them. The party made a plan to tackle these new enemies one by one, and Alfo and Elidyr prepared to leap out into battle.
Suddenly, the Pursuer appeared in the distance, steadily approaching the party. Alfo and Elidyr fearlessly traded blows with the werewolves and winter wolves, while Tam raised a wall of fire in the Pursuer’s path. Undaunted, the Pursuer tossed huge ice blocks towards the party, hemming them in. Alfo and Elidyr finished off their foes, though the King nearly succumbed to a werewolf’s bite, surviving due to Val’s inspiring words. Finally, Manny aimed a fireball at the Pursuer, obliterating him and granting the Night Guard a precious moment’s respite.
With no time to lose, the party advanced towards the lake. Elidyr admitted that the Night Guard had exceeded his expectations and earned his trust; there was no longer any reason for him to hide the truth. He revealed to the party that the Pursuer was not a person, but an idea: the embodiment of the endless hunt, Alfo’s greatest fear. The Pursuer was sent by the Ice Maiden, the ruler of the Feral Bosk and Elidyr’s betrothed. Long ago, Elidyr traded fates with someone else, and had sought to escape his fate ever since. But his evasion had a price: the shadow-plague in Sindaleth. Now Elidyr, aided by the Night Guard, was ready to seek out the Maiden and fulfill his fate.
The party reached the lake and walked out over its frozen surface, to the magnificent Maiden Tree, then descended the tree’s spiral stair. Deep within the heart of the tree waited the cool, impassive Maiden of Ice. As the party approached her, the Maiden had words only for Elidyr.
“Are you ready to fulfil your promise?”
Elidyr ran to meet her, and as the two were reunited the Maiden transformed into a dryad, vibrant and lovely. The Maiden Tree changed with her, growing light and warm as the realm’s cruelty and bitterness drained away. The Maiden – now the Maiden of the Lake – thanked the Night Guard for their assistance, and commended Alfo’s bravery in facing his worst fears. Upon accepting his fate – to face the darkness and drive it back – Alfo was freed of his paranoia and insanity, and named the new warden of the Ei’dath Woods.
“Fate is not something you can flee. And it’s not something you should want to flee.”
The Maiden used her extraordinary healing power to cure Alfo and Elidyr of their curses, and even revived Kiran and cured him of lycanthropy. She granted boons to the entire party, giving them her blessing to help them in the many trials that surely lay ahead. To Manny she gave her dagger of ice, to Val a cloak of protection, to Tam wisdom and reassurance, and to Alfo a blessing for his trident, by which he could remember his courageous deeds in setting right the balance of the realm. With their hearts lightened by these gifts, the party prepared to leave the Tree. Elidyr remained behind, King of Winter and Spring in his new home.
As the party stepped through the Shadow gate, Alfo looked back upon memories from his past: a scene of slaughter, in which Alfo’s family members were killed by an aberration. In Alfo’s memory, he was rescued from the aberration by his mother, a noble warrior – but looking back upon the memory, Alfo realized the figure that had saved him was his goddess, Ulaa.
“One day it will be your duty to fight these creatures… Until then, I promise to protect you.”
The party passed through the gate, and the vision faded, along with the darkness over the Ei’dath woods. The Night Guard stood now looking over the calm, clear surface of a spring lake.
In the distance, in the heart of Sindaleth, the party could see the Home Tree – and for the first time in memory, the tree was in bloom.
Best Line goes to Val.
Upon meeting the King of the Elves: “Guys, there’s definitely a chance he’s a lycanthrope.”
Honorable Mention to Manny, who eloquently answered a question with “You know, the thing, the uh… the thing!”
Best RP goes to Tam, for making the Persuasion check of a lifetime (with an assist from Val, of course) to snap King Elidyr Ashebow out of Shadowfell-imposed madness.
? – The party murders Kiran Poole.
? – The party encounters King Elidyr Ashebow in his hideout (a perilous encounter).
? – The King gives the party shelter and healing in his tree fort.
? – The party and Elidyr set off towards the Lake, but are attacked by hobgoblins and an air elemental. These are quickly defeated.
? – Afterwards, the party is almost immediately set upon by winter wolves and werewolves. To add to the trouble, the Pursuer appears. The Night Guard’s victory is narrow this time.
? – The party reaches the Lake and Elidyr reveals the truth of his fate.
? – The party enters the Tree and confronts the Maiden. She is reunited with Elidyr, and the icy Shadow realm is transformed into a place of healing and light.
? – The Maiden of the Lake bestows gifts upon the Night Guard, and restores Kiran’s life.
? – The Night Guard leaves the Maiden Tree.
In the distance, the party sees the Home Tree – and for the first time in memory, the tree is in bloom.
*For lack of a better term. Ordinary humanoids, transformed into servants of the Feral Bosk when their hearts were replaced with shards of ice.