From the diary of Caeladyn, which is hastily scrawled on dirty bits of slightly burned parchment, with notes on encountered flora and fauna written in the margins:
Our party (consisting of myself, Gil, Peren, Aiden and Mordecai, a human monk who I had not met before) set off from Mariner’s Landing towards the edge of the Creeping Wood, with a first destination that was referred to by the rest of the party as Ed’s farm. Instead of traveling on foot like I’m accustomed to, we used an odd form of transportation Gil showed up with that he referred to as “the gilly”. It was a fairly ordinary horse-drawn covered wagon, but instead of being drawn by horses, it was pulled by an odd horse-like creature, seemingly made of water and instead of wheels, it just floated on a handful of Gil’s favorite discs. As we got underway, we quickly realized that the horse’s appearance wasn’t the most remarkable thing about it, it was also incredibly fast, faster than anything I’d ever encountered and was able to keep that speed. However, we kept it to a normal speed slightly faster than jogging as Peren had brought his armor-clad giant ram Stubbs, who was too large to fit in the wagon.
The first bit of the journey passed without incident. The first sign of anything wrong came from Peren, who had been riding with his legs out the back of the wagon, keeping an eye on Stubbs and softly talking to the ram (who I will admit is rather impressive for a tamed creature). Peren pointed out vines, which he had noticed criss-crossing the path below the wagon and Stubbs’s hooves. Taking a closer look, I noticed they were somewhat thick, mottled with veins of pink and violet. My companions confirmed my suspicion, this was the blight. With a tinge of worry, they remarked that this was the furthest out they had seen it. It seemed like it was definitely spreading. We decided to continue onwards towards Ed’s, hoping to warn him about the blight, but we feared it was too late. As we drew closer, we began to notice signs of creatures following us: deer, the bushy tails of wolves in the shrubs.
With more miles behind us, I started to make out the shapes of buildings on the horizon. Those who had been there before confirmed that we were approaching Ed’s farm. As we drew nearer we noticed vines already covering most of the buildings. Everyone looked grim as we realized we were too late to warn Ed of the incoming blight. We began a fruitless search of the surrounding for Ed or any signs of his current whereabouts. As we conducted the search, we noticed an enormous creature standing still in a nearby field, clearly blighted. A battle then began, as we were attacked by a whole assortment of blighted creatures: wolves, sheep, elk and many others. Thanks to Mordecai’s acrobatic attacks, Aiden’s flaming blades, Stubbs’ bravery, Peren’s flaming arrows and Gil’s usual clever tricks, we finished the fight victorious. The only real casualty was the “gilly” which had been charged and destroyed by a blighted elk.
After defeating the last blighted creature and still seeing no sign of Ed, we decided to set up camp for the night. Since the chapel was free of blighted vines, we figured that would serve as some sort of protection and was probably the safest place nearby to spend the night. Gil got to work repairing the wagon, with the help of Mordecai. Aiden had trained his rabbit to find bullweed, and rewarded him with a small bulb of it when he retrieved some. This had a far more drastic effect than Aiden intended and I spent the next few minutes enjoying the spectacle as Aiden tried to calm his rabbit. It dashed around the area, wriggling out of Aiden’s arms every time he tried to restrain it, drawing blood occasionally. Finally I decided that Aiden had suffered enough and went over to talk to his rabbit for him. The rabbit was clearly very affected by the bullweed, babbling and confused. It ranted about Aiden a few times, calling him a bastard, then claimed to be a genius and said it would be a wizard someday. Seems that pets do imitate their people…the rabbit began burrowing and Aiden started teleporting all around the area, looking surprised but pleased with himself . I figured they’d just tire themselves out, so I went back to observing.
Shortly after they returned to normal, we were ready to retire for the night. Gil barred the entrance with a magical dome and we all settled down in the back of the church. Close to dawn, we awoke to what we all feared when we chose to spend the night here. It was nearly completely dark, with no moonlight or daylight entering the large stained glass windows of the chapel. It seemed the blighted vines had snaked around the chapel, trapping us. With a combination of torches, fire spells, fire arrows, and steely ram muscle, we managed to burn/bust our way out of the chapel. We sprinted towards the gilly, hoping to put as much distance between ourselves and the blight as possible. As we boarded the wagon and prepared to leave, a section of the vines peeled away from the roof of the chapel and lashed out as us. Stubbs and I were both attacked by these vines. We were able to disable the vines fairly easily and continue on our way.
At first, my wounds from the vines seemed fairly minor, as it barely hurt. But as we traveled, I gradually began feeling a burning sensation in the wounds where the vines had struck me. This feeling started to spread throughout my entire body. Looking down at my arms, I noticed my skin was shiny and red where the vines had met flesh. I began to hear whisperings of a voice in my head, though it was faint enough that I could not understand it. I decided to speak up, letting my compatriots know about the burning sensation, the appearance of my wounds, and the whisper in my head. They exchanged worried looks and began a muttered discussion.
At this point, my recollection of events starts to become a bit hazy, as this affliction took hold of me. I’m not typically much of a talker; my many years alone in the forest have given me an appreciation for quietly observing instead of constantly talking (a quality I have not encountered in very many other adventurers in Drochtredia). However, this was different; I found myself unwilling and unable to communicate with my fellow travelers, instead just sitting in the back corner of the wagon. Gradually, the voice in my head got louder and louder. I recognized it as Druidic, a deep, deep voice repeating itself over and over again.
“Give in… Give in… Stop fighting… Give in…”
As this repeated, I slowly lost control over myself. I was overcome with the urge to lash out, to hurt everyone around me. I still had a smidgen of control over myself, so I was able to incoherently croak “Help! Can’t…going to hurt..” Fortunately Mordecai got the general gist of what I was trying to say and deftly tied me up. I also noticed that Stubbs was thrashing around similarly and Peren was tying him up. I faded in and out of control as the others discussed the situation. I watched them circle around Stubbs, Gil looking very unhappy. Suddenly Stubbs began thrashing and emitting a horrible noise, somewhere between a scream and a pained bleat. I had an awful feeling that whatever was happening to Stubbs, I was next. Stubbs eventually returned to a normal state, calm but a bit anxious. The group shifted over to me, and the last thing I saw was Gil’s grim face.
Screaming, pain, fire. This was the entirety of my world as my body was engulfed in flames. I yelled in agony, but the voice in my head was louder.
“Fight it…This isn’t real..Fight it.”
I realized the flames were an illusion and snapped out of it. The pain faded and the flames vanished. Aiden realized I was not returned to normal and stepped closer, lowering his flaming gauntlet. My body was again awash in flames, this time real. I screamed louder, the deep Druidic voice again returning to its refrain of “Give in…Stop fighting…Give in…” I drew closer and closer to death, and the voice continued, swelling and becoming less coherent until it reached a peak and stopped. My mind cleared and I opened my eyes to find everyone else standing above me, looking miserable and guilty.
I got back into the wagon, tended to my burns and tried my best to forget the whole harrowing experience, though I fear it will haunt me. We continued following the tracks of Ed’s flock until something slightly out of place caught our eyes. A wooden stake was driven into the ground, with a goblin impaled on it and the goblin’s entrails intricately braided down the spike. As we contemplated it, we noticed another and another and another. There was clearly a line of impaled goblins intersecting our path. A number of theories were thrown around, the foremost being that this was the work of the blightmaster, trying to repair the leyline.
We continued onward until we reached a clearing with a statue in the middle of it. As we drew closer, we realized it was some sort of shrine, a small pool in front of a stone box topped with a bull statue that my cohorts referred to as the Bullfather, the creature who had blazed the path we were following. We pulled the bull statue-topped lid off to take with us, but the contents of the shrine had clearly been removed.
Further onward, it became apparent who had raided the first shrine. Another shrine was ahead, with a dozen or two kobolds trying to pry off the bull statue lid to get at the contents inside. We made short work of a few of them and the rest scattered. We pried the lid off the shrine to find some coins, a candle, a bronze scroll case and some scrolls.
As Aiden admired our findings, I noticed his face suddenly contort in confusion and he asked if anyone else heard a buzzing noise. I saw a colorful blur above his shoulder, a small hummingbird, which suddenly transformed out of its animal shape into the form of a scruffy, hairy human. “YOU!” Aiden bellowed and lunged towards the druid, his hand on his rapier. Luckily Peren’s elven reflexes were too quick for Aiden and he was restrained.
From the journal of Duke Aiden Montyouc, purifyer of the blighted.
“I HAD HIM! HE WAS RIGHT THERE ONLY INCHES FROM MY BLADE.” Why did peren stop me, surely someone on their own quest for vengeance, who had been victimized by this many faced man would understand. Is he secretly suffering from the blight? Is he in league with the blightmaster? Surely not, no I cannot think such things. Although, if being on drochtredia has taught me anything it is that no one can be fully trusted.
Instead of letting me end this traitor they gave him food and separated us from each other so they could question him. He “claims” that he is sorry for what happened and the dragon made him do it. He also informed us the dragon is hunting Ed and if we do not make haste he will be the next prisoner. I don’t trust this druid but having no better leads we decided to follow along….for now.
We carried on a bit farther and eventually we heard a shriek all too familiar. We left stubbs and the gilly behind for safety and proceed up the hill stealthily to scout ahead. Once we were on the hill we were able to see ruins like we had never seen before and it was there, curled around a tower, Willowbite.
We decided to wait till nightfall so we could try and get Ed out of there. Gil made a magic house while peren and I set upon dressing it with grass to better camouflage it. Since Mordecai and myself were still fresh we volunteered to stay up and watch the prisoner so the others could rest up. Eventually I settled my dispute with the traitorous druid but his words struck me true. The magic running through my veins spoke to me and relaxed my anger. In a show of peace I handed the druid my personal flask of whiskey and informed him that if he did not cross us here that I would vouch for him upon return to mariners landing.
Once night was upon us Caeladyn turned into a cat and began searching the buildings from the ground while Gil sent Saila to do so through the air. Throughout the night they both searched stealthily under the dragon’s nose until it finally noticed Caeladyn. Luckily since she was still in cat form he paid her little attention. The final building she explored appeared to be some sort of temple with a basement but when she explored the basement a type of ooze began moving towards her. She decided to regroup with us and we thought of all places here that basement was Ed’s most likely location.
We made our way safely to the temple and after fighting several oozes and disarming a trap we found ourselves in a mausoleum to the bullfather. We decided that since dawn was breaking it would do us well to rest here for the early morning. A few hours later Fey’lor woke us with his shouts. “The dragon has found him”.
Our stomachs sank, almost all present had encountered this beast at least once or had at least heard of his power. We had gone out of our way to avoid a fight with him in the open but as we silently moved to the top of the stairs our worst fears were realized. The dragon had pounced on Ed who had been hiding among his flock in a hastily thrown together disguise. We moved closer to see if he was alive or dead and when we got about 120 feet away we heard his voice. He was wounded but alive, the dragon kept saying “We have plans for you shepherd” and when he mentioned Stiles we knew exactly who the dragon was working with. We were unsure what role Ed would play but we knew that above all else we could not let the blight master have him.
Our impulsive Monk soon leapt over the hill and began bargaining with the dragon and although I admired his effort I could have told him it never would have worked. We realized that there was no going back and we would have to fight at which point Mordecai’s negotiation went south. I told the others I would buy them some time and lept from the hill in my scarlet clothing and fine, feathered hat. The dragon immediately forgot about the monk and locked eyes with me “YOUUU, I REMEMBER YOU……” THe dragon lept from eds location and moved forward to question us both. To distract the beast I used my new found magician powers to conjure an illusion of Mac Woodfleet’s severed head further enraging the beast. I prepared my rapier sheathing it in magical energy and readying myself to strike when the dragon got near. That is when I remembered that the dragon could breath poison…….
The gust of noxious air filled my lungs and sent me to the ground. I didn’t know what had hit me, how could I have been so foolish, I saw images of my father on his throne dismissing me after my brothers death, I saw the two of us playing as children, the flyer for the boat that brought me to mariner’s landing, but most of all I saw a light welcoming me to the next life. I could hear my allies, the dragon had used its horrific breath on me and I could hear Peren’s arrows connecting with the creature as it writhed in anger. I heard Gil scream out in pain then fall silent but then almost as quick as I had fallen I felt breath re-enter my lungs. As I lept to my feet I saw Caeladyn call out “we could use some help” and I immediately reached for my hand crossbow and began taking potshots at the dragon.
As I fired off my bolts they seemed to harmlessly fall from the dragon but I did have his attention…..unfortunately. He turned to face me “Dont you ever stay dead?” and like that he swept down and slashed me across my chest knocking me to the ground again. This time the light grew brighter and just like before I thought i was at the end of my luck I felt the life return to my body only this time the monk was standing over me with a empty health potion bottle. Just then our new friend Fey’lor made it over to Ed and whispered something into his ear and he fell dead. Willowbite shrieked out and tried to make his way to their location but right then Mordecai managed to land on the dragon. He held on for sometime but was eventually thrown but it was too late for the foul beast as Peren’s aim was true and one last fateful arrow found its mark and the emerald nightmare of the creeping wood fell from the sky. As we closed in swords drawn the dragon groveled and begged for its life, promising to deliver the blightmaster if we allowed it to live. Peren and I nodded in agreement and with no hesitation our blades found their mark for Mac, for Brennus, for Wengruc, for Tahli, but most of all for ourselves. Also, I want it noted, I in fact did take pleasure in it.
In the aftermath of the battle fey’lor revealed ed’s demise was a simple druid trick to save his life by making him appear dead. With Ed restored and very confused we tended to his wounds and quickly set upon loading what remained of the once mighty Willowbite into the Gilly to bring back to Mariners landing for all to see. This will be a symbol of hope, this dragon had spread fear throughout the landing and the tale of how we defeated it may be just the thing to give our people the hope needed to defeat the likes of the Ghouls and the Blight.
We may not know what dangers Drochtredia holds for us all but the sky’s will be safer, for the time being at least.
Duke Aiden Montyouc, Willow-slayer, Defender of New Blainsport, Purifier of the Blighted, Guardian of the Free People of Dawnbreak, Great thief of Stataghs Hoard, Ghouls-bane, Enforcer of House Makovica.
Future adventure hooks
THe blightmaster is using the leyline to power something, more investigation needed
The blightmaster and Willowbite were working together, more recon necessary to figure out what.
There was a sign with a lightning bolt on it that lead to a path, possible point of interest.